One of Abraham Lincoln’s first and most controversial acts as president was to suspend habeas corpus in portions of Maryland. He would do it again in other border states. He also would jail politicians and editors for opposing the war and the draft.

(Habeus corpus is used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful.)

Lincoln defended his actions, saying suspension of habeas corpus during an emergency was permitted by the Constitution.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney, famed for his Dred Scott decision, opposed him. Lincoln persisted.

“Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted,” Lincoln asked, “and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?”

Historians, civil libertarians and constitutional scholars have been arguing over that ever since.

Source: Lincoln and the Second American Revolution by James M. McPherson