August 8, 1862: Stanton orders political arrests

Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin M. Stanton

As we’ve seen recently, the Knights of the Golden Circle had been declared treasonous for discouraging enlistment in the Union army in Indiana. Now, the Federal government would make a national policy of arresting disloyal citizens.


On August 8, 1862, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, at the request of President Abraham Lincoln, published two unprecedented orders. The first “directed” United States marshals and chiefs of police to “arrest and
imprison” any persons “discouraging volunteer enlistments” or “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” or for “any other disloyal practice.” A military commission would try such prisoners, while the second order explicitly “suspended” the writ of habeas corpus in their cases. These were the first orders authorizing political arrests to apply nationwide.

Crushing Dissent:
The Pacific Coast Tests Lincoln’s Policy of Suppression, 1862
Robert J. Chandler (bio)
Civil War History
Volume 30, Number 3, September 1984

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