Lambdin P. Milligan
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Lambdin Purdy Milligan (March 24, 1812 – December 21, 1899) was a lawyer and farmer who was known for his extreme opinions on states' rights and his opposition to the Abraham Lincoln administration's conduct of the American Civil War. Milligan attended meetings of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret organization of Union dissenters, and is best remembered for his connection to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Ex parte Milligan 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2 (1866). The Court ruled the application of military tribunals to citizens when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional. The case stemmed from a trial by a military commission that convened on October 21, 1864, at Indianapolis, where Milligan and three others were convicted of treason. On May 30, 1865, President Andrew Johnson commuted Milligan's sentence of execution by hanging to life imprisonment. Following the Court's ruling on April 3, 1866, Milligan and the others were released from custody. He returned home and practiced law in Huntington, Indiana, where he later filed a civil suit for damages related to Ex parte Milligan. On May 30, 1871, the jury found in Milligan's favor, but federal and state statues limited the award for damages to five dollars plus court costs.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Marriage and family
- 3 Lawyer and anti-war Democrat
- 4 Ex parte Milligan
- 5 Later years
- 6 Death and legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Early life and education
Milligan, who was of Irish descent, was born on a farm near Saint Clairsville, in Kirkwood Township, Belmont County, Ohio. His parents were Moses Milligan Sr, a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, and Mary (née Purday) Milligan. Lambda was the eighth of nine siblings.
Milligan's formal schooling ended when he was eight years old. Milligan's father wanted him to attend college to study medicine, but his mother disagreed, insisting that if none of their other children could pursue high education, then neither should seventeen-year-old Lambdin. Despite his father threatening to disinherit him, Milligan left home. He began teaching in the local schools at the age of nineteen, but turned to law, studying at a firm in Saint Clairsville. Milligan was admitted to the Ohio bar on October 27, 1835. He was among the class of nine new lawyers that included Edwin M. Stanton, who became a member of Lincoln's cabinet during the American Civil War.
Milligan moved to Cadiz, in Harrison County, Ohio, where he continued his law practice, before relocating to Huntington County, Indiana, in 1845. Milligan suffered from health problems, possibly meningitis and epilepsy. At Huntington, Milligan edited a local newspaper, The Democratic Age, in 1849–50, but it went out of business within a year. He resumed his law practice in 1853.
Marriage and family
Milligan married Sarah L. Ridgeway on October 27, 1835, the same day he passed the Ohio bar. The couple had three children. Sarah died on November 20, 1870. Three year later, on August 12, 1873, Milligan married Maria L. (née Humphreys) Cavender, a widow who was a native of Madison, Indiana.
Lawyer and anti-war Democrat
After Milligan moved to Huntington, Indiana, and resumed his law practice, he developed a solid reputation as a successful lawyer, mostly represented small railroad companies. Milligan also ran as a Democrat for political office. Although he was elected as a county prosecuting attorney, Milligan was unsuccessful in other attempts at politics. In 1862 he failed to secure Indiana's Democratic nomination for a seat in Congress, and in 1864 he failed to get the Democratic nomination for governor of Indiana.
Milligan was highly outspoken in political affairs and was labeled a Copperhead for his frank opposition to the Civil War. Milligan, who advocated compromise before the war, was a staunch supporter of state sovereignty and opposed the federal government's efforts to keep southern states from seceding from the Union. Once the war began, he opposed the Lincoln administration's conduct of the war.
Milligan also disagreed with the manner in which President Lincoln's administration dealt with Union dissenters. The administration's plan declared martial law, sanctioned arbitrary arrest and detention, suspended the writ of habeas corpus that required justification of the detention, and initiated trials by military commission rather than conventional civil courts.
In the spring of 1863, Milligan defended Alexander J. Douglas, an Indiana state senator, in a trial by an Ohio military commission. Douglas was found guilty of violating a military order that banned criticism of the Lincoln administration's conduct of the war, but was released after Indiana's Republican governor, Oliver P. Morton, lobbied the president and his cabinet. Morton suggested that the army's tactics were worsening political opposition, not improving the situation. Milligan's final courtroom speech in Douglas's behalf was circulated in the local Democratic newspapers, increasing the lawyer's notoriety. In the following months, Milligan publicly protested the Union's waging war against the Confederacy and joined a secret society that opposed the war. Milligan was especially critical of President Lincoln and Governor Morton, who were his frequent targets.
In November 1863 Milligan attended a meeting of the Order of the American Knights. Although he occasionally attended its other meetings, "his position in the organization was never clear." It later evolved into the Sons of Liberty. Harrison H. Dodd, "grand commander" of the Order in Indiana, chose several men, including Milligan, to assist him, but this was not known to the group's rank-and-file members. By the end of 1863 military authorities in Indianapolis believed that Milligan was involved in a conspiracy against the United States and sent army detectives to observe his actions. During the spring and summer of 1864, Milligan continued to oppose the Lincoln administration, arguing that the president's efforts to suppress Union dissenters and the southern rebellion were unconstitutional. In May 1864 Federal authorities became convinced that Milligan had been in touch with Confederate agents. On August 20, 1864, a week after Milligan addressed a public meeting at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was confined to bed for health reasons, a large quantity of firearms and ammunition was discovered in an Indianapolis warehouse belonging to Dodd, increasing the fear of an uprising in the state. Within a few weeks, military authorities began to arrest the alleged conspirators.
Arrest and detention
On September 17, 1864, General Alvin Peterson Hovey, commander of the Military District of Indiana, authorized a military commission to meet on September 19 at Indianapolis, Indiana, to begin trials of those placed under military arrest. In addition to Dodd and Milligan, these included William M. Harrison, secretary of the Democratic Club of Marion County, Indiana; William A. Bowles of French Lick, Indiana; Joseph J. Bingham, editor of the Indianapolis Daily Sentinel and chairman of Indiana's Democratic State Central Committee; Horace Heffren, editor of the Washington (Indiana) Democrat; Stephen Horsey of Martin County, Indiana; and Andrew Humphreys of Bloomfield, Indiana. Two other men, James B. Wilson and David T. Yeakel, were also seized. Because President Lincoln had suspended the writ of habeas corpus on September 24, 1862, as authorized under Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and Congress ratified this action on March 3, 1863, with the passage of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, no warrant or affidavit was issued to show justification for Milligan's arrest.
Dodd was the first to be tried before a military commission, but escaped from jail before his trial was completed and fled to Canada. He was found guilty on October 10, 1864, convicted in absentia, and sentenced to hang. Charges against Bingham, Harrison, Yeakel, and Wilson were dismissed. Heffren was released before the proceedings against Milligan began.
Trial and conviction
- Conspiracy against the U.S. government
- Offering aid and comfort to the Confederates
- Inciting insurrections
- Disloyal practices
- Violation of the laws of war
The defendants were accused of establishing a secret organization that planned to liberate Confederate prisoners from Union prisoner-of-war camps in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; steal weapons from an arsenal; raise an armed force to incite a general insurrection; and join with the Confederates to invade Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky and make war on the U.S. government.
Democrats charged that the arrests and trials by military commission were politically motivated amid a climate of bitter political disputes between Democrats and Republicans about the conduct of the war. Scholars who have studied the trials believe the adjutant general did not adequately prove that Milligan was guilty of the charges made against him. In addition, they suggest that the trials, which were highly publicized in the press, were prompted by partisan politics, convened before commission of biased military officers, failed to follow the rules of evidence, and used questionable informers as witnesses. The Indianapolis Daily Sentinel, which supported the Democrats, blamed Governor Morton, a Republican, for the arrest and detention of its editor, Bingham, and called on the state's voters to oppose Morton's re-election in 1864. During the trials, members of the military commissions made speeches at Republican rallies. The controversial proceedings led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case known as Ex parte Milligan.
On December 10, 1864, Milligan, Bowles, and Horsey were found guilty on all charges and sentenced to hang on May 19, 1865. Humphreys was found guilty and sentenced to hard labor for the remainder of the war, but his sentence was later modified, allowing his release. Efforts were made to secure pardons for Milligan, Bowles, and Horsey, with the decision passing to President Andrew Johnson following Lincoln's assassination. On May 16 the executions of Milligan and Bowles were postponed to June 2, and Horsey's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. President Johnson approved commutation of the sentences for Milligan and Bowles to life imprisonment on May 30, 1865. The prisoners were transferred from Indianapolis to a federal prison at Columbus, Ohio.
Circuit Court appeal
On May 10, 1865, Jonathan W. Gorden, Milligan's legal counsel, filed a petition in the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Indiana at Indianapolis for a writ of habeas corpus, which called for a justification of Milligan's arrest. A similar petition was filed on behalf of Bowles and Horsey. Milligan's petition alleged that a federal grand jury had met in Indianapolis during January 1865, which it did, and it had not indicted him, which is also true, making him eligible for a release from prison under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (1863).
Justice David Davis, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal circuit court judge, and Judge Thomas Drummond, another federal circuit court judge, reviewed Milligan's appeal, which claimed he should not have been tried by a military commission. The two judges disagreed over the issue of whether the U.S. Constitution prohibited civilians from being tried by a military commission and passed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ex parte Milligan
The case, now known as Ex parte Milligan, was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 5 and March 13, 1866. The Court was asked to consider three questions. Should a writ of habeas corpus be issued, based on Milligan's petition? Should Milligan be discharged from custody? Did the military commission have jurisdiction to try and sentence Milligan? The Court only considered the issues relating to whether or not the commission's proceedings were constitutional, and Milligan's eligibility for a discharge from prison. The Court did not evaluate the charges or the evidence presented in the trial by the military commission, and the Supreme Court case did not affect the military commission's finding that Milligan and the others had been involved in a conspiracy.
The legal team representing the United States was U.S. Attorney General James Speed, Henry Stanbery, and Benjamin F. Butler, a Civil War general who became a congressman and governor of Massachusetts. Milligan's representatives included James A. Garfield, a member of Congress and a future U.S. president; Jeremiah S. Black, President James Buchanan's U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Secretary of State; David Dudley Field, a New York lawyer and brother of U.S. Supreme Court justice Stephen Johnson Field; and Joseph E. McDonald. In Milligan's defense. Garfield used precedents from an eighteenth-century English legal case that challenged the Royal Navy's civil authority involving the execution of a royal governor without due process after he ordered the execution of an army private for allegedly inciting a mutiny.
On April 3, 1866, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase handed down the Court's decision, which ruled that the writ of habeas corpus could be issued based on the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (1863). The Court ruled that the congressional act and the laws of war did not permit the imposition of martial law where civilian courts were open and operating unimpeded. As a matter of constitutional law, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus did not itself authorize trial by military tribunals. Because the military commission had no jurisdiction to try and sentence Milligan, he was entitled to a release.
Discharge from prison
Milligan and the others petitions were granted a discharge. Milligan was released from custody on April 12, 1866, and the Court's opinion was read during the next Court session, on December 17, 1866. Justice Davis delivered the majority opinion, explaining that Milligan, who was a civilian not in military service and resident of a state in which civilian courts were still functioning, had a right, when charged with a crime, to be tried and punished according to the law. Justice Davis disagreed with the federal government's argument regarding the propriety of the military commission, stating that "martial rule can never exist when the courts are open" and confined martial law to areas of "military operations, where war really prevails," and when it became a necessity to provide a substitute for a civil authority that had been overthrown. The civilian courts were still operating in Indiana at the time of Milligan's arrest, trial, and incarceration. Chief Justice Chase and three associate justices filed a separate opinion concurring with the majority in the judgment, but asserted that Congress had the power to authorize a military commission, although it had not done so in Milligan's case.
In 1868 Milligan filed a civil lawsuit in Huntington County, Indiana, seeking $500,000 in damages for conspiracy, false imprisonment, and libel related to the Ex part Milligan case. His civil case, "the first major civil rights jury trial held before the federal courts," was referred to the U.S. Circuit Court for Indiana at Indianapolis, where it evolved into Milligan v. Hovey, a two-week jury trial held in May 1871. Several men involved in Milligan's treason trial, including Alvin P. Hovey and Oliver P. Morton, were named as defendants. Milligan's legal council was Thomas A. Hendricks, a former state legislator, member of Congress, and future governor of Indiana. Benjamin Harrison, and Indianapolis lawyer and future U.S. president, represented the defendants.
The jury was asked to consider what damages, if any, Milligan had sustained relating to Ex parte Milligan. Harrison portrayed Milligan as a traitor and argued that his actions prolonged the war. Milligan refused to admit his affiliation or actions with a seditious organization. Hendricks focused on Milligan's "malicious prosecution and false imprisonment." The jury's verdict in Milligan's favor was issued on May 30, 1871. Although Milligan sought thousands of dollars in damages, state and federal statutes limited the claim to five dollars plus court costs.
In 1880 Milligan became a member of the Republican Party, and in his later years supported Garfield's campaign for president. Milligan retired from his law practice in 1893.
Death and legacy
Ex parte Milligan became well known as the leading U.S. Supreme Court case that found the president went beyond his legal powers to suppress dissenters during the American Civil War. The decision also helped to establish the tradition that presidential and military action "based on war" had limits.
- Stephen E. Towne. "Lambdin P. Milligan and Dissent in the Civil War". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
- John A. Marshall (1877). American Bastile: A History of the Illegal Arrests and Imprisonment of American Citizens During the Late Civil War. Philadelphia: T. W. Hartley. p. 71.
- History of Huntington County, Indiana. Chicago: Brant and Fuller. 1887. p. 514.
- David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler, and David J. Coles, eds. (2000). Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 669. ISBN 9781576070666.
- Heidler, Heidler, and Coles, eds., v. 3, p. 1329.
- Marshall, pp. 71-72
- The rationale for these actions was based on Article 1, Section 9, of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus "when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." See Alan T. Nolan, "Ex Parte Milligan: A Curb of Executive and Military Power" in We The People: Indiana and the United States Constitution: Lectures in Observance of the Bicentennial of the Constitution. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 1987. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0871950073. "CRS Annotated Constitution". Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Heidler, Heidler, and Coles, eds., v. 3, p. 1330.
- Kenneth M. Stampp (June 1944). "The Milligan Case and the Election of 1864 in Indiana". Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 31 (1): 44.
- Milligan remained bedridden for several days after his left leg became useless due to erysipelas. See Marshall, p. 73.
- Frank L. Klement (1984). Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials in the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 108–09. ISBN 0-8071-1174-0.
- Dodd was arrested on September 3, Harrison on August 20, and Bowles around September 17. Milligan, Bingham, Heffren, Horsey, and Humphrey were arrested between October 5 and October 7, 1864. See Nolan, pp. 37–38; Klement, Dark Lanterns, pp. 130 and 176; and Allen Sharp (Summer 2003). "An Echo of the War: The Aftermath of the Ex Parte Milligan Case". Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 15 (3): 42–44.
- Milligan, who was confined to his bed due to illness, was arrested at his home in Huntington. In an account that was published a few years later, the arresting soldiers at four o'clock in the morning on October 6 for transport to Indianapolis and were supposedly told by military officers to shoot their prisoner if they heard any noises en route to the train. Upon his arrival in Indianapolis, Milligan was imprisoned and told that he must prove his innocence. See Marshall, p. 73.
- Gilbert R. Tredway (1973). Democratic Opposition to the Lincoln Administration in Indiana. 48. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau. pp. 218–19.
- Nolan, pp. 40–41.
- Marshall, pp. 73–74.
- Nolan, pp. 38–39.
- Nolan, p. 39.
- Text of Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866) is available from: Findlaw
- Tredway, p. 182.
- Nolan, p. 46; Tredway, pp. 227–48; and Klement, Dark Lanterns, pp. 183–84.
- Emma Lou Thornbrough (1995). Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850–1880. History of Indiana. III. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. pp. 218, footnote 75. ISBN 0-87195-050-2.
- David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 444, 1482. ISBN 0-253-31222-1.
- Marshall, p. 75
- Bodenhamer and Barrows, eds., pp. 444–45.
- Klement, Dark Lanterns, pp. 184–85.
- Klement, Dark Lanterns, pp. 226–27.
- Thornbrough, p. 219, footnote 76.
- Detailed accounts of Milligan's treatment at Indianapolis and Columbus that were published later describe the harsh conditions of confinement and treatment in prison. See Marshall, pp. 76–78, 81–82. In 1869 Marshall wrote that Milligan was forced to walk about a mile from the federal courthouse to his prison cell in Indianapolis after sentencing, even though he had difficulty walking and had to use a crutch to support himself. Marshall also reported that during his incarceration in Indianapolis, smells from a nearby hog slaughtering operation lingered in his prison cell, where he also developed a fever, and in the winter months one-inch cracks allowed chilly air into his cell. According to Marshall's account, the conditions were similar at Columbus. Marshall also reported that in at least one incident, when Milligan was unable to get to his cell door fast enough to receive his rations, the prison guards allegedly tossed his food onto the floor of his cell.
- On January 2, 1865, the Circuit Court of the United States for Indiana met at Indianapolis, empanelled a grand jury, and adjourned on January 27, 1865, without indicting or charging Milligan with any offenses. Text of Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866) is available from: Findlaw
- Nolan, pp. 41–42.
- Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866)
- Bodenhamer and Barrows, eds., pp. 445, 1482.
- Nolan, p. 43.
- Allan Peskin (1978). Garfield: A Biography. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-87338-210-2. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
- Klement, Dark Lanterns, pp. 227–28.
- Nolan, p. 44.
- Nolan, p. 44–45.
- Sharp, p. 44.
- "The Chase Court 1864–-1873". Supreme Court Historical Society. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "L. P. Milligan's suit for Damages". New York Times. 1868-03-23. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- Sharp, p. 46.
- Nolan, p. 45, and Klement, Dark Lanterns, p. 237.
- Sharp, pp. 46–47; Nolan, pp. 45–46; and Charles William Calhoun (2005). Benjamin Harrison. New York: Times. p. 28. ISBN 0-8050-6952-6.
- Darwin N. Kelley (1973). Milligan's Fight against Lincoln. New York: Exposition Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780682476515.
- Bodenhamer, David J. and Robert G. Barrows, eds. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-31222-1.
- Calhoun, Charles William (2005). Benjamin Harrison. American President Series. New York: Times. ISBN 0-8050-6952-6.
- "CRS Annotated Constitution". Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Heidler, David S., Jeanne T. Heidler, and David J. Coles, eds. (2000). Encyclopedia Of The American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1576070666.
- History of Huntington County, Indiana. Chicago: Brant and Fuller. 1887.
- Kelley, Darwin N. (1973). Milligan's Fight against Lincoln. New York: Exposition Press. ISBN 9780682476515.
- Klement, Frank L. (1984). Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials in the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1174-0.
- Marshall, John A. (1869). American Bastile: A History of the Illegal Arrests and Imprisonment of American Citizens During the Late Civil War. Philadelphis: T. W. Hartley.
- Nolan, Alan T., "Ex Parte Milligan: A Curb of Executive and Military Power" in We The People: Indiana and the United States Constitution: Lectures in Observance of the Bicentennial of the Constitution. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 1987. pp. 26–33. ISBN 0871950073.
- Peskin, Allan (1978). Garfield: A Biography. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-87338-210-2. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
- Sharp, Allen (Summer 2003). "An Echo of the War: The Aftermath of the Ex Parte Milligan Case". Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 15 (3): 42–47.
- Stampp, Kenneth M. (June 1944). "The Milligan Case and the Election of 1864 in Indiana". Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 31 (1): 41–58.
- Text of Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866) is available from: Findlaw
- Thornbrough, Emma Lou (1995). Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850–1880. History of Indiana. III. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 0-87195-050-2.
- Towne, Stephen E. "Lambdin P. Milligan and Dissent in the Civil War". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
- Tredway, Gilbert R. (1973). Democratic Opposition to the Lincoln Administration in Indiana. 48. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau.
- Pitman, Benn, ed. (1865). The Trials for Treason at Indianapolis: Disclosing the Plans for Establishing a North-Western Confederacy. Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach and Baldwin. OCLC 1186686.