Worcester Daily Transcript, May 31, 1861

When all other departments of the government have been cleansed and purified by the substitution of honest men in the place of traitors, it will be well to take the judiciary in hand and mould it into conformity with patriotism and honor. Every other part of our body politic is fast approaching a healthy condition. This still smells of the rottenness of the past. Judge Taney is determined not to be forgotten. We thank him for reminding us of a nuisance which must be abolished. It is so long ago—in history—since the Dred Scott decision, that we needed some fresh assumption to remind us of the existence of our pro-slavery supreme court, as a dead and putrid excrescence soon to be sloughed off, as the pure streams of health begin again to course through the channels of the government.

John Merriman, a citizen of Baltimore, an active rebel, an officer in the secession forces, an inciter of the attack upon the Massachusetts soldiers and of the robbery of the United States arsenals, was arrested by Gen. Cadwallader and confined at Fort McHenry. The chief justice of the supreme court of these United States, fully aware of all the exigenc[i]es which forced the arrest of this traitor, hastened to Baltimore to delight the mobocrats of that city by issuing a writ of habeas corpus against Gen. Cadwallader to take the body of the said John Merriman from his custody, and bring him before himself. But Gen. Cadwallader disobeyed his order. He knew his duty and he dared to do it. Judge Taney's officer returned in a crest fallen condition to report to his superior the contumacity of the loyal General. The impotent old judge, knowing that his day had passed, and that he no longer could accomplish his wishes as in the days of Buchanan, gnashed his teeth and talked very fiercely about military usurpation, and what he should order the President of the United States to do, and issued his capias against Cadwallader himself to bring him into court for contempt of his high and sacred authority. This Taney knew would have no other effect than to show his thorough sympathy with the rebel prisoner, and would gratify the Baltimoreans as an evidence of his envenomed though impotent spite. Taney declares the action of Cadwallader, or of the President sustaining him, to be unconstitutional. To men like him, who fancy that every thing is to be measured out with red tape, and moreover by themselves, and in such a way as to crush every thing good and noble and promote rebellion, slavery, and hunkerism, it may very possibly seem to be unconstitutional to intervene to prevent the consummation of their unrighteous projects.

They can read slavery, secession and every other vile thing in the constitution, but if the President seeks to punish a traitor contrary to their wishes, they hold up their hands in affected horror at the unconstitutionality of the act. We have had enough of such nonsense. The constitution indeed provides that the writ of habeas corpus is not to be suspended except in cases of war and rebellion, and, perhaps, it was the intent of its framers that it should be suspended then only by congress, but of course it could never have been intended that a judge like Taney should have power to sit upon any bench he might get up in the neighborhood of our armies, and send out his officers to bring the prisoners taken by the armies before him to decide whether they should be detained or released; to adopt this ground would be to make Taney the supreme power in the land. He could undo the whole work of the government. As fast as the loyal troops secured the leading rebels, one after another Taney would bid them go in peace. The presumption is absurd.—In times like the present, the government must act, and that efficiently. Old humdrum formalists must give way to men who think quick, and act as quick as they think. This revolution is going to clear away a vast deal of rubbish that now cumbers the ground, and Taney will go with the rest.

Once before in the history of our country, a great hue and cry was raised over the disregard of the writ of habeas corpus. It was also in days of rebellion and treason. When Aaron Burr was arrested in his treasonable purposes, the commandant at New Orleans arrested three of his confederates and sent them to Washington for trial, disregarding all writs of habeas corpus, issued by friendly judges. He was vehemently assailed throughout the country, and also in Congress, for this act, by those who openly or secretly sympathized with Burr. But he was sustained, and history accedes to him the honor of having done his duty. So it will be in this case. The day will come when posterity will wonder not that Taney dared to interfere his feeble mandate to arrest the progress of the people's vengeance but that he was suffered for a single day longer to disgrace the high position of Chief Justice of the United States.