In one way or another, there have always been tyrants who have used the power of government to suppress and control the public. But if we are looking for specific examples of Martial Law being used inside the United States, we don’t have to look very hard or far to find them.
Using the strictest definition of the term, we can see the roots of martial law in America take hold during the lead up to the Revolutionary war. Although there were many reasons for the war, including resistance to taxes imposed by the British parliament, the main catalyst was England’s decision to use military troops to enforce everyday law throughout their colonies.
Flash forward a hundred years, and many of the most egregious examples of martial law can be found throughout the civil war. While today’s history books largely ignore the real reasons for the war or the many atrocities committed by President Lincoln, the facts of what really happened cannot be disputed.
The Civil War Ushers in a Strong Central Government through Martial Law Enforcement
The reason we have lost so many of our liberties can be tied directly to the Civil War.
On September 15, 1863, President Lincoln imposed Congressionally-authorized martial law. While history contends the war was fought to end slavery, the truth is, Lincoln by his own admission never really cared about freeing slaves. In fact, Lincoln never intended to abolish slavery, his main interest was centralizing government power and using the federal government to exert complete control over all citizens. The abolishment of slavery was only a byproduct of the war; it actually took the 13th amendment to end slavery, since Lincoln actually only freed Southern slaves, not slaves in states loyal to the Union.
During the Civil War, Lincoln continually violated the Constitution, in some cases suspending the entire Constitution that he swore to uphold.
- He suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus without the consent of Congress. (“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”—Article I, Section IX of Constitution)
- He shut down newspapers whose writers displayed any dissent to Union policy or spoke out against him. (First Amendment)
- He raised troops without the consent of Congress. (Article I of the Constitution)
- He closed courts by force. (Article I, 3 of Constitution)
- He even imprisoned citizens, newspaper owners, and elected officials without cause and without a trial. (Amendments 1, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X)
Our Founders were very wary of using the military to enforce public policy, and concerns about this type of abuse date back to, and largely influenced, the creation of the Constitution. The Founders continually warned about using military force to uphold law and order; unfortunately, most Americans are rather ignorant of history and are even more ignorant to what our actual founders intended when they created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
What will happen under Martial law?
The actual words martial law will probably never be used.
The first thing you will likely see is a declaration of a “State of Emergency.” This may be done nationally, in cases of war or large-scale terrorist attacks; or it may happen locally as witnessed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In August of 2005, New Orleans was declared a “Disaster Area” and the governor declared a “State of Emergency.” This allowed state officials to order evacuations and forcefully remove residents from their homes, suspend certain laws, confiscate firearms, and suspend the sale of items like liquor, firearms, and ammunition.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police, the U.S. Marshalls Office, and the Louisiana National Guard forcibly confiscated over 1,000 legal firearms from law-abiding citizens.
Depending on the reasons behind the declaration you may also see:
- Suspension of Habeas Corpus: Imprisonment without due process and without a trial.
- Travel Restrictions, including road closures and possibly, even quarantine zones.
- Mandatory Curfews and Mandatory Identification.
- Automatic search and seizures without a warrant.
When can Martial Law be enacted?
When Martial Law is enacted is a pretty touchy subject, largely because our Founders never intended that the federal government or a standing army would be permitted to take such actions. Unfortunately, most people accept these unconstitutional activities and are more than willing to give up their essential liberties in exchange for peace of mind and not having to think for themselves.
This is something Benjamin Franklin warned about when he famously wrote,
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
How likely is martial law in the United States?
Let’s face it, this country is a ticking time bomb. From widespread social unrest, crime and violence to an escalating astronomical national debt, which includes an entire subset of our population that depends on government assistance to exist, the writing is on the wall: Trouble is coming.
Michael DePinto is an attorney whose articles are published by the The Last Great Stand and reposted with permission at Freedom Outpost. This article is a revised version of a portion of an article first published on both sites.