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National Government, Crisis, and Civil Liberties

  • Liberty
  • Continental Congress
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Constitution
  • property

National Government, Crisis, and Civil Liberties Activity: Lincoln and Habeas Corpus

Have students read Handout A: Abraham Lincoln and Habeas Corpus. Display Handout B: A Proclamation. Point out the questions, and have students listen for the answers as you read it aloud.

Then go over the answers as a large group. Point out to students that in 1861, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in some areas. This 1862 suspension of habeas corpus covers the entire nation.

Tell students they will now “try” the case of “Mr. Milligan.” Distribute Handout C: Milligan and the Constitution. Read aloud the scenario of Mr. Milligan, who has been sentenced to death for disloyalty by a military court.

Divide the class into groups of appropriate size for: attorneys for Mr. Milligan, attorneys for the US, and the Justices of Supreme Court. Give each group a copy of Handout D: Case Briefing Sheet. Have groups complete Handout D using Handouts A, B, and C.

With about twenty minutes remaining, allow attorneys for the government to make their case, followed by attorneys from Mr. Milligan. The Supreme Court members should then deliberate and announce their verdict.

Tell students that they were debating an actual Supreme Court case from 1866. Using an overhead of Handout E: The Ruling, go over the information and ask students if they agree with the Court. Was Lincoln’s action constitutional? Ask students how they would assess Lincoln’s attempt to balance the “strength” of the government with the “liberties of its people”?


National Government, Crisis, and Civil Liberties Activity: War and Civil Liberties

Break students into four groups and have each group read one of the policies on Handout F: Civil Liberty Laws. After they finish reading, they should do some background research to complete the graphic organizer on Handout G: The History of Civil Liberty Laws.

After each group has completed their section of Handout G, hold a class discussion about the historical implications of each of the policies and discuss how they affected civil liberties.

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State and Local Government