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Abraham Lincoln said in 1864, "It has long been a grave question whether any Government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be stron enough to maintain its existence in great emergencies. The question still remains in doubt, although Great Britain and the United States have so far maintained their existence without abolishing the liberties of their people.
Many less durable democracies have failed the test, often when the only
"emergency" was a threat that their present rulers might fall from power by
democratic processes. Lincoln spoke toward the end of the most formidable
insurrection ever faced and overcome by a constitutional democracy, in which he had had constantly to balance the needs of national survival against the
liberties of the citizen. He had taken many drastic actions, sometimes without
the authority of Congress, including suspension of the writ of habeas corpus
and military arrest, internment, and trial of civilians. But the United States emerged from the Civil War, as it did from subsequent foreign wars, still a constitutional democracy, with the citizen's rights pretty much intact.
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