H.R. 605, An Act to amend . . . “An act to establish the judicial courts of the United States,” . . . (Habeas Corpus Act of 1867), July 25, 1866
Congress empowered President Abraham Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus in 1863, allowing military authorities to detain pro-Confederate civilians without trial. During Reconstruction, Congress sought to protect Union sympathizers and freedmen whose rights were threatened in the South. The Habeas Corpus Act of 1867 expanded the authority of federal courts to issue writs of habeas corpus for state prisoners.
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration
Congress Limits the Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction
A tool of the judiciary to check the powers of the executive, a writ of habeas corpus is a court order challenging the legality of a prisoner’s detention. The Judiciary Act of 1789 empowered the Supreme Court to hear habeas corpus petitions of federal prisoners and Congress expanded that jurisdiction in 1867. In 1868, when a military prisoner challenged his arrest for criticizing Reconstruction policies, Congress limited the Supreme Court’s authority, fearing the ruling’s impact on Reconstruction. The court recognized Congress’s power to limit its appellate jurisdiction in Ex parte McCardle.
The supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction . . . with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2