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Bollman, Ex Parte, v. Swartwout 4 Cranch 75 (1807)

BOLLMAN, EX PARTE, v. SWARTWOUT 4 Cranch 75 (1807)

The Supreme Court discharged the prisoners, confederates in aaron burr's conspiracy, from an indictment for treason. The indictment specified their treason as levying war against the United States. Chief Justice john marshall, for the Court, distinguished treason from a conspiracy to commit it. He sought to prevent the crime of treason from being "extended by construction to doubtful cases." To complete the crime of treason or levying war, Marshall said, a body of men must be "actually assembled for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable purpose," in which everyone involved, to any degree and however remote from the scene of action, is guilty of treason. But the levying of war does not exist short of the actual assemblage of armed men. Congress had the power to punish crimes short of treason, but the Constitution protected Americans from a charge of treason for a crime short of it.

Bollman is also an important precedent in the law of federal jurisdiction. In obiter dictum, Marshall stated that a federal court's power to issue a writ of habeas corpus "must be given by written law," denying by inference that the courts have any inherent power to grant habeas corpus relief, apart from congressional authorization.

(See ex parte mccardle; judicial system.)

Leonard W. Levy

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