marshall law in US?

Has marshall law ever been in effect in the US? I think it was used in Hawaii post Pearl Harbor. Any other instances? Or instances where it was close?



You mean martial law.

Nitpick: Unless you’re referring to Marshall Dillon and his cohorts, the word you’re probably looking for is “martial.” Derived from Mars, the god of war. As in martial arts and courts martial.

Not to be a grammar/vocab Nazi but the correct spelling is “Martial law.”

Martial because it relates to the military, and martial law is basically rule by military government.

Martial law has been declared two times in the history of the United States.

On September 24, 1862 President Lincoln declared that all disloyal persons throughout the United States were subject to martial law.

On July 5th, 1864 President Lincoln declare the Commonwealth of Kentucky to be under martial law.

These are the only two times in the history of the country that martial law has been declared, however, de facto martial law has been instituted MANY times without an official declaration.

Martial law has been imposed several times by different levels of authorities. But it almost always has been declared unconstitutional sooner or later.

The only President to try to impose martial law was Lincoln, in 1863 during the Civil War. The Supreme Court ruled on it in 1866, a little late, but said that martial law cannot be imposed while the civilian courts are operating.

The language of the court can be found on this U.S. Constitution site.

Many other attempts to impose martial law are also listed there. Some were by governors, some by the military. Not noted there is Alabama Governor John Patterson, who imposed limited martial law in 1961 to quell a civil rights protest.

Another good article on martial law, with more info especially on Andrew Jackson’s use of it in 1812.

Martial law was declared repeatedly by West Virginia governors during the period of the mine wars. During the Cabin Creek/Paint Creek strike in 1913-14, the 81 year old labor activist Mother Jones was arrested in Charleston (the state capital) and driven into the strike area then under martial law, where she was put into military custody. Take that you nasty writ of habeas corpus!

Nitpicking a nitpick: It’s Marshal Dillon.

The most famous incident of Martial Law in US history was right after the 1907 San Francisco earthquake. The local military commander was unable to communicate with Washington, so he declared himself to be in charge and began to use explosives to destroy buildings, creating firebreaks against the raging fires.

He acted with no authorization because i had to be done. The city made him a hero. Stout lad.

To clarify this a bit.

Martial law has only officially been declared on the national level twice, and those were the two times by Lincoln.

Lincoln’s declaration of martial law was never ruled on directly in either instance, and was never declared unconstitutional.

However, the court did rule in Ex parte Milligan that military tribunals cannot supplant civilian courts when the civilian courts are obviously capable of being operated.

That was actually one of only two USSC cases that have ever dealt with aspects of martial law directly, and the ruling did not declare martial law itself to be unconstitutional, but rather the supplanting of civilian courts, which is only a small part of what actually can constitute martial law.

The other case was Duncan v. Kahanamoku, unsurprisingly (from the name) this case related to Hawaii. In 1941 the Governor of Hawaii declared martial law and tried a man under military tribunal, and attained a conviction.

The U.S. District Court declared the military tribunals invalid, citing that the civilian courts had never had any difficulty operating aside from the fact that the military had closed them.

The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s ruling and sided with the military.

Finally the USSC reversed the Appeals court’s ruling and issued a writ of habeas corpus which set Duncan (a shipbuilder) free.

In their ruling the USSC stated that martial law was not any one specific thing. And stated it was a muddled issue that was not defined in the Constitution and barely defined in the U.S. Code. They said martial law could be anything from a General taking actions of an emergency nature in a civilian area to military tribunals.

In the case at hand they strictly ruled the tribunals to be invalid due to the healthy nature of civilian courts.

When it comes to martial law, you can get away with virtually anything as long as you do not mess with the courts.

Furthermore the courts are fairly powerless in response to martial law because they almost inevitably rule on issues of martial law many months to years after martial law had been instituted, at times when the martial law had already been declared over by the executive branch.

And if you meant “Marsha Lllaw,” we don’t have one, because it’s always Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

Well, Thurgood Marshall served on the SCOTUS for quite a while…

The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire happened in 1906, not 1907.

The Hawaiian Islands were under martial law during most of World War II.

…at which time they were not a U.S. state. I’m sure you know this, but it’s worth pointing out.

Yes, I did know that. But I think it’s the most recent example of martial law being imposed on any part of the US for a significant period of time.

In the 1995 TV movie Kingfish, Governor Huey Long (played by John Goodman) briefly placed Louisiana under martial law; but I can find no confirmation in the Encarta or Wikipedia that this ever happened. Does anybody know whether that was based on a real incident?

New Jersey was briefly placed under martial law when the Martians invaded in 1938 . . .

Long did indeed use the Louisiana National Guard to serve his political aims and said he declared “martial law”, but this was only within the borders of Louisiana.

And since Louisiana has a different court system than the rest of the country, I’m not sure what that meant. I somehow doubt that Louisiana National Guard troops were going out and arresting people and trying them in military tribunals.

This is a bit of a hijack, but still about legal issues:

I’m sure I could Google out an answer, but it might well take hours, literally :eek: (speaking as the Voice of Experience, when I’ve Googled stuff for other WA questions on here).

So, I’m asking: Is/are there (a) site(s) which cover(s) the French legal tradition? Not one(s) focused on France itself, but on (former) French colonies - which of course includes Louisiana. Pretty please? :slight_smile:

I wonder how the other states formed from the Louisiana Purchase would have differed if they’d all been set up under the French system???

The Wikipedia has a page on Continental “civil law” (as opposed to Anglo-Saxon common law) at It says:

But it does not say whether civil law treats the concept of martial law any differently than does common law. Neither do the pages on “martial law” (, “military law” (, or “state of emergency” (

You can also find info on civil law at Roman Law Resources, We had a GQ thread on the French Napoleonic Code not long ago.

[stanley kowalski]

Y’see, in Louisiana we got da Napoleonic Code, which sez what’s a wife’s is her husband’s and what’s the husband’s is da wife’s . . . Under da Napoleonic Code a husband’s gotta take an interest in his wife’s business . . . especially when dey got a baby comin’ . . .

[/stanley kowalski]

Actually, it’s always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia