Date Presented

Spring 4-10-2006

Document Type


Access Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dan Lang

Second Advisor

Lorna Dawson

Third Advisor

Tim Meinke & Dan Messerschmidt


Government’s Emergency Power Throughout the History of the United States This paper reviews the use of power by the United States government during times of crisis. This paper analyzes both the arguments from Thomas Hobbes and John Locke regarding how limited both believe government should be. Throughout this debate John Locke believes that in leaving a state of nature we must enter into civil society through a social contract with each other. Hobbes’ view of the state of nature is such that he believes that there should be virtually no limitations on the power of government in eliminating citizens from the state of nature conditions. These debates are important today in answering how much power should be given to our government in times of crisis and what protections need to be put in place to ensure government does not abuse its power. The following essay analyzes 1) President Abraham Lincoln’s use of martial law and suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, 2) Hawaii’s use of martial law after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and 3) 2001 Patriot Act and the future of such emergency powers within the United States. In analyzing these cases the focus remained on whether within these emergency powers the government ever: suspended the writ of habeas corpus, seized private property, set up military courts to try civilians, or advanced other restrictions of citizen’s civil rights. In evaluating these elements one can look at whether government has given back these powers when the threat subsided or has been used to extend government’s power or merely as a tool in bringing us out of the state of nature and back into civil society. The findings of this paper suggest that in each case the government gives power back to its citizens, doing such in manner that is timely and respectful of citizens’ rights/liberties.