The issue of civil rights during times of war or imminent danger, raised by the Koromatsu decision, is still an important question today. As early as 1810 former president Thomas Jefferson wrote that while individual rights were extremely important, the “laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of a higher obligation.” Since 1919 it has been established that the federal court system would decide when a “clear and present danger” required the limiting of individual rights.
In 1943, in his report to Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Gen. J.L. DeWitt defended the evacuation and internment of 110,442 Japanese Americans as a measure “impelled by military necessity.” One Japanese-American citizen, Fred Koromatsu, challenged the “internment” of Japanese-Americans as an unconstitutional exercise of federal power.
Chapter 8 of Discovering the American Past provides the Supreme Court decision and opinions that upheld the government’s action. The Evidence contains excerpts from the Court’s opinion (delivered by Justice Hugo Black), a concurring opinion by Justice Felix Frankfurter, and dissenting opinions by Justices Owen Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson. Using these documents, you must answer the following historical question:
Historical Queston: Did the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor meet the “clear and present danger” test? Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision in the context of the 1940s?
THis is a Document Based Question. You must use the documents in this chapter to answer the question. Remember to use the H2W essay format.