Constable, Charles H.

Born: 1817-07-06 Chestertown, Maryland

Died: 1865-10-09 Effingham, Illinois

Charles Constable studied law at the University of Virginia. In April 1840, Constable moved to Mt. Carmel, Illinois, to practice law. In 1846, he was elected to the Illinois Senate. In 1847, he opposed Abraham Lincoln as counsel in the famous Matson slave case. He was a delegate to the Illinois constitutional convention of 1848. Originally a Whig, Constable switched to the Democratic Party in 1854. In 1856, he was a presidential elector and cast his ballot for James Buchanan. In June 1861, he won election as judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Illinois. During the Civil War, Constable was an anti-war Democrat. In March 1863, Judge Constable refused to allow testimony against two defendants accused of desertion from the Union Army and released them. When news of the release reached army headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, Henry B. Carrington dispatched troops to arrest Constable and hold him in Indianapolis. Constable stood trial in the U.S. Circuit Court in Springfield, Illinois, where Judge Samuel Treat dismissed the charges. Constable died while traveling as a circuit court judge.

John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1960), 136; William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois (Chicago: O. L. Baskin, 1883), 291-92; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Sangamon County (Chicago: Munsell, 1912 ), 1:117; Stephen E. Towne, “‘Such Conduct Must Be Put Down’: The Military Arrest of Judge Charles H. Constable during the Civil War,” Journal of Illinois History 9 (Spring 2006), 43-62.