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How’s that saying go? “American by birth, Northern by the unconstitutional acts of Abraham Lincoln?” Indeed, wartime seems to grant even the greatest of leaders a temporary reprieve from conscience. In that case, Honest Abe, in 1861, desperate to keep what was left of the union intact, ordered the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared martial law in Maryland. Even when challenged by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Lincoln refused to back down. Some might argue that such an offense to citizens of the United States is even worse than those being committed by Dubya to those who may or not be “enemy combatants.” But in doing so, they would be ignoring a whole mess of American history, dating from, as the subtitle of Geoffrey R. Stone’s latest relates, the Sedition Act of 1798. Ask him to tell you more when he reads from Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Mike Kanin)