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Lincoln and Opposition in the North

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Hannah Edsall

on 19 August 2014

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Transcript of Lincoln and Opposition in the North

Lincoln and New York:
Northern opposition in 1863

Executive Mansion, Washington, August 7, 1863

His Excellency Horatio Seymour
Governor of New-York

Your communication of the 3rd. Inst. has been received, and attentively considered.

I can not consent to suspend the draft in New-York, as you request, because, among other reasons,
is too important.

…I do not object to abide a decision of the United States Supreme Court, or of the judges thereof, on the constitutionality of the draft law. In fact, I should be willing to facilitate the obtaining of it; but I can not consent to lose the
while it is being obtained. We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives every able bodied man he can reach, into his ranks, very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter-pen. No
is wasted, no argument is used. This produces an army which will soon turn upon our now victorious soldiers already in the field, if they shall not be sustained by recruits, as they should be. It produces an army with a rapidity not to be matched on our side, if we first waste
to re-experiment with the volunteer system, already deemed by congress, and palpably, in fact, so far exhausted, as to be inadequate; and then more
, to obtain a court decision, as to whether a law is constitutional, which requires a part of those not now in the service, to go to the aid of those who are already in it; and still more
, to determine with absolute certainty, that we get those, who are to go, in the precisely legal proportion, to those who are not to go.

My purpose is to be, in my action, just and constitutional; and yet practical, in performing the important duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and the free principles of our common country.

Your Obt. Servt.
Horatio Seymour, Governor of NY 1863-1864
Conflict between:
1. African Americans in New York and Irish-Americans
(already upset about inequalities in military)
2. "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight" (economic problems exacerbated this issue)
Before the conflict heated up, Lincoln attempted to reach out to the newly elected Governor, Seymour, who had already voiced his displeasure with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln did not issue the previous proclamation, but gave it to Major General Dix to keep in his pocket in case he needed further legitimacy. The military descended on New York to keep the peace and
enforce the draft
. Lincoln consistently shows in his actions that he believes that the draft (and his other federal actions) were
One of the most controversial actions Lincoln took during the Civil War was the suspension of habeas corpus:
Began authorizing the suspension in 1861
Issued a proclamation in 1862
Congress approved Habeas Corpus Act on March 3, 1863
Who can suspend habeas corpus?
Congress or President?
Lincoln avers repeatedly that it is not WHO but
is rebellion or invasion
Seymour criticized Lincoln's actions:
He considered the Emancipation Proclamation and Enrollment Act unconstitutional
They wrote several letters back and forth about the
draft quotas
, and the
constitutioniality of Lincoln's Enrollment Act
Lincoln's Enrollment Act, March 1863:
Most men ages 20-45 were eligible for the draft:
Men could pay a fee to get out of the draft
Men could also hire a substitute
Think-Pair-Share: How does this relate to the earlier discussion about tensions in New York?
After the riots and Seymour's continued refusal to enact the draft in his state, Lincoln began to get more aggressive in his letters, pleading to the necessity of time in order to preserve the Union. The following word cloud provides a perfect visual of Lincoln's emphasis in his August 7 letter to Seymour.
Lincoln remained firm in his conviction that the Enrollment Act was
and took further measures to enforce the draft.
A staunch Democrat, supporter for Douglas during the 1860 election, anti-Lincoln, anti-war, dissenter
He was arrested in 1863 without the writ of habeas corpus, which sparked a large group of New York Democrats to write Lincoln.
Lincoln responds to them in a public letter on July 12, 1863.

"It worked. Lincoln's actions were often controversial, even among some Republicans, and his personal popularity waxed and waned with the fortunes of the Union armies. But in the end, the public and Congress stayed with him."
-Historian James A. Dueholm
Opposition in the leadership
Economic hardship from the war
Enrollment Act
Political rivals/Copperheads
New York: Too many tensions
Erastus Corning:
President of New York Central
Railroad; Leader of Democrats

The Irish in NY resented the freed African-Americans that competed for jobs in the Northern cities
Enrollment (the draft):
Viewed as a "unprecedented intrusion on individuals' lives" (Weber)
Seymour refused to enforce the law and demanded lower quotas
Continued tension led to draft riots
Image of the draft drum
randomly choosing the
next union soldiers
Seymour's response on April 14:
"I have been prevented from giving my views in the manner I intended by a pressure of official duties"
"yield them a just and generous support in all measures they may adopt within the scope of
their constitutional powers."
Lincoln to Seymour: March 23, 1863
"you are at the head of the greatest State of that nation"
"the co-operation of your State...in fact, is indispensable"
Previous race/economic tensions+Seymour's leadership
Lincoln's institution of the draft
Horatio responds to
rioters by referring to
them as "my friends"
"Whereas, in the judgment of the President, it is necessary to use the military force in the State of New York in order to suppress existing unlawful combinations against the enforcement of the laws of the United States..."

"I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation.” (Letter to Albert Hodges, April 4, 1864)
consistency throughout his letters...
Clement Vallandigham
Erastus Corning and other prominent Democrats sent a lengthy letter to Lincoln, remaining patriotic, yet criticizing the recent arrest of Vallandigham and the suspension of habeas corpus.
In response, on June 12, Lincoln wrote a public letter that clarifies his position and confirms his confidence that he is correctly interpreting the Constitution.
The suspension clause, Article I, Section 9

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
(Who determines the suspension is not mentioned)
His arrest without habeas corpus united the Northern opposition against all of Lincoln's policies that limited civil liberties. This fomented an already tense start to the year of 1863, (the draft, draft resistance, large union losses.)
Although Lincoln ultimately remained in a favorable public opinion, it is important to remember that he was not afraid to act on the suspension of habeas corpus.
"As most students of the Lincoln administration's racial policies agree, a historian must pay careful attention not only to what Lincoln said but also to what he actually did. The administration's statistical record on arbitrary arrests is persuasive testimony that Lincoln was not particularly embarrassed by the policy."
-Mark E. Neely, Jr.

Lincoln's draft was an unconstitutional infringement on personal rights
Lincoln's actions were
because Congress
must suspend habeas
corpus, not the
Lincoln held firm in his belief that his actions
were constitutional, and were for the purpose of
preserving the constitution.
Which argument do you agree with?
Did Lincoln misuse his Executive Power?
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