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raised as to the liability of foreigners to be drafted under this law; and in order to settle this point the President, on the 8th of May, issued the following
WASHINGTON, May 8, 1863.
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. Whereas, The Congress of the United States, at its last session, enacted a law, entitled "An act for enrolling and calling out the national forces, and for other purposes," which was approved on the 3d day of March last; and
Whereas, It is recited in the said act that there now exists in the United States an insurrection and rebellion against the authority thereof, and it is, under the Constitution of the United States, the duty of the Government to suppress insubordination and rebellion, to guarantee to each State a republican form of government, and to preserve the public tranquillity; and
Whereas, For these high purposes, a military force is indispensable, to raise and support which all persons ought willingly to contribute; and
Whereas, No service can be more praiseworthy and honorable than that which is rendered for the maintenance of the Constitution and the Union, and the consequent preservation of free government; and
Whereas, For the reasons thus recited it was enacted by the said statute that all able-bodied male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intentions to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, with certain exemptions not necessary to be here mentioned, are declared to constitute the national forces, and shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States, when called out by the President for that purpose; and
Whereas, It is claimed, on and in behalf of persons of foreign birth, within the ages specified in said act, who have heretofore declared on oath their intentions to become citizens under and in pursuance to the laws of the United States, and who have not exercised the right of suffrage, or any other political franchise under the laws of the United States, or of any of the States thereof, that they are not absolutely precluded by their aforesaid declaration of intention from renouncing their purpose to become citizens; and that, on the contrary, such persons, under treaties and the law of nations, retain a right to renounce that purpose,
and to forego the privilege of citizenship and residence within the United States, under the obligations imposed by the aforesaid act of Congress:
Now, therefore, to avoid all misapprehensions concerning the liability of persons concerned to perform the service required by such enactment, and to give it full effect, I do hereby order and proclaim that no plea of alienage will be received, or allowed to exempt from the obligations imposed by the aforesaid act of Congress any person of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath his intention to become a citizen of the United States, under the laws thereof, and who shall be found within the United States at any time during the continuance of the present insurrection and rebellion, at or after the expiration of the period of sixty-five days from the date of this proclamation; nor shall any such plea of alienage be allowed in favor of any such person who has so, as aforesaid, declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and shall have exercised at any time the right of suffrage, or any other political franchise within the United States, under the laws thereof, or under the laws of any of the several States.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington this 8th day of May, in the year [L. S.] of our Lord 1863, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
It was subsequently ordered that the draft should take place in July, and public proclamation was made of the number which each State would be required to furnish. Enrolling officers had been appointed for the several districts of all the States, and, all the names being placed in a wheel, the number required were to be publicly drawn, under such regulations as were considered necessary to insure equal and exact justice. Very great pains had been taken by the opponents of the Administration to excite odium against that clause of the law which fixed the price of exemption from service under the draft at $300. It was represented that this clause was for the special benefit of the rich, who could easily pay the sum
required; while poor men who could not pay it would be compelled, at whatever hardships to themselves and their families, to enter the army. The draft was commenced in the city of New York on Saturday, July 11th, and was conducted quietly and successfully during that day. On Sunday plots were formed and combinations entered into to resist it; and no sooner was it resumed on Monday morning, July 13, than a sudden and formidable attack was made by an armed mob upon the office in one of the districts; the wheel was destroyed, the lists scattered, and the building set on fire. The excitement spread through the city. Crowds gathered everywhere, with no apparent common object; but during the day the movement seemed to be controlled by leaders in two general directions. The first was an attack upon the negroes; the second an assault upon every one who was supposed to be in any way concerned in the draft, or prominently identified, officially or otherwise, with the Administration or the Republican party. Unfortunately, the militia regiments of the city had been sent to Pennsylvania to withstand the rebel invasion; and the only guardians left for the public peace were the regular police and a few hundred soldiers who garrisoned the forts. Both behaved with the greatest vigor and fidelity, but they were too few to protect the dozen miles between the extremities of the city. The mob, dispersed in one quarter, would reassemble at another, and for four days the city seemed given up to their control. The outrages committed during this time were numerous and aggravated. Negroes were assaulted, beaten to death, mutilated, and hung; building after building was sacked and burned; gangs of desperadoes patrolled the streets, levying contributions, and ordering places of business to be closed. A Colored Orphan Asylum, sheltering some hundreds of children, was sacked and burned. After the first day the riot, which was at first directed against the draft, took a new turn. The entire mass of scoundrelism in the city
seemed to have been let loose for indiscriminate plunder. Women, half-grown boys, and children, were foremost in the work of robbery, and no man felt safe from attack. The police force did their duty manfully, aided at first by the few troops at the disposal of the authorities, and subsequently by the regiments who began to return from Pennsylvania. In the street fights which occurred many of the defenders of law and order lost their lives, while a far larger number of the rioters were killed. The bands of rioters were finally dispersed, and the peace of the city was restored.
During these occurrences the draft was necessarily suspended; and on the 3d of August, Governor Seymour addressed a long letter to the President, asking that further proceedings under the draft might be postponed until it should be seen whether the number required from the State of New York could not be raised by volunteering, and also until the constitutionality of the law could be tested in the judicial tribunals of the country. The Governor pointed out an alleged injustice in the application of the law, by which, in four districts. of the State of New York a far higher quota in proportion to the population was required than in the other districts of the State; and this was urged as an additional reason for postponing the further execution of the law.
To this appeal the President, on the 7th of August, made the following reply:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, August 7, 1863. His Excellency, HORATIO SEYMOUR,
Governor of New York, Albany, N. Y. :
Your communication of the 3d inst., has been received and attentively considered. I cannot consent to suspend the draft in New York, as you request, because, among other reasons, TIME is too important. By the figures you send, which I presume are correct, the twelve districts represented fall in two classes of eight and four respectively.
The disparity of the quotas for the draft in these two classes is certainly very striking, being the difference between an average of 2,200 in one class, and 4,864 in the other. Assuming that the districts are equal, one
to another, in entire population, as required by the plan on which they were made, this disparity is such as to require attention. Much of it, however, I suppose will be accounted for by the fact that so many more persons fit for soldiers are in the city than are in the country, who have too recently arrived from other parts of the United States and from Europe to be either included in the census of 1860, or to have voted in 1862. Still, making due allowance for this, I am yet unwilling to stand upon it as an entirely sufficient explanation of the great disparity. I shall direct the draft to proceed in all the districts, drawing, however, at first from each of the four districts-to wit, the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth -only, 2,200, being the average quota of the other class. After this drawing, these four districts, and also the Seventeenth and Twenty-ninth, shall be carefully re-enrolled; and, if you please, agents of yours may witness every step of the process. Any deficiency which may appear by the new enrolment will be supplied by a special draft for that object, allowing due credit for volunteers who may be obtained from these districts respectively during the interval; and at all points, so far as consistent with practical convenience, due credits shall be given for volunteers, and your Excellency shall be notified of the time fixed for commencing a draft in each district.
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 cannot consent to lose the time 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 time 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 time 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 time 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 time 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 obedient servant,
On the 8th Governor Seymour replied, reasserting the unfair