Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Davis Urges Suspension of Habeas Corpus

February 3, 1864 – President Jefferson Davis delivered a message to Congress asking for the authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

By this time, Federal military forces had begun various campaigns that included looting, pillaging, and plundering private property in the South. This had caused widespread disorder that required attention from the Confederate government. Consequently, Davis requested the same authorization that President Abraham Lincoln had assumed (without congressional consent) to apprehend and jail citizens suspected of disloyalty without trial.

In his message, Davis noted the “discontent, disaffection, and disloyalty” pervading the Confederacy, partly due to the demoralizing effects of Federal military occupation. Davis also alleged that such sentiments were rising among those who “have enjoyed quiet and safety at home.” He stated that suspending the writ was necessary to combat the rising number of Federal occupiers and Confederate dissidents, both of which tended to demoralize the people and encourage potential race wars between slaves and masters. Davis wrote:

“Must the independence for which we are contending, the safety of the defenseless families of the men who have fallen in battle and of those who still confront the invader, be put in peril for the sake of conformity to the technicalities of the law of treason?… Having thus presented some of the threatening evils which exist, it remains to suggest the remedy. And in my judgment that is to be found only in the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”

Although the Lincoln administration had suspended the writ long ago and jailed thousands of anti-war dissidents without trial, this concept was still controversial for the Confederacy, which had been founded on the principle that states’ rights checked a potentially overreaching national government. As such, many members of the Confederate Congress opposed Davis’s request. Conversely, supporters argued that such a measure was necessary to suppress draft opposition and other “disloyal” practices.

After nearly two weeks of acrimonious debate, Congress finally approved authorizing Davis to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The bill included a specific list of treasonable offenses, thus limiting Davis’s ability to act arbitrarily as much as possible. To further appease detractors, Davis only had suspension power until August 2.

Nevertheless, fierce critics remained, including Davis’s own vice president, Alexander Stephens of Georgia. Stephens declared that “constitutional liberty will go down, never to rise again on this continent” if Davis was empowered to suspend the writ. He called the bill a “blow at the very ‘vitals of liberty’” and accused Davis of–

“… aiming at absolute power… Far better that our country should be overrun by the enemy, our cities sacked and burned, and our land laid desolate, than that the people should thus suffer the citadel of their liberties to be entered and taken by professed friends.”

Despite opposition from Stephens and both of Georgia’s Confederate senators, the state legislature approved a resolution supporting this and all laws designed to win the war. Even so, the opposition to suspending the writ of habeas corpus remained so strong that Davis rarely exercised the power.

However, passage of the law prompted William W. Holden to suspend publication of his Unionist newspaper, the Raleigh (North Carolina) Standard. Many Confederate officials had targeted Holden as a traitor for urging southerners to rejoin the Union, and Davis could have ordered him arrested and jailed without charges.

Holden declared that “if I could not continue to print as a free man I would not print at all.” Holden then announced that he would oppose Governor Zebulon Vance in the upcoming election, but Vance turned many of Holden’s supporters against him by accusing him of treason.

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References

Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 331; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 950; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 394, 398; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 460-61, 465; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 435, 692-93, 697-98; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q164

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Federal Conscription: Lincoln Insists the Draft Continue

August 7, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln rejected New York Governor Horatio Seymour’s request to suspend the military draft in his state.

The Enrollment Act, passed in March, required all able-bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45 to register for a military draft. This law was deeply resented by people who opposed the war on various grounds (religious principles, refusal to fight to free slaves, refusal to fight to preserve the Union, supporting the Confederacy, etc.). In July, the drawing of draftee names sparked riots through the North, including the worst draft and race riot in American history in New York City.

New York Gov Horatio Seymour | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

As the violence simmered down in early August, Seymour, one of the most prominent critics of the Lincoln administration, wrote the president urging him to suspend the draft. He argued that conscription was unconstitutional (and thus required judicial review before enforcement), that the quota assigned to New York was “glaringly unjust,” and that drafting men would encourage more rioting. Seymour, who many Republicans accused of emboldening the rioters, provided more detailed objections to conscription in subsequent letters.

While he awaited Lincoln’s response, Seymour also exchanged correspondence with Major General John A. Dix, commanding the military department that encompassed New York, which included overseeing the draft’s enforcement. Seymour wrote Dix on the 1st:

“I have this day sent to the President of the United States a communication in relation to the draft in this State. I believe his answer will relieve you and me from the painful questions growing out of an armed enforcement of the conscription law in this patriotic State, which has contributed so largely and freely to the support of the national cause during the existing war.”

Dix responded:

“It is my duty, as commanding officer of the troops in the service of the United States in this department, if called on by the enrolling officers, to aid them in resisting forcible opposition to the execution of the law; and it is from an earnest desire to avoid the necessity of employing for the purpose any of my forces, which have been placed here to garrison the forts and protect the public property, that I wished to see the draft enforced by the military power of the State, in case of armed or organized resistance to it… I designed, if your cooperation could not be relied on, to ask the General Government for a force which should be adequate to insure the execution of the law and to meet any emergency growing out of it.”

Seymour wrote:

“As you state in your letter that it is your duty to enforce the act of Congress, and, as you apprehend its provisions may excite popular resistance, it is proposed you should know the position which will be held by the State authorities. Of course, under no circumstances, can they perform duties expressly confided to others, nor can they undertake to relieve others from their proper responsibilities. But there can be no violations of good order, or riotous proceedings, no disturbances of the public peace, which are not infractions of the laws of the State; and those laws will be enforced under all circumstances. I shall take care that all the executive officers of this State perform their duties vigorously and thoroughly, and, if need be, the military power will be called into requisition. As you are an officer of the General Government, and not of the State, it does not become me to make suggestions to you with regard to your action under a law of Congress. You will, of course, be governed by your instructions and your own views of duty.”

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln responded four days later. He wrote that if Seymour could prove his claim that New York’s draft quota was “glaringly unjust,” Lincoln would modify the allotment “so far as consistent, with practical convenience.” But he rejected Seymour’s request to suspend the draft until the courts ruled on its constitutionality: “I can not consent to suspend the draft in New-York, as you request because, among other reasons, time is too important.” Lincoln agreed to allow the Supreme Court to review the law in due time; “In fact, I should be willing to facilitate the obtaining of” such a judicial review. But for now:

“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.”

According to Lincoln, the Confederate Conscription Act:

“… 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.”

Lincoln concluded with a familiar appeal to solidarity in the fight against the Confederacy: “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.”

On the 18th, the day before the draft was set to resume in New York, Dix notified Seymour, “I applied to the Secretary of War on the 14th inst. for a force adequate to the object. The call was promptly responded to, and I shall be ready to meet all opposition to the draft.”

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had dispatched 42 Federal regiments and two batteries to enforce conscription in New York City, which unconstitutionally overrode Seymour’s authority over his state. But the draft would proceed, no matter what.

Lincoln offered a concession to New York by reducing its draft quota. But he also wrote an order forcing the New York militia into Federal service to help impose the draft if Seymour tried to stop it. About 20,000 troops patrolled Manhattan with three artillery batteries to ensure that no further violence broke out. Seymour did not try stopping the draft, and no unrest occurred.

Federal officials drew 292,441 names for the draft this month. Of these, 52,000 paid the $300 commutation fee to avoid service. The New York City Council appropriated money to pay commutation fees for many poor draftees. Those who could not afford to pay such a fee resented the commutation process, and the draft tended to net poor citizens and immigrants not necessarily loyal to the cause.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19762-87; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 317; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9528-39; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 155-56; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 637; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 337, 341; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 394-95, 397-99; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 610; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Vallandigham Affair Continues

June 11, 1863 – Exiled Copperhead Clement L. Vallandigham was nominated to run for governor of Ohio, and President Abraham Lincoln issued a response to those protesting his abuse of civil liberties.

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Lincoln had banished Vallandigham to the South last month after Vallandigham had delivered incendiary speeches condemning the administration’s war policies and encouraging others to oppose the war effort. After Federal authorities escorted Vallandigham to Tennessee, President Jefferson Davis directed Confederate officials to consider the former Ohio congressman an “alien enemy” and send him to Wilmington, North Carolina.

In the North, Vallandigham continued enjoying widespread support for his opposition to the war, as more and more people joined the Copperheads in calling for negotiating a peace with the Confederacy. Delegates to the Ohio Democratic convention nominated Vallandigham for governor, despite his banishment, by a vote of 411 to 11.

Davis wanted nothing to do with Vallandigham, then under guard at Wilmington. He feared that sheltering Vallandigham would discredit the northern peace movement, which the Confederacy actively supported. Davis told Vallandigham to either reject the nomination or leave the South. Vallandigham chose the latter, and in mid-June, Confederates shipped him to Bermuda. He was later sent to Canada, where he ran for governor while in exile.

Meanwhile, protests of Lincoln’s handling of the Vallandigham affair continued. A delegation of New York Democrats led by Erastus Corning had adopted resolutions condemning the military suppression of civil liberties. Lincoln drafted a response and read it to his cabinet before sending it to the New Yorkers. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles remarked, “It has vigor and ability and with some corrections will be a strong paper.” Lincoln sent the letter and had a copy printed in the New York Tribune, titled, “Letter to Erastus Corning, et al.”

Lincoln began by praising the delegation for their “eminently patriotic” vow to uphold the Union and support the administration’s prosecution of the war as long as it remained within constitutional boundaries. While Lincoln conceded that military arrests of civilians would be unconstitutional in peacetime, he noted that the Constitution allowed for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus “in cases of Rebellion or Invasion,” when “the public Safety may require it.”

The president argued that “public Safety” required the suspension because the country indeed faced a “clear, flagrant, and gigantic” rebellion. According to Lincoln, this “giant rebellion” had stretched into the northern states, where “under cover of ‘liberty of speech,’ ‘liberty of the press,’ and ‘Habeas corpus,’ (the rebels) hoped to keep on foot amongst us a most efficient corps of spies, informers, suppliers, and aiders and abettors of their cause.”

This brought the war to the home front, and this required military intervention because civil courts were “utterly incompetent” to address such subversion. Lincoln explained that being “Thoroughly imbued with a reverence for the guaranteed rights of individuals,” he had been “slow to adopt the strong measures” such as military suppression, and he guessed that a time would come “when I shall be blamed for having made too few arrests rather than too many.”

Lincoln rejected the argument that Vallandigham had been arrested “for no other reason than words addressed to a public meeting.” He wrote that Vallandigham had been arrested “because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops (and) to encourage desertions… He was damaging the army, upon the existence and vigor of which the life of the nation depends.” The president then posed a rhetorical question to prove his point:

“Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?… I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional, but withal a great mercy.”

Lincoln disagreed with the New Yorkers’ resolution that military suppression during war would lead to limits on personal freedoms in peace. He wrote that he could no more accept this premise “than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness, as to persist in feeding upon them through the remainder of his healthful life.”

Nearly 10 million people ultimately read this letter, which proved vastly popular among Republicans and other champions of the war effort. The Loyal Publication Society printed and distributed 500,000 copies, with many politicians using it for their campaigns.

Lincoln followed up this letter with one to Matthew Birchard, leading delegate to the Ohio Democratic Convention that nominated Vallandigham for governor. This was a response to Birchard and others coming to Washington to protest Vallandigham’s banishment. Lincoln wrote this letter at the urging of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, a former Ohio governor who was familiar with the state’s politics.

Unlike Lincoln’s first letter, this one was much more scathing. He accused Vallandigham of being responsible “personally, in a greater degree than… any other one man” for desertions, draft evasions, and terrorism against Unionists. Nominating him for governor encouraged “desertion, resistance to the draft and the like.”

Lincoln pledged to revoke Vallandigham’s banishment if each Ohio delegate pledged to “do all he can to have the officers, soldiers, and seamen of the army and navy… paid, fed, clad, and otherwise well provided and supported.” The delegates called such an ultimatum a “sacrifice of their dignity and self-respect,” and refused. Vallandigham’s banishment continued, as did military arrests in the northern states.

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References

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 290, 294; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9361-419; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 304, 308; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 524-25; Historical Times Encyclopedia Of The Civil War (2010, retrieved 6/4/2012); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 361, 364-65; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 598; Porter, George Henry, Ohio Politics During the Civil War Period (New York: 1911), p. 167; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 775; Vallandigham, James L., A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham (Baltimore, MD: Turnbull Brothers, 1872), p. 293-95; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q263

The Chicago Times Suppression

June 3, 1863 – Major General Ambrose E. Burnside responded to administration criticism of Clement Vallandigham’s arrest and conviction last month by closing the Chicago Times.

Maj Gen A.E. Burnside | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Burnside, commanding the Federal Military Department of the Ohio (which included jurisdiction over Illinois), issued a general order: “On account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.”

At 3 a.m. on June 3, Federal cavalry rode up to the Times building, with two infantry companies from Camp Douglas arriving an hour later in support. Troops seized control of the building, stopped the presses, destroyed newspapers already printed, and announced that the Times was out of business.

Burnside’s order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after his controversial arrest of Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Chicago Mayor F.C. Sherman presided over a meeting held by city leaders at noon. Expressing outrage that Burnside had trampled upon the constitutional freedom of the press, the attendees unanimously demanded that President Lincoln revoke the Times’s closure.

That afternoon, the Illinois legislature in Springfield condemned Burnside’s suppression. In the evening, some “20,000 loyal citizens,” including many supporters of Lincoln’s administration, gathered in Chicago’s Court House Square to hear speeches denouncing military suppression of constitutional liberties and cheering the legislature’s condemnation.

The next morning, Federal Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton acted upon President Lincoln’s suggestion and revoked Burnside’s order. Stanton also directed Burnside, through Lincoln, to stop issuing such orders without prior War Department approval. But the Chicago Times closure became yet another rallying point for northerners to criticize Lincoln’s abuse of civil liberties and his conduct of the war.

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Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 634; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 360-62; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q263

 

Lincoln Banishes Vallandigham

May 19, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln directed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to banish former Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham to the South for voicing anti-war views that the administration considered dangerous.

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Vallandigham had been an outspoken opponent of Lincoln and the war since the conflict began. He was a prominent leader of the “Peace” Democrats, or “Copperheads,” in Ohio, where he had narrowly lost his congressional seat due to Republicans redrawing his district’s boundaries.

On May 1, Vallandigham delivered a speech to thousands of spectators at a party rally in Mount Vernon. He asserted that peace with the South could be negotiated, but Lincoln and his Republican Party refused to negotiate. This, Vallandigham said, was because they no longer sought to preserve the Union, but rather to free slaves and enslave whites by destroying civil liberties.

Vallandigham declared that the war would end only if soldiers began deserting in droves and the people hurled “King Lincoln from his throne.” He warned pro-war New Englanders that if they continued supporting the conflict, western states might secede and rejoin the South.

Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio, had sent two staff members to listen to Vallandigham’s speech. After receiving their report on what the former congressman said, Burnside directed his aide-de-camp to take a company of Federal soldiers aboard a special train and arrest Vallandigham at his Dayton home.

At 2:30 a.m. on the 5th, the troops broke down Vallandigham’s door and pulled him out of bed amidst the screams of his wife and sister-in-law. The Federals dragged Vallandigham to the waiting railcar, which took him to Burnside’s headquarters at Cincinnati, where he was jailed.

Maj Gen A.E. Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The Federals charged Vallandigham with violating Burnside’s General Order No. 38, issued on April 13. The order stated that “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department,” and anyone committing such “treason, expressed or implied,” would be seized and brought before a military tribunal.

Burnside claimed he had the authority to enforce this order based on Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus last September, under which anyone expressing “disloyalty” or discouraging support for the war effort could be subject to military trial, regardless of the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression.

A military commission assembled on May 6 and tried Vallandigham for:

“Publicly expressing, in violation of General Orders No. 38, from Head-quarters Department of the Ohio, sympathy for those in arms against the Government of the United States, and declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and purpose of weakening the power of the Government in its efforts to suppress an unlawful rebellion.”

According to witnesses’ testimony–

“… he addressed a large meeting of citizens at Mount Vernon, and did utter sentiments in words, or in effect, as follows: declaring the present war ‘a wicked, cruel, and unnecessary war’; ‘a war not being waged for the preservation of the Union’; ‘a war for the purpose of crushing out liberty and creating a despotism’; ‘a war for the freedom of the blacks and the enslavement of the whites’; stating that, ‘if the Administration had so wished, the war could have been honorably terminated months ago’; characterizing the (Burnside’s) military order ‘as a base usurpation of arbitrary authority’; declaring ‘that he was at all times and upon all occasions resolved to do what he could to defeat the attempts now made to build up a monarchy upon the ruins of our free government.’”

Vallandigham refused to enter a plea, arguing that a military tribunal had no authority where civilian courts functioned. The commissioners convicted Vallandigham the next day, but they expressed reluctance to execute him by firing squad. They ultimately recommended sending him to confinement at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, for two years or “during the continuance of the war.” Burnside approved the sentence, declaring that speeches such as Vallandigham’s were “weakening the power of the Government (to put down) an unlawful rebellion.”

Vallandigham’s conviction sparked protests throughout the North. Democrats and even some Republicans expressed outrage that someone could be thrown in prison for simply delivering a speech, and nearly every member of President Lincoln’s cabinet opposed the action. Nevertheless, Lincoln gave Burnside his “kind assurance of support” after learning of Vallandigham’s conviction in a newspaper.

When the Chicago Times backed Vallandigham and attacked the Lincoln administration, Burnside closed the newspaper down. An outraged mob burned the office of the Dayton Journal, the Republican newspaper in Vallandigham’s home town.

The pro-Democrat New York Atlas declared that “the tyranny of military despotism” displayed by Vallandigham’s conviction proved “the weakness, folly, oppression, mismanagement, and general wickedness of the (administration).” The New York Herald feared this was only the first of “a series of fatal steps which must terminate at last in bloody anarchy.”

Another Democrat noted that Vallandigham’s vocal opposition to the war was mild compared to then-Congressman Lincoln’s blistering speech in the House of Representatives condemning President James K. Polk and the Mexican War in 1849. New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a prominent pro-war Democrat whose support the Lincoln administration needed, issued a statement on the incident:

“The transaction involved a series of offenses against our most sacred rights. It interfered with the freedom of speech; it violated our rights to be secure in our homes against unreasonable searches and seizures; it pronounced sentence without a trial, save one which was a mockery, which insulted as well as wronged. The perpetrators now seek to impose punishment, not for an offense against law, but for a disregard of an invalid order, put forth in utter violation of the principles of civil liberty.

“If this proceeding is approved by the Government and sanctioned by the people, it is not merely a step toward revolution, it is revolution; it will not only lead to military despotism, it establishes military despotism. If it is upheld, our liberties are overthrown. The safety of our persons, the security of our property, will hereafter depend upon the arbitrary wills of such military rulers as may be placed over us, while our constitutional guarantees will be broken down. Even now the Governors and the courts of some of the great Western States have sunk into insignificance before the despotic powers claimed and exercised by military men who have been sent into their borders.”

Losing Seymour seriously jeopardized the administration’s hopes for a political alliance between Republicans and War Democrats.

On the 16th, a protest meeting took place in Albany, New York, headed by New York Central Railroad President Erastus Corning. The attendees consisted mostly of state Democrats supportive of Governor Seymour, and they adopted resolutions calling Vallandigham’s conviction a “blow… against the spirit of our laws and Constitution,” and the end of “the liberty of speech and of the press, the right of trial by jury, the law of evidence, and the privilege of habeas corpus.” The resolutions stated that upholding the conviction would be “a fatal blow at the supremacy of law, and the authority of the State and Federal Constitutions.”

Vallandigham’s arrest and conviction raised serious questions about whether a civilian could be seized by military force for giving a speech, and whether a military court could override a civilian court by trying and convicting said civilian. Former Senator George H. Pugh of Ohio applied for a writ of habeas corpus on Vallandigham’s behalf, but Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of Ohio denied it. Citing the law passed by Congress on March 3 authorizing the president to suspend habeas corpus, Leavitt ruled that the president’s war powers included arresting Vallandigham for incendiary speech and subjecting him to military trial.

Lincoln recognized the political problem of such a harsh punishment, and so he sought a compromise by publicly supporting Vallandigham’s arrest but commuting his sentence. Lincoln ordered the former congressman banished to the Confederacy, and he also directed Secretary of War Stanton to reopen the Chicago Times. Federal cavalry soon escorted Vallandigham to Tennessee and handed him over to Confederate officials, who were reluctant to take him.

Meanwhile, protests continued throughout the month. Petitions condemning the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of Hon. C.L. Vallandigham” circulated in Ohio. New Jersey Governor Joel Parker told an audience in Newark that the conviction and deportation “were arbitrary and illegal acts. The whole proceeding was wrong in principle and dangerous in its tendency.” Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, a Republican and Lincoln ally, alleged that the president’s actions emboldened Copperheads in his state. Despite such mass indignation, Lincoln refused Burnside’s offer to resign.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19965-76, 19978-86; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 281-82, 286, 289; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8898, 8921-31, 9361; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 632-33; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 288, 292, 299, 301, 303; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 522-24; Lincoln, Abraham, Abraham Lincoln Complete Works, Vol. Two (New York, NY: The Century Co., 1920), edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, p. 239; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 349, 353-55, 357-60; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 596-97; Pittman, Benn, The Trials for Treason at Indianapolis, Disclosing the Plans for Establishing a North-Western Confederacy (Cincinnati, OH: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), p. 253; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 775; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863), p. 11, 23, 33-34, 40, 259-72; Vallandigham, James L., A Life of Clement L. Vallandigham (Baltimore, MD: Turnbull Brothers, 1872), p. 288-93; “Vallandigham Meeting in Newark,” The New York Times, 31 May 1863; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q263

The Enrollment Act

March 3, 1863 – The most controversial bill that President Abraham Lincoln signed into law during this congressional session was “An Act for enrolling and calling out the National Forces, and for other purposes,” also known as the Enrollment or Federal Military Draft Act.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Lincoln administration was facing a serious manpower shortage in the coming months, as 38 two-year regiments raised in 1861 and 92 nine-month regiments raised in 1862 were scheduled to disband. A new measure was approved to offset this, under which:

“… all able-bodied male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of 20 and 45 years, except as hereinafter excepted, are hereby 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.”

The law required men to enroll at draft boards within their congressional districts. Provost marshals, assigned by a Provost Marshal Bureau within the War Department, managed the boards. The number of enrollees represented a district’s quota, and each district had 50 days to fill their quotas with volunteers. Quota shortfalls would be filled by a military draft, under which a lottery system would select the draftees. To discourage men from waiting to be drafted, generous bounties were offered to those who volunteered.

All Republican senators and representatives voted in favor of this bill, while 88 percent of congressional Democrats voted against. Unlike the Confederate Conscription Act, this law offered no exemptions for religious sects, such as Quakers or Mennonites, or other conscientious objectors who objected to warfare on moral grounds.

The law’s most divisive provision allowed men to buy their way out of the draft by either paying a $300 commutation fee or hiring substitutes to serve in their place. This was meant to give war dissenters an option to avoid service, but the provision sparked outrage because most men could not afford such a high fee.

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania called this law “a rich man’s bill, made for him who can raise his $300, and against him who cannot raise that sum.” Lincoln argued that the fee actually helped the poor because the market would drive the price much higher without the fee cap. He tried setting an example by hiring a substitute, but that did little to satisfy the detractors. The provision was later repealed.

The Enrollment Act shifted the draft process from the states to the national government, making it more enforceable. It also made the act more resented. The law had its intended effect of inducing more men to volunteer for service, but it also helped spread a new corrupt practice called “bounty jumping,” in which men joined the army to collect the bounty and then deserted, moving to another district to repeat the process.

Regarding the substitution clause, most men who could afford to hire substitutes could also afford to bribe doctors into attesting that mentally or physically defective substitutes were fit for service. Conversely, the law did sometimes help working men who could hire substitutes to avoid military service and continue providing for their families. Future President Grover Cleveland and the fathers of future presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt hired substitutes.

Many northerners opposed the notion of a military draft as a whole. Workers feared their jobs would be given to freed slaves while they served. Angry immigrants contended that they came to America because of the promises of the Homestead Act, not to serve in the military. And many argued that compulsory military service violated civil liberties. Only six percent of Federal military personnel was drafted over the course of the war, and two-thirds of these draftees hired substitutes.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8986; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 635; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 267; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 44-45, 97; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 325; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 591, 599-605, 608; Robertson, Jr., James I., Tenting Tonight: The Soldier’s Life (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 35-37; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 242; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q163

Vallandigham’s Constitution-Peace-Reunion Speech

January 14, 1863 – Outgoing Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio delivered a speech excoriating President Abraham Lincoln’s war policies and calling for peaceful coexistence with the Confederacy.

Former U.S. Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Vallandigham had been one of the Lincoln administration’s most vocal critics since the war began. He led the “Copperheads,” or anti-war northerners who denounced the administration’s abuse of civil liberties and called for negotiating peace with the Confederacy.

He narrowly lost reelection for his U.S. House seat when Republicans re-zoned his district to exclude many of those who had voted for him two years before. Vallandigham delivered a farewell speech in the lame duck session of Congress on the 14th, titled “Constitution-Peace-Reunion.”

Vallandigham declared, “You have not conquered the South. You never will.” The Confederacy could not be forced back into the Union just as someone could not “force the wife to sleep with the husband.” Lincoln “confessed it on September 22 (when he issued his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation), war for the Union was abandoned; war for the Negro openly begun and with stronger battalions than before. With what success? Let the dead at Fredericksburg and Vicksburg answer… But ought this war to continue? I answer no–not a day, not an hour.”

Vallandigham next attacked the business and financial leaders who backed the war in the North:

“And let not Wall street, or any other great interest, mercantile, manufacturing, or commercial, imagine that it shall have power enough or wealth enough to stand in the way of reunion through peace. Money you have expended without limit, and blood poured out like water. Defeat, debt, taxation, and sepulchers–these are your only trophies. The war for the Union is… a most bloody and costly failure.”

Vallandigham then turned to the unconstitutional measures the administration had employed to wage war. He referred to “repeated and persistent arbitrary arrests, the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of freedom of the mails, of the private house, of the press and of speech, and all the other multiplied wrongs and outrages upon public liberty and private right.” To Vallandigham, all this “have made this country one of the worst despotisms on earth for the past 20 months.”

He argued that the only sensible solution to the crisis was to “Stop fighting. Make an armistice… Withdraw your army from the seceded States.” Vallandigham urged the administration to invoke the aid of a foreign nation to mediate “an informal, practical recognition of the Confederacy.”

Denouncing the “fanaticism and hypocrisy” of the notion that ending the war would preserve slavery, Vallandigham said, “I see more of barbarism and sin, a thousand times, in the continuance of this war… and the enslavement of the white race by debt and taxes and arbitrary power.” He closed by declaring, “In considering terms of settlement we (should) look only to the welfare, peace, and safety of the white race, without reference to the effect that settlement may have on the African.”

Vallandigham soon became a key figure in the growing anti-war movement, as more and more northerners became disenchanted with the mounting costs of war in both men and money.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 497; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 107; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 591-92; Vallandigham, Clement Laird, “The Constitution – Peace – Reunion,” Appendix to the Congressional Globe: Containing the Speeches, Important State Papers and the Laws of the Third Session Thirty-seventh Congress (Washington, DC: Globe Office, 1863), edited by John C. Rives, 52-60; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 188-89; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q163