Lincoln’s congress passed the Enrollment Act on March 3, 1863, also known as the Conscription Act of 1863. When New York Governor Horatio Seymour feared riots against the July draft in New York City, Lincoln’s Provost Marshal General James B. Fry refused any postponement. Fry’s behavior confirmed Democrat fears that the draft’s intent was to provoke a riot as an excuse for martial law and using federal troops to supervise and manipulate votes in upcoming elections.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War
“On the same day it passed the new draft law in March, Congress had authorized the suspension of habeas corpus throughout the United States, enabling the administration to detain political prisoners indefinitely without charges or any other due process of law. The draft law also empowered the secretary of war to create a police arm, the office of the provost marshal general, whose assistants scoured the country arresting deserters, spies, traitors, and other people deemed disloyal to the Northern war effort.
When criticized for suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln replied that the rebels and their agents in the North were violating every other law of the land and using constitutional protections – including freedom of speech and assembly – to shield their destructive, subversive activity.
During the spring of 1863, Democrats had warned that Lincoln was amassing dictatorial powers and the expanding central government was poised to wipe out what little remained of States’ rights. The draft, they said, was the ultimate expression of arbitrary federal power: the States’ role in raising troops had been supplanted, and individuals – those who could not afford a substitute – were to be coerced by the distant bureaucracies in Washington into fighting and dying in an unjust war.
[New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour] not only asserted that the draft law was unconstitutional, but complained, rightly, that the Republican administration and its newly-created Bureau of the Provost Marshal General had set disproportionately high [troop] quotas for New York City – which was predominantly Democratic.
Along with Horatio Seymour, Manton Marble’s New York World had fiercely denounced the arrest [of Democrat Clement Vallandigham in Ohio] and the central government’s “despotic power,” . . . “When free discussion and free voting are allowed, men are not tempted to have recourse to violence and relief of bad rulers,” the World asserted.
“You may stigmatize these irregular avengers as a “mob,” but there are times when even violence is nobler than cowardly apathy.”
The Devil’s Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America, Barnet Schecter, Walker Publishing, 2005, excerpts pp. 23-24)