Presidents have been issuing executive orders since 1789. Prior to the Lincoln Presidency, the Executive Orders tended to be fairly rare, often only one or two a year. Often they dealt with fairly trivial matters. When the Marquis de Lafayette died, President Jackson issued an Executive Order saluting Lafayette as a friend of liberty and America and detailing the way in which the United States armed forces would honor his passing. During the Civil War, Executive Orders were quite common, and often had a major impact on the people of the United States.
The Executive Order issued on August 8, 1862 is fairly typical. The draft was proving unpopular and the Executive Order issued on August 8, 1862 dealt with attempts to evade it. Note the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus for all people arrested for draft evasion, along with all people guilty of “disloyal practices”. Unlike critics of Lincoln, I believe that such measures were necessary for the preservation of the United States. However, no one can deny that both the Union and Confederacy in that time of national crisis ran roughshod over rights and procedures that Americans hold dear. Here is the text of the Executive Order: (more…)