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:
By direction of the President of the United States, it is hereby ordered that until further order no citizen liable to be drafted into the militia shall be allowed to go to a foreign country. And all marshals, deputy marshals, and military officers of the United States are directed, and all police authorities, especially at the ports of the United States on the seaboard and on the frontier, are requested, to see that this order is faithfully carried into effect. And they are hereby authorized and directed to arrest and detain any person or persons about to depart from the United States in violation of this order, and report to Major L. C. Turner, judge-advocate at Washington City, for further instructions respecting the person or persons so arrested or detained.
II. Any person liable to draft who shall absent himself from his county or State before such draft is made will be arrested by any provost-marshal or other United States or State officer, wherever he may be found within the jurisdiction of the United States, and be conveyed to the nearest military post or depot and placed on military duty for the term of the draft; and the expenses of his own arrest and conveyance to such post or depot, and also the sum of $5, as a reward to the officer who shall make such arrest, shall be deducted from his pay.
III. The writ of habeas corpus is hereby suspended in respect to all persons so arrested and detained, and in respect to all persons arrested for disloyal practices.
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.