August 8, 1862: Executive Order

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.


Secretary of War.

Published in: on August 8, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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  1. It always strikes me that those who rant about Sherman’s invasion of Georgia or about Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus or the rest of it must have spent a somewhat cosseted and highly local life. In spite of its huge number of dead – a function of the enormous armies numbers that clashed – the American war of secession was a very pussycat among civil wars. One just has to look at the same decade. America is not the only country that suffered a civil war between a liberal, industrializing and progressive north and a conservative, rural and paternalistic south in the eighteen-sixties; and nothing but the worst excesses of jahawkers and other bandits in the wilds of Kansas compares with the way the Italian north forced order on to the south. There were no exchanges of prisoners, no truces to pick up the wounded, no paroles, much less the victors saluting the defeated at Appomatox Court House; the “brigand” southern rebels were lucky if they survived being captured, and among the dead no less than 67 priests were killed; And where ended Italy’s period of so-called “brigantaggio”, there began the Chinese war of the Tai-Ping, which dwarfs the American war in losses and the Italian in ferocity.

    • Quite right Fabio. Alas, too many Americans would be completely ignorant of the conflicts you named, including the Chinese conflict which I think is probably the bloodiest civil war in the history of the planet.

      • Nothing wrong with people being ignorant, so long as they realize they are. What is infuriating is people who are ignorant and still claim the right to have strong opinions on a subject.

  2. In a way, Lincoln’s critics are unknowingly honoring his own vision of America as a banner to the world that should be held to a higher standard.

    But–and this is why I agree with you and Lincoln–his critics also miss the unconsciously Christian wisdom in Lincoln’s vision. He knew that virtue must be embodied, htat abstract virtue too ideal to be instantiated and preserved was no virtue at all.

    • Lincoln got to the nub of the question Adam in his address to Congress on July 4, 1861:

      “And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy—a government of the people, by the same people—can, or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes. It presents the question, whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic law, in any case, can always, upon the pretences made in this case, or on any other pretences, or arbitrarily, without any pretence, break up their Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: “Is there, in all republics, this inherent, and fatal weakness?’’ “Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?’’

      So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government; and so to resist force, employed for its destruction, by force, for its preservation.”

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