and on the broadest attainable basis of representative support, was fairly forced to its passage through the Constitution and over the restraints and decencies of Senatorial debate.
Such were the circumstances which attended its final passage, that one might almost have supposed the National legislature to be an oligarchic conspiracy plotting a vast scheme of military servitude, rather than the council of a great people giving form to its independent determination and organizing its force for the assertion of its freedom.
The idea of a military conscription being in itself profoundly repugnant to the American mind, it might have been supposed that unusual steps would have been taken by the friends of that resort to present it with the utmost possible frankness, and in the light best adapted to dissipate the popular hostility.
Nothing of the sort was done.
A measure which could not have been ventured upon in England even in those dark days when the press-gang filled the English ships-of-war with slaves, and dimmed the glory of England's noblest naval heroes — a measure wholly repugnant to the habits and prejudices of our people — was thrust into the statute-book, as one might say, almost by force.
It was not only a conscription, but an act passed by conscription.
The natural consequences followed.
Hundreds of thousands of loyal citizens were led to look with distrust and concern upon the passage of the bill.
Men who would not hesitate for a moment to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors, upon the summons of airy legitimate National authority, became discontented and dissatisfied with what they regarded (whether justly or unjustly is not now to the point) as an unnecessary stretch of Governmental control over individual liberty.
Said The Daily News
It is sincerely to be hoped that measures will be taken to test the constitutionality of the law which threatens to remove sixty-odd thousand of our citizens from the State of New York, before a single individual is permitted to be forced, against his will, to take part in the ungodly conflict which is distracting the land.
It is said that Gov. Seymour openly expresses his belief that neither the President nor Congress, without the consent of the State authorities, has any right to enforce such an act as is now being carried into effect under the auspices of the War Department; but that he thinks his interference would do more harm than good, and that the question ought to be settled by the courts.
The manner in which the draft is being conducted in New York is such an outrage upon all decency and fairness as has no parallel, and can find no apologists.
No proclamation has been issued upon the subject; and it is only a matter of surmise whether 300,000 or 600,000 men are to be raised.
If, as is supposed, 300,000 additional troops are to be added to the Union Army by the present conscription, the proper quota to be drawn from this city would be about 12,000 of our citizens.
Instead of this number, however, over 22,000 are being drafted; and, with 50 per cent. extra required for exemptions, 33,000!
No allowance is made for the militia who are in Pennsylvania and Maryland; and the $300 to be paid by rich conscripts, instead of purchasing substitutes, is to be diverted, against the spirit of the law, to some other direction.
The evident aim of those who have the Conscription Act in hand, in this State, is to lessen the number of Democratic votes at the next election.
The miscreants at the head of the Government are bending all their powers, as was revealed in the late speech of Wendell Phillips at Framingham, to securing a perpetuation of their ascendency for another four years; and their triple method of accomplishing this purpose is, to kill off Democrats, stuff the ballot-boxes with bogus soldier votes, and deluge recusant districts with negro suffrages.
The crafty, quiet way in which the enrollment has been carried on, forestalled both criticism and opposition.
Nevertheless, the work has neither been fairly performed, nor has it been thorough.
And, now that it is over, the people are notified that one out of about two and a half of our citizens are destined to be brought off into Messrs. Lincoln & Company's charnel-house.
God forbid! We hope that instant measures will be taken to prevent the outrage, and to secure such a decision from our courts as will exempt New York from further compelled participation in the suicidal war which is desolating the land.
A most incendiary hand-bill appeal to the people to rise for the vindication of their liberties had been circulated anonymously throughout the city on the night before the 4th, with evident intent to incite an insurrectionary movement on that day; but the tidings received by telegraph of Meade
's success at Gettysburg
, calling all the supporters of the War
into the streets and inclining its opponents