The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6 by Abraham Lincoln
To Governor Seymour. August 7, 1863.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON,
HIS EXCELLENCY HORATIO SEYMOUR, Governor of New York:
Your communication of the 3rd instant has been received and attentively considered.
I cannot consent to suspend the draft in New York, as you request, because, among other reasons, time is too important.
By the figures you send, which I presume are correct, the twelve districts represented fall into two classes of eight and four respectively. The disparity of the quotas for the draft in these two classes is certainly very striking, being the difference between an average of 2200 in one class and 4864 in the other. Assuming that the districts are equal one to another in entire population, as required by the plan on which they were made, this disparity is such as to require attention. Much of it, however, I suppose will be accounted for by the fact that so many more persons fit for soldiers are in the city than are in the country who have too recently arrived from other parts of the United States and from Europe to be either included in the census of 1860, or to have voted in 1862. Still, making due allowance for this, I am yet unwilling to stand upon it as an entirely sufficient explanation of the great disparity.
I shall direct the draft to proceed in all the districts, drawing, however, at first from each of the four districts--to wit, the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth--only, 2200 being the average quota of the other class. After this drawing, these four districts, and also the Seventeenth and Twenty-ninth, shall be carefully re-enrolled; and, if you please, agents of yours may witness every step of the process. Any deficiency which may appear by the new enrolment will be supplied by a special draft for that object, allowing due credit for volunteers who may be obtained from these districts respectively during the interval; and at all points, so far as consistent with practical convenience, due credits shall be given for volunteers, and your Excellency shall be notified of the time fixed for commencing the draft in each district.
I do not object to abide a decision of the United States Supreme Court, or of the judges thereof, on the constitutionality of the draft law. In fact, I should be willing to facilitate the obtaining of it. But I cannot consent to lose the time while it is being obtained. We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives every able-bodied man he can reach into his ranks, very much as a butcher drives bullocks into the slaughter-pen. No time is wasted, no argument is used. This produces an army which will soon turn upon our now victorious soldiers already in the field, if they shall not be sustained by recruits as they should be. It produces an army with a rapidity not to be matched on our side if we first waste time to re-experiment with the volunteer system, already deemed by Congress, and palpably, in fact, so far exhausted as to be inadequate; and then more time to obtain a court decision as to whether a law is constitutional, which requires a part of those not now in the service to go to the aid of those who are already in it; and still more time to determine with absolute certainty that we get those who are to go in the precisely legal proportion to those who are not to go. My purpose is to be in my action just and constitutional, and yet practical, in performing the important duty with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity and the free principles of our common country.
Your obedient servant,