HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE EAST,
New York, August 8, 1863.
His Excellency HORATIO SEYMOUR,
Governor of the State of New York:
SIR: I had the honor to receive on the evening of the 5th instant your letter of 3rd, in reply to mine of the 30th ultimo, informing me that you had made a communication to the President of the United States in relation to the draft in this State, and expressing your belief that his answer would relieve you and me from the "painful question growing out of an armed enforcement of the conscription act," &c.
Your Excellency promises to write me again on the subject when you shall have received the President's answer. It will afford me great pleasure to hear from you and to receive an affirmative answer to the inquiry contained in my letter, but I owe it to my position as commander of this military department to anticipate his reply by some suggestions arising out of your answer to me.
You are no doubt aware that the draft has been nearly completed in the nine western districts, and that it also has been completed in several districts and is in successful progress in others in the central part of the State, under the orders of the Provost-Marshal-General.
It is my duty now as commanding officer of the troops in the service of the United States in the department, if called on by the enrolling officers, to aid them in resisting forcible opposition to the execution of the law, and it was from an earnest desire to avoid the necessity of employing for the purpose any of my forces, which have been placed here to garrison the forts and protect the public property, that I wished to see the draft enforced by the miliary power of the State in case of an armed and organized resistance to it. But holding such resistance to the paramount law of Congress to be disorganizing and revolutionary, leading, unless effectually suppressed, to the overthrow of the Government itself, to the success of the insurgents in the seceded States, and to universal anarchy, I designed, if your co-operation could not be relied on, to ask the General Government for a force which should be adequate to insure the execution of the law and to meet any mergence growing out of it.
The act under which the draft is in progress was, as Your Excellency is aware, passed to meet the difficulty of keeping up the Army through the system of volunteering to the standard of force deemed necessary to suppress the insurrection. The service of every man capable of bearing arms is, in all countries, those especially in which power is responsible to the people, due to the Government when its existence is in peril. This service is the price of the protection which he receives and of the safeguards with which the law surrounds him in the enjoyment of his property and life.
The act authorizing the draft is entitled "An act for enrolling and calling out the national forces." I regret that Your Excellency should have characterized it as "the conscription act," a phrase borrowed from a foreign system of enrollment, with odious features from which ours is wholly free, and originally applied to the law in question by those who desired to bring it into reproach and defeat its execution. I impute to Your Excellency no such purpose. On the contrary, I assume it to have been altogether inadvertent, but I regret it because there is danger that, in thus designating it, and deprecating "an armed enforcement" of it, you may be understood to regard it as an obnoxious law which ought not to be carried into execution, thus