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Lincoln Defended the Draft Following the Riots in New York


After the Draft Riots in New York, President Lincoln held firm on his policy of having a draft.
Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, 1863

Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, 1863

courtesy Library of Congress

In the immediate aftermath of the New York City Draft Riots the Lincoln administration delayed the implementation of the draft. There had also been civil disturbances in other northern cities, but the chaos hadn't spread and only New York had riots on a massive scale.

Within a few months the selection of names for the draft began anew. The process went smoothly. And President Lincoln, in September 1863, offered a vigorous defense of the draft. He argued that it was constitutional, and entirely necessary to fight the war against the Confederacy.

One consequence of the Draft Riots was that anti-Lincoln politicians in the north, the Copperheads, had been discredited in many eyes. New York's governor, Horatio Seymour, came in for particular criticism as many believed his fiery speech on July 4th had helped to incite the riots.

July 1863 will always be remembered for the epic Battle of Gettysburg, but the New York Draft Riots were also a major crisis for Lincoln's presidency. And he passed through the challenge and emerged stronger.

In this famous portrait of Lincoln taken by Alexander Gardner in late 1863, Lincoln appears resolute.

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