SIGNED BY ABRAHAM LINCOLN: RARE OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL DOCUMENT DATED JULY 7, 1863—ONLY DAYS AFTER GETTYSBURG AND VICKSBURG, AND THE SAME DAY HE DECLARED IN A SPEECH "ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL"—ORDERING NEW YORK TO DRAFT THOUSANDS UNDER THE UNPOPULAR 1863 CONSCRIPTION ACT THAT TRIGGERED, LESS THAN A WEEK AFTER THIS DOCUMENT, THE BLOODY NEW YORK DRAFT RIOTS
LINCOLN, Abraham. Document signed. City of Washington, July 7, 1863. Folio, single sheet (measures 7-3/4 by 9-3/4 inches folded) partially printed and accomplished in secretarial hand, signed. Framed with a portrait of Lincoln, measures 19 by 16 inches total. $49,000.
Fine July 7, 1863 official presidential order signed by Lincoln shortly after the Union's powerful but costly victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, here calling for New York to draft thousands of men under the controversial March 3, 1863 Conscription Act, a law that would provoke the bloody New York draft riots that erupted only six days after the date of this rare Civil War signed document. Handsomely framed with a portrait of Lincoln.
"The summer of 1863 witnessed the great Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg during the same week in July, but little more than a week later it saw the eruption of the bloody riots in New York City" (Wilson, Lincoln's Sword, 182). This important July 7, 1863 official presidential document, signed by Lincoln soon after those important battlefield victories, speaks to the Union's dire need for troops after its recent but costly triumphs. Here Lincoln calls for New York's Eighth District—based in Queens at the time—to furnish 4892 men "as the first proportional part of the quota of troops… under the act approved March 3, 1863, entitled 'An Act for Enrolling and Calling out the National Forces… I order that a draft be made in the said Eighth District of the State of New York for the number of men herein assigned to said District, and Fifty Per Cent In Addition."
As the war dragged on, casualties and desertions, along with the staggering number of battlefield deaths and those caused by lack of supplies and medical care, prompted Congress to pass the highly unpopular Conscription Act of March 3, 1863—as referenced in the present document. It was this act that when enforced in the city of New York—only six days after Lincoln signed the present document—led to three days of rioting and civil unrest involving approximately 50,000 people and causing untold damage to the city. The unrest stemmed from the practice of "substituting," where draftees could pay $300 to avoid service, thus effectively excluding the wealthy from the draft. Lincoln's call-up brought these class resentments to the surface in dramatic fashion, culminating in the deaths of over 100 civilians. Troops had to be rushed from Gettysburg to quell the violence.
On the same day as Lincoln signed this draft document, President Lincoln made informal remarks to a crowd outside the White House, accompanied by a band. Earlier that day he had received General Grant's dispatch announcing the capture of Vicksburg, MS. Later in the day, he appeared dejected during a Cabinet meeting at the news that General Meade had failed to pursue Lee after Gettysburg. Lincoln's audience that day got a foretaste of the Gettysburg Address, which Lincoln would deliver four months later: "Fellow-citizens: I am very glad indeed to see you tonight, and yet I will not say I thank you for this call, but I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. How long ago is it—eighty odd years—since on the Fourth of July for the first time in the history of the world a nation by its representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth that 'all men are created equal.' That was the birthday of the United States of America. Since then the Fourth of July has had several peculiar recognitions. The two most distinguished men in the framing and support of the Declaration were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams—the one having penned it and the other sustained it the most forcibly in debate—the only two of the fifty-five who sustained it being elected President of the United States. Precisely fifty years after they put their hands to the paper it pleased Almighty God to take both from the stage of action. This was indeed an extraordinary and remarkable event in our history. Another President, five years after, was called from this stage of existence on the same day and month of the year; and now, on this last Fourth of July just passed, when we have a gigantic Rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men are created equal, we have the surrender of a most powerful position and army on that very day, and not only so, but in a succession of battles in Pennsylvania, near to us, through three days, so rapidly fought that they might be called one great battle on the first, second and third of the month of July; and on the fourth the cohorts of those who opposed the declaration that all men are created equal, 'turned tail' and rain. Gentlemen, this is a glorious theme, and the occasion for a speech, but I am not prepared to make one worthy of the occasion. I would like to speak in terms of praise due to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the war. There are trying occasions, not only in success, but for the want of success. I dislike to mention the name of one single officer, lest I might do wrong to those I might forget. Recent events bring up glorious names, and particularly prominent ones, but these I will not mention. Having said this much, I will now take the music."
The document reads in full, with handwritten sections in brackets: "Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C. [July 7], 1863. I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, having taken into consideration the number of volunteers and militia furnished by and from the several States, including the State of [New York], and the period of service of said volunteers and militia since the commencement of the present rebellion, in order to equalize the numbers among the Districts of the said States, and having considered and allowed for the number already furnished as aforesaid, and the time of their service aforesaid, to hereby assign [Four Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety-two] as the first proportional part of the quota of troops to be furnished by the [8th] District of the State of [New York] under this, the first call made by me on the State of [New York], under the act approved March 3, 1863, entitled 'An Act for Enrolling and Calling out the National Forces, and for other purposes,' and in pursuance of the act aforesaid, I order that a draft be made in the said [8th] District of the State of [New York] for the number of men herein assigned to said District, and Fifty Per Cent. In Addition. In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this [seventh] day of [July], in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States, the eighty-eighth. [signed] Abraham Lincoln." Without paper seal.
Fine condition, Lincoln's signature bold and bright.