Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 18, 1864

In one of the moves that remains controversial to this day - especially among the media - Lincoln ordered the arrest and military detainment of the editors and owners of two New York newspapers, after publications were printed that Lincoln held to be "of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to the rebels now at war against the Government, and their aiders and abettors:"

Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 18. 1864.

To Maj. Gen'l Dix,
Commanding, at New York.---

Whereas, there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning, in the "New York World" and New York "Journal of Commerce," newspapers printed and published in the city of New York,---a false and spurious proclamation, purporting to be signed by the President, and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to the rebels now at war against the Government, and their aiders and abettors: you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command, the editors, proprietors and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same, with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy;---and you will hold the persons so arrested, in close custody, until they can be brought to trial before a military commission, for their offense. You will also take possession by military force, of the printing establishments of the "New York World," and "Journal of Commerce," and hold the same until further order, and prevent any further publication therefrom. A. LINCOLN


[1] LS, DNA WR RG 107, Presidential Telegrams, I, 54. Only the date and signature are in Lincoln's handwriting, the telegram having been drafted in the War Department at Stanton's direction. For an account of the hoax perpetrated by Joseph Howard, Jr., the same reporter who had created the hoax story of Lincoln's arrival in Washington in 1861 disguised in ``a Scotch cap and long military cloak,'' see Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, III, 53 ff. The spurious proclamation as printed in the New York World and Journal of Commerce, May 18, 1864, reads:

"Executive Mansion,

"Fellow Citizens of the United States: May 17, 1864.

"In all seasons of exigency, it becomes a nation carefully to scrutinize its line of conduct, humbly to approach the Throne of Grace, and meekly to implore forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance.

``For reasons known only to Him, it has been decreed that this country should be the scene of unparalleled outrage, and this nation the monumental sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. With a heavy heart, but an undiminished confidence in our cause, I approach the performance of a duty rendered imperative by my sense of weakness before [the] almighty, and of justice to the people.

"It is necessary that I should tell you that the first Virginia campaign under Lieut. Gen. Grant, in whom I have every confidence, and in whose courage and fidelity the people do well to honor, is virtually closed. He has conducted his great enterprise with discreet ability. He has crippled their strength and defeated their plans.

"In view, however, of the situation in Virginia, the disaster at Red River, the delay at Charleston, and the general state of the country, I, Abraham Lincoln, do hereby recommend that Thursday, the 26th day of May, A.D., 1864, be solemnly set apart throughout these United States as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.

"Deeming furthermore that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, and in view of the pending expiration of the service of (100,000) one hundred thousand of our troops, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power vested in me by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth the citizens of the United States, between the ages of (18) eighteen and (45) fortyfive years, to the aggregate number of (400,000) four hundred thousand, in order to suppress the existing rebellious combinations, and to cause the due execution of the laws.

"And, furthermore, in case any State, or number of States, shall fail to furnish by the fifteenth day of June next, their assigned quota, it is hereby ordered that the same be raised by an immediate and peremptory draft.

"The details for this object will be communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

"I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity and the existence of the National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government.

"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 17th day of May, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."

By the President, ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

WM. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State."

On May 19, Sidney H. Gay of the Tribune, Erastus Brooks of the Express, Frederick Hudson of the Herald, and M. F. Beach of the Sun, telegraphed Lincoln: ``The undersigned Editors and publishers of a portion of the daily press of the City of New York respectfully represent that the leading daily journals of this city sustain very extended telegraphic news arrangements under an organization established in 1848 & known as the N York associated Press which is controlled by the members acting through an executive committee a general Agent in this city & Assistant Agents immediately responsible to the association at every important news centre throughout this country & Europe Under the above named organization the rule has always been to transmit by telegraph all intelligence to the Office of the General Agent in this city & by him the same is properly prepared for publication & then written out by manifold process on tissue Paper & a copy of the same is sent simultaneously in sealed envelopes to each of the Editors who are entitled to receive the same. From foregoing statement of facts your excellency will readily perceive that an ingenious rogue knowing the manner in which the editors were supplied with much of their telegraphic news could by selecting his time & opportunity easily impose upon Editors or compositors the most wicked & fraudulent reports. On wednesday morning at about three oclock a messenger who well counterfeited the regular messenger of the Associated Press presented himself at all save one of the editorial rooms of the Papers connected with the associated Press and delivered to the foreman in the absence of the night editors sealed envelopes containing manifold Paper similar in all respects to that used by the association upon which was written a fraudulent Proclamation purporting to be signed by your Excellency and countersigned by the honorable Secy of State. The very late hour at which the fraud was perpetrated left no time for consideration as to the authenticity or genuineness of this document & the copy in most of the offices was at once cut up into small pieces and given into the hands of the compositors & in two cases the fraud was not discovered or suspected even till after the whole morning edition of the Papers were printed off & distributed The undersigned beg to state to your excellency that the fraud which succeeded with the World and the Journal of Commerce was one which from the circumstances attending it & the practices of the associated Press was extremely natural and very liable to have succeeded in any daily newspaper establishment in this city & inasmuch as in the judgement of the undersigned the editors and proprietors of the World were innocent of any knowledge of wrong in the publication of the fraudulent document and also in view of the fact that the suspensionPage 350 by your excellencys order of two Papers last evening has had the effect to awaken editors & publishers and news agent telegraph companies etc. to the propriety of increased vigilance in their several duties the undersigned respectfully request that your excellency will be pleased to rescind the order under which the World and the Journal of Commerce were suppressed. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

The editors were released, and the World and Journal of Commerce resumed publication after two days, but Joseph Howard remained in prison at Fort Lafayette until August 23, 1864. See Lincoln to Stanton, August 22, infra.

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