November 28, 1862: Georgia says conscription unconstitutional

The Draft
[Cartoon showing the balloonist Leonidas helping draft evaders]

While the draft was unpopular both in the North and the South, the south had a particular problem. It’s a bit difficult, when your country is founded on the rights of the individual states and their freedom from coercion by a central government, to coordinate a national defense. So when the Confederate government instituted conscription, they met with some resistance. Here The Richmond Daily Dispatch reported on the action in the Georgia legislature — they made a pro forma protest, basically, saying they’d comply, but for the record, it’s unconstitutional. A minority held that they shouldn’t be resisting the Confederacy during wartime even to that extent.

The Conscript law in Georgia–majority and minority reports in the Legislature.

The joint committee of the Georgia Legislature on Confederate relations have made two reports to that body. The majority report declares that Congress has no right to compel the citizens of the States to bear arms, except by a requisition on the several States for their quotas, allowing each State to exercise such compulsion as may be necessary, and to appoint the officers for her own troops.–They report the following resolutions.

Resolved, That all laws passed by the Confederate Congress to raise armies from the arms-bearing people of the States by compulsion, and without requisitions upon, or concurrent action of the States, are unconstitutional, and within our power to be declared void. While Georgia makes this declaration, she also declares her willingness and determination to furnish to the end of this unjust and wicked war which our enemy is waging upon us, as she has done from the beginning of it all just quotas of troops that may be required of her, in a constitutional way.

Resolved, That under the Constitution of the Confederate States, and the laws of this State, all the troops which Georgia has sent to the field under requisitions from the Confederate Government have the right to elect the officers who are to command them, and that the laws of Congress which deny or impair this right are unconstitutional, and in our power to be declared void.

Resolved, That while the foregoing resolutions express our fixed convictions, we are still willing to leave the Conscript acts undisturbed in their operation, reserving to the State and her people such rightful remedies as may be demanded by future emergencies.

The minority report that the safety of the States demands that no opposition be made to any measures adopted by the Confederate Congress in the exercise of powers granted, and intended for our common defence; and they recommend to the “people of Georgia to acquiesce in the decision of the Supreme Judicial tribunal of their State; and His Excellency the Governor to countermand any and all orders which he may have issued to suspend the execution of the acts aforesaid in this State upon the citizens subject thereto.”

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