March 3, 1863 – Congress passes the Conscription Act.

Congress passes the Conscription Act March 3, 1863, calling for the enlistment in military service of all able-bodied males between 20 and 45 years of age for terms of three years.

HARPER’S WEEKLY.
SATURDAY, JULY 25, 1863.
THE DRAFT.

THE attempt to enforce the draft in the city of New York has led to rioting. Men have been killed and houses burned; worst of all, an orphan asylum—a noble monument of charity for the reception of colored orphans—has been ruthlessly destroyed, and children and nurses have lost every thing they had in the world.

The event should cause no surprise. It should have been anticipated. It was not reasonable to expect that the operatives of this large city—who have never been forced to realize the obligations of citizenship—should at once realize what is thoroughly understood by the people of almost every European town. It will take time to make them understand that every government must, for its own protection, enjoy the power of compelling its citizens to perform military service. And it will take still more time, reflection, and information to satisfy them that the Conscription Act passed at the last session of Congress is in reality fair, liberal, and humane; that it is far more generous to the operative class than the conscription laws of Europe, inasmuch as it tenderly guards orphans, widows, and aged parents from being deprived of their natural support, while it exempts very few indeed of the wealthier class.

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