BRYCE ON POLITICS
– And the parallel to yesteryear.
Following the recent destruction of American cities by rioters, looters and thugs, President Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 empowering him to deploy U.S. military and federalized National Guard troops within the United States to suppress civil disorder, insurrection and rebellion.
The Act has been invoked several times over the years by U.S. presidents, primarily when requested by a governor or state legislature. However, the president does have the authority to invoke it on his own. This too has been done several times over the years. For example, it was used in 1871 by President Ulysses S. Grant (R) to suppress the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina, and in 1872 in New Orleans following the unrest resulting from a tainted gubernatorial election. In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower (R) used it to protect the “Little Rock Nine,” African-Americans enrolled in Little Rock Central High School. Likewise, President John Kennedy (D) invoked the Act in 1962 to suppress segregationist riots at Ole Miss, and 1963 to enforce desegregation orders on Alabama public schools.
One of the more interesting uses of federal troops against a local populace was in the New York City draft riots of 1863. This was triggered by the Enrollment Act of March 3, 1863, the first draft to be enforced in the United States (the Confederacy had already implemented the draft a year earlier). The draft was not well received in most northern cities, New York in particular. Here, poor Irishmen, unable to raise the $300 with which to buy their freedom, virtually controlled the streets. This resulted in bloody riots between July 13-17 where they burned, pillaged, and killed to the cry, “It’s a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight!”
Second Term New York Governor Horatio Seymour (D) ultimately gave in to brute force. Addressing a crowd of hoodlums before City Hall, he promised to get the draft repealed if only the lawlessness would stop. His plea accomplished nothing. For two more days the mobs controlled the city. Then troops arrived fresh from the Gettysburg battlefield and restored order. Following this, the officials in Washington drafted only 2,300 people from New York City, hardly more than had been injured and slain on the streets.
As an aside, because Union troops had to be called in from Gettysburg to suppress the New York riots, the north missed a golden opportunity to chase and finally destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, thereby extending the war.
Like today, the New York Governor opted to play politics as opposed to addressing the problem through law and order. As governor of one of the largest states in the Union, and being a Democrat, Seymour was one of Lincoln’s major opponents. His handling of the draft though, and the resulting riots, ultimately led to his downfall, as well as his party. Later in 1863 Republicans swept the midterm elections, winning all of the major offices and taking control of the State Assembly. And finally, in 1864, Seymour was voted out of office and replaced by a Republican.
The parallel to today is uncanny, particularly as Democrat governors spurn President Trump’s offer to assist them as their cities burn. In 1863, Governor Seymour was worried about being too harsh on the rebellious Irish as he perceived them as voters for his party. However, the people stepped forward and basically told Seymour, “enough is enough.” History has an interesting way of repeating itself.
Keep the Faith!
P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!
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Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.