Ordered To Seize All Copies Of The New York World Bringing In One Of The Great War Episodes The Bogus Presidential Proclamation
Headquarters, Middle Department,
8th Army Corps,
Baltimore, May 18, 1864.
or U. S. Detectives.
Seize all copies of the New York World of this date, that may
arrive from New York, or that you can find in the city.
By command, Major General Wallace.
Lt. Col. and Provost Marshal.
This order is innocent enough in its appearance, but it is really the
executive action upon a subject almost as vital in its effects as any of
the great battles of the war.
Under date of May 17th a proclamation, calling for four hundred thousand
more troops, purporting to be from President Lincoln, was issued, and
was published in certain papers; among them the New York "World". The
following is a copy:
Executive Mansion, May 17, 1864.
Fellow Citizens of the United States:
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
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 Almighty God and of justice to the
It is not necessary that I should tell you that the first
Virginia campaign, under Lieut. General Grant, in whom I have
every confidence, and 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) forty-five 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 quotas, it is hereby ordered that the same be raised
by immediate and peremptory draft. The details for this object
will be communicated to the State authorities through the War
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
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:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
This was immediately contradicted by the Government, as follows:
To the Public.
Department of State, Washington, D. C.
May 18, 1864.
A paper purporting to be a proclamation of the President,
countersigned by the Secretary of State, and bearing date of
the 17th inst. is reported to this Department as having
appeared in the New York "World" of this date. This paper is
an absolute forgery. No proclamation of this kind has been
made, or proposed to be made, by the President, or issued, or
proposed to be issued, by the State Department, or any other
Department of the Government.
WM. H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State.
Under the head "Freedom of Press" Appleton's Encyclopedia for 1864
gives twelve columns of space to this matter. The excitement resulted in
the greatest distress. Gold advanced four or five per cent., a panic
prevailed, and great calamity, of course, followed.
Soon thereafter we seized every telegraph instrument and office record
in the Department, and arrested the officers and clerks. I became so
tired with the extraordinary labor and loss of sleep, that I actually
fell asleep while standing at a desk in one of the offices. I had heard
of such experiences, but had believed it impossible.
The object of seizing the newspapers, telegraphic instruments and
records, was to prevent the disaster that must follow the further
spreading of the impression created by the bogus message, that our
Government was in dire distress.
Copperhead conspirators and Confederate agents here and in Canada, had
been and were at work to undermine us by every means. Distress to us,
however brought about, was their purpose. They sought to create in the
minds of the masses the idea that the war was a failure.
These conspirators had tried to use the conscription, in 1863, to
disrupt us, and they were again trying to scare the people with a
prospective draft, in 1864, to unsettle the public mind before the
Presidential election, then soon to occur (in November).
Governor Seymour relentlessly pursued General Dix, seeking to have him
indicted for arresting (he claimed) illegally, persons party to the
fraud. But the grand jury refused to indict him. Seymour claimed that he
(Seymour) was trying to preserve _personal liberty_, from the general
government's encroachments, which was also his attitude in
Vallandigham's case in 1863.
The New York "World" and "The Journal of Commerce" were the newspapers
involved in the affair, but the odium should not attach to the present
The bogus proclamation spread faster and further than the denial of it
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