Back to top

Jefferson Davis, Conscription (American National Biography)


Paul D. Escott, "Davis, Jefferson," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

After only one year of war he sought and obtained a power unprecedented in American history: conscription. The idea of compelling men to fight in the armies was anathema to some southerners and generated fierce protests from political leaders such as Governor Joseph Emerson Brown of Georgia. But Davis was convinced that the Confederacy could not survive without conscription, for, as Secretary of War James Seddon later admitted, "the spirit of volunteering had died out." Davis answered Brown's protests unflinchingly and argued for a Hamiltonian interpretation of the Constitution's "necessary and proper" clause. In another restriction of personal liberties Davis requested and obtained the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus on repeated occasions to deal with disloyalty in threatened areas. Although he scrupulously refrained from acting without congressional authority, he urged what he believed necessary even in the face of criticism.
How to Cite This Page: "Jefferson Davis, Conscription (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,