Monday, September 20, 2010
My colleague Dorothea Rees unearthed today's gem from our library's Brooker Collection of Early American Legal and Land Use Documents. Document #1824 is a brief handwritten agreement to arrange a substitute for a (presumably) wealthy man eager to avoid military service.
It states in full: "It is agreed between Amos W. Pike & Peyser Drake & Co. - that the latter furnish the said Pike a substitute either for the Army or Navy for the sum of eight hundred & seventy five dollars (875 D.) Portsmouth August 2 1864 Peyser Drake & Co. by W.M."
Until February 1824, it was perfectly legal to pay a $300 fee to the government to commute one's service, or to hire a substitute. After that time, legislation abolished commutation, so the only way to avoid service was to procure a substitute. The price for substitutes immediately skyrocketed - hence Mr. Pike's steep fee of $875. (This figure amounts to about $12,300 in today's dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.)
Posted by Karen Beck at 10:58 AM