Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/185

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157
Provisional Congress.

guarantee whatever for the faithful discharge of the duties imposed on them. In the medical, as in all other professions, there are incompetent as well as unworthy men. This bill proposes to place the power of discharging from the public service the whole body of absent soldiers, now amounting to probably not less than thirty thousand men, at the mercy of any physician who may call his office a hospital. The absent soldiers, out of camp, scattered over the entire Confederacy, are to be allowed to leave the service at pleasure on producing the certificate of some man who signs himself a physician in charge of a hospital. No means are provided by the bill, and in the nature of things no means can well be devised, by which it can be ascertained at the office of the Adjutant General whether the signature to the certificate is genuine or not; whether, if genuine, the signature is that of a physician, nor whether the signer, if he be a physician, have really a hospital in which the sick soldier is treated. I venture to say that there is not a man now out of camp, whether sick or well, who could not readily find means for securing such a certificate as this bill contemplates at the most trifling cost.

2d. Again, the bill applies to those only who are now out of camp. But if the principle of the bill is right, its application should be continuous and permanent, and I cannot discover any reason why it should be confined to those not in camp. If a man out of camp is to have his discharge on a certificate of a surgeon and when far removed from the supervision of commanders, why not give the same right to the soldier in camp, where the presence of the commander would at least check the issue of fraudulent certificates. And if it be right to adopt this rule at all, why is it not as well applicable to men who will be absent from camp next week as to those now absent? The special limitations of the bill to soldiers out of camp, and to those only now out of camp, indicate an intention to provide for some present exceptional emergency not defined with sufficient accuracy to prevent great mischief in the practical working of the law. If there be such emergency, to what class of cases does it extend? Does it exist everywhere, or only at one or more determinate points? The language of the bill requires to be better guarded to meet what I infer from its phraseology to be an exceptional case; and if there be such a