Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/400

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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

welcome battle with alacrity. The officers, by experience in field service and the action of examining boards in relieving the incompetent, are now greatly more efficient than at the commencement of the war. The assertion is believed to be fully justified that, regarded as a whole, for character, valor, efficiency, and patriotic devotion, our Army has not been equaled by any like number of troops in the history of war.

In view of the large conscription recently ordered by the enemy and their subsequent call for volunteers, to be followed if ineffectual by a still further draft, we are admonished that no effort must be spared to add largely to our effective force as promptly as possible. The sources of supply are to be found by restoring to the Army all who are improperly absent, putting an end to substitution, modifying the exemption law, restricting details, and placing in the ranks such of the able-bodied men now employed as wagoners, nurses, cooks, and other employees as are doing service for which the negroes may be found competent.

The act of 16th of April, 1862, provides "that persons not liable for duty may be received as substitutes for those who are, under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of War." The policy of granting this privilege has not been sustained by experience. Not only has the numerical strength of the Army been seriously impaired by the frequent desertions for which substitutes have become notorious, but dissatisfaction has been excited among those who have been unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded of avoiding the military service of their country.

I fully concur in the opinion expressed by the Secretary that there is no ground for the objection that a new provision to include those who furnished substitutes under the former call would be a breach of contract. To accept a substitute was to confer a privilege, not to enter into a contract, and whenever the substitute is rendered liable to conscription, it would seem to follow that the principal, whose place he had taken, should respond for him, as the Government had received no consideration for his exemption. Where, however, the new provision of law would fail to embrace a substitute now in the ranks, there appears, if the principal should again be conscribed. to be an equitable ground for