Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/429

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
First Congress.

judge, and he will discharge the petitioners in each. And although the officer may have the right of appeal, yet the delay will be tantamount in its consequences to a discharge. Indeed, this result is likely to ensue, though every judge in the Confederacy should hold the law to be perfectly constitutional and valid.

A petition for a habeas corpus need not and ordinarily does not disclose the particular grounds upon which the petitioner claims his discharge. A general statement on oath that he is illegally restrained of his liberty is sufficient to induce and even to require the judge to issue the writ. In every case the enrollment will be followed by the writ, and every enrolling officer will be kept in continual motion to and from the judge, until the embarrassment and delay will amount to the practical repeal of the law. Its provisions will add no more soldiers to the Army. But this is not all. We shall not be able to retain those already in the service. Nothing has done so much to inspirit our brave soldiers as the determination evinced by Congress to send to their aid those who have thus far lived in ease at home while they have endured dangers, toils, and privations. When the hope of equal justice and of speedy reinforcement shall thus have failed, disappointment and despondency will displace the buoyant fortitude which animates them now. Desertion, already a frightful evil, will become the order of the day. And who will arrest the deserter, when most of those at home are engaged with him in the common cause of setting the Government at defiance? Organized bands of deserters will patrol the country, burning, plundering, and robbing indiscriminately, and our armies, already too weak, must be still further depleted at the most imminent crisis of our cause, to keep the peace and protect the lives and property of our citizens at home. Must these evils be endured? Must the independence for which we are contending, the safety of the defenseless families of the men who have fallen in battle and of those who still confront the invader, be put in peril for the sake of conformity to the technicalities of the law of treason?

Having thus presented some of the threatening evils which exist, it remains to suggest the remedy. And in my judgment that is to be found only in the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. It is a sharp remedy, but a necessary one. It is a remedy plainly contemplated by the Constitution. All the powers