Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/523

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491
Second Congress.

DEPARTMENT OF WAR.

The condition of the various branches of the military service is stated in the accompanying report of the Secretary of War. Among the suggestions made for legislative action, with a view to add to the number and efficiency of the Army, all of which will receive your consideration, there are some prominent topics which merit special notice.

The exemption from military duty now accorded by law to all persons engaged in certain specified pursuits or professions is shown by experience to be unwise, nor is it believed to be defensible in theory. The defense of home, family, and country is universally recognized as the paramount political duty of every member of society, and in a form of government like ours, where each citizen enjoys an equality of rights and privileges, nothing can be more invidious than an unequal distribution of duties and obligations. No pursuit or position should relieve any one who is able to do active duty from enrollment in the Army, unless his functions or services are more useful to the defense of his country in another sphere. But it is manifest that this cannot be the case with entire classes. All telegraph operators, workmen in mines, professors, teachers, engineers, editors and employees of newspapers, journeymen printers, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, millers, physicians, and the numerous other classes mentioned in the laws cannot in the nature of things be equally necessary in their several professions, nor distributed throughout the country in such proportions that only the exact numbers required are found in each locality; nor can it be everywhere impossible to replace those within the conscript age by men older and less capable of active field services. A discretion should be vested in the military authorities, so that a sufficient number of those essential to the public service might be detailed to continue the exercise of their pursuits or professions; but the exemption from service of the entire classes should be wholly abandoned. It affords great facility for abuses, offers the temptation as well as the ready means of escaping service by fraudulent devices, and is one of the principal obstructions to the efficient operation of the conscript laws.

A general militia law is needful in the interest of the public defense. The Constitution, by vesting the power in Congress, imposes on it the duty of providing "for organizing, arming, and