Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/525

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493
Second Congress.

in former messages and reports, and is fully treated by the Secretary. The solicitude of the Government for the relief of our captive fellow-citizens has known no abatement, but has, on the contrary, been still more deeply evoked by the additional sufferings to which they have been wantonly subjected by deprivation of adequate food, clothing, and fuel, which they were not even permitted to purchase from the prison sutlers. Finding that the enemy attempted to excuse their barbarous treatment by the unfounded allegation that it was retaliatory for like conduct on our part, an offer was made by us with a view of ending all pretext for such recriminations or pretended retaliation.

The offer has been accepted, and each Government is hereafter to be allowed to provide necessary comforts to its own citizens held captive by the other. Active efforts are in progress for the immediate execution of this agreement, and it is hoped that but few days will elapse before we shall be relieved from the distressing thought that painful physical suffering is endured by so many of our fellow-citizens whose fortitude in captivity illustrates the national character as fully as did their valor in actual conflict.

EMPLOYMENT OF SLAVES.

The employment of slaves for service with the Army as teamsters or cooks, or in the way of work upon the fortifications, or in the Government workshops, or in hospitals and other similar duties, was authorized by the act of 17th of February last, and provision was made for their impressment to a number not exceeding 20,000, if it should be found impracticable to obtain them by contract with the owners. The law contemplated the hiring only of the labor of these slaves, and imposed on the Government the liability to pay for the value of such as might be lost to the owners from casualties resulting from their employment in the service.

This act has produced less result than was anticipated, and further provision is required to render it efficacious; but my present purpose is to invite your consideration to the propriety of a radical modification in the theory of the law.

Viewed merely as property, and therefore as the subject of impressment, the service or labor of the slave has been frequently claimed for short periods in the construction of defensive works. The slave, however, bears another relation to the State — that of a