Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/573

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541
Second Congress.

diminish the number of exemptions and details," which has passed both Houses, and was presented to me on Saturday, the 11th instant.

The act contains two provisions which would in practice so impair the efficiency of the service as to counterbalance, if not outweigh, the advantages that would result from the other clauses contained in it.

The third section exempts all skilled artisans and mechanics in the employment of the Government from all military service. A very important and indeed indispensable portion of our local defense troops consists of these mechanics and artisans. They amount to many thousands in the Confederacy; and while they are and should remain exempt from general service, no good cause is perceived why they should not, like all other citizens capable of bearing arms, be organized for local defense and be ready to defend the localities in which they are respectively employed against sudden raids and incursions. If exempt from this local service, it will be necessary to detach in many cases troops from the armies in the field to guard the towns and workshops where they are employed. It is believed that if this provision becomes a law the gain of strength resulting from the repeal of other exemptions enacted by the first section of the law would be more than counterbalanced by the loss of this local force.

The second provision to which I refer is that which revokes all details and exemptions heretofore granted by the President and Secretary of War, and prohibits the grant of such exemptions and details hereafter. There is little hazard in saying that such a provision could not be executed without so disorganizing the public service as to produce very injurious results. In every department of the Government, in every branch of the service throughout the country, there are duties to be performed which cannot be discharged except by men instructed and trained in their performance. Long experience makes them experts. Their services become in their peculiar sphere of duty worth to the country greatly more than any they could possibly render in the field. Some of these it would be impossible immediately to replace. The Treasury expert who detects a forged note at a glance; the accounting officer whose long experience makes him a living repository of the rules and precedents which guard the Treasury from frauds;