The decision of Judge Pearson on the constitutionality of the law abolishing substitution appears, to my humble judgment, strange and clearly incorrect, and, being contrary to the general course of decision and received opinion, and only in a case at chambers, cannot be considered as settling the law. An appeal has therefore been directed in the particular case, and the enrolling officers directed to proceed in enrolling under the law. Judge Pearson's decision, found even inaccurate, is, of course, until reversed, the law of the particular case, and will be respected as such. No effort will therefore be made to arrest or enroll the man temporarilyim, and how then can any possible obligation be imposed on you to execute the judgement or protect that man? You have, I presume, been inaccurately informed, or have incorrectly presumed the action of the enrolling officers would be against that man. In other cases arising under that special law, or other imposing military service, when persons seeking to avoid military service use out writs of habeas corpus, officers are instructed not to appear with the person, but to make return according to the precise and clear provision of the late law, that the person is held by authority of the President for attempting to avoid miliary service. The act, then, by its plain language, not susceptible of doubt or misconstruction, suspends the writ so long as the writ is in force. It cannot be presumed that any judge will be guilty of the judicial usurpation of disregarding such return and attempt to enforce the writ. Should such assumption be practiced, collision would only result from the wanton, unauthorized attempt by violence to take from the Confederate officer the person of the petitioner, or to take the officer himself for punishment. In such event the State authorities could clearly not be justified in such acts of aggressive violence, and it is not deemed necessary to advert to what, under his oath of office, would be the plain duty of the President to see to the due enforcement of the laws and the protection of Confederate officers acting in conformity to them. You will the more readily appreciate this obligation, because action of the Confederate Government, you have seen no alternative to the discharge of a kindred duty.
In view of the facts as they exist, and of the proposed action of the Confederate Government, I trust all apprehension of collision may be dismissed, and yet there will not be the necessity of foregoing, during the ensuing critical (on which the civil liberties of all may depend), the services of a considerable number of efficient soldiers, which the arrange would withdraw, to await a judicial adjudication, which, I am happy to think, cannot be doubtful.
Very truly, yours,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
ADJT. AND INSP. GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Richmond, March 7, 1864.
I. The following act of Congress concerning impressments, and the instructions of the War Department respecting it, are published for the information and direction of all concerned:
AN ACT to amend "An act to regulate impressments," approved March twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and to repeal an act amendatory thereof, approved April twenty-seventh, eighteen hundred and sixty-three.
The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That in all cases where property is impressed for the use of hath Army or Navy, or for other public