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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 4, vol 3, Part 1 (Blockade Runners)
Page 176 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Raleigh, February 29, 1864.

Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War:

DEAR SIR: I desire to call your attention most earnestly to the difficulties and complications arising from the conscription of principals of substitutes in this State.

Chief Justice Pearson has decided recently that the law is unconstitutional, and further that the act of Congress suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not apply to these men. He therefore continues to grant the writ, and the execution being resisted by the enrolling officers by orders from the Conscript Bureau, the result will be a direct and unavoidable collision of State and Confederate authorities. I have taken the ground that the decision of a single judge at chambers does not possess the binding force and effect of an adjudicated case, but it only operates to discharge the individual. It certainly does this much, and until it is overruled it is final and absolute, made so expressly by the statutes of this State. It cannot be overruled except by the supreme court, which does not meet until June next. In the meantime, if the man is discharged I am bound to protect process of the court is resisted I am forced by my oath of office to summon the military power of the State to enforce it. There is no escape from this conclusion.

An agreement was proposed by Chief Justice Pearson at Salisbury and accepted by Governor Bragg as counsel for the Government, subject to the approval or disapproval of the same, to remove one case to the supreme court by certiorari, and to bind over all others applying for writs to appear and abide the decision thus to be rendered. This gave general satisfactory and had a quieting effect upon the whole State.

Since it has been understood, however, that the Confederacy would not recognize the arrangement the excitement is becoming very great, and I fear much trouble will result.

Knowing, as I trust you do, my great anxiety to avoid collision with the Confederate authorities and everything else that might tend to hinder its efficiency, yet it cannot be supposed that I am to omit a plain and obvious duty prescribed by my official oath. I therefore earnestly request that you will order a suspension of the enrollment of the principals of substitute in North Carolina at least until time sufficient be allowed to exhaust all efforts at an amicable arrangement. I do not know a better one than that made at Salisbury, and which, though it would deprive the Government of the service of these men until June, would yet give still greater advantages by preserving that peace and harmony between the respective governments without which all our labors will be in vain.

You will observe that I make no comment whatever upon the correctness of the chief justice's opinions. As an executive officer I consider that I have no right to do so; with all due respect, do I consider you to have any such discretion; and however unfortunate it may be to the efficient and equal working of the Government that the laws of Congress are at the mercy, so to speak, of the various judges of the various States, I submit that it is navoid it, in the absence of the Supreme Court of the Confederacy to give harmony and uniformity of construction. We can only obey the judges we


Page 176 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 4, vol 3, Part 1 (Blockade Runners)
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