A vast amount of commissary stores are reported to have been destroyed at Abbeville. If so, God only knows where the sustenance of the army is to be obtained. Our State is now barely able to feed itself. In fact, want is now severely felt in certain portions. Even in this rich and usually abundant section everything is scarce; small, lean pork is 20 cents, and but little to sell at that.
Why is it the conscript acts are so inefficiently enforced? So far as I could learn in the course of my travels, conscription is a mere farce. Two months had elapsed since the enemy evacuated Northern Alabama and yet no enrolling officer had been there. Crowd of men subject to duty are everywhere-on cars, boats, in the streets, stores, &c.: but the subject of their conscription seems not to have entered their heads. The enrolling officers, now as important as President, so far as I see or hear, are young men utterly unfit for that sacred, stern duty, whom nobody fears, for whom nobody cares, and who exercise their discretion as to exemptions with unblushing partiality and indifference. I believe the enforcement of the act in this State and Alabama, where I have been, to be an utter failure. Instead of being, as it ought to be, a measure that saves the country, it threatens to be the cause of its subjugation. It arrested all volunteering, &c., and assumed by force the augmentation of the army, and now failing to do so our "last end is worse than the first." I had a talk with Governor Shorter, of Alabama, upon the subject. He gives an account of the correspondence between Mr. Randolph and himself, which left the matter in confusion, and he admits the enforcement of the act in alabama is a hamburg and farce. Surely the most stern, sober, substantial men should be selected for enrolling officers. If not enforced, as they ought to be, with iron and unrelenting firmness, our cause is lost. You cannot imagine the open, bold, unblushing attempts to avoid getting in and to keep out of the army. All shame has fled and no subterfuge is pretended, but a reckless confusion of an unwillingness to go or to remain. All that gave attractive coloring to the soldier's liz has now faded into "cold, gray shadow" with nine tenths of the army, and if permitted, in my opinion, would dissolve to-morrow, heedless of the future. Let an iron bank be welded around it; for the pressure, take my work for it, is nearly overwhelming. There are many plausible reasons for this desire togged away which I need not detail. A rigorous enforcement of the conscription would tend to allay this spirit of discontent. Reorganize the whole system, and let popular attention be stared and attracted by the prominent, rich, and influential men being swept into the ranks.
Never did a law meet with more universal odium that the exemption of slave-owners. Its injustice, gross injustice, is denounced even by men whose position enables them to take advantage of its privileges. Its influence upon the poor is most calamitous, and has awakened a spirit and elicited a discussion of which we may safely predicate the most unfortunate results. I believe such a provision to be unnecessary, inexpedient, and unjust. I labored to defeat it and predicted the consequences of its enactment. It has aroused a spirit of rebellion in some places, I am informed, and bodies of men have banded together to resist; whilst in the army it is said it only needs some daring man to raise the standard to develop a revolt. As I opposed the provision violently, predicted the consequences, and believe they have occurred, I hope you will satisfy yourself of the truth with reference to the recommendations of your message. I shall offer a bill to repeal it the first day of the session.
I am satisfied that the whole policy of admitting substitutes is wrong.