HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Columbia, December 1, 1863.
General BEAUREGARD, &c.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to send you by this mail a copy* of the Journal of the House of Representatives, and to ask your attention to the resolution therein marked, on page 4.
The committed appointed under that resolution are anxious to devise some scheme which will supply the military necessities of coast defense with as little injury to the agricultural wants and as little injustice to the farmers and planters as are consistent with the proper discharge of what they consider an imperative duty. They are aware that much of the irregularity in the discharge of slave labor, so generally complained of, has arisen from the irregularity of the supply which the State undertook to furnish. This they hope to remedy by collecting the labor hereafter by impressment, and abolishing altogether the privilege of communication by a fine in money. This will render the supply of labor certain, if the State officers od their duty.
They propose also to establish at Charleston a convenient depot where the labor shall be collected five days before the term of service commences, and at which place it shall be turned over to the engineer officer appointed by you, in exchange for the same number of negroes delivered by him, and they would require both of the agents so charged with the collection and discharge of these negroes to be prompt and punctual in effecting this exchange.
In order fully to understand and to comply with your requirements, they would respectfully ask information on the following points:
1. What is the minimum force that you require for any given time?
2. What term of service would you think it most advisable to fix as the period for the successive division of negroes to be employed? 3. For what length of time do you suppose that the necessity for this supply of labor will continue?
I am also instructed to ask your particular attention to the following suggestion. In the opinion of those gentleman most familiar with the habits and dispositions of the troops recruited from the upper district of this State, it is considered certain that most of them would cheerfully volunteer to do the work now conducted almost entirely by slave labor, if they were paid for such work the extra per diem ($1 or $1.50, I believe) now paid for the service of the negro. They think that the soldiers from the farming districts, who are generally accustomed to manual labor, would regard it is a privilege to be allowed thus to make the additional pay for the benefit of their families, and that from this source a supply might be obtained which would, to an appreciable extent, diminish the amount of slave labor required.
The committee desire to know whether, in you opinion, such an experiment is practicable, and, if so, whether there exists any military reasons why it should not be attempted.
In endeavoring to find a better system than the one at present in operation, it is perhaps proper that I should state that the chief, if not the only, difficulties of the ready supply of slave labor on the part of the owners proceed from the irregular manner in which negroes whose term of service has expired, are held beyond their anointed periods of service, and from a general conviction throughout the State that these negroes are not sufficiently or judiciously cared
* Not Found.