RICHMOND, VA., March 26, 1864.
His Excellency Z. B. VANCE,
SIR: Your letter of the 17th instant, urging reasons why the "regulations" lately adopted under the authority and by the direction of Congress should not be enforced in the case of vessels in part owned by the State of North Carolina, has been duly received. The resolutions were adopted after much consideration and a careful comparison of the necessities of the public service with the benefits to be derived from leaving commerce as little trammeled as posssible. They do not operate upon a State's right of exportation. But exemption form their operation was not given, and under the law could not be given to vessels owned in part by a State nor to individuals shipping in such vessels. The declared policy of the act of Congress was to prevent the exportation of cotton, tobacco, &c., by private persons, except in such way as would make them most available for the public service, and in accomplishing this end the hardships of the policy was equalized by requiring that the regulations to be made by the President should be uniform; that is to say, that they should bear upon all classes of persons alike. But if certain persons had been exempted because they were part own ers with a State in a vessel, or because they were shippers in a vessel owned in part by a State, while others were left to the strict covernment of the regulations, such regulations would have been in direct contravention of the law. Nor has the President any power to modify the regulations, or dispense with them in such cases or any others. No such discretion has been given by Congress, and to assume it would be to violate its declared purpose of uniformity. Even if this could be done, you will readily see how injurious would be the effect. Such consideration could not be extended to North Carolina alone. All the other States would have to be put upon the same footin and thus a premium would be offered to ship-owners to dispose of a part interest to States on such terms that all the ships engaged in running the blockade would ere long be owned in part by States, and there would be nothing left for the Confederate Government to regulate. I am informed that this has already been contemplated by owners of vessels as the measns of escaping from the effect of the law and regulations.
It is not contended that the regulations are perfect; but they are such as the experience of the several Departments and those connected with running the blockade on the part of the Government has suggested. Their practicable operation may show that they will require modification, but no modification can properly be made affecting their character of uniformity. Being unauthorized, in the view which I have taken of the law, to make the eexceptins which you desire, it is needless to examine particularly the reasons wihich you have urged in that behalf, and I can only express the hope that the injurious resuslts you apprehend may not ensue. I would remark, however, in reference to the evils you suggest as likely to arise under the thirteenth section, by speculation in the cotton bonds of the Government, that, having sold those bonds upon the expectation and understanding that the Government would do nothing to embarrass the exportation of the cotton, it would hae been an act of bad faith eminently injurious to the public credit to subject the bondholders to any restrictions in furtherance of a subsequent policy. And even if the effect you anticipate should to some extent result, I cannot but think it will be more than counterbalanced by the consequent embarrassment of the public credit and resources abroad. The exportations thus permitted in order to protect the faith and credit of the Government are, in fact, made, although the bondholders are thereby benefited.