War of the Rebellion: Serial 116 Page 0688 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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compulsory entlistment of Her Majesty's subjects in military bodies in this State. This letter explains itself. It is inclosed to you that you may be put in possession of the action of the executive upon the question raised by the letter of the consul.

Very respectfully,


Secretary of the Commonwealth.


EXECUTIVER DEPARTMENT, Richmond, June 29, 1861.


Her Britannic Majesty's Acting Consul.

SIR: Your letter to Governor Letcher of the 28th instant has been received. In it you inclosed the copy of a dispatch received by you from Lord Lyons, the minister at Washington of Her Britannic Majesty, under date of the 15th instant, and also copies of five affidavits which accompanied said dispatch relative to the supposed compusory enlistment of Her Majesty's subjects in military bodies in this State, and urging that an investigation may be made into the cases submitted.

It affords me pleasure to inform you by direction of the Governor that the Commonwealth of Virginia has every disposition to cultivate the most friendly relations with the Government of Great Britain and that no subject of Her Britannic Majesty would be mustered into and retained in the service of this State by compulsion if the fact were made to appear. In the first place the law of the State only requires "ablebodies male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, resident within the State," to perform military duty. None others are subject to draft. In the next place in the conflct pending between this State and the Government of the United States no troops have been called out except volunteers adn no man can be enlisted into a volunteer commpany unless it be is own choice and free will; and when he voluntarily enters into obligations imposed upon such companies it seems but proper that he should be required to fulfill his contract. If any person has been forced into service against his will the law of the State gives him the right to a writ of habeas corpus which will enable him to bring up the question of his illegal detention before the civil authority and any judge would have the right to discharge him. This writ has not been suspended and until it shall be by competent authority no military commander would have the right to hold him aainst such discharge.

This being the law of this Commonwealth it is respectfully submitted to you and through you to His Excellency Lord Lyons whether it is not proper to remit the parties in whose favor affidavits have been presented to their legal rights and civil remedies. Besides these suggestions it is a well settled principle of national law that a subject of a foreign power may be enlisted in the defense of the country whrein he may be resident when that country is not at war with the nation to which he belogs. The right to demand service of one who receives protection in defending the country which gives it is not only based upon rational principles but is I believe undisputed. The only question would be whether an alien could be called upon by the contry wherein he is resident to take up arms against that which claims his allegiance. That question is not here presented. There has not only been no necessity to maintain this right but there is no occasion "for compulsory enlistments in military bodies in this country. " The difficulty