Washington City, August 11, 1864.
His Excellency HORATION SEYMOUR,
Governor of New York, Albany, N. Y.:
SIR: In answer to your letter of the 3rd instant I have the honor to submit the report of the Provost-Marshal-General,* which I trust will satisfy you that the objections which you have made against the quotas assigned to the State of New York are not well founded.
Your communication contains no specification of unfaithfulness, neglect, or misconduct by any enrolling officer, nor that any errors or mistakes exist in the enrollment but what are unavoidable in making an enrollment or taking a census. The opportunity for the interested localities to revise and correct the draft under the provisions of the law has been afforded and will continue down to the time of the draft. A commission was appointed last year with a view to ascertain whether any mistakes or errors had been made by the enrolling officers, but the commissioners bore their testimony to the fidelity with which the work was done.
They were of opinion however, that the basis or principle for the assignment of quotas operated unequally in New York, and, with a view to harmony, the President directed a reduction in some districts, but without the increase of others recommended by the commissioners. The basis for the assignment is now fixed absolutely by act of Congress, and this Department has no power to change it.
In your letter of the 3rd instant it is stated that you "do not mean to find fault with those who made them (the enrollments) in New York and Brooklyn."
It is plain, then, that a commission could do no more than substitute some other basis of assigning the quota, as was done by the Commission of last year; and this course would now be contrary to the terms of the statute. A commission, therefore, would only operate to hinder and delay the Government in strengthening the armies in the field, enable the enemy to protract the war, and expose our arms to disaster and defeat. I do not, therefore, feel authorized to appoint a commission.
First. Because there is no "fault found" by you with the enrolling officers, nor any mistake, fraud, or neglect on their part alleged by you requiring investigation by a commission.
Second. The errors ny, can readily be corrected by the Board of Enrollment established by law for the correction of the enrollment.
Third. The Commission would not have, nor has the Secretary of War or the President, power to change the basis of draft prescribed by the act of Congress.
Fourth. The Commission would operate to postpone the draft and, perhaps, fatally delay strengthening the armies now in the field, thus aiding the enemy and endangering the National Government.
Every facility will be afforded by this Department to correct any error or mistake that may appear in the enrollment; and no effort will be spared to do justice to the cities of New York and Brooklyn, and apply the law with equality and fairness to every district and in every State.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
*See August 10, p. 600.