It will be seen from these sections that the law governing the enrollment was ambiguous. Under some provisions of it only the enrolment of those citizens seemed to be required between the specified ages who were not excepted from the operation of the act. Under others it seemed to be its purport that a full enumeration should be effected by the enrolling officers, and that the exceptions and exceptions should be made by the Board of Enrollment after the draft. Section 12 provided that 50 per cent. more than were required should be drawn to fill the places of those who might be exempted by the Board, thus sustaining the view that the Board of Enrollment after the draft, and not the enrolling officer, should decide questions of exemption arising under the law.
Whatever might be the ultimate and formal interpretation of the law in this respect, the paramount duty of the Bureau was to complete and enrollment at the earliest practicable date, make it as nearly correct as possible, and under it commence the urgently needed re-enforcement of the armies. The enrollment could be made without injustice to any one, as those who were granted the special favor of exception and exemption from the operations of the act could receive the privilege to which they were entitled after being drafted. To have undertaken so to make the enrollment as not to include those who were excused from military service by special enactment would have been to defeat the purpose of the act, in an attempt as a first duty to secure to a privileged class the immunities extended to them before they were ascertained to be due. Supposing all enrolling officers to have been honest and capable, the difficulties and delays they would have met in attempting to decide in advance all cases of exemption which would be presented by persons of the numbers class excepted by the act would have prevented the completion of the enrollment in time to be of use during the war. To this should be added the opposition to be encountered in making an enrolment of any kind, and the fact that the enrollers had, necessarily, to be selected in haste, were but temporarily employed, without power to summon witnesses, and exposed by their irresponsibility and the absence of supervision t the temptation of bribery and favoritism. All this made it clear that the best interests of the Government required that the enrolling officers should not be invested with the power of deciding the questions of exemptions arising under the act. In order, therefore, to get an enrollment for immediate use which, as stated, would be as fair to one place alike, I directed the boards of enrolment to instruct their enrolling officers to enroll all male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who had declared on oath their intention to become citizens, under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, and not permit the omission from the enrollment lists of the names of persons who might claim to belong to the classes excepted by the law, and to reserve the question of their exemption for consideration after the draft.
The following extract from a report made by Captain Erhardt, the provost-marshal of the Fourth District, New York City, the enrollment of which was made the subject of special complaint, illustrates the method of making the enrollment and the pains taken to avoid errors. The mode of operation was not identically the same in all the districts, but varied only according to the circumstances existing