The following extract from the report of an interview between the President and a committee appointed by the Legislature of Rhode Island shows President Lincoln's views on the subject, and gives in his language a clear illustration of the principle acted upon:
The President at this point interrupted the committee to say that complaints from several Stabeen made to the same effect, and in one instance the subject had been so earnestly pressed to his attention that he had personally taken the pains to examine for himself the formula which the Provost-Marshal-General had adopted for the calculation and distribution of the quotas for the different States, and had arrived at the conclusion that it was impossible for any candid mind to doubt or question its entire fairness.
In order that your committee might be fully possessed of his opinion upon this subject the President read the following paper, the original of which had been forwarded to His Excellency the Governor of the State of Vermont.*
The committee give the following interesting account of further remarks on the same subject by the President and officers of the War Department.
The President further stated that although the plan that had been adopted by the Provost-Marshal-General for the assignment of the respective quotas met his entire approval, and appeared to him to be the only one by which exact justice could be secured, in view of the fact that the aggregate of the credits due to all the States exceeded very considerably the number of men called for, and that men, and not an adjustment of balances, was the object of the call, he had, for the purpose of satisfying the minds of all parties designated a board of officers to examine into the system and report their conclusions.
Having obtained the number of years of service required from each locality, I divided that number by 3, to find the number of men. This gave the quota in men of the district under the call.
The method followed was this, in substance: The call, 300,000, was multiplied by 3, making 900,000 as the number of years of service required; this product, after being apportioned to the different districts, was divided by 3, which gave the quotas of the districts, amounting in the aggregate to 300,000 men.
It is hardly necessary to add that multiplying the number called for by 3, and afterward dividing the product by the same number, neither increases nor diminished the number called for; nor does the fact that three years was assumed as the basis of calculation increase the number of men called for, or in any manner affect the amount of service required.
The same rule was applied to all the districts and sub-districts without exception, and whenever the quota of one district was apparently greater than that of another containing an equal number of enrolled men, the difference resulted from the fact that the latter was deficient, or the former in excess, in amount of service under previous calls.
The deficiency or excess might have been occasioned by a greater or less number of men, or by the inequality of the periods of service of the number of men. Whatever cause produced the one or the other, it was simple justice and manifest law to equalize the quotas and require from each locality its full share and no more under all the calls.
The difference between this call and former calls was this: Hitherto the calls were indented to be reduced by all existing surplus, as in the case of the July call already adverted to, while this (December) call was intended to produce 300,000 in addition to all surplus or excess.
To illustrate: Suppose the entire amount of surplus in the United States to have been 600,000 years of service, or its equivalent, 200,000
*See Lincoln to Smith, February 8, 1865, Vol. IV, this series, p. 1157.