It is not intimated that the several enrollment acts were not as carefully matured and as wisely adapted to the end in view as was possible at the time; much less is it intended to challenge the wisdom and necessity of the policy of military conscription or the administrative ability of the Provost-Marshal-General.
The organization of the Bureau was, in my estimation, an absolute necessity of the Government, and contributed to an incalculable extent toward the final overthrow and destruction of the rebellion. Its aid was essential and invaluable not only on account of the vast accessions to the Army secured through its direct agency, but also, indirectly through the significant revelation which it afforded to our enemies at home and abroad of the ability of the Government to summon to the national defense the whole military strength of the country, and that, too, by the stern ordeal of the draft. And the conduct of the Bureau has, in my judgment, been characterized by great ability, energy, and prudence. The defects of the present laws are, for the most part, such as no forecast could anticipate, and which could only be developed by experience and time.
I am therefore clearly convinced that a radically different policy should be adopted in case the agency of your Bureau should again be called into requisition. Instead of endeavoring to search out and hunt up every person liable to military service through the agency of a vast multitude of petty enrolling officers, upon whose capacity and fidelity it is not possible in all cases to rely, I think the Government should impose its supreme demands directly upon the people themselves, and require them, under the sternest penalties, to report themselves for enrollment. If the Government has a right to the military service of its citizens in times of public peril, rebellion, and war, it has a right to secure such services in the simplest, cheapest, and most direct manner.
The policy advocated is not new; it is as old as the principles and method of Federal, State, and local taxation. It is the duty of taxpayers to call at the office of the collector and discharge their indebtedness, or, in default, to suffer their property to be sold by public auction. The collector does not go to the tax- payer, but the taxpayer comes to the collector, and so I think it should be with a military enrollment.
As soon as the emergency requiring a conscription can be foreseen let the acting assistant provost-marshals-general of States be required, through their respective district provost-marshals and otherwise, to give general and emphatic public notice through the newspapers, circulars, handbills, &c., that a draft is impending, and that all persons between the prescribed ages must appear before the Board of Enrollment of their district and be duly enrolled or exempted for cause, as the case may be, or suffer the consequences. Let the several boards be required to hold meetings for that purpose in a sufficient number of places in each county for the proper and speedy accommodation of all liable to enrollment, and let a sufficient time be allowed for the purpose at each point. Immediately upon the termination of the period assigned for reporting, let public notice be like wise given that the lists will be finally closed within a certain time-say ten days-after which all voluntarily failing to report shall be subject to the penalties and liabilities provided by law. Let it be enacted that any person liable to enrollment, and finally failing or refusing to report to the proper officers for that purpose, shall be heavily fined, or imprisoned, or both, as Congress shall prescribe, and