These consideration show the inherent weakness of the volunteer system. Our Government is the only power on earth that depends upon volunteer forces to conduct a protracted war. Even the rebels, of the same political traditions with ourselves, severed from this Republic, early in the war discarded the idea of maintaining the war by volunteer forces, and resorted to a draft, thus imitating the European governments, who have brought the art of war to the perfection of a positive science. It has been repeatedly insisted by eminent European military gentlemen that our Government must fail if it relied upon the volunteer force for the protracted effort needed to subdue the flames of this vast civil war. Aside from the enormous cost entailed, absorbing the monetary resources of the Government, they insisted that the necessary discipline could not be had; that however gallant our volunteer soldiery--and none have ever disputed that quality--the highest efficiency of the soldier could only be secured when he was under the complete control of the organizing power, and had learned to know what volunteers can never be taught--that obedience is as necessary a quality as courage.
Perhaps it is too late to learn the lesson of experience and remedy the defects of the present system. It is certainly not too late, unless it is too late to save the Republic.
The practical operation of the volunteer system has been that the earnest lovers of the country among the people, the haters of the rebellion, the noblest and best of our citizens, have left their homes to engage in this war to sustain the Constitution; while the enemies of civil liberty, those who hate the Government and desire its failure in this struggle, have staid at home to embarrass it by discontent and clamor. By this system we have had the loyal States drained of those who could be relied upon in all political contests to sustain the Government; going forth to fight the manly foe in front, the covert foe left behind has opened a fire in the rear. Under the garb of democracy, a name that has been so defiled and prostituted that it has become synonymous with treason and should henceforth be a byword and hissing to the American people, these demagogues in this hall and out of it have traduced the Government, misrepresented the motives of loyal men, gnashed their teeth at measures designed to crush out treason and punish traitors, and, by misrepresenting the objects of the war, led ignorant supporters and constituencies to refrain from enlistments and into an attitude of hostility to the Administration that must cause glee in Jeff. Davis" dominions and in hell itself. Even the measures of taxation necessary to raise the means to pay the soldier his hard-earned pittance have been made the subject of stereotyped harangues, calculated to excite sectional discord and inaugurate the "revolution in the North," which these men have over and over threatened against the Government and by such public proclamation in effect promised to Jeff. Davis and that part of his supporters operating in the rebel States. The system of voluntary enlistments has left these men full scope for their nefarious work, and it would be strange if this bill found favor in their eyes. The operation of the bill would be to cause the burden of this onerous public service to fall evenly upon the country, and require of the semi-loyal that he perform his duty. The business of discouraging enlistments would be done away with. It is a pity that our mistaken system has ever given in scope. The bill goes upon the presumption that every citizen not incapacitated by physical or mental disability owes military service to the country in its hour of extremity, and that it is Honorable and praiseworthy to render such service. (Honorable Mr. Sargent.)
In a letter to the Governor of New York, dated August 7, 1863, President Lincoln says:
We cannot match the rebels in recruiting our armies if we waste time to re-experiment with the volunteer system, already deemed by Congress, and palpably, in fact, so far exhausted as to be inadequate.
The replies from the Governors of several of the States to the President's first call for troops, dated April 15, 1861, are further testimony as to the insufficiency of the laws then governing for raising troops and the necessity for legislation of the kind subsequently had. The replies are as follows, viz:
From Governor Letcher, of Virginia:
The militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object--an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795--