to keep men whose terms expire within the ninety days and not to keep others of the same class, who only differ from the former in the date of enlistment.
In my opinion, the language and policy of the act are better observed and equality and justice better attained by requiring all under eighteen and over thirty-five years of age to serve three months beyond their term, and all between those ages to serve two years beyond their terms of enlistment. This construction keeps all for a period longer or shorter, according to age, and thus conforms to the letter and the policy of the act. It works no injustice, because the difference made between one class and another rests upon a difference of age or fitness for military service and of usefulness in civil pursuits.
The objections to the construction adopted by the Attorney-General apply equally to that which proposes to discharge all under eighteen and over thirty-five years of age within ninety days of the passage of the act. The language of the act requires all to be kept in service; in other words, to be retained longer than they contracted to stay, but this construction actually shortens the term of many. The policy was to get rid of the evil of short terms, but this construction shortens them yet more. And it does this arbitrarily, releasing some who have just enlisted, and retaining others whose terms have nearly expired. This distinction is made without the slightest reason for it, and is therefore unjust.
Unless otherwise directed by yourself, I shall, in view of these considerations, retain the construction of the act adopted by the Department and promulgated in General Orders, No. 46, paragraph II, a copy of which is herewith inclosed. *
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War.
ATHENS, GA., August 5, 1862.
DEAR GENERAL: + I venture to intrude some suggestions which my observations in Georgia have brought to my mind. They can do no harm, if they do no good, and will not consume much of your time. This war must close in a few months, perhaps weeks, or else will be fought with an increased energy and malignity on the part of our enemies. I look for the latter result, and at all events think it is the contingency for which we should prepare. That preparation requires a large increase of our Army. How is it to be effected? the conscript law has performed its work. It retained the twelve-moths' men in the service. Besides that, it compelled large numbers to volunteer and thus fill up the ranks of the regiments already in the field. These two results have been accomplished, and beyond that it will be unwise to calculate upon the conscript law as the means of furnishing troops for the Army. The number of conscripts will be very small-not worth considering in calculating the strength of our Army. Such, I am sure, is the case in Georgia. It is true I have been confined to my own house since I have been here, but I have seen and talked with a great many people, whose opinions I respect, and I give you the concurrent opinion of all with whom I have conversed. Why it is so it is useless to inquire, though I may say in passing that the law is unpopular-almost odious-and the officers charged with its execution young and inefficient.
*See July 1, p. 1.
+Randolph, Secretary of War.