Two inconveniences attend this mode of proceeding: First, all the men over thirty-five and under eighteen are lost, even though they have enlisted for the war; secondly, it is doubtful whether conscripts can be enrolled out of their own States, and a company, therefore, cannot be disbanded out of the State in which it was raised without losing the whole company.
I suggest, therefore, that whenever a corps becomes so much reduced as to be unfit for service, and there is no reasonable expectation of recruiting it, the President be authorized to disband it, to put the officers out of commission and to transfer the non-commissioned officers and privates to other corps from the same State. It may be objected that this violates the contract of enlistment, which is for service in the company selected by the volunteer, and thus the Government in accepting the volunteer impliedly engages to keep him in the company of his choice. I think that the engagement of the Government is fulfilled by retaining the volunteer in his company so long as it is fit for service, but that there is no implied promise to discharge him when his company can be no longer preserved. Such a promise would be a premium to inefficiency. A company anxious to leave the service would secure its object by rendering itself unfit to remain.
I also further recommend that power be given to enroll conscripts wherever they may be found. Military service is a dept due to the Confederacy, and the power of exacting it should not depend on the accident of place. Conscription may be altogether avoided by large numbers of men, if merely crossing a line exonerates them from it. The practice of employing substitutes at pleasure, supposed to be authorized by the ninth section of the conscript act, has led to great abuses. The procuration of substitutes has become a regular business. Men thus obtained are usually unfit for service and frequently desert. The Department has restricted the practice by prohibiting the reception of unnaturalized foreigners as substitutes, but the evils of the system are still very great, and further restrictions are necessary.
It would be well to authorize substitution only where the services of the principal are equally useful to the public, at home as in the field. Such is the case with experts in trades necessary for the prosecution of the war, with overseer in districts of country having few whites and large numbers of slaves, and generally in such callings as are essential to the public welfare. It is unwise to injure the public service for the benefit of individuals, and therefore no substitution founded merely on f private interest should be tolerated.
In this connection I desire to call attention to what seems to be an omission in the exemption act. Millers, tanners, and salt-makers are essential to the prosecution of the war. Without them armies can neither be subsisted nor properly clad. They are equally essential to the community at large, and the restriction of such callings to persons under eighteen and over thirty-five years of age inflicts injury upon the Army and upon the people. I recommend, therefore, that they be included in the exemption act.
The greatest defect in our present system is to be found in the rule of promotion established by the tenth section of the conscript act, and by the acts of the Provisional Congress, approved December 11, 1861, and January 22, 1862. They require promotion to be by seniority. To this rule no valid objection could be made if provision were made for exceptional cases in which it becomes impracticable. In long-established armies seniority implies experience, and the rule is