War of the Rebellion: Serial 128 Page 0046 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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applied to individuals who, by previous examination or other test, have been found qualified for their position. In our armies there is little or no difference in the experience of our officers, and no test is applied to ascertain their moral or intellectual fitness for a commission.

As the act provides that commissions shall be granted by the President, it was supposed that this was intended as a safeguard against the admission of unqualified persons to important public trusts.

Accordingly, by General Orders, No. 39, a copy of which is herewith returned,* boards of inquiry were directed to be summoned in all cases of promotion or election where the fitness of the claimant was doubtful. This, however, only keeps out unfit persons, but makes no provision for filling vacancies in case there be no unfit person in the corps, or in case all entitled to promotion decline it. Such cases occur and they contribute an element of disorganization and inefficiency in the Army.

I earnestly recommend, therefore, that in all cases where election or promotion by seniority fails to fill a vacancy with a qualified officer, such vacancy may be filled by appointment. It may be objected that this increases Executive patronage, and by the intervention of examining boards that promotion by seniority and by election may be cut off. It the increase of Executive patronage be necessary to remove a great evil, its possible abuse is a poor argument against such increase. It is unwise to prefer certain evils to contingent abuses. practically it has been found difficult to get the examining boards to be rigid enough; they are too apt, from indolence or good nature, to scrutinize slightly the qualifications of brother officers, and would prove to be very unfit instruments for Executive usurpation.

In this connection another serious difficulty in filling vacancies will be mentioned. it is generally supposed that the rule prescribed in the tenth section of the conscript act corps organized under that act; that the rule prescribed in the act approved December 11, 1861, applies only to reorganizations of re-enlisted corps, very few of which reorganizations of re-enlisted corps, very few of which reorganizations actually took place, and that the act approved January 22, 1862, applies only to troops raised under an act approved May 8, 1861. But troops were authorized to be raised by acts approved May 11, 1861, and August 8, 1861, and questions arise as to what act troops come under, and what rule of promotion is provided or corps which come in under the act last mentioned. It is said that troops mustered directly into the C. S. service receive their laws of promotion from Congress, and that those raised by the Governors of States, under requisition on them by the President, are governed by the laws of their respective States. It is maintained that the latter class are militia, and that under the Constitution Congress cannot provide for filling vacancies occurring in the militia.

Great confusion, uncertainty, and inequality result from this state of things, and it is very important that a uniform rule should be applied to all. I know of no better rule than that already adopted, providing the power of appointment be given as recommended, and there be no constitutional impediments to its general application. A difficulty arises from the act authorizing the appointment of general officers, which should be removed. The sixth section of the act approved March 6, 1862, authorizes the President to organize brigades and divisions and to appoint commanding officers for them, who are to hold office only while such brigades and divisions are in service.


*See VOL. I, series, p. 1128.