The corollary to be deduced is briefly this: That the opinion and advice of the old Union leaders must be heeded with regard to the government of affairs in North Carolina or the worst consequences may ensue. I am candid with you for the cause's sake. I believe, sir, most sincerely that the conscript law could not have been executed by a man of different antecedents without outbreaks among our people; and now, with all the popularity with which I came into office, it will be exceedingly difficult for me to execute it under your recent call with all the assistance you can afford me. If, on the contrary, West Point generals, who know much less of human nature than I do of military science, are to ride roughshod over the people, drag them from their homers, and assign them, or rather consign them to strange regiments and strange commanders, without regard to their wishes or feelings, I shall be compelled to decline undertaking a task which must certainly fail.
These conscripts are entitled to consideration. They comprise a number of best men in their communities, whom indispensable business, large and helpless families, property, and stress in a thousand shapes have combined to keep them at home until the last moment. In spite of all the softening I could give to the law, and all the appeals that could be made to their patriotism, much discontent has grown up, and now the waters of insubordination begin to surge more angrily than ever as the extended law goes into effect. Many openly declare they want not another conscript to leave the State until provision is made for her own defense; others say it will not leave labor sufficient to support the women and children, and therefore it must not be executed. Thousands are flying from our eastern counties, with their slaves, to the center and west to devour the very short crops and increase the prospect of starvation. Governor Letcher is threatening to deprive the State of a contract we have for proirginia, and when the enemy seizes Wilmington (which he no doubt will do when the pestilence abates) we shall have no assurance of obtaining it from any other source; hence I am importuned by many to defend our own coast myself. You see the difficulties which beset me. But through them all I have endeavored and shall endeavor to hold my course straightforward for the common good. It is disheartening, however, to find that I am thwarted is so small a matter as this, which is yet a great one to the conscript.
I have thus spoken candidly and explicitly. I beg you will not in any manner misinterpret me or fail to appreciate my motives. I trust that whether on the field or in the council I have established my claims to respect and confidence. I can do much toward increasing our armies if property aided by the War Department. When the sowing of the wheat crops is completed, 15,000 or 20,000 men can be got out in a short time, especially if an assurance can be given that an adequate proportion will be sent to the defense of our own coast and suffering people. I should also be pleased to now what our sister States are doing in support of the conscript law, as a very general impression prevails that this State is doing vastly more than its share. A sense of justice and fair treatment will do more than all besides in bringing our entire able-bodied population into the field.
Earnestly trusting that my representations of things in North Carolina may enable you to do that which is for the best, and will most advance the great cause for which the Nation is suffering and bleeding.
I remain, with highest respect, your obedient servant,
Z. B. VANCE.