to act, with an officer to be designated by the Navy Department, as a commission to examine and advise on what railroads in the Confederate States the iron on their tracks can best be dispensed with. In making this inquiry the commission will be governed by the public interest, and will leave out of consideration all roads and portions of roads required for military operations and defenses, and also such as are indispensable in conveying supplies for the public use. They will also, remembering that the iron rails which can be advantageously removed as far as suitable may be needed for the maintenance of the roads indispensable to military operations, inquire and report the best means of ascertaining the iron suitable for such roads and apportioning the same, and the rails removed may be exchanged for equivalents in value of more defective rails to be rolled and used for naval purposes.
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By command of the Secretary of War:
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, Va., January 22, 1863.
Major Gen. J. B. MAGRUDER,
Commanding Department of Texas:
GENERAL: A letter of the consul of France, in this city, has been referred by the Secretary of State to this Department, in order that instructions may be given to the Confederate authorities in Texas to repair the existing evils and to prevent them in future. This letter brings to the notice of the Department instances of injustice and oppression committed upon the subjects of the Emperor of France residing at San Antonio, Victoria, and Clinton. The precise complaint is that these persons were enrolled under the conscription act illegally, and to enforce obedience were imprisoned or otherwise harshly dealt with by the military authorities. The persons subject to damages who have been maned in this letter are Dennis Burger, Herbert Burger, L. P. Hanser, Charles Florentin, of San Antonio; Marc Wilhelm, of Clinton; Sebastian Myer, Auguste Luder, and Stephen Weitz, of Victoria, and the French consul himself, at San Antonio. The cases that fall under your cognizance are those of Marc Wilhelm, of Clinton, who is said to be a member of Company D, in Shelby's battalion, at Corpus Christi, and such others as may fall under your military command. The Confederate Government fully recognizes the principle of the law of nations, that mere sojourners or residents in this country, who retain their domicile of nativity, do not owe military service to the Confederate States. Instructions have been given to the commanders of conscripts not to subject persons of that class to enrollment and conscription.
As a general thing the French population of this country retain the domicile of their nativity and rarely mingle in the public concerns of the country of their residence. They generally retain a purpose to return to the land of their birth, and are seldom willing to forego their relations with the empire, which is an object both of affection anld be an act of injustice to coerce men of this description to fight our battles. They come to this country upon a faith in treaty stipulations, and reposing upon the principles of international law to protect them from such oppression. The probability as that