STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,
Raleigh, N. C., March 31, 1863.
His Excellency President DAVIS:
SIR: I have this day addressed a letter to General Rains, * chief of Bureau of Conscription, in regard to the enrolling of certain State officers, but as the case is urgent and may assume important proportions, I have thought it best to address you directly and beg your attentions thereon at as early moment as your heavy duties may permit. The extreme rigor (and I am proud to be able to add good faith) with which the conscript law has been executed in North Carolina has stripped it so bare of its laboring and official population as to render its further operation a matter of anxiety in various respects. In addition to sweeping off a large class whose labor was, I fear, absolutely necessary to the existence of the women children left behind, the hand of conscription has at length laid hold upon a class of official without whose aid the order and well-being of society could not be preserved nor the execution of the laws enforced, and whose conscription in as insulting to the dignity as it is certainly violative of the rights and sovereignty of the State. Having heretofore exerted the utmost powers with which I am intrusted, and even exceeded them, according to a recent decision of the chief justice of the State, in the execution of this law, at this point I deem it my duty not only to pause, but to protest against its enforcement. In my letter to General Rains I assumed the position that the Confederate authorities should not conscribe any officers or agents of the State whose services were necessary to the due administration of her government, and that the State authorities (not the Confederate) must judge of this necessity. In this class I should certainly place justices of the peace, constables, and the police organizations of our towns and cities. There being no attempt made to enrol the officers of the militia, I shall not urge as to them, thought I understand the right is claimed under the law to conscribed them. The exemption bill of October 11, 1862, provides that the executive and judicial officers of the State exempted, except such as may by State laws be subject to militia duty. This would render every able-bodied man in the State liable to conscription, as our laws expressly provide that in case of invasion or insurrection no person shall be exempt whomsoever. If this constructions prevails you will perceive that it is in the power of the Department to abolish the State government by a very simple process; but, taking it for granted that such construction is not intended, I beg leave to say that the present proceedings of the Bureau go very toward it. I need not inform you of the character and duties of the magistracy. You can but to aware of their importance. I will only say in brief that, in addition to their being conservators of the peace generally, they constitute our courts of pleas and quarter sessions and have jurisdiction over a far more extensive in many respects more important, range of subject that the superior courts; in fact, the superior courts cannot be held without them. They levy more than half the Texas of the State, assess all the property for taxation, provide for the poor (now a doubly important function), and in many cases the law requires a certain number to be present to render their proceeding valid. The constable is the sheriff of the magistrate's court, and se absolutely necessary to the community as the sheriff himself, since our sheriff can be compelled to execute no process except those addressed to him by a court of record.
* Next, post.