Government, under which they entered its service and have nobly performed their part, and I deny that Congress possessed the power by any subsequent act to wrest from them this constitutional right, or that the Government, without a most unjustifiable breach of its plighted faith, can now deny to them the exercise of this right.
I beg to be excused for the use of strong language, which may appear to show too much zeal on my part in this cause. By the act of the Secretary of War I was made a party to this contract with the troops, and my action under it was ratified by the President when he accepted the troops organized under it, with officers elected by them, and I feel in honor bound to exert all the energy and power I possess to prevent the injustice which is being done to these gallant, self-sacrificing men. If the right is still denied it will be my duty to communicate the facts to the General Assembly of this State when again convened, and to ask them to take such action in the premises as will secure justice to their injured fellow-citizens and constituents and protect their plan constitutional rights.
You say you regret that "the expression of my views should have been given such direction as may probably excite some dissatisfaction among the officers of that gallant regiment. " Much as I may regret to excite the dissatisfaction of the officers who may be unwilling to submit their claims to preferment to a fair vote to those whom they aspire to command, I cannot be silent when the rights of the regiment in the selection of its officers are no longer respected. But I cannot suppose that the dissatisfaction of any meritorious officer who treats his men humanely and has shown himself worthy to lead them in battle will be excited, as such an officer has no reason to fear the decision of the gallant troops with whom he has been long associated, and who are well acquainted with his character and his capacity to command them and protect their lives in battle. It can only be those officers whose chief claim to preferment rests upon their rank and the date of commissions, acquired by them when less known to the troops, whose dissatisfaction can be excited when the troops are informed that the Executive of their State claims that they shall be permitted to exercise what they believe to be their constitutional right of election, and what they and their officers know was guaranteed to them when they entered the service. You say, further, that "the act of the general in announcing the promotion is in accordance with the laws of Congress, with the regulations and uniform usage of the service. " I trust I have shown that the act of Congress, so far as it confers the right of appointment in this case upon the President, is a nullity, on account of its conflict with the constitution, and it follows as a necessary consequence that any regulation of your Department carrying into execution that which is void is also unauthoritative. In reference to the uniform usage of the service, I can only remark that you labor under a very great mist safe to say that a majority of the whole number of vacancies which have occurred in regiments in Confederate service from this State, which entered the service as did the Fifty-first, under requisition from the President, have been filled by election and commission from the State. There has been, therefore, no uniform usage in favor of your construction, but rather the contrary. I am informed that soon after the passage of the conscription act this question was raised in Colonel Benning's regiment, General Toombs' brigade, and was carried up regularly to the War Department for decision, and was decided in favor of the right of the State to appoint the officers to fill these vacancies, and against the right of the President to fill them by