1148 Series IV Volume III- Serial 129 - Correspondence, Orders, Reports and Returns of the Confederate Authorities from January 1, 1864, to the End
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Mr. Orr, from the select commmittee, the whom was referred that portion of the message of the President of the Confederate States of the 13th instant relating to the action of Congress during the present session, submitted the following report: *
The select committee, to whom was referred so much of the President's message of the 13th nstant as relates to the action of Congress during the present session, having duly considered the same, respectfully submit the following report:
The attention of the Congress is called by the President to the fact that for carrying on the war successfully there is urgent need of men and supplies for the Army.
The measures passed by Congress during the present session for recruiting the Army are considered by the President inefficient; and it is said that the result of the law authorizing the employment of slaves as soldiers will be less than anticipated in consequence of the dilatory action of Congress in adopting the measure. That a law so radical in its character, as repugnant to the prejudices of our people, and so intimately affecting the organism of society should encounter opposition and receive a tardy sanction ought not be excite surprise; but if the policy and necessity of the measure had been seriously urged on Congress by an Executive message legislative action might have been quickened. The president in no official communication to Congress has recommended the passage of a law putting slaves into the Army as soldiers, and the message under consideration is the first official information that sucha a law meets his approval. Executive message transmitted to Congress on the 7th of November last suggests the propriety of enlarging the sphere of employment of the negro as a laborer, and for this purpose recommends that the absolute title to slaves be acquired by impressment, and as an incentive to the faithful discharge of duty that the slaves thsu acquired be liberated with the permission om which they were drawn. In this connection the following language is used: "If this policy should recommend itself to the judgment of Congress, it is suggested that, in addition to the duties heretofore performed by the slave, he might be advantageously employed as pioneer and engineer laborer, and in that event that the number should be augmented by 40,000. Beyond this limit and these employments it does not seem to me desirable, under existing circumstances, to go. " In the same message the President further remarks, "The subject is to be viewed by us, therefore, solely in the light of policy and our social economy. When so regarded, I must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming the slaves for the duty of soldiers. " It is manifest that the President in November last did not consider that the contingency had then arisen which would justify a rsort to the extraordinary policy of arming our slaves. Indeed, no other inference can be deduced from the language used by him, for he says: "These considerations, however, are rather applicable to the improbable contingency of our need of resorting to this element of resistance than to our present condition. " The Secretary of War, in his report under date of November 3, seemed to concur in the opinion of the President, when he said: "While it is encouraging to know this resource for further and future efforts is at our command, my own judgment does not yet either perceive the necessity or approve the policy of employing slaves in the higher duties of soldiers. "
At what period of the session the President or Secretary of War considered the improbable contingence had arisen which required a resort to slaves as an element of resistance does not appear by any official document within the knowledge of your committee. Congress might well have delayed action on this subject until the present moment, as the President, whose constitutional duty it is "to give to the Congress information of the state of Confederacy," has never asked, inanner, for a passage of a law authorizing the employment of slaves as soldiers. The Sentate, however, did not await the tardy movements of the President. On the 29th of December, 1864, the following resolution was adopted by the Senate in secret session:
"Resolved, That the President be requested to inform the Senate, in secret session, as to the sate of the finances in connection with the payment of the troops; the means of supplying the munitions of war, transportation, and subsistence; the condition of the Army, and the possibility of recruiting the same; the condition of our foreign relations, and whether any aid or encouragement from abroad is expected, or has been sought, or is proposed, so that the Senate may have a clear
*From Journal of the C. S. Senate of March 16, 1865.
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