Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

By Albert Burton Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE COURTS AND CONSCRIPTION

No narrative of conscription would be complete without a survey of the activities of the courts with regard to it. Incidentally such survey will also throw much light upon the subject of the legal character of the Confederate Government, for we Americans have formed the habit of allowing our courts to say what a law means, and to draw the line of demarcation between the authority of our National Government and that of our States in the twilight zone of political power. The conscription laws vested the Confederate authorities with a supreme leadership in the war, but this leadership, in some of its collateral aspects, contradicted the theory of a league of sovereign States, and many persons, inspired by turgid oratory and by a deluge of denunciatory editorials from leading papers, challenged it. Thus the courts were called upon, time and time again, to maintain the dignity and prerogatives of the States against the encroachments of the Confederate Government through the conscription system. But when the great powers of the Confederate Government were unsheathed by the courts, the new government looked so much like the old one that it was painful to the ultra- States' rights men. Their faith and respect for their judicial tribunals were seriously shaken, and some of them were no more ready to accept the interpretations of the

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