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[662] by conscription. The principle of compulsory service, which General McClellan had vainly asked to be enforced from the day he was placed in command at Washington, thus appeared for the first time among legislative enactments.

The law of the 17th of July established another principle equally important as well as new, which, unlike the preceding one, was destined to survive the circumstances which had given rise to its acceptance; this was the admission of colored men into the ranks of the army. It was impossible to refuse the services of volunteers because they had African blood in their veins. But the principle once admitted, there was no reason either for making any distinction between the free or enfranchised men of color, and the fugitive negroes, who came to beg of the national armies the privilege of purchasing their freedom by fighting in their ranks. The question regarding the application of this law was settled by the executive power in a proclamation issued on the 4th of August. Mr. Lincoln ordered a levy of three hundred thousand militia for the service of the Union, for a term not to exceed nine months. The contingent of each State was fixed by the President; and if not furnished before the 15th of August, the deficit was to be filled by conscription. The zeal of the local authorities, the ardor which caused volunteers to flock around the recruiting-offices, and the increase of bounties rendered the application of so novel a measure unnecessary for the present. The same document announced that stringent regulations would be published by the War Department, to secure the benefit of promotion in the new regiments to officers of the old regiments who had distinguished themselves during the war, and to exclude all those who should be deemed unworthy of wearing the epaulette. It was, indeed, necessary to reward those who, for the last year, had gone through the trials of a severe campaign, and not to sacrifice their chances of promotion to intrigues and favoritism, which too frequently influenced the distribution of commissions in the creation of new regiments. The governors of States were evidently impressed with this idea; for a large number of officers of inferior rank, who had signalized themselves on battle-fields, were appointed by them to higher positions in the regiments which were in process of formation.

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