Monday, November 7, 2011

150-Years-Ago -- The Militia and the Foreigners

Patrick Cleburne was the  highest ranking
foreign born general in the  Confederate Army.
(Library of Congress)
Natchitoches, Louisiana
November 7, 1861

 The Militia and the Foreigners
The duties and obligations of the Militia, in relation to foreign residents in Louisiana, have never been defined in a clear and precise manner, and on the part of the high authorities of one State, contradictions and conflicts appear every day. Some examples will suffice to edify our readers.

The Natchitoches Chronicle of the 2d November publishes a letter addressed to Capt Wm. Payne, as follows:

Attorney General's Office, }
New Orleans, Oct. 17, 1861.}

Captain Wm. Payne, Natchitoches:

Sir—Yours of 11th received. Foreigners residing in the state sixty days are bound to defend the country, and are subject to militia duty. The Governor has no power to exempt any one from militia duty; his proclamation has nothing to do with the matter.

Thos. J. Semmes

Here then we have the orders and proclamations of the Governor, destroyed by a letter, which may have the merit of being very laconic, but which is not very clear. What does the Attorney General mean by the word country? Is it the place, the Parish or the States inhabited by the unnaturalized foreigners? Or is it the whole confederation? According to the tenor of the letter addressed to Capt. William Payne, we should be tempted to believe that we should not consider the proclamations of the Governor as serious, unless approved by the Attorney General.

Amidst this conflict between those high functionaries of our State comes the opinion of Count Mejean, French Consul at New Orleans, an opinion which, on such a subject is not without importance. It is expressed in the following letter communicated to us, for the purpose of enlightening the French Residents of Louisiana.

French Consulate }
New Orleans }
New Orleans 16, October, 1861.


I received your letter of the 11th and hasten to answer it. The Militia Law, in the State of Louisiana, and probably in the other Southern States, is clear. All male white inhabitants from 18 to 45 years, are obliged to submit to it. The only concession made by the Governor of this State in favor of Foreigners is, to accept for the protection of the Towns and Parishes which they inhabit, and without being require to serve beyond them, all bodies or companies of men composed entirely of foreigners not naturalized. From this Law, foreigners have no way of escaping or could only do so by leaving the Country. But as in doing this, they would be obliged to abandon their interests and the property acquired here on the faith of treaties I think that by remaining and submitting forcibly to the Laws, they do not violate, in any manner, the neutrality commanded by the Government of the Emperor.

Receive, sir, the assurance of my distinguished consideration,

Count Mejan,

French Consul.

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