Lord Lyons to Mr. Seward.

Sir: I received with great satisfaction the note which you did me the honor to address me yesterday, and in which was enclosed a copy of a report from the Provost Marshal General, stating that rules will be prepared with a view to relieving aliens from all inconvenience and hardship connected with the execution of the enrolment act.

In order to show the urgency and importance of this matter, I transmit to you herewith extracts from despatches which I have received from her Majesty’s consuls at St. Louis and Baltimore.

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You will perceive that considerable alarm and anxiety prevail among British subjects in consequence of an impression that an alien cannot claim exemption until after he has been actually drafted. A rule of this kind would not only subject aliens to a great deal of unnecessary trouble and inconvenience, but would expose them to the risk of being actually compelled to serve in the army while their claims to exemption were under examination. I do not at all suppose that it is the intention of the government of the United States to lay down any such rule, but, as the impression which has created so much apprehension among her Majesty’s subjects appears to be shared by some of the enrolling officers, I venture to suggest that it would be desirable that the attention of the higher authorities should be directed towards taking measures to remove it with the least possible delay.

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,

LYONS.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State,

[Extract ]

Her Britannic Majesty’s consul at St. Louis to Lord Lyons.

“I have the honor to direct your lordship’s attention to a point relative to the exemption of persons of foreign birth from military service under the conscription act, which, unless clearly understood, is likely to cause some confusion.

“I find that the orders from the Provost Marshal General’s office, regarding the enrolment and exemption of persons of foreign birth, if not absolutely conflicting, are at least obscure.

“I beg to enclose herein an extract from the Chicago Tribune, of the 12th instant, which contains a letter from me to the draft commissioner at Chicago, embodying the substance of an interview I had with the board of enrolment, in which I state my understanding of the views of the board as to the time foreigners are expected to come forward to claim exemption. At that time the only instructions received by the boards of enrolment were, that all residents within certain ages should be enrolled. But on calling on the board of enrolment sitting at Alton, Illinois, the provost marshal of that district showed me a circular dated the 2d instant, a copy of which I enclose. By this it appears this enrolments simply a census of all male citizens and persons of foreign birth who have declared on oath their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, but that neither the enrolling officers nor the board of enrolment shall make exemption from enrolment. The question of exemption is to be considered by the board of enrolment alone, and only with regard to draft—whether before or after, is not settled.

“I have visited the acting provost marshal general of the States of Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and also several boards of enrolment, including a principal one in the State of Iowa, and found the idea uniform, that no exemptions were to be made on the enrolment, and not until the person had been drafted. But whilst these officers looked upon their instructions as binding, I found in most instances that they considered it would be better policy to examine the claims of foreigners to exemption, as far as possible, before any excitement arises.

“I expressed no opinion on the subject myself, but I do most heartily concur with them.

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“I would respectfully suggest that it would be well that an order or notice should be published to the effect that all persons intending to claim exemption from military service on the ground of alienage, should at once take measures to do so. It will take some time for the boards of enrolment fully to understand the questions as to what circumstances make a foreigner liable. Whenever foreigners are anxious to establish their position, I sincerely hope an opportunity will be afforded them to do so at once.

“In this widely extended district, where the intelligence of the applicants is not as high and the means of obtaining information not so general as in the eastern States, and, owing to the peculiarity of the laws, their rights more difficult to ascertain, I feel that such an order, though perhaps multiplying details at present, would avert much trouble hereafter, both to the British and United States governments.

“Wherever I have been I have found that it was the desire of the boards of enrolment to act in friendly co-operation.”

[Extract.]

“There being nearly two thousand British subjects holding certificates as such from this consulate, I wrote to Provost Marshal Blumenberg to inquire how aliens were to get their names struck off the enrolment list. He tells me, in reply, that there is no means of their doing so, until they have been drafted, when, on receiving a notice of the same, they are to go before the board of enrolment of their district to show cause for their exemption.

“I very much fear, from last year’s experience, that this arrangement will be the cause of great trouble to us all.”