The State is now without any military force whatever. She has not even a sufficient police under her control in any county. My views have not changed since my last message to the legislature as to the necessity of providing for this want. Those between the ages of fifty and sixty years, and those exempt from military service under the laws of Congress, should be organized into minute companies in their respective counties, under the authority of the State, and their muster-rolls forwarded to the office of the adjutant and inspector general. Thus organized, they would aid in the execution of the laws, civil and military; they would form an efficient police force to watch over and control the slave population, and prevent them from being tampered with; they would arrest deserters and break up their haunts, and root out disaffection, disloyalty, and treason to our cause; they would aid in protecting the community from violence, and from the horrid murders, robberies, and other outrages, which are daily being committed in many sections of the State; they would uphold and sustain the laws and assist in their execution, and make the wicked offender everywhere feel that the way of the transgressor is hard, and thus strengthen the local organization for the protection and defence of the State. These duties are all consistent with giving their time and attention mainly to domestic interests.
Imperative duty requires of me to call your attention to the fearful demoralization and crimes prevailing throughout the State. In some sections society is almost disorganized, the voice of the law is hushed, and its authority seldom asserted. It is a dead letter, an unhonored thing upon the unread pages of the statutes. Murder, robbery, theft, outrages of every kind against property, against human life, against everything sacred to a civilized people, are frequent and general. Whole communities are under a reign of terror, and they utter their dreadful apprehensions and their agonizing cries of distress in vain. The rule of the mob, the bandit, of unbridled passions, rides over the solemn ordinances of the government. Foul crime is committed, and the criminal, steeped in guilt, and branded by his own dark deeds with eternal infamy, goes unwhipped of justice. Not even a warrant is issued for him, no effort made by the sworn officers of the law or by the community to bring him to punishment. Too often the deed is excused, the community is divided in opinion as to the guilt, and the criminal is screened from justice unless his offending chances to touch some particular influence or prevailing notions, and then, without trial, and without the forms of law, he is hung by a mob. The law is not at fault. It has denounced its fearful penalties against transgressors of all kinds. It has provided all the necessary officers to expound and enforce its provisions. They are solemnly sworn to faithfully discharge their duties. They are armed with authority to employ the power of the country, when necessary, to execute the law. They are paid from the treasury of the State, and from the taxes of the people. They are set apart for the time being, through the organism of government, to this solemn work. Every county and every judicial district has the legal and moral power, were the officers and the people earnestly and cordially to co-operate, to root out these evils, arrest these crimes, punish the offenders, and to restore the law to vigor and to regular operation. Thus the law would again become the harmony of society, and secure it against this fearful confusion and these fearful dangers.
In view of these facts, the judiciary and all other officers should be at their posts, and fearlessly and faithfully discharge their duties. The people should encourage and sustain them, and hold them to a strict accountability for their short-comings in office. Sacrifices must be made and moral courage displayed by the civil as well as the military officers. These qualities are as essential in the one as in the other, and as important to society. The severest penalties should be provided for the civil officer who now fails to discharge the obligations pertaining to his position. He should not be permitted to eat bread in idleness and in neglect of his sworn duties. The law must triumph, or tyranny and unbridled passions will reign. Order must prevail, or anarchy and the reign of terror ensue. Let the solemn warning from the pages of history instruct us, and let us be wise in time.
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction of the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1866, Florida - Louisiana - Texas, pages 105, 107.