War of the Rebellion: Serial 025 Page 0864 Chapter XXIX. WEST TENN. AND NORTHERN MISS.

Search Civil War Official Records

such persons, or deserted by them and coming under the control of the Government of the United States, and all slaves of such persons found or being in any place occupied by rebel forces and afterward occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be for ever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

SEC. 10. * * * And no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretense, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.

Approved July 17, 1862.

Such is the law of the Congress of the United States, which I caused to be published many successive days in all the newspapers of Memphis as soon as received; and yet you made no mention of it in your charge to the jury. Certainly you must admit a state of war; that Memphis was a place held by the Confederate troops in June last and now in our military possession, and that during the pendency of war I am held by our Government as responsible for all that occurs in this district, and as much accountable for acts done by persons subordinate to my authority, as though done by myself. Therefore, in charging the jury, you could not but have foreseen it would raise a direct conflict. I admit that in our conversation you contended that your high sense of the character of a judge demanded you should announce the law, but that in doing so you qualified it by the expression_

If in regard to the slavery laws of the State, or any of the recited or other statutory or common law offenses, the jury should find themselves physically prevented by the circumstances about them-in other words, by the insufficiency of the power of the county-from the performance of their high duties as defined by the law, in that case their failure to perform these duties will be no dereliction on their part.

Now I hold, and so will every reader of your charge infer, that the jury is bound to hear and, on their oath, find bills against every person who has received, harbored, or employed a fugitive slave. No physical power will hinder them from finding such bills any more than it did you in making your charge; on the contrary, I would look for discreet action and a full and comprehensive laying down of the law to the learned and intelligent judge rather than the jury who are bound to receive the law as he gives it to them to apply to the cases that may come to their hearing.

I say the grand jury are bound to indict every man, woman, or child in the county of Shelby who has ben governed by the laws of the Congress of the United States, instead of those of the State of Tennessee, late in open rebellion to the mild and generous sovereign of the whole country. Thus I contend that, when your community is already bound down by the afflictions of stern war, you have insisted, from what I deem a too delicate sense of your official obligations, in bringing a direct conflict between the State and National authority. I had in my former conversations with you expressed an earned desire that, while armed thousands of strong men were arrayed against each other, ready at any moment to engage in deadly struggle, the common machinery of Government might be preserved, to protect the old and young, feeble and helpless, against the murderous rubbers, thieves, and villains that are sure to take advantage of the complications of war to do their hellish work. I wanted of all things the criminal court of Shelby County to meet and punish crime-that class of crime known all the works over as malum in se, common to the codes of all civilized people-and reserve this question of slavery, this dire conflict between National and State authority, to be fought out by the armies now arrayed for that purpose. Personally, I have no hostility to slavery or any of your local laws. I would