War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0383 Chapter XXX. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

able to pay high prices. Besides, the non-intercourse we are keeping up has, by excluding supplies, rendered the city entirely destitute of many of the essential articles of subsistence; they are not to be had at any price. This infliction, and it is a serious one, falls on the loyal as well as the disloyal, and it is certainly not calculated to add to the number of our friends or diminish the number of our enemies. I advised a liberal treatment for all, punishing where any open hostility to the Government was shown.

I do not understand that this view of the subject was disapproved by the Government; but from a communication recently received from the Treasury Department a difficulty is supposed to exist in the fact that Norfolk is within the section of the country affected by the blockade.

It is respectfully suggested that since the capture and occupation of Norfolk is within forces of the United States the principles of public law applicable to blockaded ports are no longer in force there. It is not a case of complete conquest, in which were must look to our Constitution and laws for the authority which we exercise, but it is a case in which the place is held by the right of military occupation, in which we are exercising the powers given by the laws of war, and in which we may further accord to the inhabitants privileges not strictly conferred by those laws. Rear-Admiral Goldsborough, who lies in the harbor in the Minnesota, is not there to enforce the blockade, but to enforce the military occupation.

That this is the view taken by the Government I cannot doubt, for certainly the right to grant the permits given by the Secretary of the Treasury to introduce eight cargoes of merchandise for general traffic is not to be found in the laws of blockade, which imply a naval force on the part of one belligerent and a closed port on the part of another.

I do not overlook the fact that Norfolk is a recovered possession, and that we hold it theoretically to be now, and always to have been, a part of the United States. But we do not act on this assumption, for if we did we should extend our civil jurisdiction over it and set in motion the customary machinery of administration. On the contrary, we govern it by military force and treat it for all practical purposes as a conquest.

Under the rule of military occupation, therefore, we may, without being questioned by neutrals, admit any intercourse with our own citizens, or any portion of them, essential to the maintenance of our authority or to the preservation and comfortable support of those whom we have subjected by our power. It is on this principle, I suppose, that the limited right to trade has been conferred in a few instances on particular individuals.

I beg leave further to suggest whether permits of this description, granted to afford to the inhabitants of the town or district thus subjected and held by force the means of subsistence, should not be given by the military commander; whether they can with propriety come from the Secretary of the Treasury, who is at the head of a civil department and whole function is incident to the right of military occupation and not to be defended on any other grounds.

Should this view of the subject be concurred in I respectfully request that I may be authorized to grant permits to vessels to go to Norfolk with such supplies as I deem indispensable to save the inhabitants from suffering by hunger and cold, and that Rear-Admiral Goldsborough be directed to respect the permits thus granted by me.