Thirty-seventh Congress expired by constitutional limitation on the 4th of March previous. Some of the testimony embodied in the report has been taken since that time, and consequently this document has been spread before the country without having been submitted to either branch of Congress. I do not refer to this irregular proceeding of a committee which had ceased to have a legal existence as a defense against the charges of which they have convicted me, but as one of the facts fairly to be considered in connection with the report itself and the purposes it was intended to subserve. The committee have not devoted much space tome, either in citations of testimony or in statements of their own; but in that limited space they have presented me before the country as responsible for the loss of the battle of Fredericksburg in consequence of my disobedience of the orders of General Burnside. If this be true I have been guilty of the highest crime known to the military law, for the commission of which my life is forfeit and my name consigned to infamy. Justice to the country to the Administration which has given me important commands in its armies, and to myself, demands that I meet these grave allegotions as promptly as possible; while, from the peculiar circumstances of the case, the mode I adopt is the only one open to me. Since the publication of the report I have received an answer to an inquiry at the Adjutant-General's Office, informing me that there are no charges on file against me at the Department to which as a soldier I am amendable. I am not at liberty to ignore a report which has already reached the hands of a majority of the loyal people of the United States, emanating from a committee of theirrepresentatives in Congress, because the legislative department of the Government has taken upon itself duties that belong to the Executive. I cannot shut my eyes to the magnitude of the question in its immediate public aspect. if it affected only myself, I might be well contented with the verdict which history will pass upon the transaction under the sacred law which governs the ultimate triumph of the truth. Four two years we have been struggling to subdue a rebellion so enormous in its proportions and so persistent in its purposes that it has become a revolution.
This Government has put into the field over 700,000 men. To discipline these men and to lead them in the field the country must depend upon such as have been educated, to some extent at least, in military science. Hence it is a public question of the highest possible importance whether an officer who has held important commands since the beginning of the war is entitled to the confidence of the people or has justly forfeited his claim to it. It is a dad commentary upon the disjoined condition of the times, that at the very moment when the nation is offering its blood and treasure without stint in the effort to preserve inviolate the principles of civil liberty, a citizen of that nation, however humble, shall be accused, tried, and condemned of an infamous crime, before a tribunal sitting in secret session, without notice, or even an intimation, of the charges made against him; without the opportunity to confront or examine the witnesses brought against him; to be himself called and interrogated, in utter ignorance that he is under trail; and, finally, to be denied permission to produce witnesses, when the fact became apparent to him that unexplained reason, in danger of condemnation. Since the time when the corner stone of all civil liberty was laid under that Government from which we derive our laws, which gives to the meanest subject or the greatest criminal the right to meet his accusers face to face and to confront his witnesses, no parallel can be found in the history of constitional governments