KNOXVILLE, TENN., December 28, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Richmond, Va.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 22nd instant addressed to J. C. Ramsey, esq., C. S. district attorney, in relation to Brownlow's case which appears in the Knoxville Register of this morning may make an erroneous impression on the public mind as to the part which I took in procuring a passport for him. The careless readere may suppose that the Government intended to arrest him and abendoned the purpose and consented to his leaving the Confederate States on the ground of my representation that he was so concealted as to be entirely beyond its power. So far as I know or believed no officer of the Government at Richmond contemplated his arrest. The application for him to leave was promptly assented to by you an in answer to an objection by President Davis that it appeared to be discriminating in favor of Brownlow conferring upon him a privilege not accorded to others, &c., you replied that you were willing for all go that wanted to and you spoke of making a proclamation to this effect, showing conclusively that you were not controlled in your action upon this matter by the belief that Brownlow was beyond your power.
These impression which may be made from a casual reading of your letter-though I presume it was not so intended-are calculated to do me injustice and I would beg you to set me right in reference to these particles. I acted in good faith to the Government and to everybody concerned and I am willing to take upon myself all the responsibility which properly attaches to my acts or declarations. Your decision in the premises I consider wise, just and magnanimous and it is capable of a full and complete vindication. The results which will follow his departure from East Tennessee will be ample for this purpose; but I am unwilling to be placed before the country in the attitude of having induced the Government to abandon any intention of arresting Brownlow by respresenting that he was concealed and entirely beyond its power. Such was probably not the fact. What I stated was substantially this:
That from fear of personal violence Brownlow had left home; was supposed to be concealed in the mountain of Sevier or Blount; that I had not seen him; had no authority from him act for him but that his wife had informed me that he desired to quit the Confederate States and that the desired me to procure a passport for him if ne could be obtained.
Upon this statement your letter to General Crittenden was prepared. It was not imperative. The question was referred to General Crittenden to deceive whether he should go or not. He was here no the ground; knew all the facts; was organized of the views and wishes of the Government; had the means of determining whether Brownlow was beyond the reach of the Government or not, and this question he deceived for himself uninfluenced by any suggestion of mine whatever.
You will pardon me I hope for adding that there is no necessity for the Government to apologize for this official act. It disappointed some persons who thirsted for his blood and who had cherished the hope that he would fall a victim to this revolution and they excited some feeling among the soldiery here. But the more enlightened, liberal and brave Southern men among us take a different view. When the revolution is ve no occastion to regret the course which you have pursued in reference to Brownlow's case.