War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 0466 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

MILITARY PRISON, MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE,

Washington City, August 29, 1861.

Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

SIR: Some days ago I addressed to you a communication* apprising you of the fact of my arrest by order of the Secretary of War, and of the reasons which he assigned to me in justification of that act. I endeavored in that letter to show that my arrest was in every point of view unsustainable upon any of the grounds upon which it was placed by that high functionary. I concluded by asking that my letter embracing a protest against the justice and legality of my imprisonment might be laid before the President for his consideration and action. I have received from you no reply to that communication, not even an acknowledgment of its receipt. Since that time I wrote a note to the Secretary of War* informing him that my health was suffering from the unnecessarily close confinement to which I was subjected and requesting an extension of my prison limits with a view to some exercise in the open air. To this I received a reply in which declining to grant my request he informed me that I was no longer his prisoner, and that I was now transferred to the custody of the Secretary of State. No reason was assigned by him for my transfer from his charge to your safe keeping.

Being thus left to conjecture as to its motive I can imagine but one explanation of the fact. It is that you have laid my letter before the President; that he has given just weight to its facts and reasoning, and that he has disapproved the grounds upon which the Secretary of War ordered my arrest and made me his prisoner. If I am correct in this inference I see no reason why I should not have been promptly remitted to my liberty and placed where I stood on the 9th of this month when I received from you a safe conduct and pass to my family in Virginia, unless indeed some facts have been brought to your notice since that day to give my case. be that as it may I cannot but express my gratification at the assurance that I am once more relieved from the grasp of military power-a power in its nature always irresponsible, which in every age submits to no maxim but is jubeo stat proratione voluntas, and that I am placed in relations, hostile even should they be, with one who has been trained to respect the legal rights of his fellow-men; to ackonwledge the paramount importance of justice and law in national as well as individual affairs, and who must feel some regard for the judgment which impartial history will one day pronounce upon his acts.

I have already in my first communication to which I again invite your attention submitted my conduct while abroad to the highest standard by which it could in the nature of things be judged. If any allegations have since been made to impugn the declarations there made it is right and just that I should be apprised of them. Up to this moment I have not heard from any official source nor indeed from any source entitled to the least respect that the Government of the United States has any complaint of any kind against me. If there be one I desire to meet it promptly. You cannot be insensible to the fact that this recent movement of the Secretary of War has already done me much injury herre and in Europe.

The public is but little enlightened as to the avowed cause of my arrest, and even if the true explanation of it had been earlier and more generally announced it would be difficult to satisfy those whose good opinion I value especially in Europe that a public minister of the

---------------

*Not found.

---------------