War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 0622 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

ing effect, drawn up and worded by myself, for until you are proclaimed dictator, I shall dispute your right to dictate any oath unknown to and unsanctioned by the Constitution and laws; That I will support and defend the Constitution and obey all the laws of the United States while they are alive upon the statute book, but whilst I will obey a bad law I will at the same time claim the right to advocate its repeal as speedily as possible, else I am a slave. Further in protecting and defending the Constitution I will maintain the undeniable fact that the Union is the greatest blessing to our country (excepting the principles of civil and religious liberty) that a kind Providence has permitted us to enjoy, and that the free States are mainly indebted to that Union for their unparalleled prosperity and can only perpetuate and increase their triumphs beneath that grand Federal arch. But I will take no oath of any description which contains some hidden purpose covering an intended future policy, or is thrust upon me merely to provide a pretext for my release from this Administration jail. If I am guiltless (which you well know whether I am or not) discharge me from that fact; it alone is sufficient.

You, sir, have acted under evil and impolitic advisement in my arrest. I am void of offense. I have not solicited my liberation at your hands and never shall or has any person to my knowledge; nor have I importuned any one to solicit my release. Sir, I will neither give nor take anything which is not comprised within the laws of my country. The tribunal therein established I seek and demand as the right of an American citizen. When the laws cease to protect the remedy of the outraged citizen then becomes plain and imperative. I await my trial, sir, although I will unhesitatingly make oath to the effect above mentioned for the following reasons:

First. Because I am already bound by a similar oath as a member of the legal profession together with my heion and because my sense of duty, my conscience and judgment approve. Up to this moment my whole life attests the faithful fulfillment and observance of these sacred and solemn responsibilities.

Second. Because in case I did not renew this oath the bare fact that an oath was tendered and refused would afford a pretext for the partisan press to charge me with treasonable purposes, otherwise it would be proclaimed I could not reasonably hesitate to take the oath. That press has already abused the public mind by falsehood in relation to the meeting I addressed in Litehfield County, Conn.

I will therefore take the oath described by myself to do my duty (which has been one heretofore and would be equally well done without the additional affirmation) as one mode of self-defense. At the same time I cannot reconcile my mind to the opinion that the mere offer of an oath to a man free from all charge of error is not a sinister mode of casting an imputation upon his conduct, especially as your letter ordering the oath to be tendered directs that I be discharged with a rebuke or reprimand. Sir, until I am proved guilty of some offense, if you or colonel Burke or President Lincoln himself attempts a reprimand I shall resent on the spot the indignity offered as a gratuitous insult. If I am guilty of treason, hang me; but if my true record shows that I have denounced treason, privation of rights and violation of law do me the justice to which I am entitled uncoupled with unmanly circumstances. I know my rights and yours, as well as the inflexible limits which the people will fix to the exercise of delegated power; hence it is useless at a time like this to approach me in an oblique manner. Prefer your charges, confront me with my accusers, summon