In the case of Bryan, brought to your notice by General Huger, I would apply the general principles before stated thus: If Bryan was a soldier he must be tried for his offense by court-martial under the fifty-seventh article. If an alien and he was in and about the camp or within or about our lines obtainign information for the enemy he must be tried as a spy under article 99, section2, of Articles of War; or he may be tried by the civil courts. It makesno difference that his letter was intercepted, for a man may be guilty of treason who writes and sends a letter to the enemy though it is intercepted, and so he may in like manner by guilty as a spy in such case. It would be better if Bryan was a spy to try him by court-martial as it is the propr tribunal for suchan offense, and the criminal has thus forfeited his claim to the forms of civil courts in his case. If Bryan was not a spy, and was either a citizen of Virginia or of one of the Confederate States then he should be given up to the civil authorities to be dealtwith, and the same course should be pursued if he be an alien, resident in Virginia.
I should be glad to supply anything omitted in this letter necessarily general in its statement of the rules applicable to such cases.
I remain, with very high respect, your obedient servant,
J. R. TUCKER.
RICHMOND, July 10, 1861.
S. B. FRENCH, Esq.,
Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of Virginia:
The case of Travis Southall, refrred to me by you, has been considered. The statement of the prisoner in itself is not unfavorable to him except in the following particulars:
First. He seems to be a resident of Washington City, and to have been so sincelast December at least. The ordinance of secession passed and was ratified, and yet he remainedwithin the enemy's lines and at his capital until July 2, 1861, morethan five weeks after the flagrant invasion of Virginia. Second. He is connected with the family of an officer of the Federal army as a volunteer, in whose family he lived and with whom he was in business.
These facts may be susceptible of proper explanation. The prisoner's coming to Virginia at all seems to be an indication of his purpose to abandon the enemy's country for his native State, and it is to be hoped such may prove to be the case. It is obvious, however, that the officer who examined the case is unfavorably impressed withit and he has been ordered to headquarters. It is a case of a person who probbly had lost his citizenship in Virginia and had fixed it in Washington, and return to Virginia. He says he came back to join the Confederate army, but he has not done so, and there is no evidence of any step being taken toward it. He may have come with an improper purpose. Whether he did so or not must depend upon a full examination of all the facts of the case.
I think it is a case of inquiry and examination by the Executive under the law and the ordinance of the convention, and ashe is in custody upon arrest upon suspicion of improper motive and the governor has power to send for persons and papers I think the party not be discharged until the examination is made. But I think it is not a case where harsh measures should be adopted, and he might bepermitted until the return of the governor to go at large or be properly secured for his appearance before the executive.
J. R. TUCKER.