WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, May 13, 1863
Honorable A. W. LOOMIS, Pittsburgh:
Arrangements have already been made for the exchange of all prisoners taken in the battles near Fredericksburg and they are expected here in a few days. Your son shall have a furlough on his arrival.
EDWIN M. STANTON.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA.
Fort Monroe, Va., May 13, 1863
His Excellency A. LINCOLN.
President of the United States.
SIR: A month ago you pardoned William P. Phillips, of Elizabeth City County, sentenced by a military commission to imprisonment at hard labor for six months for shooting a negro boy who was stealing his corn. I was absent when the pardon was granted and since my return the presence of the enemy in this department has prevented me from writing to you on the subject. Though I never supposed the homicide to have been committed with malice I always thought and still think the shooting was unnecessary and unjustifiable and the punishment very light. Mr. Phillips is a quiet, respectable citizen and has many friends, some of whom are nearly connected with me as commander of this department. I was strongly pressed first not to bring him to trial at all and second to remit the punishment. Against all this pressure I was immovable because my opinion has always been that every man publicly charged with a crime should be tried, and when he has had a fair trial and the punishment not too great for the offense the sentence should be carried into execution.
We know that the efficacy of punishment as a restraint upon the bad passions of men depends mainly on its certainty. I am aware that one of the grounds on which the pardon of Mr. Phillips was urged was meant as to be in danger of insanity. This was the opinion of a respectable army surgeon but I did not think such a hazard should defeat case of mercy in Mr. Phillips' case. The facts are stated for the purpose of presenting two other cases nearly coincident in point of time which were tried by the same commission in which a negro shot a white man and the other in which a negro shot a horse.
The first is that of Jack Banks. He was returning with several other negroes from a hog hunt as they called it-catching hogs running at large in the woods and carrying them off to kill them. The party were confessedly committing an unlawful act by taking property not their own. They were met by the owner of the hogs and on his claiming it they immediately let it go without objection. The owner's son was present with a double-barreled gun, and having asked one of the negroes to give his name without receiving satisfactory answer he shot him. Banks who was armed says (and there is no contradictory evidence) the second barrel was turned toward him, and he fired and shot the white man who had killed his companion.
Great stress was laid on the fact that Mr. Phillips immediately surrendered himself and made a full confession. It was certainly strongly in his favor. Jack Banks did the same thing and asked a trial. From the testimony I was strongly impressed with the belief that Banks had