shot his assailant to save his own life; that it was a case of justifiable homicide and that he should have been acquitted. The court, however, sentenced him to imprisonment for eighteen months at hard labor. Mr. Phillips, a white man, for shooting a negro boy who was unarmed and running away from him was sentenced to six months imprisonment and Jack Banks, a negro, for shooting a white man who was about to shoot him, was sentenced to imprisonment for eighteen months. I did not think these sentences bore a fair proportion in severity to the offenses which they were intended to punish. But courts are entitled to great consideration from those who review their judgment. They hear the testimony, they give weight to the appearance and manner of the witnesses and other circumstances which may not be as justly appreciated by those who only read the reports of the evidence. For this reason, notwithstanding a strong impression that Banks should have been discharged, I nevertheless after much hesitation approved the proceedings in both cases and ordered the sentences to be executed. Mr. Phillips was never confined for a day. He was held to bail before trial in a large sum but had no difficulty in finding sureties. Jack Banks being poor and without friends could not have found bail if he had tried and had to go to prison. He was confined a short time before trial and has been imprisoned at hard labor under sentence.
The other case was that of Reuben Willis, one of the colored companions of Banks. He was also armed, and he fired killing a horse. There was no evidence that he intended to kill any one, and I did not doubt that it was one of those chance shots which are made in an affray under the influence of fear and excitement without any definite purpose. Willis was sentenced by the same commission to hard labor for six moths. Mr. Phillips for killing a boy and Willis for killing a horse received the same sentences. The latter was confined some weeks before trial and has been imprisoned four months at hard labor under sentence.
From high considerations connected with government and society in the United States I have never been in favor of putting negroes on the same footing with white men in regard to political rights and privileges, but I have always considered it a duty to treat them with kindness and humanity, and to do all in our power to elevate and improve their moral and intellectual condition. In the administration of justice in this department I have recognized no distinction of color. So far as depended on me crime has been punished firmly and impartially whether committed by negroes or white men. Indeed I have been disposed to hold the latter to a more rigid accountability in consideration of their superior moral and intellectual culture. I should have remitted the sentences pronounced on Banks and Wilis as soon as Mr. Phillips was pardoned by you but for the principle which decided me not to interfere with the course of justice in the case of the latter. For the same reason I do not recommend their pardon to you, but I deem it my duty to present their cases and to suggest whether on every principle of equal justice these negroes should not receive the same mercy which was shown to a white man who was guilty of a higher crime.
The proceedings in all the cases are in the custody of the Judge-Advocate-General should you desire to consult them.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. DIX.