The Federal authorities on the other hand have always been anxious to institute a system of exchange of political prisoners man for man. It was a deeply laid scheme to interfere with the administration of justice in the Confederate States and to give practical immunity to such of their friends and partisans in the South as felt disposed to preach or practice disloyalty.
Under the instructions of the War Department I have constantly refused to engage in any such system of exchanges. There was no reciprocity in the arrangement. It amounted to an exchange of Confederate citizens for Confederate citizens owing to the fact that the enemy was in possession of portions of our own country and had therefore more frequent opportunities of making arrests. If any such proposal had been accepted we should soon have released every civilian held by us leaving many hundreds of our own people to languish in Northern prisons for whom we had no equivalent to offer. I repeatedly offered to release all political prisoners held by us except such as were held upon very aggravated charges if the Federal authorities would do the same. Lately they agreed to this proposition, coupling it with a written statement that it was not their intention to make any more arrests of non-combatants. I had very great doubts as to their good faith both as to the delivery of all political prisoners and their disavowal of any intention to make any more arrests.
The sequel has proved that these doubts in both respects were well founded. A few weeks ago in pretended compliance with the agreement they delivered some six hundred persons whom they called political prisoners. About one-half of that number were persons who had been in our service in the West belonging to irregular military organizations and who long ago had been declared exchanged under the agreement made between the Federal agent and myself. Finding they could not get any equivalent of them as military prisoners they attempted to palm them off as political prisoners. The false pretense was too apparent to deceive any body. Some political prisoners held in this city against whom the charges were not aggravated were sent off in return. The number delivered by me bore about the same proportion to the whole number held by us as the number delivered by the Federal agent did to all the political prisoners held by the Federal authorities. They were not exchanged one against the other; they were simply released upon both sided - discharged from any paroles heretofore given by them. The Federal agent demanded that I should deliver to him political prisoners equal in number to those released by him. I refused to do so as the agreement was for the release of all political prisoners, and it was necessary that the proper proportion should be maintained on our side to secure the release of the hundreds still in captivity at the North. If all our prisoners had been delivered I am very sure no more deliveries would have been made by the Federal agent.
Even less faith has been shown by the Federal authorities in the matter of political arrests. Since the date of their declaration they have made more of such arrests than during any other equal space of time, embracing an unusual proportion of old men and helpless women.
The resolution of the House of Representatives specifically inquires "what steps if any have been taken to procure the liberation of persons who taken from civil life have been transported and confined beyond the limits of the Confederacy. " In answer I respectfully state that at every interview, without exception, between the Federal agent and myself I have, under the instruction of the War Department,