citizens held in Southern prisons, particularly in Richmond, in which I stated, and desire now to repeat, that the principal reason why I have not been able to obtain the release of those citizens has ben that the rebel authorities have been endeavoring to compel or treaty by which, under the pretense of exempting citizens form arrest, rebels, would be placed on a footing with citizens, and, in fact, a complete equality of the so-called Confederate States with the United States would be acknowledge.
On the 8th of October last General Meredith addressed me a latter from Fortress Monroe on the subject of our citizen prisoners in Richmond, of which a copy, marked B, is annexed,* by which it will be seen that Mr. Ould, the rebel agent, had expressly declared that he would "not make any special exchange, but that he was willing to make any arrangement which will be at all reciprocal, and he expressed himself perfectly willing to join in any general principle of exchange; " and the purpose of Mr. Ould or of his authorities is declared in the passage immediate following, to wit:
In this connection I will state (says General Meredith) that Mr. Ould informed me that the object of the rebel authorities in arresting citizens was a retaliatory measure, and for the purpose of bringing to bear such a presume on the United States authorities as to cause them to refrain from making more arrests of sympathizers with the South.
It will be seen at a glance that Mr. Ould refused to act upon the assurance of General Meredith that we hold no citizens in confinement on the ground of his being a citizens of the South, but only because of some reason of state-that is, of public safety.
I have not hitherto considered citizens as proper subjects of exchange, but of release, when not held for reasons of public safety, although I have done everything in my power to afford relief to citizens suffering under the policy adopted by the rebel authorities, by which they are attempting to force the Government of the United States to one of two results, to wit, either to acknowledge the perfect equality of rebels with citizens or resort to a war upon citizens in imitation of their barbarous example.
The difficulties on the subject of the exchange of prisoners of war are somewhat complicated, but the vital difficulty it this:
The Government of the United States, by formal act, authorized the employment of colored troops in the Army, and by that fact bound itself in the most solemn manner, in the eyes of history and of the world, to embody that class of troops as an integral portion of the whole Army, entitled in all respect to the privileges and the protection of the laws of war. This point admits of no question, and will permit no debate calculated to jeopard the claim of that class of troops to be treated in all respects upon an equality with other troops employed in the suppression of the rebellion.
As soon as the policy of the Government was announced on this subject the rebel authorities proclaimed, through their President and through other powers of their so-called Confederate Government, that they would make a distinction against such of the colored troops as might fall into their hands, by which the officers servicing with such troops should be delivered over to the State authorities to be tried under State laws, for the crime of inciting servile insurrection, while the colored soldiers themselves were to be either returned or sold into slavery.
* See Meredith to Hitchcock, October 8 (beginning "In accordance with the instructions"), p. 361.