Mr. Ould's letter ostensibly to me, but designed for General Butler's action, was thus artfully written in order to a ford a seeming excuse for General Butler to concede the point to Mr. Ould that no real difficulties existed on the subject of exchange, and that there existed no reason why General Butler and Mr. Ould should not recommence the interrupted system of declarations of exchange; and then mr. Ould, as if he was but acting in the due course of business, proceeds to "notify" me-that is General Butler, ostensibly through me, to whom the letter is addressed-that he, Mr. Ould, will on the 1st of February declare exchanged all Confederate prisoners received at City Point up to a certain date, and concludes by giving permission to General Butler to make a similar declaration, which he makes accordingly, and this is the declaration which General Butler now insists is in all respects in conformity with custom, right and proper.
But the declaration in question has not a single feature in it in conformity with usage. It is not founded upon an authorized agreement between the respective agents of exchange, nor upon any publicly known agreement whatever. It stands upon an ex parte letter from Mr. Ould, addressed to myself, and which fell into the hands of General Butler, who has presumed to act upon it without any authority whatever, and the letter itself shows upon its face that Mr. Ould assumed to control and decide upon the whole matter of exchange himself, not conferring openly with any one on the subject. He condescends to "notify" me, or General Butler, through me, that at a certain time he will make a certain declaration, and then tells General Butler that he can do the same. He invites no conference, he asks no consent, but he declares what it is his purpose to do, leaving General Butler no option in the case.
If this is the way to do business of this sort between belligerents I have yet to be instructed in some of the plainest dictates of the morals of war and must learn anew what constitutes the dignity of an agent acting in the name of his Government in behalf of interests of very great importance, put in jeopardy by a man of unscrupulous and vigilant activity on the other side.
General Butler appends to his letter several declarations of exchange announced by the War Department by orders signed by the Adjutant-General of the Army, and he claims that his declaration is precisely in the same language and pleads this as a justification in issuing his department order on a similar subject. Besides that, this does not touch the real objections to his proceedings; he might as well use the precise language of a proclamation of the President and then claim the right to issue a proclamation to the whole country, dated at his local headquarters.
Mr. Ould maintains his character for disingenuous diplomacy throughout the whole transaction. After giving to General Butler a notification of what he has determination he will do with regard to declaring exchanged all prisoners received by him at City Pint, having inveigled General Butler through his secret correspondence into an acceptance of his purpose, he returns to Richmond and declares exchanged, not the prisoners "received at City Point," but, if the Richmond papers can be relied upon in printing his declaration, he sets free from the obligations of their parole all Vicksburg prisoners (who never saw City Point) who had reported for duty at a certain place in Mississippi called Enterprise prior to a given date and certain other prisoners, leaving himself still an indefinite margin to go upon for future declarations whenever it may suit his pleasure according to his principle as declared to General