the service or labor of negro slaves in the Confederate States is the same now as when those States were members of the Federal Union. The constitutional relations and obligations of the Confederate Government to the owners of this species of property are the same as those so frequently and so long recognized as appertaining to the Government of the United States with reference to the same class of persons by virtue of its organic law. From the earliest period of the independence of the American States it has been held that one of the duties incumbent upon the several common governments under which they have from time to time been associated was the return to their lawful owners of slaves recaptured from the public enemy. It has been uniformly held that the capture or abduction of a slave does not impair the right of the owner to such slave, but that the right attaches to him immediately upon recapture.
Such was the practice of the American States during their struggle for independence. The Government under which they were then associated restored to the owners slaves abducted by the British forces and subsequently recaptured by the American armies.
In the war of 1812 with Great Britain the course pursued by the United States Government was the same, and it recognized the right of the owner to slaves recaptured from the enemy. Both the Continental and United States Governments in fact denied that the abduction of slaves was a belligerent right, and the latter power insisted upon and ultimately secured by treaty pecuniary indemnity from the British Government that if a negro belonging to a citizen of a State in which slavery is recognized and which is regarded as one of the United States, were to escape into the Confederate States, or be captured or abducted by their armies, the legal right of the owner to reclaim him would be as clear now as in 1812, the Constitution of the United States being unchanged in this particular, and that instrument having been in judicial decisions, legislation, and diplomatic acts and correspondence of the United States, as imposing upon that Government the duty of protecting in all cases, coming within the scope of its authority, the owners of slaves as well as of any other kind of property, recognized as such by the several States.
The Confederate Government, bound by the same constitutional obligations, considers, as that of the United States did, that the capture or abduction of a negro slave does not preclude the lawful owner from reclaiming him when recaptured, and I am instructed to say that all such slaves when properly identified as belonging to citizens of any of the Confederate States, or to persons enjoying the protection of their laws, will be restored like other recaptured property to those entitled to them.
Having endeavored to explain the general policy of the Confederate Government with regard to this subject I beg leave to state the facts concerning the particular transactions referred to in the inclosed communications.
The negroes recently captured by our forces were sent to Richmond with other Federal prisoners. After their arrival it was discovered that a number of them were slaves belonging to citizens or residents of some of the Confederate States, and of this class fifty-nine, as I learn, were sent with other negroes to work on the fortifications around Richmond until their owners should appear and claim them. As soon as I was informed of the fact, less than two days afterward,