ferson Davis, or any other insurgent, in States or district in which they were not actually present during the prosecution ofh hostilities.
Some prominent rebles were personally present at the invasions of Maryland and Pennsylvania; but all or nearly all of them received military paroles upon the surrender of the rebel armies. Whilst I think that those paroles are not ultimate protection for prosecutions for high treson, I have thought that it would be a violation of the paroles to prosecute those persons for crimes before the political power of the Government has proclamation that the rebellion has been suppressed.
It follows from what I have said that I am of the opinion that Jefferson Davis and others of the insurgents ought to be tried in some on of the States or districts in which they in person respectively committed the crimes with which they may be charged. Though active hostilities and flagrant war have not for some time existed between the United States and the insurgents, peaceful relations between the Government and the people in the States and district in rebellion have not yet been fully restored. None of the justices of the Supreme Court have held circuit courts in those States and districts since actual hostilities ceased.
When the courts are open and the laws can be peacefully administered and enforced in those State whose people rebelled against the Government- when thus peace shall have come, in fact and in law, the persons now held in military custody as prisoners of war, and who may not have tried and convicted for offense against the laws of war, should be transferred into the custody of the civil authorities of the proper districts to be tried for such high crimes and misdemeanors as may be alleged against them.
I think that it is the plain duty of the President to cause criminal prosecution to be instituted before the proper tribunals and at the proper times against some of those who were mainly instrumental in inaugurating and most conspicous in conducting the late hostilities. I should regard it as a direful calamity if many whom the sword has spared the law should spare also; but I would deem it a more direful calamity still if the Executive, in performing his constitution duty of bringing those persons before the bar of justice to answer for their crimes, should violate the plain meaning of the Constitution, or infringe in the least particular the living spirit of that instrument.
I have the honor to be, most respectfully,
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Washington, January 10, 1866.
Major General P. H. SHERIDAN,
Commanding Military Division of the Gulf, New Orleans, La.:
GENERAL: I have respectfully to request you to furnish this office with information as to the nature of the charges and specifications preferred against John. B. Clark and William M. Gwin, citizens, whose names are embraced in the list of prisoners forwarded by you under, date December 6, 1865, and who are reported therein as having been committed by you.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. TOWNSEND,