War of the Rebellion: Serial 125 Page 0408 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

will be productive of many evils. In the first place, it can hardly fail to produce a painful conflict of jurisdictions. In the second place, I fear that it is but sowing broadcast a crop of future litigation. For (there being really no law to support the order) all responsible persons engaged in its enforcement will be in danger of ruinous lawsuits as soon as tranquility is restored and the courts resume the peaceful administration of the law. In the third place, though all of us do readily acquiesce in the exercise of extraordinary powers, when it is plain that the exercise of the powers is a military necessity, yet few men will consent, as a matter of convenience or expediency, to transfer the adjudication and execution of the statue law from the constituted courts to a military provost, or even to the general of an army, or that the military shall dispose of civil rights without law. In the fourth place, it will give to the enemies of the President and his Administration a plausible ground to reiterate the accusation, already so often and so loudly made, that he and they set themselves up as above the law of the land and seek to negroes all power in the military hand.

I beg you, general, to consider seriously of these suggestions, and with the hope on my part that you will find it prudent and wise to abstain from the effort to enforce that order.

Furthermore, I beg to draw your attention to the two acts of Congress of August 6, 1861, and July 17, 1862, whereby Congress has provided another and different method of proceeding to 'suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes." These acts of Congress require the proceedings to be judicial and in the courts; and the President has long ago, by special orders, charged the Attorney-General with the superintendence and direction of all such proceedings. And, for your clearer information upon that subject, I have the honor to send to you herewith copies of the President's two orders, dated, respectively, November 13, 1862,* and January 8, 1863, under which, and by my direction, the local law officers of the Government are now, and for a long time have been, acting.

This letter is written to you, sir, after conversation with the President and with his knowledge and permission. And I respectfully request an answer at your earliest convenience.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,




EXECUTIVE MANSION, January 8, 1863.

Ordered by the President:

Whereas, on the 13th day of November, 1862, it was ordered that the Attorney-General be charged with the superintendence and direction of all proceedings to be had under the act of Congress of the 17th of July, entitled "An act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, and to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes," in so far as may concern the seizure, prosecution, and condemnation of the estate, property, and effects of rebels and traitors, as mentioned and provided for in the fifth, sixth, and seventh sections of the said act of Congress; and

Whereas, since that time it has been ascertained that divers prosecutions have been instituted in the courts of the United States for the


*See Vol. II, this series, p. 765.