conveyed to parties that their friends or relatives are engaged in procuring passes to come through the lines and visit them; in others intelligence of an encouraging character is imparted in regard to the health, welfare, and circumstances of friends whom the war has separated. It is not only common soldiers and their friends who resort to these "personals" for mutual support and information, but officers also, and some of them of high rank in the rebel army, and their families, &c., make use of the same medium and for a similar purpose. It is impossible that the horrors of war should not thus be greatly alleviated for those whose crimes should justly subject them to the fullest measure of the trial and suffering which have followed upon the rebellion in which they themselves have acted a prominent part.
Fifth. It is, lastly, to be observed that a number of these eccentric language and in terms quite incomprehensible to the general reader. These are evidently intended to convey intelligence to the parties whom they are designated to reach (but whose true names are not disclosed) which it is important to conceal from all others.
That such communications might readily be used as a cover for the transmission of material information to the public enemy is most obvious, and that they have been so employed is a legitimate presumption. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that rebel sympathizers at the North would impose such a restraint upon themselves as not to take advantage of the safe and sure medium thus opened to them for conveying aid and comfort to the cause of treason, which they delight to serve.
That the system of correspondence which has been thus examined should be forthwith put an end to by the Government would seem to admit of no question. It is a fundamental principle of public law that a declaration of war operates as an absolute interdiction of all intercourse, communication, and correspondence between the hostile powers. (1 Kent, 66; Halleck's International Law, 357.) The Executive has, indeed, adopted this principle to its utmost extent in General Orders, Numbers 100, of April 24, 1863, which embodies the treatise of Lieber upon the laws of war. In section 86 it is laid down as follows:
All intercourse between the territories occupied by belligerent armies, whether by traffic, by letter, by travel, or in any other way, ceases. This is the general rule, to be observed without special proclamation. Exceptions to this rule can take place only according to agreement approved by the government or by the highest military authority. Contravention of this rule are highly punishable.
That the Government has permitted these rules to be relaxed, and has allowed a limited correspondence to be carried on subject to certain strict regulations, can render those who abuse this privilege no less liable for a violation of the laws of war.
indeed be no dourse to be pursued toward such offenders, it is to be regretted that the Government, by permitting letters from private parties to be transmitted through the lines under any circumstances or conditions, has seemed to sanction an exception to the general principle of non-intercourse and to promote the building up of the very system of correspondence through the public journals which it is now called upon to condemn and prohibit. Had the rigid rule of war interdicting all communication whatever between Southern rebels and their associates or sympathizers at the North been enforced from the beginning, and an impassable barrier thus raised between two classes of traitors who