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From one eminent publicist I pass to another. On a former occasion I took the liberty of introducing a familiar letter from Professor Lieber, once of South Carolina, now of New York. The Senator from Michigan [Mr. HOWARD], not content with attempting an answer to the learned professor, proceeded to language with regard to him which I am sure his careful judgment cannot approve. The friend whose letter I read needs no praise as a practical writer and thinker on questions of International Law. On account of his acknowledged fitness as a master of this science, he was selected as commissioner to prepare instructions for the armies of the United States, constituting a most important chapter of the Law of Nations. Those instructions are the evidence of his ability and judgment. So long as they are followed by our Government, it will be difficult for the Senator, learned as he unquestionably is, to impeach their distinguished author. There is no Senator, not excepting the Senator from Michigan, who might not be proud to have such a monument of fame. But he is no mere theorist. It was on the field of battle, where, as a youthful soldier, he was left for dead, that he began a practical acquaintance with those Laws of War which he has done so much to expound.

And now let me read a commentary on the Law of Retaliation by this authority. I quote from an article which has already appeared in the New York “Times.”

“No mawkish sentimentality has induced the writer to express his views.

He has had dear friends in those Southern pens, which have become the very symbols of revolting barbarity ; but he desires, for this very reason, that the subject be weighed without passion, which never counsels well, especially without the passion of mere vengeance.

Let us

bring down this general call for retaliation to practical and detailed measures. It is supposed, then, that retaliation is resolved upon; what next? The order is given to harass, starve, expose, and torture, say twenty thousand prisoners in our bands, until their bones pierce the skin, and they die idiots in their filth. Why should things be demanded which every one knows the Northern man is incapable of doing?

“If, however, by retaliation be meant that captured Rebels in our hands should be cut off from the pleasant comforts of life which Northerners subservient to the South love to extend to them, then, indeed, we fully agree.

This treasonable over-kindness ought never to have been permitted. It has had the worst effect on the arrogance of our enemy; but prohibiting it is not, and cannot be called, retaliation.

“Let us not be driven from the position of manly calmness and moral dignity; and let us, on the other hand, he stern, so stern that our severity shall impress the prisoners that they are such. But let us not follow Rebel examples. It is too sickening, too vile."

Such is the testimony of Francis Lieber, in entire, but independent, harmony with the testimony of Edward Everett. As authority, nothing further can be desired. And yet the question is still debated, and grave Senators take counsel of their indignation rather than of the law.

The earnestness which has characterized this discussion attests the interest of the subject, and the interest here is only a reflection of that throughout the country. When you speak of our brave officers and soldiers suffering, languishing, pining, dying in Rebel prisons, you touch a chord which vibrates in every patriot bosom. He must be cold, sluggish, and inhuman,- so cold “that nought can warm his blood, Sir, but a fever," 1.

1 Ben Jonson, The Fox, Act II Sc. 6.

who is not moved to every possible effort for their redemption.

I am happy to see that the Secretary of War is not insensible to this commanding duty. Here is an extract from a communication which he sent to the House of Representatives as late as January 21st:

"On the 15th October the subject of exchanges was placed under the direction of Lieutenant-General Grant, with full authority to take any steps he might deem proper to effect the release and exchange of our soldiers, and of loyal persons, held as prisoners by the Rebel authorities. He was instructed that it was the desire of the President that no efforts consistent with national safety and honor should be spared to effect the prompt release of all soldiers and loyal persons in captivity to the Rebels as prisoners of war, or on any other grounds, and the subject was committed to him with full authority to act in the premises as he should deem right and proper. Under this authority the subject of exchanges has from that time continued in his charge, and such efforts have been made as he deemed proper to obtain the release of our prisoners.

“An arrangement was made for the supply of our prisoners, — the articles to be distributed under the direction of our own officers, paroled for that purpose; and the corresponding privilege was extended to the Rebel authorities. In order to afford every facility for relief, special exchanges have been offered, whenever desired on behalf of our pris

Such exchanges have in a few instances been permitted by the Rebel authorities, but in many others they have been denied.

"A large number of exchanges, including all the sick, has been effected within a recent period. The Commissary General of Prisoners has been directed to make a detailed report of all the exchanges that have been accomplished


since the general exchange ceased. It will be furnished to the House of Representatives as soon as completed.

“ The last communication of General Grant gives reason to believe that a full and complete exchange of all prisoners will speedily be made. It also appears from his statement that weekly supplies are furnished to our prisoners, and distributed by officers of our own selection.”]

Let these instructions be followed, and it is difficult to see what remains to be done. Exchange, retaliation, and every other agency “right and proper,” are fully authorized in the discretion of the commanding general. There is nothing in the arsenal of war he may not employ. What more is needed ? But this brings me again to the proposition before the Senate.

The Committee, not content with what has been done, - distrustful, perhaps, of the commanding general, - propose that Congress shall instruct the President to enter upon a system of retaliation, where we shall imitate as precisely as possible Rebel barbarism, and make our prisons the scenes of torments we here denounce. Why, Sir, to state the case is to answer it. The Senator from Michigan, who advocates so eloquently this unprecedented retaliation, attempted a description of the torments making the Rebel prisons horrible, but language failed him. After speaking of their “immeasurable criminality," and "the horrors of those scenes," which he said were "absolutely indescribable,” beggaring even his affluence of language and of passion, he proceeded to ask that we should do these same things, - that we should take the lives of prisoners, even by freezing and starvation, or turn them into living skeletons, — by Act of Congress.

i Executive Documents, 38th Cong. 2d Sess., H. of R., No. 32, pp. 1, 2.

Sir, the Law of Retaliation, which he invokes, has its limits, and these are found in the laws of civilized society. Admit the Law of Retaliation; yet you cannot escape from its circumscription. As well escape from the planet on which we live. What civilization forbids cannot be done. Your enemy may be barbarous and cruel, but you cannot be barbarous and cruel. The rule is clear and unquestionable. Perhaps the true princiciple of law on this precise point was never better expressed than by one of our masters, William Shakespeare, natural jurist as well as poet, when he makes Macbeth exclaim,

“I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none."

So with us now. We are permitted to do all that may become men, but nothing more.

Surely nobody will argue that the "barbarities of Andersonville," and all those tortures we deplore, can behoove men. As well undertake, by way of retaliation, to revive the boot and thumb-screw of the Inquisition, the fires of Smithfield, “ Luke's iron crown and Damien's bed of steel,” or to repeat that execrable crime pictured by Dante, in one of his most admired passages, where Ugolino and his children were shut up in a tower, without food or water, and left to die slowly, cruelly, wickedly, by starvation:

“Thou modern Thebes! what though, as Fame hath said,

Count Ugolino did thy forts betray?

His sons deserved not punislıment so dread." 1 Thanks to the immortal poet who has blasted forever this sickening enormity, and rendered its imitation impossible! Thanks to that mighty voice which has given

1 Inferno, tr. Wright, Canto XXXIII. 85 - 87.

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