Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

very men who are even now permitted, by the misplaced reliance and forbearance on the part of the President, to provide and furnish, to mark and stigmatize, to lord it over the Union men with an iron hand whenever and wherever they can be reached. Of what advantage is it, it may be asked, that the President thinks the loyal men "inherited the estate" as long as he and Congress allow the disinherited to enjoy the income ? Why do they not take steps to put the rightful owners in lawful possession? In about three weeks after my arrest, this corrupt and contemptible little vagabond, Benjamin, who was characterized by the President himself as a " sneaking thief and perjurer," was transferred to the State Department, and Mr. George W. Randolph assumed the duties of the Department of War, and to him I at once addressed the following communication :

MR. BOTTS'S LETTER TO G. W. RANDOLPH IN 1862.

M'Daniels's Negro Jail, March 22, 1802. Hon. G. W. RANDOLPI, Secretary of War: DEAR SIR,--It is well known to you that I have been uniform in my opposition to the doctrine of secession, against which I have argued both by writing and speaking for thirty years, as well upon principle as policy. I did all in my power, with pen and tongue, to prevent this state from taking a step that I thought I foresaw, and foretold would lead to her dismemberment, discomfiture, and ruin ; but when I found all my efforts fruitless, and the state resolved to secede, I then opened a correspondence with the Attorney General of the United States (Mr. Bates), by which I endeavored to bring about a peaceful solution of the question, urging with all the power and persuasion I could command that Mr. Lincoln should recommend the call of a national convention for the purpose of so amending the Constitution as to give to such states as desired it leave to withdraw from the Union, as the only means left of avoiding all the frightful consequences that have since resulted to both parties; but this last effort gave satisfaction to neither party ; each seemed confident of its own strength and power, and each determined on a fight. This correspondence led to rather an angry quarrel with Mf. Bates, and for it I was cruelly denounced at home.. Finding that I was powerless to accomplish any good, and feeling that I had done my duty, and my whole duty, to my country, I determined to retire from the field, and I said to myself and friends, I will now stand aside and leave the consequences to those who have invoked the war and to those who will control it. This correspondence with Mr. Bates, and one other letter written about the same time

[ocr errors]

in April last-to a friend in New York, all of which is now in the hands of General Winder, and to which I ask your attention, was the last correspondence of any kind that I have had with any person outside of the Confederate States.

Finding I could not honestly and conscientiously co-operate with those from whom I so widely differed and had so long opposed, I determined to withdraw myself entirely, not only from the political field, but at the same time to shut myself out from all social intercourse while this war lasted, except with such as should seek me under my own roof, as the only dignified course left for me to pursue. For this purpose I removed to a small farm I had purchased, within less than a mile of the city, in the month of June last, and from that time till I was brought here, I had been to the city but three times, and on each occasion to attend the funeral ceremonies of some valued friend or relative; and the last of these visits was in the month of October or November last.

I have had my own private opinions, it is true, upon questions of public interest, and expect to retain them, and they were just such as I had always entertained, but they were my private opinions, which no government on earth, however despotic, claims the right to, or can despoil its citizens or subjects. These opinions were based upon the best judgment I could command, and were not controlled by prejudice or passion, by selfishness, ambition, or fear; but they have not been used to the prejudice of one government nor for the benefit of the other, since the war commenced, for I had no reason to suppose that either party desired farther advice or assistance from me; consequently I have sought no opportunity to impress my views upon others, but, when asked for, they have not been withheld from those whom I thought were entitled to know them, whether secessionists or others ; but this has always been in the form of private letters or private conversations, and I have held none with more freedom than with my personal friend, Howell Cobb, at my house last fall, who then thought the position I had assumed was the only one I could consistently or honorably occupy. From the beginning I have thought I had no right to violate any of the laws of the state while I was one of its cițizens, and I have been extremely cautious to do nothing that would subject me either to moral or legal censure.

Martial law was declared, it appears, on Saturday, the 1st day of March, to take effect on the next day (Sunday), and it was under these circumstances that, just before or about the break of day, on Sunday morning, I was aroused from my sleep, arrested by an officer at the head of one hundred armed men stationed in and around my house, my family and homestead taken possession of by them and held in military possession until some time the next day, and I was hurried off, very much to the distress of my family, of course, and lodged in a dirty, filthy negro jail, where I have been ever since, subjected to close and solitary confinement, permitted to see the light of the sun only through the iron bars of my prisonhouse, and with an armed sentinel constantly at my door. My daughters, friends, and legal advisers have all been refused permission to see me, as if I were an already convicted felon.

Shortly after I had been lodged in jail, I sent to ask an interview with General Winder, which in the afternoon he granted, when I related to him pretty much what I have said to you in this letter. I said to him I had no favors to ask of the government, but I had a right to know upon what charge I had been arrested. He replied, You are arrested upon a very serious charge-one perhaps not exactly amounting to treason, but grazing it very closely. And pray, sir, said I, what may that be? He said I was charged with being at the head of a large organization in Richmond, of attending its nightly meetings, the object of which was to break down the Confederate government, and that I was known to be hostile to the government. I said, General Winder, if I am amenable to this government for my private opinions upon political subjects-if it is an offense against any law to believe that no state had a right to secede from the Union, then I am liable to the penalties of that law; if to believe there was no sufficient cause for the exercise of the right, if such right existed, then, too, have I incurred the penalties of the law; and if, conceding the existence of both right and cause, I still believed that secession and revolution were not the rightful remedies, and that I had never been able to see how it was at all likely to come to a successful termination, then, too, was I liable to all the penalties the law prescribed; for all this I had believed, said, and written, in every variety of form, for thirty years before the

war, and nothing had occurred to change them since. He replied, This government has nothing to do with your private opinions or your private letters. Then, said I, General Winder, this government has nothing to do with me, and I have no business here, and am entitled to and claim to be restored to my liberty and my family; for as to the charge of being at the head of an organization of any description, it is too ridiculous to need refutation; for, in the first place, I have no knowledge of the existence of such an organization, nor have I any reason to believe that such an one exists; except what I have seen in the newspapers and have heard as common rumor, I certainly do not know of any human being who is a member of it; and as for my attending its meetings, I can only repeat what I have already said of my visits to Richmond and the circumstances under which they were made; and I have not been off of my farm after dark since I removed to the country last June (now nine months), except to spend the evening, in company with my daughters, occasionally at the house of an old friend and neighbor (Captain Burton) who lives within two or three hundred yards of my gate.

He then asked me if I knew a man named Francis Stearns. I told him I knew Franklin Stearns intimately, and had no better friend. Well, he said, he is the man that gave the information that you were at the head of this organization, and that he, Stearns, had given $300 to two men to be used in breaking up the Confederate government, and told them that there was such an organization, and that you were at the head of it. Oh, said I, General Winder, the whole story is an infamous trumped-up lie from beginning to end. I know that Franklin Stearns never said any such thing of me, for he is a truthful and honorable man, and he not only did not know that I did belong to such an organization, but no man knows better than he that I did not; for he knows what have been my habits of life, the determination upon which I have acted, etc., and, knowing that part of the story to be an absolute falsehood, I feel quite as confident that the balance of the story is equally untrue; for Franklin Stearns is not such a fool as to do business in that way, even if he were so disposed, and especially with strangers; but, said I, Mr. Stearns is a prisoner in this house, and within thirty feet of us, and as he is the witness by whom you expect to establish your charge against me, there can be no reason for delay in the investigation, and I am willing to rest the case entirely on his testimony. General Winder said he was glad to hear it, and if this were so, there could be no difficulty about it.

Now, then, said I, General Winder, conceding the truth to be as I have represented, I appeal to you as a soldier, a citizen, and a man, if I am not entitled to have the charge against me promptly investigated, and if I have committed any wrong, morally or legally, enforce the penalty of your law upon me with all its rigor; and if not, let me be restored at once to my liberty and my family. He said I certainly was entitled to a speedy investigation, and he would put the case in the hands of the district attorney the next day.

On the next morning (the 3d) I sent a note to Mr. Patrick Henry Aylett, the district attorney, asking an interview, to which he politely responded, and in the course of the morning called; and on representing all that had occurred to him, he said he thought, as martial law had been declared, he had nothing to do with the matter, but if he had, and the papers were put in his hands, he would attend to it without delay. Three weeks have elapsed, and I have heard nothing from General Winder or Mr. Aylett; but more than ten days ago, one of the detectives who aided in my arrest told me my papers had all been examined, and they had found nothing against me, and he believed General Winder was ready to return them to me. These are the circumstances connected with my imprisonment.

Hitherto I have not felt disposed to make any appeal to the War Department, because I had good reason to believe I had been made a victim to the petty and unmanly political malignity of a person who holds a subordinate position in your office, and upon whom I have never had the good fortune to cast my eye, and for the additional reason that I had formed the conception that your predecessor (Mr. Benjamin) recognized no responsibility for his official acts to the great body of the people, and especially those of this state, to whom he was unknown, and for whose good or bad opinion he was comparatively indifferent; in other words, the opinion I had formed of him was not of a very exalted character, and I did not choose to correspond with him, while, from my slight acquaintance with you,

I have supposed you would feel a lively responsibility for all your official acts, and that you can not be used as an instrument in the hands of a subordinate for the gratification of a vindictive malice long since expressed, and therefore I have felt it to be a duty that I owed to myself, to my family, to my friends, to truth, and to a sacred regard for popular freedom, that I should address you in your official character, laying all the facts before you, which I am prepared to establish by the most incontrovertible testimony, that they may be placed on file in your department, that no one connected therewith may plead ignorance hereafter if they should be held to a just accountability for the course pursued toward

me.

And now, Mr. Secretary, I ask if there is any thing exhibited against me to justify the outrage to which I have been subjected, or to excuse the denial of a public investigation, which I have demanded, into any charge that has been or can be brought against me? And are you not satisfied that if those who instigated my arrest would have found any charge upon which they dared to put me on trial that would in the slightest degree have attached stain or suspicion upon, my character or position, that they

« AnteriorContinuar »