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to set down in malice; but I have considered it my duty as a good citizen to unmask the conduct of one who has immodestly and unjustly sought to thrust himself before the country as the only consistent Union and Free State man of Louisiana, and thus sought to injure the glorious cause of loyalty and restoration, under our new Constitution. With high regard, I am, very respectfully yours, A. P. DosTIE. January 26, 1865, Thomas J. Durant wrote to the editor of the “Anti-Slavery Standard:” “The citizens elected to fill the State offices in Louisiana have no confidence in the civil administration, and pronounce it powerless to punish offenders, “Not long since, one Michael Gleason, a white man, was tried before a Court and Jury in this city, on an indictment for the murder of a negro boy, by wantonly and without the slightest provocation throwing him into the Mississippi river, from a steamboat lying at the levee, and thus causing his death by drowning. Four eyewitnesses, all of African descent, testified to the horrid crime; there was no countervailing evidence on the part of the accused, but he was at once acquitted by the Jury. Mr. Attorney-General B. L. Lynch, who was elected on the 22d of February, 1864, at the same time with Mr. Hahn, the Governor, had, under the same military order from the Major-General commanding the Department of the Gulf, prosecuted this case with an honorable zeal for the cause of public justice. “In subsequently commenting on this deplorable result, Mr. Lynch said: “I spared no pains, I resorted to every legitimate means in my power to succeed in bringing upon the head of the murderer the punishment richly due to his appalling crime. I failed ! and why did I fail? It was, in my opinion, on account of the color of the poor murdered youth ! It was on account of the complexion of the four truthful witnesses, whom the Jury affected not to believe. It is enough to chill the blood to reflect on the horrid verdict of the twelve men, who swore they would ‘true deliverance make,” and who, in effect, decided last Monday, in the First District Court of New Orleans, that colored people are outside the protection of the laws, for the maintenance of which they are gallantly baring their bosoms to the bullets and the bayonets of the enemy, on the battle-fields of the rebellion.” “This official exposition of the condition to which, under this abnormal State government, the citizens of African descent are reduced, ought to arrest the attention of the friends of freedom throughout the nation. If the man of color is thus to be left to the despotism of rulers who have no sympathy with him, what a snare and a delusion is the pretended gift of liberty ?”
The following communications prove that injustice to the colored man was not the fault of the State Officials of Louisiana in 1864.
“Office of Superintendent, Negro Labor, Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, June 17, 1864. | “CHARLEs LEAUMONT, Recorder 2d & 3d District: “Sir : For the purpose of ascertaining the exact legal status of the colored population of this city, particularly those who previous to the arrival of the United States army were slaves, I have the honor to respectfully solicit a reply to the following questions:
“I. Do you consider the laws of the State in relation to slavery in operation at the present time 2 “II. Can negroes receive equal justice with white persons without reference to their social condition previous to the war in the court under your jurisdiction ? “I have the honor to be, “Very respectfully your obdt. serv't, (“Signed) GEO. H. HANKs, “Colonel and Superintendent of Negro Labor.”
The Recorder evaded the responsibility of a legal opinion in reply, and sent the following note to Attorney General Lynch: “RECoRDER's OFFICE, SEcond DISTRICT, NEw ORLEANs, June 17th, 1864. |
“To B. L. Lynch, Esq., Attorney General:
“Sir: The accompanying communication addressed to me by Colonel Hanks was this day received, and is respectfully referred to you for answer. “Yours Respectfully, (“Signed) CHAs. LEAUMONT, “Recorder 20 and 3d Districts.”
The following extract is from the official opinion of Attorney General B. L. Lynch, rendered on the 18th of June, 1864, in reply to the communication of Colonel Hanks :
“On the 22d of September, 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, setting forth, that ‘ on the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof should then be in rebellion against the United States, should then, thenceforth and forever be free,’
“Furthermore the President announced that, on the 1st day of January, 1863, he would, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people therein, respectively, should then be in rebellion against the United States. “The President, on the first day of January, 1863, did accordingly issue his proclamation, declaring the State of Louisiana to be one of the States then in rebellion, and proclaimed that all persons held as slaves within that State, with the exception of those in certain Parishes, were and should be thenceforth free. “The Parishes exempted from the operation of the Emancipation Proclamation were the following : St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, which excepted Parishes were left in the condition as though the proclamation had not been issued. “On the 11th of January, 1864, Major General Banks issued a proclamation, abolishing slavery in the above named thirteen Parishes, exempted in the President's Proclamation. This proclamation was not disapproved, and perhaps was suggested by President Lincoln. “The present State Government was re-organized under the constitution and laws of Louisiana, eaccept so much of the said constitution and laws as recognize, regulate, or relate to slavery, which being inconsistent with the present condition of public affairs, and plainly inapplicable to any class of persons eacisting within its limits, was suspended and declared to be inoperative and void. “Whether the President and his subordinate, General Banks, in their action were warranted by the constitution of the United States upon military necessity, need not be enquired into here. I believe they were constitutionally empowered to issue and enforce the proclamations aforesaid. Be that, however, as it may, you and I, and loyal citizens of Louisiana have sworn to support those proclamations, and abide by them so long as they are not declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the nation.
“I am, therefore, of opinion that all negroes and persons of color in the State of Louisiana are free de jure ; that all negroes and colored persons in Louisiana, within the Federal lines are free de jure et defacto. I think they have a legal right to testify as witnesses in Courts of Justice, for and against white persons, as well as each other; that they may sue and be sued in all cases; that they are entitled to trial by Jury, to the writ of Habeas Corpus; in short, that they stand on the same footing before the law as white aliens residing in the country.”
Although through politic motives on the part of Durant, there was no conflict between Durant and Dostie in many of the acts favoring the great movements of the cause of freedom in Louisiana, when the Free State government was attacked by Durant, the antagonism
between the two men became most strongly marked.