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THREE CONDITIONS PRECEDENT TO THE RECEPTION OF SENATORS FROM A REBEL STATE.
RESOLUTION IN THE SENATE, MARCH 8, 1865.
MARCH 8th, at the Extra Session, called for executive business, the Senate having under consideration the credentials of William D. Snow as Senator from Arkansas, Mr. Sumner submitted the following resolution, which was ordered to be printed.
RESOLVED, That, where a State has been de
clared to be in insurrection, no person can be recognized as Senator from such State, or as claimant of a seat as Senator from such State, until after the occurrence of three several conditions: first, the cessation of all armed hostility to the United States within the limits of such State; secondly, the adoption by such State of a constitution of government republican in form and not repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the United States; and, thirdly, an Act of Congress declaring that the people of such State are entitled to representation in the Congress of the United States.1
1 This last requirement was the substance of a concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, adopted in the House February 20, 1866, by a vote of 109 Yeas to 40 Nays, and in the Senate March 2d, Yeas 29, Nays 18.
UNJUST ARREST AND PROSECUTION OF TWO BOSTON MERCHANTS.
PROTEST AND OPINION ON THE CASE OF THE MESSRS. SMITH BROTHERS, MARCH 17, 1865.
BENJAMIN G. SMITH and Franklin W. Smith, merchants and copartners in Boston, with the firm name of Smith Brothers & Co., were suddenly arrested in June, 1864, by order of the Navy Department, under the charge of fraud in the performance of contracts with the Department. They were at once consigned to Fort Warren, in the harbor of Boston, with strict injunctions to prevent any communication by them with the outer world. Bail to the amount of half a million dollars was required, which was subsequently reduced to forty thousand. Their counting-room was broken open, their safe forced, and their books seized. Their houses were searched, and private papers taken away. Their business was, for the time, destroyed. This work was crowned by ordering a court-martial for the trial of these civilians at Philadelphia.
These proceedings excited a general interest at Boston. The Massachusetts delegation in Congress united in the following appeal to the President, which was drawn by Mr. Sumner.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
HE undersigned, Senators and Representatives in Congress from Massachusetts, ask leave to call your serious attention to the proceedings initiated by the Navy Department against Benjamin G. Smith and Franklin W. Smith, of Boston, of the firm of Smith Brothers & Co., a much respected firm, which has hitherto enjoyed the confidence, personal and mercantile, of
the community where they reside. Among their neighbors and friends these proceedings have already attracted much attention, and awakened corresponding feeling.
The proceedings have seemed to be harsh, vindictive, and unnecessary.
1. In the character of the arrest of Messrs. Smith, which was attended by circumstances of severity utterly unjustifiable.
2. In requiring bonds to so large an amount as half a million of dollars. The fact that the parties in question easily obtained bonds for a much larger amount does not render the exaction of "excessive bail" less obnoxious to the requirements of the Constitution and of justice, or less indicative of the spirit in which these proceedings have been conducted.
3. In the seizure of their books and papers, which are still detained, although regarded by their eminent counsel as important to their defence.
4. In turning into a military offence what is more proper for a civil tribunal, and dragging these defendants before a court-martial.
5. In transferring the proceedings from Boston, where the parties reside, and the transactions in question occurred, to Philadelphia: thus increasing greatly the difficulties and the cost of defence. This will be appreciated, when it is understood that the witnesses are very numerous, and chiefly engaged in mercantile business, so that they cannot leave Boston without neglect of their private interests.
The undersigned, on reviewing these circumstances, which are so inconsistent with the administration of justice in its most ordinary forms, have been at a
loss to account for the spirit manifested in the prosecution. If they look at the trivial character of many of the specifications against the defendants, they are still more at a loss. It is difficult to account for such elaborate and persistent harshness, without yielding to the prevailing belief that other motives than the vindication of justice have entered into this case.
The undersigned are not strangers to the fact, that one of these defendants, in the discharge of what he believed to be his duty as a good citizen, has, by correspondence and testimony before committees of Congress, been brought into collision with officers of the Navy Department; and there is too much reason to believe that some of these officers have allowed themselves to be governed by personal feelings throughout these strange proceedings.
Under such circumstances, the undersigned most respectfully ask your assistance in securing justice to these defendants, according to the common course of proceedings at law. They are acquainted with the statute which provides court-martial for contractors in certain cases, and they are unwilling to make any suggestion which shall interfere with its efficiency; but they have no hesitation in saying that such a statute, intended for extreme cases, should not be applied to a case like the present, where, with a single exception, the questions are simply whether the defendants complied with their contract, and therefore, from their nature, can be better considered by the ordinary tribunals accustomed to such questions than by a naval tribunal composed of officers who have no familiarity with them.
If the pending proceedings against the Messrs. Smith
should be continued, there are two courses with regard to them which may be recommended.
First, That they should be transferred at once to the United States Court in Massachusetts, and be placed under the direction of the learned Attorney of the United States for that District.
Secondly, If the foregoing order is not deemed expedient, on the existing evidence, then a commission or commissioner might be appointed by the President to inquire into the circumstances attending the arrest of the defendants, and also into the nature of the charges against them, in order to ascertain and report if there is any sufficient reason for the singular harshness to which they have been already subjected, and also for the exceptional proceedings instituted against them.
For the sake of justice, and to relieve the Government from all suspicion of undue harshness, the undersigned protest against the spirit in which these proceedings have been conducted, and appeal to you for such remedy as shall seem best, to the end that the public interests may be adequately protected without any sacrifice of the rights of the citizen, and without needless interference with the order of business.
JOHN B. ALLEY, by C. Sumner, as by letter.1
[BOSTON, August 15, 1864.]
D. W. GOOCH,
WILLIAM B. WASHBURN,
1 Hon. Alexander H. Rice, a Representative of Boston, being absent from Boston, addressed a letter to the President.