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kind, and retrospective in operation, like that of the original resolution.
Much as this resolution is changed, so that it no longer requires retaliation in kind, I think it might be changed still further. It is not enough, on such an occasion, and especially after avowals made in this Chamber, to say that retaliation shall be according to the principles of Public Law. Montesquieu, in his "Spirit of Laws," exhibits the uncertainty of this language. These are his words:
"All nations have a Law of Nations, even the Iroquois, who eat their prisoners. They send and receive ambassadors; they know the Laws of War and Peace. The evil is, that their Law of Nations is not founded on true principles."1
The resolution, therefore, for the sake of certainty, and to give double assurance that humanity shall not suffer, ought to be still further amended, by limiting the retaliation to the usages of civilized society. This amendment becomes the more needful since Senators argue that by the principles of public law the intolerable cruelties of the Rebellion may be retaliated.
I desire to repeat my unalterable conviction that these cruelties cannot be retaliated in kind. And here I call attention to the opinions of an illustrious citizen, only recently removed from the duties of this world. I refer to the late Edward Everett, who, in a speech at Faneuil Hall, a few days before his lamented death, thus testifies in what may be called his dying words:
"I believe the best way in which we can retaliate upon the South for the cruel treatment of our prisoners is for 1 De l'Esprit des Lois, Liv. I. ch. 3.
us to continue to treat their prisoners with entire humanity and all reasonable kindness, and not only so, but to seize every opportunity like the present to go beyond this. Indeed, it is no more than our duty to treat the prisoner well. The Law of Nations requires it. The Government that refuses or neglects it does not deserve the name of civilized. Even inability is no justification. If you are yourself so exhausted that you cannot supply your prisoner with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food, you are bound, with or without exchange, to set him free. You have no more right to starve than to poison him. It will, however, be borne in mind, that, while the hard fare of our prisoners is defended by the Southern leaders, on the ground that it is as good as that of their own soldiers, at the same time they maintain that their harvests are abundant and their armies well fed. There is no merit in treating a prisoner with common humanity; it is simply infamous and wicked to treat him otherwise." 1
You will not fail to observe how positive is his opinion on the limits of retaliation, and its character when carried beyond proper limits. And here it is proper to remark, that Mr. Everett was not only a patriot, who, in the latter trials of the Republic, devoted himself ably, purely, and successfully to the vindication and advancement of the national cause, but he was a publicist, who had profoundly studied the Law of Nations. Few in our history have understood it better. His last labors were devoted to this important subject. At the time of his death he was preparing a course of lectures upon it. Therefore, when, in the name of Public Law, he speaks against any imitation of Rebel barbarism, it is with the voice of authority.
1 Speech in Faneuil Hall, January 9, 1865: Boston Daily Advertiser, January 10, 1865; Orations and Speeches, Vol. IV. pp. 757, 758.
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.
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 hands, 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, be 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 prisoners. 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