I know that the general principle of the martial law is, that rebels
forfeit all their estate & property, and that slaves form no exception.
But many able men believe that this principle is so modified by the
constitution as to have no effect for a longer time than the life of the
rebel. The martial law forfeits as well the life of all rebels, but it is not
possible to execute this principle in all & every case. To a large extent
not only policy, but necessity requires the application of the rule to be
omitted. Would not the same considerations of policy at least require a
relaxation of the forfeiture as to slaves?
You will pardon me for a simple suggestion. Thousands & tens of
thousands had no knowledge, not even suspicion that they would incur
a forfeiture of their property by arraying themselves against the Gov-
ernment. Ought not the administration to issue a proclamation setting
forth these principles & consequences, & give all people opportunity to
return to their duty & save themselves.
Yr obt Sert
Letterbook copy in clerk's hand. Chase Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania (micro 16:0948).
Washn., Sept. 5, 1861.
My dear Judge.
Yr. letters have all been most welcome as well as most interesting.1 I
regret exceedingly to note what you say about Nelson. His patriotism,
promptitude & fidelity have won my heart. His whole course, so far as
I have been able to observe it, has been marked by prudence as well
as boldness; &, what is no small merit in my eyes in these days when so
much must be spent, & that much, in order to secure success, be re-
stricted within the limits of a discreet economy, he has been careful &
judicious in his disbursements, spending only Hundreds where other
men would have spent Thousands. God forbid that so noble a man shd.
fall into habit likely to impair his usefulness. His true friends ought to
deal with him faithfully, & speak to him plainly. Carefully avoiding all
talk about him wh. might hurt his position or his usefulness, they shd.
be very free & plain in their talk with him. "Faithful are the wounds of a
friend, while the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."2
The telegraph encourages favorable hopes of Ky.3 I earnestly hope
that the friends of the Union will be firm and decided in their action,
as well as prudent.
I have several letters like yr. own expressing grt. apprehension abt.
Fremont's Proclamation. My own judgment is that it is capable of a fair
construction wh. will restrict its effect to the simple recognition &