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Doc. 213. Secretary Seward's letter. Contrabands in District of Columbia.

Department of State, Washington City, December 4, 1861.
To Major-General George B. McClellan, Washington:
General: I am directed by the President to call your attention to the following subject:

Persons claimed to be held to service or labor under the laws of the State of Virginia, and actually employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States, frequently escape from the lines of the enemy's forces and are received within the lines of the army of the Potomac. This Department understands that such persons, afterward coming into the city of Washington, are liable to be arrested by the city police, upon presumption, arising from color, that they are fugitives from service or labor.

By the fourth section of the act of Congress approved August 6th, 1861, entitled “An Act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” such hostile employment is made a full and sufficient answer to any further claim to service or labor. Persons thus employed and escaping are received into the military protection of the United States, and their arrest as fugitives from service or labor should be immediately followed by the military arrest of the parties making the seizure.

Copies of this communication will be sent to the Mayor of the city of Washington and to the Marshal of the District of Columbia, that any collision between the civil and military authorities may be avoided.

I am, General, your very obedient,

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