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[277] returned to our lines on parole, to await exchange. Instead of executing a duty imposed by the plainest dictates of justice and good faith, pretexts were instantly sought for holding them in permanent captivity. General orders rapidly succeeded each other from the bureau at Washington, placing new constructions on an agreement which had given rise to no dispute while we retained the advantage in the number of prisoners. With a disregard of honorable obligations, almost unexampled, the enemy did not hesitate, in addition to retaining the prisoners captured by them, to declare null the paroles given by the prisoners captured by us the same series of engagements, and liberated on condition of not again serving until exchanged. They have since openly insisted on treating the paroles given by their own soldiers as invalid, and those of our soldiers, given under precisely similar circumstances, as binding. A succession of similar unjust pretensions has been set up in a correspondence tediously prolonged, and every device employed to cover the disregard of an obligation which, between belligerent nations, is only to be enforced by a sense of honor.

No farther comment is needed on this subject; but it may be permitted to direct your special attention to the close of the correspondence submitted to you, from which you will perceive that the final proposal made by the enemy, in settlement of all disputes under the cartel, is, that we should liberate all prisoners held by us, without the offer to release from captivity any of those held by them.

In the mean time a systematic and concerted effort has been made to quiet the complaints in the United States of those relatives and friends of the prisoners in our hands who are unable to understand why the cartel is not executed in their favor, by the groundless assertion that we are the parties who refuse compliance. Attempts are also made to shield themselves from the execration excited by their own odious treatment of our officers and soldiers now captive in their hands, by misstatements, such as that the prisoners held by us are deprived of food. To this last accusation the conclusive answer has been made that, in accordance with our law and the general orders of the department, the rations of the prisoners are precisely the same, in quantity and quality, as those served out to our own gallant soldiers in the field, and which have been found sufficient to support them in their arduous campaigns, while it is not pretended by the enemy that they treat prisoners by the same generous rule. By an indulgence, perhaps unprecedented, we have even allowed the prisoners in our hands to be supplied by their friends at home with comforts not enjoyed by the men who captured them in battle. In contrast to this treatment, the most revolting inhumanity has characterized the conduct of the United States toward prisoners held by them. One prominent fact, which admits no denial or palliation, must suffice as a test. The officers of our army, natives of Southern and semi-tropical climates, and unprepared for the cold of a Northern winter, have been conveyed, for imprisonment, during the rigors of the present season, to the most northern and exposed situation that could be selected by the enemy. There, beyond the reach of comforts, and often even of news from home and family, exposed to the piercing cold of northern lakes, they are held by men who cannot be ignorant of, even if they do not design, the probable result. How many of our unfortunate friends and comrades, who have passed unscathed through numerous battles, will perish on Johnson's Island, under the cruel trial to which they are subjected, none but the Omniscient can foretell. That they will endure this barbarous treatment with the same stern fortitude that they have ever evinced in their country's service, we cannot doubt. But who can be found to believe the assertion that it is our refusal to execute the cartel, and not the malignity of the foe, which has caused the infliction of such intolerable cruelty on our own loved and honored defenders?

Trans-Mississippi Department.

Regular and punctual communication with the Trans-Mississippi is so obstructed as to render difficult a compliance with much of the legislation vesting authority in the executive branch of the government. To supply vacancies in offices; to exercise discretion on certain matters connected with the military organizations; to control the distribution of the funds collected from taxation or remitted from the Treasury; to carry on the operations of the Post-Office department, and other like duties, require, under the Constitution and existing laws, the action of the President and heads of departments. The necessities of the military service frequently forbid delay, and some legislation is required, providing for the exercise of temporary authority, until regular action can be had at the seat of government. I would suggest, especially in the Post-Office department, that an assistant be provided in the States beyond the Mississippi, with authority in the head of that department to vest in his assistant all such powers now exercised by the Postmaster-General as may be requisite for provisional control of the funds of the department of these States, and their application to the payment of mail contractors, for superintendence of the local post-offices, and the contracts for carrying the mail; for the temporary employment of proper persons to fulfil the duties of postmasters and contractors in urgent cases, until appointments can be made, and for other like purposes. Without some legislative provision on the subject, there is serious risk of the destruction of the mail service by reason of the delays and hardships suffered by contractors under the present system, which requires constant reference to Richmond on their accounts, as well as the returns of the local paymasters, before they can receive payment for services rendered. Like provision is also necessary in the Treasury department; while, for military affairs, it would seem to be sufficient to authorize the President

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