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[344] Louisiana in matters pecuniary and civil in their nature, the criminal laws of Louisiana were adopted as the rule of the administration of criminal justice. “These laws,” said the court, in a charge to a grand jury, “framed by the wisdom of the State, with an enlightened appreciation of the wants and interests of the community here, will be found best adapted to the government of this country, and will be your guide and rule in your deliberations generally in the performance of your duties as grand jurors.”

The laws of the State, however, in criminal as well as civil matters, he said would not be adhered to inflexibly in the new condition of things.

There were changes in circumstances which must be taken into account in administering criminal justice. These changes and the modifications they would require in the administration of justice, were subjects to be considered by the court in cases as they should arise, and not generally matters that could be provided for by rules of general application. It was natural that certain crimes should become frequent in a state of society broken and chaotic, where the general feeling of obligation and restraint among men was relaxed, and the temptations to crime, growing out of increased wants and temptations, greatly increased, and the punishments must be graduated accordingly.

In most cases where a departure from former laws would become expedient, it would be in the direction of greater mildness in punishment. In some cases, however, a deviation in the opposite direction might be called for by the necessities of the case. A similar rule was adopted as to cases which, under the former system of things, would have been cognizable by the Federal courts. In those cases the same law was applied as would have been administered in the Federal courts in the respective departments of civil and criminal, legal and equitable, admiralty and maritime, jurisprudence.

As soon as the court was ready for business, a large amount was commenced in it of the various kinds to which the habits and pursuits of the country give rise in times of peace, and many questions were presented which arose out of the peculiar circumstances of the times, the previous occupation by the Confederate authorities, acts governmental and personal during that time, and the change of rule by the occupation by the Federal forces. Most of the questions presented were such as arise naturally out of the transactions between men in a community-such as this was, and had been; but many of them were eccentric in their character, arising out of the peculiar state of things existing at the time, and that which had previously existed there in the course of the revolution, the Confederate rule, and the transition from Federal to Confederate, and from Confederate back to Federal government, and the substitution of martial for civil law and government. Many of these were exceedingly novel and peculiar.

The court was always governed by the rules and principles of law, adhering to all the forms of civil tribunals, and avoiding everything like a military administration of justice. In criminal matters it summoned a Grand Jury, and submitted to it all charges for examination. After indictment found, the cases were tried before a jury with all the usual forms of law, and all the rules theretofore in use which were not inconsistent with the existing condition of things. Several capital cases were tried, and convictions were obtained. Three cases were tried in one week, in two of which convictions of murder were had, and in the other a conviction of man-slaughter-such a coincidence as in that licentious country had probably never occurred before, and was not likely soon to occur again.

Crimes against the person there had seldom before been punished at all, and hence this administration of justice in that place was remarkable.

The first court established there was the Provost Court of the army; at first performing only the duties of a military court, then those of a general criminal court.

In addition to these duties, and in the absence of other courts, the Provost Court, from time to time, sometimes by order of the Commanding General, entertained and tried civil suits, and those not only of the usual character arising out of transactions of a pecuniary nature, but those once esteemed of ecclesiastical cognizance, such as successions, the administration of the estates of deceased persons, the custody of infants and their estates, and cases of divorce, not only “a mensa et thoro,” but also “a vinculo matrimonii.”

In that court the pleadings had always been oral; no notes of evidence were taken, and the decision usually followed immediately on the closing of the evidence or arguments of counsel, in cases where arguments were heard.

That court had been doing business some months when the Provisional Court went into operation, and the questions growing out of the actions of that court were among the most novel and eccentric that came before the Provisional Court. The operations of that court had been most beneficent, and it was safe to assume that justice and the best interests of the public would be advanced by sustaining its acts so far as circumstances would permit, and the Provisional Court, therefore, always inclined to sustain its jurisdiction. When, for instance, a divorce “a mensa et thoro” had, been adjudged by that court, on the application of the wife, and more than a year had elapsed without a reconciliation of the parties, the law of Louisiana in such a case giving the plaintiff after the expiration of a year, a right to a complete divorce “a vinculo matrimolii,” and half of the property acquired during coverture, the Provisional Court was applied to, to make the final decree and distribute the property between the parties.

The Provisional Court sustained the jurisdiction

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