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[406] States, and on April 18, 1862, the Secretary of State, Seward, replied as follows:
The communication has been submitted to the President, and I am directed by him to say in reply that he avows the proceeding of Mr. Cameron referred to as one taken by him when Secretary of War, under the President's directions, and deemed necessary for the prompt suppression of the existing rebellion.

The writ of habeas corpus was issued by some of the state courts, directing the officer in command at the fort to bring some one or other of the prisoners into court for an investigation of the cause and authority for his detention. But no attention was given to these writs by the officer. Neither did the governor of the state make any effort to enforce the processes of the courts. He, perhaps, expected that his efforts might be resisted by an overpowering force. But expectations, of whatsoever nature, do not justify or excuse the neglect of a positive duty. It is through such weaknesses that the liberties of mankind have been too often lost.

Thus the Constitution, the laws, the courts, the executive of the state of New York, were subverted, turned aside from the end for which they were instituted, and all the specific arrangements were of no avail to secure this guaranteed right of its citizens. Probably every one of the prisoners was entirely innocent of any act whatever that was criminal under the laws, either of the state or of the United States.

In opinion they were opposed to the military proceedings of the government of the United States; these opinions they had expressed, which liberty is a part of the birthright of freemen. Indeed, Judge Nelson of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Circuit of New York, in an opinion delivered about this time thus expressed himself:

Words, oral, written, or printed, however treasonable, seditious, or criminal of themselves, do not constitute an overt act of treason within the definition of the crime. When spoken, written, or printed, in relation to an act or acts which, if committed with a treasonable design, might constitute such overt act, they are admissible as evidence, tending to characterize it and show the intent with which the act was committed.

Finally the prison in New York harbor became so full that many prisoners were sent to Fort Warren in the harbor of Boston. At this time the government of the United States used the old Capitol at Washington, Fort McHenry of Baltimore, Fort Lafayette at New York, and Fort Warren at Boston, for the confinement of those whom the usurper designated as ‘state prisoners.’ Still further to relieve the fullness of the prisons, two men, John A. Dix of the army and Edwards Pierrepont of civil life, were sent to investigate the cases of the prisoners, and

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William H. Seward (1)
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