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[407] release some who were willing to take an ‘oath of allegiance.’ Next it was made a condition precedent to an investigation that the said oath should be taken by the prisoner. As an instance, this proposal was made to two persons named Flanders, citizens of the interior of New York. The oath was as follows:
I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance, and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution, or law of any State Convention, or Legislature, to the contrary notwithstanding; and, further, that I do this with a full determination, pledge, and purpose, without any mental reservation or evasion whatsoever; and, further, that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties which may be required of me by law.

These persons declined to take the prescribed oath. The reasons which they gave for this refusal furnish painful evidence of the extreme subjugation of the government of the state of New York, and its silent submission to the arbitrary and unconstitutional acts of the government of the United States, even at the sacrifice of the most sacred rights of freemen. They said:

We have been guilty of no offense against the laws of our country, but have simply exercised our constitutional rights as free citizens in the open and manly expression of our opinions upon public affairs. We have been placed here without legal charges, or, indeed, any charges whatsoever being made against us, and upon no legal process, but upon an arbitrary and illegal order of the Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States. Every moment of our detention here is a denial of our most sacred rights. We are entitled to and hereby demand an unconditional discharge; and, while we could cheerfully take the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, because we are, always have been, and ever intend to be loyal to that instrument (though at the same time protesting against the right of the Government to impose even such oath upon us as the condition of our discharge), we can not consent to take the oath now required of us, because we hold no office of any kind under the Government of the United States, and it is an oath unknown to and unauthorized by the Constitution, and commits us to the support of the Government though it may be acting in direct conflict with the Constitution, and deprives us of the right of freely discussing, and by peaceful and constitutional methods opposing its measures—a right which is sacred to freedom, and which no American citizen should voluntarily surrender. That such is the interpretation put upon this oath by the Government, and such its intended effect is plainly demonstrated by the fact that it is dictated to us as a condition of our release from an imprisonment inflicted upon us for no other cause than that we have exercised the above-specified constitutional rights.

One important fact which illustrates the flagrant outrage committed on all these prisoners should not be omitted. The Constitution of the United States declares as follows:

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