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State of South Carolina, Executive Department. Columbia, August 23, 1864.
sir,—On the 10th of August, 1863, I ordered the provost-marshal's court for Charleston district convened for the trial of such slaves as had then recently been captured on James and Morris Islands, ‘in arms against the lawful authority of South Carolina,’ and ‘free negroes of any of the Southern States connected with such slaves.’ I appointed J. W. Hayne, attorney-general, and A. P. Aldrich, Esq., to prosecute, and two eminent lawyers, Nelson Mitchell and Edward McCrady, Esqrs., to defend the prisoners. The court, after hearing evidence and argument, decided that they had no jurisdiction of the case, the correctness of which decision may be questioned; and on the same day I communicated to you the fact that I had ordered the trial, and also announced my purpose to delay any action for the present with regard to the free negroes from the Northern States.

On 1st of September you replied to my communication of 10th August, giving me the president's views upon the subject-matter of the letter, and adding, ‘I venture to recommend further that the captured negroes be not brought to trial, or, if condemned, that your power of executive clemency be exercised to suspend their execution, to allow the possibility of arrangement on this question, so fraught with present difficulty and future danger.’

I fully appreciate the embarrassments surrounding this question, and accordingly suspended further action till something might be done. I moreover supposed it probable that the Congress would have amended its resolutions.

I may here add that in cases of slaves of this State offending in like manner, which have occurred before other similar courts, the offenders have been executed. One case of a Florida slave convicted, I have reserved in accordance with your suggestion.

I now bring this subject again to your attention, in order that something definite may be done if practicable; and as my term of office expires in December, I should be glad to dispose of it, so far as I am concerned, before that period.

Very respectfully yours,

Confederate States of America, War Department. Richmond, Va., August 31, 1864.
sir,—I have to acknowledge your letter of the 23d instant, relative to the disposition of negroes captured in arms from the enemy.

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