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[162] on the Northern shore of Africa, about the year 1800, and in 1864 their children will hardly yield it upon their own soil.

This point I will not pursue further, because I understand you to repudiate the idea that you will reduce free men to slaves because of capture in war, and that you base the claim of the Confederate authorities to re-enslave our negro soldiers when captured by you, upon the “jus post limini,” or that principle of the law of nations which rehabilitates the former owner with his property taken by an enemy, when such property is recovered by the forces of his own country,

Or in other words, you claim that by the laws of nations and of war, when property of the subjects of one belligerent power, captured by the forces of the other belligerent, is recaptured by the armies of the former owner, then such property is to be restored to its prior possessor, as if it had never been captured, and, therefore, under this principle your authorities propose to restore to their masters the slaves which heretofore belonged to them which you may capture from us.

But this post liminary right under which you claim to act, as understood and defined by all writers on national law, is applicable simply to immovable property, and that, too, only after the complete re-subjugation of that portion of the country in which the property is situated, upon which this right fastens itself. By the laws and customs of war, this right has never been applied to movable property.

True it is, I believe, that the Romans attempted to apply it to the case of slaves, but for two thousand years no other nation has attempted to set up this right as ground for treating slaves differently from other property.

But the Romans, even, refused to re-enslave men captured from opposing belligerents in a civil war, such as ours unhappily is.

Consistently, then, with any principle of the law of nations, treating slaves as property merely, it would seem to be imposible for the Government of the United States to permit the negroes in their ranks to be re-enslaved when captured, or treated otherwise than as prisoners of war.

I have forborne, sir, in this discussion, to argue the question upon any other or different grounds of right than those adopted by your authorities in claiming the negro as property, because I understand that your fabric of opposition to the Government of the United States has the right of property in man as its cornerstone. Of course it would not be profitable, in settling a question of exchange of prisoners of war, to attempt to argue the question of abandonment of the very corner-stone of their attempted political edifice. Therefore I have omitted all the considerations which should apply to the negro soldier as a man, and dealt with him upon the confederate theory of property only.

I unite with you most cordially, sir, in desiring a speedy settlement of all these questions, in view of the great suffering endured by our prisoners in the hands of your authorities, of which you so feelingly speak. Let me ask, in view of that suffering, why you have delayed eight months to answer a proposition which, by now accepting, you admit to be right, just and humane, allowing that suffering to continue so long? One cannot help thinking, even at the risk of being deemed uncharitable, that the benevolent sympathies of the Confederate authorities have been lately stirred by the depleted condition of their armies, and a desire to get into the field to affect the present campaign, the hale, hearty and well-fed prisoners held by the United States in exchange for the half-starved, sick, emaciated and unserviceable soldiers of the United States now languishing in your prisons. The events of this war, if we did not know it before, have taught us that it is not the Northern portion of the American people alone who know how to drive sharp bargains.

The wrongs, indignities and privations suffered by our soldiers would move me to consent to anything to procure their exchange, except to barter away the honor and faith of the Government of the United States, which has so solemnly been pledged to the colored soldiers in its ranks.

Consistently with national faith and justice, we cannot relinquish this position. With your authorities it is a question of property merely. It seems to address you in this form. Will you suffer your soldier, captured in fighting your battles, to be in confinement for months rather than release him by giving for him that which you can call a piece of property, and which we are willing to accept as a man?

You certainly appear to place less value upon your soldier than you do upon your negro. I assure you, much as we of the North are accused of loving property, our citizens would have no difficulty in yielding up any piece of property they have in exchange for one of their brothers or sons languishing in your prisons. Certainly there could be no doubt that they would do so were that piece of property less in value than five thousand dollars in Confederate money, which is believed to be the price of an able-bodied negro in the insurrectionary States.

Trusting that I may receive such a reply to the questions propounded in this note as will lead to a speedy resumption of the negotiations for a full exchange of all prisoners, and a delivery of them to their respective authorities, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General and Commissioner of Exchange.

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