Doc. 173.-Secretary Cameron's letter to General B. F. Butler.
Washington, August 8, 1861.General:--The important question of the proper disposition to be made of fugitives from service in the States in insurrection against the Federal Government, to which you have again directed my attention, in your letter of July 20, has received my most attentive consideration. It is the desire of the President that all existing rights in all the State be fully respected and maintained. The war now prosecuted on the part of the Federal Government is a war for the Union, for the preservation of all the constitutional rights of the States and the citizens of the States in the Union; hence no question can arise as to fugitives from service within the States and Territories in which the authority of the Union is fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of judicial proceedings must be respected by the military and civil authorities alike for the enforcement of legal forms. But in the States wholly or in part under insurrectionary control, where the laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they cannot be effectually enforced, it is obvious that the rights dependent upon the execution of these laws must temporarily fail, and it is equally obvious that the rights dependent on the laws of the States within which military operations are conducted must necessarily be subordinate to the military exigencies created by the insurrection, if not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of the parties claiming them. To this the general rule of the right to service forms an exception. The act of Congress approved Aug. 6, 1861, declares that if persons held to service shall be employed in hostility to the United States, the right to their services shall be discharged therefrom. It follows of necessity that no claim can be recognized by the military authority of the Union to the services of such persons When fugitives. A more difficult question is presented in respect to persons escaping from the service of loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws of the State under which only the services of such fugitives can be claimed must needs be wholly or almost wholly superseded, as to the remedies, by the. insurrection and the military measures necessitated by it; and it is equally apparent that the substitution of military for judicial measures for the enforcement of such claims must be attended by great inconvenience, embarrassments, and injuries. Under these circumstances, it seems quite clear that the substantial rights of loyal masters are still best protected by receiving such fugitives, as well as fugitives from disloyal masters, into the service of the United States and employing them under such organizations and in such occupations as circumstances may suggest or require. Of course a record should be kept showing the names and descriptions of the fugitives, the names and characters, as loyal or disloyal, of the masters, and such facts as may be necessary to a correct understanding of the circumstances of each case. After tranquillity shall have been restored upon the return of peace, Congress will doubtless properly provide for all the persons thus received into the service of the Union, and for a just compensation to loyal masters. In this way only, it would seem, can the duty and safety of the Government and just rights of albe fully reconciled and harmonized. You will therefore consider yourself instructed to govern your future action in respect to fugitives from service by the premises herein stated, and will report from time to time, and at least twice in each month your action in the premises to this Department. You will, however, neither authorize nor permit any interference by the troops under your command With the servants of peaceable citizens in a house or field, nor will you in any manner encourage such citizens to leave the lawful service of their masters, nor will you, except in cases where the public good may seem to require it, prevent the voluntary return of any fugitive to the service from which he may have escaped. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,