--From the beginning of this war the Confederate
and State Governments have exhibited a degree of humanity, forbearance, and mercy to their captured enemies which are without parallel in the history of a nation invaded and threatened as the South
has been, and which has neither been imitated by the North
in its treatment of Southern prisoners, nor appreciated by many of those who have been the objects of our compassion.
We conscientiously believe that if the case had been reversed, and the South
had wantonly invaded the North
, publishing in advance its intention to confiscate property and commit violence upon women, not a prisoner would have been made, not a single life would have been spared.
And we believe, moreover, that the North
would have been right, as we believe that the South
would have been, if a had pursued such a course.
We are quite sure that the forbearance of the South
has had no other effect than to exasperate and embolden a cowardly and cruel foe to fresh acts of barbarity and oppression.
Our prisoners put in irons and threatened with death; peaceable citizens arrested and sent to Fort Lafayette; the proclamation of martial law in Missouri
, where every man who takes up arms for his freedom is menaced with instant death; the preparations to bombard and lay in ashes the city of Baltimore
upon the approach of a Confederate force; these, and a thousand like instances of unexampled barbarity, show that the mild and merciful course of the Southern Government
has been imputed to fear by men who themselves never abstain from evil except under the same principle.
It is not at all surprising that among the prisoners themselves there are men who feel no gratitude for the kindness which they daily receive, and who cherish towards the South
the most bitter and vindictive feelings.
With the exception of officers of the old regular army, who are generally gentlemen, and can appreciate the courtesy which treats them as such, acts of compassion and indulgence to these prisoners are simply pearls cast before swine.
Their volunteer officers especially are, in general, perfect caricatures of officers, knowing nothing of the art of war, and many of them ignorant of the decencies of civilization.
The original vocations of some of them were about the last from which anybody but Yankee Doodle
would ever have thought of manufacturing officers.
In short, few of the volunteer officers now in limbo were recognized at home as gentlemen, and cannot be expected to succeed in a character which they have never even attempted.
We have enough of such cattle to feel perfectly sure that, if treated according to their deserts, they would be meek and humble as lambs.
At the same time, forbearance and humanity should still be exercised to these men, until the Lincoln
Government fulfills its threats of putting to death Southern prisoners.
It would be entirely consistent with this forbearance and humanity to make some disposition of the prisoners, which would abate the cost of their maintenance and increase the difficulties of their escape.
As our gallant privateersmen are immured in that foul criminal prison, the Tombs, of New York, we would suggest that the prisoners here be removed to the Penitentiary, which is the spacious, cleanly and comfortable building, and that the inmates of the Penitentiary be employed upon the fortifications for the city defence.
We do not desire to wound the feelings of the convicts, by proposing to give their quarters to a much more degraded class of men than themselves; but the public interests would be benefited by such an arrangement, and they have surely patriotism enough to reconcile them to the mortification which, under the circumstances, they might naturally feel.
We are all obliged to make sacrifices for our country, and we dare say that the inmates of the Virginia Penitentiary
are willing to shoulder their share of the general self-denial.
They are not without interest in the result of this war. If the country should be subjugated by our Yankee invaders, the regular business of the penitentiary convicts will be entirely destroyed.
Before one of them can graduate, every horse in the country will be stolen, and every Southern man robbed and murdered.
Let them volunteer, then, en masse,
to give the Yankee
prisoners their places in the Penitentiary, and betake themselves to the fortifications, where they can keep the country from being overrun and their various professions from being over.
stocked by Yankee competition.