Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/427

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397
First Congress.

within the lines of the enemy. On one occasion, when a party of officers were laying a torpedo in James River, persons on shore were detected communicating with the enemy, and were known to pilot them to a convenient point for observing the nature of the service in which the party were engaged. They were arrested and were discharged on habeas corpus, because, although there was moral certainty of their guilt, it could not be proved by competent testimony. Twice the Government has received secret and confidential information of plots to release the prisoners confined in Richmond. This information was sufficiently definite to enable preventive measures to be adopted with success; but as it pointed out the guilty conspirators by strong suspicion only, and not by competent testimony, they could not be arrested, and are still at large, ready to plot again. A citizen possessing the means and opportunity of doing much injury to the service was arrested for disloyalty. He was twice tried before different commissioners. Upon each examination he avowed his hostility to our cause and his desire to join the enemy. Both commissioners decided that it would be dangerous to suffer him to go at large. Yet, upon the demand of the civil authorities, he had to be released for want of competent legal testimony.

The Capital of the Government is the object of peculiar attention to the enemy. I have satisfactory reasons for believing that spies are continually coming and going in our midst. Information has been repeatedly received from friendly parties at the North that particular individuals then in Richmond were sent as spies by the enemy. Yet, however accurate and reliable such information might be, it was not competent testimony; and it was idle to arrest them only to be discharged by the civil authorities. Important information of secret movements among the negroes fomented by base white men has been received from faithful servants, but no arrests of instigators could be made because there was no competent testimony. Apprehensions have more than once been entertained of a servile insurrection in Richmond. The Northern papers inform us that Butler is perfecting some deep-laid scheme to punish us for our refusal to hold intercourse with him. If, as is not improbable, his designs should point to servile insurrection in Richmond, incendiarism, and the destruction of public works so necessary to our defense, and so impossible to be replaced, how