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Treatment of Prisoners During the War.
the General Government might choose to bring against me, and have no view of the future which makes it desirable to me to be included in an amnesty bill.
Viewed in the abstract or as a general question, I would be glad to see the repeal of all laws inflicting the penalty of political disabilities on classes of the people that it might, as prescribed by the constitution, be left to the courts to hear and decide causes, and to affix penalties according to pre-existing legislation. The discrimination made against our people is unjust and impolitic if the fact be equality and the purpose be fraternity among the citizens of the United States. Conviction and sentence without a hearing, without jurisdiction, and affixing penalties by ex post facto legislation, are part of the proceeding which had its appropriate end in the assumption by Congress of the Executive function of granting pardons. To remove political disabilities which there was not legal power to impose was not an act of so much grace as to form a plausible pretext for the reckless diatribe of Mr. Blaine.
The papers preserved by Dr. Stevenson happily furnish full proof of the causes of disease and death at Andersonville. They are now, I believe, in Richmond, and it is to be hoped their publication will not be much longer delayed. I have no taste for recrimination, though the sad recitals made by our soldiers returned from Northern prisons can never be forgotten. And you will remember the excitement those produced, and the censorious publications which were uttered against me because I would not visit on the helpless prisoners in our hands such barbarities as, according to reports, had been inflicted upon our men.
Imprisonment is a hard lot at the best, and prisoners are prone to exaggerate their sufferings, and such was probably the case on both sides. But we did not seek by reports of committees, with photographic illustrations, to inflame the passions of our people. How was it with our enemy? Let one example suffice. You may remember a published report of a committee of the United States Congress which was sent to Annapolis to visit some exchanged prisoners, and which had appended to it the photographs of some emaciated subjects, which were offered as samples of prisoners returned from the South.When a copy of that report was received, I sent it to Colonel Ould, commissioner for the exchange of prisoners, and learned, as I anticipated, that the photographs, as far as they could be identified, had been taken from men who were in our hospital when they were liberated for exchange, and whom the hospital surgeon regarded as convalescent, but too weak to be removed with safety to themselves. The anxiety of the prisoners to be sent to their homes had prevailed over the objections of the surgeon. But this is not all, for I have recently learned from a priest who was then at Annapolis that the most wretched looking of these photographs was taken from a man who had never been a prisoner, but who had been left on the "sick list" at Annapolis when the command