Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/April/The Negro Question

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We had intended to discuss fully


in its bearing upon exchange of prisoners, but find that we have barely space to state it. When the war began the Federal Government distinctly declared that it had no power and no desire to interfere with slavery in the States. But as it progressed the slaves were not only declared free, but were enlisted as soldiers in the United States armies. The question at once arose whether the Confederate Government should recognize these captured slaves as prisoners of war, or should remand them to their masters, from whom they had been forcibly taken. The Confederates, of course, took the ground that as both the constitution of the United States and that of the Confederacy recognized slaves as the property of their owners, when these slaves were abducted and enlisted in the Federal army, their masters had a right to reclaim them whenever and wherever they could recapture them.

General Butler says that he was directed by his Government to put forward this question offensively, in order to stop exchanges; but even General Butler agreed to a cartel which virtually settled, or at least postponed the question, and we have most abundant evidence that this was a mere subterfuge to prevent exchange.