Today in History:

865 Series I Volume XVII-II Serial 25 - Corinth Part II


they had never been disturbed; that Federal and State authority had been mutually respected by the parties to this strife; but this event almost convinces me that they are utterly irreconcilable, when Judge Swayne, with the din of arms in his ears, with bayonets glistening at each street corner, with messengers coming and going with the cruel news of the mangling of hundreds and thousands of our common citizens in deadly strife, charges a grand jury under the old law of Tennessee as though there was no war, and utterly ignores the laws made by the Congress of the United States. I wanted, and still want, you to hold your court and punish the many malefactors that infest the country, but you must respect the laws of our common Government.

I do not want to dictate to you; I appeal to your reason. You cannot administer the laws you quote, but there is plenty you can do, and, to make the matter emphatic, I have instructed my provost-marshal and officers that if the criminal court of Shelby or any other county attempts by writs or otherwise to enforce those State laws, in contradiction with the plain laws of the United States, they must treat the sheriff or constable as in "contempt." I admit there is a direct issue between the United States and the State of Tennessee in this matter; but a county criminal court is not the place to adjudicate it. There is a tribunal provided by our fundamental law-our Constitution-viz, the Supreme Court of the United States, fit and proper to pass on such momentous issues. Until that tribunal makes its decision, I shall obey the plain law of Congress and the order of the President of the United States under it, and my army shall be used to enforce it.

I wish I had seen your charge before it was delivered, as I believe you would have modified it; at all events, that you would not have given such prominence to the impracticable statutes you quote. I wish to repeat that I appreciate the sense of duty that actuated you to assert what you believed to be the only law, and I hope you will award to me similar zeal when you allow for the sudden and stern conclusions to which military minds sometimes attain by a rapid intuition or judgment.

I also repeat that I am still anxious you should continue your court, and constitutionally and judiciously enforce the law against the many mischievous persons that infest your community. For God's sake, don's let this accursed question of slavery blind your mind to the thousand other duties and interests that concern you and the people among whom you live.

As you can perceive, I throw off these ideas, leaving you to fill up the logical picture. In my seeming leaning toward men of your character, I have risked my reputation and ability for good. Do not force me to conclude the conflict to be "irreconcilable," as you surely will if you or your grand jury or the officers of your court insist on enforcing the statutes of Tennessee touching negroes at this terrible crisis of our history.

With much respect, your obedient servant,



Memphis, November 14, 1862.

B. W. SHAPP, Esq.,

United States Commissioner, Memphis:

SIR: Yours of yesterday is received. The military authorities of the United States have other business to attend to besides administering