THE ALABAMA FREEDMEN
A Military Officer's Order Summarily Disposed of--Gen. Swayne's* Opinions of Rebel Regulations.One Capt. Lewis, commanding the State Militia in "Beat No. 2," Russell County, Ala., recently issued the following order:
Hdqrs. Vol. Militia Company,}
Beat No. 2, Jan. 14, 1866}
Lieut. H.M. Hawes, Commanding Militia of Girard,
You are hereby commanded to call together the men assigned to your command on next Saturday, or at the earliest day that you can give them sufficient notice, and read to them the following orders, viz:
You will not make any arrests except in aid of the civil authority, and in all cases of arrest of arrest the party arrested shall be protected from violence and abuse, and surrendered at once to the civil authorities, as required by law, to the place and civil officer before whom the writ is returnable, or to the nearest magistrate of the county where the offense is alleged to have been committed, when no particular place is expressed, or when the accused is there entitled to trial by law.
You will avoid any conflict of authority on your part with the United States officers and soldiers, and treat them with courtesy.
The men of your command are desired to proceed forthwith with the collection of arms and ammunition found in the hands of freedmen; and whenever you are informed of freedmen or any place having them, you will immediately send a guard out to search, first obtaining the consent of the proprietor, or his agent, to make such search. All arms and ammunition so found must be reported and turned over to these headquarters.
In cases of freedmen using seditious or insurrectionary language, they may be arrested and turned over to the Hon. James F. Waddell, Agent of the Freedmen's Bureau for Russell County.
In these cases, as in all others, you will first obtain a warrant from the civil magistrate, setting forth the facts as near as possible. Your men will refrain as far possible, and will not make arrests upon their own authority, except in cases of public necessity. Such necessity will be the great danger of the escape of the criminal. In all such he will be arrested at once and turned over immediately to the nearest civil magistrate for investigation of charges.
Your men are reminded that by instructions from Gov. Parsons they are prohibited from improper or harsh treatment of prisoners in their charge.
The above orders will be strictly enforced, and your men are reminded that they will be dealt with to the extent of the law if they commit any violent act or disobedience of orders while on duty. C.J. Lewis, Captain Com. Vol. Mil. Co., Beat No. 2, Russell Co., Ala.
To. Lieut. H.M. Hawes, Girard, Ala.
Gen. Swayne's attention having been called to this order, he wrote the following letter:
Office Asst. Com. State Of Alabama.}
Bureau Refugees, Freedmen And Abandoned}
Lands, Montgomery, Ala., Jan. 23, 1866.}
Capt. C.J. Lewis, Com'd Vol. Militia Co., Beat No. 2, Russell Co., Ala.
Sir" The attention of the Assistant Commissioner of this state has been called to so much of the inclosed order from you to your subordinates as directs the search for and seizure of arms and ammunition reported in the hands of freedmen, and their arrest for "seditious and insurrectionary language."
The Constitution of the United States commands that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and that the right of a people to be protected in their persons, house, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.
The talk of insurrectionary violence is nonsense. The solemn pledge of the United States to the freed people of color that THEY SHALL BE AND REMAIN FREE, requires that the law, by whomsoever made and administered, and including their provisions, shall be faithfully and equally applied to all men, without distinction on account of color.
Forces of the United States were placed within this State to see that the provisions and pledge above cited were not treated as null. It was hoped that the good sense of the people of Alabama would soon relieve them from the necessary results of military occupation--and very much has been done in this direction.
Precisely such orders as your own, and every species of outrage committed under them in some counties in this State, require that these troops be still kept here, and employed.
Applications has been made to the Department Commander for a garrison for your county, and for unlawful acts of yourself and your subordinates you will be held to a stern accountability. I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Wager Swayne, Brevet-Major-Gen.[New-York Daily Tribune, New-York, Tuesday, February 6, 1866. Vol. XXV.....No. 7,748. Pg. 8]
* - Wager Swayne, (November 10, 1834 – December 18, 1902), was a Union Army colonel during the American Civil War who eventually was appointed as the last major general of volunteers of the Union Army. Swayne received America's highest military decoration; the Medal of Honor, for his actions at the Second Battle of Corinth. He also was effectively the military governor of Alabama from March 2, 1867 to July 14, 1868 after the passage of the first Reconstruction Act by the U.S. Congress until Alabama was readmitted to the Union. Robert M. Patton remained the nominal governor during this period but as the local army commander, Swayne controlled the State government.And we see above how that at least one government hired servant had taken his solemn oath seriously. As well as how Brevet-Major-Gen. Wager Swayne upheld and defended the rights secured by the U.S. Constitution. Which is one of the intended roles of the Federal government. And is obviously one that the Federal government has, and is currently, miserably failing in performing. For not only does the Federal government not perform its duty to secure our rights from infringement by local and state governments. But it has itself infringed upon the right of free American citizens to keep and bear arms for defense. Which again brings to mind the words of Thomas Jefferson:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.--The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, [The Declaration of Independence] IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.