June 24, 1863
Federal Court. – The petition of George W. Thompson, on a writ of habeas corpus came up for consideration yesterday. When the case was called, the Petition being read, the Court inquired if there was any counsel present, representing the State. Upon being informed that there was no counsel present resisting the application, the Court remarked that when this Petition was presented at a former day of this term, the Court, as an act of courtesy, postponed its consideration untill [sic] the State authorities could be notified of the fact. In pursuance of this notice the Attorney General of the State appeared and moved the Court to continue this application until Tuesday, the 23d inst., stating that he would be prepared at that time to resist the application for the writ. The Court granted the indulgence asked until this morning. With that understanding, this Petition comes up to-day for further consideration, and no person appearing to resist the granting of the writ, and the Petition presenting a “prima facie” case for its action, and no objection being made to the power and jurisdiction of the Court, the writ will be awarded, returnable on Thursday morning next; reserving all legal questions arising upon the Petition for future consideration.
The Court also stated that it had received an intimation from some of the authorities that Judge Thompson would decline to take the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government. It was due to candor and frankness to inform Counsel that this Court had adopted a rule from which it had in no case departed, to require all persons who have been arrested on charges of disloyalty to renew their allegiance to the Government by taking the oath to support the Conststution [sic] of the United States. And if this case upon investigation resulted in the discharge of Judge Thompson it would be upon the condition that he took the oath to support the Constitution of the United States. This Court would not permit a party to invoke its protection in his behalf and at the same time deny the power of the Government whose laws it administered.
In the afternoon the case of Thomas Hornbrook, Surveyor of Customs, indicted for alleged abusee of the permit system was taken up. A jury was empaneled when Daniel Peck Esq., demurred upon the whole inditement. Upon the demurerer Col. Smith, the District Attorney proceeded to speak at some length. He said the permit system, as carried on here was unauthorized by law. It was a complete tyranny, and a gross injustice upon the oppressed people of West Virginia, and he would be rescreant to his duty as a United States officer if he failed to do what he could to relieve the people from the burthen. He said there were aids to the Revenue all over the country, and blockades had been established where there was no earthly use, or sence in it, and in some instances, women had been compelled to pay twenty cents for the privilege of taking home a spool of boss worth five cents.
A blockade had been established at Bellair, just acrose the river, and merchants had been compelled to get a permit to ship a barrel of flour to that point. He said it was ruining the business interests of the State and city, and was driving loyal people out of our limits to make purchases elsewhere.
We had submitted to the whole thing quietly because we thought it was law but the burthen had become unendurable, and as far as he was concerned he did not intend to submit longer to the imposition. He asked why West Virginia should be discriminated against and why the people of Ohio should have privileges that were not granted to us? If we were to search the whole State of West Virginia we could scarcely find a hundred Vallandigham votres, while in the State of Ohio, Vallandigham, the greatest secessionist of the age, had been nominated for Governor and stood a fair chance of being elected. He said he had no personal feeling against Mr. Hornbrook or any other man, but there were gross abuses carried on from which the people must be relieved. He did not believe that the President or any of the Departments knew how the system was being worked. The President was an honorable and a just man who would not oppress a loyal people if he knew it, and his (the speaker’s) only object was to have the thing sifted that relief might be granted.
Mr. Peck, owing to indisposition, asked that the case be postponed until this morning, which request was granted.
We understand that Mr. Hornbrook claims to have been acting, in all that he has done, under instructions from the Treasury Department.
June 26, 1863
Federal Court. – Yesterday morning in the Federal Court the habeas corpus case of Geo. W. Thompson came up. Gov. Peirpoint, to whom the writ was directed, not being in the city, the case was laid over until this morning. In the meantime the Court decided to admit the prisoner, Thompson, to bail in the sum of $5,000, upon condition that he repair to his home and there remain until this morning.
A jury was sworn in the confiscation case of Russell and Fitzhugh. A. W. McDonald, a rebel prisoner, now confined to the Athenaeum, and formerly a member of the Richmond Legislature, was called as a witness, when he presented through his Attorney, James Paull, Esq., the following petition:
A. W. McDonald, a witness called by the plaintiffs to testify in their behalf in the case of Russell and Fitzhugh, makes the following statement upon oath; that he is a prisoner captured by the military forces of the United States on Lost river, in Hardy county, outside the Federal lines, on or about the 5th of May last; that for anything that affiant knows to the contrary, he is still detained and confined as such by said authority, and as such is entitled so far as the same apply to this case, to all the protection which the rule governing a war between belligerents and the cartel for the exchange of prisoners between the Confederate States and the United States, will afford him. Affiant protesting that his declining to answer in the above case is not considered as either disrespectful, or in contempt of this Court, respectfully declines to give testimony unless rules so to do, and submits whether, according to the usages of war, as settled among belligerents, he can be compelled to give testimony in a proceeding to confiscate, which may result in an injury to the Confederate States through an injury to the defendant, and which, if voluntarily given, might submit this affiant to prosecution by the Confederate States, by reason of his having thus given aid to the United States.
A. W. McDonald.
The court ruled out the petition, and McDonald proceeded to testify. He said he had seen Charles W. Russell in his seat in the Congress of the Confederate States, at Richmond. He had seen E. H. Fitzhugh, in one of the Departments at Richmond, sitting at a desk, and supposed him to be engaged there.
The Jury returned a verdict that both Russell and Fitzhugh were engaged in the rebellion, and their property was accordingly confiscated.
In these cases the Court has heretofore ruled out all cases of intervenors, except those shown to be judgment leins, before the siezure of the property.
Mr. Jacob submitted certain exceptions to the libel of information in the John Knolt case, which he said he proposed to argue.
The Court adjourned till to-morrow morning at 8 o’clock.
June 30, 1863
Federal Court. – Yesterday in the Federal Court the discussion in the Thompson habeas corpus case was continued. Mr. Richardson spoke at some length in favor of his motion to discharge the prisoner. In speaking of the Act of Assembly under which it is claimed Thompson was arrested, he said that the Governor who would demand such an act and the Legislature that would grant it were unworthy the confidence of a free people. He defied the Attorney General, Mr. Caldwell, to point to a single disloyal act that Judge Thompson had committed. Mr. Caldwell replied that Thompson had refused to take the oath of allegiance. It was the mixed oath which he had refused to take. Mr. Caldwell insisted that he had refused to take the oath, and that Col. Darr had so testified. Judge Thompson then advanced towards Mr. Caldwell with apparently hostile intentions, when Mr. Caldwell looked at him and said – “You dare to lay a hand on me.”
The court directed the Marshal to take charge of the gentleman when Deputy Irwin came forward and the little passage was cut short.
At the conclusion of Mr. Richardson’s remarks Mr. Caldwell said that as he had been challenged he proposed to produce some proofs of Thompson’s disloyalty and was about to read a paper when he was interrupted by the Court who informed him that his paper could not be entertained. The following is what Mr. Caldwell proposed to read. It is a card which appeared in the Wheeling Press on the 2d of June, 1862. The case will be disposed of by the court this morning:
To the Editor of the Wheeling Press:
With your usual regard for the accuracy of your facts and your “love for the Union, the Constitution and the enforcement of the laws,” you have said that I was arrested and took the oath. I was arrested; I have not taken any oath, and never will submit my conscience to such unhallowed impurity as to take an oath to a power, and from men who, in endeavoring to coerce me, violate the very oath they wish to compel me to take. Never, never. I have no sympathy with despotism and abolitionism. Do at least the justice to publish this.
G. W. Thompson.
In the afternoon the court was engaged in the consideration of the John Knote confiscation case.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1863