JULY 9, 1861

Nathaniel P. Banks to William H. Seward, Tuesday, July 09, 1861 Regarding arrests in Baltimore (Police being imprisoned etc)

Head Quarters

Department of Annapolis

July 9" -- 1861


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th instant relating to the release of Mr: Howard one of the Police Commissioners of Baltimore, lately arrested [July 1st] and the suggestions made to the President and yourself by Reverdy Johnson and others.

I should most cheerfully act upon any order, given me, as you may suppose, but until a decision is made, I most respectfully suggest a different course as to these prisoners.

Mr: Howard without being, perhaps, a bad man at heart is one of the worst influences here. He was emphatically the most mischievous man, connected with the Police. He has three sons in the Confederate army and a fourth is editor of the "Exchange" published here that does not hesitate to reccommend assassination as a remedy for the obstacles the secessionists encounter in their work.-- "It is difficult to determine," his paper said the other day, "whether the country most needs a Brutus or a Washington." To release the head of such a family would alarm all the friends of the govermnt here for their safety.

I have advised against the arrest of ordinary men, and when arrested have released them unless very direct evidence of crime was brought against them. But with such men as Mr Howard, the wrong he commts is prospective and the safety of the govt requires his detention for the present.

Baltimore is now very quiet. There is no fear of outbreak-- But before it is a loyal city, or our friends can get firm hold of the power of the city or state we shall have one more trial -- that is upon the question of compelling the city to pay for the Police services-- You will remember that upon the arrest of Mr: Kane the Commissioners declared the city to be without police officers or protection. The best men in the city instantly volunteered and in two hours a Police of 400 men was organized. It is to that Police that we are indebted for the discovery of secreted arms, and the important arrest of Colonel Thomas who was the leader of the party that seized the St Nicholas, and who was here with a commission in the Virginia Volunteers upon a more desperate scheme of the same character. The old commission would gladly, restore the old Police, which we now decline-- They declare the city shall not pay which we affirm must be done. After that is settled I shall not object to the release of the commissioners.

I think the governmt must make these men feel its power just as a matter of argument-- They do not comprehend the condition of things at all.-- They read nothing but their own papers. They talk only with each other. They live & move in small coteries into which no ideas can penetrate except their own. The President's message or the secretery's Proclamation on state papers only reach them through their own distorting medium. They have as little idea of a national sentiment or power as a man corked up in a phial would have of a natural atmosphere -- and thus though they are pestilent traitors, they are innocent as babes-- If the govermnt makes them feel its power they will immediately understand the condition of things and think and talk and act as the rest of the world does. The arrest did them good-- Those that are not to be tried, and I take it that the commissioners are of this number, should be sent to Fort Delaware for a few weeks & then released. This would change the sentimnt of every secession circle of Baltimore and give the city a "new birth"-- Their sentiments would represent deep feeling, now it is only their own shallow thoughts-- The Fort here is small & crowded. Prisoners are accumulating, and this releif is suggested as a matter of national policy-- The District Attorney for the United States is inefficient-- There is no law for the United States I feel under his administration.

Your Obt- Servt N. P. Banks

Pardon this letter.

ND@ “Co.D” 1st MD Inf Regt 2017