In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Amos T. Akerman to Ulysses S. Grant, 4 February 1871

Date: February 4, 1871

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: National Archives and Records Administration

Whitman Archive ID: nar.01693

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, Kevin McMullen, and John Schwaninger



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February 4, 1871.

To the President:

Sir:

On the 2d instant, you referred to me the case of Mr. Alfred Huger, of South Carolina, which Mr. Luthers had laid before you. You request me to recommend what action should be taken in the case.

Mr. Huger was Postmaster at Charleston for nearly thirty years prior to the late war, and was known as a staunch adherent to the Union. In May, 1861, when his services as postmaster under the United States ceased, he had in possession postage stamps and envelopes of the value of four thousand one hundred and fifty-three dollars, and seventeen cents, ($4153:17,) and gold coin belonging to the Government to the amount of two thousand dollars, ($2000.) The postage stamps remained in the Post office building, and were re-captured by the forces of the United States upon the surrender of Charleston; and credit has been given Mr. Huger for that amount. The envelopes were taken by the Confederate authorities. He deposited the gold coin in the bank of Charleston as a special deposit. In 1863, he withdrew the deposit from the bank, and placed it in the branch bank of the State of South Carolina at Columbia. Soon afterwards, the Confederate authorities demanded this gold coin, and he yielded it up to them. He has been sued in the Circuit Court of The United States on his official bond. Under the charge of the Court, a verdict has been rendered in his favor, and a writ of error to the Supreme Court has been sued out on the part of the United States. There are allegations of informality in the way in which the case has been brought to the Supreme Court.

Upon these facts the friends of Mr. Huger desire that the Government shall dismiss its writ of error, and thus leave the verdict in the Circuit Court in favor of Mr. Huger in force.

The legal questions involved in the case have been often before the Courts—and, as far as I am informed, the holding in every other case has been different from that of Judge Bryan in the case of Mr. Huger. I think it is important that they should receive a final and authoritative decision from the Supreme Court, and yet I would not even for the sake of settling important questions, urge that the writ of error be prosecuted, if such prosecution would do legal or moral injustice to Mr. Huger. If the law has been rightly declared by all the judges who have passed upon such questions, except Judge Bryan, no legal injustice will be done by prosecuting a writ of error to a reversal of the decision in the court below.

If Mr. Huger was a true friend of the Government during the late troubles in the South, and made, as his friends allege, every possible effort to preserve for the Government such of its moneys as was in its hands, I think that a moral injustice would be done him by pressing the case further. But I am not satisfied that either of these facts exists.

The memorial of Messrs. Routledge and Young, his counsel, which has been submitted to you, has a touching reference to his devotion to the Union in 1833, and thenceforward. It omits the important fact that Mr. Huger, immediately upon ceasing, on the 31st day of May, 1861, to act as Postmaster at Charleston under The United States, began to act as Postmaster at Charleston under the so-called Confederate States—and continued so to act until the authority of the United States was restored—thus giving to the Confederate authorities a very effectual kind of recognition.

He appears to have made no serious efforts to preserve the money for the United States. He deposited it in banks notoriously managed by men hostile to the United States,                thus disclosed to them, and through them to others, the fact that such moneys were in his possession—and thus exposed himself to the demand which was made by the Confederate authorities. If he had remained a faithful adherent to the Government of The United States, and had yielded to the Confederacy only an involuntary support, and had made every reasonable effort to keep the moneys of the Government safely for its own use, I should think no effort should be made to disturb the verdict.

But the reverse appearing to be true, I cannot advise that the regular course of law be arrested for his benefit.

Very respectfully,

your obedient servant,

A. T. Akerman,

Attorney General.


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