In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Amos T. Akerman to Isaiah T. Williams, 4 February 1871

Date: February 4, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: nar.01688

Source: National Archives and Records Administration. 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.

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

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Feb. 4, 1871.

Isaiah T. Williams, Esq.

U. S. Commissioner,

No. 27 Chambers st.

New York.


I have received your letter of the 2d instant, as well as one or more former letters upon the same subject. In the pressure of business upon this Department at present, I have not had time to give a careful examination to the questions which you present.

I have caused some examination to be made by an officer of this Department, who cannot discover that there is any authority for a Commissioner to imprison for contempt in refusing to testify - and also that the law does not provide for any allowance of stationary to a Commissioner for the purpose of taking down testimony—or that a commissioner should take down his examination in writing. He is opinion that the Act of 1842 confers upon Commissioners only the powers of local magistrates, but not their duties.

It seems to me at first glance that these conclusions are correct. If upon further examination I think otherwise, I will inform you. I am well satisfied that a Commissioner ought to have power to compel the answers of witnesses either by inflicting a summary punishment himself, or by reporting the case to a Judge of a United States Court, who should inflict such punishment. But if no such power has been given by statute, the administrators of the law must suffer the inconvenience of a want of it.

Very respectfully,

A. T. Akerman,

Attorney General.

powers of U. S. Commissioners


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