In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Amos T. Akerman to D. T. Corbin, 10 November 1871

Date: November 10, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: nar.02143

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, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and John Schwaninger

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Nov. 10, 1871.

D. T. Corbin, Esq.

U.S. Attorney,

Yorkville, S. C.


In view of the large number of persons in your District particularly in the counties in which the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended, who appear to have violated the laws of the United States against the unlawful conspiracies and combinations prohibited by the Acts of May 31, 1870, and of April 20, 1871, and the apparent impossibility of trying them all with the present judicial force, and the difference among them in moral guilt, I think it advisable that they be classified as follows, namely:

I. Such as appear to have been leaders in the conspiracies, or to have been concerned in acts of deep criminality, and such as have contributed intelligence and social influence to these conspiracies.

These should be brought to trial, and if found guilty by the jury, should be subjected to the sentence of the court.

II. Persons whose criminality is inferior to that of the first class, but still so great as to require some visitation from the law.

These, as soon as the general policy under which the government has lately proceeded in South Carolina will permit, should be released upon light bail, and their cases need not be pressed to a speedy trial, unless they should desire such trial.

III. Those whose connection with the conspiracies was compulsory and reluctant, and who took no voluntary part in acts of violence, and who show penitence for their offences, and a determination to abstain from such crimes in the future.

I think it inexpedient to prefer bills against these, or to require their attendance at court, except when they are needed as witnesses. Their confessions should be taken in writing, and it should be understood that they will expose themselves to prosecution unless they bear themselves as good citizens henceforth.

You will confer with the Marshal and the military officers, and after obtaining all possible information upon the cases of individuals, will classify them according to the above rules. Where persons are now under arrest, you will exercise a discretion in releasing, with or without bail, as the case may seem to require, persons of the less guilty sorts. The Marshal will be instructed to conform to your directions in the matter.

You will consider this letter as confidential, except as to the Marshal and such military and judicial officers as you find it necessary to confer with upon the matter.

Very respectfully,

A. T. Akerman,

Attorney General.

Ku Klux trials &
S. C.


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