Date Original

1865 January


Two letters written by Judge A.B. Williams. The first letter is written to John R. Eakin, editor of the Washington Telegraph newspaper asking Eakin to run Williams' letter. The second letter is written to Governor Harris Flanagin informing him that publication of his letter has been rejected and sharing his thoughts on the state of current affairs in his area.


[Page 1] Col Eakin:
Will you pardon me for soliticing space in
your paper, for the discussion of a question of some im-
portance to the people of our whole country.
It is the repetition of "a thrice told tale," to say that
we arre in the midst of a great struggle for freedom
and independence - The terrible sufferings and privations
of our people for nearly four years, has convinced all of
this simple truth - Every energy and resource of our country
has been brought to hand(?), and nothing left undone which
would tend toward off the yoke which is threatened to be
forced upon us - All concede that, it is the duty of every
man and woman, to do all in his or her power to further
on the cause of liberty. It is paramount to every other
duty, and every interest of a personal character should
be sacraficed[sic] to it - But at the time that, it is our
duty to make these sacrafices and concessions, these and
certain great and inalienable rights which should be
sacredly protected - Certain great fundamental prin-
ciples which should not be violated - They should be held
as sacred as the fire upon the vestal altar.
These observations are induced as introductory to a
question of much importance, I think to the citizen.
By force of a military order emanating from some source,
(I have not taken the trouble to find out as the effect is the source)
the houses of our citizens have been today and are now being
subjected to search - Bands of armed men may be seen tra-
versing the streets and lanes, and entering the dwellings of
citizens, subjecting them to the mortification and humiliation
of exposing the inner chamber and apartments of their houses -
prying under their beds - into their closets, kitchens and negro
houses, in search of arms - Arms belonging to the government
That all arms and munitions of war belonging to the gover-
nment, should be in the profession of its officers and men, is
[Page 2] true - Congress has made a law, and orders have been issued
and published from Head Quarters, giving notice to citizens
that is was contrary to law to purchase arms as accoutrements
from soldiers - This was night - But here stands the case?
Our citizens with a patriotism, zeal and unanimity, un-
surpassed in the history of the world, have staked their all
on the great die of independence - They have given their fortunes,
their blood and their lives - In times past, before the government
had arms, they have brought their hand(?) guns, their rifles and
shot guns (which money could not have purchased) and laid
them at the feet of the government officers, and told them to take
them - Hempstead County has armed more than a regiment
in this war - the voluntary offerings of the people. As far as my
knowledge extends, other counties have done as well - It does seem
to me then, that it would strike the most casual observer, that
when a people have given all but a scanty subsistance to the
government - where they have made very sacrafice which duty
honor and patriotism have asked at their hands, that it is a
gross imputation upon their honor, their patriotism and fidelity,
to send bands of armed men to their houses to make search
of every nook and cranny. - It is as much as to say, "your
patriotism is a selfish pretension; you are hypocrites - con-
ceal that which is not your own."
But there is another and far
more important light in which this question may be viewed
The 15th clause of Sec 9 Art. I of the Constitution of
the Confederate States read thus - "The rights, of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects aga-
inst unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated; and no warrants shall issue but upon probable
cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and partic-
ularly describing the place to be searched and the per-
son or things to be seized" - Section 9 Art II of the
Constitution of the State of Arkansas is as follows, "That the
[Page 3] people shall be secure in their person, houses, papers,
valuables, and possessions from unreasonable searches
and seizures; and that general warrants whereby any officer
may be commanded to search suspected places, [illegible]
evidence of the fact committed or to seize any person
or persons not named, whose offences are not particularly
described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to
liberty, and shall not be granted" - The 23d section of
the same article declares that, "The military shall be
kept in strict subordination to the civil power." - This is
a part of the "Bill of Rights," which are "excepted out of the
general powers of the government and shall forever remain
inviolate" No person but the whole people, can alter am-
mend or abridge them - These are fundamental rights
which none dare to set aside, without being changeable
with a violation of the Constitution - The old government
was diposed; this war is being fought, and rivers of
blood have been spilled, because the people of the north
wickedly ignored the plain letter of the Constitution -
Are there those here then[sic], who would reenact the same prin-
ciples among us? Is there a "higher law" here too? Some
might hope to escape by a play upon the words "un-
reasonable search" - that this was a reasonable search -
Then the loyalty of every man is suspected - His house ceases
to be his castle, and soon we may expect that the same
hands may seize the citizens at the will of the commander,
and without evidence or trial lead him to the gibbet -
The language of the order from Department Hd Quarters
reads, "Property purchased from a soldier in violation
of the provisions of this act (meaning the law of Congress
recited in the order) will be siezed, etc. But this is
no warrant to search every man's house and premises
If a man was known to have had such property, and there was probable cause to believe that he concealed
[Page 4] it, a military search might be pardoned but not approved
But there is no reason to believe that every man in the country
does so, and such search is a palpable violation of their
most sacred rights - It is argued by some, that it is
a military necessity - But it seems to me, that no necessity
is so imperative as to warrant a total abrogation of a
plain, direct and unequivocal Constitutional provision -
The people submit because bayonets have made them tame -
They have submitted to impressments and seizures, at the
muzzle of the musket till they have ceased to know when
their rights are unfringed, or if they know, from the purist
patriotism hesitant to open their mouths - For a violation
of a constitutional provision by the Lincoln government,
we vent curses bitter, deep and long against the people
of the north, for their [illegible] submission; but bayonets have
made them tame too - From all this what conclusion may we
draw? That if one Constitutuional principle is permitted
to be trampled upon without remonstrance, how soon may
another of equal or perhaps graver import follow? [illegible]
by gradations the whole frame work of our constitution be
trodden under foot. The march of despotism is gradual -
However-so-much the tyrant may desire immediate usurpation
yet, he cautiously(?) prepares the public mind by gradual
encroachments, and when he sees the energy and spirit of
the people subdued, by a sudden coup d'etat, he vaults
into his seat, and by the sword and bayonet returns his
position - The Great Napoleon did not seize imperial
powers at a single grasp - The failings of republicanism
then upper most in the minds of the French people, would have
brought his neck to the guillotine had he done so - Napoleon
the III with the illustious precedent of his great relative
before him, imitated his example, and was contented to
serve as president for more than three years; but by one step
after another, he prepared the public mind, and when
[Page 5:] he seized the reins of power and declared himself Em-
peror, the people were powerless for redress - He had an
army to do his bidding -
In committing these thoughts to print, I do not
wish to be understood as imparting to any of our comman-
ders, a dispisition[sic] to do as the Napoleons have done -
Not so - I believe them true patriots, true republicans and good
men - But in the midst of war, the lives of generals are
uncertain - They may be killed; - possibly die in their beds -
or be superseded; and they should not lean upon record,
a precedent which a man of less purity could point
to and say, he was "only following in the footsteps
of illustrious and honored [illegible]" -
As a personal matter I do not feel agrieved at the
search of my premises - I have no articles contraband of the
order - It is only that a great measure of right and justice
has been violated that I open my mouth in the matter -
It has been repeatedly asserted by the Commander
of this Department, that the military is, and shall be kept
subordinate to the civil power - The civil power could not do these
things - How then the military? How do these declarations com-
port, with an order in direct violation of the Constitution
both state and Confederate? How long till bayonets shall
dictate what church people shall go to, or form of worship
shall be adopted in the service of God? How long till the press
shall be constrained to print only the master's will and dic-
tation? How long till chains shall clank upon our wrists
These are pertinent questions, and a submission to one
without remonstrance, may be the precedent and perhaps
the precursor of the others -
I do not wish to be understood as [Page 6:] making a factious opposition, to orders emanating from
proper officers, but when the contrary would and always have
[illegible] implicit obedience, until it is demonstrated
that usurpation is the object, then submission will have
ceased to be virtuous - I hope that those in authority will
pursue such a course that this opinion may never be warr-
anted in me or any other citizen -
I hope the importance of the subject will be
sufficient apology for the length of this article - It has
been written with the good of my country at heart, and
ope it may serve some good purpose
Jany 19 1865 Resply, etc.
A.B. Williams

Washington Ark Jany 28th 1865
Hon A.B. Williams Judge Judicial Circuit
State or Ark - Dear Sir
I entirely agree with you
as to our views of the Constitutional question and highly approve
your [illegible] in wishing to couch what you consider dangerous to
public liberty - I think however that our military authorities have
not been actuated by any improper motives, and make us doubt
that anything wrong will be speedily(?) connected -
With your consent, I would like to decline publishing the above
on the grounds that it contravenes the policy of our [illegible which has
so far are deemed to possess the utmost harmony and good feeling
between citizens and our military commanders - It is proper,
however, to add, that your position as a high [illegible] officer
of the State and a conservator of public liberty, fully [illegible] your
remonstrance against any thing which you may suppose
to be an unnecessary infringement upon our Constitution and
Your very truly
(signed) Jno R. Eakin [Page 7:] Washington Ark. Jany 28th 1865
His Exclcy H. Flanagin
Governor of the State of Arkansas
I have the honor of transmitting
herewith a communication written by me, for publication
in the "Washington Telegraph", but which Col Eakin (the editor
of that paper) has declined publishing, for the reasons assigned
in his note to me of this date, a copy of which you will find
attached to the communication above mentioned - This is sub-
mitted to you, as the Chief Executive of the State, and the
principal conservator of the Constitution and laws, with the
intention of calling your attention officially to the cause of
complaint specified in the article, - I feel well assured
in my own mind, that my position is correct, and that
I am waranted as one of the conservation of the house of
the state in remonstrating against a course of conduct,
which is palpably in violation of the Constitution of the
Confederate States, as well as the State, - I would not be
willfully guilty however, by any course of mine, in producing
dissensions between the civil and military powers, and hence,
have consented to act upon the advice of Col Eakin in not
insisting upon the publication of this article,
I am not informed from what source the orders
directing a search issued, whether from District or
Department Head Quarters
Should you think the importance
of the subject merits an investigation, you are at liberty
to use my communication as your judgment or discretion
may dictate -
I have the honor to be
Your Excellency's
Mo Obt Servt
A.B. Williams

Physical Description

2 letters, 7 pages, 8" x 12.5"


Civil War; Correspondence; Governors; Military; Judges; Newspapers; Newspaper editors


A.B. Williams

Geographical Area

Washington, Hempstead County (Ark.)




MS.000132, Item 1067

Resource Type



Kie Oldham collection, MS.000132


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

Letters, A.B. Williams to Governor Harris Flanagin and John R. Eakin, Kie Oldham collection, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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Letters, A.B. Williams to Governor Harris Flanagin and John R. Eakin