He asserted that, in time of war, all slaves were belligerents as much as their masters. The slave men, said he, cultivate the earth and supply provisions. The women cook the food, nurse the wounded and sick, and contribute to the maintenance of the war, often more than the same number of males. The slave children equally contribute whatever they are able to the support of the war. Indeed, he well supported General Butler’s declaration, that slaves are contraband of war.
The military officer, said he, can enter into no judicial examination of the claim of one man to the bone and muscle of another as property. Nor could he, as a military officer, know what the laws of Florida were while engaged in maintaining the Federal Government by force of arms. In such case, he could only be guided by the laws of war; and whatever may be the laws of any State, they must yield to the safety of the Federal Government. This defence of General Gaines may be found in House Document No. 225, of the Second Session of the 25th Congress. He sent the slaves West, where they became free.
Louis, the slave of a man named Pacheco, betrayed Major Dade’s battalion, in 1836, and when he had witnessed their massacre, he joined the enemy. Two years subsequently, he was captured, Pacheco claimed him; General Jessup said if he had time, he would try him before a court-martial and hang him, but would not deliver him to any man. He however sent him West, and the fugitive slave became a free man, and is now fighting the Texans. General Jessup reported his action to the War Department, and Mr. Van Buren, then President, with his Cabinet, approved it. Pacheco then appealed to Congress, asking that body to pay him for the loss of his slave; and Mr. Greeley will recollect that he and myself, and a majority of the House of Representatives, voted against the bill, which was rejected. All concurred in the opinion that General Jessup did right in emancipating the slave, instead of returning him to his master.
In 1838, General Taylor captured a number of negroes said to be fugitive slaves. Citizens of Florida, learning what had been done, immediately gathered around his camp, intending to secure the slaves who had escaped from them. General Taylor told them that he had no prisoners but “prisoners of war.” The claimants then desired to look at them, in order to determine whether he was holding their slaves as prisoners. The veteran warrior replied that no man should examine his prisoners for such a purpose; and he ordered them to depart. This action being reported to the War Department, was approved by the Executive. The slaves, however, were sent West, and set free.
In 1836, General Jessup wanted guides and men to act as spies. He therefore engaged several fugitive slaves to act as such, agreeing to secure the freedom of themselves and families if they served the Government faithfully. They agreed to do so, fulfilled their agreement, were sent West, and set free. Mr. Van Buren’s Administration approved the contract, and Mr. Tyler’s Administration approved the manner in which General Jessup fulfilled it by setting the slaves free.