Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To James Speed [1]

Executive Mansion, Washington,
Hon. Attorney General Dec. 29, 1864.

Please give me your opinion in writing whether the Secretary of the Navy, or any of his subordinates, is bound in law, on application of individuals, to furnish exemplified copies of records, or parts of records, of Naval Courts-Martial, on file in the Navy Department.

Also, whether the Secretary of the Navy, or any of his subordinates is bound in law to answer to a Commission of a State court, directing the taking of his or their testimony, as to the contents of records of Naval Courts-Martial on file in the Navy Department.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Annotation

[1]   ALS copy (ADfS?), DLC-RTL; LS, DNA RG 60, Papers of Attorney General, 1864, Box 117. Attorney General Speed replied in a twelve-page opinion on January 3, 1865. His conclusions were: `` . . . the written record of the proceedings before a naval Court martial becomes, when the proceedings are consummated by the action of the proper revisory authority, the record of an adjudicated case tried and determined by a legally constituted court of justice; and . . . any limitation to an exemplified copy of such a record on file in thePage  191

Navy Department, when properly applied for by an individual, would be contrary to law. . . .

``With respect to the second point submitted to me, I am of opinion, that the Secretary of the Navy, and any of his subordinates, having knowledge of the contents of records of naval courts martial on file . . . after the proceedings have been consummated . . . are bound in law to answer to a commission of a State Court directing the taking of his and their testimony as to the contents of such records. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).