Major General Reynolds. Jan. 20. 1865
It would appear by the accompanying papers that Mrs. Mary E. Morton is the owner, independently of her husband, of a certain building, premises and furniture, which she, with her children, has been occupying and using peaceably during the war, until recently, when the Provost-Marshal, has, in the name of the U.S. government, seized the whole of said property, and ejected her from it. It also appears by her statement to me, that her husband went off in the rebellion at the beginning, wherein he still remains.
It would seem that this seizure has not been made for any Military object, as for a place of storage, a hospital, or the like, because this would not have required the seizure of the furniture, and especially not the return of furniture previously taken away.
The seizure must have been on some claim [of] confiscation, a matter of which the courts, and not the Provost-Marshals, or other military officers are to judge. In this very case, would probably be the questions ``Is either the husband or wife a traitor?'' ``Does the property belong to the husband or to the wife?'' ``Is the property of the wife confiscable for the treason of the husband?'' and other similar questions, all which it is ridiculous for a Provost-Marshal to assume to decide.
Page 229The true rule for the Military is to seize such property as is needed for Military uses and reasons, and let the rest alone. Cotton and other staple articles of commerce are seizable for military reasons. Dwelling-houses & furniture are seldom so. If Mrs. Morton is playing traitor, to the extent of practical injury, seize her, but leave her house to the courts. Please revise and adjust this case upon these principles. Yours &c A. LINCOLN