From the 4 June 1865 issue of The New York Times.

The Paroled Rebel Soldiers and the General Amnesty.

True to their old sympathies, anti-administration journals oppose any civil procedure against ROBERT E. LEE. Their plea is that the terms of his surrender exempted him from all further interference, civil as well as military.

If this plea is valid, not only General LEE and every officer and private on his muster-rolls has already obtained a complete amnesty, but every man in the Confederate armies, which subsequently surrendered; for “the terms of LEE’S surrender” were the terms universally offered and accepted. Ninety-nine out of a hundred of those who have actively maintained the rebellion have already been put, if this assumption be correct, beyond the reach of all penalty for past offences. The amnesty by which the law of 1862 authorized the President to extend, to persons who have participated in the rebellion, “with such exceptions and at such time and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare, “has already in this unsuspected, indirect, way taken full, unconditional effect, so far as regards any rebel, high or low, who was so fortunate as to be in arms against the Government in the final stage of the struggle. According to this pretence, all such are now secure from all punishment whatever—from capital execution, from banishment, from confiscation, from disfranchisement, from penalty of any kind or degree, so long as they remain obedient to the laws of the place where they live. They are remitted absolutely to the condition they enjoyed before the rebellion.

It is absurd upon its face to say that Gen. GRANT made any such engagement. The power of amnesty and pardon is accorded by the constitution to the President only. He must exercise it personally, or not at all. He could no more delegate it or transfer it, than he could the veto power, or the power to nominate to office. Therefore any stipulations carrying the effect of pardon, made over the name of ULYSSES S. GRANT, would not and could not have any more effect than if made over the name of any private citizen in the land. No man of sense can imagine that this was unknown to either Gen. GRANT or Gen. LEE.

Again, Gen. GRANT had received from the Secretary of War a notification, dated March 3, five weeks before the surrender, that “the President instructs me to say he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. LEE, except it be for the capitulation of Gen. LEE’S army, or on some minor and purely military matter, and not to decide or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conference or conventions.” That, in the plainest language, restricted him to military questions solely; that is to say, to such arrangements as pertained to the state of war only. It is impossible to suppose that Gen. GRANT, in the face of such instructions, would for an instant have sought to decide the greatest civil question of the day. To preclude all chance of misapprehension, he takes special care to inform Gen. LEE, in the correspondence preliminary to the surrender, that he has “no authority to treat on the subject of Peace.”

But these next friends of the rebellion claim that LEE and his armies are protected by the stipulation in the terms of surrender, that “each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they reside.” It is needless to try to turn this to any such purpose. The language can relate only to the exercise of that power which belonged to Gen. GRANT and other military authorities, and for which alone he could speak. It has a military scope only; and simply exempted the parties surrendering from future interference by military authorities. It perfectly shields LEE and his armed followers as prisoners of war; but not at all as traitors to the government. It gives them military, but not civil immunity.

Gen. LEE can be brought to trial for treason, without hindrance, either legal or honorary. Ought he to be? Most decidedly. He has “levied war against the United States” more strenuously than any other man in the land, and thereby has been specially guilty of the crime of treason, as defined in the Constitution of the United States. He still persists in declaring that he has not committed treason—that he drew his sword only to defend Virginia against an unconstitutional invasion, in obedience to a prime allegiance to his native State. He accepted his original commission distinctly on that ground, and he still maintains the ground. The issue between the priority of State and national allegiance is nowhere more directly presented than in his case. It ought to be brought before the highest tribunal in the land, and be determined with a positiveness that all the world shall accept as a settling forever of the fundamental principle of this government. The paramount and indefeasible obligation of every American citizen to the Federal constitution of the United States, is the only basis of our civil security, and cannot be reëstablished by sanctions too signal or solemn. Whether Gen. LEE should be hung or not, is a minor question. Perhaps there are considerations which would make it advisable for President JOHNSON to remit or commute his sentence. It is useless to discuss that now. It is a question to be determined after the authority of the government has been vindicated by an arraignment, a trial and a sentence.