Page images

be seen

Stanley for saying that he had fought in the Union army. A Mr. Roscol, county trustee, has been persistently persecuted by a gang of desperadoes because he was prominent in defending the Union, and has been shot at several times while sitting in his house. About a dozen bullet holes

may in his door. At Troy the freedmen are getting on prosperously and have no complaints to make. The feeling of hostility toward northern men at this place, the captain reports, is more bitter even than at Union City. Loyal citizens are way. laid and shot and the ruffians escape punishment.

A man named Hancock was called out of church, where he had just experienced religion, by a Dr. Marshall, who told him two persons outside wished to see him. When he had gone a short distance two men named Carruthers attacked and severely beat him with clubs because Hancock wore a federal uniform coat. Several other cases of outrage of an aggravated character and even murder are reported by Captain Kendrick, and those who are thus maltreated dare not utter a word of complaint through fear of the desperadoes. He recommends that a detachment of troops be permanently stationed in this county, and says that matters will grow worse instead of better until it is done.”

I find in the morning papers the following letter, which explains itself:


CHARLESTON, S. C., Jan. 10, 1867. GENERAL,-According to an article in the Charleston “Daily News” of this morning, it appears that the jail at Kingstree, South Carolina, has been destroyed by fire, and twenty-two colored prisoners smothered or burned to death, while the only white prisoner was permitted to escape. The article states that the jailer, who had the keys, refused to open the doors without the authority of the sheriff, and the sheriff refused to act without the orders of the lieutenant commanding the troops at Kingstree. This statement presents a degree of barbarity that would appear incredible except in a community where no value is placed upon the lives of colored citizens. The general commanding directs that you cause an immediate


zation rests upon a basis of new colonizations we would not possess the large measure of liberty we now enjoy; we would be as are the old lands of the world, still weighed down by the burdens of feudality and barbarism. But being peopled by the overflowings of the poor laboring people of Europe, who left the errors and prejudices of the Old World in mid-ocean, we have started upon our career of national greatness on the grand basis of the perfect political equality of all men.

We cannot fail to recognize the all-fashioning hand of God as clearly in this sublime declaration as in the geologic eras, the configuration of the continents, or the creation of man himself. What a world of growth has already budded and flowered and borne fruit from this seed! What an incalculable world of growth is to arise from it in the future!

Now, then, comes the question to each of us, by what rule shall we reconstruct these prostrated and well nigh desolated States? Shall it be by the august rule of the Declaration of Independence; or shall we bend our energies to perpetuate injustice, cruelty, and oppression; and make of this fair gove ernment a monstrosity, with golden words of promise upon banners, a fair seeming upon its surface, but a hideous and inhuman despotism within it; the Christianity and civilization of the nineteenth century crystallized into a nation with Dahon mey and Timbuctoo in its bowels! A living lie, a rotten pretense, a mockery, and a sham, with death in its heart.

There are but two forms of government in the world; injus tice, armed and powerful and taking to itself the shape of king or aristocracy; and, on the other hand, absolute human justice, resting upon the broad and enduring basis of equal rights to all. Give this and give intelligence and education to under stand it and you have a structure which will stand while the world stands. Anything else than this is mere repression, the


piling of rocks into the mouth of the volcano, which sooner or later will fling them to the skies.

What is this equality of rights? Is it the prescribing of a limit to human selfishness. It is the hospital measure which gives so many feet of breathing space to each man in the struggle for life. I must not intrude upon my neighbor's limit nor he upon mine. It is universal selfishness regulated by a sentiment of universal justice; fair play recognized as a common necessity. Break down this barrier and the great waves sweep in and all is anarchy. Hear Motley’s description of society in the ancient time, ere this principle arose" to curb the great and raise the lowly:"

“ The sword is the only symbol of the law, the cross is a weapon of offence, the bishop a consecrated pirate, and every petty baron a burglar; while the people alternately the prey of duke, prelate, and seignior, shorn and butchered like sheep, esteem it happiness to sell themselves into slavery or to huddle beneath the castle walls of some little potentate for the sake of his wolfish protection."1

Sir, all history teaches us that man would be safer in the claws of wild beasts than in the uncontrolled custody of his fellow men.

And can any man doubt that he who lives in a community and has no share in the making of the laws which govern him is in the uncontrolled custody of those who make the laws? The courts simply interpret the laws, and what will it avail a man to appeal to the courts if the laws under every interpretation are against him?

Set a man down in the midst of a community, place the mark of Cain upon his brow, declare him an outlaw, take from him every protection, and you at once invite everything base, sordid, and abominable in human nature to rise up and assail

2 Rise of the Dutch Republic, p. 14.

him. Is there any man within the sound of my voice who thinks so highly of our common humanity that he would dare trust himself in such a position for a day or for an hour?

But if to this you superadd the fact that the poor wretch so stripped of all protection was but the other day a bondman, and was forcibly wrested from the hands of his master, and that to the common sordidness of our nature must be added the inflamed feelings growing out of a long civil war and the wrath and bitterness begotten of disappointed cupidity, you have a condition of things at which the very soul shudders.

But this is not all; you must go a step farther and remember that the poor wretch who thus stands helpless, chained, and naked in the midst of his mortal foes was our true, loyal, and faithful friend in the day of our darkness and calamity; and that those who now flock around him like vultures gathering to the carnage were but the other day our deadly enemies and sought our destruction and degradation by bloody and terrible means.

Sir, I say to you that if, in the face of every prompting of self-interest and self-protection, and humanity and gratitude, and Christianity and statesmanship, we abandon these poor wretches to their fate the wrath of an offended God cannot fail to fall upon the nation.

There never was in the history of the world an instance wherein right and wrong met so squarely face to face and looked each other so squarely in the eyes as in this matter. Never did truth array herself in such shining and glorious habiliments; never did the dark face of error look so hideous and forbidding as in this hour. And yet in the minds of some we find hesitation and doubt.

I cannot but recur to a famous parallel in history.
On the 22d of January, 1689, the English Parliament as-

« PreviousContinue »