Anonymous.

The Nation's Peril. online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryAnonymousThe Nation's Peril. → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Bryan Ness and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive.)









THE NATION'S PERIL.

TWELVE YEARS' EXPERIENCE IN THE SOUTH.

THEN AND NOW.

THE KU KLUX KLAN

A COMPLETE EXPOSITION OF THE ORDER:

ITS PURPOSE, PLANS, OPERATIONS, SOCIAL AND
POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE

THE NATION'S SALVATION.


WHEREFORE SAY UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL,
I AM THE LORD, AND I WILL BRING YOU OUT FROM
UNDER THE BURDENS OF THE EGYPTIANS, AND I WILL
RID YOU OUT OF THEIR BONDAGE, AND I WILL REDEEM
YOU WITH A STRETCHED-OUT ARM, AND WITH GREAT
JUDGMENTS. - _Exodus_, VI, 6.


NEW YORK:
PUBLISHED BY THE FRIENDS OF THE COMPILER.
1872.




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year
one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two, by
E. A. IRELAND,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.




INTRODUCTORY.


The facts contained in the succeeding pages, have been compiled from
authenticated sources, and with especial reference to their truthfulness.

That portion derived from the diary of a gentleman, twelve years a
resident of the South, was not originally intended for public circulation;
but this, with a variety of other matter obtained from official records,
formed the basis of a lecture delivered at Tremont Temple, in the city of
Boston, on the evening of March 27th, 1872, and excited a great degree of
interest among the people to learn more of the subject-matter treated
upon.

Communications relating thereto came in from all parts of the country, and
it was decided by the friends of the compiler to present all the facts in
convenient form for general circulation, as the best means of complying
with this demand.

They are here given with such additions to the original matter, as will
enable the general reader more fully to comprehend the origin, rise and
progress of the various orders of the Ku Klux Klans, their social and
political significance, and their general bearing upon the welfare of the
nation at large.

The thrilling stories of outrage and crime herein narrated, are
authenticated beyond the power of refutation.

"Against all such crimes, as well as against incompetency and corruption
in office, the power of an intelligent public sentiment and of the courts
of justice should be invoked and united; and appealing for patience and
forbearance in the North, while time and these powers are doing their
work, let us also appeal to the good sense of Southern men, if they
sincerely desire to accomplish political reforms through a change in the
negro vote. If their theory is true that he votes solidly now with the
republican party, and is kept there by his ignorance and by deception, all
that is necessary to keep him there is to keep up by their countenance,
the Ku Klux Organization. Having the rights of a citizen and a voter,
neither of those rights can be abrogated by whipping him. If his political
opinions are erroneous, he will not take kindly to the opposite creed when
its apostles come to inflict the scourge upon himself, and outrage upon
his wife and children. If he is ignorant, he will not be educated by
burning his school houses and exiling his teachers. If he is wicked, he
will not be made better by banishing to Liberia his religious teachers. If
the resuscitation of the State is desired by his labor, neither will be
secured by a persecution which depopulates townships, and prevents the
introduction of new labor and of capital."

That these pages may be received in the same spirit of charity and kindly
feeling in which they have been penned, is the sincere and earnest wish of

THE COMPILER.




THE NATION'S PERIL.


The transition of the social status of the colored classes in the South,
from a condition of abject servitude to one of the most enlarged freedom,
crowned with that dearest of all rights to the heart of the freeman, the
elective franchise, although gradual, and attended with difficulties that
have seemed at times almost insurmountable, goes steadily forward, under
the hand of a beneficent and all seeing God, who watcheth alike over the
just and the unjust, enjoining upon them, in return for his goodness, a
strict observance of his commands towards one another.

Human progress in this country, during the past ten years, has taken giant
strides, although met by obstacles of a character so formidable as to
impose a most extraordinary task upon those engaged in the great work of
social reform and the establishment of the rights of all to civil,
religious and political liberty, as guaranteed by the Constitution. The
spirit of the age is reformatory. Religion, politics, art and the sciences
have ever been the subjects of reformation and progression, and by these
have been lifted from comparative darkness in the past to the broad fields
of light in the more intelligent present. In the grand plan of an all-wise
Creator, nothing has been allowed to permanently obstruct the onward march
of the races and nations of the earth; and for the accomplishment of this
glorious purpose, no sacrifice, it appears, has been deemed too great that
would aid in its fulfillment. The travail and labor of nations, the
desolation and destruction of whole communities, and in some instances the
entire annihilation of races of men, have been the penalties demanded and
paid for their long persistence in the ways of sin and wickedness.

The American Republic has been no exception to the imperative rule. It
bore within its folds the crime and curse of slavery, a foul and corroding
ulcer that could only be burned out and destroyed by the terrible
visitations of fire and the sword, and in the eradication of which all the
wisdom of the nation's greatest counselors, all the terrible enginery of
modern warfare, and the skill and persistence of the chosen leaders of the
people were to be brought into requisition. A fierce and sanguinary
contest of four years' duration ended, under the hand of God, in the grand
triumph of the right; but the war of the rebellion left the South in a
state of social disintegration, in which the leading spirits who had
fomented the internecine contest assumed to control the masses, and
perpetuate under another form, and accomplish by other means, that which
had been lost to them in the surrender and disorganization of their
armies.

The condition of the South, during the past twelve years, is vividly
illustrated in a series of letters written by Mr. Justin Knight, a
gentleman of undoubted integrity, a resident of the South during the
period referred to, and which are here given in a narrative form for the
better convenience of the reader. Speaking of himself and the peculiar
circumstances that brought him to the Southern States, Mr. Knight says:

"Born in close proximity to the metropolis of New England, where I
received the advantages of a collegiate education, and the religious
instruction of parents who, without bigotry, were opposed to every
species of wrong, I early conceived a desire to enter upon the ministry,
which I did in 1857, almost immediately after the close of my collegiate
life.

My constitution, at no time robust, was entirely inadequate to the labors
imposed upon me by the duties of this new position. My health continued
gradually to give way until the winter of 1859, when my physician decided
that a change of climate was essentially necessary to my well-being, and
under his advice I proceeded to Charleston, S. C., and took up my
residence with a married sister, then living there in affluent
circumstances.

At this peculiar epoch in the history of the country the political
atmosphere of the South was literally pestilential. Under the manipulation
of skillful, but unscrupulous leaders, whole communities had become imbued
with a spirit hostile to the governing powers. They were led to believe
that the time for argument had past, and that nothing was now left them,
but to make a demand for what they were pleased to consider their inherent
rights; - that of keeping their fellow men in bondage - and if this were
refused, to declare themselves for war. The portentious clouds of the
impending crisis continued gathering thick and fast, and it required no
prophet's eye to discern, or voice to foretell that they must soon burst
upon the country in a deluge that could only be stayed by an enormous
waste of blood and treasure.

A sojourn of nearly eighteen months among the southern people, and the
facilities afforded me from the position occupied by my sister's family,
gave me an unusual opportunity to observe the passing pageant of events.
The masses had been gradually worked over to the interests of the more
intelligent leaders, until reason and argument ceased further to influence
them. They seemed wholly given up to the one idea of slavery, or war, and
they had been led to believe that the first demonstration of organized
resistance to the regularly constituted powers, would bring the North at
their feet in abject supplication for peace. I was anxious to know how the
defiant and belligerent attitude that was being assumed would be received
in the land of my birth, and as my health had sufficiently improved to
warrant my again returning there, I did so at the earliest opportunity,
only to realize that the people of the North were buckling on their armor,
with the deep seated purpose of going forth to battle for the right.

There was a significance in all "this busy note of preparation," that I
could fully understand and appreciate. I had seen enough to convince me
that nothing but the severest chastisement, administered by the hands of
the Lord through the instrumentality of his chosen people, could bring our
misguided brethren of the South to a just and proper sense of their duty
to God and their fellow-men. They had long "eaten of the bread of
wickedness; and drank the wine of violence," and they had utterly
forgotten that "righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to
any people."

An opportunity was speedily afforded me to accompany a regiment to the
field as chaplain, and I soon found myself marching southward with a body
of noble men who had been foremost in responding to the call of President
Lincoln, to defend the Union and preserve the integrity of the nation. The
incidents of the four years of bloody strife that ensued, need not be
alluded to here. They were passed by me, in the midst of danger, offering
consolation to the dying, caring tenderly for the dead, when circumstances
permitted, and coming out of all, through the hand of God, unscathed.

The results aimed at upon the part of the ruling powers, seemed to have
been accomplished. The Proclamation of Emancipation had gone forth from
the executive head of the nation, and solid rows of glittering steel had
followed it up, and compelled its enforcement. The foulest blot upon the
pages of our history as a Republic had been erased, and its down-trodden
children liberated from a thraldom more humiliating in design, and wicked
in purpose, than that which yoked the children of Israel under the hands
of the Egyptian task masters. In them the promise of the Great Jehovah had
been verified: "Wherefore: - say unto the Children of Israel, I am the
Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians."
The right had been vindicated; the shock of contending armies was over,
and the nation waited patiently to see in what condition the contest had
left the conquered.

It is my purpose, in these pages, to give the exact facts, "nothing
extenuate, nor set down aught in malice." I shall endeavor neither to
exaggerate the history, or conceal the truth. I am aware that the
revelations which follow are so terrible in their nature as to almost pass
the bounds of belief; that the agonizing scenes herein depicted, and which
have been the results of the same demoniac spirit which actuated and
prolonged the war, had they been told as occurring among the semi-barbaric
nations in the uttermost parts of the earth, might be the more readily
received by my countrymen as truthful relations; but which, transpiring at
our own doors, within the sound and under the shadow of the Gospel, appear
like the mythical creations of a distorted imagination rather than actual
revelations from real life.

In the interest of all progress, and for the sake of God and humanity, I
would it were so; but the contrary is the fact. Hundreds of living
witnesses stand ready to verify the statements under oath. Scores of the
unoffending skeletons of gibbeted negroes and whites attest the solemn
truth. The exact localities, the names and residences of the victims, the
hour and day, the month and year of their murderous whipping and
ignominious death, are given with a fidelity that challenges
contradiction, and forms an array of evidence at once incontrovertable and
overwhelming.

The ever changing current of events again called me to the South. My
sister's family had been almost destroyed by the death of her husband, who
had cast his fortunes with the cause of the rebellion and had paid the
penalty with his life, and it was necessary I should aid her in adjusting
the affairs of the estate which had been left in a very unsettled
condition, and required much time to properly arrange. I was glad of the
opportunity thus afforded me to observe the effects of the struggle that
had just closed; and prepared my mind to take a calm and dispassionate
view of the situation, as became a seeker for the truth who was desirous
of arriving at the hidden springs underlying the social crust, with a view
to the remedy of the impending evil, if such could be found. I believed in
the integrity of the great mass of the people, and could see that they had
been deceived and led on to destruction by the ingenious plans of men,
skilled in human diplomacy, and having a profound knowledge of the
character of the people whom they designed to move for their own wicked
purposes.

The spirits of these leaders chafed under the bitter disappointment of
defeat. It was apparent they would continue to foster seditions, organize
conspiracies against the powers that be, and use every effort to fan into
life the dying embers of the "lost cause." These men controlled certain
portions of the local press, and either threw obstacles in the way of the
dissemination of proper and just principles, or used the power in their
hands to sow the seeds of dissention broadcast throughout the States so
lately in insurrection.

All the misery that had accrued from the war, the families that had been
sundered; the blood of loved ones that had watered the various
battle-fields of the South, and the bones of beloved kindred that lay
whitening there; the numerous sacrifices of wealth, family, and social
position that had been made, the property lost and destroyed; the general
stagnation and prostration of business, and the feeling of dread and
insecurity that followed, were all attributed to the rule of the
republican North.

There were mutterings of revenge and breathings of threats and slaughter
against the race that had just been raised up out of bondage. Slavery, the
former bane and curse of this country, was already dead. Its putrid
carcass was no longer of the material things of earth, but its ghostly
spirit still stalked abroad among its mourners to keep alive the memory of
its wicked example in the minds of those who, born and reared in the folds
of its garments, and nurtured at its breast, could not cast aside their
early prejudices and banish from their hearts, its former evil influences.
They no longer remembered that "the way of the Lord is strength to the
upright," and that "destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity."
Thousands of misguided and misdirected men cherished in their bosoms a
spirit of animosity toward those who had aided with their blood and money
in the liberation of the slave; and it was this very spirit of hatred
which had in a manner demoralized the South and created a feeling of
uncertainty and insecurity among men of capital, that proved a serious
barrier to their investing in our railroads and factories, and the
improvement of our lands; and, as a natural sequence, retarded our social
and financial progress.

Society at this time was divided into several classes. Many who were
disposed to accept and abide by the new order of things, dared not express
their real sentiments from fear of social and political ostracism. Men of
intelligence and education, but who had allowed the thirst for power and
political preferment to absorb and swallow up the promptings of their
better nature, had begun the process of gaining over to their interests
the very worst elements in the social circle beneath them, with a view to
carrying out their unholy designs. This class in turn, and under the
management of the more intelligent, intimidated still another class and
compelled them to join in a crusade that had for its objects the most
infamous ends ever attempted to be gained by men. A complete connection
had thus been formed, reaching from the unscrupulous leaders, to the
masses, and embracing in its chain every class of society needed for the
success of the general plan.

The standard bearers of the devil himself, coming direct from the lowest
depths of the infernal regions, with seething vials of wrath and an
earnest intention to do the bidding of their master, could scarcely have
set on foot a conspiracy more damnable than this. Men, women and children
were to be included in the portending storm, religion and human decency
were to be outraged, the law of the land and its administrators defied,
and justice scoffed at in the pillory. The ordinary safe-guards to the
social well being of the community were to be swept away whenever they
became inimical to the designs and objects of the unholy alliance thus
formed. Men were to be banded together and bound by oaths that ignored all
others and made these supreme. Where the life or liberty of one of the
brotherhood was in jeopardy, he was to be saved at all hazards. Perjury
and subornation of perjury were to over-ride courts of justice and render
abortive, any attempt to bring these lawless bands to punishment through
their instrumentality. Nothing was to be too sacred for the vandal hands
of these marauders who, under the guidance of the more intelligent
leaders, were to go abroad like a consuming flame, until the land, that
God had made pre-eminently beautiful for the abode of peace and
contentment, had been smitten with a scourge of fire and blood, and their
own wicked purposes had been accomplished. It seemed as if the voice of
the Lord had again spoken through the prophet Ezekiel, "say to the forest
of the South, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I
will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee,
and every dry tree; the flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from
the South to the North shall be burned therein."

It was to be a dual struggle. The colored races were to be subjugated or
destroyed; and the humane efforts of the Government and the Administration
to restore peace and harmony, and commercial prosperity, and to give to
the citizens, of every creed and color, free and equal rights was
everywhere to be opposed, that the experiment of reconstruction might
become a hissing and a by-word, and go forth to the world an ignominious
failure.

The masses were kept in utter ignorance of these designs. They were in a
state bordering upon absolute frenzy at the losses they had incurred from
the fratricidal war that had left them bankrupt as individuals and
communities, and with the peculiar anxiety that seems to pervade the
hearts of all men, to endeavor to find some reasonable excuse for sins
committed, they accepted the theories that had been so ingeniously
prepared, and so carefully put before them, and became, like the clay in
the hands of the potter, ready to be fashioned in any manner of form that
might be decided upon by their wicked counselors.

There was an oppressive and an ominous calm in the atmosphere of the South
at this time (1866) that foreboded no good. Men viewed each other with
distrust. Those who seemed well-disposed at first, and who had been
casting about themselves and gathering up the fragments, with a view to
renewing their peaceful pursuits, suddenly abandoned their labors. Rumors
of outrages upon persons and property, vague at first and without apparent
authenticity, began to fill the air. Bands of armed and disguised men were
said to be travelling the highways, burning the dwellings, and robbing and
murdering inoffensive citizens under the most revolting circumstances. The
scriptural command to "devise not evil against thy neighbor, seeing he
dwelleth securely by thee," had seemingly become obsolete among the
people. It was evident that the mysterious order, the existence of which
had so long been hinted at, had begun its fearful work, and under the then
complexion of affairs in the nation at large, none could divine the end.

The death of President Lincoln had left the Executive, in this the hour of
the nation's great peril, in the hands of one from whom the disorganizing
elements of the South had much to hope. The hand of justice was for the
time being paralyzed, and the occasion seemed most opportune for the
conspirators to perfect their terrible organization, and set in motion the
secret machinery by which it was hoped to accomplish their base purposes.

It was evident from such facts as could be gathered relative to these
outrages, that there was a distinction as to the classes of people who
were the sufferers. The negroes were, of course, the objects upon which
the wrath of the new order was vented; but there were numerous instances,
as will be observed in the succeeding pages, where whites were scourged
and murdered as well. The fact that certain citizens, who had committed no
offense against the laws, were selected from the various communities, and
subjected to the grossest indignities, led to inquiry as to the causes
that had brought these inflictions upon them.

It was ascertained that, in the preponderance of cases, warnings had been
sent to the victims demanding that they must retract their political
faith, cease to side with radicals, and abandon their interest in the
negro, or they must leave the country; failing in this, they were to be
scourged to death.

Negroes who approached the ballot-box to exercise the newly conferred
right of suffrage were watched as to how they voted, and warned that they
must not vote the "radical ticket." If they paid no heed to this warning,
and were detected in the independent exercise of the right of suffrage,
they received a visitation; their houses were pillaged, the persons of
their women violated, their children scattered, and themselves hung, shot
or whipped to death. The reader, in perusing the chapter of authenticated
outrages that follows will agree with the writer that there is no
exaggeration of language here, nor need of any. Nothing is stated that has
not been put to the severest test of truth; and nowhere are these
incidents recorded, in which the living witnesses have not been found, and
the facts obtained from them.

I was long in believing that such deeds, worthy alone of the incarnate
fiend himself, could be perpetrated in a civilized community. I made all
possible allowance for the political and social situation. I determined to
know whereof I affirmed, and resolved that when I obtained this knowledge,
I would give the information to the country. I was as free from political
bias as it was possible for a man to be who felt it to be a part of the
duty he owed to society to exercise the elective franchise. I had never
mingled in politics, but had uniformly cast my vote with either political
party which I deemed had the best interests of the nation, and the welfare
and advancement of the people, at heart, and could not bring my mind to
believe, at first, that there was a deep political significance
underlying this movement, and that it had its ramifications from State to
State, all leading to one great center, with one common head who, in the
interest of any political party, governed and directed the dreadful
machine, and that it meant nothing less than the subversion of the popular
government.

The facts and figures gradually undeceived me. I could see that there was
a mysterious something at work that had closed men's mouths most
effectually, and that disaffection, consternation and terror gained ground


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryAnonymousThe Nation's Peril. → online text (page 1 of 11)