William Lloyd Garrison.

The new reign of terror in the slaveholding states, for 1859-60 online

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" There exists," says the New York Tribune, " at this moment, through-
out the Southern States, an actual Reign of Terror. No Northern man,
whatever may be his character, his opinions, or his life, but simpl} 7 because
lie is a Northern man, can visit that region without the certainty of being
subjected to a mean espionage over all his actions, and a rigid watchfulness
over all his exuressions of opinions ; with the risk of personal indignity,
and danger even to life and limb. This mortifying necessity of submission
to a contemptible despotism, or suffering the penalty of any assertion of an
independent and manly spirit, is confined to no condition of life, but is en-
forced upon every visitor, whether he be a poor mechanic like Powers, who
hammers stone for a living, a merchant's clerk like Crangale, who is paid
with imprisonment for asking the settlement of a just debt, a peddler who
sells books as harmless as a dictionary, or a Member of Congress, who, for
words spoken in debate, may be, by the bludgeon of a bally, incapacitated
for the rest of his life for following any honorable or useful career. Nor
is it necessary even to cross Mason and Dixon's line to eome under this de-
grading compulsion. Northern merchants who sell goods for Southern con-
'umption are called upon to square their opinions according to the planta-
Mon standard, and any recusancy on their part is visited with the discipline
'>f the loss of trade. Editors of petty Southern newspapers hardly capable
if forming an intelligent notion upon any subject, and quite incapable of
writing two consecutive sentences of even tolerable English, form their
SSlack Lists and White Lists, and compel the obedience and subsidy of large
commercial houses of a great, and wealthy, and powerful city, a thousand
miles distant. And, worst of all, this state of things seems accepted rather
as in the natural order of events, than as a monstrous growth of an insolent
tyranny on the one hand, and the subserviency of an infinitely mean, and
sordid, and peddling poltroonery on the other.

And here is its latest development. A morning paper of yesterday pub-
lishes ' a card,' signed ' James P. Hambleton, editor of the Southern Con-
i fcderacy.' The- Black List of the Confederacy had included the name of
Davis, Noble & Co., No. 87 Chambers street, and the purpose cf the card
is to exonerate this firm from the charge implied in that publication, the

editor being now satisfied, on < the best evidence, that the aforesaid firm
are true, constitutional men, having never been tainted with any of the
Anti-Slavery isms of the day, either directly or indirectly, and that we
hereby recommend them to their former patrons at the South, as a concern
in every respect deserving their continued patronage and support.' We
neither know nor care what the evidence may be which has produced this
change whether it be a suit of clothes, a pair of shoes, a hat, a bill of
dry goods, a bill of wet goods, or fifty dollars in current bills the fact
itself is enough. The disgraceful fact is enough that this Hambleton is at
this moment in New York ; that he is, while we write, making a round of
calls upon tradesmen, receiving sometimes money, sometimes goods, and al-
ways the evidence of the most despicable subserviency, on condition that
he will certify to that fact; and that nowhere, among all these tradesmen

men who on Sunday go to church, who are not hissed when they appear
in public, who look their wives in the face, who meet their children un-
abashed, who go into the streets by daylight men, moreover, whose legs
have the ordinary muscular development, whose boots hare the ordinary
thickness, to all whose stores there is a front door have not one of them,
as yet, indignantly ejected Mr. James P. Hambleton from their premises !
We honestly and sincerely think that this is a fact not to be laughed at,
but one which demands our most serious consideration."

Let us suppose the tables to be turned ; suppose there existed here a little
of the spirit of '7C, such as our fathers manifested in their treatment of
the tories at that time, and we should catch, and tar and feather, every
slaveholder coming into the North, by way of retaliation, and to show
our jealous appreciation of the sacred cause of freedom how long would
" our glorious Union " hold together ? How many victims would be sub-
jected to Northern Lynch law, before the South would bring this matter to
a head ? And yet, there are scores of Northern men so treated at the
South, not one of them an Abolitionist, or in sympathy with their move-
ment, and the intelligence excites no popular indignation among us, and
scarcely elicits a comment from the press. In one half of the country,
there is, practically, no Constitution or Union now; there, all constitution-
al rights are ruthlessly violated in the persons of those who believe in the
Declaration of Independence and the Golden Rule ; there, a bloody usurpa-
tion holds undisputed sway. And for such atrocities there is no remedy ;
at least, none is looked for, none even attempted. The submission to them,
on the part of the North, is as absolute as that exacted of the scourged and
cowering slaves on the plantation !

People of the North ! read and ponder the following record of the high-
handed measures and lav/less deeds referred to, and decide the question,




RICHMOND, Va., Nov. 28th, 1859.

A Postmaster in the county of Doddridge, in this State,
wrote recently to Gov. Wise, asking information as to what
disposition he should make of such incendiary newspapers aa
the New York Tribune, and others of that stamp from Ohio,
received in that county. The Governor referred the matter
to John Randolph Tucker, Esq., the Attorney-General for
this State, and probably the ablest constitutional lawyer in
the Commonwealth, for his opinion. Mr. Tucker examined
the subject very carefully, and, as will be seen by his opinion,
which I herewith transmit, disposed satisfactorily of the ap-
parent conflict of jurisdiction between the State and Federal
authorities involved in this question :

RICHMOND, Nov. 26th, 1 859.

SIB, The question is submitted to me for an opinion as
to the effect of the law of Virginia upon the distribution of
mail matter when it is of an incendiary character. A news-
paper, printed in the State of Ohio, propagating abolition
doctrines, is sent to a person through a post office in Virginia.
What is the duty of the Postmaster in the premises ?

The law of Virginia (Code of Va., chap. 198, sec. 24)
provides that " If a Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster know
that any such book or writing (referring to such as advise or
incite negroes to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcate re-
sistance to the right of property of masters in their slaves)


has been received at his office in the mail, he shall give notice
thereof to some Justice, who shall inquire into the circum-
stances, and have such book or writing burned in his presence ;
if it appear to him that the person to whom it was directed
subscribed therefor, knowing its character, or agreed to re-
ceive it for circulation to aid the purposes of abolitionists,
the Justice shall commit such person to jail. If any Post-
master or Deputy Postmaster violate this section, he shall be
fined not exceeding two hundred dollars."

This law is obligatory upon every Postmaster and Deputy
Postmaster in the Commonwealth ; and it is his duty, upon
being aware that such book or writing is received at his office,
to notify a Justice of the fact, that he may take the proceed-
ings prescribed in the section quoted.

This State law is entirely constitutional, and does not,
properly considered, conflict with the Federal authority in the
establishment of post offices and post roads. This Federal
power to transmit and carry mail matter does not carry with
it the power to publish or to circulate. This last is a great
State power, reserved and absolutely necessary to be main-
tained as a security to its citizens and to their rights. If the
States had surrendered this power, it would, in these impor-
tant particulars, have been at the mercy of the Federal

With the transmission of the mail matter to the point of
its reception, the Federal power ceases. At that point, the
power of the State becomes exclusive. Whether her citizens
shall receive the mail matter, is a question exclusively for her
determination. Whatever her regulation upon the subject, is
for her decision alone, and no one can gainsay it. Her sove-
reign right to make it closes the door to cavil and objection.

It is true the Postmaster is an officer of the Federal Gov-
ernment, but it is equally true he is a citizen of the State.
By taking the Federal office, he cannot avoid his duty as a
citizen ; and the obligation to perform the duty of his office
cannot absolve him from obedience to the laws of his Com-
monwealth, nor will they be found to conflict. The State, in
the case supposed, holds the hand of her citizen from receiv-
ing what is sent to him, and takes it herself. No citizen has
the right to receive an invitation to treason against the com-
mands of his State, and her law forbidding it and command-


ing it to be burned, refers to the right of the citizen to re-
ceive, not to the right of the Federal power to transmit and
carry mail matter intended for him, which he does not receive,
only because the law of the State forbids it.

I have no hesitation in saying that any law of Congress,
impairing directly or indirectly this reserved right of the
State, is unconstitutional, and that the penalty of the State
law would be imposed upon a Postmaster offending against it,
though he should plead his duty to obey such unconstitutional
act of Congress.

If there be a conflict, therefore, between the postal regula-
tions of Congress and this law of Virginia, it is because the
former have transcended their true constitutional limits, and
have trenched upon the reserved rights of the State. In such
a case the citizen, though a Postmaster, must take care to
obey the legitimate authority, and will not be exempt from
the penalty of the State law by reason of any obligation to
perform the duties of a Federal office, which are made to in-
vade the reserved jurisdiction of the State in matters involv-
ing her safety and her peace.

It is eminently important that the provisions of the law in
question should be rigidly adhered to by all the Postmasters
in the State, and that the Justices to whose notice the matter
may be brought should firmly execute the law, whenever a
proper case presents itself for their decision.

"With high respect, your obedient servant,


For the Governor.



SIR, I am in receipt of your letter of the 2d inst., in

which, after referring to the opinion of the Attorney-General

of Virginia sustaining the constitutionality of the statute of

that State, denouncing, under heavy penalties, the circulation


of books, newspapers, pamphlets, &c., tending to incite the
slave population to insurrection, you ask to be instructed as
to your duty in reference to such documents, should they be
received through the mails for distribution at the post office
of which you have charge.

The statute alluded to is in the following words :

SBC. 23. If a free person write, print, or cause to be written or printed,
any book or other writing, with intent to advise or incite negroes in this
State to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcating resistance to the right
of property of masters in their slaves, or if he shall, with intent to aid the
purposes of any such book or writing, knowingly circulate the same, he
shall be confined in the Penitentiary, not leas than one nor more than five

SKC. 24. If any Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster know that any such
book or other writing has been received at his office in the mail, he shall
give notice thereof to some Justice, who shall inquire into the circum-
stances, and have such book or writing burned in his presence ; if it appear
to him that the person to whom it was directed subscribed therefor, know-
ing its character, or agreed to receive it for circulation to aid the purposes
of Abolitionists, the Justice shall commit such person to jail. If any Post-
master or Deputy Postmaster violate this section, he shall be fined, not ex-
ceeding two hundred dollars.

The point raised by your inquiry is, whether this statute is
in conflict with the act of Congress regulating the administra-
tion of this Department, which declares that "if any Post-
master shall unlawfully detain in his office any letter, pack-
age, pamphlet or newspaper, with the intent to prevent the
arrival .id delivery of the same to the person or persons to
wl.^m such letter, package, pamphlet or newspaper may be
addressed or directed, in the usual course of the transporta-
tion of the mail along the route, he shall, on conviction there-
of, be fined in a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars, and
imprisoned for a term not exceeding six mouths, and shall
moreover be forever thereafter incapable of holding the office
of Postmaster in the United States."

The question thus presented w f as fully decided by Attorney-
General Gushing in the case of the Yazoo City post office.
(Opinions of Attorney-Generals, vol. 8, 489.) He there held
tlia' a statute of Mississippi, in all respects analogous to that
of Virginia as cited, was not inconsistent with the act of Con-
gress quoted, prescribing the duties of Postmasters in regard
to the delivery of mail matter, and that the latter, as good
citizens, were bound to yield obedience to such State laws.


You are referred to the luminous discussion of the case for
the arguments urged by that distinguished civilian in support
of the conclusion at which he arrived. The judgment thus
pronounced has been cheerfully acquiesced in by this Depart-
ment, and is now recognized as one of the guides of its ad-
ministration. The authority of Virginia to enact such a law
rests upon that right of self-preservation which belongs to
every government and people, and which has never been sur-
rendered, nor indeed can it be. One of the most solemn con-
stitutional obligations imposed on the Federal Government is
that of protecting the States against " insurrection " and
" domestic violence " of course, none of its instrumentali-
ties can be lawfully employed in inciting, even in the remotest
degree, to this very crime, which involves in its train all
others, and with the suppression of which it is specially
charged. You must, under the responsibilities resting upon
you as an officer and as a citizen, determine whether the books,
pamphlets, newspapers, &c., received by you for distribution,
are of the incendiary character described in the statute ; and
if you believe they are, then you are not only not obliged to
deliver them to those to whom they are addressed, but you
are empowered and required, by your duty to the State of
which you are a citizen, to dispose of them in strict conform-
ity to the provisions of the law referred to. The people of
Virginia may not only forbid the introduction and dissemina-
tion of such documents within their borders, but, if brought
there in the mails, they may, by appropriate legal proceedi-iajs,
have them destroyed. They have the same right to extinguish
firebrands thus impiously hurled into the midst of their homes
and altars, that a man has to pluck the burning fuse from a
bombshell which is about to explode at his feet.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Mr. CHARLES A. ORTON, Postmaster at Falls Church, Va.


POST OFFICE, LYNCHBURG, Va., Dec. 2d, 1859.
MR. HORACE GREELEY SIR, I hereby inform you that
I shall not, in future, delivei from this office the copies of the
Tribune which come here, because I believe them to be of
that incendiary character which are forbidden circulation alike
by the laws of the land, and a proper regard for the safety of
society. You will, therefore, discontinue them.



LIFE IN VIRGINIA. A private letter from a Postmaster
in Virginia, whose locality we dare not indicate, for fear of
exposing him to mob violence, says :

" We are in the midst of a Reign of Terror here. There
is no certainty that letters duly mailed will not be opened on
their way. All men of Northern birth now here are under
surveillance by the so-called Vigilance Committee ; and any
one suspected of thinking slavery less than divine is placed
under care. Those who have been taking the New York
Tribune are objects of especial ban. A company of ten
came into the office last Monday, and gave notice that I must
not give out any more Tribunes to the subscribers here. The
law of Virginia punishes by fine and imprisonment a Post-
master who gives out what are denounced as incendiary
journals. The law of the United States punishes by fine and
imprisonment, and further incapacitates from ever holding the
office again, any Postmaster who shall withhold or refuse to
deliver any paper sent to a regular subscriber at his office.
So here I am in a pretty fix."

John C. Underwood, Esq., writing to Horace Greeley un-
der date of " Occoquan, Prince William Co., Va., Dec. 21st,
1859," says "There are some ten or twelve copies of the
Tribune taken at this office, and the Postmaster refuses to
deliver them to the subscribers ! The Attorney-General of
this State has pronounced them incendiary ! "


North Carolinian, of Fayetteville, N. C., says : " We notice
these periodicals upon our streets as numerous as ever, after
it is ascertained that G. W. Curtis, one of the editors, is an
infamous Abolitionist, and that one of the Harpers has given
a large sum of money to the Brown sympathizers. Should
these papers be allowed to circulate so profusely in our midst ?
We notice that his Honor, Judge Saunders, put a stop to the
sale of these papers in Raleigh. We would like to know why
they are not stopped here. Are we to see these Abolition
sheets upon our street without a word of rebuke ? "

MORE MOB SPIRIT. On Friday evening, of last week, the
editor of the Peninsular News, a most excellent anti-slavery
paper, published at Milford, Delaware, received an intimation
that a mob of violent men were making arrangements to at-
tack his office, and destroy the press and type. The matter
having leaked out, several substantial citizens of Milford re-
paired to the office, and volunteered to assist in its defence.
The mob collected around the office in considerable numbers,
but concluded that the movement was not popular enough in
that town, and retired. The attempt has created much indig-
nation among the best portion of the citizens of Milford, who
know that the News is telling the truth about slavery, and
that mobs and all the efforts of Slavery-ridden Democrats
will not stop the spread of such truths as it publishes.

Norris F. Stearns, of Greenfield, Mass., a straight-out
Democrat, was recently driven from Georgetown, S. C., where
he went to sell maps, because he was from the North ; and a
subscriber to the Greenfield Gazette, in Georgia, has been
obliged to discontinue his subscription on account of the anti-
Northern feeling there. Nothing sectional in these and simi-
lar incidents, of course ! The South is composed of national



The Cincinnati Commercial of Dec. 31st, says that thirty-
six persons arrived in that city from Kentucky, on the 30th,
having been warned to leave the State for the crime of believ-
ing slavery to be a sin. They are from Berea and vicinity in
Madison county, neighbors, co-workers and friends of Rev.
John G. Fee.

Among the exiles are Rev. J. A. R. Rogers, principal of
a flourishing school at Berea, and his family ; J. D. Reed and
family ; John S. Hanson and family. Mr. Hanson is a native
of Kentucky, and a hard-working, thrifty man. He had re-
cently erected a steam saw-mill, and owns five hundred acres
of land in Madison county, Ky. The Rev. J. F. Boughton ;
E. T. Hayes and S. Life, carpenters ; A. H. Toney, a native
of Tennessee; John Smith, a native of Ohio, a farmer, who
has lived in Kentucky some years. Mr. Smith is described
by Mr. Fee as a gray-haired father, a man of prayer, indeed
of eminent piety and usefulness. More than half of the
exiles are natives of Southern States, and several are native
Kentuckians. The only offence charged against any of them
is that of entertaining abolition sentiments.

The movement for expelling these men arose from the ex-
citement of the John Brown foray. At a pro-slavery meet-
ing held at Richmond, at which, according to the Kentucky
papers, the "oldest, most respectable, and law-abiding citizens
were in attendance," it was resolved on the ground of " self-
preservation," to appoint a 'committee of sixty-five, to remove
from among them J. (T. Fee, J. A. R. Rogers, and so many
of their associates as in their best judgment the peace and
safety of society may require. The committee were instruct-
ed to perform this duty " deliberately and humanely as may
be, but most effectually." At the meeting, a letter of J. A. R.
Rogers was read, inviting any gentleman of the county who,
from rumor or otherwise, has formed an unfavorable opinion
of the community of Berea, to visit it, and learn its true
character. He says :

" We do not profess to be faultless, but hope that the compliments for
industry, probity and good citizenship, that have been paid us by those of


the first rank in the county for wealth and influence, who have made our
acquaintance, may be more and more deserved.

It is universally known that most of us, in common with Washington
and a host of others, whom we all delight to honor, believe that slavery is
a moral and political evil; that it is the duty and privilege of those hold-
ing slaves to free them at the earliest consistent moment, and in such a
way as to promote the general good ; and that complexion is not the true
test for the regard or privileges that should b& extended to a man. Wo
believe, too, that moral and political means only should be used to remove
slavery. Insurrection finds no favor here. Brother Fee never has, and if
his words be known, I doubt not does not now give the least countenance
to the use of force in hastening the end of slavery.

Hoping that our confidence may be fully and intelligently placed in Him
who once was despised, but is now exalted to be a Prince and Saviour, I re-
main yours respectfully."

The committee were ordered to carry out the designs of the
meeting within ten days, and Mr. Rogers thus describes the
warning which he received :

"He was in his cottage, when a summons for him to appear was heard.
On going to the door, he discovered an imposing cavalcade, sixty-five well-
mounted men being drawn up in warlike array. He was informed that he
had ten days in which to leave the State. This was on the 23d of Decem-
ber. He told them that he had not consciously violated any law of the
Commonwealth, and that, if he had unconsciously done so, he would bo
most happy to be tried according to law. He was informed that they did
not know that he had violated any law, but that his principles were in-
compatible with the public peace, and that he must go. The charge against
him was abolitionism the penalty, expulsion from the State.

No harsh or personally disrespectful language was used. He was even
told with much courtesy of word and manner, that he was esteemed as a
gentleman, but his presence was oifensive on account of his principles. They
laid it down as an axiom, that such sentiments as he entertained were not
to be tolerated by a slaveholding people that abolition doctrines and
slaveholding were not to be permitted together that one or the other
must go under, and that they were resolved he and his friends must go.
They warned him peaceably, but any amount of force necessary to carry

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Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonThe new reign of terror in the slaveholding states, for 1859-60 → online text (page 1 of 3)