As the time for the general election draws near, the conspiracy of the Radical gang to destroy the peace of this State becomes apparent. Every step in the campaign has exposed the desire of the conspirators to goad on to madness and desperation the determined masses of the Democrats, and in almost every instance their machinations have been frustrated by the prudence, discretion and manly forbearance of the white citizens of this State. But the desperate straits of the Radical party, with certain and inevitable defeat staring them in the face, required bolder and more unscrupulous conduct on their part, and this necessity has culminated in the infamous proclamation of the puritannical and false-hearted Governor of South Carolina, setting forth the pretence that in certain counties the unlawful combinations and illegal obstructions which render it impracticable to enforce the laws by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, and further alleging that there are organizations known as "rifle clubs," which are engaged in committing open acts of lawlessness and violence; now existing in all the counties of this State. These "unlawful combinations and assemblages," together with the "rifle clubs," are commanded to disband and disperse within three days from the date of the proclamation, on pain of incurring the penalties which may be imposed by the active use of all the powers conferred upon the Chief Executive by the statutes "made and provided" to meet such emercencies as the Radical leaders find are now confronting them.
The disturbances in Aiken and Barnwell Counties have long since ceased to exist. The facts have been given to the world, and prove conclusively that the recent troubles in that section originated from members of the Radical party, who were defying the law and resisting its officers, besides endangering the peace, order and security of the entire community. When the riots occurred, did Gov. Chamberlain attempt to exercise the extraordinary powers he now boasts of possessing in quelling the disturbances? Not for a single moment! He hied away to Massachusetts, via Washington City, when the outbreak was made known, and it was not until the rioters and disturbers of the public peace were scattered by the United States troops, with the assistance of the maligned "rifle clubs" acting as a posse comitatus under the officers of the civil law, that Governor Chamberlain ventured back again into the confines of the State he disgraces and traduces at every step of his mad career. It is well to remember that Aiken and Barnwell Counties are within the judicial circuit presided over by a Republican Judge, whose official act are in striking harmony with the conspiracy now developed to accuse his political opponents of resisting the laws he is sworn to execute. Judge Wiggin "a mere leaf on the current," as Gov. Chamberlain described him last winter, denied an investigation into the Hamburg riot only last month, under the procurement of the Attorney-General of the State, who is Chamberlain's appointee and intimate friend. The citizens of Aiken County charged with participation in the Hamburg affair were ready and anxious for trial, but it was refused! Not one of the accused resisted arrest in the first instance. In the case of the Ellenton riot, Judge Wiggin adjourned the Barnwell Court in a most summary and unjustifiable manner, while the disturbance was in progress, and authorized the "rifle clubs" under the command of Gen. Hagood to go with the Sheriff as a posse comitatus to assist in quelling the riots. Not a single attempt has been made to arrest a Democrat for any participation in the Ellenton affair, and the facts stamp the Governor with unblushing falsehood and mendacity in alleging that there is resistance to the methods and machinery of the law. The only obstruction to the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been created and maintained by Judge Wiggin, under the advice and counsel of Republican officials, including Chamberlain himself, as we verily believe.
The allegation that there are certain organizations in all the counties of this State, commonly known as "rifle clubs," none will deny or attempt to conceal. Their formation has not been secured in secret, nor are the members unknown to all citizens who cared to enquire as to their "local habitation and names." We will take Anderson County for an example as to the process of organization. In every instance, probably, when these companies were formed, the name, place and date of their formation, together with the list of officers elected, were promptly furnished to the editors of the Intelligencer, and our files will show the facts connected with their organization. There has been no disguise or concealment in the matter, and the Governor has enjoyed the opportunity of knowing all these facts for the last several months, as this paper is mailed gratuitously every week to his address. Mr. Chamberlain has been certainly derelict in the discharge of his duties in not sooner issuing a proclamation to these organizations, instead of waiting until "all the counties of the State" were involved, for he must have known that "such combinations of men are illegal and strictly forbidden by the laws," to quote the language of his proclamation, when the organization began many months ago. He cannot plead ignorance of the laws, nor can he set up the pretext that he was disposed to regard the organization as harmless and inoffensive, for the reason that the conduct of the "rifle clubs" in no wise differs at this time from that which was observed at the outset. So far as we have been able to discover, the general demeanor of these organizations has not changed, and their chief employment has been to attend political meetings in a body, unarmed as a general rule, and the experience of every one engaged in the campaign will justify the assertion that the organization itself has been the means of checking disorder and turbulence, as the men were under control and guidance. The immense gatherings in every quarter of the up-country have been marked by a sobriety, decorum and good order unsurpassed in all previous experience, and it is the vilest slander when Gov. Chamberlain asserts, upon his "official responsibility," that these men were "engaged in promoting illegal objects, and in committing open acts of lawlessness. and violence." The right of the people to assemble--a right guaranteed by the organic law of the land--has never been called into question heretofore, and the manner of their appearance in public assemblages is not prescribed even by the "Revised Statutes," on which Gov. Chamberlain seems to rely with such confidence. As free American citizens, we have the right to attend political meetings in a body; we claim the right to go on horseback, if we choose; and every citizen of South Carolina can wear a red jacket, if his taste and inclination so dictates. All the proclamations and fulminations to the contrary are mere brutem fulmen! Such interdictions cannot be enforced in a free country, among a liberty-loving people!
There is another point in regard to the formation of the so-called "rifle clubs," which must not be overlooked. In many instances, the name itself is a misnomer when applied to the organizations in Anderson County, for they are organised as Hampton Guards, Hampton Reform Clubs, Tilden Mounted Clubs, and other appropriate designations to indicate that their objects are to secure good government and elect faithful, honest and incorruptible men to office. Even the astute Governor will not deny the privilege and right of citizens to band together for such purposes! Besides, these organizations are not armed with weapons of war, not drilled in tactics, not formed into battalions, regiments and brigades, nor have they exercised any of the ordinary means of making themselves known as a purely military organization. As a matter of fact, these companies, combinations or bands of citizens do not come within the scope of the Governor's proclamation, and hence they are entitled to disregard its threatenings and stand firm against such unjustifiable menacings.
We do not hesitate to express the opinion that there is no contravention of law, either in these organizations or in their conduct, so far as we have been able to ascertain the facts connected with their history. The members embrace the best citizens of Anderson County, whose purposes are lawful and laudable, and these objects must be steadily pursued unto the end, for the reason that the demand for good government in South Carolina is paramount and supreme! There must be no relaxation of effort to secure the election of the Democratic candidates, and whatever is right and proper must be done to secure that result. We want a peaceful, quiet and orderly election, and we advise the utmost prudence, discretion and firmness on the part of our fellow-citizens who agree with us in political opinion. But they must not become alarmed or intimidated by the extraordinary and unauthorized conduct of the Governor, whose desperation and rashness would precipitate collisions between the races, and bring chaos and confusion into every community. Only men like Chamberlain will profit by disorder and disquietude throughout the State, and, the citizens he is now maligning in every possible manner are in duty bound to prevent such a result by maintaining firmly and uncompromisingly their position, respecting the rights of all classes, molesting no one in person or property, yet demanding that the peaceful and determined measures of this campaign shall not be thwarted by the malicious threatings and villainous declaration of an unscrupulous partisan like Governor Chamberlain. In a word, steady purpose, fixed determination and unalterable resolve will tide over present difficulties, and bring sure and certain relief through the peaceful agency of the ballot.
- The Anderson Intelligencer, Anderson, S.C. Thursday, October 12, 1876. Vol. XII--NO. 13. Pg. 2