Friday, November 22, 2013

"If they were armed, as is possible; is that a new thing at political assemblages, or assemblages of any sort..."

The Georgia Rebels.

From the N.Y. Tribune.

   We suppose the case at Camilla to be a perfectly clear one. Shall the late Rebels be the only class in the Southern communities suffered to hold political meetings and bear arms? That is the essential question at issue. The Rebel admissions make it quite as clear as the statements in our despatch from Atlanta on Tuesday the important assertions of which remain unchallenged in any quarter.

   "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." That is the pledge of the Constitution of the United States. "At the request of the citizens, M.O. Poor, the Sheriff, with a committee of six other citizens, went out to met the procession, and to state to them distinctly that, if they would put down their arms, no objection would be made to their entering the town and holding their political meeting." That was the gracious permission of the paroled Rebel soldiers to the loyal citizens of Mitchell county, Ga., according to their own elaborate self-justification. General Howard telegraphs the statements of a Republican in the dispersed procession, who says he was expressly warned against entering the town on the single ground that "the people were determined that radicals should not speak at Camilla," and who elsewhere incidentally explains that "the colored men, being unarmed," could not be rallied.

   But we are willing to consider the case on the showing of the Rebels themselves. Here is the understanding of the matter attained by the Express, after a study of the accounts from its friends:
   "It is quite plain that if the 'radical canal date for Congress' and his negro mob had forborne to invade a town which the sheriff and citizens begged them to leave in peace, no outbreak would have happened."

   "The radical candidate for Congress and his negro mob" were simply a political procession--not even charged to have acted thus far otherwise than peaceably--of citizens of the State, If they were armed, as is possible; is that a new thing at political assemblages, or assemblages of any sort, in Georgia? Is there any law, written or unwritten, by which one citizen shall be permitted bear arms for that he has been a Rebel and is now a paroled soldier, and another citizen shall be punished for bearing arms for that he has been a Union man and is now a Republican? Does it constitute an "invasion" of a town in Georgia for a peaceable procession of Union men to enter it?--an "invasion" so dangerous as to warrant the late Rebels in mustering to repel it, and in pursuing the scattered and fleeing Union men five to seven miles from the place, killing and wouuding indiscriminately all they can reach?

   We now have five versions of the occurrence--that of our special correspondent, published on Tuesday; the Rebel version of the Associated Press, given in the same paper; the formal statement of the sheriff and other citizens of Camilla; the accounts gathered by General Howard and others from eye-witnesses, and telegraphed to Washington; and a report made by Georgians to the local officer of the Freedmen's Bureau. They all agree on the following points:

   1. The Republican procession was peaceably approaching the town, in accordance with a previous announcement, to attend a meeting to be addressed by the candidate for Congress in that district.

   2. While still some distance from the town they Were met, first by couriers, and subsequently by a regular committee of resident Rebels, warning them that they could not enter it in safety.

   3. They refused to be deterred by such threats, insisted on their rights, and, while entering the town with their music, were fired upon by white citizens.

   4. They made little resistance, soon fled, and were pursued six or seven miles. They lost in killed and wounded numbers variously stated from forty, in one Rebel account, all the way up to a hundred in another. The rebels lost none killed, and the largest number claimed to be wounded is six.

   These are the facts admitted on all hands. Can the most prejudiced man put any but one honest construction upon them? It was deliberately determined that a Republican meeting should not be held in Camilla. "Carpet baggers," "scalawag," and "loil niggers" were to be taught that Rebels ruled in that bailiwick, and none but true Democratic sentiments were tolerated.

   The Rebel accounts, in their impotent and impudent attempts to conceal this, fall into sufficiently distressing difficulties. They admit that "a citizen," i.e., a white Rebel, fired the first shot, but plead in extenuation that he was drunk. They insist that they were themselves legally and virtuously unarmed, but admit in the very next line that the moment the negroes returned this shot, 'immediately about twenty of our citizens sprang to their arms and fired into the column, by which two negroes were killed and an unknown number wounded." They profess only the most lamb-like disposition and the most perfect willingness for Republican meetings to be held, but in the next sentence regret that only negroes were killed, and that the white men escaped "with but little injury," i.e., with only a bullet-hole in the leg of the "scalawag" candidate for Congress. They profess fears that the negroes would have become "an infuriated mob," and explain that therefore they got up a mob themselves. They complain that the negroes "vastly outnumbered" them, and were fully armed, while they were "wholly unarmed," and then exhibit, as the result of this dangerous state of affairs, 100 negroes, more or less, killed and wounded, with a beggarly loss of "six wounded" on their own side.

   --A flimsy excuse is set up by the Sheriff and other citizens of Camilla that, because the negroes were armed, Governor Bullock's late proclamation warranted their forcible dispersion. Let us see. The only sentences in that proclamation referring to the subject are as follows:--

   "No authority has been granted by the Executive for the formation of armed or unarmed organizations of any kind or character, and the drilling or exercising in military tactics with arms of any organized body of men within this State, except the army of the United States, is unauthorized, unlawful, and against the peace and good order of the State, and must be immediately suspended."

   The following extracts from the Constitution and the Code are recommended to the thoughtful consideration of the public:--

   "Section 5. The right of the people to appeal to the Courts, to petition Government in all matters, and peaceably to Assemble for the consideration of any matter, shall never be Impaired.

   "Section 11. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

   It is not pretended that the dispersed procession was drilling or exercising in military tactics. That is all that Governor Bullock forbade. Admitting the Rebel statement that the negroes were armed, wherein do we find them differing from the Rebel themselves, save that the negroes carried their arms openly and the Rebels had theirs concealed? Does the Sheriff of Mitchell county happen to know which of these acts it is that the laws forbid?

   But why should the negroes not be armed? Has not John Forsyth said: "Organize a Ku-Klux Klan whenever they organize a league; meet friendship and peace as Christians should, meet midnight leaguers and enemies as manhood dares."

   Were the negroes incapable of understanding the plain language of the Meridian Mercury? It said:

   "With the skull and cross-bones of the 'lost cause' before us, we will swear that this is a white man's government. We must make the negro understand we are the men we were when we held him in abject bondage, and make him feel that when forbearance ceases to be a virtue he has aroused a power that will control him or destroy him."

   Were the negros, or the accompanying "carpet baggers," or even the 'scalawags," to blame if they thought Mr. Howell Cobb meant a little of what he said at Atlanta?

   "Enemies they were in war, enemies they continue to be in peace. In war, we drew the sword and bade them defiance. In peace, we gather up the manhood of the South, and raising the banner of constitutional equality, and gathering around it the good men of the North as well as tne South, we hurl into their teeth to day the same defiance, and bid them come on to the struggle. We are ready for it, if you are. Young men, in whose veins the red blood of youth runs so quickly, come! Come one and all, and let us snatch the old banner from the dust and give it again to the breeze, and, if need be, to the god of battles, and strike one more honest blow for constitutional liberty."

   --The good cause will go forward. The outrages and atrocities that continue the desolation of the south will end with the election of Grant. Murder, cannot delay, nor slander of a feeble and persecuted race prevent, that consummation. But we beg Northern voters to observe who it is that seeks to profit by these agencies. Other allies of the same party once sought similar aid in a more conspicuous instance. Their leader was Mr. Wilkes Booth.

[The Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, Thursday, September 24, 1868. Vol. X--No. 73. Pg. 2]

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