Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"No people procures immunity or peace or safety, by disarming itself. You have the right to keep and bear arms..."



Vera Atque Honesta Dicere.


    It is more than a month since the nomination of Seymour and Blair was made known in Memphis. Upon only three or four hours' notice, the announcement was welcomed by one of the most imposing and enthusiastic demonstrations that we have ever seen. Thousands of citizens congregated, marched in procession through our streets, and until one o'clock in the morning listened to the various speakers who addressed them. During the whole time there was no disorder, no drunkenness, no ill-humor, but everything was conducted with utmost propriety, order and decorum. Men seemed to feel that they were engaged in a more important, a higher and a graver controversy than the ordinary strifes of politics are, and all acted like men engaging in a great cause, and assuming serious responsibilities.

   Since then, the enthusiasm, far from diminishing, has continued to increase. The organization of Democratic clubs for the county has been followed by the establishment of clubs in every ward, and of several independent clubs, all of which are flourishing, and full of zeal, energy and fire. Every night some club meets, and often two or three on the same night. On Wednesday last as fine an audience filled the New Memphis Theater as we ever saw, and listened with marked and unwearied attention to the speakers who addressed them.

   And yet, everywhere and on all occasions we see the same grave earnestness mingling with the enthusiasm and zeal of the people, the earnestness and gravity of men chastened by the discipline of calamity and sorrow, and knowing the immense importance of the issues involved in the contest, whose ending no man can foresee.

   There have been threats of violence to no one; there has not been a single act of violence committed by any Democrat, during all this month. When a Club adjourns, its members go peaceably and quietly to their homes. No speaker has counseled violence, or armed resistance to the law. The Governor asserts that we intend to overturn the State Government; and that, in one sense, is true. "We mean to revolutionize it by votes, and by votes alone. We hope to live to see the day when there will be a government In Tennessee, founded upon, and the organ of, the will of the white men of the State. But that we contemplate violence is false.

   For it has, on the contrary, been continually impressed on those whom our speakers have addressed, that to resort to violence or resist the execution of the laws of the State would be to lose all.

   "There.must be no resistance of the laws, hard as they are," said one of the speakers of Wednesday night. "On the frontier of the State hangs the dark cloud of the Federal soldiery, ready to march against us at the first call from Wm. G. Brownlow, and with the bayonet to quell insubordination. If we resist the law, we cross the dead-line, to step over which, as it was to cross those of Northern and Southern prisons during the war, is death. I will advance to the very line. I will stand on the extreme verge of my lawful rights: but will not cross nor advise others to cross the line. I will not be instrumental in leading any young man, by the counsels of rashness, into dangers from which I should be powerless to extricate them."

   "We must succeed, if at all," he said, "by peaceful means. But it is your right, and it is equally your duty, to arm for your self-defence. no people procures immunity or peace or safety, by disarming itself. You have the right to keep and bear arms for your common defence; and you will indeed be egregious simpletons if you do not arm and organize, to be ready to defend yourselves, your homes and your households against unprovoked violence and outrage. We all desire peace. God grant that I may be laid down to rest in the grave without again seeing brother armed against brother, and the land rent with civil war. We wish and pray for peace; and when our rights as freemen and citizens are restored to us, and not until then, there will be permanent peace."

   The Legislature of Tennessee has been assured by those authorized to say it, that such are the sentiments of the disfranchised men of the State. Strenuous efforts have been made to induce the Legislature to enfranchise them, and to refrain from giving the Governor a standing army, with which to inaugurate civil war.

   These efforts have failed. The House of Representatives decides that this is not a fit time to consider the question of franchise, and dismisses the petitioners for enfranchisement from its bar, with profound contempt; and it is now well understood that the militia or standing army bill is to be passed.

   Peace in the South is that which the Radical leaders most dread. They want, they need a disturbance, an insurrection, a civil war, as the sure means of winning for Grant the votes of the Northern States; and those who have the means of knowing positively, assert that the Radical Executive Committee has determined to provoke such a conflict in Tennessee, where an organized force of negroes is ready to their hand, and for the most part armed.

   It was threatened, some weeks since, that a regiment or two of the militia should be stationed here in Memphis, to subsist on the people. A gentleman living on Elliott street, asserts that to his certain knowledge, a load of arms was delivered some time since, at a negro church in his vicinity. On Saturday evening last, there was imminent danger of an attack by the negroes congregated on the bluff, upon the Democratic assemblages of that evening; the negroes proposing, if they met any of these, "to go through them," and being only prevented by a few of the more moderate of their white leaders.

   Mr. Barbour Lewis asserted, a few nights ago, that it was an unpardonable slander to say that the negroes were drilled at night in the suburbs of the city, and they, responding to him, declared the charge a lie, (an expression assigned erroneously to himself.) He assures us that if it be true, he will do all in his power to put a stop to it. We demand that he keep his promise; for assurances continue to come to us that the denials of his audience were not true.

   To arm a negro militia and station them among the people will be the almost certain means of producing disturbances and blood-shed. Almost! Nay, the certain means, This those know who are urging the adoption of the measure; and none know it better than those who have come here from Washington, bearing the instructions of the National Radical Executive Committee.

   The disfranchised white men of Tennessee are neither idiots nor insane. They well know that no measures of violence are practicable for them, or could effect anything to their profit. They know that they cannot revolutionize the State by violence. They only ask to be enfranchised; and they do not dream cf effecting that by force. If enfranchised they can by themselves change nothing. To make any change of the laws or Constitution, they must secure the co-operation of part of the negroes or part of the Union men of the State. Certainly, unless these unite with them, they cannot take from the negro the right of suffrage.

   Moreover, they know that the Democratic party in the North is already injured by rash speeches in the South, and that if any violence were resorted to us, and the result were disturbance and bloodshed, it would cost Seymour and Blair a hundred thousand votes.

   The Radical leaders also know this, and are anxious to provoke, and mean to provoke a collision. For they rely upon their facilities for misrepresentation, and their ability, by means of evidence skilfully taken and manipulated, to make it appear that we were the aggressors, although we may have acted strictly in self-defence, That is a horrid game of chess in which political schemers, infamous as Nero, play with human lives for pawns.

   We are utterly opposed to any discussions here in Memphis, before mixed audiences of Democrats and Radicals by speakers of each party. The first of these would produce the collision which every man who has a human heart in his bosom ought to labor to avert. For God's sake, let us not put the match to the magazine!

   There is no denunciation of the negro at our meetings. It is not he whom we blame. If we propose not to employ those who vote to continue our disfranchisement, that is a measure of self-defence, not prompted by ill-will or hate. Wb do not propose to abridge his civil rights, although many of us do not think him qualified to vote. Let  the Radical leaders and itinerant followers cease to exasperate them against us. They are like men who fling fire about in a powder-mill, and are inciting the negroes to become murderous cut-throats. We propose only to convince him, by displays of our numbers that he cannot mistake, that the immense majority of white men among whom he lives, and to whom he looks for employment, are Democrats, and so to appeal to his interests, which must prompt him to side with that in majority and not to make every man of it an enemy.

    Messrs. Fitch, Beaumont, Tomeny, and Bingham, there is no personal animosity or ill-will between you and us. We may with propriety appeal to you, and to men like you, to prevent, if you can, a collision that would in the end drape half the houses of Memphis in mourning. You are humane men and gentlemen. You also have families, who, already agitated by alarm, would be endangered as well as ours, by riot and the license of armed men in a bloody commotion, when all the passions of man's animal nature were inflamed, You can find wise and prudent men among the Conservatives who will co-operate with you to prevent the conflict of arms and the murderous scenes of civil commotion.

   We will stand upon the defensive. We know too well under what enormous disadvantages we labor to provoke a conflict. But we are not defenceless; and those who hold us disfranchised must not themselves resort to aggressive violence or insults. To everything else we will submit, possessing our souls in patience, and waiting for the day of our redemption.

[The Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. Monday, August 10, 1868. Vol. XVIII.--No. 330 Pg. 2]

No comments: