Viewing page 5 of 24

5

and was by them reported back to the House with amendments, some of the amendments cutting out much matter which we desired the President to respond to. But there was one point retained in the resolution to which I ask the attention of the Senate, and to which I am very sorry to say the President has not responded. It was 
this: among other things the resolution asked "the number and character of the offenses forbidden by said act or the act of May 31, 1870, which are shown by such combinations or other parties to have been committed in the respective counties in which the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus had been suspended in the State of South Carolina, and the dates of all such alleged offenses."

The House asked the President of the United States to communicate what offenses, if any, had been committed against the act of Congress which had led to the declaration of martial law, and the date at which such offenses had been committed. We have a long list of persons arrested under the act and the crimes charged against them, ninety-nine out of one hundred of which is the crime of conspiracy, and in no single instance has the President given us the date of any single offense which is alleged to have been committed. This was omitted, I am compelled to say, deliberately with a view of creating a false impression, of misleading the country, of inducing the country to believe that those persons arrested had committed the offenses in or about the time when martial law was declared, the fact being that all these offenses were committed nine or eighteen months or two years previous to the passage of the law itself of which they undertook to take cognizance in their court. At this point I call the attention of the Senate to a brief paragraph from the report of the minority of the committee. Mr. Van Trump, who was in South Carolina as a member of the sub-committee, states in his report, page 586: 

"We believe, we might almost say we know, that nothing has transpired in South Carolina since the passage of the Ku Klux law which can be the slightest justification of the President in suspending the writ in the absence of war and the clash of arms, spreading terror and dismay among whole masses of people guiltless of crime. The public press, as well as our own private information, testify to the fact that there has been no more trouble or disorder in South Carolina for the last nine months than is common to any other State in the Union.

"In the absence of the facts, or statements and representations which are not facts founded in truth, communicated to the President, whether truthfully or falsely, prior to the issuing of his proclamation, we unhesitatingly assert that for nine months prior to said proclamation, and at least three months previous to the passage of what is known as the Ku Klux law, there was more peace and good order throughout the entire borders of South Carolina than had been at any time since the termination of the war. Now, if this is the fact, then the action of the President was not only unwise and impolitic, but it was a naked and most unjustifiable act of tyranny and oppression, at war with the spirit of free institutions, and a precedent which, by repeated use, will not only sap the foundations of the Government, but 'can almost change the stamp of nature.'"

Upon this point I desire also to quote from the correspondent of the New York Herald, a paper which at that time and since that time has been an earnest advocate of the policy of the President. Writing from Spartanburg, as late as November 1, 1871, he said:

"In this county, as in all others I have visited, I cannot find any case of resistance to the State or the United States authorities. Two years ago a couple of revenue officers were forcibly resisted by some men who were engaged in illicit distilling whisky. No one pretends, however, that they were any more Ku Klux than were and are the men who distill whisky illicitly in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Ohio, and any other States North, and who resist the revenue ord. 'I never give them a chance to resist,' said a Federal official to me, 'because I always send an overwhelming force to arrest them.' 'Very well, but has any resistance been offered?' 'No.' 'Have you ever tried to make arrests without any overwhelming force?' 'No; we used an ounce of prevention.' 'Now, major,"—

I have no doubt this is the gentleman whose report has been quoted by the majority, although it is not said, Major Merrill—

"'Now, major, are you not aware that the sheriff of this county , a one-armed man, has gone to remote parts of the county unattended, arrested men, and brought them to Spartanburg without meeting with opposition?' 'So I have heard; but I do not risk finding the same submission.' I put it to you, readers, whether it is fair to assume that a people will resist until they have resisted? I am assured by some of the most eminent citizens that there has not been a day during the past two years when a Federal deputy marshal could not have arrested any citizen in the country unaided by the military.

"But let me give you a further fact: many of the arrests in this county were made before the President's proclamation appeared. 'Why, then, major,' I asked, 'was it necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus?' 'It was not suspended because we could not make arrests,' was the reply, 'but for the purpose of preventing any attempt on the part of the State courts to get the prisoners away from us.'"

This is a wretched excuse, inasmuch as all the State courts are officered by a members of the Republican party, and, as I have been reminded by my colleague on the committee, [Mr. BAYARD,] there is not a Democratic official in the State of South Carolina, neither judge nor commissioner, nor anything else. The same correspondent, writing from Union Court-House under date of November 3, 1871, says: 

"In this letter I have not concealed the fact that troubles have existed in Union county, and I have not denied that the Ku Klux, or men representing themselves as such, have perpetrated gross outrages. But will you not be surprised to learn that these troubles ended seven months ago? I appeal to Captain Thompson, of the United States Army, to say how many Ku Klux outrages have occurred in Union county during the seven months he has been stationed there. Two have been reported, minor affairs, which upon investigation, proved to be personal quarrels. Curiously enough, all the Federal officials admit that for months past these counties have been quiet. Why, then, wait until the troubles are over to begin operations? 'Because,' replies a Federal officer to me, 'the Government must show its power?' Is is not a wanton display of power?
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.