Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 13.djvu/51
Southern Historical Society Papers.
violence of a body of negroes who acknowledged no law, and who undertook to avenge the shooting of one of their color, whose crime was something very near to assassination. Let it be always borne in mind that, right or wrong, the impression was as deeply seated as it was universal, that nothing was so eagerly desired by the Republican party as a tale of outrage and violence towards negroes, and that nothing was so studiously avoided as any act which could give a foundation for such tales. We shall see further on that a high official signalized his devotion to his party by the facility with which he tortured this riot into a seething mass of Democratic wrong, outrages and folly. When the unprovoked assault was made on the defenceless Mrs. Hardy and her son, the action of her neighbors in searching for the miscreants was but a spontaneous movement of self-defence. After one of them was captured and identified, his captors were so far from doing him violence, that he actually made his escape; and if he was shot as he ran away, there was nothing in that act which could be tortured into violence to effect a political end. The ostensible object of the gathering of the negroes was to avenge this shooting, and every act which they performed was not only unlawful, but aggressive. If they were out in arms to commit violence, it was the simplest act of self-preservation in the whites to take up arms to resist them. They might have made havoc among the negroes ; they refrained from every act of violence, except when absolutely necessary, and at last gladly hailed the presence of the Federal troops, who appeared on the fifth day, and left the settlement of the disturbance to them.
This spirit of forbearance characterized every step of the whites throughout this terrible summer. It permitted the negro to derange the whole labor system of the rice fields; it stayed the arm of the whites when a mob of negroes held the city of Charleston, and had shed the blood of one of her citizens. It was no less strong during the Elberton riots; it was peaceful to the end, and it ultimately triumphed.
I do not know whether the Governor on this occasion resorted to his usual remedy of sending a trusty and confidential agent to inquire, pacify and report. The troops of the United States were there. The sheriff played into the hands of the Radicals by the following dispatch to the Governor, September 19: "I have just returned from the reported riot have seen or heard of no fighting.I saw no colored men under arms, nor did I hear of any. None could be found up to late last night. The whites were all under