Testimony of Henry M. Turner
Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs the Late Insurrectionary States. Georgia, Vol. 7. Washington: Government Printing Office
November 3, 1871
By the Chairman:
Question. State your age, where you were born, where you now live, and what is your present occupation.
Answer. I will be thirty-eight years old on the 1st day of next February; I was born in Newberry, South Carolina, and now live in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia; I am a minister of the gospel and a kind of politician—both; I am presiding elder of a district, and a member elect of the legislature; I was to-day ejected from my seat, and the opposing party seated in it.
Question. Your connection with politics is thereby ended?
Answer. For the time being.
Question. How long have you been living in Bibb County?
Answer. Six years.
Question. Did you go there directly from leaving South Carolina?
Answer. No, Sir; I left South Carolina in 1859 and went to Baltimore, where I remained until I was appointed by Mr. Lincoln as a chaplain in the Army. I served nearly three years as a chaplain; that is, I served two years under the appointment of Mr. Lincoln, and then I was reappointed by President Johnson, and sent to Georgia to labor in the Freedmen’s Bureau. After remaining here for some time, and not receiving the respect I thought was due me, I resigned, not because of anything I had against the Government, but the officers I had to work with. I was appointed chaplain in the Regular Army the last time.
Question. Have you been living in Macon since?
Answer. Yes, sir; Macon is my home; I am there when I am at home. I travel a great deal all over the State. I am missionary agent and presiding elder of the district, and have taken a leading part in republican politics, so far as colored men are concerned.
Question. What church do you represent?
Answer. The African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Question. I wish you would state what knowledge or reliable information you have upon the subject of lawless violence and outrages by those people who are popularly known as Ku-Klux.
Answer. Well, I will state that I cannot say that I have ever seen any Ku-Klux, that is, as a band roaming about at night. I have, however, had my life threatened, and I am satisfied that on two or three occasions, I may say in a dozen instances, if I had not secreted myself in houses at times, in the woods at other times, in a hallow log at another time, I would have been assassinated by a band of night-prowlers, or rovers, I will call them. I remember that last December, as I was going from Jasper County over into Butts, where I had been to deliver a political speech, just before I got to the river, about three-quarters of a mile from the river, I saw two men standing by the side of the road; they fired off four guns, firing them into the bushes among the trees. I did not know what that meant, and went on until I arrived at the river, and there I met seven or eight white men with guns and horses. I thought that they were up to something, I did not know what. I drove on about a hundred yards beyond them, and ascertained that the ferryman had absented himself. There were four of us in a wagon, and I judged that the four guns were shot off to notify those at the river that there were four of us. When I got to the river, I found several men all armed. I think the two men were put out as pickets to give notice as to the number that would accompany me. I had heard of threats made against my life, and I got those men to accompany me in the wagon.
One of the men with me was somewhat tight, and he talked very big and very loud, and we all appeared to be rather bold. I think that had a tendency to deter whatever violence those parties at the river intended to perpetrate. They certainly intended something. We drove on, and they did not say anything to us that was really insulting. They asked if we would not go in and have something to drink; they inspected us very closely; but one man in our party, being somewhat intoxicated, talked very big and cursed very loud, and they did not do anything. We went to the river, and there, after a time, we say the ferryman walking out of the bushes. I think if I had been by myself, or if there had been but one or two with me, we would have been killed and thrown into the river; but as there were four of us, nothing was done. That is the only instance that I recollect where I saw any men banded together that I thought were intending to perpetrate any violence on me as an individual.
In La Grange I went into a house, and several men came in, and said they saw parties come inside who they thought were on some mischievous mission, but I did not see them. I may state, however, that a few years ago I made a speech in Columbus, Georgia; I had Mr. Ashburn on the stand with me. About a half an hour after I came out, a band of organized Ku-Klux, or assassins, went to Mr. Ashburn’s house and murdered him. I learned from rumor that they would have murdered me had they known where I was; but they did not know at that time at what place I was stopping, and therefore they did not find me.
Question. We have had an opinion expressed here, that Mr. Ashburn was killed by a colored man or by colored men. Have you any knowledge that would confirm or refute that supposition?
Answer. I have no personal knowledge. Mr. Ashburn was on the stand with me; I spoke two hours; during my remarks he rose several times and whispered in my ear something that I had forgotten. I have this to say, that the individual who brought the information to you, or to any person else, that colored people has perpetuated that deed, was as conscious he was telling falsehoods and misrepresenting them as he was of his own existence. In the first place, Mr. Ashburn was in the confidence of our colored men in the place. In the next place, when Mr. Ashburn was murdered, there was a most intense and bitter feeling among the colored people and had it not been for several leading men among us I believe they would have perpetrated violence on the whites, and perhaps set fire to the city. Besides that, in no instance have colored men in the State of Georgia banded themselves together to perpetrate any wicked and violent act of that character. It is true that is some instances colored men have killed white men, as they also have killed colored men; but it has been in the heat of passion. Of course they are human beings and are liable to, and do commit, all those acts that human nature is liable to commit.
Question. It was intimated in connection with that opinion that Mr. Ashburn was living adulterously with the wife of a colored man.
Answer. I know the woman, she is the wife of no one. Mr. Ashburn had a room in the front of her house, because there were no white people in the city who would board him, excepting two. There was a minister there I presume could have done it; I know he was in sympathy with him, but I do not think he was provided so as to accommodate him. However, the hotels would not receive him, and no boarding-house in the city would receive him. He had to stay somewhere, and he rented a front room from a colored woman.
Question. You say she was the wife of no one. Do you mean to be understood as saying that he was living adulterously with her?
Answer. No, sir. I believe on the one hand that he was above such sets, and on the other hand she is too religious a woman to be guilty of it.
Question. Another hypothesis that has been suggested, is that he was killed by republicans in order that they might make use of his death for the purpose of political agitation.
Answer. O, not a bit of it. I tell you, as a man who knows as much probable about the city of Columbus as a man can know who goes very frequently there, and who generally goes there to give shape and direction to political matters, for they look to me there as a leader although I do not live there; I say this, that there was not a solitary republican at that time in the city of Columbus, except one colored man, who had the least animosity whatever toward Mr. Ashburn. There was one colored man who was a little sore and aggrieved, because Mr. Ashburn defeated him in a nomination in the legislature. But that colored man, Van Jones, is a good religious man, a class-leader, and a man whose Christian deportment is known to the citizens there white and black.
Question. Have you known, or have you reliable information, of people who have been otherwise injured by these disguised night marauders?
Answer. I have seen scores of them. I have seen men who had their backs lacerated. I have seen other men who had bullets in them; I have seen others who had their arms shot off, shot so badly that they had to be amputated; I have seen others with legs shot off. I have heard of any quantity of horrible deed.
Question. In what part of the State have they been most numerous?
Answer. They have been most numerous between Macon and Augusta, along in that direction.
Question. In what counties?
Answer. Well, I will say Putnam, Wilkinson, Baldwin, Hancock, and Washington, and there have been some in Monroe and Sumter. I have heard of things in Pulaski, but I will not speak of Pulaski, for I think there is a very good feeling there just now. I will also name Lowndes, Wilkes, and Columbia Counties, as among the most prominent counties.
Question. What cases have you heard of in Washington County?
Answer. Well, I have heard of a colored man being killed there. A minister from that place told me that he was there on one occasion, and saw a long line of those night assassins, but he did not say they did anything. There was a white man who on one occasion was taken from his home there and shot and left for dead; but he recovered so as to return to his home and has got well, or got better any way.
Question. Have you heard of any whippings in that county?
Answer. I have heard of so many outrages in the county that I hesitate, really, to itemize the kind of outrage I have heard of. I know there have been an immense amount of rumors and talk as to the crimes that have been perpetrated upon citizens professing republicanism, professing alliance with the republican party in that county.
Question. You spoke of Wilkinson County: have you been in that county?
Answer. I have not been in it lately, but it is not far from where I live, and I constantly see people from there.
Question. What is you opinion as to the condition of things there?
Answer. Well, first of all, I will state that there is a colored man in this city who was castrated a few weeks ago. The sheriff of the county, or the ordinary, one of them, a republican, was carried out a few weeks ago and killed, and if my recollection serves me right he was thrown into the river. Another colored man that I heard of was also killed some time ago.
Question. Do you recollect his name?
Answer. I do not.
Question. Do you recollect anything about a white man of the name Dease?
Answer. Yes, sir; he was killed.
Question. How long ago?
Answer. I do not think it has been more than four or five weeks; I will not be certain.
Question. Do you know the circumstances of his killing?
Answer. Nothing more than that he was seized during the night by Ku-Klux, and carried off and killed, and thrown into the river; that is the report that came to me.
Question. What is the state of things in Macon?
Answer. Macon is a city of very good order; we have very good order in Macon. We have a great number of very high-toned and dignified citizens there, men of wealth, who are opposed to this wholesale excitement and disturbance, and who are really apprehensive that were they to start any violence there the thing would recoil on them. I will state that a few years ago my life was threatened there, and also Mr. Long’s life. We were sent to Congress for the short term. They guarded my house for several nights, and also guarded the house of Mr. Long; a large number of colored men, probably a hundred and fifty, were there with guns, pistols, etc., to protect us. They put out their pickets and necessarily turned in another direction every white man who started to go by my house, policemen, or anybody else. Word was brought to the authorities of the city that the negroes were armed and guarding the houses of Long and Turner. That caused a meeting to be held in the city hall, a kind of harmonial meeting, I will call it, at which several speeches were made by white and colored men. Resolutions were passed denouncing any disorder, and guaranteeing to colored people that protection should be given them, and that if any injury was done to them they could make the matter known to the city authorities, and go home and got to sleep quietly. I may say, however, that the colored people told them to their faces that if one colored man was killed they would burn their town down. I judge that may have had some effect in producing this public meeting of reconciliation. Of course there have been murders there, growing out of personal strife, feuds, drunkenness or something of that sort; but I do not know of my political murders there.
Question. You do not attach any political significance to those things?
Answer. No, sir, not more than to the same things in other parts of the country? We have very good order in Bibb County.
Question. You spoke of having been elected to the lower house of the Georgia legislature; when were you elected?
Answer. On the 20th, 21st, and 22d of December 1870. The election lasted three days.
Question. How many representatives were elected?
Question. Who were the other two?
Answer. Mr. Fitzpatrick is a white man, Mr. Pollock is a colored man.
Question. What were your majorities?
Answer. Our majorities averaged 38.
Questions. They were small majorities.
Answer. A small majority the way the thing went off. Of course we have a very large majority of republicans in the county; I will say that we have not less than 500 majority.
Question. What was the character of the election?
Answer. Do you want me to give you the general character of it?
Answer. I will state, to commence with, that we held the election under a special act known as the Akerman bill, that we passed in the legislature for that particular election. Among other things it contained this provision, that no challenge could be made at the polls. And inasmuch as the legislature had not established a free school system, the provision of our code, that requires a man to have paid all taxes that he had an opportunity of paying before he should be allowed to vote, was repealed for the time being; that is, it was left optional with him to pay if he wished; but if he had not paid, he was still allowed to vote. This, of course, gave every person the privilege of coming up and voting. I think there is a little provision in the bill, something about that no repetition of voting should be allowed, but that all persons of lawful age shall be allowed to vote.
Question. Persons of lawful age, with all the other qualifications?
Answer. Yes, sir. On the first day that the election was held the colored people had it pretty much their own way; they thronged there in great numbers and voted peacefully and quietly. In the afternoon there was some little bickering, but nothing that amounted to anything. The second day some kind of a little scramble broke out; some colored man voted the democratic ticket, and I think he received a small, insignificant donation for it; I do not know now to what it amounted. As he was coming out the colored republicans hollered, and jeered, and laughed at him, and two or three prominent democrats walked by the side of him; he was walking between them. Finally on of the democrats looking back commenced a curse, and I think eventually pulled out a pistol, but I will not be certain of that. I know they fired first, fired back into the crowd. I was standing about three hundred yards above where that occurred. This caused the crowd to run to wagons that had brought in a load of wood, and they picked up the wood and commenced heaving it; the owner never saw his wood after that. This produced a considerable amount of confusion. However, in a short time the military were brought down. Several pistols were fired into the air; a great many persons ran away, white and colored, and the excitement was then somewhat quelled. But from that time, a kind of bitterness began to develop itself. The white people turned out in great numbers; indeed they were on the ground in great numbers. On the third day affairs were in a very bitter state; the whites, the democratic party, turned out and staid around the polls all day. They were pulling, hauling, snatching tickets, and doing a great many things of that sort. Yet I cannot say that any violence was perpetrated upon any person beyond threats, and a little intimidation of that sort. I know I was advised personally to go away, or otherwise I would be killed before night; Mr. Fitzpatrick says, he was so advised. All the candidates, I think, were under terror to a greater or less extent, excepting Long; he was running for the short term of Congress, and nobody cared about him; no one was particularly interested about the short term of Congress. There is not half so much interest on the part of democrats in this State about Congress as there is about the legislature, ordinaries, or sheriffs. They do not care so much about Congress admitting negroes into their halls; they have no special objection to that, but they do not want the negroes over them at home; that is the truth of the matter. Well, in the afternoon, or may I say for the whole of the third day, they voted everything there. A circus came there that day, and they voted the whole circus.
Question. What ticket did they vote?
Answer. They voted the democratic ticket, of course. They got altogether probably about thirty colored democrats. Well, they would carry them into a room and put a cloak on them, bringing them out and vote them, and then carry them back again and put a high hat on, and bring them out and vote them again; then carry them back and put on a slouch hat and bring them out and vote again. In this way repetition after repetition went on. All the wagoners that came in with cotton and other produce, everybody, whether he belonged there or not, was voted. I am satisfied there were seven or eight hundred illegal votes given there. I do not think there are more than sixteen hundred or seventeen hundred democrats in the county of Bibb, yet on that occasion they polled twenty-seven hundred votes. There may have been some fraudulent votes on our part. We have some twenty-five hundred votes in that county that we know of, and we voted twenty-seven hundred votes at that election. Probably we may have voted some fraudulent votes. There may have been some repeating; they saw the democrats were doing it, and I dare say some of our men did the same. For about three hours before the election closed it was just one repetition, voting everything. I saw seven white men vote twice. They would go up and vote, and then go around and laugh and talk and say that they had voted four times in that way. Long was standing there and witnessing how they were changing the dress of the few democratic negroes they had there; and Fitzpatrick witnessed the same. I could not begin to describe the scene of the last evening for about three hours before the election closed. If we had had a fair election we would have beaten them by five or six hundred votes; but in consequence of not having a fair election we beat them upon the average only about thirty-eight votes. The law of our state says that in the event a contest is made against those claiming the election, the ballot-box can be opened only in the presence of the judge of the superior court, or whatever judge is presiding at that time, and the tickets counted or examined, as the case may be. A few days after the election I was passing down the street, and a white gentleman came up to me and said, “Turner, I will tell you something, but don’t you tell my name.” I said, “What?” He said, “They have got the ballot-box up in that room, [pointing to a building,] and I think it is a damned shame.” I went up stairs to see if it was the fact. When I got to the door, I thought I would knock at first, but I concluded that they would come there and ask what I wanted, and perhaps not let me in. So I pulled open the door and walked right in. There were two men sitting there with their faces toward the fire, another was sitting back in a corner, and the ballot-box was on the table, and the whole table was strewn over with ballots, and there was a man sitting down at a little table writing. They all looked up when I came in, and one of them asked, “What do you want?” I said, “I wanted to see some gentlemen, but I see that they are not here.” I took a good look around, and then went on out about my business. I think probably the notice had been given already that the election would be contested. A few days after that we were summoned to appear and proceed with the contest, and a few days after that we commenced to take evidence. They had parties there who swore that this man was not of age, according to their best knowledge and belief; and that that man and the other was not qualified to vote, for some reason or other; some men would get up and swear that such and such man, whose name appeared on the list, lived in this county or that county or the other county. One man would swear against ten or fifteen names, I suppose. That is the kind of testimony upon which we are now ejected from our seats.
Question. Who were the men who had that ballot-box in that room and who had the tickets spread out on the table there?
Answer. The clerk of the court was one; the two men who had the ballot-box I do not know. The clerk of the court was sitting there by the fire talking with another man. Neither one of them in that room had any right under the law to handle those ballots.
Question. The ballot-box was not in the hands of either of the managers?
Answer. No, sir; nor was it opened in the presence of the judge according to law, which point I made on them, and I made that point last night before the committee here in the legislature.
Question. You were not notified, nor were either of the other men notified, that the ballots were to be opened at that time?
Answer. No, sir; the investigation was to take place a couple of days after that. I told them in the committee last night that they manipulated the ballots, but that if they could in that way establish a line of concatenation of evidence as long as from here to heaven, if such a thing was possible, it would be but the greater fraud. Then there was the frivolous evidence of a man swearing that he did not believe this, that, and the other man was of age; they received that as testimony sufficient to eject a legally elected representative from his seat.
Question. That is a mere matter of opinion; what we want is the fact. Were either of you in the legislature allowed to speak in your own behalf in the house?
Answer. No, sir. A committee of the three were appointed to investigate the matter, and we appeared before the committee, at least the three of us who were legally elected, and the counsel for the democratic claimants appeared in their behalf. The committee sat there and read a great deal of testimony, heard what we had to say, but refused to receive what I regarded as vital affidavits; refused to take any cognizance whatever of the fact that the ballots had been manipulated before any evidence was taken in the contest. They claim that they did not have primary jurisdiction over the matter; that they were bound to go according to whatever Judge Cole said, although the constitution says that legislature shall be the judge of the election, qualifications, and returns of its members.
Question. The ordinary provision, I suppose, taken from the Constitution of the United States?
Answer. Yes, sir; they claimed that they were bound to go by what Judge Cole said, and without any clerk, or knowing any of the evidence, without comparing our testimony with theirs, or taking cognizance of any of the points we made, they just read off their decision in the house, and said they were satisfied that the democratic claimants were entitled to their seats, and that was the end of it.
Question. Did any one offer to say anything in your behalf?
Answer. Yes, sir. They did not rise on the floor and offer to say anything, but I was myself told by the committee that all the facts I had to adduce must be presented to the committee, because so far as we were concerned the action of the committee would be final.
Question. Who is Judge Cole? What connection had he with the case?
Answer. He was the judge before whom the democratic claimants took their evidence. Judge Geary was the judge before whom we, the republicans, took our evidence. Judge Cole is a democrat, and Judge Geary is a republican. We had Judge Geary to take our evidence, and Judge Cole presided during the time the democrats were taking their evidence.
Question. You have spoken of the crimes in Macon as having no political significance.
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. In your opinion do these offenses in the other counties have any significance; and if so, what is it?
Answer. They have significance with me: I am satisfied, and every man in Georgia who has got any brains must be satisfied, that there are organized bands of night assassins, murderous villains, who have banded themselves together and roam about and kill republicans, kill an man who has got the name of radical attached to him, especially if he is a leader. There is no especial desire to exterminate a man who has not got any influence, but any man who is a leader, who is, I will say, a chairman of a Grant club or a Union League, who is thought to be a center of influence, ever such man, in many of the counties, they are determined to kill out. They will kill out all they can kill; they will do like they did in Putnam County a few weeks ago or they will get up some charge against them, and have them tried, convicted, and sent to the penitentiary. Mr. Abram Turner, a man who was elected to the legislature in Putnam County, was shot down in open daylight as he was walking down the street. A man rode up to him and shot him dead and then galloped off. The authorities of the county have made no attempt whatever to follow him or arrest him; he is not arrested yet. I am informed that he is in Macon; I do not know him.
Question. How was that seat filled?
Answer. After that there was an election held there to fill the vacancy caused by killing that representative. I heard of the great disturbance and confusion that broke out there, and I went there to see what it was. When I got there I was told that as the colored men were going to the polls one after another, about 9 o’clock in the morning, some democrat came up and put his foot on top of the foot of a colored man and trod on it, and said, “Get out of my way.” The colored man, said, “I cannot get out of your way with your foot on top of mine.” He said, ‘God damn you, get out of way.” After some more words, I do not know of what character, some little interchanging of damns and curses and things of that sort, they arrested the colored man and started to carry him to jail. The colored men there cried out, “That won’t do;” and I think attempted to take him away. This was the tocsin for great excitement. Scores of white men, as I learned, ran out of the stores with guns, as if the thing had been contemplated. The colored men ran off, probably a half a mile from town; several of the country men who came in brought their guns, and they run out there to get them. When they got there, I believe the man at whose house they had left them prevailed on them not to take them; at any rate they did not return to town with their guns. Some colored people, however, had guns, and when the white people poured their bullets into the crowd of colored people, some of the colored people shot back, and I understand that some few white men received some shot, or their clothes were perforated. One colored man was shot dead, and others were wounded, as I am informed. Several were arrested and put in jail for creating an insurrection. A court was held there, and I think four or five of them were sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. A colored man, who was a candidate against the democratic nominee, was arrested and tried for his life, because some colored men who came into the city had left their guns at his house. It was said he had established an armory there for the purpose of killing white people. He lived about a half a mile out of town, and as the colored people were coming in he advised them to leave their guns there and not to take them into town, for fear it would be a source of contention, and result in some kind of rupture. However, he was tried. A very intelligent and influential democrat made such an appeal for him, especially that features of his character which he had exhibited during the war, stating how he had staid at home and taken care of his mistress and her property, and all that kind of thing, that they acquitted him. I think that four or five others were sentenced to the penitentiary for seven years, and one for ten years. One young man, who was a mile away from there, who could read and write, and so was considered in that section of the country a dangerous negro, because he could read and write, I am informed, was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary. I am pretty confident that when they get a democratic governor here who will refuse to exercise executive clemency they will send every leading radical in Georgia to the penitentiary.
Question. White as well as black?
Answer. White as well as black, but black particularly. While Governor Bullock had his faults, he was very generous, and would listen to reason and proper appeals, and in many instances, where he knew persons had been penetentiaried maliciously, he would pardon them. There are scores at liberty to-day who would have been in the penitentiary but for him. I forgot to state that after our election in Bibb County, notwithstanding that the fuss they had there broke out away down town, a long way from where any of the prominent candidates were, we were all arrested and bound over under $3,000 bonds for inciting an insurrection. A democrat got up in the courthouse and swore that he heard me tell the colored people to run and get their guns and pistols, and protect themselves, and kill the white folks. In the face of that there were a hundred persons prepared to testify that I stood at the corner of the street, as far from the voting place as from here to that white house yonder, [pointing out of the window,] and turned the colored people back an told them not to go. Yet he swore that I said, “Go and get your guns and pistols, and kill these white folks.” They had nearly all of the candidates bound over, excepting one or two, I think, who were not bound over. However, when the court met, Mr. Nutting, one of the democratic members, who took his seat to-day in the legislature, was foreman of the grand jury. I do not know whether they investigated the evidence or not. Of course I do know, too, for one of the grand jury told me. But they found us guilty of insurrection. When the question came up before court it was known to be such an outrage that conscience whipped them, and God, as I suppose, so impressed them that one of the democratic lawyers got up and moved to nol. pros. the whole thing, and it was done. But I was told afterward that but for the fact that they thought Governor Bullock would have pardon us, they would have convicted “every last devil of us.”
Question. The grand jury found a true bill against you?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What is the feeling of your people with regard to their occupation; what kind of labor and mode of your life do you think would be most agreeable to them, if it was perfectly free for them to exercise their choice?
Answer. All kinds; any kind of labor whatsoever. The most of our people, of course, prefer farming, because they have been educated and trained to that; but you will find among our people carpenters, blacksmiths, watch-makers, clock-makers, and persons in almost every kind of occupation that is followed among the whites.
Question. We find that there are a great many colored people in towns; it is so in this town, and I understand it is the same thing in other towns. Why is that?
Answer. They leave the country in many instances because they are outraged, because their lives are threatened; they run to the cities as an asylum. In many instances they work by the year, and at the end of the year they receive nothing. They come to the cities and prefer knocking about and catching pennies here and there rather than to work the entire year in the country and at the end of the year be turned out of their homes, with their wives and children, and have nothing.
Question. Has there been a great deal of that injustice practiced toward them?
Answer. Yes, sir, until the last year; now there is an improvement in that direction.
Question. What has been the principal difficulty in the way of their getting fair treatment?
Answer. Maybe I do not understand your question exactly.
Question. What is the difficulty they experience in obtaining justice and fair play is their dealings with their employers?
Answer. Do you mean in the courts?
Question. In the courts and out of the courts.
Answer. They generally have justice administered to them in the courts, where the question is between persons of color. When it becomes a question between a white man and a black man, why, the odds are bound to be against the colored man, unless in some instances there are judges and magistrates who will rise high enough above the prejudice against the race to do justice because they deserved it; but almost invariably I will not say that, but I will say that in two-thirds of the trails that occur between white men and black men the black men are bound to come out minus, There is no doubt about that.
Question. You say that in a great many cases colored men who have been employed on farms in the country have not been able to get anything for their labor. Why is that?
Answer. I can give no other reason than this: During the year they have to take up some orders on stores. There is very little money paid to any of them during the year, and if they want to obtain any provisions or clothing they are given an order on some store. I am speaking about the country places principally. At the end of the year these little bills are collected, and however small a quantity of things have been taken up, almost always the colored man is brought into debt. That is alleged as a reason why they should be bound to stay with their employers and work out what they say they owe them.
Question. A sort of practical peonage?
Answer. Yes, sir. Wherever there is much fear that the laborer will go to work with some one else the following year, he is mighty apt to come out twenty-five or thirty dollars in debt, and his employer calls upon him to work it out.
Question. It has been stated that some colored people who are employed prefer to be punished with stripes, as under the old system of things, to going to law and having the law administered upon them.
Answer. I never heard of an instance of that kind, except from whites. Certainly, if any man in this country mingles with the colored people, I do. I am regarded as a prominent leader among them; I am presiding elder of a large district. I have some twenty-seven preachers in my district. I hold from eight to ten camp meetings a year, where from two to three thousand people gather. There is not a week but what I am from forty to fifty, and a hundred to two hundred miles from my home, and I have yet to learn the first instance where a colored man prefers whipping to even any other kind of punishment. I have heard them say they would rather be hung than whipped, for whipping is looked upon among our people as the most degrading of punishments. They would almost rather be hung than whipped, because they feel that whipping is a relic of slavery. If a man is hung, why they think that any man is subject to be hung or to be sent to the penitentiary, but to be whipped has too much of the old slave times about it. It is looked upon as a relic of slavery, as degrading, and therefore they despise it.
Question. They look upon it with a sense of humiliation?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Were you in the constitutional convention that framed the present constitution of this State?
Answer. I was.
Question. I see you have a provision in your constitution which requires the pre-payment of taxes as a qualification for voting?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. How is that going to operate upon the colored people?
Answer. I am fearful it is going to destroy their power of representation in every branch of the government, State and national.
Question. Did you see or not see that when your constitution was framed?
Answer. No, sir; I was one of the men who advocated that provision. I was inexperienced at the time; a majority of the republicans were against it. I took the position that the dollar tax was to go to educate our ignorant children; that we needed it, and that every man should be compelled to pay at least one dollar a year for the education of the children; and I advocated it for that reason. I think, however, I made a great blunder in doing so. At the time I advocated it I thought, as did many others, that the law would be framed that if a man did not pay his taxes he would be arrested and punished for it. We did not think it would be left optional with the citizen to pay it or else be deprived of his vote. We did not think that the tax collectors would sit down and put a little notice in the paper that the nine-tenths of the colored people never would hear anything about, in consequence of being unable to read, and therefore they would know nothing about when the tax was to be paid.
Question. How many murders do you suppose have been committed in this State, of colored people, since the spring of 1868?
Answer. If you will allow me to go a little behind that, to say from the time reconstruction commenced.
Question. Well, do that.
Answer. We held a Southern States convention week before last in Columbia, South Carolina, at which place there were delegates from all the Southern States. We me together at the request of the committee on murders and outrages, and according to the best of our knowledge and belief it was estimated that since reconstruction between fifteen hundred and sixteen hundred had been perpetrated.
Question. In the South?
Answer. No; in the State of Georgia.
Question. How many in all the Southern States?
Answer. It was estimated that there had been not less than twenty thousand. That number is what we all agree upon when considering that question. Every delegation made an estimate of the probable amount of murders in their respective States. Of course it was only an estimate, to the best of our belief.
Question. Have the proceedings of your convention been published?
Answer. They are now in press for publication. I will say, however, that it was thought best not to insert it in our proceedings this estimate. While it was put in our report, it was stricken out afterward, that that particular feature will not appear when our proceedings come to be published. The report was curtailed to a small document from what it was originally.
Question. What do your people think of doing; what is their outlook for the future?
Answer. At this present time there is quite a feeling in favor of emigrating from the State of Georgia, and going to Florida and Alabama and South Carolina. I suppose that if the leading men were to give any encouragement to it at the present time the colored people would commence a regular exodus, and that thirty thousand people could be out of Georgia between now and Christmas if the leading men would give any encouragement to it.
Question. Would their purpose be to go upon Government land and live?
Answer. Not that only, but to get in such States as they hope to be under the control of the republican party, and not subject themselves to what they are in many instances now subjected to, and what they expect to be subjected to before this legislation shall get through with its proceedings. For instance, there was a bill introduced into this legislature the other day to make it a penal offense for a laborer to break his contract, regardless of the treatment
to which he may be subjected.
Question. Has such a bill as that been introduced?
Answer. Yes, sir. For instance, a white man writes out a contract; he gives the black man a copy of it, and takes a copy of it himself. He reads the contract to the black man, and of course he reads just what he pleases. When the black man takes it to somebody else and gets him to read it, it reads quite differently. Among other things, there is a provision in the contract that he must not go to any political gathering or meeting, or if he does, he will lose $5 for every day that he is absent, and yet he is to receive only $50 or $75 a year. Every day that he is sick, a dollar or a dollar and half is to be deducted. Possibly the man may find that under such a contract as that his wife and children are starving, and he may want to quit there are go and work for some person else who will him better wages.
Question. The practical effect of the proposed legislation would be to render the laborer practically a slave during the period of his contract?
Answer. A slave, or else he would be liable to punishment by imprisonment.
Question. Who introduced that bill?
Answer. I do not recollect; there were two such bills presented.
Question. Has the bill been printed yet?
Answer. No, sir; no provision has yet been made for printing bills. There is no doubt that they will pass some kind of law to that effect; scores of them said before they got here that they would do it.
Question. With a view to harmonize the practical relations of labor and capital?
Answer. Yes, sir; that is the phrase.
Question. Are there any other facts which you think we ought to know?
Mr. BAYARD. Facts!
The WITNESS. I am telling nothing but facts, so far as I am concerned. All that I say I am willing should appear in the papers to-morrow, if you choose.