Wayside Dots and Jots
Christian Recorder: December 20, 1877
Mr. Editor: —In accordance with my promise in my letter last week from Colombia, S.C. I now write you a more full account of the political persecutions miscalled trials that have taken place in South Carolina during the past month.
Before entering upon a description of the so-called trials I should, perhaps, state the circumstances that immediately preceded them, and that are requisite to a full comprehension of their significance.
It will be remembered that during the fierce political contests of last year it was a question of great doubt and anxiety how South Carolina had voted on both the National and State candidates and that after a great deal of suspense throughout the country it was ascertained that the vote upon it face was in favor of the National Republican candidate for President and against the State Republican candidate for Governor. The board of State Canvassers consisting of five state officers, were the Judges, in the first instance of the result of the votes; in the exercise of the powers vested in them by law they declined to accept the vote of two counties—Edgefield and Lawrens in which there was the most flagrant fraud.
The Legislature in the exercise of it prerogatives threw out the votes of the two counties above mentioned for Governor and members of their bodies—the Home and the Senate. This result made the executive and Legislature Departments Republican, as they were justly entitled to be.
The Supreme Court of the State had usurped the functions of the Board of State Canvassers, and had assumed control of the Election Returns, which act was considered at the time by all disinterested lawyers as a most high handed outrage. The Board of State Canvassers proceeded with the performance of its duties and declared the result of the election while the lawyers were wrangling in the Supreme Court, and before that court had announced its decision as to how the board should act.
For baffling the Supreme Court in desire Tilden President and Hampton Governor, the Board of State Canvassers were….imprisoned by the Judges of that court who, perhaps, we should here say were elected as Republicans but who now betrayed their party, having stepped outside their legitimate sphere to perform that act of treachery. The Board of State Canvassers were however released by Judge Bond of the U.S. Circuit Court.
The……..dual government in South Carolina during the long and weary mouths from December 1875 until April 1877—the one headed by Hampton as Governor, and the other by Chamberlain, when the President with drew the troops, and Governor Chamberlain to prevent the violence and bloodshed threatened by General Hampton, withdrew from the contest and left Hampton in undisputed possession of the Governor’s office.
Hampton soon showed his real spirit by ejecting all the Republican State officers from their offices, notwithstanding their right to the offices were being contested in the Supreme Court by their Democratic competitions.
Hampton then called an extra session of his Legislature, and they proceeded in a manner similar to that which had been adopted in the Executive Departments. The prominent Republican members of both House were expelled and their seats declared vacant, and Democrats were soon elected to fill them.
These outrageous proceedings had so alarmed and disgusted the country generally that it was deemed necessary to take further steps to present some justification for their extraordinary character, and an investigating committee was decided as the best means for this end.
A State Government was betrayed by the President who was required by the Constitution to guarantee a Republican form of government to each State. Hampton and his rifle clubs had taken possession of the State government by…. violence and had robbed the majority of the citizens of their rights. They attempted to justify those proceeding by alleging corruption on the pairs of Republicans insufficient to warrant their revolutionary notion.
The investigating committees was appointed consisting of four Democrats and an old renegade Republican as Chairman. They have procured indictments from the Grand Jury of the County where Columbia—the Capitol of the State—is situated against nearly all leading Republicans. Three of these Republicans were tried at the last term of the court—commencing November 1—Hon. F. L. Cardoso—Ex Treasurer of South Carolina, Hon. Robert Smalls member of Congress from South Carolina, and Mr. S. C. Carpenter, the Editor of the Republican Newspaper of the State. The first two gentlemen are well know colored men, and the last, a white man. I shall confine my remarks in this letter to the trial of the first two gentlemen.
To begin with Mr. Cardozo, I should first mention that he was a member of the Board of State Canvassers…..and was therefore a special object of dislike. He was also re-elected State Treasurer by Republicans after having served the State four years in that capacity and four years prior to his first election as Treasurer, as Secretary of State. He has thus for the past eight years held prominent positions in the Republican Party, and was known as one of its best and noblest leaders.
He was deprived of the office of Treasurer to which he was elected, and to justify their act of robbery, he was charged with theft by this Committee and tried by this Court, and convicted. I happened to be in Colombia the day the Judge pronounced the sentence and heard the lecture he delivered. I was surprised beyond measure at the bitter news of its tone, and the strong personal and political haste he manifested. I then felt for the first time in its full force what a terrible caricature of Justice it is for a political partisan to set a Judge in trial of a political opponent especially in times of violence and revolution.
The Judge that presided at Mr. Cardoza’s trial professed Republicanism at the time of election, but in the last election became a Democrat and supported Hampton and like all renegade and traitors was more bitter towards his former Republicans colleagues than an original Democrat.
I shall now state the facts as developed in the testimony in Mr. Cardoza’s trial, and let your readers judge how unjust was a conviction upon such facts. As Treasurer, Mr. Cardoza was required to pay out the money appropriated for legislative expense upon the orders of drafts of the presiding officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate attested by the clerks.
Those officers and clerks issued an order upon the Treasurer for the payment of money, and the Treasurer paid it. This order was afterward discovered to be a fraudulent one. One of the presiding officers and two clerks acknowledged its fraudulent character and amid that they obtained and applied to their own use a part of the money procured by the order. It was the right and duty of these officers to issue those orders for services rendered or materials furnished.
You would have naturally supposed that the presiding officer and the two clerks whose guilt was manifest and who had acknowledged their guilt, would be surely published. But you would be mistaken in such a supposition; that is not the way they proceed in South Carolina.
Those three men were comparatively insignificant political leaders and their confessions of their guilt which could not be concealed, were considered sufficient punishment for them if also they would become witnesses to destroy the influence and reputation of those prominent Republican leaders who might oppose and injure the Democratic party in the State and nation. It was therefore determined not to prosecute those men, but use them as witnesses to prosecute and destroy the influence and reputation of Hon. F. S. Cardoza, the Treasurer of the State. These witnesses swore that Mr. Cardoza knew of the fraudulent character of this order and received one-fifth of the proceeds amounting to $800. This Mr. Cardoza solemnly denied under oath. The prosecution was then put to proof. One of the witnesses swore that Mr. Cardoza proposed to him to perpetrate the fraud by issuing an order for four thousand dollars, which was the exact balance of the appropriation of $75,000 for legislative expenses that remained unexpended at that time, December 10, 1873. Mr. Cardoza immediately and promptly refuted this witness by proving from public records of the Treasurer’s office that but $385 out of the $75,000 was expended during the entire month of December 1873 leaving a balance of $74,015 on the 31st of that month.
The next witness (Mr. Woodruff) came forward and stated that he gave Mr. Cardoza notes of the State ordered to be issued to him by the Legislature in payment of printing accounts for this order of $4,000. He swore positively from a memorandum book, that he said he kept at the time, that he gave Mr. Cardoza these notes on the 9th day of December 1873. Mr. Cardoza instantly refuted this witness by showing that he issued these notes to an entirely different person, not commencing until December 11, 1873, as the public records showed. The third witness swore that he knew nothing at all of the conspiracy. In addition to the refutation of the two witnesses produced, Mr. Cardoza showed the utter improbability of the story told by those witnesses by producing a fraudulent order for four thousand dollars given to him by them, and which he had immediately cancelled. Mr. Cardoza stated on the stand that the order was given to him without his request and that he had it cancelled immediately by the officer who handed it to him making him sign his name to the cancellation made across its face in red ink. That very officer was one of the witnesses against him, and acknowledged the whole matter.
The fact of Mr. Cardoza’s refusal to profit by a fraudulent certificate of five-thousand dollars given to him at the very same time—December 1873—without his request, was introduced to show the utter improbability of his becoming a party to a fraud or precisely the same character whereby he gained only eighteen hundred dollars.
This circumstance together with the complete refutation of the two witnesses by public documentary evidence was so conclusive of the innocence of Mr. Cardoza and the utter failure of the conspiracy to destroy his reputation, that the prosecution determined to change the nature of the charge notwithstanding the long established legal principle—that a man cannot be tried for one charge, and proof produced to sustain another and entirely different charge.
Mr. Cardoza and his Counsel were perfectly willing to allow the prosecution to produce all the irrelevant testimony they desired and to make all the additional charges they wished so confident were they that they could be met and refuted.
In accordance therefore with this plan the Attorney General, who was conducting the prosecution, introduced Mr. Woodruff, the Clerk of the Senate, one of the witnesses used to prove the first charge to prove that he (Mr. Woodruff) had bribed the Treasurer to pay him his accounts as President of the Printing Company which did the printing for the state.
Mr. Woodruff had nothing whatever to prove his charge but his own word, uncorroborated by a particle of other testimony. Now let it be remembered that this man was a self-confessed thief who publicly admitted that he had robbed the State of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr. Cardoza solemnly denied this charge under oath, and there was nothing to sustain it but the allegation of this self-admitted criminal whose testimony uncorroborated would not be received against anyone else but himself in any court in any civilized country.
But Mr. Cardoza fortunately remembered that he had refused to issue one hundred thousand dollars of notes that the legislature had authorized to be issued to the Printing Company of which this man was President, on the ground of the unconstitutionality of such notes being issued by a State, and that this same witness had attempted to bribe him to make the issue by offering him twenty-five thousand dollars which he indignantly declined and still refused to make the issue. To the astonishment of the entire court this witness admitted that he had offered the bribe, and that it was scornfully declined.
The prosecution saw at once that they could not prove Mr. Cardoza a corrupt officer by such a witness, who in one breath admitted that he had bribed an officer by paying him….and in the same breath testified that the same officer refused twenty-five thousand dollars as a bribe to issue to him notes authorized by the Legislature. The Prosecution therefore shifted their ground again and introduced an entirely different charge and an entire new witness to prove it. Hardy Solomon—President of a bank…in the city of Columbia was introduced to prove an entirely different charge from the one allege in the indictment. This witness stated that Mr. Cardoza advised him to withdraw twenty thousand dollars from certain claims amount to one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars belonging to his bank and the payment of which the Legislature had authorized and made appropriation for ; Mr. Cardoza stating, as he alleged, that these twenty thousand dollars that he had advised him to withdraw, could be paid out of another account in the Treasury and twenty thousand dollars of fraudulent paper could be substituted in their stead; and that this was done by him—the President—and the money obtained.
Mr. Cardoza instantly produced the public journal of the Legislature to prove that at this very same time this witness swore that he advised the perpetration of such a fraud, he had a public controversy with him declining to pay a fraudulent paper of twenty-five thousand dollars which was a matter of record in this office, and by means of which record, he was enabled to discover and prove its fraudulent character; that he communicated the fact to the Legislature, and that this witness replied in a communication to the Legislature which was published in the journals and was produced, denying in the most emphatic and indigent terms that there was any fraudulent papers among his claims, thus giving the lie direct to the statement that he was now making.
The prosecution now saw that no matter how they varied the charge, or more properly, charges, or how many witnesses they produced, they were met by the defendant and his counsel and instantly refuted, they therefore concluded to close their testimony, and let the case go to the jury, relying upon the influence to obtain a conviction. The prosecution saw plainly they had utterly failed to prove the case they had started with, or any of the subsequent ones they had substituted in its stead, and expressed a doubt of their ability to convict. The spectators also, composed of both races and parties, who had crowded the Court House during the trial, and heard all the testimony, declared unanimously that the case was a failure on the part of the State and that it would very probably result in a Mistrial as the white men would not vote to acquit Mr. Cardoza as they ought.
I should perhaps also state that Mr. Cardoza in reply to the charge that he had paid a fraudulent certificate or order of the Presiding Officers, answered that he did not know that it was fraudulent, and was not responsible for its unlawful character: and that the Presiding officers alone, were, and ought to be held responsible for the order; that he was authorized and required by the law to make payments upon the orders of the Presiding officers, and that therefore it was incumbent upon him to see that the signatures to the orders were the genuine signatures of those who were authorized to issue the drafts; and that he did not and could not know that parties in whose name the order was drawn were reality to existence; or that the services were rendered of the materials furnished, and that he paid the order to a responsible firm.
In the particular case charged in the indictment, it was shown by the testimony of the officers who issued the order that the person in whose name the order was issued was not a real person but a fictitious one and that therefore no services were rendered. Mr. Cardoza replied to this that the person who brought the draft to the Treasury for payment endorsed and collected the money was a real and responsible person and that that person and not he should be held accountable for the fraud together with the Presiding Officers who issued the order, knowing necessarily that it was fraudulent.
Mr. Cardoza compared his position as Treasurer to that of teller in a bank who paid the check of a depositor issued to a second party unknown to the teller but which check was endorsed by the second party and presented by a third party who was known to the teller, and which was also indorsed by the third party in addition to the previous endorsement of the second party.
The case was then given to the jury composed of seven colored and five white men, six of them being Democrats and six Republicans,--one of the colored men was a Democrat.
The jury after twenty-four hours deliberation brought in a verdict of guilty to the surprise of every one, not expecting the prosecution. No one was surprised at the conduct of the white men, but when the color men were asked how could they bring in such a verdict in the face of the evidence, they replied that they were threatened with death; they did not agree to such a verdict.
The counsel of Mr. Cardoza gave notice of an appeal to the Supreme Court for a new trial on exceptions to the rulings of the judge during the progress of the trial. The judge ruled most unfairly, violating every precedent and well established custom, in favor of the prosecution.
So much at present for Mr. Cardoza’s case, which has already occupied more space than I intended. I shall devote the balance of this letter to the case of Hon. Robert Small the present member of Congress from the Fifth District of South Carolina.
Gen. Smalls is an object of special hatred to the Democrats of South Carolina for several reasons; first and mainly—he is the “Hero of the Planter.” They can never forgive or forget the daring feat by which a slave pilot took possession of that Confederate craft and ran her out of Charleston Harbor one dark night and delivered her and himself to the blockading vessels of the Federal Navy lying outside of that port and then for that very man to be elevated to the position of a member of Congress was in their estimation adding insult to injury. Gen. Smalls also lived in a county and Congressional District where the Republican majority was very large, and composed of positive and determined men, who admired his courage and the intelligence which he displayed in their leadership. These were qualities in the estimation of his Democratic opponents, which were dangerous obstacles to the success of their schemes, and the man that possessed them must be broken down at any cost.
Again the Democrats were hungry for office, and the competitor who had run against Gen. Smalls for congress and who was beaten by him by more than 1700 votes, wanted his position at any sacrifice. This Democrat was from bloody Edgefield County, the citizens of which introduced the Mississippi Policy into South Carolina during the last election, and carried it by the rifle and shot gun.
He invoked the powers of the Judicial Department, which has often been the tool in the hands of unscrupulous demagogues to accomplish their purposes in his behalf and readily obtained it.
Gen. Smalls was therefore arrested on the eve of his leaving for Congress on a charge of bribery while member of the Senate of South Carolina in 1873. He gave bail for his appearance at court on the 22nd of October and left Columbia for Washington to be sworn in on the 15th, as a member of the 45th Congress. This was rather a disappointment to the Democrats who had arrested Gen. Smalls at Beaufort on the 4th of October, and hoped to detain him in jail until the 22nd of October, when the Court met, and thus prevent him from appearing in Washington and thus permit his Democratic opponent to be sworn in on account of his absence. But General Smalls promptly furnishing bail spoiled this little Democratic trick.
Gen. Smalls immediately returned from Washington, and submitted himself to the court as his bond required his trial begin on Wednesday, November 7th, the day Mr. Cardoza’s trial concluded.
Gen. Smalls and his counsel had noticed particularly the unfair rulings of the Presiding Judge who seemed to be entirely under the control of the Attorney-General who conducted the prosecution, and more especially the violent and bitter spirit of prosecution that existed among the Democrats in the community towards Republicans. It was simply impossible to obtain a fair trial under such circumstances. No Democrat possessed the moral courage to withstand and oppose such feelings so universal among his political associates no matter what may be the character of the evidence in favor of the defendant.
Gen. Smalls and his counsel therefore determined to attempt to transfer his case to the Unites States Circuit Court as provided in the U.S. States.
This attempt provoked the bitterest feeling among the Democrats, and if possible intensified that already existing to a much greater extent. The motion was denied by the Court, and the case proceeded to trial.
The first witness was Mr. Woodruff the clerk of the Senate, who was President of the Printing Company that did the State printing. He testified that he gave to Gen. Smalls a check for five thousand dollars payable to cash or bearer for voting in favor of his Printing account. The second witness was the book-keeper in the bank, who testified that he debited Mr. Woodruff’s account five thousand dollars on account of the check above mentioned on the day of its date, and that he credited Gen. Small’s account five thousand dollars on the same day from a deposit slip furnished him by the cashier and teller. Gen. Smalls stated in reply to these charges that he never received the bribe alleged to have been given to him, that he had no knowledge or connection with the check payable to cash or bearer, and that the five thousand dollars placed to his credit was from a deposit of money made by him. There was not testimony of any kind to prove Gen. Smalls guilty of the charge except the evidence of Mr. Woodruff.
We have already stated and shown that this witness for the State was a self confessed thief whose uncorroborated testimony would be thrown out of any respectable court. But it is proper to show how utterly worthless the evidence given by this man is by stating that he testified from a memorandum book kept by him in a short hand peculiar to himself comprising three systems of phonography, and which he stated that he knew of but one man in the State besides himself that could read: and that book kept in pencil, admitting of any erasures and substitutions desired.
Again this man—Woodruff—was one of two partners comprising this printing company which had the contract for the State printing. The other partner was Mr. Jones—the clerk of the House. Whatever bribes Mr. Woodruff said he paid was allowed by Mr. Jones and vice versa, as they both testified on the stand. There was thus every inducement for each of them to cheat the other, and to charge it to the company, and pocket the proceeds of the fraud, and credit to some innocent man.
But further still, the circumstances under which this man became a State witness is enough to utterly discredit his testimony, apart from his self-confessed infamous character. His guilt was clearly discovered and proven in raising a printing bill against the State from forty-five to ninety thousand dollars. He admitted his guilt, and entreated the prosecuting officers to forgive him that and many other crimes of similar character that he committed offering to render them any service they required.
He was forgiven; his terms were accepted; all the cases against him were not pressed, and he was used as a State witness, and his testimony entirely unsupported and uncorroborated, was received as evidence to convict Mr. Cardoza and Gen. Smalls.
Nothing more need be said to show the injustice and unfairness of those trials than the fact that the prosecution relies upon such witnesses.
The mere fact that Gen. Smalls deposited five thousand dollars at the same time that Mr. Woodruff issued his check was considered conclusive evidence that the check was given to Gen. Smalls.
The case was given to a jury similar to Mr. Cardoza’s in race and politics. They brought in a verdict of guilty after 15hrs deliberation.
So far as the colored men are concerned it is almost impossible to expect any of them to exercise any courage and independence. The present condition of things seems like a restoration of slavery, so far as they are concerned without any of its advantages, such as the protection the master gave. A perfect reign of terror exist and peace that prevails is the peace that “reigns at Warsaw.”
Gen. Smalls had appealed to the Supreme Court of the State against the illegal rulings of the Judge during the progress of the trial and hopes to get a new trial through its decision. In the meantime, both he and Mr. Cardoza were offered release from imprisonment in the jail, where they both have been upon furnishing bail pending the appeal to the Supreme Court. Gen. Small’s bail was fixed at ten thousand dollars and he has given it and is released.
Mr. Cardoza’s was fixed at thirty-five thousand dollars and as he cannot give it, he remains imprisoned.
The State had made out so poor a case against Gen. Smalls, or more correctly speaking had so utterly failed that his counsel did not deem it necessary to cross-examine the two witnesses on behalf of the State or place Gen. Smalls himself on the stand to contradict their statements.
Mr. Woodruff also admitted afterward that Gen. Smalls had offered to lend him five thousand dollars, and Gen. Smalls could have produced several witnesses to prove that he had that amount of money and even more in his possession about that time for the purposes of investment. There were many opportunities for making large profits by the purchase and sale of Treasury warrants that were in circulation at that time, and bankers and brokers, irrespective of race or politics regarded such speculations as the best and most profitable, and indulged in them to a large extent.
It will thus be plainly seen that all the evidence in both Gen. Smalls and Mr. Cardoza’s cases was purely circumstantial, a subject of inference and probability. All history shows that when men are tried for their lives or liberties of such testimony, the verdict is an indication of the public sentiment prevailing in the community towards the defendants, rather than the truth as warranted by the facts elicited in the testimony.
The great maxim, in short, that has made the Common Law of England the pride and boast of civilization, viz., that all men must be presumed innocent until proved guilty, has been reversed in these cases; and the defendants were regarded as guilty, unless they could prove themselves innocent. As it was impossible to perform such a feat, especially in such a community, they were condemned before their trials began.
As I stated in the beginning, theses trials have a far-reaching significance and effect. The colored people are depressed beyond measure, notwithstanding all the high-sounding promises of political and civil equality and protection of their rights, they feel that their best and most prominent leaders are being persecuted for no other reason than being faithful and determined Republicans. In their sorrow and disappointment their yearnings and hopes are looking towards Liberia and Africa, where the white men who have robbed and oppressed them for nearing three centuries can do so no longer.
The solution of the problem—how can the colored men live in the United States—especially in the Southern states where most of them are—is one that I have given long and prayerful consideration to and I confess it does not appear clear to me.
One thing is certain the two races cannot live in the South on terms of equality, political, civil, or otherwise. The colored race will be remanded to a species of slavery worse in many respects than that from which they have been emancipated.
They are sullen, despondent and discontented and sooner or later these feelings will lead to trouble. The Southern whites rely upon the strong arm of power to produce submission, but they are resting upon a slumbering volcano which sooner or later will cause a fearful eruption.
We hope and pray that God in his infinite wisdom and goodness will point out a peaceful solution to all these difficulties, and the rights and liberties of the poor and long oppressed black man, of which he has been robbed by his more fortunate white brother will be restored to him in this or some other country.
I will write you again on different phases of this subject as it presents itself to me. But vengeance is mine, and I will repay, saith the Lord, and South Carolina had better not forget it.
Eatonton, GA Dec. 6th 1877