Southern Treatment of Northern Citizens
Davenport Daily Gazette, December 19, 1860
Right glad are we that public attention is being turned earnestly to the treatment of Northern citizens when in Southern States. For the sake of peace between the rival sections of the Union, much has been left unsaid which should have been uttered long ago. Now, it is time to speak out, not only with a feeling of indignation which has long been smouldering, but agreeably to the stern determination of free men, to submit no longer quietly to such outrageous wrongs as have been perpetrated. The evidence comes pouring upon us—and, be it understood, not mere sensation evidence—that Northern men cannot travel in the South upon their ordinary business without they are prepared, at all times and upon all occasions, to clothe themselves with cursing as with a garment, upon the mere utterance of the name of Abraham Lincoln—that the faintest shadow of having exercised a freeman's right in the North in favor of free soil, free speech and human liberty, brings the lash, tar and feathers, and perhaps the hangman's rope or banishment, into requisition, in accordance with the supposed magnitude of the offence. In fact, no man can be a man in the South, or rest with a reasonable assurance of continued existence, unless eating dirt at the feet of the all-controlling influence of the Slave Power. Men high in authority, and of acknowledged social position, countenance this state of things, and interested and ignorant satellites at every cross-road take the initiative from their superiors, and with a recklessness of purpose which has scarcely a parallel in history, acts are perpetrated which should not only be discountenanced by any civilized community, but meet with a severe, swift and certain retribution.
We believe that, at the bottom of this matter, there is a prominent moving cause, which is not permitted to come fairly before the American people. Bankruptcy is staring the South in the face. A huge indebtedness hangs over them, the liquidation of which is beyond present, or perhaps prospective control. Accredited agents, traveling for commercial houses, discover all this, and in connection therewith, the minutia: is obtained by which legal remedies can be instituted having in view the recovery, or partial recovery, of just obligations.—This, to the South, is grinding, galling, insufferable; and as a dernier resort, the cry of Abolitionist is raised upon every one from the North. We are willing to admit that an intense hatred of the free and progressive population of the North, arising from the conflicting relations of adverse social systems, is and has been an ever-abiding cause of discord—but what is stated above, we are fully convinced, gives a momentum to Southern proscription and acts of aggression which should receive serious consideration. That the South, the pink of chivalry and the very embodiment of honor, should adopt the questionably honest mode of getting clear of Sheriffs' executions by moving the body politic in opposition to the enforcement of law, and by maltreating and murdering the agents of inquisitive creditors, may perhaps be somewhat of a novelty, and many will be loth to believe it; but the evidence comes to us strong and convincing, that the Southern mind has also come to this pass in connection with its other acts of insanity.
Whatever the operating causes, it is time some measures should be set on foot to stop this career of villainy. We would not recommend acts of retaliation upon unoffending citizens of the South, for then we should be placing ourselves upon a moral level with those whose criminal actions we so heartily deprecate—upon a level with those whose constant and meditated perversions of human and divine laws have brought them within range of the public executioner. True, could we catch on the soil consecrated to freedom the immediate and active agents in any case of causeless lynching, a stout cord and short shrift, without the benefit of clergy, might be the consequence. The responsible scoundrels, though, take good care to remain far away from our Northern clime, or if compelled to visit us, do any thing else but boast of their nefarious deeds.
Of course, with the present imbecile Administration, nothing of a general character can be done to mitigate the existing and growing evil. We suppose the North must submit a few months longer to the tyrannical exercise of irresponsible despotic power over the persons of American citizens, whose interest, duty or pleasure calls them South. With the advent of a new government, this policy must be changed, and Southern men must be taught, in a manner that will admit of no possible mistake, that scenes of violence, bloodshed and aggression upon any of the citizens of our common country will henceforward meet with no toleration, but be punished. The name of American citizen must be a panoply of protection to every one within the bounds of a united republic, guaranteeing not only freedom of action, but freedom of thought and speech. The insolence and cruelty of a mere section must be abated under the overshadowing influence of the Central Government, if returning reason shall not dictate the abandonment of the course at present pursued on the part of the South.