Natchez Democrat clipping

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Lynch, James, 1839-1872; Union League of America

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Address of the Democratic Executive Committee to the Freedmen of Mississippi.

It is now publicly admitted and known to you all that the secret political combination called the Loyal League is the organization of the Republican party in this State, that the Rev. James Lynch, a colored man from Philadelphia – who admits that he receives $2500 a year from the Methodist Church North has been, and now is a leading agent of said party in the formation of said Leagues. That the said Lynch, under the patronage of said church, and the pretence of divine service and forming religious societies and holding nightly prayer-meetings, has assembled the freedmen in all portions of the State, and by falsely representing to them that the white men of Mississippi were their enemies and intended to reduce them again to slavery, and to deprive them of all the rights of freemen, has induced great numbers of the freedmen to become members of said Loyal League – hostile in their feelings and conduct to the white race, and to arm and combine against them.

That the said Lynch has inaugurated said League as an oath-bound, secret religious society, that the freedmen and freeman who enter the same are solemnly sworn under severe pains and penalties, extending to privation of liberty and property, that they will keep the secrets of said League - that they will vote for none but the candidates of the League or the Republican party for office - that they will support no public men or measures but such as are recommended and adopted by the League - that they will maintain and support none but members of the League in all the dealings, associations and duties in public and private life, and that they will combine and exert the full power of the League with arms, if necessary to accomplish their object. These facts and many more to the same effect are susceptible of legal proof.

The candidates of the Republican party are known to be members of the League, and in full accord and conspiracy with the said Lynch, who is put forth as a cats-paw because of his clerical character and negro blood.

The result of this combination has been and will continue to be to put personal political and social enmity and animosity between the black and white races – and if persevered in will render the liberty you now enjoy a curse instead of a blessing – cut you off from the support of the employment labor throughout the State, and render you liable, with all the members of the League, to prosecution for a high crime against the laws of the State, and to punishment by fine and imprisonment in the Penitentiary, and loss of suffrage forever.

Before you obtained your freedom and the right to vote such combinations between white men were declared unlawful, and those laws now apply to your race. The Revised Code of 1857 declares that -

"Whoever shall procure, or endeavor to procure to vote of any elector, or the influence of any person over other electors, at any election, for himself or any candidate, by means of violence, or threats of violence, or threat of withdrawing customary dealing in business or trade, or of enforcing the payment of a debt, or of bringing a suit or criminal prosecution, or by any other threat or injury to be inflicted by him, or by his means, shall, upon conviction, be forever disqualified to hold any office or place of trust, honor or profit, under the laws or constitution of this State, excluded from suffrage, and be punished by imprisonment in the Penitentiary, for a term not exceeding two years, or in a county jail, not more than one year, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment." -Rev. Code, 579, Art. 39.

"If any one shall, by illegal force, or threats of force prevent or endeavor to prevent any elector from giving his vote, he shall, upon conviction be punished by imprisonment in the Penitentiary for a term not exceeding two years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment." -Revised Code, 587, Art. 80.

Under this law, a combination to induce ignorant persons to take an oath to vote for particular measures or men at an election, with threats of violence or with denial of custom or any other injury if the person shall see fit to vote contrary to his oath, is unlawful.

You all know that the sole object of the oaths you are required to take, and the instructions you receive, as members of the League, and agree to obey, is to procure your votes, and the votes of all freedmen in the State, for the Republican candidates - that you are not at liberty to vote as you please, either as to men or measures, and are held in personal fear and dread of punishment and personal injuries and persecution, from members of the League, if you do not vote according to the orders of the League. Your Master, James Lynch, in his late address to you, commands you to "go to work and hunt up votes." He orders you to "vote for the Constitution, and for the men selected by the Republican party to hold office." These are the official commands of the League to you, - You dare not disobey. - Your judgment and your will are both enslaved, - You are not freemen to vote, - You have unlawfully bargained your vote away for the protection of the League, and are held in terror of its punishments.

You cannot fail to perceive that these articles of the Code of 1857, prohibit and render criminal the very acts which members of the Loyal League are required, by their oaths, agreements and obligations, to commit.

Criminal conspirators are defined to be those that do BIND themselves, by oath, covenant, agreement, or other alliance, to do an unlawful act, or a lawful act, for unlaw purposes; and such as retain men in the country with liveries or fees - under salary or pay - to maintain their malicious enterprises: - Tomlians Law, Dic. 1, 397 - Citty's C. Law, 1, 1138 - 1st Russ on Crime, 277, and 281.

A combination is a conspiracy in law, whenever the act to be done has a necessary tendency to prejudice the public or oppress individuals by unjustly subjecting them to the power of the confederates, and giving effect to the purposes of the latter, whether of extortion or mischief of any unlawful or immoral character. -Wharton's American Criminal Law, page 2323, section 2322.

The combinations of the Loyal Leagues come clearly within these definitions and prohibitions of the statute and common law.

1st. They prejudice the public and oppress individuals, by holding them in fear and restraint - by corrupting the minds of the electors and voters, and swearing them, without knowledge of candidates or measures, to vote for a particular party, and particular men and measures, regardless of the public welfare. The latter is the soul, life, and existence of free government, and when corrupted or perverted, as it is by the League the whole system of free government fails.

These Leagues extend, not only to Mississippi, but to ten States, and have controlled, and are now controlling the negroe' vote in all these States, with the same certainty and absolute power that the standing army of Louis Napoleon controlled the pretended vote of the French people, when by force of Military authority, he elected himself Emperor of France.

2d. These Leagues retain men in the country, with fees and under salaries and pay, to maintain their malicious enterprises, in violation of the law above quoted.

James Lynch, the agent of the Northern Leagues, admitted, in a public discussion, at Brandon, with Gen. Lowry, that he received a salary of two thousand five hundred dollars a year from the Methodist church North. He is believed to be in pay, also, of the Radical party in Congress. You know many colored men and white men engaged in the service of the League, and visiting you on the plantations for the purpose of securing your votes, who have no means of living, if not paid by the League. The one hundred and eighty-three Commissioners of Election, appointed by the Committee of Seven, now at the Capital, are, in fact, in the service of the League at six dollars per day. The Committee of Seven, at seventy dollars per day, are in the SAME service, and all at the expense of the tax payer.

These are public facts known to all observers, and convict the League of retaining men in their pay for unlawful purposes.

Lynch, the colored preacher, is the Commander-in-Chief of these bold violators of public law and private rights. Eggleston, McKee, Railsback, and the other foreign fugitives, are his inferior officers, and obey his orders. He issues his commands, and they obey. In his late address to the "colored voters," the following laconisms occur:

"You must vote for the constitution and for the men who have been selected by the Republican party to hold office!"

"Republican tickets will be provided. - Be sure you have a Republican ticket before you vote. Examine it and have it examined."

"Turn a deaf ear to every Democratic politician." "The man is one thing, the politician another." "Stand firm as the Union soldiers did before the galling fire of the Confederate batteries." "The Republican party, our party calls you to the polls to vote." "Go to work, hunt up votes, and on the 22d day of this month, Mississippi will be saved.

Your humble servant, and fellow citizen,
(signed) JAMES LYNCH."

These orders show the true relation between Lynch and the "colored voter" whom he has sworn to obey his mandate. He speaks like an oracle - a military commander with power over life and death, and it is known that the negroes of the League are obeying his orders; they are "hunting up votes" sending boys to register, not 21 years of age - inducing perjury to "hunt up votes" registering the same voters in two counties; brow beating and intimidating negroes to vote with the Loyal League; and this in violation of positive laws of the United States.

Congress overturned the constitution of ten States, established martial law therein, and sent five great armies with as many commanders at an expense of unnumbered millions for the purpose of protecting the negroes in the free exercise of the elective franchise. Congress supposed their former masters would coerce and intimidate the freedmen. They were mistaken. The white men of Mississippi stood aloof from such crimes. Lynch, Eggleston, McKee, Railsback and other foreign negroes and political Albinos have seized upon the "colored voters," and bound them hand and foot, soul and body, to vote the Republican ticket.

Lynch and Company profess to be the friends of Congress and the negro but they violate the laws of Congress - violate the rights of the freedmen, and call on the army to support them in defrauding the negroes of their votes, and depriving them of the free exercise of the elective franchise.

The Union army - the army of freedom - the army that pretends to support the elective franchise - the army that was sent here to support the negro - with argus eyes and Briaerian arms, stands quietly by - gives protection to the Loyal Leagues - allows them to cast the negro vote of ten great States - make them slaves of the Loyal Leagues, and on election days to march them to the polls to vote the Republican ticket, in military rank and file, to the terror and intimidation of all good citizens.

This military mode of conducting an election is prohibited by article 79, page 586 of the Revised Code, and is punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Freedmen! colored men of Mississippi, we have deemed it our duty to address you these words of friendly warning. You have been deceived by wicked and designing men. You have been induced under false pretenses of friendship, by foreign office seekers to abandon your own people and true friends and cleave to your enemies. Lynch, one of your own color, in part, has been selected to deceive and defraud you. You are ignorant of the great crimes they have induced you to commit; they are the guilty culprits at present; but if you persist in your wicked conspiracy after this friendly warning - if you go to the polls and vote under the unlawful and wicked oaths you have taken you will become as guilty and as criminal as they are, and must share the same fate.

And for what purpose are you asked by Lynch and his wicked associates to run the risk of going to the penitentiary, being fined a thousand dollars and forever deprived of the right to vote.

If you consummate this crime, by voting as agreed upon and, by keeping good your oaths in this respect, you will forfeit forever the right to vote for any body. Such is the law, and if you persist in following the lead of Lynch and his Albino co-conspirators, you must expect to receive your doom.

But you have a remedy. Your oaths are not binding. Go before any Judge or Justice of the Peace, and tell the whole truth about the oaths, agreements, covenants, or alliances of the League. Ask their advice, and they will tell you the Law, and direct you what to do. Go to the Commander of the Post - to Gen. Gillem, Gen. McDowell, or any Military officer, near you - tell him all the truth about the whole matter. It is their duty to protect you, and relieve you from the danger you are in.

General McDowell, now in command here, has the power, and it is his duty, to investigate this Loyal League Conspiracy - disperse them all, and punish the offenders who are about to steal your votes and convict you of a crime that will take from you the elective franchise forever. You are now free, and Congress has given you the right to vote, but if you vote under the corrupt bargain you have made with the Loyal League, you forfeit your personal freedom for two years, to be spent in the Penitentiary - pay a fine of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS - and lose YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE, forever.

If the Radical Ticket of this State should be elected by the vote of this corrupt conspiracy, their right to hold their offices will be contested on the grounds herein before stated.

If a majority of votes should be cast by this criminal conspiracy, for the ratification of the proposed Constitution, the election for that purpose will be fraudulent and voidable.

The public boast of Gen. McKee, that the Loyal League was the organization of the Republican party - that the League had twenty thousand majority in the State, and that the Democrats could not reclaim them from their obligation to the same - the boast of James Lynch, that if the colored voters "stand firm," "victory will thrill their hearts with joy," and "will gild with glory the Republican banner of freedom," all point with unerring certainty to the vote of the oath-bound conspirators of the Loyal Leagues. The proof of this monstrous crime of the age is on record in the proceedings of the Loyal League in every county in the State. The guilt of the chief conspirators is now patent to all beholders, and if they are not arrested by order of the Commanding General before the election - if with all this proof before him he allows this fraud on the freedmen to be consummated - if he allows the honor and dignity of the United States, and of the army under his command, to be comprised by failing to investigate the character of these oath-bound, secret political associations, you may rest assured that this investigation will be made in a judicial manner after the great crime shall have been committed, and when you will have no relief from punishment.

The Southern Conventions have all been elected in the same manner and by the same system of fraudulent voting. Gen. McDowell could not perform a greater service to the country, than by summoning Lynch, Eggleston, McKee, Railsback, and in fact all the members of the late Convention before him, and requiring them to divulge the whole truth about the mode of electing the Mississippi Convention, and the preparations now made to ratify the proposed Constitution and elect the Republican ticket.

A crime of this magnitude, committed under the pretended patronage of the Methodist Church North, and of the virtuous and pious Ben Butler, Ben Wade, and all the Radical Benjamites in Congress, will not be permitted to sleep - it will be too brilliant a jewel in the crown of Impeachment, at Washington, and of their vain-glorious braggarts here, to be lost sight of when their glorious deeds are recounted and political prizes awarded. We shall keep it alive if they do not.

Freedmen of Mississippi, your former owners and masters have no quarrel with you. The charge of Lynch and the Leagues that we wish to reduce you to slavery, or in any manner infringe your lawful rights of person, property, education, or enfranchisement, is utterly false. By our present Constitution and laws, you are protected in all these; and by the acts of Congress in the elective franchise. We have lands and homes for you; we have timber and stock and implements of all kinds; you have labor in abundance - you need employment and homes - we can give you these and make you comfortable at once, if you accept our proposed hand of friendship. United, and as friends, we can hold and enjoy the garden spot of the earth, and make it a Paradise for us all.

Why then take counsel of the strangers and oath-bound conspirators and paupers who abuse alike your confidence and our hospitality, and who seek your friendship only to elevate themselves and to defraud and ruin both you and us? Have they any homes, or lands, or stock, or provisions, or raiment to offer to you or your families? Can you live on the empoverished idea that they are Union men and that we are rebels - is that a patent medicine for all the ills that flesh is heir to?

When the election is over - the Mississippians beaten by your fraudulent votes - your imported friends installed in office, and the Loyal Leagues disbanded until the next election, what will become of the poor freedmen whose votes have accomplished this result? Will you not be beggars at the mercy of the very men you will have betrayed? Will you then ask the people of Mississippi to treat you as prodigal sons - kill for you the fatted calf, and restore you to the protection and comforts of their families as in days of yore?

Freedmen of Mississippi, look before you leap. There is an awful gulf now yawning before you. The vote you may cast in this election may be decisive of your fate. If you abandon the people with whom you have ever lived and who now invite you to their protection for the future, you cast your destiny with an enemy between whom and us there is eternal war. The system of plunder and robbery they have inaugurated by their Convention proceedings can never be endorsed by any people. The entire products of the earth and the industry of the people cannot support the burthens they impose. The State and all its interests will wither in their hands and become as sterile and denuded as the sands of Sahara.

We herewith append the legal opinion of Judge Yerger, formerly Judge of the Supreme Court of this State, and which carries with it the authority of law.

JOHN D. FREEMAN, Chairman, Jackson
WM. YERGER, "
E. BARKSDALE, "
FULTON ANDERSON, "
F. M. YERGER, "
WILEY P. HARRIS, "
D. P. PORTER, "
THOS. J. WHARTON, "
AMOS R. JOHNSTON, "
C. H. MANSHIP, Secretary, "
J. W. C. WATSON, Holly Springs
SAM'L J. GHOLSON, Aberdeen
JOHN A. BLAIR, Corinth
W. S. GAITHER, Tupelo
J. Z. GEORGE, Carrollton
G. D. MOORE, Brooksville
C. W. TAYLOR, Morton
S. C. THEILGARD, Enterprise
HIRAM CASSIDY, Meadville
BENJAMIN KING, Gallatin

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Natchez Democrat, “Natchez Democrat clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed February 24, 2024, https://msstate-exhibits.libraryhost.com/items/show/2126.

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