Clarion-Ledger clipping

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The Charge of Bribery Against the Lt.-Governor.

The Columbus Press, a leading Republican paper published where Lt.-Gov. Davis resides, contained an editorial on the charge of bribery which has been made against that officer, so pointed and frank, that we have copied it into our columns. The Press is a political supporter of the Lt.-Governor, and its observations and deductions cannot be presumed to have been made from an unfriendly stand-point.

First, the Press characterizes his action in pardoning a man charged with the brutal and horrible murder of a helpless woman in the presence of her five fatherless children, “as a monstrous and hideous spectacle of violated trust and abuse of power.”

Second, it reiterates the statement that he himself had offered a reward of $500 for this same murderer, and that he granted the pardon even before the criminal was brought into the State and put upon trial.

Third, that he “took advantage of a few hours absence of Gov. Ames from the State at dead of night” in which to interpose Executive clemency between the murderer and the penalties of the law.

Fourth, in consideration of this pardon, the charge is that the Lt.-Governor received a sum of money, said to be four hundred and fifty dollars. In other words that he exercised the powers of the office of Governor which he temporarily filled in virtue of his office of Lt.-Governor and polluted the seal of the State, for a money consideration.

The Press, it will be seen, so far from discrediting this main charge, virtually countenances it, and emphatically disapproves the method by which it has been met, as feeble and insufficient.

Now the Index has come squarely to the point, and specified that Colonels Beverly Matthews and W. E. Gibbs are cognizant of the facts – that the money which was expended to procure the release of the criminal, passed through their hands, that, as lawyers, they received their fees out of it, and that Col. Gibbs disbursed to the Lt.-Governor the sum of money which he is charged with having received. These gentlemen have it in their power to clear up this whole transaction, if they will. They have not spoken. True, Col. Matthews has satisfied the Index that his action in the case was “professional and honorable,” but this does not amount to a pinch of snuff. He is not on trial at the bar of public opinion. Nobody has inquired whether his conduct is “professional and honorable” or not. The inquiry is, what do you know about the charge against the Lt.-Governor, and what were the influences that induced him to pardon the criminal? Any answer which does not meet this question squarely is simply evasive, and is utterly abortive, as an attempt to satisfy the public demand upon the point at issue.

Until the matter becomes a subject of legal inquiry, and of Legislative investigation, these gentlemen who are publicly declared to be cognizant of the facts, have it in their power to keep silent, but their silence, under the circumstances, is ominous.

Here is the article from the Press, the Republican journal above referred to:

Gov. Davis and the Index.

The Columbus Index has charged Lt.-Gov. Davis with the crime of pardoning one Thomas H. Barrentine, a man who stands indicted on the records of this county for one of the most brutal, fiendish and unprovoked murders found in the annals of crime.

Its second charge is, that the Lt.-Governor himself – acting as Governor when the crime was committed – offered a reward of $500 for his apprehension, and when the officers of the law were upon his track and about to bring him back to the State for trial upon this heinous charge, that Lt.-Gov. Davis again took a hand in the case, and taking advantage of a few hours absence from the State of Gov. Ames, at dead of night, interceded his pardon between this criminal and outraged justice.

The third charge is, that this pardon was granted for a money consideration of $500, given into the hands of the Lt.-Governor for that specific purpose.

The first and second of these counts, we presume, Gov. Davis will not deny. The third charge, while a more flagrant violation of the letter of the law, is certainly not a greater outrage upon the morals of the sense of justice of a civilized people than are the first charges. The moral guilt of the act stands as a monstrous and hideous spectacle of violated trust, and abuse of power.

When, therefore, the Lt.-Governor comes forward confessing the first counts – accepting the verdict of condemnation from the mouths of all honest men, which these confessed violations of duty fasten upon him – can he reasonably expect the public to accept his mere denial of the last charge – supported as it is by a thousand suspicious circumstances – as a full acquittal? The Pilot, with all the simplicity of a child-like faith, remarks: “We are assured by Lt.-Gov. Davis that there is no truth in the article published recently in the Columbus Index” – “NO TRUTH” – says Davis, and the Pilot gulps it down and then proceeds to call on the Index to prove the statement!

Whether the Index is able to do so or not, we do not know, but we are of opinion that it will be time enough to call for proofs when the opportunity is extended to them to secure them. This opportunity Mr. Davis can give them by bringing an action of libel, or by taking such other steps as will give the Index a chance to compel the attendance of witnesses and their sworn evidence under the penalty of perjury for false statements.

Until he is disposed to resort to this reasonable and satisfactory way of vindicating his action in this matter, we prefer to be governed in our judgment by the facts that surround the case, rather than by the assertions of innocence of the accused, or the flinging of epithets at his accusers.

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Clarion-Ledger., “Clarion-Ledger clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed May 23, 2024, https://msstate-exhibits.libraryhost.com/items/show/2167.

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