Clarion-Ledger clipping

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THE ALLEGED BRIBERY CASE.

Col. Matthews, of Counsel for Barrentine, explains, but says nothings.

The Charge not Cleared up.

The Columbus Index has stated specially the grounds on which it has charged Lt.-Gov. Davis with having received money for granting pardon to Thomas Barrentine, charged with the murder of the widow in Lowndes county. Since our last issue, in which we commented on the absence of explicitness in the original article, the Index has made this following distinct statement, giving names, dates and particulars:

Columbus Index.]

“The attacks of Lieutenant-Governor Davis and the Radical press of the State have forced us to a publication of the facts connected with the rumor relating to the bribery of Lieutenant-Governor Davis. The Index now defies those whose characters are at stake to bring suit for libel, and we proceed to state the following facts and dare any one to controvert them:

Between the 14th and 24th days of May, Gov. Davis (negro) was in Jackson, begging Gov. Ames to sign a pardon in blank. Gov. Ames refused and then Davis told him the pardon was for Thomas Barrentine, the murderer of Mrs. Thomas. Still Gov. Ames refused to issue the pardon, but shortly left for the seacoast. He went by Osyka, near the Louisiana line, and soon after he passed that place, Gov. Davis sealed the pardon of Thomas Barrentine.

On May 14th, Henry Barrentine, father of Thomas Barrentine, gave Col. Beverly Matthews, attorney for the Barrentines, a check for $1250 to be used in procuring the pardon of Thos. Barrentine. – Soon after, there was some misunderstanding between Henry Barrentine and Col. Matthews, which resulted in the former’s withdrawing the check and giving, on May 22d, a check for $1250 payable to cash or bearer. This check was in possession of Col. W. E. Gibbs, who obtained the money on it Sunday, May 23d, and on that day, he, Col. Matthews and Gov. Davis were seen in such earnest conversation together that the observers thought that there was some serious difficulty on hand. On that night Col. Gibbs and Davis had an appointment to meet at Wiley Johnston’s (colored) house. Davis waited at the house until late at night but the Col. failed to “come to time” whereat Davis was greatly enraged. The next morning (24th) Davis was at the train before day waiting for Gibbs and went to Artesia with him. What transpired during that interview is not known, but Davis returned with a smiling countenance and said that he had got his part of the money.

The actual amount of money received by Davis for issuing the pardon was only $450.00. The balance – $800.00 was divided between Cols. Matthews and Gibbs for professional services in securing the pardon.”

This article presents the issue in a tangible shape. Was there a $1200 check in the transaction? Did Davis receive any portion of it? If not how was it used? The case had not been tried, and no lawyer’s fees could have legitimately accrued. A subsequent number of the Index contains the following explanation for Col. Beverly Matthews:

“Several articles having appeared in our columns connecting the name of the Hon. Beverly Matthews with the bribery of the negro Lieut. Governor, we deem it an act of justice to state, that having had an interview with Col. Matthews, from his statement upon this subject we are satisfied that his action in the premises was professional and honorable.

We regret that our article of Thursday should have been misconstrued by intelligent gentlemen, and will say that Col. Matthews’ explanation was entirely satisfactory, and our intent was to give him an opportunity of offering it to the public.”

Now, we submit that this explanation is jejune and unsatisfactory to an impartial public, notwithstanding it may be “satisfactory” to the Index. The public desires to know not what the editor of that journal thinks is “professional and honorable,” but precisely what the said “action” was. The explanation implies that Col. Matthews was concerned in the case; and the inquiry is made, to what extent? Does he possess knowledge of how the $1200 was expended? And if so, what is his information? The explanation ends where public curiosity begins.

Nothing is heard from Col. Gibbs who, is alleged to have been the associate counsel with Col. Matthews in the management of the case. It is alleged that he disbursed the proceeds of the check, and circumstances related which have created the presumption that a part of it was paid to the acting Governor.

On the whole, the affair wears an ugly aspect official. Barrentine was charged with participating in an atrocious murder of a defenceless woman in the presence of her children, and without a trial, is pardoned. The inference is unavoidable that a powerful influence was brought to bear on the acting Executive to induce him to interfere in such behalf in advance of a trial in which the facts would have been elicited establishing the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Col. Matthews has spoken but not to the point, not satisfactorily. Col. Gibbs is yet to be heard from. Meantime, the inquiry shall be pressed not for the professional nor personal injury of these lawyers whom the public acquit of any moral crime in striving to secure the release of their client, but to ascertain whether the grave charge that Executive interference in behalf of a supposed criminal was secured by a pecuniary consideration. The dealing of the public is with its agent charged with the highest obligations known to the law, and it will not be content until the matter is probed to the core.

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Clarion-Ledger, “Clarion-Ledger clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed May 23, 2024, https://msstate-exhibits.libraryhost.com/items/show/2168.

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