“Tuskaloosa Affair Once More.”

Source Type: Newspaper
Author: D. L. Dalton
Publisher: Alabama State Journal
Place of publication: Montgomery, Alabama
Date of publication: May 23, 1869 11:50 pm

Letter from D.L. Dalton. EDITOR STATE JOURNAL: MONTGOMERY, MAY 24, 1869. I have carefully read the communication of Mr. H. S. Whitfield, of Tuskaloosa, which is published in your last issue. He takes exception to the editorial published in the JOURNAL of the 13th inst., relative to affairs in Tuskaloosa, based upon information derived from Major Miller and myself. Mr. Whitfield is a high-toned, honorable, patriotic gentleman, who is every way deserving of the high regard which he enjoys at the hands of his fellow-citizens. The tone of his communication is not the least objectionable; though if the paper were subjected to a close criticism, it could be shown that the writer has missed stated some of the important facts upon which he comments. However the highly respectable source from which the communication emanates, entitles it to a prompt reply. Major Miller, the Secretary of State, is now absent from the city on official business, and will perhaps not return for several weeks. As the information upon which your editorial was based was furnished by him and me jointly, I shall not attempt as full an explanation on some points as I would if he were here. The information supplied was in a manuscript, and some portions of it were in the form of hastily written memoranda. The calculation was to have it made the basis of a carefully prepared editorial. It’s so happened, however, from causes which need not be here explained, that the manuscript did not reach the gentleman to whom it was proposed to submit it. Hence it reached a compositor with but an imperfect revision. All this, however, involve no fault on the part of any one. It resulted in the printing of some particular forms of expression to which honorable gentleman seem to have taken exception. It may be reasonably presumed that these would not have appeared if the memoranda had been subjected the process that was calculated upon. So far as I am concerned, I am neither too proud nor too stubborn to express regret at the appearance in print of a phraseology in some places, which is calculated to offend honorable susceptibilities. In regard, however, to the material facts embraced in the editorial, I am constrained to employ a different line of comment. Authentic information reached the Executive Department that terrible acts of violence were being committed in Tuscaloosa county. Citizens were appealing to the Governor for protection; and with a view of obtaining accurate information upon the subject, he sent the Secretary of State and myself to obtain it in person. On reaching Tuskaloosa and learning the conditions of things, we directed our efforts to have some measures adopted to prevent any further acts of lawlessness, such as were recently committed. Upon conferring with citizens we became satisfied that the desired end could be obtained. It was very clear to us that the citizens of the city of Tuskaloosa were decidedly in favor of law and order. This general statement needs no qualification, except that a very limited number of individuals are more passionate in their partizanship and personal animosities than could be desired by good citizens. But this, unfortunately, cannot be said of the entire county. There is the most indubitable evidence that many outrages of the gravest character have been perpetrated at different times in Tuskaloosa county within the last eight or ten months; and from all we could learn there is little if any room to doubt that they were committed by the same class of persons, living in a particular locality. In regard to the Independent Monitor, or its editor, we made no special inquiry. The business which took us to Tuskaloosa did not involve any such inquiry. Still, there was so much said about the paper that we were forced to a conclusion as to the estimation in which it was held by the community, and the character of the influence which it has wielded. In most if not all the consultations which we held with different citizens, special emphasis was placed upon the well-known fact that theretofore Tuskaloosa had been distinguished for the order, quiet, harmony, and gool feeling which prevailed among its citizens. But this has not been the case for many months past; and incidental remarks were frequently made as to the cause of this change. On such occasions the Monitor was referred to as prominently connected with the change for the worse. And here I will observe that I have never been a reader of the Monitor. Previous to my recent visit to Tuskaloosa I had neverseen more than two or three copies of the paper. These were in possession of gentlemen who seemed to be preserving them on account of certain articles and paragraphs I read, and according to my recollection they were such as to accord fully with the general character of the paper so far as we recently learned it. From all that was said of the Monitor newspaper, we came to this conclusion: A prominent feature of the paper has been its strong personal criticisms. This was indulged in to such an extent that a great deal of angry feeling and enmity were engendered, even amongst gentlemen of the better class of society. In this point of view alone it seemed to be the prevalent, nay, the unanimous opinion, that general effect of the paper had been deleterious to the community. By this, of course, it is not meant that every individual disapproved of everything in the paper. But, taken upon the whole, so far as we heard an expression of opinion, it was decidedly as above stated. It is proper to add that we had many conversations with different parties in which the Monitor was not mentioned at all. In view of the general disapproval of the paper the question was sometimes suggested, why was it supported? (not why the editor was permitted to live in Tuskaloosa. That is no idea of ours. It is only found in Mr. Whitfield’s letter.) If spaco would allow a recital of the reasons assigned by
various gentlemen why they did not withdraw their patronage from the paper, they would be found exceedingly amusing, to say the least. Suffice it to say, however, that they were not such as
to qualify the disapprobation of which I have spoken. I have thus, in language which I hope
is not objectionable, presented the case as it appeared to us. This view of it is given in lieu of the former statement about “unmeasured denunciation” by every individual who conversed with us about the Monitor. In regard to recent occurrences in Tuskaloosa, Mr. Whitfield’s letter contains nothing which differs in any material particular from what we have circulated. There is really but one opinion as to the great provocation which resulted in the lawlessness referred to. Nor can there be any difference among good citizens as to the heinousness of the terrible deeds that were perpetrated. We were told in Tuskaloosa that the Monitor had contained a paragraph to this effect: that a mob had come to the Monitor office with the intention of maltreating the editor; but that he saved himself by hiding in a hogshead; and that the paragraph closed with an appeal to the officers of the law to protect him against such violence as was thus attempted. I did not see the paper containing this statement, but we were told that it was published. This information was accompanied with the statement that no body of men appeared at the Monitor office which could be called a mob, except men that were known to be Mr. Randolph’s friends; that some of them conferred with him, and then they all left; not long after which a negro was taken trom jail and shot. Mr. Whitfield admit that the men who came to the Monitor office were the editor’s friends;
thus contradicting the statement that they were enemies seeking to do him violence. He further states that Mr. Randolph advised them against violating law, and particularly against killing the negro prisoner. This statement is conclusive, so far, at least, as I am concerned; and I am glad to learn the fact. It is more on that particular point than we ascertained in Tuskaloosa. We learned nothing that authorized any rational conclusion as to who were the men that did the killing. It is true that men were found who intimated their belief that the men who appeared before the Monitor office committed the deed; but while we were in Tuskaloosa we heard no one mention the name of any man that was in the crowd. Inasmuch, however, as it is known that while they were at the Monitor office they were advised not to kill the prisoner, the whole matter wears a new phase. That, however, is a question which will hereafter be of more importance to the Solicitor than any one else. While Mr. Whitfield’s statement on this point is positive, and therefore completely exculpatory of Mr. Randolph, it may not be improper to call attention to one other fact. After the negro had been taken out of jail and shot, the Monitor contained a paragraph soliciting information as to what jail a certain negro could be found in, who had fled from Tuskaloosa county pending the troubles. This paragraph was the subject of a good deal of talk and ernest reprobation in Tuskaloosa. I presume that no one will deny this fact. What it meant is not for me to explain. Maj. Miller and I did not regard it as any part of our duty to make particular enquiry into past misdeeds. That belongs to the judiciary. Our consultation with citizens related to measures for maintaining law and order, and little was said about prosecutions. Still there were individuals who volunteered statements to us, while we were in the city, in regard to occurences in Tuskaloosa county during the last eight or ten months. If one half of what was told us be true, there has certainly been an amount of lawlessness in the county which hns not attracted much public notice. The stories rented were horrible. In connection with some of the acts reference was made to mysterious hints in the newspaper, indicating the necessity of having such and such a thing done; and subsequent events would seem to associate themselves therewith. Whether these representations in regard to the newspaper be true or not, can be ascertained by reference to its files. As for myself, as before stated, I have never been a reader of it. I repeat what was told to us. The accounts obtained represented that from five to eight murders, including that of Mr. Crossland, had been committed within the last eight or ten months, and that assaults and other outrages had been committed. Persons furnishing the statements said they were afraid to make affidavits upon which warrants could issue, as they attributed the offences to desperate men. As a reason for their timidity in this regard, they mentioned instances in which persons cognizant of lawlessness had been advised that death would be their fate if they deemed to testify. It is sincerely hoped that the good people of Tuskaloosa will soon exhibit so much vigor in the maintenance of law, that no one need fear to tell out what he knows. Then the reports in regard to these outrages can be fully inquired into, and no one will rejoice more than I if they shall prove to be unfounded. If, on the contrary, any portion of them be true, let all good citizens lend their energies in favor of having the guilty parties brought to punishment. It has been my sincere wish to give currency only to such reports about Tuskaloosa as were fully justified by information derived from the citizens of that city and county. I have no earthly motive or desire to do the remotest injustice to any one of the citizens there. If I have been instrumental in circulating a single error upon any subject, it is not my fault but owing to inaccurate information. Very respectfully, D.L. DALTON.