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Valley of the Shadow

Staunton Vindicator: October 12, 1866

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-Page 01-

Letter from the Hon. J. B. Baldwin
(Column 04)
Summary: Augusta native John Baldwin responds to frequent editorial comment from the Richmond Enquirer, which has been critical of his testimony before the Reconstruction Committee pertaining to secession. Baldwin argues that given the current political situation of the South, unity is more important than disputing theories of secession.
(Names in announcement: John B. Baldwin)
Origin of Article: Richmond Enquirer
Full Text of Article:

To the Editors of the Enquirer:

You have several times recently made my opinions about Secession the subject of adverse editorial comment, and your example has been followed by several newspapers "in the rural districts." The Hon. James Lyons, too, in the Enquirer of September 15, has done me the honor to make my errors of opinion the text of a "two column" discourse.

Now I have not the least idea of being drawn at this late day into a discussion of Secession. As a practical right, for future use, it has, by universal consent, been given up and abandoned. Mr. Lyons says "it has been extirpated with the sword," and that he, at least, has "bound himself by the highest tie which can bind a gentleman, not to attempt by force to assert the right, or aid or advise others to do it;" and you say, on the same subject, "we comprehend all this and accept it as none the less imperative, because the decree is of irresistible might, rather than of right. So much for the future."

Nor do I intend to enter upon any defense of the soundness of my opinions on the subject. They are the same I have always held and avowed, and which were as well known to you and to Mr. Lyons before the war and during the war as now. They are the opinion upon which I have always acted, and although you may not approve them as abstract propositions, you have yourself admitted that in our time of trial they brought me to a practical result becoming a true Virginian. Mr. Lyons seems to think that a man of my way of thinking ought to have taken no part with Virginia in the war. I did not think so, and I incline to the opinion that if the defence of Virginia and the South had been left exclusively to persons of Mr. Lyons' way of thinking the war would have been smaller and shorter.

There is no foundation for your charge that I have gratuitously obtruded my opinion on this subject upon public attention. While in Washington last winter as one of the committee sent to present to President Johnson the resolutions of the Virginia Legislature, I was summoned before the Reconstruction Committee, and examined on oath to these subjects. I gave my testimony according to my belief, and there the matter would have ended, but for the newspapers -- the Enquirer among others -- which gave such prominences and publicity to my testimony, as reported by the Committee, as to induce a friend to call upon me to correct as mistake by which injustice had been done to my opinion and feelings. The propriety of my writing a letter for this purpose is shown by the statement of Mr. Lyons -- that it "removes the painful impression" which my testimony as published had made upon him.--If, therefore, my opinions have been unnecessarily thrust upon public notice, it is plain that you and Mr. Lyons, and those concurring with you in this attack upon me, are fairly responsible for it.

You fear that my opinions thus made known will be regarded in the light of "a confession," calculated to bring reproach "upon the honest names of our thrice honored people."

If I had at any time said a word which could be fairly interpreted as implying a doubt of the justice of the cause for which our people fought so gallantly and endured so nobly, or if I had in any manner professed to regret or to be ashamed of having cast in my lot with "our thrice honored people," I could understand why you should take it upon yourself to defend their honest name against me, but I confess I am not able to appreciate the nervous anxiety, not to say eagerness, manifested by you to avoid the imputation of Rebellion and the name of Rebel.

The English language has no name except that of a Rebel by which to designate one who has fought without success for the rights of the governed against the power of the government, and I have been taught to believe that it furnishes no higher or nobler title than that of Rebel of a just cause.

I wonder it has not occurred to gentlemen who have so earnestly and even vehemently disclaimed the rights of secession as a remedy for any possible wrongs in the future, that it might be well to uphold the respectability of old fashioned rebellion in case of need. The right of revolution certainly has the merit of never having been abandoned or surrendered by its friends, and whenever needed by an oppressed people will be found as good as "bran new." In such a case, I fool myself bound "by the highest tie which can bind a gentlemen, again to attempt by force to assert this right and to aid and advise others to do it."

You seem to regard my opinions as "dangerous admissions," tending at this time to weaken the position and to endanger the safety of the States and people of the South. On the contrary, I claim as the chief merit of my views, that they meet the most pressing difficulties of our situation, and place both States and our people under the protection of the Constitution of the United States.

Without discussing -- or at present even questioning -- the doctrine of secession, I may be allowed to say that in practice it has not thus far answered the expectations and prediction of its friends. It did not prove to be a peaceful remedy. It did not secure us any advantage of nationality in the conduct of the war -- either from the United States or from other nations. It did not enable us to make terms of peace; and we occupy before the world today the position of defeated and dispersed rebels, and not of conquered nations.

Strangely enough, it is in this very position that we find whatever of right or safety or protection we now claim.

Upon the theory of secession as stated by you, the State of Virginia became, by her ordinance of secession, "a separate nation;" by the fortune of war she has become a conquered nation -- and by the well established law of war is at the absolute disposal of the conqueror, and bound to take such institutions and laws as may be imposed by the law-making power of the United States.

Mr. Lyons, who holds his theory, calls President Johnson the "Restorer of the Constitution," and looks forward with confidence to the rise of the old "States Rights party" with the "Resolution of '98" in hand. I hope he will in the light of the those "venerated principles" and by the aid of "Blair's Rhetoric an Andrew's Logic," inform us by what authority and by what process, the seceded and separate nation of Virginia has been restored to the Union, and how he -- a foreigner and alien enemy -- has acquired any right under the Constitution or any share in the Government of the United States.

If he would only consent to be called a rebel and to renounce the theory of secession for the past as earnestly and distinctly as he has disclaimed its practice for the future, we could readily understand that, being a Virginian, a citizen of a State which never got out of the Union, and having asked and received from the President upon the most approved States Rights principles a "so-called pardon," he is ipso facto reconstructed; and is re-established in all the personal and political rights which by his rebellious revolutionary conduct he had placed in jeopardy.

How much more comfortable he would be in such a position than he can be in a seceded condition, the unnaturalized inhabitant of a conquered territory, alien to the Union and a stranger to the Constitution, exposed to the fury of the "Radical Congress and the Cannibal Convention," whose hope for our destruction rests upon the theory "that the Southern States are not in the Union," and that the Southern people are not entitled to the protection of the Constitution of the United States.

There are, however, some of our people who are not included in the proclamation of amnesty and who have not yet received the Presidential pardon. These, I suppose, are our "imperiled countrymen" of whom you speak, whose interest and safety are to be prejudiced by my "legal opinion and confession."

President Davis is the only one of our friends now under arrest and threat of prosecution, and as to him I take it to be clear that if he is to be regarded as the defeated chief of a separate nation, the case of Napoleon establishes a precedent for his life-long captivity. If, however, he is a citizen of the United States, charged with "levying war against them," he is entitled by the Constitution to a speedy and public trial, or in default thereof to be discharged. I have already expressed the opinion that to "subject a man occupying his position to the narrow rules which limit judicial construction and to the mockery of a jury trial, would be an outrage too gross to be anticipated of any government in in Christendom." He is a prisoner of state, who, for reasons of state, ought, as a matter of national magnanimity, to be discharged without a trial, and I have not yet brought myself to believe that President Johnson will seek to avoid the performance of this high duty by handing over such a prisoner to an inferior judicial tribunal.

The discretion to discharge a prisoner in such a case, is, in my opinion, political and not legal -- Executive and not Judicial.--From which department of the Government President Davis or any other Confederate has most to expect, would not be difficult to determine.

From what I have said, I think it will appear that my opinions on these subjects, whether right or wrong, have been formed from a Southern and Virginia stand-point, and that you have done me no more than justice when you said of me "his heart is with his people."

You say you cannot differ with me "in other than kindness." I take you at your word, and in the same spirit I beg leave most respectfully and yet most earnestly, to inquire of you and of my old friend and colleague, Mr. Lyons -- from whom I always expect antagonism but never unkindness -- what possible benefit you expect to follow from the public discussion to which you have subjected me and my opinions?

It surely cannot be your purpose to make the doctrine of secession a practical standard of orthodoxy in the future politics of Virginia -- or to found upon it invidious discriminations against any one who, to use your own language as applied to me, "did not take shelter behind his opposition to the ordinance of secession, but made instant [unclear] and generous cause with his State, and devoted to her defence his zealous exertions in the field and in council." Your knowledge of Virginia politics for the last five or six years must have satisfied you that the attempt to revive these dead issues could only result in dissension and strife, at a time when the interests and the safety of our people demand conciliation and harmony.

So far as a I am concerned, I can say with perfect truth that from the passage of the Ordinance of Secession by the Virginia Convention, I have known no distinction of party politics among the true men of Virginia.

Whigs and Democrats, Secessionists and Rebels, have been all alike to me -- if engaged in what I regarded as the cause of Virginia and the South. In my opinion the old issues which divided us have not only become obsolete and useless, but the discussion of them in our present circumstances is of evil tendency, fraught with mischief and danger.

The progress of the political canvass now going on at the North renders the complete success of the Radicals a result by no means improbable. In such an event the people of the South will have need of all the calm courage and patient endurance that can be opposed to a dominant and overwhelming majority of numbers and of wealth, bent upon our humiliation or our destruction -- Against hostile legislation, the Presidential veto which on several occasions has been so magnanimously interposed for our protection, will no longer prove a barrier, and we must expect and be prepared for every outrage upon our rights and our feelings that greed and hate can suggest. There is, however, one wrong which can only be fastened upon us by our own consent. The proposed Constitutional Amendment cannot be adopted if the States and people of the South are true to themselves and are united and firm in the determination, that come what may, they will oppose to this outrage a calm and steady, and persistent negative; and will not consent upon any pretext or for any purpose to amend the Constitution of the United States.

If you concur, Mr. Editor, in the importance of cultivating union and harmony among ourselves as the best means of advancing the interests and establishing the safety of the States and people of the South, I think we can, both of us, do more good upon that line than is likely to follow upon the demonstration of either your theory or mine as to the right of secession.


Your obedient servant,

John B. Baldwin

Staunton, Sept. 19, 1866

Trailer: John B. Baldwin
Colored M. E. Church at Lynchburg
(Column 06)
Summary: Last Tuesday the corner-stone of the new M. E. Church was laid in Lynchburg, where both whites and blacks participated and, according to the article, the white citizens displayed a "kindly and friendly spirit towards them, instead of the ferocious one which the radicals attribute to us."
Full Text of Article:

On Tuesday the corner-stone of the colored M. E. Church at Lynchburg, Va., was laid by the Masonic fraternity. Speaking of the part thus taken by the white population in the ceremonies, the Virginian remarks:

It was a significant spectacle, and puts to shame the endless cry of the radical fanatics that nothing but hostility and bitterness is manifested by the whites of the South towards the blacks. Here were a number of the first citizens of the place, quitting their daily avocations and going forward promptly and cheerfully to render a service to the colored population, who had called on them so to do, thus manifesting a kindly and friendly spirit towards them, instead of the ferocious one which the radicals attribute to us. The opening prayer was offered by the Rev. J. D. Mitchell, D. D. of the Second Presbyterian Church, and the Masonic ceremonies, under the direction of John R. McDaniel, Master of Marshall Lodge, were performed, Past Master R. E. Withers then delivered an exceedingly neat and appropriate address, declaring, amongst other things, that "Free Masons make no distinction between white men, red men, or black men, when called upon to lay the foundation to a temple to be erected to the worship of Almighty God." A collection was then lifted by the Masons t aid in the construction of the building, whilst th stewards of the church waited on the spectators for their contributions. The concluding prayer was offered by the Rev. R. E. Edwards, chaplain of the lodge, and the benediction pronounced by Rev. W. H. Kinckle, of the Protestant Episcopal Church. There was a large concourse of persons present, including nearly all the clergy of the city, and the whole affair passed off very pleasantly.

-Page 02-

[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: While Northern states are "in the midst of intense political excitement" with elections approaching, the editor thinks it "wonderful" that in the South "we are not torn by factions as are our Northern brethren."
Full Text of Article:

Just now the people of the Northern States are in the midst of intense political excitement; on account of elections now taking place or shortly to be held.

The direct cause of this prevailing excitement in the political world North is the status of the late Confederate States. When such is the case, it is wonderful to see the equanimity existing in the South.

We are not torn by factions as are our Northern brethren, but, knowing no difference in political questions at this time, are united in one common cause, the restoration of our financial condition to its former prosperity. In this cause are engaged the aged and the youth of our land, who, deprived of the case and affluence which surrounded them in past years, and without a murmur over their misfortunes, have buckled on th armor of honest labor and are exhibiting an example of modest worth unequaled by any people of any age. There are no drones in Southern communities of to-day, and where all are engaged in the pursuit of honest avocations, requiring their undivided time and attention, there is not time or desire to engage in political discussions and quibblings such as we were wont in days gone by.

It must not be supposed, however, from this seeming apathy on our part, that, threatened by extremists with dire pains and penalties, should the Radicals succeed, and not knowing to what extent radicalism may go in that event, that our sympathies are not aroused.

An earnest desire is felt for the success of Conservatism. Should this fail us now we will hope for the returning reason of the North to accord us our rights, and delve the deeper into mother earth for the recuperation of our pecuniary affairs.

[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: Refers readers to Col. J. B. Baldwin's letter published on page one of the Vindicator, while standing by the Vindicator's previous editorial criticism of Baldwin's testimony before the Reconstruction Committee.
(Names in announcement: Col. J. B. Baldwin)
[No Title]
(Column 03)
Summary: Reports that "the negroes of Illinois" have called for a State Convention to attempt to secure suffrage and equality in the state.
A Meeting on J. Spitler's Camp Ground
(Column 04)
Summary: A large meeting was recently held near Middlebrook, where "a number of persons were converted."
(Names in announcement: James Mitchell, John Spitler)

-Page 03-

Local Items--Proceedings of the Town Council, Saturday, Oct. 6
(Column 01)
Summary: A summary of the rather mundane proceedings of the most recent Town Council meeting.
(Names in announcement: Robert Nelson, Capt. H. H. Peck)
Local Items
(Column 01)
Summary: Reports that the murderer of Augusta native Robert Eubank, first reported in last week's Vindicator, has been captured in Ross Co., Ohio.
(Names in announcement: Robert P. Eubank, Capt. Elijah Bateman)
Local Items
(Column 01)
Summary: Unable to regain his coat in a court proceeding, Henry Douglas and another freedman assaulted the original coat thief and retook the coat. Both men have been committed to jail.
(Names in announcement: Andrew Taylor, Henry Douglas, Justice Evans, Marshal Bannister)
Local Items
(Column 01)
Summary: Lists the recently appointed Inspectors for Augusta and the distilleries to which they have been assigned.
(Names in announcement: F. S. Tukey, J. R. Grove, Levi Fellers, Gentry, Roberts, Thomas Aude, John Hanger, L. H. Searing, Peter Hanger, Wm. Osbon, E. A. Fulcher, Blum, L. Bumgardner)
Local Items
(Column 02)
Summary: A young Mississippian attending law school at Lexington recently shot and killed a black man there and, after being chased by the authorities, was arrested near Fishersville and is now in jail in Staunton.
Local Items
(Column 02)
Summary: Martin Hill and Reuben Hill, Jr. were charged with stealing corn from J. Tuley Mitchell and committed to jail last Thursday.
(Names in announcement: Martin Hill, J. Tuley Mitchell, Justice Peck, Reuben HillJr.)
Local Items
(Column 02)
Summary: Ralph Willis was committed to jail last Tuesday for threatening the life of a fellow freedman.
(Names in announcement: Ralph Willis, Justice Points)
Local Items
(Column 02)
Summary: Jno. Hurley was committed to jail for drunkenness last Saturday, and, being an old offender, was held to bail.
(Names in announcement: Jno. Hurley)
(Column 02)
Summary: Sarah Weade and Martin Leonard were married at the home of the bride's father on October 9 by Rev. C. Beard.
(Names in announcement: Rev. C. Beard, Martin S. Leonard, Sarah M. Weade)
(Column 02)
Summary: Minnie Jenkins, of Baltimore, and Chas. D. McCoy, of Augusta, were married on October 9 by Rev. J. A. Latane.
(Names in announcement: Rev. J. A. Latane, Chas. D. McCoy, Minnie Jenkins, J. Taylor Jenkins)
(Column 02)
Summary: Henry Mitchie, of Staunton, and Virginia Bedinger, of Loudoun, were married in Loudoun on October 3 by Rev. E. T. Perkius.
(Names in announcement: Rev. E. T. Perkius, Henry B. Mitchie, Virginia Bedinger, Henry Bedinger)
(Column 02)
Summary: Joseph Whitmore, of Augusta, and Mary Hahn, of Rockingham, were married on September 26 by Rev. J. C. Hensel.
(Names in announcement: Rev. J. C. Hensel, Joseph A. Whitmore, Mary A. Hahn, Hammond Hahn)
(Column 02)
Summary: Jane Yeago, wife of John Yeago and daughter of John and Elizabeth Joseph, died in Augusta on October 9.
(Names in announcement: Jane T. Yeago, John Yeago, John Joseph, Elizabeth Joseph)
(Column 02)
Summary: W. J. Gilkeson died at his home near Mint Spring on October 9. He was 78 years old.
(Names in announcement: W. J. Gilkeson)

-Page 04-

[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The Danville Times reports that a spider web was observed in the yard of local resident Rev. Chaplin, "with the word W-A-R handsomely and legibly woven in the web."