Transcribed by Mollie Gainey-Stanley
NORTH CAROLINA Feeling of the People-Blacks and Whites Loafing-Horse Thieves, & Some Good Advice Correspondence of the New-York Times NEW BERN, N.C., Sunday, May 18, 1866 Either a deadly stupor has settled upon the people in this State, or else they are too busy at work to show themselves or say anything to anybody. I more than half suspect that both statements are true. There is certainly but very little being said by the people about politics now, unless we accept certain rabid, venomous newspapers as the people, (such as the Raleigh Sentinel, Goldsboro News and Newbern Commercial, which are all I see now-a-days,) and trade is perfectly stagnant in all of the towns. The merchants are sitting around, wearing out their pantaloon seats, stores are every now and then closing up; the railroad passenger list is as light as a prayer-meeting attendance on a rainy night, and everybody is complaining of the scarcity of money. But for the large plantations that have been quickened into life again this Spring, necessitating the use and circulation of considerable money; the presence of a limited military representation here and there, who generally spend about all the money they receive, and as fast as they receive it; and more or less of travel that is being indulged in throughout the South by explorers, speculators, drummers, officials and others from the North, the Lord only knows what the railroads, hotels and merchants would do for subsistence, and the people generally for currency! Added to this, turpentine is beginning to come in pretty freely now, which with resin and tar, and with the early vegetables and fruit that we are just beginning to enjoy, after which comes the later ripenings and yieldings, including the great staple, cotton, and the prospect is not so bad from now forward. The people, that is, the yeomanry, if there are such here, are evidently very generally at work on their farms and among their pines. Some of the aristocracy have set a commendable example, by getting to work and earning their bread by the sweat of the brow, as they ought to. The blacks are also pretty generally busily engaged, either for others or for themselves. I am sorry to say, however, that there are a few of the blacks, and more of the whites, who are loafing most desperately. When the former indulge in the amusement it is a crime, in the estimation of the whites; but if the latter indulge in it nothing is said, and it is perfectly proper and respectable. And yet, I must confess that I can’t see why it is not more of a crime, or at least more detestable, in a white aristocrat than in a poor God-forsaken “nigger.” But as I said before, the most of the more intelligent yeomanry, as well as many of the aristocracy, are hard at work, thereby exemplifying their manhood, and the result will be, if no untoward circumstances occur between now and then, that a large yield of corn and other miscellaneous crops will be produced, and, I should judge from all accounts, and from what I have seen, about a third of the average yield of cotton before the war. Even this calculation may be disturbed, and the result greatly lessened, unless the better class of citizens organize Vigilance Committees, or some kind of self-protecting associations, and put an end to the horse-thieving and murdering gangs who infest certain portions of the State. It is due to the good name of the State, and to secure the prospects which she hopes for. It is due also to the people who lose property and life by these villainous visitations. Not long since the quiet of society in this respect had become quite well established; but recently the mob spirit has broken out again in the form of horse stealing and even murdering, if necessary to secure the booty. Nor are the better classes wholly blameless that this is so. There are regular gangs of horse-thieves, for instance, along the borders of Sampson, Duplin and Wayne counties, and the fact is well known by respectable citizens of those counties. Their haunts are known, and members of the gangs could be arrested and punished, as they should be, without any difficulty. Instead of this however-I say what I know, when I assert that some who are high in society actually wink at the depredations of such scoundrels, particularly if directed against the blacks, instead of organizing and arresting them, as they should, and then giving them the benefit of a trial and a piece of rope. Southern society needs to be purified of all such nuisances, and perfectly impartial protection extended to the life and property of all classes of citizens, before there will every be any amount of emigration hither from the North or from Europe. In the towns good order exists everywhere where I have been, but in rural districts, robbery, horse-stealing and even murder (if necessary, as I said to secure the booty,) are altogether too prevalent. No one wishes the South well more earnestly than I do; and yet I can assure the Southern people, those of North Carolina, with whom I am better acquainted, particularly, that they will never attain prosperity and eminence as a people until they can offer more general educational advantages; until they learn to exercise a more liberal spirit toward new-comers, universally styled by them as “Yankees;” until they give greater encouragement to ordinary labor, and endeavor to make it respectable; until they throw the protection of the law around the most insignificant citizen, and follow up any injury he may suffer with swift retribution upon the aggressor, until the code of brute force gives way to that of reason and justice, and until the punishment of the law, as well as the benefits, is made to fall upon the rich or the poor, high or low, black or white, old citizen or new-comer, with equal certainty and force, according to the offences and crimes of which they are guilty. And then, this State has some “twin-relics of barbarism” upon her statutes which need to be obliterated-such as public whipping, for instance-and which is absolutely indispensable should be done away with before the conditions just laid down can ever be fully realized. Substitute a penitentiary for public whipping and the criminal is not only kept out of the way of harm, but he is made to contribute, by his labor, to the revenue of the Commonwealth. Whip him and let him go, and he enters into crime at once. Besides, who is weak enough to suppose that the rich or respectable (so-called) ever get whipped under this law? Some unfortunate, badly-brought-up darkey, or else some whilom hanger-on of the Yankee army who has got left behind here, and perhaps has committed some indiscretion, (or at least is suspected of it,) or else a “low down” desperate devil of the native white species-these are the candidates. The “high-toned gentlemen,” the rich and the respectable, they fulfill the ends of justice by giving bail in $1,000 when they shoot a fellow-being down on the street. That isn’t a crime; that isn’t murder; no whipping for that; no, Sir! Well, all these things have yet to change. The “sere and yellowed loaf” have yet to fall off before the bright new bud of health and beauty can ever come forth and bear its fruit; and the people of the South have yet to learn all this, or if they know it, to put their knowledge into practical operation. The cotton plant is almost universally up, but on many of the plantations the “stand” is not so good as it might be, from the fact that old seed having been planted, and from the backward weather we have had. This is equally true, I am told, as to the States south of here. I hear, through a friend, from Louisiana and Mississippi, that floods and death among the mules have been creating havoc in that region. All about the plantation of my friend mules had died off by thousands. He had no doubt that from floods and the mule mortality there would be a difference of from 500,000 to 1,000,000 bales of cotton from what has been anticipated in the Mississippi valley. From many plantations all the mules had been lost, and the lessees or owners being unable to purchase more, were offering their crops for sale, with few buyers. I have no ideas that there will be more than from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 bales of cotton produces in the entire South this year. The sensation evented recently by the arrival and departure of Gens. STEEDMAN and FULLERTON, has subsided again. I fully agree with them that the objects for which the Freedman’s Bureau was intended, and daily becoming less pressing, and soon the Bureau may be dispensed with; but the wholesale censure which the Herald reporter who was with them cast upon the officers of the Bureau in this department, is certainly not indorsed throughout by the Northern citizens who have made this State their home. Capt. JAMES, for instance, has never before had a word breathed against his character, notwithstanding his relations have been such here that he has had unlimited facilities for doing wrong had he chosen to do so. And notwithstanding he is a local officer of the Bureau, somewhere near “Little Washington,” where he is cultivating a plantation, if he performs all his official duties satisfactorily, I think he ought to be commended, instead of being condemned, for undertaking the additional task of cultivating a plantation. It is helping to give employment to the blacks, and to establish a system of free labor, which is as yet an experiment in the South. I regard the Captain as doing a far greater service to his “colored brethren,” in thus cultivating a plantation, than he would in preaching to them, or distributing among them clothing donated by Northern philanthropists. A few evenings since a Stonewall Jackson concert was given here by some of the young ladies and gentlemen who were born in the State. The programme that was published was well enough, and several Northerners with their families attended. As is generally the case on all such occasions, one of the young ladies, thinking to make herself particularly conspicuous, I presume, introduced something that was not down on the bills, in the form of a “Dirge for Stonewall JACKSON.” The secesh element gloated over it, cheers were given, and one highly excitable young reb became so uncontrollable that he had to throw his hat on the stage. The young lady had her vanity gratified, and the Northern or Union element felt that they had been sold. Hereafter I imagine they will know what is to be performed before they patronize concerts gotten up on behalf of either the living or the dead of the defunct Confederacy. With now and then an exceptional instance of this kind, matters flow along quite smoothly between the Northern and Southern element in this place. We are now luxuriating on field strawberries and dewberries. SELDOM.