Loafing-Horse Thieves ~1866

    Transcribed by Mollie Gainey-Stanley

    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 
    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. 

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