The story of the Goose Creek Literary Society is perhaps best told through the newspaper accounts of the March 15, 1856 meeting. The emotion and extreme opinions come through in the public letters and pronouncements from the people attending. The small schoolhouse, setting for what became an extraordianarily emotional and bad-tempered event, sits only yards away from Goose Creek Meetinghouse, the Janney store and home, and the neighboring homes in the village of Goose Creek (not yet named ‘Lincoln.’) From the public statements, it seems the Literary Society Meeting was only attended by men, but that may not be accurate. No women, however, are mentioned; the aggressive tone the meeting displayed implies no women were present. It is likely, however, they were listening nearby.
First transcribed below are two editorials, one from the Leesburg weekly newspaper the Sentinel and, fortunately, the Sentinel copies the original editorial from March 26, 1856 that had been written by Mirror editor, Josiah Taylor. There are no known archived copies of the March 26, 1856 issue of the weekly Mirror. Editor Josiah Taylor (no relation to the Quaker family of Taylors) attended the Goose Creek Literary Society Meeting on March 15th. (He perhaps suspected the meeting would be newsworthy; the previous week’s meeting had also broached controversial political topics but no newspaper man was there to record the meeting. Consequently, it didn’t receive wide publicity.)
Transcripts below are two Leesburg, Virginia newspapers editorials, from the Loudoun Mirror and the Virginia (Leesburg) Sentinel. The letters were published in a third weekly Leesburg newspaper, the Leesburg Washingtonian, and likely were also published in the Mirror and the Sentinel, but I have no copies of relevant issues to see if the letters were duplicated, or simply published in the Washingtonian.
The name ‘Rae’ in the editorials and letters refers to Francis H. Ray. (He spelled his family name ‘Ray.’) I have devoted a page on this website to Francis Ray, and that page covers this Goose Creek Literary Meeting from Ray’s perspective. He wrote a letter about the March 15th meeting; the letter was printed in Boston based William Lloyd Garrison’s May 16, 1856 The Liberator. All original newspaper texts, if available, may be seen here. The Washingtonian can be seen on microfilm at the Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.
From the Loudoun Mirror, April 4, 1856 editorial by Josiah Taylor:
BLACK REPUBLICAN MEETING IN LOUDOUN.
“It is with a blush of shame for the tarnished reputation of our country, that we undertake to record a scene, more disgraceful perhaps than anything of a similar nature that has ever been enacted upon Southern territory. We feel sliding pride in the country of our nativity, sad with heavy heart at anything calculated to sully her fair fame abroad: but between inclination and duty we have no choice left us, and are constrained to perform a task we would willingly forego.
Saturday, the 15th of the present month, was the day appointed for a meeting of the Goose Creek Church, speciously for the purpose of ratifying the Philadelphia platform and nominations, but really, as the sequel proved, for the treasonable object of proclaiming boldly and impudently the vilest Black Republican doctrines. It was previously arranged that the matter should assume a form of a debate, with two regularly appointed polemics on each side. Mr. Henry Brown and Mr. Thomas Taylor for the nominations, and Mr. Francis Rae [Ray], of New York, and Mr. Jesse Brown against them.
The meeting was first addressed by Mr. Thomas Taylor, who argued at length in favor of the Americans platform and nominees. Mr. Rae (of New York formerly, but at present a resident of this county,) next took the floor. We can only give the substance of his remarks, so we write entirely from memory. He declared himself in favor of the Black Republican party, denounced the Fugitive Slave Law, and Fillmore for signing it; declared it to be unconstitutional, and that it should repealed. He would not touch slavery where it existed—he would leave it to die out upon the land that bred it—but he would have the balance of the territory of the United States consecrated to freedom, in accordance with the principle of our revelatory forefathers. What was ours but a land of liberty? And was the Fugitive Slave Law and Missouri ruffanism in accordance with this liberty? He wished it repealed, and there was a mighty party arising in the North, whose purpose and aim it was to blot out this law, and to restrain slavery within its present limits. (Applause.)
Mr. Henry Brown next rose in advocacy of Mr. Fillmore’s claims to the Presidency. He could not say, as a member of the Black Republican party. But he thought Mr. Fillmore was unjustly censured for signing the Fugitive Slave Law. He was but the representive of the people, and was bound to obey the majority of the people. That will had been expressed through the people’s representatives in Congress, and he could not see that Mr. Fillmore was to blame for obeying that will.
Mr. James Brown followed next. He indulged is the same strain with his colleague, Mr. Rae. He said – wound up with the eloquent language of some Senator – that ‘the gentle green slopes of Nebraska, should not be made rotten with the institution of slavery’ (Great applause.)
The matter being now open for general debate, numerous gentlemen were called upon, (among them another gentleman from New York,) but since none were immediately responding, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Rae took another tilt.
Mr. John Simpson was next brought to his feet.
He was utterly astonished that such sentiments should be uttered on Southern soil, that Black Republicans should dare to attack our institutions upon our own territory. He thought the gentleman from New York had never read the Constitution, or if he had, he knew nothing about it. Did it not declare that fugitive slaves should be delivered up? And yet he had the hardihood to pronounce the Fugitive Slate Law unconstitutional.
Mr. Rae responded. He cared not for the name Black Republican that had been used by his opponent, Mr. Simpson. To say the least, he thought it ungentlemanly. Here Mr. Simpson required an explanation, which was given.
Mr. Rae continued his remarks at some length, and was frequently interrupted by immense applause. After he had finished, Mr. J. Trayhorn was called from his seat. He arose to defend the South against the attack of the Black Republicans. He felt that Virginia had been insulted by what be had heard on this occasion.
Passing by all others, he bore particularly upon Mr. Rae. He said, the gentleman had better go back to the North, and mingle with Fred. Douglass and Lucy Black wool , Stone, or Lucy Stone Black wool , who were genial spirits. The South was no place for the expression of such opinions. He [Trayhern] denied the right to express such sentiments. (Cries of ‘He has the right.’ ‘He has the liberty of speech’: counter cries of ‘No! no! he has no right.’)
Mr. Rae—If the gentleman will go to New York, he may express any opinion on slavery he pleases.
Mr. Trayhorn—Yes, because I do not speak against her institutions.
Mr. Trayhorn continued his remarks in proof of Southern sufferance and Northern aggression, and concluded by saying, that sooner than see Black Republicanism prevail, as dearly as he loved this Union, he would see it dissolved.
Mr. Rae followed with some remarks upon the ordinance of 1787, but becoming confused, was prompted by an old man with a broad brim white hat, who, we were told, was the veritable Yardley Taylor. After he had finished, Mr. Henry Brown arose again. He thought he was still in favor of Mr. Fillmore. But—but—from what he knew of Black Republicanism, he thought he liked it pretty well. (Laughter, and cries of ‘Come over to us; come over.’) No, he didn’t think he would come quite over yet, as his brother had done. He thought—he thought—he would give Millard Fillmore one more trial.
Henry Brown continued, The gentleman (Mr. Trayhern) had expressed himself in favor of a dissolution of the Union; as for himself, he was still for the Union. Mr. Trayhern arose to explain. He had said, that rather than see Black Republicanism prevail, he would see a dissolution of the Union, as dearly as he loved it. As Trayhern took his seat, he was hissed by a Black Republican by the name of Hugh Holmes. One Jesse Hoge, nerved by the boldness of his confreres, was next brought into the arena, and seemed determined, by his hammering gestures, to beat his Republican principles into those before him; but what he said we do not remember, for just here the excitement had become so great that the meeting broke up amidst the greatest clamor and confusion.
We have given but an imperfect outline of this truly anomalous assemblage, for we have been compelled to rely entirely upon our memory. We have, however, exaggerated in nothing, and feel confident of having done material injustice to no one of the parties concerned. We have been the more minute in detail, in order that the people of Loudoun might see the extremity to which a body of men among them (and no inconsiderable body) will go in advancing principles, insurrectionary in their character, and the practical application of which is awarded against by the severest penal laws of the State. We invite their most serious and calm consideration to this subject, with the expression of the hope that they will not suffer it in silence.
We counsel no wrath; make no appeal to passion. We will not arrogate the office of adviser of men who understand their rights and who are amply competent to determine upon the means to guard them against both insult and invasion. But may we not, with propriety, diffidently suggest, that they should soberly and solemnly pronounce judgment upon public meetings, aiming, in their essential nature, at the destruction of both property and social peace? Is the lion with impunity to be bearded in his den? and shall Northern Vandalism, after having murdered our citizens in the pursuit of their property, flourish the sword of Brennus over the citadel of the South? Is, to aggression and violence from without, to be added insult and endangerment from within!
Has the monster of abolitionism grown to such huge proportions as to flap its dark wing over the territory of the South without causing a feeble cry of resistance to arise from a gravely outraged and insulted people? Shall the hiss of that serpent, Black Republicanism, be spewed in the face of a Southern gentleman, who dares to stand up within the limits of his own manor to confront the enemies of his security and property? Let the people of Loudoun answer by such public response as they use their judgments, exercised in calm deliberation.
We are unused to the instrument of partisan strife. We speak to them now with deference beyond the pale of party. We speak upon a matter of vital moment to all, and ask for the consideration which its magnitude demands. We are aware that we have performed an un- enviable duty, and shall bring down upon our head the execrations of no inconsiderable number of men in our county. But we shall not skulk to avoid a principle, though its advocacy should bring upon us the vengeance of the whole Republican host.
The rights of the South, for the sake of liberty, is the motto we have taken, and which we will stand by or fall; for unless Southern rights, as secured by the Constitution, be acknowledged and enforced by federal legislation, this Union will be dissolved, its pieces baptized in blood, possibly to some other political faith, and liberty endangered, if not totally destroyed. We shall go on in our feeble efforts in defence of Southern rights, and through evil and good report bear testimony of fidelity to the institution of our fatherland; and should fanaticism prevail, and the North pour upon us her excited hordes, may ‘the rocks and the mountains fall on us,’ if we do not clutch the staff of the Southern flag.”
From the Virginia Sentinel, March 27, 1856:
TREASON STALKS ABROAD.
“The article which we copy to-day from the Loudoun Mirror contains intelligence of the most astounding, surprising character. In the name of all that is dear to our peace, and the safety of our firesides, what are we coming to, when citizens of Virginia, in large numbers, proclaim or applaud the most dangerous and incendiary doctrines.—in the light of day, and in a violent and overbearing spirit! When a Virginia gentleman cannot express himself in favor of protecting those interests of our state, which are inseparably fastened upon us, for weal or for Woe—without being hissed by a public assembly on his native soil, what have we already come to?
The act of these men is perfectly senseless. They do not propose an honorable and humane emancipation of slaves, if that be their object: but they fall in with the political purposes of Northern demagogues, who say, ‘No more slave States’-not’ ‘No more slaves.’ Their conduct is most unnatural. The conspirator against his own fireside is a madman or an demon. A quiet, good man he can’t be. Judge Conklin, a Northerner, said, ‘ I observed that there were present members from the Pittsburg Convention several gentleman from the South. I confess I was surprised at this.’ And after intimating very strongly the opinion that it was not possible they could be sincere in so unnatural a course, but had come there to hamper Northern action, he adds:
‘This battle is to be fought on the side of freedom, and won, if at all, by the North. If, therefore, they Imagine that we shall sacrifice one jot of principle in consideration of such indirect aid as they can bring us, or that we can be induced to speak ‘with bated breath,’ lest we should wound the morbid sensibilities of the South, it behooves us at once to undeceive them.’
Yet in this warfare of ‘the North’ against the South, these men in Loudoun are found in a position so outrageous that Conklin, though a partisan, does not see how it is possible for them to be honest!
Mr. Trayhorn was right when he advised the false New Yorker [Francis Ray] to go back to his former home: and he might have extended his invitation to those faithless sons of the Old Disunion who sustained him, to go with him to the congenial associations which he indicated.
We call upon the good people of Loudoun to redeem their reputation, and protect the South from the injurious consequences of this domestic treason. Beecher and Silliman* will now double their calls for rides to shoot down their Southern brethren, and will point to this Loudoun endorsement of their murderous purposes and aims with tremendous effect. One traitor is worse than a thousand foes.
We call upon Northern immigrants into our State to denounce the conduct of the man Rae, and to proclaim to the world that when they sought the soil of old Virginia, they came with intent to be loyal citizens, and not to act as allies to a Northern sectional organization, that seeks, as such , to win a victory over the State of their adoption. Rebuke indignantly the specimen of humanity that encourages those who have thrown aside the Bible and the Constitution, and taken up insult and Sharp’s rifles as the weapons of fraternal discussion.
The people of Virginia have a right to expect prompt and decisive action.”
*Dr. Benjamin Silliman was a Yale chemist, and instumental in the first distillation of petroleum. He deemed slavery an “enormous evil” and served in various high-profile anti-slavery societies. “Beecher” was Henry Ward Beecher and, like Dr. Silliman, a prominent and out-spoken abolitionist.
The Washingtonian letters shown below were duplicated and printed in the Mirror as well as the Mirror. First below is a letter from Lincoln Quakers Henry Taylor and Jesse Brown; they are responding to the scathing editorials in the Leesburg Democratic Mirror and the Virginia Sentinel:
WASHINGTONIAN April 4, 1856
To The Public
Having seen in the Democratic Mirror of the 26th of last month, an editorial bearing the title of “Black Republican Meeting in Loudoun,” which contains a number of erroneous statements, together with insinuations calculated to engender a prejudice against the community in which, and the Literary Society under the auspices of which, the meeting referred to, was convened, we the undersigned being present, desire to un-deceive the public by laying before it a correct statement of the facts connected there-with.
The title, itself of the article referred to is false, inasmuch as it misrepresents the character and object of that meeting, and the impression it makes is rather confirmed by a sentence which h follows, viz: that the meeting was appointed “as the sequel proved, for the treasonable object of proclaiming boldly and impudently the vilest Black Republican Doctrines.”
That meeting was called neither “speciously” nor “really” for any such purpose, but was a regular adjourned meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society.
This society was formed in 1851, for the purpose, as the preamble to its constitution declares, and as the community in which it exists, well knows, of a free exchange of sentiment – the spreading of truth, and mutual improvement.” For five years it has been a source of intellectual enjoyment, and instruction – a laudable and successful effort to promote the advancement of literature, and the establishment of sound principles of morality.
One of the objects as stated above, is “a free exchange of sentiment,” and it was for that end, that, on the 15th of last month a meeting was called, and not for the purpose of avowing or inculcating any particular “doctrines.”
In accordance with the by-laws and constituted order of the society, a resolution was chosen, and two polemics to open the discussion on each side. That resolution was “Resolved, That we do endorse the nomination of Millard Fillmore by the American party;” and at the time it was chosen, there was an express understanding that all political parties were to be allowed a representation in the discussion. The meeting convened not as the editorial states, “at Goose Creek Church,” but at Goose Creek School House, the place of meeting for years.
The discussion so far as the chosen polemics were concerned, was conducted in the most creditable and orderly manner, and by them nothing was uttered intended as an abolition argument, or which could possibly be construed into an advocacy of disunion.
The two polemics chosen upon the negative, (F. H. Rae and J.H. Brown,) avowed that they could not endorse the nomination of Millard Fillmore, because he was not opposed to the extension of slavery in the territories, but said nothing about the abolition of slavery where it already exists. The former said that with Washington and Franklin, and Jefferson, and Jay, – with the founders of our government, and the framers of our constitution, he was opposed to the further extension of slavery, but would leave it to die out upon the land that bred it.
The latter concluded by expressing the hope that the fertile plains of Kansas and Nebraska might never in the eloquent language of the senator from Alabama, (Mr. Clay,) “exhibit the painful signs of senility and decay apparent in Virginia and the Carolinas;” (here there was no applause) – After the chosen polemics had spoken, others were invited to express their views. When John Simpson spoke in opposition to the principles of both the American and Republican parties, His [his] remarks being gentlemanly, temperate, and well expressed, gave general satisfaction.
Previous to this time there had been no excitement and nothing but the best feeling prevailed; but shortly after, James F. Trayhern was called for, and he responded in a somewhat lengthy and irrelevant speech. He denied that the gentleman from New York should be allowed the freedom of speech upon the question of slavery extension, where upon the meeting became somewhat excited. He was then assured if he would go to New York, he would be allowed the freedom of speech upon any and every subject. J. F. Trayhern responded that he (Rae) would have entire freedom of speech in Virginia, “if he would speak right.” He expressed the sincere hope that slavery would go into Kanzas.[sic] He concluded not by saying “that sooner than see Black Republicanism prevail,” but by saying “that sooner than see the Missouri Compromise restored, (to the repeal of which he was strongly opposed,) dearly as he loved this Union he would see it dissolved.”
The editorial also says that “Mr. Rae becoming confused was prompted by an old man with a broad brim white hat, whom we were told was the veritable Yardley Taylor.” This is another erroneous statement; Yardley Taylor did not prompt F.H. Rae, but merely asked a question respecting the ordinance of 1787. – Moreover, he does not, and says he never did wear a white hat. Henry C. Brown and Thomas E. Taylor, followed, informing that meeting that they as good Americans, could not endorse the disunion sentiments of the gentleman (Trayhern.) The former avowed himself a Fillmore man, yet preferred Republicanism or Democracy to disunion. The latter expressed his loyalty to the American party claiming that it was national, and not sectional, his preference for Fillmore, and his ardent devotion to the union.
The editorial further says, that “one Jesse Hoge, nerved by the boldness of his confreres.” Was next brought into the arena and seemed determined by the hammering gestures, to beat his Republican Principles into those before him.” This is another, and if possible a grosser misrepresentation than the proceeding.
Jesse Hoge is not, and never was, a Republican, nor did he rise on that occasion to advocate Republican Principles, but to call attention to the great deviation the gentleman (Trayhern) had made from the subject, and the inconsistency of his arguments respecting freedom of speech and the Missouri compromise. His remarks were received by the meeting with decided approbation, and the clamor and confusion referred to in the editorial – amidst which the meeting adjourned, were natural consequences to the utterance of disunion sentiments of James F. Trayhern. Otherwise the meeting had been harmonious and the kindest feelings had prevailed.
We put this forth as a truthful statement of the facts connected with the meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society, on the 15th of last month, and we appeal to the editor of the Democratic Mirror (whom we respectfully request to publish it,) and to the people of Loudoun, to say if that meeting appears to have had “the treasonable object of proclaiming boldly and impudently the vilest Black Republican doctrines.”
HENRY TAYLOR Pres’t. of Goose Creek Literary Society Jesse H. Brown, Secretary
Young Quaker meeting attendee, Thomas Taylor, also waded in to address the Mirror editorial:
WASHINGTONIAN April 4, 1856
TO ALL IT MAY CONERN.
EDITOR: My attention was called to an article in the “Mirror” of the 26th inst. [March 26th] purporting to be an account of a meeting held at Goose Creek Church on Saturday the 15th of the present month [sic], and consider the position I am placed as requiring my notice and most respectfully ask a place in your columns. I am a candidate for no office. Born, bred, and educated in Virginia, I claim a birthright on her soil and in her institutions, which none dare to deny. Hoping to own a few acres of her fertile soil, it shall be my pride and highest aspiration, to cultivate and endeavor to obtain from it, an honest livelihood, and I only ask to bring my name before the people of Loudoun to make an explanation and vindicate the character of my neighborhood.
The article above refered [sic] to says, “The meeting met speciously for the purposes of ratifying the Philadelphia nominations, but really as the sequel proved for the treasonable object of proclaiming the vilest Black Republican doctrines. It was arranged the matter should assume the form of debate, and two regular polemics on each side. H. Brown and myself on the affirmative.”
This is as base a slander as was ever concocted, and mean as it is untrue. The meeting was a regularly adjourned meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society, of which I am a member, and I was appointed by the President of that Society, to address the meeting in favor of Millard Fillmore’s claims to the Presidency. The thought never entered our heads to have a “Black Republican” meeting, nor did we meet for any other than the laudable purpose of self-improvement.
The neighborhood was invited and we had a crowded house, as it was understood that this was to be our last debate for the winter. Three fourths of that meeting were as good Fillmore Americans, as there are in the state, and three fourths of the remainder, Democrats, and not five Republicans present.
The Editor speaks of applause, and you might have heard a pin fall on the floor in the midst of it, for there was no such thing, it was to the sentiment that rather than see a restoration of the Missouri Compromise, he, “the speaker” would go for a dissolution of the Union. It was to this the hiss was given, it was this that aroused them, it was at this that they expressed their indignation, and in the language of the father of their country, “indignantly frown upon every attempt to dissolve the Union.”
The object of that editorial is plain; it was nothing more than an electioneering scheme, it wanted Americans to rally around it, and subscribe to save it from a shameful breakdown. It appeals to the passions of the American party to incite them to hate this community thereby weakening our united force so they can elect a Minor democrat.
If so, Americans rally, and do not let an honest, truthful man be under the necessity of willfully misrepresenting another meeting. R.J.T. White, R. Simpson, Dr. D. Heaton, Smith Gregg, and the veritable Josiah B., were called on, the latter named gentleman having hair all over his face and head, save where the capillary ought to vegetate. And it is my candid judgment, that if the head of that gentleman, “the Editor”, was analyzed by a Professor of Chemistry, that another simple substance could be added to the present sixty-five, which Chemists claim to have discovered. And once for all, there is not a more orderly, peaceable, law-abiding, law-loving, constitution-supporting community, in the county than this, and he who says the object of that meeting was “boldly to proclaim Black Republican doctrines,” or incite an insurrection, basely tells an untruth.
“We have given but an imperfect outline of this truly anomalous assembly,” this is one of the few truths contained in the article upon which I shall not comment. “We shall go on in our feeble efforts.” What do the people of Loudoun care whether it goes on or not? It influences nobody, and certainly does no good, and but for that slanderous article, it would have been scarcely known; I had to ride half a day to find one, and was handed a copy by a democratic gentleman (to whom I may now return my thanks,) without it being unfolded. My last vote was for Flournoy, Beale, Patton, Boteler, Braden, Powell, and Wright, and if they are advocates of Black Republicanism, so am I.
I intend to vote for Fillmore and Donelson, if I can get to the polls, and “may the mountains and rocks fall on me” if when I am slandered, my community outraged, if I do not defend myself and the green hills of my native home. It yet remains to be seen whether that sapient, potatoe-headed tool of a corrupt Pierce dynasty, and our beloved Charles Jeemes, will correct this slander.
Most respectfully, THOMAS TAYLOR
The following week’s edition of the Washingtonian, published on April 11th, heated up the accusations against the Goose Creek Literary Society. Here are transcriptions from men involved in the back and forth over what was coming to resemble a line of battle. First, a rejoinder from James Trayhern:
APRIL 11, 1856
The Editor: It is with feelings very far from [illegible] I find myself [illegible] alternating, however in presenting either to submit namely to gross injustice, or right myself by a public defence [sic]. But there are other motives besides that of placing myself in a proper position before the public, which impel me to the course. The fair fame of my native County is at stake, her institutions have been assailed, and the character of her citizens aspersed; and it is in her defence, and in defence of her institutions and people that I feel constrained to ask a place in the columns of your paper.
An article appeared in two of the Leesburg papers, last week, over the signatures of nine distinguished gentlemen, of Loudoun, purporting to be a reply to an editorial in the Democratic Mirror of the 26th of last month. Near the conclusion of this truly wonderful production is to be found this remarkable language. “We put this forth as a truthful statement of facts” & c. I say this is remarkable language, for that statement is the very reverse of truth. Every sentence bears unmistakable signs of a deliberate, willful and malicious attempt to create a false impression upon the public mind, in regard to the meeting of which it purports to give an account; and to pervert the facts connected with it.
These three Aquilas and their illustrious associates in this work, undertake to prove to the public that the meeting of the memorable 15th of March was improperly styled a “Black Republican meeting;” and that I, and nobody else, am responsible for everything that was wrong and improper in its proceedings. Let us see how they are sustained by the facts. And here I wish it to be borne in mind, that this meeting was not the first disgraceful affair of the kind that has recently occurred at the same place in the County of Loudoun. The Saturday preceding was witness to a scene enacted on the same theatre, and in which the same individuals were the actors, equally shameful.
The speakers boldly avowed their determination to vote the Black Republican ticket. Denounced the Fugitive Slave law and Fillmore for signing it; and declared that a law so odious should be forthwith repealed. Slavery was proclaimed to be an evil of the first magnitude and a curse to the country. This was the first act in the drama. At the meeting on the 15th the same sentiments were proclaimed but with more boldness and in speeches of greater length. One of the speakers asked me if I had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and upon my replying in the affirmative, expressed his great gratification that their books were getting into such hands.
As to the miserable quibble of one Yardley Taylor, that “Francis Rae [Ray] himself did not assert that the Fugitive Slave law was unconstitutional, he gave it as his opinion that it was so,” I pass it by as simply ridiculous. I shall have a word or two to say of this gentleman hereafter. The above are facts which no one can successfully controvert; and I call upon the people of Loudoun to pass judgment upon them and decide for themselves whether or not I was right in denouncing the men who gave utterance to such sentiments as Black Republicans, and co-workers in iniquity with Fred Douglas [sic] and his demon crew.
And oh! How indignant they are at these charges. What! Men indignant at the charge of Black Republicanism who openly prefer Hale to Fillmore for the Presidency and with impudent indecency assert that “a negro wench, by a free application of cologne, would smell as sweet as a white woman.” What a mockery! As well might the Devil rave on being reproached with sin.
But there is another portion of this slanderous production which is as untrue as the denial it contains of the charge of Black Republicanism. I allude to the account given of r. Simpson’s remarks. “His remarks,” says the article, “Being gentlemanly, temperate, and well expressed, gave general satisfaction.”
What are the facts? Mr. Simpson on rising, manifested considerable excitement, and expressed in no very measured terms his astonishment at hearing such sentiments proclaimed in the South as Rae and Brown had uttered. He charged them to their teeth with being Black Republicans.
When Rae rose to reply he pronounced language of Mr. Simpson ungentlemanly; for which he was made to apologize. This was the character of Mr. Simpson’s remarks; and this the kind of general satisfaction they gave. It will be observed that Simpson charged them with the very thing they attempt to disprove, and deny in such emphatic terms; and yet they say his remarks gave general satisfaction. Strange logic, this, to be found in the joint production of nine men, and three Aquilas among them too. But the design of this willful distortion of facts is obvious. They wish to create the impression that I introduced the subject of slavery into the discussion. This will clearly appear from the paragraph succeeding the notice of Mr. Simpson’s speech. That paragraph, or a portion of it, is in these words. “Previous to this time there had been no excitement and nothing but the best feeling prevailed: but shortly after James F. Trayhern was called for, and he responded in a somewhat lengthy and irrelevant speech.”
Here the charge is preferred in terms, for if this language does not mean that I was the aggressor – that I lugged in, voluntarily, the question of slavery, it means nothing. The term irrelevant would not have been used in this connection had they not designed to create this impression; for my speech was confined to the subject of slavery. In the remarks I submitted, I followed in the tracks of Mr. Simpson, and several have told me that the language I employed was no stronger than his. I would also state that I was about the last who spoke.
The charge then that I was the wrong-doer, and am to be blamed for all the excitement produced by that meeting, is as false as it is base and malicious; and is nothing but a miserable and impotent attempt to relieve themselves of the infamy which properly attaches to their conduct, by shifting the wrong upon my shoulders. I said no more than what every Virginian should say when he hears the institutions of his State assailed. My wrong consists, if wrong I have done, in defending the constitutional rights of the South against the assaults of Black Republicanism.
But these nine extremely patriotic gentlemen were very much shocked at my saying that I would sooner see the Union dissolved, as dearly as I loved it, than have the Missouri Compromise restored. They could hear, without emotion the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law openly advocated. Knowing, too, that the repeal would inevitably lead to a dissolution of the Union. But when I, in rebuking the spirit which is engendering civil discord among us, and widening the breach between the North and South, declared that rather than have the rights of one-half of the States trampled under foot, I would favor a separation, they became dreadfully alarmed. And the “Veritable Yardley” catches up the cry and sounds the note of alarm afar and wide through the land. This taking up the cudgel for your Black Republican friends, was a bold step in you, Yardley, and one that you will yet have cause to regret. You are well known at home for your abolitionist proclivities, if you are not abroad. The records of our Court will show, I think, that it was more through that good luck which sometimes attends the wicked than from good conduct, that you escaped the penalty of a violated law – a law for the protection of southern interests. – and went unwhiped [sic] of justice.
I have never interfered with you – and even with your broad brimmed black hat, and when you speak of a hereafter, all I ask is that you speak with truth. For daring to stand up in honour of my native State, I have been held by a miserable creature in the shape of a man but with the soul of a Blackguard, whose very name excites disgust – Hugh Holmes, and have been grossly misrepresented by men, who if they lacked the sense, ought to at least to have had the manners to treat me differently.
JAMES F. TRAYHERN
A new voice joins the chorus of the Goose Creek Literary Society event, now less a battle than an opera, with much strutting on the public stage. Robert White writes a long letter, printed on April 11th in the Washingtonian. It possibly was also printed in the Mirror and the Sentinel, but those newspaper editions are not yet tracked down and available. Here is Robert White, who takes on an informative, but almost Shakesperian role: first seeming to offer concilatory praise of the Quakers, Robert White then turns their very words against them in a crescendo of fury:
TO THE PUBLIC
My name having been maliciously brought before the Public in connection with the meeting, held at Goose Creek Church on the 15th ult., and reported in the Leesburg papers, – and that report having been denied by respectable citizens of the County to be correct. I am induced by the solicitations of a highly respectable portion of the community comprising every shade of party to believe, that it is perhaps, due to the Public, as well as to myself and others, to make the following statement:
As I have been appealed to, as evidence in this matter, my wish is not to indulge in denunciation – nor in any event to comment upon the proceedings in question further than to be understood, without entering too much into detail, I shall confine myself to some of the facts and occurrences of the meeting, as they were first brought to my notice, and afterwards passed under my own observation – embracing to a certain extent the exposition of the Democratic Mirror and addressing myself to the issue now made before the Public upon the statement of facts made in the Mirror the original of the extracts in the Sentinel and Washingtonian.
It is proper to remark that being indisposed, and obliged for a part of the time to retire from the house, I did not witness all that was said and done in “the meeting.” It was not difficult, however, to understand from the outside the tenor of what was going on. But I did hear and see enough to determine the character of its proceedings – as well as to assure the correctness of the impressions and the accuracy of the conclusions I drew from the incidents and facts of the occasion.
I am not prepared to call this, without qualification or explanation, “a Black Republican meeting.”
I had been invited by an intelligent gentleman of Goose Creek neighborhood to attend a “Fillmore Ratification meeting.” For that reason – made more interesting by the information that this was to be an adjourned meeting of one which had previously failed to ratify, and at which Black Republican doctrines had been proclaimed – and of which the parties had been duly, – though as my informant believe without effect, notified and cautioned – I felt more than an ordinary desire to be present.
The resolution too, read by the organ of the meeting, viz:
Resolved, “That we do endorse the nomination of Millard Fillmore by the American party” – followed by a speech at length in favor of the American platform and nominees, led me to the conclusion that the name and object of the meeting – as I heard – was correct.
I am again to doubt the propriety of calling this a “Black Republican Meeting” by a care – by members of the association, that this was “a regular meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society,” of whose existence I had not been previously aware and that it had been formed and in operation since 1851.
I am told also by the card referred to, that the constitution of the society declares it to be formed “for a free exchange of sentiment – the spreading of truth and mental improvement.”
I am not disposed, therefore, to hazard a discourtesy to these gentlemen by insisting that the style of “the meeting” is, or should run in any other name, than that which its members claim. But, as the issue is about the facts in the case, their substance and spirit as they transpired, and as “the meeting’ doubtless holds itself responsible for what occurred on the part of those who rightfully composed it, or had the authority and power to direct and control its action, I endorse the report of the facts in the Mirror as a “meeting” a free moderation and forbearance. For I cannot conceive how any one, not totally insensible to every suggestion of propriety in a citizen of a Southern State could either by sympathy or applause, and far less as a public disclaimer, participate in a scene and proceeding both so mischievous and extraordinary as that enacted at Goose Creek.
Painful as it is to confess, I am obliged to enter, my most earnest protest against its recurrence and to declare that I cannot give such conduct the slightest countenance or toleration whatever. And how little soever the “members” of “the meeting” may have intended it, they have disturbed the peaceful relations hitherto subsisting between the people in our county; and having enjoyed all the privileges of our institutions in common with those to whom they ever look for defence, they have excited with the indifference of levity, an agitation which all good citizens should seriously endeavor to suppress; while they at home have attacked a public sentiment already embittered to the verge of revolution by insult and aggression from abroad. Disrespectful as it is to the feelings of others, it is no less ungrateful to the laws to which, now, as against possible violence they owe their protection. I do not mean to say that all who were present are guilty of this offence. But from the best estimate I could make, the controlling influence of numbers and character – in “the meeting” properly, did, by various indications encourage and sustain to the extent in some instances of open and repeated applause, those who made themselves conspicuous in the utterance of doctrines which, suggest to the public mind questions upon the rightful relation of master and slave, and as applied to the present legislation of congress and the power and future policy of the general government upon that subject, administered by the Black Republicans, must, if carried out, lamentable as the alternative, lead to “abolition or disunion.”
And hence it was that “the excitement,” spoken of in that card, was not more the result of “disunion” avowed upon condition, than the previous and earnest announcement of doctrines which if not discountenanced and checked must inevitably end in its correlative – Abolition. The Union was framed, and now rests solely upon guarantees to the South. It can be perpetuated only by a faithful adherence to those guarantees. And if in the discussion, as an alternative consequence of their propositions, Mr. Trayhern made the pacific offer of Abram to Lot, or held up to their visions the more terrible judgement [sic] of Solomon, they should have known that it was but the practical result of that case, – as it must be in the most fearful that can arise, – of continual ‘agitation’ by those who can never be satisfied with the constitution, or the laws, and the Union as it is. –
It is not, therefore, according to my observation, just to charge the excitement to the utterance of disunion sentiments, put of consequence and not of choice as the only remedy for the then and there threatened execution of the Black Republican Programme. It was but the just and legitimate fruit of the now acknowledged object of the society and of that “meeting” – “a free exchange of sentiment.”
If previous to this ‘nothing but the best feeling prevailed’ it was because nothing serious had occurred to mar the cordiality so desirable in a ‘free exchange of sentiments’ to those who regardless of time and place were so imprudent as to indulge in it. Or if the severe issue made by a Southern man, with a New York Black Republican and his Virginia confederates, was such an offensive intrusion as to create “the excitement, hitherto unfelt” – it could only have been, as in my opinion it was, because it conflicted with the prevalent sentiment of “the meeting.”
I could only account for the surprise and excitement manifested upon the non-essential difference in the respective estimates of the privileges of the contest, as made by the Northern and Southern champions – the former instructed that it was to be a ‘free exchange’ while the latter fell into the amazing error that it was to be “a free fight.” In respect of their discreditable exhibitions, to say nothing of their mischievous tendencies, I think those who have approved them must conclude with me as impressed on the occasion in question that these “regular” and periodical “exchanges” are a little too “free.”
This discussion was no farce or mere past time but conducted under the grave sanction of “solemn convictions of truth.”
Mr. Rae, formerly of N.Y., having declared his opposition to the fugitive slave law, and objected to Mr. Fillmore for giving it his approval, declared his adhesion to what is called the Black Republican Party – characterizing the citizens from Missouri as “Missouri Ruffians.” And in allusion to the purposes of the Black Republicans put this proposition to the South, and she might take either horn of the dilemma she pleased. If you – the South – contend that slavery is a local or state institution, then we (the Black Republicans) intend to confine it to its present locality – to die out on the land that bred it. Or, if you say that it is general, or the Federal Government has anything to do with it, then we intend through congress to take charge of it and control it according to our own views of right and expediency. Continuing upon the question of “freedom” he concluded a sentence with this language – “in this land of liberty:” but catching his words he ended in a somewhat mournful strain – with decided emphasis and effect, “would I could call this a land of liberty,” and concluded by saying – “These are my honest sentiments, if you do not like them I cannot help it – but being my sincere convictions of truth you will excuse me for being so candid as to avow them.”
So, too, the sincerity of a citizen of Loudoun was attested by a malignity of spirit and vulgarity of manner, equaled only my emanation I once witnessed from the pitt of an abolition convention in Pittsburg.
But what was more mortifying, their conduct struck me as the time as being responded to or connived, at by a majority of those who constituted “the meeting” as contradistinguished from the large number who were merely spectators.
It was against this [sic] odds that Messrs. Simpson and Trayhern contended. The remarks of the former were sound, courteous and creditable. – It is also due to truth to say that Mr. Trayhern’s speech in reply to Mr. Rae and others, was one – as appropriate to the occasion – that no genuine Southern man, in my opinion, could help but commend.
Devoted as he had ever been to Mr. Fillmore he could not but come to his rescue. He would make the issue there and before Loudoun whether their interpretation of his character and platform, or his own, was the true one. True to the South and her laws he could not submit to the avowal of such incendiary and iniquitous doctrines. Holding up to view their consequences and looking them full in the face – he declared that if they, the Black Republicans, should execute their acknowledged purposes – and among them the unqualified repeal of the Kansas Nebraska bill the Union would and indeed ought to be dissolved. All other questions would be settled in that one. Dissolution, poverty and death were all preferable to inequality and disgrace. Telling Mr. Rae if he could not enjoy life in the South without interfering with her institutions he had better return to his more congenial clime – the answer was made from the crowd “he has the right,” “he has the right,” “the freedom of speech,” & c. Mr. Rae here remarked if you (Mr. T.) go to N.Y. you can say what you please. To which Mr. T. replied, that he would not be permitted to insult his (Mr. R.’s) people or violate their laws.
Another active individual from Loudoun stated in his speech that from what he knew of Black Republicanism he liked it very well, but he would still go for Fillmore. But he desired “the meeting” to notice a striking admission in argument made by Mr. Trayhern – to wit (and this he stated in a very significant whisper-tone.) He, Mr. Trayhern, admits by implication that the slaveholders are afraid of their slaves.
Another from Loudoun – a man of intelligence – said to be a school master* – amidst “the excitement” mounted a bench or desk in his extreme anxiety to get the floor. His object was to defend, and read from the Pittsburg platform and other documents, with which he appeared well supplied. He asked Mr. Trayhern if he had read Mrs. Stowe and other works which I think he named. Mr. T. replying in the affirmative – the speaker standing on the Pittsburg Platform, remarked “I am glad our or their works are getting into your or the right hands.”
Another from Loudoun arose under greater excitement than all, and most vehemently charged Mr. Trayhern with placing Millard Fillmore on the wrong platform and bitterly denounced him as “a preacher of Southern Fanaticism,” to which “the meeting” responded throughout with violent applause, followed by hisses and confusion almost to uproar, the result – as I thought, of “a free exchange of sentiment.”
Now while as before and for the reasons stated, it is perhaps more courteous to call this “a regular adjourned meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society” assembled for “a free exchange of sentiment and the spreading of truth,” I am induced from the report as endorsed and by the facts above stated, to say that if this was not “A Black Republican Meeting,” it was at least, a meeting of Black Republicans.
Believing several members (as I suppose) of the “society” present to be untainted, I shall not pretend to determine precisely, at present, how far this remark applies. Nor shall I stop to draw the various nice distinctions which obtain from the embryo “free” thinker through all the stages of the transition state up to the full grown monster. Some have disclaimed all sympathy with Black Republicanism, and they are entitled to the full benefit of such disclaimer and to that extent, at least, should be relieved from any hurtful imputation. Those who are still responsible for the action of “the meeting” I leave to acquit themselves so far as they may or can before the Public whose indignant attention they have attracted.
The thorough organization of the body, the fullness of the house, the fixed and waiting presence of the spectators, all attested to me the expectation of the assemblage, and evinced the occasion was regarded in the neighborhood, as one of no ordinary character.
The extreme positions of the speakers, the intensity of feeling they produced, added to the mingled manifestations of disapprobation and applause, satisfied me also, of the seriously sensitive nature of the elements had under consideration.
And now, in conclusion, let me say “that” these “free exchanges of sentiment” for “the spreading of truth” such as was there promulgated, should not, upon what pretence [sic] soever, in whatever place, or under whatever name, be indulged in any more than a proper appreciation of the policy of our laws and a right regard for the peace of the community could give it toleration.
Let me in all kindness express the hope that those who have inflicted this wound upon public sentiment will be the first to endeavor to heal it: if there be, as there is, a way to remove the suspicion that now attaches to our county, let them be the first to pursue it, and never again the first to forsake it. Let not the N.York Post say again “the Virginia line is broken.” But for the credit of the community, the pride and honor of the Commonwealth that, whatever the interest, will never fail to protect it. Step forward, step quickly and all together to repair the breach that has been made.
ROBERT J. T. WHITE.
Loudoun, April 4, 1856
*This reference to a school-master and ‘man of intelligence’ would be referring to Samuel M. Janney. Nest of Abolitionists has a page devoted to Samuel M. Janney, who was the most prominent of all the community’s Quakers.
Below Robert J.T. White’s letter in the April 11, 1856 Washingtonian, was this brief chorus of approval directed to Josiah Taylor’s Mirror editorial of the previous week:
We the undersigned, who were present at the Goose Creek Meeting, hereby certify that the statement given of that meeting by JOSIAH B. TAYLOR, is correct in every essential, and certainly a mild and courteous account.
JAS. D. HEATON
JAS. F. TRAYHERN
JOHN H. SIMPSON
JOEL CRAVEN, Jr.
Neighbor turns on neighbor with the following letter, revealing that counter meetings are being held in readyness for…what? Physical force and violence against the local community of “Black Republicans”? This letter was published in the April 11, 1856 Washingtonian
Meeting at Hillsborough
At a meeting of those opposed to the action of the meeting lately held at Goose Creek Meeting-House, convened in Hillsboro’, Tuesday, 8th inst., Col. ROBERT L. WRIGHT was called to the Chair, and THO’S. W. WHITE appointed Secretary.
Rob’t. J.T. White addressed the meeting, substantiating the report of the Leesburg papers – when it was moved that a Committee of seven be appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. The President appointed the following gentlemen on said committee:
Rob’t. J.T. White, Samuel Price,
Bushrod Osburn, Joshua White,
D.T. Crawford, Col. John Leslie,
Jas. M. Kilgour.
The Committee reported the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, 1st. That we have learned with regret and astonishment that at a late meeting assembled at the Goose Creek Meeting-House, sentiments were there avowed by individuals at war with the peace and quiet of society; in conflict with the spirit and policy, if not the letter, of our laws, and which can have no other effect than to lead to unmitigated mischief.
Resolved, 2d. That the public discussion of the institution of slavery, in any form, or under any pretense, whatever, in the midst of a slave-holding community, is such an outrage upon the rights and feelings of the general public – and discloses such a wanton disregard of social order, and the peace and happiness of all classes – as merits the stringent expression of our abhorance and indignation.
Resolved, 3d. That while we acknowledge with inexpressible mortification the stigma now resting upon our community, we pledge ourselves to its removal, without regard to pains or consequences.
Resolved, 4th. That the time is near at hand when forbearance will cease to be a virtue: and that unceasing vigilance should be the watchword of all good and order loving citizens.
Resolved, 5th. That these manifestations of a reckless and disorganized spirit, the repeated violation of the policy of our laws, the threatened disturbance of our peace, and such outrages upon our public honor, will if persisted in, ultimately find an appropriate if not effectual remedy.
Resolved, 6th. That our fellow-citizens of Loudoun are requested to vindicate her honor, by every proper expression or sentiment and feeling, from the imputation cast upon their fidelity to the Laws, the Constitution, and the Union as it is.
Resolved, 7th. That the Washingtonian, Democratic Mirror, and American Sentinel, be requested to publish the above resolutions, with the minutes of this meeting.
ROB’T. L. WRIGHT, Pres’t.
THO’S. W. WHITE, Sec’y.
Thomas Taylor felt the need to settle a final score against Mirror editor Josiah Taylor (no relation.) Thomas Taylor published this second letter:
April 11, 1856
GOOSE CREEK MEETING.
The first thing that caught my eye in looking over the Washingtonian of last week was a card over the signature of J.B. Taylor, in which I am represented as being an assassin and not worthy of notice of a gentleman, &c., My sin is this, when I first read the article headed “Black Republican Meeting in Loudoun,” I believed it to be an attempt to identify the American party of Loudoun with Abolitionism, to injure us abroad and to misrepresent an innocent community at home: and we have been charged with having met for the “treasonable purpose of boldly and impudently proclaiming the vilest Black Republican doctrines” under the cloak of disguise. The meeting was charged with having been a premeditated affair, wand guilty of the basest treason. My young heart resented it, and I threw the venom spurned at us in the face of its author. As to my being worthy the notice of a gentleman, I doubted it as soon as I saw who was first to notice me, and Josiah had to leave his own little — sheet to obtain for his card a respectable notice, and to demonstrate that he was a gentleman. As to who I am, and what I am, I refer to the community in which I live, and am responsible for all I have said. THOS. TAYLOR
Finally, there is this rejoinder from a group of worried Lincoln Quakers. The letter reads as if it was written by a committee, and perhaps it was. The Quaker community must have come together, by now aware that non-Quaker neighbors were holding meetings to determine what to do about the “Black Republicans” in their midst. Virginia and national newspapers had picked up the story, causing further alarm. This letter, signed simply ‘Goose Creek’ shows the correspondence speaks for the entire community, attempting to distance themselves from political positions seen as extreme and threatening to their pro-slavery neighbors:
For the Washingtonian
April 11, 1856
Having seen a communication in the American Sentinel over the signature of nine very respectable and worthy citizens of Loudoun, who are professedly putting forth a truthful statement of the facts connected with the meeting of the Goose Creek Literary Society, on the 15th of last month, and appealing to the people of Loudoun to say if that meeting (according to their report) appears to have had the treasonable object of proclaiming boldly and impudently the vilest Black Republican doctrines. As one of the humble citizens of Loudoun, [illegible] concerned to say, in consequence [illegible] knowledge of the facts as they are, whatever may have been the object of the meeting [illegible] that the vilest Black Republican doctrines were boldly and impudently [illegible]
If one of the doctrines of Black Republicanism is more villainous than another, it is to declare the Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional; and if any thing, in my humble judgment, constitutes impudence or exhibits its boldness, it was that Mr. Ray, who is a youth, and has just landed on our soil, and whose judgment has not fully matured, should question the veracity and judgment of these old and venerable, pure and patriotic statesmen, some of whom, with one foot in the grave and the other on the Union, actuated by no other motive than to serve their country and their God, exhorted and entreated their countrymen, in the most eloquent and affectionate manner, to rally around the Constitution, and save the Union in the passage of the Compromise Measures, in which was the Fugitive Slave Law.
Now if those nine gentlemen had wished the people of Loudoun to say that the object of this meeting was not to proclaim Black Republican doctrines, they were very unfortunate in publishing the arrangement and the understanding relative to the resolution which reads thus: “Resolved, That we do endorse the nomination of Millard Fillmore by the American party,” and at the time it was chosen (mark the expression) there was an express understanding that all political parties wee to be allowed a representation in the discussion – consequently the people of Loudoun will be forced to the conclusion that this understanding was had between the American and Republican party present, as the arrangement clearly proves, by the appointment of those parties only to conduct the discussion; thus throwing open its doors to the avowal of those doctrines which they know were obnoxious to the citizens generally of Loudoun, as well as to many in the neighborhood in which this Literary Society has its home.
They not only opened that particular doctrine, but the object being to avow any and all political doctrines, however baneful, prejudicial and destructive to our institutions and to our interests, and mortifying and unpleasant to our feelings. The object being a free exchange of sentiment, and for that end this meeting was called, exhibiting the object of the meeting forcibly and clearly to have been as much in favor of the proclamation of Black Republican and Abolition doctrines as Democratic or American, as it was expressly understood that all political parties were to be allowed a representation in the discussion.
Having shown by their own statement the object of the meeting, was in part, for the proclamation of the vilest Black Republican doctrines, I propose to give some of the facts connected with this meeting, in justice to the Editor of the Mirror as these nine gentlemen would have the public believe, when they give a part of the reasons assigned by Mr. Rae, for not endorsing Fillmore; which was, that Mr. Fillmore was not opposed to the extension of slavery in the territories. Mr. Rae could not endorse him because he had signed the Fugitive Slave Law, which Mr. Rae decleared [sic] unconstitutional, and that it ought to be repealed. He would not touch slavery where it existed, but he would leave it to die out upon the land that bred it. If these nine gentlemen were disposed to present a truthful statement, why did they omit that part of Mr. Rae’s speech which referred to the fugitive slave law as unconstitutional.
Now with regard to Mr. Jesse Hoge, who is not a Black Republican according to his own report, the Mirror misrepresented him, to some extent, when he said that he seemed determined to beat his Republican principles in to those before him, he did not advocate the doctrines of the Republican party, he only claimed the right for the gentleman from New York, to express his Republican doctrines, and remarked that he had not heard any thing so objectionable from him, (Mr. Ray) as the remarks of Mr. Trayhern, which produce the excitement, clamor, and confusion, referred to in the editorial of the Mirror which was correct. The idea of Mr. Hoge’s remarks, being received by the meeting with decided approbation, is a hoax, and one of those who signed the article was not present when Mr. Hoge spoke, nor during the excitement of the occasion – he had gone home with a severe head-ache.
I have no doubt that others of the party were laboring under the influence of a simaler [sic] malady, or their memory would not have been so treacherous – and in the effort to undeceive the public mind they would have given a full and complete history of the remarks of the various gentlemen who participated in the discussion, and let the people of Loudoun, with all the facts before them, determine the object and character of this meeting; and take such action as will prevent the future occurrence of a meeting so discreditable to our county; and if possible, to prevent the advocacy of the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, which is a direct attack upon the institution of slavery – its repeal would render our property less secure and less valuable – then it behooves us, one and all, who are interested in that institution, to be ever watchful, and nobly repel every effort to invade our rights. GOOSE CREEK
Several northern newspapers carried information about the Goose Creek (Lincoln) Literary Society Meeting, giving a very different perspective of the people involved. As mentioned, this website’s page on Francis H. Ray carries more national newspaper coverage of the Goose Creek Literary Society meeting, including Ray’s own article printed in Boston’s The Liberator. Here is a New York City newspaper, the New York Tribune, from an issue published April 4, 1856:
New York Tribune (New York, New York) April 4, 1856
The Virginia papers are horrified at the idea that a “Black Republican meeting” as they call it, has actually been held within the sacred limits of the Old Dominion, and that the gentlemen who participated in it have not yet been murdered, or at least tarred and feathered and driven from the State – a consummation which these papers are straining their rhetoric to the utmost to stir up the slaveholders to undertake to bring about. This horrible invasion of the solemn silence enjoined by slave-breeding despotism, this outrageous and intolerable attempt to exercise in Virginia the long since extinguished privilege of free speech, has taken place in Loudoun County, which borders on the Potomac, north and west of the District of Columbia.
This County of Loudoun, once highly fertile but long since worn out by slave cultivation, is said to have furnished more emigrants to the South and West than any other county in Virginia. Thousands in this and the adjoining counties thus abandoned and deserted by their ancient cultivators have of late years begun to attract the attention of farmers from the Northern States, who have moved into the neighborhood in considerable numbers, have bought up, for a song, large tracts of abandoned land, and by the magic of free labor have begun to put quite a new aspect upon things. Hence, in a great measure, the encouragement to undertake the recent railroad projects now on foot and partially completed, of which Alexandria is the terminus, and the hope entertained of again making that city a flourishing seat of commerce; and hence, too, the secret, we suppose, of this astonishing and for many years unprecedented phenomenon of public meeting in Virginia, at which courage has been found to utter a few words hostile to Slavery, to slave catching, and to Slavery extension.
The meeting in question stated to have been held about the middle of last month, nominally for the purpose of ratifying the nominations of Fillmore and Donelson, but, like several other meetings called in other places, with a similar object in view, a very different result seems to have been arrived at. The Loudoun people, desiring to have the whole matter fairly before them, had, in seems appointed four speakers to discuss the matter, pro and con – two on each side. In the negative appeared Mr. Rae (Ray) who, we are proud to say, was originally of New York, though now a resident of the County of Loudoun. According to the report of The Loudoun Mirror – to which we are indebted for our knowledge of the meeting, and which trembles with horror while it relates such enormities – this audacious Mr. Rae openly, in the meeting, “declared himself in favor of the Black Republican party, denounced the Fugitive Slave Law, and Fillmore for signing it; declared it to be unconstitutional, and that it should be repealed. He would not touch Slavery where it existed – he would leave it to die out upon the land that bred it – but he would have the balance of the territory of the United States consecrated to Freedom in accordance with the principles of our Revolutionary forefathers. What was ours but a land of Liberty? And was the Fugitive Slave law or Missouri ruffianism in accordance with this liberty? He wished it repealed, and there was a mighty party arising in the North whose aim it was to blot out this law, and restrain Slavery within its present limits.” But what aggravated the horror and indignation of The Loudoun Mirror, already sufficiently roused by the ide that Mr. Rae or anybody else should have dared to speak such words under the sky of Virginia, was the fact, which that journal reluctantly and indignantly records, that these anti-kidnapping and anti-Slavery extending, and in consequence, anti-slave breeding sentiments were actually received by the assembly with shouts of applause!
Nor did Mr. Rae stand alone in the utterance of these treasonable sentiments. After a reply from one of the slave-breeding advocates, Mr. Jesse Brown responded – and as the contrary is not stated, we are led to conclude that he must have been a native-born Virginian. “He indulged,” we are told, “in the same strain with his colleague, Mr. Rae, and wound up with the eloquent language of some Senator, ‘that the gentle green slopes of Nebraska should not be made rotten with the institution of Slavery’” – which atrocious sentiment, though it made the hair of the Loudoun Mirror stand on end with very horror, was yet actually received by this assembly of let-loose and untied Virginians with “immense applause.” The great cause of slavebreeding and slavedriving did not, however, go without defenders. Men were found who dared to stand up in its behalf even in the midst of the congregation of incendiaries. The excellent Mr. John Simpson, faithful Abdiel, his hair all on end like that of The Loudoun Mirror, “was utterly astonished that such sentiments should be uttered upon Southern soil, that black Republicans should dare attack our institutions upon our own territory. He thought the gentleman from New York had never read the Constitution, or if he had, he knew nothing about it. Did it not declare that fugitive slaves should be delivered up? And yet he had the hardihood to pronounce the fugitive slave law unconstitutional.”
But the audacious Rae was not so to be silenced. He objected to the epithet “Black Republican” as one not fit for the mouth of a gentleman – as though anything characteristic of a gentleman could be rationally expected of an infuriated slavedriver – and proceeding to reinforce his former positions, he was – tell it not –“frequently interrupted by immense applause.” This called out another slavedriving champion, Mr. Trayhern, whose efforts on behalf of Virginia institutions were not less distinguished than those of Mr. Simpson. Mr. Trayhern thought that Mr. Rae “had better go back to the North and mingle with Fred. Douglass and Lucy Blackwool Stone, or Lucy Stone Blackwool, who were genial spirits. The South was no place for the expression of such opinions. He denied the right to express such sentiments. And yet, sad to say, this witty and energetic protest against the liberty of speech was interrupted by exclamations – ‘He has no right!’ were quite unable to drown. After some sparring with Mr. Rae, in which the latter had the impudence to fling into Mr. Trayhern’s face the suggestion that in New York he, Trayhern, might speak as he pleased, this champion of slavedriving “continued his remarks in proof of /Southern sufferance and Northern aggression, and, “as if to clinch the nail on the spot, concluded by saying, “that sooner than see Black Republicanism prevail, as dearly as he loved this Union, he would see it dissolved.”
Having subsequently been called to account for this avowal by one of the slaveholding champions, who now seemed almost ready to go over to the other side, Mr. Trqyhern again repeated it, when horrible to say, ‘as he took his seat he was hissed” – ah, hissed, for it is to be remembered that this meeting was held in Goose Creek Church – “by a Black Republican of the name of Hugh Holmes,” just as though every slavedriver was not at perfect liberty to “let the Union slide” at pleasure, especially at the end of a speech which demanded to be wound up with a little of melo-dramatic rhetoric. Finally, during the speech of one Jesse Hogue, who seems to have been as desperate a fellow as High Holmes himself, and whose “hammering gestures” appear to have so startled our Loudoun reporter as to have driven all recollection of the speech out of his head, “the excitement became so great that the meeting broke up amid the greatest clamor and confusion.”
In conclusion, The Loudoun Mirror calls upon the slave drivers of all parties to forget for the moment all differences, and to unite in silencing all such treason for the future; and The Virginia Sentinel, with the heading of “Treason stalks abroad,” repeats and reinforces this instigation. By fair means or by foul, by law or without law, these Loudoun men must be silenced:
“In the name of all that is dear to our peace, and the safety of our firesides, what are we coming to, when citizens of Virginia in large numbers proclaim or applaud the most dangerous and incendiary doctrines, in the light of day, and in a violent and overbearing spirit? When a Virginia gentleman cannot express himself in favor of protecting these interests of our state, which are inseparably fastened upon us for weal or woe, withut being hissed by a public assembly on his native soil, what have we already come to?
“Mr. Trayhern was right when he advised the false NewYorker to go back to his former home; and he might have extended his invitation to those faithless men of the Old Dominion who sustained him, to go with him to the congenial associations which he indicated.
“We call upon the good people of Loudoun to redeem their reputation, and protect the South from the injurious consequences of this domestic treason.
“We call upon Northern immigrants into our State to denounce the conduct of the man Rae, and to proclaim to the world that when they sought the soil of old Virginia they came with intent to be loyal citizens, and not to act as allies to the Northern sectional organization, that seeks as such to win a victory over the State of their adoption. Rebuke indignantly the specimen of humanity that encourages those who have thrown aside the bible and the Constitution, and taken up insult and Sharpe’s rifles as the weapons of fraternal discussion.
“The people of Virginia have a right to expect prompt and decisive action.”
No Wonder this Virginian, who is trying to stimulate a Lynch-law attack upon the Loudoun free speakers, should have such an antipathy to Sharp’s rifles. Unarmed men, if not women and children, are the favorite objects upon which slavedriving valor and indignation are most accustomed to expend themselves. Whether the “northern immigrants into our State” will be prepared at the orders of The Virginia Sentinel to tie up the victims and wield the whip, remains to be seen. As for The Loudoun Mirror, it is, however, no less ferocious, as the following specimen will show:
“Is the lion with impunity to be bearded in his den? And shall Northern Vandalism, after having ‘murdered our citizens in the pursuit of their property, flourish the sword of Brennus over the citadel of the South? Is, to aggression and violence from without, to be added insult and endangerment from within? Has the monster of Abolitionism grown to such huge proportions as to flap its dark wing over the territory of the South, without causing a feeble cry of resistance to arise from a grossly outraged and insulted people? Shall the hiss of that serpent, Black Republicanism, be spewed in the face of a Southern gentleman, who dares to stand up within the limits of his own manor to confront the enemies of his security and property? Let the people of Loudoun answer by such public response as they in their judgments, exercised in calm deliberation may determine upon.”
And let the Northern reader tremble over the terrible state of things which must ensue if The Loudoun Mirror can’t have its way.
“The rights of the South for the sake of liberty [Slavery] is the motto we have taken, and which we will stand by or fall; for unless Southern rights as secured by the Constitution, be acknowledged and enforced by Federal legislation, this Union will be dissolved, its pieces baptized in blood, possibly to some other political faith, and liberty endangered if not wholly destroyed. We shall go on in our feeble efforts in defense of Southern rights, and through evil and good report bear testimony of fidelity to the institutions of our fatherland; and should fanaticism prevail, and the North pour upon us her excited hordes, may the ‘rock and the mountains fall on us’ if we do not clutch the staff of the Southern flag.”
The curtain falls, The Loudoun Mirror appearing in a grand tableau, “clutching the staff of the ‘Southern flag’; – in the background, in one corner Rae, Jesse Brown, Holmes and Hogue undergoing the process of lynching, while in the other Virginia is baptized in the blood of abolitionists into “some other political faith,” Liberty “being endangered if not wholly destroyed” – at all events nowhere to be seen.
It is difficult to understand what a violent, churning era the late 1850’s were in the United States, particular in the border area of northern Virginia where citizens were on either one side or the other of a dangerous, deep divide. The writers of this letter were attempting to step back from a chasm. But it was already too late: in less than a month, John Brown and a small group of followers would kill five pro-slavery men in the state of Kansas. The civil war, in all but name, had begun.
Further Reading: Elizabeth Holmes, mother of Hugh Holmes mentioned above, made her own opinion known in her Union Star quilt.