Sir -- I transmit to you, to be presented to the Governor of the Commonwealth, the following Account of my proceedings, in my agency in Charleston, S.C. under the resolves of the Legislature of Massachusetts, of March 24th, 1843, and March 18th, 1844.
I arrived in Charleston about six o'clock on The morning of the 28th of November. In the Course of the forenoon of the same day, in pursuance of instructions from His Excellency the Governor, I addressed a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, of which the following is a copy:
Sir: -- Your Excellency is already informed of remonstrance made by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, against the arrest and imprisonment of her citizens in South Carolina, against whom the commission of no crime is alleged. The Legislature of Massachusetts has recently Passed a resolve authorizing the Governor of the state to appoint an Agent 'for the purpose of collecting and transmitting accurate information respecting the number and the names of citizens of Massachusetts, who have heretofore been, or may be, during the period of the engagement of the Agent, imprisoned without the allegation of any wrong. The Agent is also authorized to bring and prosecute one or more soles, in behalf of any citizen that may be so imprisoned, at the expense of Massachusetts, for the purpose of having the legality of such imprisonment tried and determined in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Governor of Massachusetts has appointed me an Agent of that State to execute the purposes above mentioned and I arrived in this city this morning for that purpose.
I do not know that your Excellency will consider it proper in any way to notice this subject, yet propriety seemed to require this communication.
With great respect
Your Excellency's obd't srvt,
His Excellency J.H. Hammond,
Governor of South Carolina.'
On the next morning, which was Friday, I called on Mr. Eggleston, the gentleman who had received before me an appointment to this agency by the Governor of Massachusetts, and requested him to introduce me to the Mayor of the city of Charleston. This I did for the purpose of procuring access to the records of orders on sentences to imprisonment of our colored seamen, or other citizens. Mr. Eggleston readily acceded to my request, but observed that, in his opinion, it would be best that he should first see the Mayor and explain to him my purposes, before I should go to his office to be introduced to him. To this I assented, and he left me in his office to await his return. He was absent a considerable time, and on his return he informed me that the Major was at Columbia, where the Legislature was in session: that he had been conversing with the gentleman who temporarily discharged the duties of Mayor, and that they both concluded it would be best for me to await the turn of the Mayor. before attempting to do anything relating to the business on which I was sent. I accordingly passed the remainder of the time, the Mayor not having returned, awaiting his arrival, till Monday afternoon, without meeting any occurrence worth relating.
On the afternoon of Monday I was informed that Governor Hammond had communicated my letter to the Legislature at Columbia, and that it had raised a great commotion. After conversing some time on the subject I walked out from my lodgings some distance, and on returning, at dark, I met at the hotel where I lodged three gentlemen, standing in the piazza near the door. As soon as I ascended the steps one of them stepped forward and said, â€œIs your name Hoar, sir!' I answered yes. He then said, 'I am the sheriff of Charleston District, and I have some business with you, sir;' This he uttered with great warmth and earnestness. He then introduced to me one of the other gentlemen as the acting Mayor of the city and one of the aldermen, and the other as another aldermen. I invited them to walk up into a common sitting room of the house.
When seated, the sheriff inquired of me what my business was in Charleston. I answered that I had communicated my business to the Governor of South Carolina, and stated to him in substance what my business was. He then said 'it is suspected that you are an abolitionist, and have come here to accomplish some of their measures. I hesitated a little, doubting whether it would be proper to say whether I was an abolitionist or not, but soon continued that I would endeavor to remove all pretences of that kind, and informed him that I was no abolitionist, that I had been for many years a member of the colonization society, between whom and the abolitionists there was not much harmony. He then said 'some suspect that this is all a hoax; you have sent no credentials.' This was true. Not having any negotiations with the Governor, I had not thought it necessary to send to him a copy of my commission. I answered that I had supposed the Governor would take my word for the facts had stated to him, but that I had a commission from the Governor of Massachusetts, which I was willing to exhibit to any one who desired to see it. He desired to see it, and I went to my room, brought and delivered it to him. I am uncertain whether I offered to let him take a copy of it, or whether he first requested permission to take a copy, but I gave permission to have made a copy of the commission and of the resolves of the Legislature, on which it was founded. He then said, 'it is considered a great insult on South Carolina by Massachusetts in sending an agent here on such business. This city is highly incensed. 'You are in great danger, and you had better leave the city as soon as possible.' -- I answered, that I had been sent there by the Government of Massachusetts on lawful business, and that I could not leave the city until I had at least attempted to perform that business. He then produced a letter, which he said he had received from the Attorney General of that state, and read to me a part of it, in which the writer urged the avoidance of a resort to lynching, saying that it would disgrace the city, and adding that he did not know on whom he could call with more propriety than on the sheriff to prevent this process. After reading this part of the letter, he said it was unnecessary to read the rest; that he should endeavor, at the hazard of his life, to defend me, but he added, either that he doubted whether he could do it, or that he did not think he could do it. He repeated several times and with great earnestness that the citizens regarded my mission as a great insult from Massachusetts; that they were in a state of great excitement, and that, as a friend, he would advise me, as the only means of safety, to leave the city as soon as possible. I gave him substantially the same answer as above stated, and after one of the Aldermen had offered to give me a receipt for the papers, if I desired it, which I told him was unnecessary, they left me, saying the papers should be returned by nine o'clock the next morning. On Tuesday morning I waited at my lodgings untill about ten o'clock, and not hearing from the Sheriff, I walked out, and soon met him on horseback, coming, as he said, to return my papers. After delivering them to me, he repeated the remarks he had made on the preceding evening, on the danger I incurred by remaining in the city. After stating in strong terms and in an earnest manner the excited state of the city, and my danger, he said, What do you expect! You can never get a verdict, and if you should, the Marshal would need all the troops of the United States to enforce the judgement. I answered that that was not my business: that my business was, if I could; to procure a judgment. We then separated, and I returned to my lodgings.
In the course of the forenoon four or five gentlemen called on me as friends, professing, and I have no doubt truly, to disapprove of the threatened violence of the citizens, but confirmIng what the Sheriff had told me respecting the commotion in the city. They informed me of the various plans in agitation for ridding the city of my presence. The mildest and most lenient measure which they mentioned was that I should be taken, carried on board one of the New York packets, and sent to New York. I told them that if that was the manner in which I was to be disposed of, I should prefer being sent by the Wilmington boat and the land route by which I had come to the city, but that I could not voluntarily leave the city until I had performed the business on which I was sent. Their statements did not materially differ in anything else from those made by the Sheriff.
In the evening of the same day, a gentleman to whom I had received a letter of introduction from a friend in Boston, called on me and said that the Sheriff had offered, if I would leave the city, that he would, to use his expression, agree a case, to be submitted to the Circuit Court of the United States first, and then carried to the Supreme Court for final decision. I told him that I would do it; that I had no desire to remain in the city after my business should be accomplished, and the Sheriff having before informed me that he had then no citizen of Massachusetts in his custody, I observed that If we could agree on a statement of facts, it would very much expedite my departure. I had procured in Boston a number of the names of colored seamen, who had been taken out of Massachusetts vessels at Charleston, and there imprisoned under the law in question, in the names of either of two of whom I felt authorized to commence a suit. It was agreed between any informant and me, that I should meet a number of gentlemen at the Sheriff's office, the next morning at nine o'clock, for the purpose of attempting to make this arrangement. At about nine o'clock the next morning, which was Wednesday, I accordingly went to the Sheriff's office, but found neither the Sheriff nor any other of the gentlemen mentioned there. I was informed by one of the Sheriff's clerks that he had stepped out on some business, but would probably return in a few minutes. I waited probably half or three quarters of an hour, and he not returning, I was about to leave the office, and the clerk said that if I would name an hour when I would be there, he would inform the Sheriff, and he probably would then me. I named 12 o'clock, and at that time returning to the office, and there found the Sheriff. On stating to him the arrangement which was made on the proceeding evening, he said that the gentleman had represented correctly his proposal, but that on further reflection and consultation now must retract the offer, that he might by that course thwart the purposes of the State; and beside, that he had not been long in office, and he did not know that there was any case which would properly present the question to be tried; but however that might be, he could not execute the agreement. At this meeting he informed me that Governor Hammond had given some assurances at Columbia, which removed all personal objections to me, but repeated in substance, what he had before said of the insult by Massachusetts, in sending any person there on such business, and their determination to rid themselves of me by some means.
On leaving the Sherriff's office I was going to a house more distant from my lodgings than the office. When I had proceeded not more than one or two rods from the door, a man, decently dressed and of middle age, with a cane or a club grasped firmly in his hand, came up to me and said, 'Is your name Hoar?' I answered 'Yes.' He then said, 'You had better be travelling, and the sooner the better for you. I can tell you; if you stay here until tomorrow morning you will feel something you will not like, I am thinking.' He did not strike, nor offer to strike, but his manner was even more insolent than his language. I made no reply, but walked on to the place for which I had started. On my return by the office, a short time after, I did not see this man. A number of young men were assembled on the opposite corner of the street, by whom I passed without any molestation. About two or half-past two o'clock on the same day, Dr. Whitredge, to whom I had been introduced by a friend of his in Boston, with whom I had conversed several times, and who, when the excitement first commenced, had said he did not think the citizens would proceed to acts of violence, called on me at my lodgings. This gentleman, not yet an old man, had been in the army during nearly the whole of the late war with England, and for some time after its close; now, as I was informed, at the head of his profession as a physician in the city, and sustaining a high and pure a character as any man in Charleston. I mention his character and standing to show the ground of confidence in him. He requested me to go where we might be by ourselves, and seemed anxious lest we should be overheard. When by ourselves, I observed that he was much agitated. he once or twice attempted to speak, but failed, and averted his face from me. When he did speak, he said that he felt unutterable mortification in making the communication which he felt bound to make to me; that a state of things actually existed which he had not thought possible in Charleston; that he had been round in different parts of the city, and had just then come from the City Council; that my danger was not only great but imminent; that the people were assembled and assembling in groups; that nothing seemed wanting but some one to say 'Now is your time!' to bring on the attack; that he thought it probable, should I start soon, that I might get safely out of the city. He informed me where I could procure a carriage, and go to his plantation, about twenty miles from the city, where his family then were, where he said I should be hospitably received, and where I might remain until I could fix on further measures. He said that the roads were muddy: that I could not arrive at his house before dark, and mentioned a tavern where he thought I might lodge in safety that night, and proceed on my journey in the morning. He added, that if I desired it, he would accompany me. It occurred to me, that my daughter, who had accompanied me, though in the same house, was fortunately lodged in a room quite remote from mine, and in the vicinity of a number of women; that no odium had been exhibited toward her, and that she probably would be as safe as the other women in the house. After a moment's reflection, I answered Dr. Whitredge, that if I should then leave the city, I could not afterward return to it; that to return after thus leaving it, would place me in a worse situation than was the present; that I should not know where to go from his house,; for, should I run away from duty, I should be ashamed to return to Massachusetts; that I must decline the acceptance of his kind offer, and that whatever might happen, I must abide the event. He did not urge me to change my determination, but, after a little more conversation, left me.
I expected the attack during the following night. One gentleman, unsolicited, assured me that he would make common cause, and take his chance with me. The night passed without any riotous proceeding about the house. I did not then know what prevented the outbreak, but afterward understood that it was by the spread of the information that the conductors of the affair had resolved on the milder measure of removing me to the boat.
On Thursday I told a friend, with whom I often conversed, of the assailant on me near the Sheriff's office; and described to him, as well I could, the person of the assailant. He told me he believed the assailant to be one of the Sheriff's officers.
About noon, on Thursday, three men, Mr. Rose, the president of one of the Charleston banks, Mr. Mazyck and Mr. Magrath, the two last lawyers in the city, called at my lodgings. I had not seen either of them before. They told me their names, and said they had come to see if they could induce me to leave the city. I answered them, as I had before answered the sherIff and others, who had made a similar proposal. they entered into an argument to convince me that, as the state of things then was in the city I ought to depart from it. I answered them as well as I was able, stating the lawful nature of my business, and the necessity I was under a endeavoring to perform it. After perhaps had an hour spent in conversation, Mr. Rose said that a number of gentlemen would call on me about two o'clock, and either conduct me or escort me to the boat. I am uncertain which expression he used. I told him I was well aware that fighting on my part, would be foolish; that I should attempt nothing of that kind; that I was too old to run; and that they would find me there, to be disposed of as they should think proper. They said that I should have time to prepare for my departure, as the boat would not leave Charleston till about three o'clock. When they were about to leave the room, I told them I had a daughter with me. Mr. Rose answered, 'It is that which creates or created our embarrassment.' They left me at about one o'clock.
These men used no violent or harsh language. Their style and demeanor were gentlemanly. But they indicated that their purpose was determined.
My daughter and I then prepared for our departure, and awaited the arrival of those who were to remove me till two o'clock, and till three o'clock, but no one came. I did not then know the reason of this: but learned, before night, that an accident had prevented the arrival of the boat at the usual hour. She did arrive and depart, however, before dark: but I heard nothing more, that day from my morning visitors.
In the evening of Thursday, the sheriff called on me. I was sitting in a common parlor where there were several others, and supposing that he had some special business with me, arose to attend him to some more private apartment. On observing this he said, 'I have no special business with you, I merely called to see you,' or something of that kind. We then sat down and conversed a few minutes on some common subject. He then said 'the city is now quiet, and I am going to leave it in the morning.' I then related to him the occurrence at the door of his office. 'Oh,' said he, 'an officer immediately informed me of it, and I sent out.' He probably might have gone out, but I did not see him. I inquired of the sheriff' the name of the man who made the assault. He said it was not best to expose him, and declined giving me his name. He then left me, and I have not since seen him.
On Friday, about noon, Dr. Whitredge called on me and informed me that the keeper of the hotel, where I lodged, had presented to the city government a request that they would take measures to remove me from his house to preserve it from the impending danger. He had never requested me to leave his house, nor in any way intimated to me such a desire. That he should not wish to have his house subjected to the management of a mob could be easily understood; but why he should apply to the city government to remove me, without mentioning the subject to me, I do not know.
This presented to me a subject of some difficulty. That I could not stay longer in that house was quite certain. I believed that there were two gentlemen, either of whom would receive me into his house, should I request it. But whether I ought to ask it, or even to accept the offer if made, appeared to me by no means certain. Should I enter any private house to reside there, it would be in more danger than the hotel where I was; and that it would expel all the females and children from the house, and subject the owner, should he remain there, to equal danger with myself seemed to be necessary consequences.
I had not settled this question with myself, or determined what course I should pursue, when a waiter informed me, that some gentlemen, wished to see me in the hall below. I went down into the hall and found there Mr. Rose and his associates, surrounded by a considerable number of men in the hall, and an assembly about the door, in the piazza, and on the side of the street. There were a number of carriages, I know not how many, standing, by the house. Mr. Rose announced the purpose for which he had come, to conduct me to the boat.
On the preceding evening, a gentleman informed me that a story was in circulation in the city, that I had consented to leave the city. I told him there was not the least foundation in truth for the report. He said he had so understood before, and had told his informant that he did not believe it. I told him that I should prevent any misunderstanding on that point.
As soon as Mr. Rose had mentioned the purpose for which they had come, I mentioned the information I had received, and added that I should put that matter beyond doubt; that I had given no such consent, and that if I left the city, it would be because I must, not because I would. Mr. Rose answered, if this were so there was a misunderstand that he had understood that for the sake of preserving the peace of the city, or of restoring the peace of the city, I am uncertain which, I had consented to leave it; that he or that they had no power to order me away; that all they could do was to point out to me, or warn me of, what would follow should I not go. I then repeated to him with precision the language I used to him, as stated above, viz., that I was well aware that fighting on my part would be foolish; that I should attempt nothing of that kind; that I was too old to run, and that they would therefore find me there, to be disposed of as they should think proper. This was the only language I had used, from which such an inference could be drawn. He did not deny, that I had stated the conversation correctly, nor did he say that I used any other expression which had led him to his conclusion, but said he did understand that I had consented to leave the city.
As soon as he had done speaking, or before, Mr. Eggleston, who had been appointed to this agency before me, and was standing between Mr. Rose and me, addressed me, saying I ought Then to go; that it was impossible for me to remain longer in the city; that I had done all that I could, with many more remarks of a similar purport. Mr. Chadwick, one of the gentlemen to whom I carried letters from Boston, followed Mr. Eggleston with remarks of similar import.
It seemed, then, that there was but one question for me to settle, which was, whether I should walk to a carriage, or be dragged to it. unless I disregarded the statements of friends as well as foes, and also the preparation which I then saw about me, this, I must conclude, was the only alternative. I could perceive no use to any State, cause or person, in choosing the latter, and I then, and for the first time, said that I would go. I stepped to the bar a few feet from me, settled a small bill for board, which remained unpaid; one of the men present pointed out the carriage into which I was to enter; my daughter was called down stairs, we entered the carriage, and a moment after, either the man who pointed out the carriage, or some one else in the crowd, ordered the driver to drive on. We proceeded to the boat without any tumult or farther abuse.
After arriving at the boat, a gentleman from Philadelphia, who witnessed the transaction, offered to point out to me a man, whose name he said was Vincent, and who he said he believed had some agency in the management of the line of boats between Charleston and Wilmington, whom he heard in the crowd announce himself as a leader of a tar and feather gang. to have been called to the service of the city on the occasion.
I did not then and do not now suppose that the company who visited me on Tuesday noon, or the assembly at the hotel on Friday, intended to employ tar and feathers, brick bats, clubs, or any other violence, dangerous to lives or limbs. Indeed, nearly all danger of any thing more than the indignity of the application of so much force as should be necessary to place me in the trose, had passed over when the managers, of the affairs had finally resolved on this mode of removing me.
This sir, I believe is an exact a narrative of the material facts in this case, as I am able to give. In relating the several conversations which I had with different persons, I may not and probably have not, always used their precise words. It would not have been easy to have recorded the transactions as they passed, and I have written this account since I returned to Massachusetts. I believe, however, that I have stated all the material facts substantially as they occurred
It would be improper for me, in this report, to make many remarks on the relation which now exists between the several States of the Union, especially between Massachusetts and South Carolina. This report of facts, submitted for the use of his Excellency the Governor, would be an improper place for commentary. Besides, I may well be suspected of entertaining some feelings towards the latter State, which were there no other reason, would deprive remarks of mine of a claim to much regard.
Some questions, however, or a grave character force themselves on the mind. Has the Constitution of the United States the least practical validity or binding force in South Carolina, excepting where she thinks its operation favorable to her? She prohibits the trial of an action in the tribunals established under the constitution for determining such cases, in which a citizen of Massachusetts complains that a citizen of South Carolina has done him an injury; saying that she has herself already tried that cause and decided against the plaintiff. She prohibits, not only by her mobs, but by her Legislature, the residence of a free white citizen of Massachusetts within the limits of South Carolina, whenever she thinks his presence there inconsistent with her policy. Are the other States of the union to be regarded as the conquered provinces of South Carolina?
But, I forbear. Those who are more competent than I am will consider these questions, and others growing out of them, and I trust, correctly decide them.
December 20, 1844.
John G. Palfrey, D.D. LL.D.
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Source: Christian Register, 18 January 1854. Transcribed by Carolyn Sims, Department of History, Furman University.