Secession Era Editorials Project

The Reign of Terror.--

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette [Republican]

(30 November 1859)

Free speech is now denied at the South. Every man who opens his mouth to utter a word of sympathy for old Brown, or dares to advance a single sentiment favorable to liberty, is at once arrested and committed to prison. Men have been thus imprisoned for saying that they voted for Fremont in 1856; that old Brown was right; that slavery was wrong; and a man has been compelled to give $2000 bail to keep the peace, in Washington City, for saying that he believed in the doctrine of the "irrepressible conflict."

It would be useless to undertake the enumeration of these cases. The Southern papers are full of them. Every Northern man now in the South is an object of suspicion; many have already been driven off; others have received notice to quit; and the rest are to be harassed with prosecutions for using "seditious language" in giving vent to their natural feelings, doubtless under strong provocation. It is a complete reign of terror. Every man is liable to be an object of suspicion; and he who expects to retain his foothold upon that soil must put a padlock upon his lips, lest some incautious word slip out and thereby endanger "the institution." It is enforced silence, instant departure, or imprisonment; and he who tarries among the hospitable citizens of that chivalrous clime has his choice of those pleasant predicaments. Over the gate at the entrance to the South is written -- "He who enters here leaves all liberty behind."

We do not write to find fault with this state of things. It is the legitimate fruit of Slavery, and it affords an unanswerable argument against the extension of an institution, over free territory, which exacts such submission from its victims. It is impossible for us to free such States as Virginia from her bondage; but we can, at least, save the embryo States from a curse which would reduce them to the level of Virginia.

There is another view of this subject which it behooves the South to take note of -- every man who is thus suspected, driven off or punished for his free speech will become, in the North, a proselyter for free sentiments. They will become, in 1860, the most efficient laborers in the cause of Republicanism. The South had better be careful, or it may send home too many of them.

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