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Answer. I never knew anything of that sort. I understood you had similar orders here in the North; that is, you had the Grand Army of the Republic and other organizations here similar to that.
Question. Similar to such as you had down there?
Answer. I got letters from northern citizens urging me to try and keep things quiet, and let it work itself off.
Question. All seemed to look to you?
Answer. No, sir; not particularly so. I suppose they looked to other men as well as to me.
Question. Did you ever hear of anybody else having such correspondence ? Answer. I understood that a great many of our southern men corresponded with their friends in the North, and that was the advice of the northern people generally, to try and keep this thing down.
Question. I did not understand you to say whether you would send us those names by mail or not. Answer. I did not say whether I would or not.
By the CHAIRMAN: Question. Did you say you got advice from northern people in 1868 to have the KuKlux society suppressed
Answer. No, not the Ku-Klux; I do not want to be understood that way. I got letters from persons in the Northern States whom I knew, giving it as their opinion that we should try and restrain everybody there from difficulty and violence, to let this thing blow over, work itself off in that way.
[See page 6.]
(Special correspondence, Cincinnati Commercial.)
MEMPHIS, TENN., August 28, 1868. To-day I have enjoyed “big talks" enough to have gratified any of the famous Indian chiefs who have been treating with General Sherman for the past two years. First I met General N. B. Forrest, then General Gideon A. Pillow, and Governor İsham G. Harris. My first visit was to General Forrest, whom I found at his office, at 8 o'clock this morning, hard at work, although complaining of an illness contracted at the New York convention. The New Yorkers must be a bad set indeed, for I have not met a single delegate from the Southern States who has not been ill ever since he went there. But to General Forrest. Now that the southern people have elevated him to the position of their great leader and oracle, it may not be amiss to preface my conver, sation with him with a brief sketch of the gentleman.
I cannot better personally describe him than by borrowing the language of one of his biographers. " In person he is six feet one inch and a half in height, with broad shoulders, a full chest, and symmetrical, muscular limbs; erect in carriage, and weighs one hundred and eighty-five pounds; dark-gray eyes, dark hair, mustache, and beard worn upon the chin; a set of regular white teeth, and clearly cut features ;" which, altogether, make him rather a handsome man for one forty-seven years of age.
Previous to the war-in 1852-be left the business of planter, and came to this city and engaged in the business of “negro-trader," in which traffic he seems to have been quite successful, for, by 1861, he had become the owner of two plantations a few miles below here, in Mississippi, on which he produced about a thousand bales of cotton each year, in the mean time, carrying on the negro-trading. In June, 1861, ho was authorized by Governor Harris to recruit a regiment of cavalry for the war, which he did, and which was the nucleus around which he gathered the army which he commanded as a lieutenant general at the end of the war. After being seated in his office, I said:
'General Forrest, I came especially to learn your views in regard to the condition of your civil and political affairs in the State of Tennessee, and the South generally. I desire them for publication in the Cincinnati Commercial. I do not wish to misinterpret you in the slightest degree, and therefore only ask for such views as you are willing I should publish."
"I have not now," he replied," and never have had, any opinion on any public or political subject which I would object to having published. I mean what I say, honestly and earnestly, and only object to being misrepresented. I dislike to be placed before the country in a false position, especially as I have not sought the reputation which I have gained.”
I replied : “Sir, I will publish only what you say, and then you cannot possibly be misrepresented. Our people desire to know your feelings toward the General Government, the State government of Tennessee, the radical party, both in and out of the State, and upon the question of negro suffrage.”
“Well, sir,” said he, “ when I surrendered my seven thousand men in 1865, I accepted a parole honestly, and have observed it faithfully up to to-day. I have counseled peace in all the speeches I have made. I have advised my people to submit to the laws of the State, oppressive as they are, and unconstitutional as I believe them to be. I was paroled and not pardoned until the issuance of the last proclamation of general amnesty; and, therefore, did not think it prudent for me to take any active part until the oppression of my people became so great that they could not endure it, and then I would be with them. My friends thought differently, and sent me to New York, and I am glad I went there."
“Then, I suppose, general, that you think the oppression has become so great that your people should not longer bear it.”
"No," he answered, “it is growing worse hourly, yet I have said to the people, “Stand fast, let us try to right the wrong by legislation. A few weeks ago I was called to Nashville to counsel with other gentlemen who had been prominently identified with the cause of the confederacy, and we then offered pledges which we thought would be satisfactory to Mr. Brownlow and his legislature, and we told them that, if they would not call out the militia, we would agree to preserve order and see that the laws were enforced. The legislative committee certainly led me to believe that our proposition would be accepted and no militia organized. Believing this, I came home, and advised all of my people to remain peaceful, and to offer no resistance to any reasonable law. It is true that I never have recognized the present government in Tennessee as having any legal existence, yet I was willing to submit to it for a time, with the hope that the wrongs might be righted peaceably.
“What are your feelings toward the Federal Government, general ?”
“I loved the old Government in 1861; I love the old Constitution yet. I think it the best government in the world if administered as it was before the war. I do not hate it; I am opposing now only the radical revolutionists who are trying to destroy it. I believe that party to be composed, as I know it is in Tennessee, of the worst men on God's earth-men who would hesitate at no crime, and who have only one object in view, to enrich themselves.”
“In the event of Governor Brownlow's calling out the militia, do you think there will be any resistance otfered to their acts ?" I asked.
" That will depend upon circumstances. If the militia are simply called out, and do not interfere with or molest any one, I do not think there will be any fight. If, on the contrary, they do what I believe they will do, commit outrages, or even one outrage, upon the people, they and Mr. Brownlow's government will be swept out of existence; not a radical will be left alive. If the militia are called out, we cannot but look upon it as a declaration of war, because Mr. Brownlow has already issued his proclamation directing them to shoot down the Ku-Klux wherever they find them; and he calls all southern men Ku-Klux."
“Why, general, we people up north have regarded the Ku-Klux Klan as an organization which existed only in the frightened imaginations of a few politicians ?
“Well, sir, there is such an organization, not only in Tennessee but all over the South, and its numbers have not been exaggerated.”
“ What are its numbers, general ?”
“In Tennessee there are over forty thousand; in all the Southern States about five hundred and fifty thousand men.” “What is the character of the organization, may I inquire ?"
“Yes, sir. It is a protective, political, military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the Government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of the State of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving its support, of course, to the democratic party.” “But is the organization connected throughout the State ?"
Yes; it is. In each voting precinct there is a captain, who, in addition to his other duties, is required to make out a list of names of men'in his precinct, giving all the radicals and all the democrats who are positively known, and showing also the doubt, full on both sides and of both. colors. This list of names is forwarded to the grand commander of the State, who is thus enabled to know who are our friends and who are not."
"Can you, or are you at liberty, to give me the name of the commanding officer of this State ?" 'No; it would be impolitic."
“Then I suppose that there can be no doubt of a conflict if the militia interfere with the people ; is that your view ?”
Yes, sir; if they attempt to carry out Governor Brownlow's proclamation, by shooting down Ku-Klux--for he calls all southern men Ku-Klux-if they go to hunting down and shooting these men, there will be war, and a bloodier one than we have ever witnessed. I have told these radicals here what they might expect in such an event. I have no.powder to burn killing negroes. I intend to kill the radicals. I have told them this and more. There is not a radical leader in this town but is a marked man; and if a trouble should break out, not one of them would be left alive. I have told them that they were trying to create a disturbance and then slip out and leave the consequences to fall upon the negro; but they can't do it. Their houses are picketed, and when the fight comes not one of them would ever get out of this town alive. We don't intend they shall ever get out of the country. But I want it distinctly understood that I am opposed to any war, and will only fight in selfdefense. If the militia attack us, we will resist to the last; and, if necessary, I think I could raise 40,000 men in five days ready for, the field.”
“Do you think, general, that the Ku-Klux have been of any benefit to the State ?"
“ No doubt of it. Since its organization the leagues have quit killing and murdering our poople. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country frightening negroes; but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say further that three inembers of the Ku-Klux havé been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people.”
Are you a member of the Ku-Klux, general ? " “I am not; but am in sympathy and will coöperate with them. I know they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of. A case in point is the killing of Bierfield at Franklin, a few days ago. I sent a man up there especially to investigate the case, and report to me, and I have his letter here now, in which he states that they had nothing to do with it as an organization."
"What do you think of negro suffrage?”
“I am opposed to it under any and all circumstances, and in our convention urged our party not to commit themselves at all upon the subject. If the negroes vote to enfranchise us, I do not think I would favor their disfranchisement. We will stand by those who help us. And here I want you to understand distinctly I am not an enemy to the negro. We want him here among us; he is the only laboring class we have; and, more than that, I would sooner trust himn than the white scalawag or carpet-bagger. When I entered the army I took forty-seven negroes into the army with ine, and forty-five of them were surrendered with me. I said to them at the start: *This fight is against slavery; if we lose it, you will be made free; if we whip the fight, and you stay with me and be good boys, I will set you free; in either case you will be free. These boys staid with me, drove my teams, and better confederates did not live." “Do you think the Ku-Klux will try to intimidate the negroes at the election ?”
I do not think they will. Why, I made a speech at Brownsville the other day, and while there a lieutenant who served with me came to me and informed me that a band of radicals had been going through the country claiming to be Ku-Klux, and disarming the negroes, and then selling their arms. I told him to have the matter investigated, and, if true, to have the parties arrested.”
“What do you think is the effect of the amnesty granted to your people ?”
"I believe that the amnesty restored all the rights to the people, full and complete. I do not think the Federal Government has the right to disfranchise any man, but I believe that the legislatures of the States have. The objection I have to the disfranchisement in Tennessee is, that the legislature which enacted the law had no constitutional existence, and the law in itself is a nullity.
nullity. Still I would respect it until changed by law. But there is a limit beyond which men cannot be driven, and I am ready to die sooner than sacrifice my honor. This thing must have an end, and it is now about time for that end to come.”
“What do you think of General Grant ?" I asked. “I regard him as a great military commander, a good man, honest and liberal, and if elected will, I hope and believe, execute the laws honestly and faithfully. And by the way, a report has been published in some of the newspapers, stating that while General Grant and lady were at Corinth, in 1862, they took and carried off furniture and other property. I here brand the author as a liar. I was at Corinth only a short time ago, and I personally investigated the whole matter, talked with the people with vhom he and his lady lived while there, and they say that their conduct was everything that could have been expected of a gentleman and lady, and deserving the highest praise. I am opposed to General Grant in everything, but I would do him justice.”
The foregoing is the principal part of my conversation with the general. I give the conversation, and leave the reader to form his own opinion as to what General Forrest means to do. I think he has been so plain in his talk that it cannot be misunderstood.
MEMPHIS, September 3, 1868. DEAR SIR: I have just read your letter in the Commercial, giving a report of our conversation on Friday last. I do not think you would intentionally misrepresent me, but you have done so, and, I suppose, because you mistook my meaning. The portions of your letter to which I object are corrected in the following paragraphs :
I promise the legislature my personal influence and aid in maintaining order and enforcing the laws. I have never advised the people to resist any law, but to submit to the laws, until they can be corrected by lawful legislation.
-I said the militia bill would occasion no trouble, unless they violated the law by carrying out the governor's proclamation, which I believe to be unconstitutional and in violence of law, in shooting men down without trial, as recommended by that proclamation.
I said it was reported, and I believed the report, that there are forty thousand KuKlux in Tennessee; and I believe the organization stronger in other States. I meant to imply, when I said that the Ku-Klux recognize the Federal Government, that they would obey all State laws. They recognize all laws, and will obey them, so I have been informed, in protecting peaceable citizens from oppression from any quarter.
I did not say that any man's house was picketed. I did not mean to convey the idea that I would raise any troops; and, more than that, no man could do it in five days, even if they were organized.
I said that General Grant was at Holly Springs, and not at Corinth; I said the charge against him was false, but did not use the word “liar."
I cannot consent to remain silent in this matter; for, if I did so, under an incorrect impression of my personal views, I might be looked upon as one desiring a conflict, when, in truth, I am so adverse to anything of the kind that I will make any honorable sacrifice to avoid it.
Hoping that I may have this explanation placed before your readers, I remain, very respectfully,
N. B. FORREST.
[See page 28.]
Damnant quod non intelligunt.
PRESCRIPT OF THE
What may this mean,
An' now auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin'
To your black pit;
An' cheat you yet.
Amici humani generis.
reverently acknowledge the majesty and supremacy of the Divine Being, and recognize the goodness and providence of the same.
We recognize our relations to the United States Government, and ackrowledge the supremacy of its laws.
ARTICLE I. This organization shall be styled and denominated the
ART. II. The officers of this * shall consist of a Grand Wizard of the Empire and his ten Genii; a Grand Dragon of the Realm and bis eight Hydras; a Grand Titan of the Dominion and his six Furies; a Grand Giant of the Province and his four Goblins : a
Grand Cyclops of the Den and his two Night Hawks; a Grand Magi, a Grand Monk, a Grand Exchequer, a Grand Turk, a Grand Scribe, a Grand Sentinel, and a Grand Ensign.
SEC. 2. The body-politic of this * shall be designated and known as “Ghouls."
ART. III. This * shall be divided into five departments, all combined constituting the Grand * of the Empire; the second department to be called the Grand * of the Realm; the third, the Grand * of the Dominion; the fourth, the Grand * of the Province; the fifth, the * of the Den.
Magna est veritas, et prævalebit.
Nec scire fas est omnia.
DUTIES OF OFFICERS.
ART. IV, SEC. 1. It shall be the duty of the Grand Wizard, who is the supreme officer of the empire, to communicate with and receive reports from the Grand Dragons of Realms as to the condition, strength, efficiency, and progress of the *s within their respective realms; and he shall communicate from time to time to all subordinate *s, through the Grand Dragons, the condition, strength, efficiency, and progress of the *s, throughout his vast empire, and such other information as he may deem expedient to impart. And it shall further be his duty to keep by his G. Scribe a list of the names (without any caption or explanation whatever) of the Grand Dragons of the different realms of his empire, and shall number such realms with the Arabic numerals, 1, 2, 3, &c., ad finem. And he shall instruct his Grand Exchequer as to the appropriation and disbursement which he shall make of the revenue of the * that comes to his hands. He shall have the sole power to issue copies of this prescript, through his subalterns and deputies, for the organization and establishment of subordinate *s. And he shall have the further power to appoint his Genii, also a Grand Scribe and a Grand Exchequer for his department, and to appoint and ordain Special Deputy Grand Wizards to assist him in the more rapid and effectual dissemination and establishment of the * throughout his empire. He is further empowered to appoint and instruct deputies to organize and control realms, dominions, provinces, and dens, until the same shall elect a Grand Dragon, a Grand Titan, a Grand Giant, and a Grand Cyclops, in the manner hereinafter provided.
Ne vile fano.
Ars est celare artem.
And when a question of paramount importance to the interest or prosperity of the * arises not provided for in this prescript, he shall have power to determine such question, and his decision shall be final until the same shall be provided for by amendment, as hereinafter provided.
SEC. 2. It shall be the duty of the Grand Dragon, who is the chief officer of the realm, to report to the Grand Wizard, when required by that officer, the condition, strength, efficiency, and progress of the * within his realm, and to transmit through the Grand Titan to the subordinate *s of his realm, all information or intelligence conveyed to him by the Grand Wizard for that purpose, and all such other information or instruction as he may think will promote the interests of the *. He shall keep by his G. Scribe a list of the names (without any caption) of the Grand Titans of the different dominions of his realm, and shall report the same to the Grand Wizard when required ; and shall number tho dominions of his realm with the Arabic numerals, 1, 2, 3, &c., ad finem. He shall instruct his Grand Exchequer as to the appropriation and disbursement of the revenue of the * that comes to his hands. He shall have the power to appoint his Hydras; also, a Grand Scribe and a Grand Exchequer for his department, and to appoint and ordain Special Deputy Grand Dragons to assist himn in the more rapid and effectual dissemination and establishment of the * throughout his realm. He is further empowered to appoint and instruct deputies to organize and control dominions, provinces, and dens, until the same shall elect a Grand Titan, a Grand Giant, and Grand Cyclops in the manner hereinafter provided.
Nusquam tuta fides.