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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 194 [02-27-1861]

	More �Post� Writing.
spoilt him.    She must get him into an office,
she added.      Out at sunset.    In the evening
writing a Charleston letter to the �Post;� of which
Maverick only inserted what follows:

[newspaper clipping: first column]
How the Vigilance Committee Dogs the
	Footsteps of the Stranger.
  	{From an Occasional Correspondent.}
	   CHARLESTON, S. C., Feburary 25, 1861.
  I have alluded more than once, in the course of
my correspondence�as any one writing from this
locality could hardly avoid doing�to the Vigilance
Committee.  Perhaps a few particulars relative to
this much talked of southern �institution� may
prove interesting to your readers, especially as just
now it is extremely active, as I have reason to
  It has its ramifications throughout the entire
South, its members corresponding with one another
on occasion.  That existing in Charleston comprises
men of all classes�planters, merchants, clerks,
editors, gentlemen of independent fortunes, gene-
rally persons of standing and respectability, chosen
by ballot and officered by a president and vice.  Its
members have different provinces and spheres of
action, their main object being, of course, the dis-
covery of any stranger whose presence may
be considered inimical to the well-being of
the community, and particularly with respect
to interference with slavery, to guard which
this amateur detective organization originated.
Every southerner believes that hired emis-
saries are employed by the abolitionists of the
North to run off slaves, to tamper with them, to
tempt them to commit murder, arson and all con-
ceivable atrocities; that publications are printed
instigatory of these crimes, and no pains or expense
spared to effect their perpetration.  The Vigilance
Committee arrogates the power of expulsion, and,
in some cases, the punishment of the offender, but
also guaranties the protection of innocently-accused
persons from mob-violence, proceeding deliberately
and regularly, though secretly, in its inquiries, and
silently in its operations.  As thus: a stranger is
suspected, watched, it considered necessary, a de-
tective�the officer Schouboe I have spoken of here-
tofore�set on his trail, who examines his baggage,
questions, and on sufficient confirmation apprehends
him, when he is conveyed before certain members
of the committee.

[newspaper clipping: second column]
  These afford him an opportunity to produce or
procure testimony as to his innocence, failing which
he receives notice to quit the city within a limited
time, perhaps being escorted by the detective to the
railroad or steamboat, and his fare paid to the next
stopping-place, where another Vigilance Commit-
tee, duly apprised by telegraph, is in waiting for
him, when he may exemplify the proverb of going
farther and faring worse; for Charleston, in spite
of the Tribune, is a civilized community, with
something of a character to sustain though it some-
times tolerates an atrocity which its better class of
citizens are shy of alluding to, as when, three
months ago, a man was tarred and feathered and
ridden on a rail in front of the Charleston Hotel,
for avowing his preference for Lincoln as President
of the then United States, which circumstance was
not duly chronicled in the newspapers, no more
than was the execution of a negro for murdering a
white man on the 14th of December, just five days
before the passing of the ordinance of secession.
Often as I have alluded to the power of reticence of
this community, every day I find occasion to ad-
mire it afresh.
  To conclude with an instance of it, and of the work-
ing of the Vigilance Committee: Upwards of five
weeks ago there came to Charleston a young fellow,
ostensibly representing a mercantile firm on the
other side of the Atlantic, intent on the presumed
advantage which might accrue to it from free-
trade.  He put up at one of the two principal hotels,
and availing himself of an introduction to a fellow-
countryman, the artist of an illustrated newspaper,
obtained admission to that portion of society which is
accessible to strangers.  I saw him thrice, on
successive days, at the race-course, the third time
in the stand, to which only subscribers and accre-
dited strangers are admitted.  On the fourth
day, however, he did not appear, nor, on the con-
clusion of the races, at the hotel where he had been
bidden to a special dinner, partaken of by one of 
our raging magnates, an editor, the artist aforesaid,
and others.  It subsequently transpired that our
Britisher, induced by filthy lucre, had been indis-
creet enough to write certain letters to a Philadel-
phia newspaper, becoming, in consequence, subject               
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