TO THE PUBLIC
Although my name has been connected with the Carlisle riot of the 2d June by the public prints in nearly all parts of the country, I have thus far made no statement of the case in my own behalf. Not withstanding the exaggerated and even absurd reports which gained currency before the trail, I did not deem it proper to make any such statement until the trial itself should have been held; nor had I supposed it would be necessary even then, as from my knowledge of the facts. I could not rationally look for anything else but an acquittal, which, heretofore; (at least in other trials) has been generally deemed, among civilized men; satisfactory proof of innocence. But as I find that attempts are still made in certain newspapers, especially in Maryland and Virginia, to blacken my character, upon the ground that the Presiding Judge protested against the verdict, leaving it to be inferred that the twelve gentleman of Cumberland county who formed the jury did not render a true verdict according to the evidence, although sworn to do so, I deem it due in myself, to offer a few words for the consideration of all honorable not to say Christian) men, whether north or south of Mason or Dixon’s line.
Without entering into any minute details, I now simply state, upon my own personal veracity, that my first knowledge of the case was obtained while accidentally passing the Court House, at about 5 P.M. although the slaves were arrested as early as 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning; that I entered the Court House under the impression, derived from clergyman at the door, that there was not sufficient proof that the women and child were slaves; that I know nothing of the persons or character of the claimants of the slaves; that my efforts in the case were directed to legal proceedings and none other; that no word or act of mine was uttered or done with reference to forcible or riotous resistance; that the riot was a source of the proudest pain to me; and that no man regretted its unhappy consequences more deeply than myself.
This statement, I say, is made upon my own personal veracity, which will, I know; be a sufficient guaranty for its truthfulness with my friends in the Southern, as well as in the Northern States. The substance of it was amply proved upon the trial and on that proof the jury acquitted me, as no intelligent jury could have failed to do. I think that any right minded man who will examine the testimony on both sides, even as given in the imperfect newspaper reports that of the “Carlisle Democrat” being the most complete, though eve that is very imperfect will be able to explain it in accordance with the above statement. I have no disposition to complain of the witnesses for the prosecution least of all to charge any of them with perjury. My acts and words were misunderstood by them at the time; and under a wrong view of my objects, they involuntarily gave the coloring of their own feelings to which they saw and heard. All men are liable to do this, especially in cases suggestive of prejudice or passion; and every one knows that questions involving the interest of the colored race are of this sort. In the recent trial [illegible] and even words testified by witnesses for the [illegible] [illegible] [illegible] when [illegible] those for the defense; thus [illegible] at least [illegible] [illegible] sense of the [illegible] [illegible] [illegible] [illegible [illegible]. Many of the witnesses for the Commonwealth are personally unknown to me, but I do not think that any of them would charge me with intending to excite a riot.
It is very true that so far as the Judge’s opinion, publicly announced after the verdict, and since widely circulated in the newspapers, can go, I stand before the American public branded as a rioter. But I have the satisfaction to know that men learned in the law, older and wiser than Judge Hepburn, and more experienced in sifting testimony, who carefully attended to the trial throughout, with no interest in my condition or acquittal beyond the interest of truth and justice, were satisfied that my conduct was vindicated by the evidence and that the verdict of the jury was a most true and righteous one. That some mistakes were committed by the jury in regard to the colored defendants, is not to be wondered at—There were, I think, thirty six persons embraced in the indictment, of whom twenty nine were put on trial; and although the counsel for the defense asked that my trial should be separated from that of the colored defendants on the ground that the minds of the jury must necessarily be confused by the mass of testimony that would be offered, the court refused to separate. A Mansfield could not have kept the [illegible] evidence in regard to all the defendants clearly before his mind without carefully notes; and even then he might have been puzzled, as the bar certainly were in one or two instances on the trial. Moreover the Grand Jury returned a wrong name in finding a bill against Rachael Johnson instead of Richard; the traverse jury were sworn upon the indictment thus found and when, (after the trial had gone on for some time) the mistake was detected, the bill, without consent of the traverse jury or of the counsel for the defendants, was sent back to the Grand Jury, kept by them during the adjournment of the court, and returned with the name corrected. The prosecuting attorney, with the consent of the court, but without that of the defendants, them entered a nolle [illegible] against Richard Johnson; and the trial proceeded without the traverse jury being again sworn. With what [illegible], therefore, the jury can be blamed for accidental error in the verdict I leave for all impartial men to decide; especially when it [illegible] that their attention was withdrawn from the colored defendants to a great extent, and concentrated upon myself, by the course of the pleadings., The [illegible] of this concentrated attention was a verdict of acquittal in my behalf.
Even if my statement of the case were not sustained by this verdict, rendered by twelve men of unimpeachable character, with none of whom I had the slightest personal acquaintance; I should be perfectly willing to place my own [illegible] against the opinion of Judge Hepburn, where both of us are known, without fear for the issue. But, those sustained, I am [illegible] all reasonable men, in Pennsylvania, Maryland and elsewhere, who take an interest in the [illegible] will be willing to do me justice. That I have been injured, is most true; but I have no revenge to gratify; and therefore in this statement I have amply defended myself. To go further, although it might tend to enlighten the public mind upon [illegible] strange points connected with this whole case, would probably give rise to strife, which I am determined to avoid.
My cordial thanks are due to the citizens of Carlisle who have [illegible] me much kindness during this trial; [illegible] the [illegible] of carious newspapers in Maryland, Virginia as well as Pennsylvania, who [illegible] [illegible] the pains to give both sides of the story. [illegible] [illegible] that not only they, but all who have published accounts of the trial will copy this statement.
Carlisle, September [illegible]