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The riot at Centreville MD

['The riot at Centreville, MD', [Baltimore] American and Commercial Advertiser, Monday 5 August 1867, page 1, column 4]
[see Edgar Gregory]


Those citizens of Maryland who have any self-respect, and who care for the reputation of the State, may learn their duty from the scene which occurred at Centreville on Thursday last. The ruffians who perpetrated the crimes are not chiefly responsible for them in a moral point of view. These low creatures had been made drunk in order that they should be brave, unscrupulous and savage, and, when thus demoralized, should accomplish the purposes of worse men, who hold more responsible positions in society. This particular mob is, no doubt, the result of the action of the Centreville Observer, whose editorial efforts in this direction we have had recently more than one occasion to notice. The Eastern Shore of Marland has been signalized by repeated outrages upon colored people in various places. Their churches and schoolhouses have been burned, and their persons beaten on repeated occasions, with the acquiescence, if not with the approbation and encouragement, of what is known as their best people, and we have strong reason to believe that the whole force of the local public opinion of the Shore is about to be exerted to repress the effects of the colored race at self-improvement. There is something fearfully offensive to the vulgar tyrant in what has been designated by the leader in Maryland of that order of men as the "self assertion of the negroes," and brutal insult and violence and murder are invoked and justified as means to repress all attempts on their part to appear and act as men and as freemen. Thus far this inhumanity seems to have the sanction of the best society of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This riot at Centreville seems to have been marshalled by the authorities of the place, and to have been organized in the presence of, at least, if not under the order of, the Sheriff of the county. These representatives of the people and the leading public journal of the place must be accepted as indications of the tone of thought and standard of morals and the purposes of the society of Queen Anne's county and their neighbors. The scene at Centreville is only an intense display of what has been indicated repeatedly at various points in that division of our State. If there exists there to any controlling extent a sounder judgment of what is right, and a different sense of justice and order and decency, it is quite time that they should be brought into activity in order to redeem the fame and preserve the peace there.

General Gregory's official duties in our State require him to meet our colored populations at different places in order to organize their schools, superintend and direct their moral and intellectual improvement, and encourage them to an earnest and proper exertion of their faculties. This high, moral and social mission has been satirized by the respectable and gentlemanly editor of the Centreville journal as "an ambition to be equal to the nigger," and the mob of drunken bullies and prostitute officials which insulted Gen. Gregory received its cue from this refined effort of editorial wit. The display of Democratic characteristics which we have referred to, although prominent there, has not been confined to the Eastern Shore of our State. The assertion of superiority of race through personal brutality, and individual infamy, violence and lawlessness, have presented themselves among us in quite conspicuous rivalry of the mobs of the South. Besides the riot at the camp-meeting of the last year, we cannot forget that the present Democratic Convention was inaugurated significantly, if not appropriately, by the burning of a freedman's school-house at Annapolis. And we believe it is quite a habit with our heroic militia, when they have put on their heroic grey and shouldered their muskets, to chase a defenceless negro until he seeks refuge in some private gentleman's house. Our police are too patriotic to interfere to repress these promising indications of growing heroism.

There was a time when Maryland was not thus infamous. We can refer to the past, at least, with pride, when Pinckney's glowing advocacy of freedom and denunciations of oppression and slavery were sustained by the universal acclamations of our people, and we shall take hope from the retrospect that our present disgusting spectacle is a defilement and not a deformity, and that our people have a purifying energy sufficient for their own recovery. It is very certain that although the State be sunk so low as to be willing to remain thus degraded, it will not be permitted to do so. This nation cannot consent to bear such a stigma now when she invites the world to view and imitate her proud purification. We trust confidently, however, that a sense of shame and contempt will recall our people to decency, and that the "self-assertion," which is so basely denounced on the part of the colored, will be speedily invoked to relieve the infamy of the white race.

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revised 25 Nov 09
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