Arkansas True Democrat, Little Rock CS
The Peace Society.
We have received several letters, and persons have called upon us to make statements in relation to the alleged conspiracy, or peace society, formed in the northern part of the State. We confess that we are at a loss to know what is the true state of the case, but we fear a great many innocent men and a number of ignorant ones, have been shamefully treated. Sometime last summer, Mr. Harvick, of Monroe county, caused the arrest and examination of some members of a self-styled "pro bono publico," or peace society, but the evidence proved nothing reasonable and the parties were dismissed. Sometime afterwards arrests were made and persons sent here, from Van Buren, Izard and other counties. The most of them protested their innocence of any treasonable intent, their loyalty to the Confederacy and when offered a release on condition of service in the army, promptly volunteered. The oath of the society, so far as disclosed, has no direct treason in it, but is suspicious as affixing the death penalty to an informer.
On the one hand, it was charged that this society was instituted for the purpose of giving aid and comfort to the enemy; that upon the approach of Lincoln's troops the houses of the members were to be distinguished by a mark on the door facing and were to be unmolested; that arms from the federals in Missouri had been placed in their hands with which to fight against the South; that besides the oath already known, there was another and treasonable one, in which the members swore hostility to the Southern Confederacy and that the leaders were abolitionists. It was admitted that the majority of these men were ignorant and had no knowledge of the ultimate objects of the society or designs of their leaders.
On the other hand, we have been solemnly assured that if such a society existed there was nothing treasonable in it; that there was but one oath; that innocent men were induced to join by being told it promised them protection and that no collusion with abolitionists or Lincoln's army was thought of. It is bitterly denied that any arms or ammunition were received from Missouri, or that any were found. It is asserted that persons without authority commenced making arrests without warrants and upon suspicion, or when an enemy pointed out some person as a member; that there was no security of person; that old men, some of them having three sons in the Confederate army and who had furnished food and clothing to our troops, were seized, ironed and sent to this city, and that others who had responded to Col. Borland's call for troops, upon their return from Pocahontas were seized and imprisoned.
In the case of Mr. Edmondson, those who killed him say it was done in self defence and while he was resisting an arrest. His friends say that Edmondson was a true southron; that in the reign of terror he advised certain persons whom he knew to have enemies to escape until the storm blew over, and for this he was accused of being a member of the society; that they sought to arrest him and because he refused to submit, shot him.
We do not know which of these stories is true, but if half that is told us is reality, there is a dreadful state of affairs there. The power of making arrests without warrant is a dangerous one to put in the hands of any man or set of men and in this case it appears to have been exercised by anybody or everybody. Arrests are being made yet, or were made until very lately and the State has had to pay large sums for arresting, guarding and bringing these men here. While all this was going on, regular orders of regular Confederate officers are pronounced against as conflicting with the civil authority and running counter to the law. It has been estimated that no more prisoners will be brought here as it is intended to make short work of these suspected men hereafter. So, if anybody has an enemy in north Arkansas, he has only to denounce him as a member of the peace society to insure his death.
The Governor of this State has sworn to see the laws faithfully executed and if treason exists in that quarter he should see that the accused and arrested men have the advantage of a trial and defence. The law, in this instance, has been lost sight of or trampled under foot.
If the Governor will not act in the premises, the Military Board can appoint a commission to proceed to these counties, enquire into these matters, cause the legal arrest of parties against whom evidence is found and restore quiet and order among the people.
We do not intend to impugn the motives of any person or persons engaged in making these arrests. They may have been actuated by patriotic motives, but there is a limit to all things, and it is high time their power of arresting citizens and killing those who demur, should be superseded by the strong arm of the law.