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The Richland sheriff promptly produced the prisoners, informing the court that he held them in obedience to the order of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. They were then placed in the custody of the United States marshal.
The matter was fully argued before Judge Bond-Messrs. Bradley T. Johnson, of Maryland, W. A. Clark and James Conner appearing for the sheriff, whilst Messrs. Corbin, Settle and Denny represented the prisoners.
After due consideration Judge Bond discharged the prisoners from custody—holding that “it is competent for a Federal court to issue the writ of habeas corpus, in favor of prisoners imprisoned for contempt by a State court, where the acts of alleged contempt were committed in the performance of duties created by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the petitioners were acting under the protection of the laws and the courts of the United States," and that "where it clearly appears from the record that the State court exceeded its powers in committing such petitioners it is competent for a Federal court to release and discharge them from imprisonment."
In the course of his opinion Judge Bond said:
While it gives me great concern to hear and determine a cause where parties are charged with disobedience of the orders of a State court, yet where the liberty of men is concerned, who have a right to appeal, under the act of Congress, to the Federal courts, I am sure my brother judges of the State courts will not think me wanting in courtesy if I hear them, as I am bound to do by law, and will believe me when I say there is no one who regrets more than myself this conflict of jurisdiction.
I think this proceeding in the Supreme Court was beyond the jurisdiction of that court; that the State Board of Canvassers were clothed under the law with discretionary powers which required them to discriminate the votes, to determine and certify the candidates elected after scrutiny; that they were a part of the executive department of the Government and were in nowise subject to the control, as to what they should do after they had commenced to perform that duty, of the judicial department; and that as this was a general election at which members of Congress were to be elected and electors of President and Vice-President of the United States were to be chosen they were acting in a Federal capacity or, in other words, in pursuance of a law of the United States, and therefore if any one disturbs them in the exercise of their functions they are entitled to the protection of the courts of the United States.
There was nothing further done in this matter. Some months after Judge Bond's decision there were in the State Supreme Court
proceedings looking to an enforcement of the orders passed in relation to the conduct of the canvassers, but these were never pressed to a judgment. President Hayes was peaceably in office, the Hampton government was regularly performing all its functions, and there was no need of further litigation of any of the questions which had so much occupied the attention of courts and people alike.
THE DUAL GOVERNMENT.
Tuesday, November 28, was the day fixed by the State Constitution for the meeting of the General Assembly. The action of the Board of State Canvassers in withholding certificates from the Democrats claiming to have been elected from Edgefield and Laurens had induced among the white people the belief that the Republican managers, backed, of course, by Governor Chamberlain, intended to attempt to organize the lower house without the presence of the members from those two counties, and thus initiate a scheme to declare him elected and acquire a new control of the entire State Government.
The Democrats remained firm in their purpose to yield none of their rights, to stand by the men of their choice and to use every lawful means to prevent the accomplishment of Governor Chamberlain's designs. The white people were in a condition of nervous expectation—their feeling could scarcely be called apprehension-as the day for the meeting of the Legislature drew near. Their doubts as to what might happen were soon set at rest.
The press dispatches from Washington, dated November 27, brought the news that Governor Chamberlain had on the day previous applied to the President for troops to be used in the State House on the day appointed for that meeting, and that the President, after consultation with the Cabinet, had concluded to comply with the Governor's demand. News of the President's purpose having reached Columbia there was an instant protest from a large number of well-known citizens, who published on November 28 a statement setting forth that profound peace prevailed in Columbia and the entire State, that no resistance to the laws was to be feared, and that the use of troops would be unwarrantable.
SOLDIERS SEIZE THE STATE HOUSE. The President's attitude was indicated in the following orders:
Washington, November 26, 1876. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger, or Col. H. M. Black, Columbia, S. C. The following has been received from the President:
Executive Mansion, November 26, 1876. "Hon. J. D. Cameron, Secretary of War.
"Sir—D. H. Chamberlain is now Governor of the State of South Carolina beyond any controversy, and remains so until a new Governor shall be duly and legally inaugurated under the Constitution. The Government has been called upon to aid with the military and naval forces of the United States to maintain republican government in the State against resistance too formidable to be overcome by the State authorities. You are directed, therefore, to sustain Governor Chamberlain in his authority against domestic violence until otherwise directed.
U. S. Grant." In obeying these instructions you will advise with the Governor, and dispose of your troops in such a manner as may be deemed best in order to carry out the spirit of the above order of the President. Acknowledge receipt.
J. D. Cameron, Secretary of War. On the demand of Governor Chamberlain, General Ruger, at midnight before the day for the meeting of the Legislature, placed a company of United States infantry in the State House. Most of these troops were stationed on the upper floor, about midway between the door of the Senate chamber and that of the hall of the House. A sentinel was posted at each of the doors opening into the first floor of the building-north, east, south, west. The alleged purpose of this disposition of the soldiers was to prevent the unauthorized entrance of persons not connected with the Legislature, and thus insure the peaceful organization of that body according to the Constitution and laws. Whatever the purpose of the President or of General Ruger, the military possession of the State House went far beyond. For several days after the meeting of the Legislature the sentinels downstairs undertook to halt and examine persons entering at any of the doors. The judges of the Supreme Court, having to use the eastern door in going to their consultation room, were halted and asked whether they had a pass or were otherwise authorized to enter. At the door of the hall of the House were posted two sentinels-one on each side of the entrance—and the entrance to the gallery was similarly guarded.
Before noon of November 28 (the hour at which the House should by law assemble) A. O. Jones, who had been clerk of the former House, but whose term had expired, furnished to John B. Dennis a list of those members whose election had been declared by the Board of State Canvassers—that list not containing the names of any persons claiming to represent Edgefield or Laurens. Dennis had been selected by Governor Chamberlain to stand at the House door, examine the credentials of members and say who should pass the armed sentinels and enter the hall.
The Republican members-elect, numbering fifty-nine, assembled in the hall and proceeded to organize themselves as the House of Representatives. They elected E. W. M. Mackey speaker; A. O. Jones, clerk; Warren R. Marshall (white), of Fairfield, reading clerk; and Henry Daniels (colored), of Richland, sergeant-at-arms.
The Democratic members-elect, numbering sixty-four, proceeded in a body to the hall of the House, the Edgefield delegation in front and the Laurens men coming next. When the head of the column reached the door the Edgefield members demanded admittance, at the same time presenting the certified copy (made by the clerk of the Supreme Court) of the State Canvassers' report of the vote in that county for members of the House, showing that the bearers had each received a majority of the votes cast. Dennis, supported on each side by an armed soldier in the uniform of the United States army, refused to recognize these certificats as lawful credentials and forbade the holders to enter. Thereupon the Democratic members retired, leaving one of their number (Gen. W. H. Wallace, of Union) to observe for a time the doings of the Mackey body.
Shortly after this General Hampton and Col. A. C. Haskell approached the House door and demanded to be admitted as spectators. The demand was refused, but the white assistant of the negro calling himself the sergeant-at-arms offered to get these gentlemen a permit to enter. The offer was promptly declined, and the gentlemen at once retired.
It was at this juncture that a new disposition was made of the soldiers in the upper hall. They were marched to the hall door, made to open ranks and face inward—so that any one going in must pass between the two single-rank platoons of soldiers carrying loaded rifles with bayonets fixed. The troops had thus taken actual possession of the hall of the House.