The Newport Riot

Letter From One of the Ringleaders  

Newport, Thursday, November 3, 1850, To the Editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth:

In your paper of yesterday morning you comment upon the recent occurrences in this city with reference to the Free South newspaper, and express your loss to discover what was proposed to be accomplished by its destruction.  As Chairman of a public meeting of the citizens here which denounced and recommended the removal of the office, I propose to say a few words.   The paper was admitted, on all hands, to be incendiary in its character, and of the vilest and most rabid Abolitionist proclivities.  Its direct influence here amount to nothing; but abroad, and in Frankfort, as I personally know, it affected the character of our city.  We could not make our fellow citizens in the interior of Kentucky believe that it had not one subscriber in Newport, and was not at all patronized by our people, while with the Abolitionists of the North, among whom it principally circulated, it produced an impression that our people were identified with them in sentiment, because its articles constantly so stated, even going so far as to allege, without the shadow of truth, that all the officers of Campbell County, save one, were anti-slavery men, and thereby had the effect of producing a concentration of Abolition efforts at this point. 

It has been supposed, not without great reason, that the Free South building was a depot for the underground railroad, and that most of the fugitive slaves from the interior of Kentucky escaped through Newport.  The state of things was tolerated by the order-loving citizens of Newport, until forbearance ceased to be a virtue.   Action, however, was precipitated by the development in the recent occurrences at Harper’s ferry, that it had been arranged that an attack was to be made also at some point in Kentucky, and as the attack upon Harper’s ferry was upon a place where Government arms were, and as such is the state of fact here, taken in connection with the false opinion of the Abolitionists that they have a strong party here, we had reason to suspect that this was the point alluded to.  Just then, also, it was announced that the State Convention of Abolitionists would be held in this city, on the 16th inst., which, in the view of many, was to be but a cover for some ulterior purpose, detrimental to the peace of the State. 

The paper was originally built up by our citizens – they furnishing the means, and established as a Democratic paper, but its editor shamefully sold us out to the Abolitionists, and those who contributed their money claimed the right to undo what they had unwittingly been the means of doing.  It was not intended at first to use violent measures, and on Friday evening, Bailey was, by a slight demonstration, notified to leave.  The next day he assembled at his office a large number of Abolitionists from Ohio, who promised him money and physical forde[?], and this demonstration of the foreign enemies of the South brought about the public meeting over which I presided, which resolved to, and did accomplish the destruction of the obnoxious Press.  You will perceive, from what has been said, that your suggestion of withdrawal of patronage on the part of this people had been tried, and proved ineffectual.   Respectfully,   James R. Hallam  


From the New York Times, November 10, 1859, and evidently reprinted from the Frankfort Commonwealth.