Broken campaign oath almost resulted in duel

“Oaths among gentlemen also figured in political activities. In 1823, for example, Willie P. Mangum, a North Carolina planter [and future U.S. senator], came to an agreement with Daniel L. Barringer, a militia general and rival for [Congress]. The pair swore before Sheriff H. B. Adams not to campaign for votes — canvassing being considered beneath dignity in low-country North Carolina.

“But later, before the election, each accused the other of violations. Adams certified that, though both had ‘pledged their honours…. in a most sacred manner,’ Barringer had violated his oath. Furious and embarrassed, Barringer challenged Mangum to a duel, but friends intervened successfully to prevent it.”

– From “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South” by Bertram Wyatt-Brown (2007)


Charlotteans quick to defend ‘respected young ladies’

“Townsmen did not take lightly affronts to their virgins. In Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1845, for instance, three young men had made up enormous posters directing obscenities against ‘some of the respected young ladies of the community,’ the local editor said, and had nailed the signs to the courthouse door.

“Early the next morning the villagers were highly agitated. The town’s young men found the culprit out, gained confessions and rode all three on a rail, each covered in the customary feathery garb. The newspaper piously denounced the rough work, but excused it on the grounds that all townsfolk had agreed about the imperative for ‘summary punishment.'”

— From “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South” by Bertram Wyatt-Brown (2007)


Peddler found no relief in antebellum justice

“A Yankee peddler [was] usually regarded with deep suspicion. (He might be an abolitionist spy “tampering” with the slaves.)….

“In 1839 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, one Charles Fife from Connecticut was suspected of trading with blacks. The offense could not be proved in court, so some young men of the village gave him a pole ride through town, follow by the tar-and-feather ritual. When the peddler, claiming innocence, refused to leave town, the rowdies repeated the ceremony the next Sunday.

“Fife then sued his enemies before Judge John L. Bailey, a young planter, but in the midst of the proceedings the ruffians leaped on the plaintiff and his lawyer and beat them up before the bench. Judge Bailey acquitted the defendants and fined Fife  $100 — without evidence or prior indictment — for trading with Negroes. Fife, at last, left town.”

— From “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South” by Bertram Wyatt-Brown (2007)