Greenbrier Independent
October 31, 1867

"Old Scratch."

In the Edenic age, the Devil, taking upon himself the form of a serpent, crawled into the sylvan abode of Adam and Eve, and with lying and flattery, seduced them from their allegiance to God, and slimed or scratched their names from the Registry of Life. From that time he has been known as "Old Scratch."

Distinguished by all the vices of his ancient namesake and prototype, and especially by his inveterate habit of scratching from the books of Greenbrier county Registration, the names of all whose sense of patriotism, and regard for public decency, forbid their supporting him and his Radical negro equality-loving set for office, "old Joe" is as justly entitled to the soubriquet of "Old Scratch," as the Devil himself. Hereafter, therefore, let him be called "Old Scratch."

Everybody knows that "Old Scratch" was the chief instigator of the recent Radical Convention that desecrated a house of religious worship in Lewisburg, by assembling therein, and the result of whose deliberations, in connection with those of a similar body, subsequently held in Monroe county, was the nomination of Mann, Newlin and Jarrett for the Legislature of West Virginia. "Old Scratch," with that inveterate itching after office that is one of his many offensive peculiarities, desired a nomination; hence his proclamation that no one who had upon his garments the slightest smell of Conservatism - the only term expressive of common decency in these days of moral rottenness and political scoundrelism - need seek to take part in the proceedings of that enlightened and virtuous convocation. "Old Scratch" not only desired a nomination, but despite the multifarious seals of public condemnation that already covered him all over, and made his Rhinocerostic epidermis as spotted as that of a leopard, actually believed that by vigorous scratching, in which villainous art the ranks of Radicalism itself boast no superior, he could be elected. So, "Old Scratch" electioneered and scratched, and scratched and electioneered up to the grand day of nominations, asseverating all the while, with studied show of earnestness and good faith, that, while he desired and expected the nomination, yet, if he were disappointed in the reasonable desire and expectation, he would, as a "loyal" man, support the nominees. Time sped on. The Convention met. "Old Scratch," buoyant with hope, was there. He was scratched down by the Scratchetary of the Convention as temporary President, but, when the time came for permanent President, "Old Scratch" was scratched off, and one Trueblood was scratched on. "Old Scratch" did'nt like this. It was something to be in office, even if the office was not one of profit. It tickled his vanity, at least, and the sensation was almost as pleasant as that of scratching. True, it was not a body of men specially distinguished for the virtues that ennoble and exalt the race; it was not a body that sought to do justice, and bring order out of chaos, and supplant bad will towards men with good. It was just the reverse; but what mattered this to "Old Scratch." His great prototype had expressed a preference rather to reign in hell than serve in heaven," and was the child not

"They very image if its dad?"

Beside, as permanent President, he might have labored more effectively in the interests of himself. Now, he had lost some vantage ground; he could not work the wires near so skillfully. Hence, "Old Scratch" grew almost frantic with disappointment and rage. He not only wanted to scratch everybody, but strike, kick and bite all the "faithful." Here were some men claiming to be loyal, who were buying cattle to feed the rebel armies, and doing other disloyal acts, while it is said he, ("Old Scratch,") was in Kanawha buying the chances of runaway slaves, and beating them over their heads with Federal ramrods. And here were others making the impression that they were Conservatives, while he, ("Old Scratch,") was a vowing his hostility to "Test Oaths," and inditing his card, (afterwards published,) as endorsing Andrew Johnson's policy. All such men should be scratched out of the Convention. So thought, and in some measure argued, "Old Scratch." Now, had it not been for blind rage, "Old Scratch" would, perhaps, have been a little more charitable towards those whom he so savagely assailed, and ascribed their acts of rebellion, and their professions of Conservatism, rather to a desire to advance their own pecuniary interests, than to the outcroppings of genuine disloyalty. The man that wades in muddy water should go slow, feeling his way; and he is not a worldy-wise man who blurts out his real sentiments, whether political or religious, until he knows what company he is in. It is always imprudent to do so - it is sometimes dangerous. Wear your mask until you have secured a firm footing - then you can lay it aside and depend on a hard cheek to carry you through.

But to leave the digression. "Old Scratch," was finally quieted, and the Convention went on and nominated A. Mann, and not "Old Scratch." He remained, however, and took part in all the proceedings of the Convention, and was there when it was resolved to make the nominations "unanimous." He had not the frankness to vote against that proposition. He either voted for it or silently acquiesced in it; and it was expressly understood that the Monroe nominees, whoever they might be, if they were only good loyal scratchists, should be supported with equal unanimity.

Now, did not even the maxim of "honor among thieves," require "Old Scratch" to support these nominees? How could he, who had so long and so loudly preached fidelity to party nominations, and had scratched so many from the Registry list, for dereliction in this respect, and had been so active in getting up the Convention, and had gone into it, and had presided over it and had avowed his determination to abide its choice - how could he fail to support the regular nominees? Very easily! A man who could be false to his State, false to his neighbors, false to his own hearthstone, and the graves of his kindred, in the times that tried men's souls, would have no difficulty in being false to an assemblage in which all were for themselves, and none for their country.

Now, for reported acts: There were but three ballots deposited in Lewisburg Township. They were deposited by Col. McPherson, Ed. Sehon, and J. F. Caldwell. Col. McPherson voted the ticket nominated by the Greenbrier and Monroe Conventions; Ed. Sehon voted for Carlos A. Sperry, (Conservative,) for Prosecuting Attorney, and for nobody else, and for no other office. For whom did J. F. Caldwell vote? One of the three ballots had the name of one of the regular Radical nominees scratched off, and the name of Joseph F. Caldwell inserted in lieu thereof. Now, as neither McPherson nor Sehon did this, and as Joseph F. Caldwell was the only other person that voted, the conclusion is irresistible that he, Joseph F. Caldwell, scratched off the name of one of the regular nominees, inserted his own in lieu of it, and voted for himself! - a trick that he has been suspected of on more than one previous occasion!

If all his previous scratching has not won for the subject of this article the designation of "Old Scratch," this, his last scratch, surely has.

In conclusion, it is respectfully submitted that if it has been considered disloyal in others not to vote for the regular party nominees, it is equally disloyal in "Old Scratch." He has scratched from the Registry list the names of scores of men, of whom it is no compliment to them to say they are infinitely better, in every particular, than he; and the only true reason has been that they did precisely what it seems clear, and what everybody, conversant with the facts, believes he has just done himself. If it was disloyal in others, it was disloyal in him. If their names bhave been scratched off for it, his should be scratched off also, and he should be made scratch it off with his own scratcher. The poisoned chalice which, with malicious chuckling, he has so often commended to the lips of others, should now be commended to his own. This would be the happiest exemplification of retributive justice afforded since the day Haman was hung on the gibbet erected by himself for Mordecai, the Jew.


West Virginia Archives and History