Chas. T. O’Ferrall, Governor of Va.

December 4, 1897


Governor Charles T. O’Ferrall talks about lynching during his time as governor and what will come of the it in the future.


But while I am mortified that mobocracy should have prevailed in the instances named, I am gratified to be able to say that the spirit which, from the 1st day of January, 1880, to the 1st day of January 1894, had taken the lives of sixty-one persons in the State, has been so far restrained as to reduce the number of lynchings during my administration, which is now closing to three, and I question whether any State in the Union has a better record for the last four years than Virginia.
I sincerely trust that the administration of my worthy successor will be even clearer than mine of this blot on our civilization. Lynchings cannot be too severely reprobated. NO argument can excuse them, no circumstance can justify them in Virginia. WE have ample laws and adequate penalties for all crimes. WE have courts that will try without unnecessary delay and juries that will convict in all proper cases. “The mob is man, voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast. Its fir hour of activity is night; its actions are insane, like its whole constitution.”
But the spirit of lynching will never be fully eradicated in any State until there are stringent laws against it, so enacted as to be enforceable, and then behind the law stands a warm, living, sustaining public sentiment, and this sentiment will never assert itself until the people fully realize that “where law ends, tyranny begins,” and the public press no longer caters to the spirit and condones the crime of lynching as some of the papers in Virginia, be it said their shame, have done recently. These papers persistently assert that lynchings have been almost exclusively for criminal assaults, or attempted assaults, or for the “usual crime,” as they term it, which is far from being correct. Of the sixty-four men who have suffered death by the halter without due process of law in the last eighteen years in Virginia, only fifteen were charged with criminal assault, and only eleven with attempted criminal assault. I append hereto a table showing the number of lynchings each year, and the crimes charged. This table is authentic, and is prepared from the reports of the clerks of the courts of the various counties and cities from 1880 to 1894, and from direct information in the Executive office since. –Extract from Message to Legislature of Virginia.
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“Chas. T. O’Ferrall, Governor of Va.,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed September 24, 2020,