From the Richmond Examiner, 2/1/1866, p. 3, c. 1
VICE IN RICHMOND – HAVE WE A POLICE.
Richmond, from a quiet city, famed for its good order and its enticements to residence, among a population excellent in its morals, and refined in its manners and social distinctions, has suddenly grown up into a noisy, reckless, and bloated metropolis of ice. The rowdy’s occupation is not yet entirely gone in Richmond. Forced from the resources of the gambling-houses, it has found its last and convenient refuge in the brothels of Richmond. It is in these lairs of vice that the rowdy lies perdu during the day. Not a night passes, however, but that gangs of them, issuing from these dens, parade the streets, threatening unarmed passengers with their cowardly violence, and the orgies of prostitutes’ balls are in full blaze and operation under the very nose of the police.
Surely, there is law enough, and occasion enough for breaking up the vilest of these garish dens of iniquity. At least, the decency of publick thoroughfares should not be intruded upon by the daily scenes of troops of painted prostitutes hunting their prey in the streets, and accosting their pimps at the hotel corners, who are thieves and confidence men of the alley-ways of Richmond.
Another fruitful source of vice in Richmond is the large number of unlicensed grog-shops in the by-ways and disreputable parts of the city. Our police reports will show that a large proportion of the murders and felonious assaults which have occurred within the past few months in this city have originated not so much in the regular bar-rooms of the city as in those contraband dens of filth and iniquity. Men are dosed in these places with the vilest poison; they are the rendezvous for rowdies, market-men and cheap “shoulder-strikers,” and “free fights” are not unusual diversions of the company which frequents these low-priced haunts of vice and lawlessness.
Shall such things be? In the name of common justice and common humanity, in the name of all good citizens, for the fair report of the city and the honour of the laws, we invoke every civil authority and tribunal of redress for the remedy of this state of things. – We do not make this appeal without an echo. The city of Richmond is a law-abiding, benevolent and honourable community; it will not, can not, must not suffer such abominations further; already the rush of rowdyism and corruption reeks along its pavements, and if the honest, honourable and civilized majority of its citizens do not rise up to cleanse it, the place will become uninhabitable to them.
If the Mayor is really resolved to purge the city of the pest of rowdyism and to prevent the Plug-Uglyism of the North from being transplanted into Richmond, he must not stop or weary or dally in the work he has proposed to himself. He must pursue rowdyism to its last refuge – the brothels; and these pest houses and painted dens, if they cannot be blotted out, at least may be driven into the decent obscurity of the alleys and slop streets of the city.
The present police system is miserably inefficient for Richmond in its new situation, with the influx into its society of all sorts of people, who have planted new and strange hotbeds of vice along its streets, corrupted its morals and converted a well order, provincial city into the proportions and condition of an overgrown and disorderly metropolis. What purpose it serves beyond that of capturing a few impotent drunken men in the gutter and occasionally sending to the watch house a few miserable castaways, whose unpardonable crime is wandering on the streets, we are at a loss to imagine. It has even failed to evince the small measure of courage or adventure in laying hands upon a single gambling house or brothel in the whole city of Richmond. We want a strong and fearless city government. We want an entirely new basis, and a distinctive corps under the government of a Board of Commissioners. In all the large cities of the North, the establishment of police boards has been found necessary to relieve the Mayor in his administration, to secure an efficient police organization, and to discriminate against partisan influences in this important and vital branch of the city government. – With our present system of policemen, with locust clubs, our city, notwithstanding the best efforts of the Mayor, might as well be surrendered at once to the daily strengthening domination of vice, lawlessness and violence.