|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
THE TOPEKA LEGISLATURE.
March 4, 1856, the Legislature chosen under the provisions of the Free-state constitution, convened at Topeka, and the provisional forms of a State Government were fully established.
The session was short. It organized; received the inaugural address of the Governor; accepted the report of the Territorial Executive Committee, whose functions ceased with the establishment of the State government; prepared a memorial to Congress, asking admission under the adopted constitution; chose two United States Senators (contingent on the admission of Kansas as a State), elected a committee of three to prepare a code of laws and adjourned March 8, to meet on the 4th of July next.
The officers, National and State, and members of the State Legislature were as follows:
DEATH OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.
The Territorial Executive Committee which, up to the organization of the Legislature, had been the moving and directing force in controlling and directing the Free-state movement, having completed its work, made its final report, through its Chairman, James H. Lane, and, its authority having passed to the executive of the new government, ceased to exist.
Its wonderful efficiency and tireless activity has been before adverted to. Through its labors, the objects for which it has been appointed had been, regardless of every obstacle, fully attained. As stated in the final report, and as shown by the records of the committee, the cost of establishing the State government was $15,265.90, for which some scrip had been issued from time to time as required, and sold in quantities and denominations to suit purchasers, or paid out for expenses incurred. Much of it found a market at par value, among friends of the movement in Eastern States. The form of the obligation was as follows:
The payment of this scrip was assumed by the State Government which owed its life to its issue. The issue of like bonds was continued by the Free-state government, and was its only source of income. It was current at above par, among its friends, so long as the Topeka Constitution stood a chance of being accepted as the organic law of the new State, and brought to all commissaries and agents sent to the East, ready money at its face. When new acts were passed by Congress, providing for a new Free-state Constitution, and the Topeka Constitution, with its provisional government, lost its vitality, the scrip went down with the Government. It was never redeemed. There was no Government having the authority to levy taxes and the power to collect them, ever established under the Topeka Constitution; so the scrip passed out into the realm of financial insolvency. It is held now in hundreds of families in New England, as a relic of old times, and a testimonial of money paid for the establishment of freedom in Kansas. It is as worthless as the Continental money of the old Revolution, or the Confederate money of later times. Its value to-day lies in the object for which it was issued, and the motive which brought it into the hands of its present possessors.
The Legislature adjourned with a thorough provisional State organization established having passed no laws, nor any act contravening the authority of the General Government or the organic Territorial act. Nevertheless, the fact of its convening and perfecting in a systematic manner a provisional State organization, in spite of all threats and intimidation from the General Government, the Territorial officials, and the Blue Lodges of Missouri, ratified and confirmed the fact of 'open rebellion against the laws of the Territory,' and gave the Missourians ample pretext for open and immediate war. They were prepared, and lacked only the authority of the Governor to commence an active campaign.
GOV. SHANNON AGAIN.
Gov. Shannon had never been at ease since the treaty he made with Robinson and Lane. By it he had lost caste with all the Pro-slavery patriots of Kansas and Missouri, and brought himself under a cloud of distrust at Washington. As his appointment as Governor of Kansas Territory had not yet been confirmed by the Senate, on January 5 he started for Washington, where he arrived five days after, and endeavored to set himself right with the Pro-slavery junta, President Pierce and his Cabinet. During the time he was in Washington he interpreted into the Pro-slavery language, and perverted to Pro-slavery ends every protest, letter and appeal sent by the suffering Free-state settlers of Kansas to the General Government at Washington. He returned March 5 having been confirmed in his appointment by the Senate, and invested with all the power of the United States Army to enforce the laws of the Territory.
While Shannon remained in Washington, and under his advice, the President issued his proclamation, already given, declaring the Topeka Government treasonable. The announcement of his return March 8, by the Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, was made as follows:
Gov. Shannon has returned to the Territory. He his all the troops at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, about 1,200, subject to his call. The laws of the Territory will he sustained at all hazards, and good order maintained despite the efforts of fanatics to agitate and keep upstrife. Col. Sumner has received his instructions to keep his troops in readiness, subject to the call of Gov. Shannon.
The instructions with which the Governor returned were as follows:
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, February 15, 1856.
The objects which induced the Governor to visit Washington, as well as the spirit which he cherished toward the Free-state settlers, are more fully evinced in the following letter, written to his intimate friend and adviser, George W. Clerk, who was one of the two who killed Barber, and who, it will be remembered, boasted of it after the deed was done. The letter was written on the eve of his departure, and reads as follows:
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, SHAWNEE MISSION, K. T., January 4, 1856.
A letter from Gen. Whitfield to Clark, written at about the time of Gov. Shannon's return, in connection with the one above given, will suffice to show the general character of the influences at work to direct the administration of Kansas affairs in Washington, during the winter. The letter reads as follows:
WASHINGTON, 1st March, 1856.
For several weeks after Shannon's return, there was no disturbance which warranted him in calling on the United States troops, or otherwise putting forth the extraordinary powers with which he had been invested.
On April 18, the Congressional Investigation Committee arrived in Lawrence and commenced its work. Simultaneously, Sheriff Jones made his appearance, with the object of arresting the rescuers of Branson and other Free-state men. It was the beginning of a thoroughly matured plan of operations intended to b e unrelentingly carried out for the intimidation of witnesses before the Committee, for the overthrow of the Free-state government, for the destruction of Lawrence, for the utter crushing out of all anti-slavery sentiment in the Territory, and for the establishment of the Territorial enactments as the supreme and unquestioned law of the Territory.
It will he remembered that on the commencement of the Wakarusa troubles, S. N. Wood and others engaged in the Branson rescue had absented themselves, in order that Lawrence should not become implicated by harboring them. Wood had visited the Eastern States, where, by his telling speeches, he had done much to increase the interest in Kansas affairs and stimulate a furor of emigration to the scene of conflict, of ardent men, who, informed of the danger, were coming prepared to take the chances. He had thus, during his absence, rendered himself more obnoxious than ever to Jones and his gang. Soon after his return, April 19, Jones arrested him in the streets of Lawrence on the charge of rescuing Branson. The crowd gathered around and managed, without doing any personal violence, so hustle Jones away from his prisoner, or Wood away from his captor - at any rate they became separated, and Jones departed without his prisoner, amidst the jeers of the good-natured mob. He spent the night at Lecompton, and re-appeared in Lawrence the following (Sunday) morning just as the citizens were assembling for worship in the various churches. He had four additional warrants for persons who had indirectly aided him in losing his prisoner on the previous evening. Wood was nowhere to be found. Jones summoned some of the church-goers to his assistance. None of them responded. Their faces and their steps were set toward the sanctuary and they would not turn aside. A crowd less piously inclined gathered in the street and bandied epithets with the irate and frustrated Sheriff. In it Jones discovered Samuel F. Tappan, another of the Branson rescuers, who had already been once arrested for the offense, and had vainly sought a trial. The Sheriff promptly, and with perhaps undue earnestness, seized him by the collar, whereupon Tappan, with like promptness and undue earnestness, struck him a smart blow in the face. This was sufficient - violence had been used - and Jones again left, declaring that he would return with troops sufficient to make the arrests. He claimed that he had at that time forty names on his paper, against whom warrants should be served. He returned to Lecompton, and immediately informed the Governor that he had been resisted by the citizens of Lawrence in the performance of his official duties, his prisoners rescued from him, and himself assaulted, and called on him for sufficient military force to enable him to serve his warrants.
Gov. Shannon promptly answered the call, by requesting Col. Sumner to furnish an officer and six soldiers as a posse for the Sheriff. Accordingly, Lieut. McIntosh, with ten men, was detailed and sent to the assistance of the Sheriff, and a courteous letter sent to the Mayor of Lawrence, by Col. Sumner, notifying him of the sending of the detachment, disowning any knowledge of the merits of the case, or personal interest in them, and counseling obedience to the laws.
Jones appeared, with his posse of United Slates troops, in Lawrence, April 23, and arrested without resistance, John Hutchinson, E. D. Lyman, G. F. Warren, J. G. Fuller, F. Hunt. A. F. Smith, and others, all respectable citizens of the town, on the specious charge, made by him to obtain warrants for their arrest, of 'contempt of court,' inasmuch as they had not, on the previous Sabbath, answered his demand to aid him in the service of his writs. His prisoners were not, as they should have been, brought immediately before a Justice of the Peace or other local magistrate for examination, but held as prisoners in a tent, under the charge of the soldiers constituting the Sheriff's posse, until he might decide what disposition should be made of them. Nevertheless, no attempt was made to rescue them. The bait thus set by Jones to lure the citizens of Lawrence to destruction was too apparent, and nobody in that orderly town walked into the trap.
Jones decided to remain in the camp of Lieut. McIntosh for the night. He had a new warrant for the arrest of S. N. Wood, for larceny; and as Wood was not to be found, he tarried.
Late in the evening, Jones was fired at, from the darkness without, three times. The third shot took effect between his shoulders, in a place to bring him down. He was immediately carried to the Free State Hotel, and carefully attended by the citizens, and Dr. Stringfellow, his particular friend, who, with Whitfield, was attending the sessions of the investigating committee.
The shooting of Jones was unfortunate for the citizens of Lawrence. Nobody knew then. nor has it ever been proven to this day, who fired the shot.*
The citizens did all possible to alleviate the suffering of Jones and to preserve his life. They also promptly assembled and publicly condemned the outrage, of which they were entirely innocent. The meeting was addressed by A. H. Reeder, Charles Robinson, and other leading Free-state men, all denouncing without stint the dastardly act. The resolutions passed condemned the act, disavowed any sympathy with the assassin, and pledged the citizens to do what lay in their power to apprehend and punish him.
George W. Deitzler, as Secretary of the Committee of Safety of Lawrence, offered a reward of $500 for the apprehension of the assassin, and undue sympathy was showered upon the wounded Sheriff by the citizens.
Notwithstanding the prompt and well-known disavowal of the act by the citizens of Lawrence, the unscrupulous Pro-slavery press seized upon the circumstance to still further inflame the Pro-slavery mob of western Missouri. The Squatter Sovereign, the Leavenworth Herald, and all the smaller papers over the border, announced the murder of Jones, and called on his friends to immediately come over and avenge his death. Not one of them ever published the proceedings of the indignation meeting held in Lawrence, nor the fact that he was alive, not dangerously hurt, was tenderly cared for by the citizens of Lawrence, and able to be removed to Franklin on the next day after the assault.
Col. Sumner, in response to information from Lieut. McIntosh, had, with his command, reached Lecompton. He was there informed that his further presence was unnecessary, as the persons against whom writs were issued had all fled from Lawrence. He accordingly returned to Fort Leavenworth with the main body of his troops, leaving a small detachment at Lecompton, subject to the order of the Governor. Just previous to his return, the following correspondence passed between him and Gov. Robinson:
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CAVALRY, CAMP NEAR LAWRENCE,
LAWRENCE, K. T., April 27, 1856.
The Law and Order men took immediate advantage of the event, to not only precipitate a conflict, but to break up if possible the work of the investigating committee then in Session at Lawrence. Whitfield affected to be panic stricken, averred that no man's life was safe in Lawrence, and that it was impossible to induce the attendance of witnesses there. He urged the committee to adjourn, and went so far as to state his belief "that the commission was at an end; they might as well return to Washington." He betook himself to Franklin for safety, then to Lecompton, and, finally, as the committee continued its work without interruption, again returned to Lawrence to attend its sessions.
On the disabling of Jones, his warrants were turned over to one Samuel Salters, who, as Deputy Sheriff, scoured the country in search of persons whom he desired to arrest, with a posse of United States Dragoons at his heels, who, it is truth to state, had no heart in the work they were ordered to perform, nor respect for the officer they were ordered to assist. His efforts resulted only in terrifying the families of the Free-state settlers, and in forcing the men he sought to leave the county or otherwise avoid him. He made few arrests.
Along the border, there was only such lynch law for the Free-state men as the 'Law and Order' party chose to dispense. Pardee Butler was again seized in the streets of Atchison,* threatened, buffeted, and otherwise shamefully abused, then stripped, served with a coat of tar and cotton, and sent out of town. No Abolitionist was allowed to peaceably walk the streets of that town.
On April 28, J. N Mace gave his testimony before the committee, concerning the outrage at the March election of 1855, at Bloomington, near where he lived. On that night he was attacked at his own house, wounded, and left by his assailants. No writs were issued for the apprehension of the perpetrators of these, nor the numberless other like crimes committed on the Free-state people, nor did Gov. Shannon or any other official see fit to telegraph, or write concerning them, to Washington. United States troops were not brought into requisition to quell the disorders rife all over the Territory, except where they might be used to humiliate the citizens of Lawrence, or to exasperate them to disloyal acts, which, from the beginning, they had studiously avoided.
Up to May 1, all efforts to break up the investigation or to bring the Free-State men into collision with the United States forces had signally failed, and new tactics were at that time adopted.