William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 32] [part 30] [Cutler's History]


On the second week in May, the United States District Court was held in Lecompton, Chief Justice Samuel D. Lecompte presiding. The Grand Jury of Douglas County was empaneled, and before entering upon its duties was charged strongly by the Judge to find bills of indictment for treason against certain prominent Free-state men of the county. The following extracts cover the principal points made by the prejudiced court in its remarkable charge, as given in Phillips' Conquest of Kansas, pages 268 and 269:

GENTLEMEN: - You are assembled to consider whatever infringements of law may come under your notice, and bring in such bills as your judgment dictates against those whom you may find to have been guilty of such infringement. Your attention will naturally he turned toward an unlawful, and before unheard of organization that has been formed in our midst, for the purpose of resisting the laws of the United States. The exciting state of affairs makes it important that you should deliberate calmly, and above all have respect to the oaths you have taken, and without fear or favor of any party of men, whether high or low, to mete to all the justice which in their due. You will take into consideration the cases of men who are dubbed Governors, men who are dubbed Lieutenant Governors, men who are dubbed Secretaries and Treasurers, and men who are dubbed all the various other dubbs with which this Territory is filling. * * * * * * * * *

(I give below his exact words:)*

This Territory was organized by an act of Congress, and so far its authority is from the United States. It has a Legislature elected in pursuance of that organic act. This Legislature, being an instrument of Congress, by which it governs the Territory has passed laws. These laws, therefore, are of United States authority and making, and all who resist these laws resist the power and authority of the United States, and are therefore guilty of high treason.

Now, gentlemen, if you find that any person has resisted these laws, then you must, under your oaths, find bills against them for high treason. If you find that no such resistance has been made, but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, and individuals of notoriety have been aiding and abetting in such combinations, then must you find bills for constructive treason.

* William A. Phillips, then correspondent of the New York Tribune, professes to give the exact words of the charge in what follows, from which It is inferred that what has been quoted is not a verbatim report.

Thus enlightened as to its sworn duties, the "jury had only to find true bills of indictment" for treason or constructive treason against such Free-state citizens as the U. S. Attorney might choose to present. James F. Legate, then a Citizen of Lawrence, now living in Leavenworth, was a member of the jury. He so far allowed his sense of fair play and his true manhood to assert themselves over the forms of law which involved the duty of secresy (sic) upon him as a grand juror as to make a nocturnal visit on foot to Judge Wakefield's, thence on horseback to Tecumseh, where he saw John Sherman and William A. Howard, of the Investigating Committee, then in session there, and Gov. Robinson, to whom he said "he intimated what was going on in the jury room." He returned late in the morning, was arrested for contempt of court, gave an accepted excuse to the Judge for his absence, and went on with the jury in finding indictments against the Free-state men.

Quite soon after Legate's visit, while ex-Gov. Reeder was in attendance on the Congressional Committee, Deputy Marshal Fain presented to him a summons from the court, requiring his attendance as a witness before the Grand Jury at Lecompton. He declined, pleading his privilege as a member of Congress elect, and on other grounds not necessary to mention, and the Marshal returned to Lecompton. On the next day he re-appeared with a writ of arrest to be served on Reeder for 'contempt of court.' He declined to answer it by submitting to arrest, stating as his reasons for resistance to the summons: Informalty (sic) in the writ of attachment; his privileges as a Member of Congress and his belief in the insecurity of his person and life in case he submitted. The committee heard his statement, and declined to exert its authority for his protection; he thereupon announced to the Marshal, who was waiting his decision in the presence of the committee, that he should personally ignore the service of the writ, and that any further steps the Marshal should choose to take would he taken at his peril. The Marshal did not further attempt his arrest at that time. Gov. Reeder also sent a letter to Judge Lecompte, in which he offered to appear before the jury to give testimony, in case his personal safety could be guaranteed, to which the Chief Justice replied that "the matter had gone out of his hands."

It did not require any superior discernment to establish the fact in the minds of Reeder and other leading Free-state men that their immediate absence was essential to their own safety and the ultimate well-being of the cause they had at heart. Reeder did not tarry longer with the committee. On their removal to Leavenworth, he did not accompany them. It was deemed best by the committee and himself that he should no longer remain in the Territory or with them. He accordingly disappeared, fled from the imminent danger of imprisonment or assassination. He was for a few days secreted in the house of a friend near Lawrence, then, under the escort of Gaius Jenkins, he passed through the hostile Territory of Kansas to Kansas City. His escape was known all along the border, and the 'Law and Order' men watched every landing and boarded every boat to accomplish his arrest. He remained secreted for several days in the American Hotel, kept by a true friend of his and of the Free-state cause - Edward Eldridge - and at last, in the guise of a laborer, made his escape from the realm of squatter sovereignty in a skiff by night. He rowed down the Missouri twenty-eight miles to 'Liberty Landing,' where be took deck passage to St. Charles, and thence landing, proceeded across the country to Illinois, then the nearest land of safety for such men as he.

Gov. Robinson had, before the grand jury commenced its session, made arrangements to visit the Eastern States, to lay before Free-state friends there the facts of the Kansas situation, and to provide for such assistance as might be required by the Provisional State Government, of which he was the head, to keep it in existence until Congress should pass upon its work. The information concerning the secret work of the jury, which Legate had by some means allowed to escape from him, doubtless somewhat hastened his departure. The Committee of Investigation had reason to believe that a plan was matured for the destroying of the records of testimony taken, and for the breaking-up of its work by violence or intimidation. They accordingly desired Mr. Robinson to take with him for safe preservation the records thus far complete, and urged his immediate departure. He left on his double mission on May 8, and had proceeded, with his wife, as far as Lexington, Mo., where he was seized by a Missouri mob, taken from the steamboat on which they had embarked, and held in durance until the indictment was granted by the jury, and a requisition obtained from Gov. Shannon for his return. Following is the account of the affair, written by his wife, Sara T. D. Robinson.

ST. LOUIS, Tuesday, May 12, 1856.

As Gov. Robinson and myself were passing down the Missouri River, on our way to St. Louis, and further East, upon business, we were taken off the boat at Lexington, at the instigation of lawless men, they pretending that Gov. Robinson was fleeing from an indictment. He assured the gentlemen, some eight or ten in number, who gathered about our state-room door, opening upon the guard, that such was not the case; that he had heard of no indictment; that his whereabouts, whether in Lawrence or elsewhere were at all times known; that if the Marshal had desired to serve such a process upon him he could have easily done so, and he should have suffered no resistance. He told them, also, that he would never think to escape from an indictment for any political offense; and had he been doing so, of all places, he would have avoided the Missouri River and Lexington. Upon the statement of a gentleman, that the delay in consenting to leave the boat, as the crowd had found the bar, and were drinking freely, only added to Gov. Robinson s danger of personal violence, he said, "Let me see the crowd, and I can shortly convince them that I am not running from an arrest; then I can continue my journey." To which the reply was given to the effect that he would be in immediate danger of mob violence. It was also insisted on, as a means of safety, that we pass out on the guard, in leaving the boat, while the exasperated people, a cabin full of them, should be unaware of our departure A carriage was in readiness to take us to the town. We were quartered at the house of a Mr. Sawyer, who kindly offered his house as a place of safety, the night guard about the house alone reminding us of the fact that Gov. Robinson was a prisoner. I omitted to mention, in its proper place, that the gentlemen upon first coming to the stateroom said they had been talking to the crowd for fifteen minutes, trying to persuade them to heave the boat but that none would be satisfied unless he remained in Lexington until they could learn whether an indictment was out against him; while others cried: "Drag him out." To Gov. Robinson's suggestion that, if he was running away from an arrest he could see no grounds for another State to interfere, one of the gentlemen replied: "He did not wish to get into an argument," etc. Gov. Robinson is retained a prisoner, while I am allowed to pass on.

I make this statement that the true state of the case may be known.


The indictment from which it was alleged that Gov. Robinson was fleeing, was not reported by the jury for several days after his detention. He remained thus an illegal prisoner at Lexington one week, when, having been indicted, and a requisition received from Gov. Shannon, he was conveyed first to Independence, Mo., thence to Westport, thence to Franklin, four miles south of Lawrence; thence, by order of Gov. Shannon, he was returned to Leavenworth for safety, where he arrived May 24, was placed under the charge of Capt. Martin, of the Kickapoo Rangers, under whose protection he remained until June 1, at which time he was conveyed to Lecompton, where he remained with other prisoners under guard until September 10, at which time be was released on bail of $5,000.

Col. James H. Lane had gone into the States to plead the cause of the Free-state men, to organize parties of emigrants on a war footing, and to procure assistance in the coming struggle, and was, at the time of Gov. Reeder's flight and Robinson's capture, beyond the reach of arrest.

The jury found indictments for treason against Andrew H. Reeder, Charles Robinson, James H. Lane, George W. Brown, George W. Deitzler, George W. Smith, Samuel N. Wood and Gaius Jenkins. It also indicted as nuisances, and recommended their removal, the offices of the two Free-state newspapers at Lawrence - the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State - and the Free State Hotel in Lawrence; the former as seditious publications, "demoralizing the popular mind, and rendering life and property unsafe," the latter because, "being constructed for military occupation, parapeted and port holed, it could only be designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety and encouraging rebellion and sedition in the country."

Thus, in accordance with the charge of Chief Justice Lecompte, the jury completed the work given it to do. It only remained for the plotters to execute the outrage which the court had legalized in advance.


In addition to the mustering of the Missourians and the commissioning and arming of the Kickapoo Rangers and other companies of Law and Order men, several parties had arrived from the Southern States, armed and equipped with the avowed purpose of enforcing what they termed Southern rights in Kansas. They were unencumbered with families, and brought no implements of husbandry or other property characteristic of the emigrant peacefully inclined. They came to invade Kansas, not to till its soil. They hung about the Missouri border towns, and haunted the Pro slavery villages of Leavenworth, Atchison and Kickapoo, apparently waiting to be called into service. It is not recorded that any of them performed any honest labor or took any interest in the industrial or civil affairs of the Territory, further than to be blatant, and insulting and threatening in defense of Southern opinions, wherever they might meet defenseless settlers who cherished or advocated adverse opinions on the slavery question. They had been promised a year's sustenance and a quarter section of land (from which the Abolitionists would be dispossessed) at the end of their term of enlistment. They represented some of the best families of the South - sons of Southern chivalry - taught for generations that labor was a disgrace, and arrogant, alike to the slave, whose labor they owned, and the free Northern white laborer, whose principles they held in loathing contempt. They came under the leadership of Southern men of local influence and fortune. Maj. Jefferson Buford, of South Carolina, raised a company of 350 men "capable of bearing arms," to go with him to Kansas. He pledged to the enterprise $20,000 of his own fortune and remuneration 'in lands' to others who furnished funds for the expedition. He arrived with his company at Westport, Mo., quite late in April. The Westport Times announced their arrival, and detailed the reception accorded them as follows:

We have had the pleasure of an acquaintance with a large number of those belonging to the company, and find them all gallant and accomplished gentlemen, and we predict a prosperous future for those chivalrous men who have enrolled themselves under the Southern banner.

On Thursday of this week after an address by Mr. Baker, of Alabama, to the company of Maj. Buford, the latter was presented with a fine horse, saddle and bridle, in a public manner. The presentation was made through Mr. H. Clay Pate, who, in the presence of a large crowd, addressed Maj. Buford as follows:

Maj. Buford, in the name of the people of Westport, I present you with this horse, bridle and saddle. The horse is given by Mr. Samuel McKinney, a gentleman of this place; the rigging was purchased by subscription of the citizens. They are presented as a testimonial of your noble services in behalf of the South and the cause of slavery for Kansas.

When the bridle was placed in the hands of the Major, deafening shouts arose from the multitude assembled.

The horse is a large sorrel, well made and spirited. Mr. McKinney purchased him a few weeks since for $150. The saddle, which is Mexican, of elegant workmanship, cost $40. The bridle was given by Mr. Dillon, of Westport. Maj. Buford acknowledged the receipt of the present in a beautiful speech.

One more extract from this Leavenworth Herald of April 26 will show the reader the welcome given the Southern emigrants by their Pro-slavery friends:


A large and enthusiastic meeting of the Pro-slavery citizens of Leavenworth was called to extend a cordial welcome to about one hundred Southern emigrants just landed in our city, all of whom assembled at Harrison s. On motion, W. E. Murphy was called to the chair, and L. J. Eastin acted as secretary. Mr. Murphy then welcomed our Southern friends in the following appropriate address:


"It is with Feelings of the most profound gratification that I see you assembled here this evening for the purpose of a friendly interchange of feeling and sentiment with our gallant Southern fellow-citizens who have to-day landed in our young and growing city.

"And, fellows-citizens from the patriotic States of Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi permit me as Mayor of the metropolis of Kansas Territory, to extend to you, in behalf of a majority of its citizens, a most hearty welcome. To you, gentlemen, we can extend the right hand of fellowship. We are able to appreciate your motives in coming to our beautiful Territory. We feel assured that each and every one of you are in favor of sustaining law and order, of supporting the Constitution of our common country, and that the Southern fire and chivalric spirit which animates your breasts is a sure guarantee that you will do nothing that is wrong, or calculated to reflect discredit upon the Democratic States from which you emanate. And now, as fellow-citizens of Kansas, allow me to greet you, and once more extend to you, in behalf of a majority of my follow-citizens of Leavenworth City, a most cordial and hearty welcome."

Mr. Bowlin, of Mississippi, being called for, responded in behalf of the Southerners, in a few well-timed remarks. He said: "We come as pioneers to live in Kansas fairly and honestly if we can, and out of it if we must."

Mr. Halderman, in response to a call, said he was glad to welcome Southerners to Kansas. The South had at last aroused, and were responding to the calls of duty in a gallant manner.

Maj. Wilkes of South Carolina, addressed the meeting in a few soul-stirring and eloquent remarks. He had heard of border ruffians, and in certain quarters the name was used as a reproach, but in the South, it was synonymous with the name of gentleman. We have left our hearthstones and the ties that bind us to our homes to rally around you and sustain law and order. He then went on to argue the great principles for which his party con tended - equality in the Union, with equal rights and equal privileges. He contended that slavery was a common and economical blessing. "This country," said he, "was bought by the common blood and treasure of the whole country, and, as such, every man has a right to bring slaves here, as well as any other property, and to claim its protection." He concluded with this sentiment:

"Kansas - her equal rights - nothing more, nothing less."

Mr. Goode, of Alabama, was proud to meet with such a cordial welcome, and equally proud to see so many gallant spirits here, both from the South and the Territory.

Mr. Goode, of Kansas, said came here, not to wage war upon peaceable men, but to sustain the laws of Kansas. He gave a severe rebuke to the outlaws. He was for the Union and the Constitution; advocated the true States' Rights doctrine that slaves were property, and could not be forced out of the Territory. He showed that twelve out of thirteen of the original States owned slaves, and that slavery was recognized in the Constitution.

Mr. Moore, of Georgia, was loudly called for, when the following sentiment was offered:

"This is too (two) Good; let us have a little Moore."

Mr. Moore, of Georgia, said he had heard the anecdote of the ferryman, and he could assure them all that he and his friends could say 'cow.' They did not come to engage in insurrection, or to incite it, but had come as actual settlers, to place our shoulders with yours, to aid in sustaining this Government He alluded to the efforts of the hypocritical Abolitionists of the North to send Sharpe's rifles here. They had no terror for men of principle. "Let us," said he, "keep the laws and Constitution on our side, and we will have the Government to protect us. Being in the right, and in a good cause, we can put to flight a host of Abolitionists with their Sharpe's rifles."

Dr. Henry made a few cutting and thrilling remarks upon Lawrence - "the foul blot upon the soil of Kansas."

Mr. Dodge, one of the Southern emigrants, said our cause is holy one. We are with the Border Ruffians, as they are called. He regretted he was not born on the borders of Kansas. "The border ruffians," said he, "are a clever people. They had the fattest horses, the finest children, the prettiest women and the noblest men he had seen. A lady could not be a border ruffian, but, being a bachelor, he hoped to unite himself to one who was born among the border ruffians."

Mr. McLain gave an account of his trip South, the emigration that was coming, and told that he was taken for Col. Lane, of Lawrence, his narrow escape, etc. It was rich.

Mr. Bowlin, of Mississippi, tendered his heartfelt thanks to the citizens of this place in behalf of his State.

Mr. Pelote, of the South, made a few well-timed and appropriate remarks. Spoke of the feeling in the South, and what Southern States would do. That the people of the South were not fully apprised of the real state of facts. [Let them take the Kansas Herald, say we, and they will find out. - ED.] He said he found here a fine country, good climate, as generous, hospitable men, and as good society as in the old Palmetto State.

E. J Eastin, being called upon, extended a cordial welcome to our Southern friends. He reviewed the course of Reeder, etc., and gave a short history of the treasonable and revolutionary course of the outlaws of the Territory.

Several other gentlemen spoke, and a number of sentiments were offered, which were heartily cheered.

Altogether it was a joyful meeting - a union of hearts and sentiments - all inspired with a fervent zeal for the one great cause - the rights of the South, and the equal rights of the whole country.

The meeting adjourned with the best of feelings.

WM. E. MURPHY, President.

L. J. EASTIN, Secretary.

[TOC] [part 32] [part 30] [Cutler's History]