CHIEF JUSTICE LECOMPTE, PART 1.
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
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.
SARA T. D. ROBINSON.
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:
"FELLOW CITIZENS OF LEAVENWORTH CITY:
"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
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
"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.