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CHIEF JUSTICE LECOMPTE, PART 2.
The verbal resistance offered by Gov. Reeder to his attempted arrest by Deputy Marshal Fain, occurred in Lawrence, this committee having returned to that place from Tecumseh, where they had been for several days, on the very day the arrest was attempted. On the report of failure to the United States Marshal of the Territory, he issued a proclamation, which was sent to Leavenworth, Atchison, and all the border towns of Missouri. Nothing was generally known of its issuing at any interior points in the Territory, until the posse of armed mien thereby summoned had begun to appear about Lawrence. It read as follows:
The call was a part of the preconcerted and deeply laid plot for the crushing out of the Free-state movement, and the subjugation or extermination of all who opposed the Territorial laws. The charge of Judge Lecompte, the subsequent findings of the jury, the armed bands waiting on the border, the dismissal of Col. Sumner with his main command by Gov. Shannon, and his return to his post at Fort Leavenworth, and the final call by Marshal Donaldson to the waiting army to come to his aid, were now seen to be but parts of one infamous whole.
The answer to the proclamation was so prompt as to prove it to be, beyond doubt, only the consummation of a well-planned conspiracy, every step of which had been carefully planned before. The van of the army appeared in the vicinity of Lawrence two day's before the proclamation was dated, and commenced hostile demonstrations. Travelers were stopped on the highways, their loads confiscated, houses wore robbed, horses and cattle stolen, and a general system of lawless brigandage begun.
At a meeting, held by the citizens of Lawrence, on the evening of May 10, the following preamble and resolution was adopted:
WHEREAS We have most reliable information from various parts of the Territory, and the adjoining State of Missouri, of the organization of guerrilla bands, who threaten the destruction of our town and its citizens; therefore,
The gentlemen named communicated to Gov. Shannon the above appeal. He replied in a letter which evinced his full knowledge and complicity in the fast maturing plans of the Law and Order party for the destruction of the city. The reply was as follows:
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, May 12, 1856.
The situation at this time was entirely dissimilar to that obtaining at the invasion of December, 1855. At that time the conflict had been precipitated by Jones, for the redress of personal grievances, and, the tatterdemalions, who gathered around Lawrence 'to help Jones,' came without authority of law, and found the city not only impregnable against their attacks, but able to wipe them out, if allowed to do it, before they could reach their base of supplies in Missouri. Hence came the treaty made by Gov. Shannon, in the interests of peace, and to avoid bloodshed. Now, the movement against the city had the sanction of law. It had been so planned. The United States Court had inaugurated the onslaught; the United States Marshal was to execute the orders of the court; the President had, by public proclamation, sanctioned the proceeding, and put the United States troops under the command of the Governor to execute the Territorial laws. Hence, the craven and panic-stricken Governor of December, 1855, became the bold and implacable conservator of law in May, 1856, and wrote the letter before quoted.
The condition in Lawrence was entirely changed. Robinson was a prisoner, and Gen. Lane was absent from the Territory. Other brave and reliable Free-state men were being hunted by Samuel Salters, and were in hiding to avoid arrest. What true men were left were divided in council, as to whether resistance or abject submission to the United States authorities, acting under the Territorial laws, was the true policy. The non-resistants were in a large majority, as they doubtless would have been, had their old leader, Robinson, been with them. Lane might have counseled resistance; but his discretion - despite his pugnacious temperament - ever marked him as the disciple of wisdom rather than impulse, and he too would most likely have accepted the situation, with its present bitter humiliations, as stepping stones to a more complete revenge in the near hereafter.
On the receipt of Gov. Shannon's letter, another meeting was held by the citizens, with a view to averting the impending catastrophe. The subjoined report of that meeting, and what followed, is taken from Phillips' 'Conquest of Kansas:'
This harsh and partisan letter from the Governor, under such circumstances, could not be regarded as anything short of declaration of war.
These resolutions were forwarded to the Marshall and to Gov. Shannon.
As I have said, the Marshal never sent a copy of his proclamation to Lawrence. The copy that reached Lawrence was sent to me from Lecompton by one of my agents, and was received a few hours after its issue. I carried it into the chamber of the Committee of Safety which held a meeting that night. Its meetings were private. Several proposals were made, but the majority were unwilling to do anything. Lieut. Gov. Roberts and Col. Holliday were opposed to any defense being made. Holliday urged that it was a busy season, and the farmers could not be taken from their farms to sustain another siege at that season without great loss. Others urged that the merchants and business men had advanced provisions, stores and goods, during the Wakarusa war, and had got pay for only a small part of it, and could not advance anything more to defend the place.
Dietzler, (sic)and several other members of the committee, were in favor of defending the place against the Marshal's posse. The discussion was vague, pointless, and unsatisfactory. There was no one to take the lead. One proposal was that efforts be made to see that three or four hundred men, armed only with pistols and other side-arms should go to Lecompton, and offer themselves to Donaldson as his posse, in obedience to his proclamation, and demand from the Governor a share of the public arms then at Lecompton.
In response to Donaldson's proclamation, the waiting army moved to the scene of published rebellion and resistance. Two encampments were formed within two days after the issuing of the call.
Near Lecompton were Gen. David R. Atchison, of Missouri, in command of the Platte County Riflemen, of Missouri, with two pieces of artillery; Capt. Dunn, in command of the Kickapoo Rangers, and recruits from Leavenworth and Weston, Mo., the two Stringfellows, Robert Kelly and Peter Abell, having in charge the Law and Order recruits from Atchison and vicinity; Col. Wilkes, of South Carolina; Col. Titus, of Florida, with such followers as they could command.
At Franklin, Col. Boone, of Westport, Mo., and Col. Buford, of South Carolina, had command of a force of some four hundred men, nine tenths of whom were not residents of the Territory. Three-fourths of these were from South Carolina and other Southern States, who had but recently arrived with Col. Buford, and were thus making their first visit to the Territory in which they designed to settle. The men in both camps, lacking arms, were furnished by Gov. Shannon from the United States supply then under his control at Lecompton.
The investing army were well in camp on the evening of May 13, and foraged constantly on the inoffensive and defenseless settlers for subsistence from that time until they left the county.
The citizens of Lawrence and the Committee of Safety continued their efforts for pacification and to avert the impending evils. Another meeting of the citizens was held May 13, at which G. W. Deitzler presided, and J. H. Green acted as Secretary. The resolutions passed at this meeting were not unlike those of the previous meeting, at which Judge Wakefield had presided. They were sent to Lecompton, together with a letter to Marshal Donaldson, the messenger being Mr. Cox, a Pro-slavery resident of Lawrence, who had before done what he could for the protection of the town by an attempted negotiation with Donaldson in its behalf. The letter and the insulting and implacable answer returned wore as follows:
LAWRENCE, May 14, 1856.
OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES MARSHALL
Further letters were sent the Marshal and the Governor, informing them of the depredations daily committed by the posse encamped around the city, and asking for protection, but no written answer was returned. Several urgent messages were sent to Leavenworth, invoking the aid of the Congressional Committee, then in session at Leavenworth, and imploring Col. Sumner to come to the rescue with the United States troops under his command. The committee was powerless. Col. Sumner, mindful of the inviolable duty of the soldier to obey no orders except from those having unquestioned authority, declined to move, except by command from Gov. Shannon or from the General Government. Shannon did not, as on a former occasion, implore his assistance. On the contrary, he had sent him and his command hack to the fort about the time the posse was called out, and there he intended he should remain. A last effort for a peaceful settlement was made May 18, and for a few hours inspired hope. Messrs. S. W. and T. B. Eldridge, the lessees of the lately finished Free State Hotel, themselves having just moved to Lawrence from Kansas City, and not subject to the opposition or distrust cherished toward the old residents, proceeded to the camp of the invaders, and there proposed in behalf of the citizens that if Gov. Shannon would order Col. Sumner to encamp with his force near Lawrence that the arms within the city should be surrendered to him, to be held until all writs in the hands of the Marshal had been served, the said arms to be returned on the departure of the United States troops. Hopes were held out that the proposition would be accepted, and the gentlemen were required to wait on Gov. Shannon on the following morning for a final answer. On their way to Lecompton, they were arrested and detained several hours in Stringfellow's camp, and, on reaching the Governor's headquarters, were told by him that the South Carolinians would be satisfied with nothing except the surrender of the arms either to him (the Governor) or the Marshal, and declined to order Col. Sumner to appear with his troops. The gentlemen expostulated and expressed fears that the citizens would fight rather than submit to the humiliation. Gov. Shannon replied, "War, then, by -----," and brought the interview to an end by leaving the room.
Murder was this day added to the robberies which had formed the pastime of the waiting posse. A young man named Jones, returning home from Lawrence with a bag of flour, was met by a party near Blanton's bridge, robbed, disarmed, and then shot dead. Some indignant young men from Lawrence started for the scene of the murder. One mile out they were met by two men from the Franklin camp, who, after a wordy and abusive wrangle, ended the interview by firing into the party. On the of boys - Stewart - fell dead, and the two Law and Order men rode back to their camp. The return of the party to Lawrence with the dead body of Stewart was the first intimation received of the foolhardy expedition which the boys had undertaken. It was with difficulty that the exasperated citizens could be held within the conservative bounds of non-resistance which had been determined upon by the Committee of Safety. The pertinacity and steadfastness with which, against insult, robbery and murder, they held fast to the only policy that could save the cause they had at heart, evinced a moral bravery which entitles them to the highest place among the heroes of those days. Self-imposed restraint and forbearance under extreme provocation, though bearing the outward signs of timidity and weakness, when excited for a principle, mark the highest type of human courage and endurance.