The United States Marshal.--His deputies.--Requisitions for United States soldiers.--Visit of the governor to Topeka, and arrest of prisoners.--An address to the citizens of Topeka.--Report of the marshal.--Requisition declined, and an evil practice discontinued.
ISRAEL B. DONALSON, then United States Marshal of Kansas Territory, is considerably advanced in years, and although decidedly in favor of the slave party, and one of its members, was not of the rabid sort, and had quite a sufficiency of the "milk of human kindness" in his heart, to do justly if he could or dared. His surroundings, however, were every way unfavorable to a proper and just discharge of his duties. His deputies were all violent pro-slavery men, younger and more active than himself, and he became responsible for many of their illiberal acts. He being their authorized head, their persecutions of free-state people were chargeable to his account. The marshal himself seldom went on an expedition to execute a warrant, and his deputies, knowing that they had rendered themselves offensive by their abuses of their privileges and powers, feared to go beyond the shadow of Lecompton without being attended with a posse of United States troops. Hence, whenever a warrant was issued, the governor received from the marshal a requisition of which the following is a specimen:--
In compliance with these requests, which were usually accompanied with a verbal statement of the number of soldiers the marshal supposed he would require for the particular occasion stated, the governor was accustomed to make requisition as follows upon the commanding officer nearest the place where the warrant was intended to be executed:--
Although, as will hereafter appear, General Smith subsequently refused to furnish Governor Geary at his request, with two companies of troops to preserve the peace of the territory from a threatened disturbance at Lecompton, it is but justice to the general to record that neither himself, nor any officer under his command, ever hesitated to answer the governor's requisitions for soldiers to accompany the marshal or his deputies in pursuit of alleged horse-thieves or other criminals.
In compliance with the above cited requisition, Col. Cook furnished two hundred mounted men, with which force, the governor, accompanied by the marshal, left Lecompton, for Topeka, at 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the 17th of September. Soon after their departure a most violent storm of wind and rain arose, which continued during the entire evening, rendering travel almost impossible. With great difficulty, and after being thoroughly drenched, they reached Tecumseh, a distance of ten miles, and encamped for the night. Early on the following morning, they proceeded to Topeka, reaching that town about eight o'clock. Here the warrants were executed and twelve prisoners arrested. A large quantity of captured property, consisting of horses, buggies, wagons, &c., was identified and recovered. With this and the prisoners, the troops were dispatched for Lecompton, the governor remaining alone at Topeka.
The citizens here soon assembled together in town meeting. They were disposed to be refractory and some of them quite insolent. They were evidently under the influence of strong prejudices against the governor, and by no means disposed to favor his supposed policy or any of his movements. Some endeavored to annoy him with what they considered smart and perplexing questions; others proposed entering into a treaty, the terms of which they were to establish; whilst still others averred that they had a governor of their own choice, to whom and to whom only, they owed and would yield allegiance.
After listening patiently to all they had to say concerning their real or imagined grievances, and resolves in regard to their future conduct, the governor addressed them with great earnestness and at considerable length.
He informed them that it was no lot nor part of his errand to Kansas to make treaties with, but to govern its people. He did not come to Topeka to discuss with its citizens the question of his right to the office he occupied, but to let them understand that he and he only was the Governor of Kansas, appointed by the president and confirmed as such by the Senate of the United States, and that they must and should yield obedience to all his reasonable requirements. He came to enforce the principles of the Constitution of the United States, the organic law of the territory, and all the territorial statutes not conflicting therewith--to maintain the doctrines of popular sovereignty--and to support the whole people, whatever were their political predilections, in the maintenance of their lawful privileges and rights. He had no partialities--all the citizens had equal claims to his guardian care--and to all classes he would do equal and exact justice.
"Gentlemen," said he, in one of his addresses, "I come not to treat with, but to govern you. There is now in the territory no other governor than myself. I will protect the lives and property of every peace-loving and law-abiding citizen, with all the power I possess. I will punish every law-breaker, whatever may be his position or pretensions. I will not for a moment tolerate any questioning of my authority. All who are in favor of restoring peace to this distracted territory can range themselves under my banner; all others I will treat as bandits and robbers, and as such extirpate them at the point of the bayonet. Don't talk to me about slavery or freedom--free-state men or pro-slavery men--until we have restored the benign influences of peace to the country; until we have punished the murderer, and driven out the bandit and rabble, and returned the industrious citizens to their homes and claims. Do not, I pray you, attempt to embarrass me with your political disputations. You shall all, without distinction of party, be alike protected. This is no time to talk about party, when men, women and children are hourly being murdered at their own firesides, or whilst sleeping in their beds, or are being driven by merciless bands of marauders from their homes without money, food, or clothing. In God's name rise for a moment above party, and contemplate yourselves as men and patriots. I am your friend--your fellow-citizen--moved by no other impulse than the welfare of the inhabitants of this territory, and the protection of their honor, their lives and property. When peace is fairly restored and secured, I will see that every man of you is protected in his political rights."
He was listened to with profound attention, and most enthusiastically cheered at the close of his remarks, when resolutions were passed approving his course, and promising a hearty support to his administration. On the same day he returned to Lecompton.
So frequent became the marshal's applications for troops, and the governor never receiving any official report of the result of his requisitions, he at length addressed Mr. Donalson as follows:- -
The marshal replied at considerable length, but as the following contains the entire substance of his communication, it is all that need be cited:--
"The objects for which the requisitions were made have been partially accomplished. On the requisition for two hundred dragoons, on the 17th instant, a large number implicated in the warrant have not yet been arrested, on account of the difficulty in finding their whereabouts. That for the five on the same day proved abortive. That of the 20th instant, for ten dragoons, was accomplished, or nearly so. That of the 22d, for six dragoons, succeeded in arresting two of the offenders, one more of whom has since been arrested, and one still cannot be found. No resistance has been made to the execution of any of these writs; nor is it probable that any will be made when the marshal is accompanied by a military posse."
The next day after writing the report from which the fore-going is extracted, the marshal asked for a posse to execute some half dozen or more warrants, to which the governor replied as follows:--
This put an end to a practice that had become truly disgusting to all peaceful citizens. Deputy marshals who in some instances had rendered themselves obnoxious by their habits of partisan oppression, were, at the head of United States troops, constantly scouring the country, entering free-state towns, and under the shadow of authority and the cover of protection from the soldiers, committing offences against decency and the quiet of the community more reprehensible than those even alleged against the parties of whom, in many instances, they were in search; and they were becoming almost as great a terror to unoffending people as the hordes of banditti which had previously infested the highways. The refusal of the governor, therefore, to continue to furnish the means for these officials to pursue such practices was followed with the most beneficial results. The free-state people were no longer harassed with processes issued simply for their annoyance, and were enabled to pursue their lawful avocations with confidence and in peace; and the order and quiet which previous bold and decisive measures had effected were thus in a great measure preserved.
Lieutenant Lewis Merrill, who on one occasion had been detailed with a company of dragoons to accompany a deputy marshal on one of these expeditions to execute writs, in concluding a lengthy report of the service, remarks:--
"Not the slightest evidence was shown any where that there would have been any resistance to the civil officer under any circumstances; and I think that if he had been an efficient, energetic man, who had not by his former conduct made himself obnoxious to these people, the arrests would have been made of all the warrants called for, and without any show of resistance."