How the pro-slavery leaders in Lecompton held large and enthusiastic town meetings--Incendiary meeting at Lecompton--Calhoun's Speech and sentiments--The Kansas laws not created to punish pro-slavery criminals.
TWO or three evenings after the occurrences just related, Maclean, Bennett, and several others, met together in the house of Sheriff Jones, and concocted a series of resolutions, inflammatory in their character, and immensely laudatory of Sherrard, which were paraded before the public as having been adopted at a large and respectable meeting of the citizens of Lecompton.
A similar meeting was held at Kansas City, by Cramer, Anderson, Crowder, and two or three others, who accompanied the body of Sherrard to that place, the proceedings of which, being almost a copy of those published at Lecompton, were inserted in the Kansas City newspaper, as having taken place at a large meeting of the citizens, not over a half-dozen of whom were present, and they only from idle curiosity. These meetings, or pretended meetings, were intended to create an excitement among pro-slavery people against Governor Geary, and to induce southern men who did not understand the modus operandi, to furnish funds for the support of certain interested parties, whose advocacy of slavery was simply a matter of personal interest. They, however, entirely failed of the desired effect, and as soon as it was discovered that no capital could be made out of his death, Mr. Sherrard's body was conveyed to his home, and his pretended friends discovered that he had always been exceedingly rash and imprudent.
This plan of holding meetings was a favorite manouvre of the little clique of pro-slavery agitators at the capital. They numbered not over a dozen, in all. Whenever they had any mischievous object to accomplish, or desired to produce an impression in favor of their cause at Washington or in the south, or when they were in need of contributions of money, they would hold a meeting, generally in the office of the surveyor-general, who was the commander-in-chief of these little innocent political schemes and operations. General Clarke was always an active participant. Sheriff Jones's presence was indispensable. Judge Cato belonged to the coterie, though his name, for prudential reasons, did not often appear. Maclean furnished the liquor and tobacco, and did the small work. Bennett and Jones, of the Union, filled up important gaps. This brilliant party having got together, pipes and whiskey were supplied, and the affairs of the nation solemnly discussed. The "impartial policy" of Governor Geary was a general subject for denunciation. The magnificence of the slavery cause was the grand matter for consideration--the means to rid the country of the abolitionists, the principal object of the deliberations. The best method of obtaining liberal supplies from the south, was usually discussed. These meetings wound up, after the production of a grandiloquent preamble and flaming resolutions, which graced the columns of the next issue of the Lecompton Union, with the announcement that at a LARGE MEETING OF THE CITIZENS OF LECOMPTON AND DOUGLAS COUNTY, HELD ON SUCH AN EVENING, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted with great enthusiasm. Gen'ls Calhoun and Clarke addressed the meeting with their usual eloquence and power, &c., &c.; and yet, notwithstanding all this flourish of trumpets and beating of drums, the citizens of Lecompton were as innocent of the existence of any such meetings, until their proceedings were thus published, as were the inhabitants of Greenland or the south pole.
But, there was one meeting held at Lecompton, of which the citizens were cognisant. It was called at the instance of General Calhoun, and for the express purpose of denouncing Governor Geary. The occasion was the re-arrest of the murderer Hays. The friends of the governor, though a hundred fold more numerous than the agitators, did not go to this meeting with knives, pistols and guns, to break it up. Nay, the most respectable portion of the citizens stayed away, refusing to give it the sanction of their presence. Judge Cato did not even call upon the governor with the information that an incendiary gathering was to take place, and urge the interposition of his authority to prevent it. No! this was a meeting to denounce, not approve, the policy and action of his excellency; and hence it was right, lawful, just and proper that it should be held, and he would have been a despot of the vilest sort, had he attempted in any way to interfere. Some impetuous friends of the governor, indignant at the outrages that were being committed, under the pretence of "law and order," did, it is true, call upon him and solicit permission to throw the Lecompton Union into the river, and drive Calhoun and his band of conspirators from the town; but they were severely rebuked, and commanded to preserve the peace.
The meeting was held at Brooke's Hotel. The fire-eaters were there in their glory. The assembly consisted of a dozen or more of these and the attachés of the surveyor-general's office. Calhoun was the spokesman of the day, and was in a happy vein. His sentiments were plainly told. There was no attempt at disguise. The "impartial" policy of the governor was denounced in unmeasured terms. It was never intended that free-state and pro-slavery men should be placed upon an equality in Kansas. The laws of the legislative assembly were not for the punishment of the pro-slavery party. The governor had made a mistake in supposing that there was an act upon the statute-book that made it criminal for one of that party to rob a free-state man of his horse, or shoot him down in cold blood, if he refused freely to give it up upon demand. Hays had committed no offence in killing Buffum; Lecompte was deserving of their gratitude in setting him free; and Geary of eternal condemnation in persisting in punishing him, and charging other pro-slavery men, who had simply taken the goods and lives of abolitionists, with crime. Such was the tenor of the surveyor-general's remarks; such the infamous doctrines which he boldly and unblushingly advocated.
Should any doubt the truth of this, they have only to read the following report of this very speech, published in the Lecompton Union of November 20, 1856. This paper is under the immediate control of Calhoun and his associates. Nothing finds a place in its columns that does not meet his sanction and approbation. Such of its articles as are not written by the chiefs of his department, receive at least their supervision. This report, therefore, if not from the pen of Calhoun himself, was from one that he every way approved. Let it be observed that in defending the outrages of the pro-slavery scoundrels, it is done on the ground that they were committed against bad men, incendiaries, and traitors; and let it also be observed, that in this category he classes all free-state men, even though as free from crime as the Saviour of the world. His special reasoning on that score will be understood at a glance by every intelligent reader. Observe, now, what the Lecompton Union says of its paragon:
"He belongs to the Douglas school of politicians, the men upon whose shoulders the weight of the Union has fallen. Bold in thought,--untiring in action, and sound in principle, such men are governed by principle, not motive. There is an under-covering of common honesty in their composition that defies the corrupting influences of brain-sick abolitionism. Neither gold, the glittering prize that dazzles the ambitious eye, the fear of scorn and contumacy, can tempt them from the strict line of duty; but planted upon the rock of principle, they resist the seductive influences of the one and defy the stings of the other.
"To such men, more especially, are the people of Kansas indebted for their firm and unwavering support, under circumstances of a peculiarly trying nature. These thoughts occurred to us after listening to the very excellent remarks of General Calhoun on last Saturday evening. We will give the substance of one or two points made by him on the occasion:--
"In the first place, he exposed the injustice and fallacy of the policy that is being carried out by the territorial magnates, under the plausible pretext of doing justice to all parties---the levelling idea that has, since the advent of the last gubernatorial constellation, loomed up in our political sky--recognising no difference between the good and the bad, but placing upon a common footing the sustainers of the laws and its violators.
"Under the workings of this new policy, some of the best and most law-abiding citizens of the territory, [viz.: Hays, the murderer of Buffum; Clarke, the assassin of Barber; Emory, who killed Phillips, and many others of that class,] have been dragged before the inquisitorial court--'spotted and stained' with indictments, and made to undergo all the vexations and delays of a legal investigation, to vindicate his honor. If he shoot down the incendiary when in the act of applying the torch to his house--or if he jumps upon the back of the first horse that comes within reach, or 'presses' him for the purpose of vindicating the laws of the country when trampled under foot, must he be placed on an equal footing with the wretch who applies the torch, and with the traitor who breaks the law, and be branded as a murderer and common horse thief?"
This language is used in defence of men who murdered others simply to rob them of their property, and even stole horses from women and children, not to pursue violators of the law, but to carry them for sale into the adjoining state. Such men, according to the logic of the speaker, were not to be placed on an equality with those whom they robbed and murdered. But the general exposes himself as he proceeds. It was the policy of his party to claim the character of innocence--of justification by circumstances of their un-heard-of atrocities,--of their numerous robberies, house-burnings, and murders. This could not be done, if legal investigations were had, and the damning facts be brought out before a court of law. Their crimes exposed, they could not expect a continuance of the support and encouragement they were receiving from honest, though deceived persons at a distance. Hence the opposition to Governor Geary, who could not believe that a murderer was less a murderer because he claimed to belong to a certain party, or that he should be left on that account to run at large unwhipped of justice, or beyond the exercise of the law. The general continues:--
"Is it sufficient to inquire whether such and such an act was done without inquiring into the causes that led to its commission? What will be the effect of such policy upon our party here if persisted in? It will degrade us at home and disgrace us abroad, and it will force us to either one of two extremes, to abandon a country that punishes for sustaining its laws, and defending our lives and property when threatened, or we must make up our minds to submit to every humiliation and degradation that can be heaped upon us. What will our friends at Washington or the States who have fought our battles, say, when they hear of this? It will take from them the only weapon that they have used in our defence--our innocence--and place in the hands of our enemies a powerful lever to be used against us--our guilt."
The general appears to have been nervously sensitive on this score. He seems to have been fully aware that their cause would be seriously injured, even in the south, if the truth should, by any chance, happen to get abroad through honest legal investigations. In that case their pretended innocence would no longer avail them. And hence, their greatest scoundrels must be screened and protected, and though their hands with blood were as red as scarlet, they must be made to appear as white as snow. If one of these wretches stole a horse, it was only from a seditious abolitionist, and to be used in the public service; if he robbed a house and then burned it to the ground, it was to drive out some rebel who had taken refuge there; and if he murdered an unarmed and defenceless man upon the highway or whilst sleeping in his bed, it was in self-defence. This ground must be assumed and maintained, else their cause must fall; and to maintain it, their worst criminals must be kept out of the courts, else destructive secrets would necessarily be revealed. Besides, the Blue Lodges required them to protect each other, and that was another weighty consideration. The general's speech grows richer as he proceeds:
The question is, shall we sustain our friends, who, in obedience to the proclamation of Acting Governor Woodson, took up arms in defence of the laws, against a set of 'dogs, scoundrels, and traitors,' who came into the country, not with the intention of supporting the laws, but armed and equipped for fight--traitors at heart, with the treasonable design of overthrowing the laws and trampling them under foot, or shall we surrender them to the mercy of such a miserable policy as is being carried out at present, OR SUSTAIN THEM TO THE LAST?
"Our position is, that the law and order party is in the right, or it is in the wrong--if the first, it should be sustained; if the last, condemned. We say it is the only true, upright, constitutional party in the country; there may be individual exceptions; we are not bound by their acts, nor do we approve of them.
"The idea of appeasing the insatiable gluttony of abolition rage and fanaticism by harassing and plastering with indictments the law and order men, under the pretence of 'impartial justice,' savors of lunacy. If one-half of the law and order men in the country should be swung up by the neck on tomorrow, the sacrifice would not in the least abate their hellish desire, but like the horse leech, they would cry give, until the life of every man that opposed them was offered up. They came into the country to disturb its peace, to break its laws, to kill, burn and plunder--outlaws and traitors, they deserve the traitor's fate."
This article indicates the character of the pro-slavery party of Kansas, and explains clearly some of the seeming mysteries in the history of the territory. A brutal murder had been committed. In the annals of crime, there is not one recorded of a more diabolical character. A poor cripple is killed in cold blood by a human monster, simply to steal his horses. With his hands still reeking with the blood of his inoffensive victim, the assassin also robs a young girl of her pet pony; and then, with his booty, joins his "law and order" comrades. 'The governor, with great difficulty and expense, causes the criminal to be arrested. A partial judge sets him free--and an impartial governor causes his re-arrest. A public meeting is called in consequence, by men holding prominent offices under the general government, to denounce the governor as a lunatic, for attempting to carry out the policy of "impartial justice." The surveyor-general of the territory tells the people the laws were not made to condemn the "law and order" party for killing abolitionists. It was all right that hundreds of free-state men should be groaning and starving in a loathsome prison; but it was an offence to lay hands upon a "law and order" villain. This offence sealed the governor's doom. It was decreed that he should be removed. If the government could not be prevailed upon to dismiss him, and he could not be so harassed and embarrassed as to be forced to resign, then the hand of the assassin must do the work. And these advocates for murder, associates of murderers, and murderers themselves, succeeded. They did not simply denounce the "impartial policy," as they called it, of Governor Geary; but they determined that it should not prevail in Kansas. And hence Calhoun, and Clarke, and Emory, and Jack Thompson, hastened to Washington, and were admitted to the presence of President Buchanan, and introduced to the members of the cabinet, to all of whom they promised they would throw no obstacles in his way if a southern governor was sent to Kansas. And Mr. Buchanan was delighted with these assurances. They called on Mr. Robert J. Walker, and told him they would give him no trouble if he would be the governor. And Mr. Walker felt highly flattered. But they had thrown obstacles in the way of Governor Geary--they had given him trouble--they had annoyed and abused him to the full extent of their power-- they had prevailed upon the authorities to remove from him all the means he had at command to preserve the peace and protect himself--and then surrounded him with bands of assassins, ready to consummate, at the first favorable opportunity, their nefarious designs. And why? Because Governor Geary had conceived the fallacy of exercising "impartial justice"-- because he could not discriminate between murder committed by a man who added to the enormity of the crime the black falsehood that it was committed for the public good, and by one who made no such lying pretence--because, in a word, he was determined that the simple fact of being an advocate for slavery and assuming the name of "law and order," should not screen the guilty wretch from merited punishment. And these men, who for this reason and none other, so foully persecuted Governor Geary, have been rewarded with lucrative offices by the administration. Since the world was made, never were such responsible positions given, in any civilized nation on earth, to men so notoriously unworthy.