THE winter of 1855-56 in Kansas was of a Siberian character. For a time meteorological woes surpassed all others in the territory. The sleet-tempest that celebrated the close of the Wakarusa war faithfully foretokened the coming months. For the most part the immigrants were very inadequately protected against the sudden and extreme cold. Log huts -- the common type of dwelling -- had few attractions for winter residence. Ordinarily they were a sorry affair -- a floorless pen of half-hewn logs, roughly battened with a filling of stones, sticks, and mud -- the whole loosely roofed over, and usually containing a single room. In the absence of anything better, doors and windows were manufactured out of cotton cloth. Into these rickety cabins storms drifted from every quarter -- above, beneath, around.
"I failed to complete my log-house before the winter of 1855-56 set in," said Captain Samuel Walker. "The sides were up, roofed, and partly plastered when the Wakarusa war interrupted
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work. On my return home, after the conclusion of peace, the cold was so severe that nothing more could be done, and we had to shift as best we could until warm weather. Our cabin had no floor, but we were as well off in this particular as most of our neighbors. Chinks and fissures abounded in roof and gables, as the green slabs with which they were covered warped badly. Seven of us made up the family -- five children, mostly small. At times, when the winds were bleakest, we actually went to bed as the only escape from freezing. More than once we woke in the morning to find six inches of snow in the cabin. To get up, to make one's toilet under such circumstances, was not a very comfortable performance. Often we had little to eat -- the wolf was never very far from our door during that hard winter of 1855-56."
The inhospitalities of Kansas frontier life fell with peculiar severity upon women. "He who has seen the sufferings of men," said Victo Hugo, "has seen nothing. Let him look upon the sufferings of women." Burdened with drudgeries in their most primitive, unrelieved shape, exposed to all the anxieties and perils which a state of anarchy implies, denied the relief of public and aggressive service -- their heroic, untrumpeted endurance was not least heroic and worthy among the pioneer services rendered to Kansas.
Severities of winter, that frost-bit the ill-furnished
settlers, called a truce to active hostilities. Yet warlike movements, that pointed to future invasions on a more formidable scale than had heretofore been attempted, continued along the border. "We have reliable information," Robinson wrote A. A. Lawrence January 25th, 1856, "that extensive preparations are being made in Missouri for the destruction of Lawrence and all the free-state settlements. You can nave no idea of the character of the men with whom we have to deal. We are purchasing ammunition and stores of all kinds for a siege.... We have telegraphed to the president and members of Congress and the Northern governors our condition, and sent out six men to raise an army for the defense of Kansas and the Union.... I am doing my utmost to conquer without bloodshed, and I believe that if my suggestions are acted upon promptly in the states we shall avoid a war.... Our plans are all well laid, and if the states will do their part promptly, I believe but little money will be actually used, and no lives lost."
Among the six men dispatched eastward on a mission of explanation and appeal were J. S. Emery, M. F. Conway, and G. W. Smith. They left Lawrence about the middle of January in a buggy, which they soon found of little service on the snow-clogged roads. Before starting the company held a consultation concerning the safest method of managing their credentials. Should some border
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ruffian with a turn for investigation discover these credentials, the party would very likely receive rough usage. In the midst of their perplexities a bright thought struck Smith --"Boys, I've hit it. In Missouri everybody carries a jug. There a jug never excites suspicion. Put the papers in jugs with corncob stoppers and they'll be safe." The suggestion was greeted with applause and immediately carried into effect. Plodding slowly across the State of Missouri -- the journey occupied two weeks -- masquerading under various disguises, the travelers safely reached the Mississippi River opposite Quincy, Illinois, over which they walked on the ice. Midway in the river they halted, broke the jugs, and transferred the credentials to their pockets. This delegation, and other delegations that followed, successfully pleaded the free-state cause in the North and East.
There was also stir and excitement at the South, from which bands of armed emigrants reached the territory during the spring and summer of 1856. "Even in my own state," said Senator Butler, of South Carolina, "I perceive parties are being formed to go to Kansas -- adventurous young men who will fight anybody." The senator probably had in mind the operations of Major Jefferson Buford, of Alabama, who conducted thither the most notorious company of Southern immigrants. Buford issued a call for three hundred men, promising them by way of inducements
transportation, support for a year, a homestead, and the satisfaction of a chance at the abolitionists. He fitted out the expedition largely from his own resources. To reimburse the outlay, it was understood that each member of the company would take up a claim, one half of which should be turned over to Buford. But the venture did not succeed financially, as few of the company became permanent residents of Kansas.
The appearance of Buford on the border encouraged the pro-slavery leaders. "Our hearts have been made glad," said the managers of the Lafayette Emigration Society,--a Missouri organization,--in an appeal to the South, "by the late arrivals of large companies from South Carolina and Alabama. They have responded promptly to our call for help. The noble Buford is already endeared to our hearts; we love him; we will fight for him and die for him and his companions. Who will follow his noble example? We tell you now and tell you frankly, that unless you come quickly and come by thousands we are gone. The election once lost, we are lost forever. Then farewell to our Southern cause and farewell to our glorious Union."
Congress shared inevitably in the disturbances which radiated North and South from Kansas -- a word seized upon according to the "Democratic Review" "by the most cunning of modern magicians, the abolitionists, to raise the devil with."
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Numerous expedients for allaying these disastrous agitations came to the surface. Senator Crittenden, of Kentucky, proposed unsuccessfully that Lieutenant- General Scott should be sent to Kansas as pacificator, equipped with "the sword in his left hand and in his right hand -- peace, gentle peace." Toombs, of Georgia, submitted a plan of adjustment, the terms of which were fair and unpartisan. It contemplated the appointment of five commissioners -- men of the highest character and selected from both parties -- who should take an accurate census, apportion the territory into districts, and on the 4th of November, 1856, cause an election to be held for delegates to a constitutional convention, at which all male citizens, residents of three months' standing, might vote. December 1st these delegates were to assemble, take under advisement the question of establishing a state government, and, should it be decided affirmatively, enter at once upon the work.
This bill, though energetically combated by anti-slavery senators from distrust of President Pierce, in whose hands the appointment of commissioners was lodged, and from apprehensions that in some way Missouri would again decisively interfere, passed the Senate, but did not survive the opposition of the House. That body originated and sanctioned a measure known as the Dunn bill, the leading features of which were the election of a new territorial legislature in November, the
dismissal of criminal prosecutions for offenses against territorial laws, and the restoration of the Missouri Compromise, though it was stipulated that slaves, already in the territory, should not be disturbed before January, 1858. This scheme failed in the Senate.
Out of the various bills, compromises, substitutes, amendments, which appeared in Congress during the spring and summer of 1856, a single measure only emerged that reached any practical importance -- the appointment by the House of Representatives of an investigating committee, the members of which were William A. Howard, of Michigan, John Sherman, of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri. This committee proceeded to the territory, held its first meeting at Kansas City April 14th, examined three hundred and twenty-three witnesses, who represented every shade of political opinion, and on the 1st and 2d of July presented a report, in which a great mass of facts is accumulated wholly creditable to neither side.
Early in the spring the local campaign showed signs of life. Sheriff Jones, who had a touch of genius for finding quarrel in a straw, led off in the revived operations. He still pursued the policy which barely missed success in the Wakarusa war, fumed about Lawrence with much insolent ado, and attempted without success to arrest S. N. Wood, who, in addition to taking a prominent
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part in the Branson matter, had made himself still more obnoxious by doing effective free-state service on the stump in Ohio. Jones pursued his efforts to arrest different people at Lawrence, until at last he got a sharp blow in the face from somebody who resented his familiarities. Thereupon he rode to Lecompton and reported to Governor Shannon that he had been assaulted in the discharge of his duties, and demanded a military escort for his protection. April 23d he reappeared in town accompanied by Lieutenant McIntosh and eleven soldiers. He succeeded in arresting six citizens on the charge of "contempt of court," as they declined to assist him in making arrests during former visits. Instead of proceeding to Lecompton with his prisoners, he remained in town, possibly with the hope of exciting an attempt at rescue. Though threats had been freely made against him, he chose to spend the night in McIntosh's tent rather than in less exposed quarters. During the evening Jones and the lieutenant went out to a neighboring water barrel for a drink. While they were there a shot was fired from a little knot of men standing at no great distance. "I believe that was intended for me," said Jones, with a shrug. The lieutenant thought he must be mistaken as several pistols had been discharged, apparently into the air, since night-fall. "That was intended for me," said Jones, when they returned to the
tent, "for here is the hole in my pants." The lieutenant hurried out to investigate the affair. "I immediately joined the crowd," he reports, "and while speaking to them heard another shot, and at the same time some of my men exclaimed, 'Lieutenant, the sheriff is dead.'" Not many seconds later a young man -- J. P. Filer by name -- with his pistol still smoking -- burst into a cabin hard by where two or three chums were sitting, and said, "Boys, hide this; I've shot Sheriff Jones." After a hasty consultation they decided not to betray the culprit, and pledged themselves by a solemn oath to silence. For a quarter of a century the secret was faithfully kept.
The shooting intensified the general excitement. A public meeting of the citizens of Lawrence on the following day denounced it "as the act of some malicious and evil-disposed individual," for whose arrest they offered a reward of five hundred dollars. The congressional investigating committee were in session at Lawrence, and Whitfield, pro-slavery delegate to Congress, seized upon the unfortunate affair as a plausible pretext for attempting to break down the investigation. He declared himself in fear for his life, expatiated on the unreasonableness of asking witnesses to venture into an assassin's den, and actually fled the town, but crept back in a few days on finding that his absence did not affect the committee. Pro-slavery newspapers eulogized Jones as a noble
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patriot, "shot down by the thieving paupers of the North." Though the wound did not prove fatal, reports of his death were current and roused fiercer passions upon the border than lay within the compass of any Branson-rescue exploit. "His murder shall be avenged," said the "Squatter Sovereign," "if at the sacrifice of every abolitionist in the territory.... We are now in favor of leveling Lawrence and chastising the traitors there congregated, should it result in the total destruction of the Union."
At this juncture the pro-slavery cause was powerfully reinforced by the appearance in the field of the territorial judiciary. Early in May the grand jury of Douglas County was in session at Lecompton. This jury Judge S. D. Lecompte, chief justice of the territory, instructed at large in reference to the extraordinary conditions and responsibilities under which they met. An exposition of the nature of treason figured in the address, the tenor of which, the judge writes, December 31st, 1884, "has been most grossly misrepresented."
"I have been charged with resorting to a constructive treason as within the scope of legitimate prosecution. I made no such flagrant departure from recognized American authorities -- I did not adopt as legitimate or tenable the monstrous proposition of stretching by construction the language of the Constitution to create a crime not within its clear and unavoidable import. I
remember as if it were but yesterday that I distinctly and explicitly repudiated the doctrine of constructive treason. I remember, too, that I explained the phraseology of the Constitution on this point in the spirit, if not in the words, of Wharton. Passing to the state of public affairs I took up the question whether treason could be committed against the United States by levying war upon the territorial government. I then held and still hold such hostility to be treason against the federal government. What constitutes hostility in this penal sense I also expounded with careful avoidance of adding a word beyond established doctrine. In my opinion the jury that dealt with these questions was not inferior to any of its successors in patriotism, fairness, or intelligence. That, in the madness of partisan strife, under the provocations of unprincipled leaders, when the laws of the territory were denounced as 'bogus,' their authority defied, and an opposing legislature, without semblance of authority, set up, when insurgent military forces were organizing, equipping, drilling -- that, I say in such untoward circumstances, the judiciary should have felt called upon to instruct the grand jury upon the subject of treason, that the grand jury should have made presentments, and the district attorney preferred indictments, can hardly be a cause for wonder."
On the list of traitors were Robinson, Reeder, Lane, and several other men prominent in free-state circles. A companion indictment for "usurpation of office" was also issued against Robinson.
In the reorganized campaign the first attack fell
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upon Reeder, who was summoned May 6th before the grand jury of Douglas County, while in attendance upon the investigating committee at Tecumseh. He declined to obey the subpoena on the ground that it was of more importance that he should attend the sessions of the committee than of the grand jury. Thursday, May 8th, the committee returned to Lawrence. There Deputy Marshal Fain appeared with an attachment against Reeder for "contempt of court." Reeder refused to be captured, and told the marshal that if he touched him it would be at his peril -- a show of spirit that pleased the spectators, who came crowding into the room. But the situation soon grew intolerable, and there was safety only in flight. Reeder succeeded in reaching Kansas City, where he lay concealed some days at the American House, a hotel kept by the Eldridge brothers. The well-known free-state character of the hotel gave it about town a bad name, which was now blackened especially by rumors that abolitionists were skulking there -- rumors that subjected it to constant mob - surveillance. On one occasion, suspicious border-ruffians resorted to a formal search of the premises, and it was only by the cleverest ingenuity and presence of mind on the part of the household that they failed to unearth the fugitive. While concealed in the hotel, Reeder concluded that the time had fully come to make his will, into which he incorporated a brief but vigorous
description of the men who were frothing about his hiding-place, "I, Andrew H. Reeder:... in danger of being murdered by a set of wild ruffians and outlaws, who are outside of all restraints of order, decency, and all social obligations, and who are below the savage in all the virtues of civilization ... in view of my death, which may happen to-day or to-morrow, make this last will and testament."
Reeder escaped in disguise. Donning a suit of blue jean, with a battered straw hat on his head, a clay pipe in his mouth, and an axe in his hand presenting the appearance of a seedy journeyman wood-chopper -- he walked out of the hotel undetected, was rowed down the Missouri to an out-of-the-way landing, where a friendly river captain, who was in the secret, stopped for him. "Get aboard, you old scallawag," shouted the captain with simulated gruffness as the steamer touched the landing. "I won't wait two minutes for you!"
The Lecompton authorities intended to act with no less vigor in Robinson's case. The general plan of operations came to his ears through some defection among the grand jury. What course ought to be pursued in the crisis was the subject of anxious discussion. An all night consultation took place in Topeka, at which John Sherman, W. A. Howard, Charles Robinson, and W. Y. Roberts, together with Mrs. Sherman and
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Mrs. Robinson, were present, to settle upon a line of policy. Should the territorial laws, which denounced penalties of imprisonment against the utterance of anti-slavery sentiments, be enforced, a wholesale locking up of free-state men would follow. The conclusions reached at the conference had a belligerent look. For the first and last time, representatives of the state government seriously entertained purposes of resisting the territorial authorities. The plans as outlined contemplated further appeals to the North in hope of stirring it to active measures of sympathy, urged free-state men, obnoxious to the authorities, to avoid arrest as far as possible, and recommended the calling of an extra session of the state legislature for the purpose of putting the militia on a war-footing, in order to he prepared for emergencies. A halt must be called somewhere. If pro-slavery men were determined to force a collision, no better spot offered for a hostile stand than the state government. It was agreed that Governor Robinson should proceed eastward without delay to avoid the grand jury, as that body had as yet taken no action in his case; that he should confer with anti-slavery friends, and put the testimony thus far taken before the investigating committee beyond the reach of pro-slavery men, who would have been glad to get possession of it.
The plan miscarried. Governor Robinson got no farther eastward than Lexington, Missouri,
where he was seized and detained. Mrs. Robinson, who was allowed to proceed, delivered the papers of the congressional committee to Governor Chase, of Ohio, and prosecuted the political functions of the embassy by visiting New England and by attending the republican state convention of Illinois.
The arrest at Lexington was entirely arbitrary. Robinson remained there under surveillance nearly a week before the necessary legal papers could be obtained from Kansas. When they arrived he was handed over to Federal Colonel Preston, who set out with him for Lecompton. The route lay through Lawrence. "If the people of Lawrence," said Preston, "attempt a rescue, of which I hear rumors, the escort will shoot you on the spot." This communication was not very reassuring. "Well," the Colonel continued, "such are my orders." Governor Shannon, apprehending trouble, stopped the party at Franklin, and ordered it back to Kansas City. From that point the party proceeded up the river to Leavenworth, which was reached Saturday, May 24th. The prisoner experienced no special ill-usage in Leavenworth until Monday, the 26th, when there was a tremendous ferment. During the day newspaper extras arrived containing reports of free-state outrages on the Pottawatomie -- reports that pro-slavery settlers in that region had been dragged from their cabins at dead of night and butchered. The news
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quickly called together an excited, angry, desperate crowd. A proposition to retaliate by mobbing the free-state governor roused general and boisterous enthusiasm. Thomas H. Gladstone, correspondent of the London "Times," and author of "Kansas; or, Squatter Life and Border Warfare in the Far West," mingled among the rioters and caught some of their talk: "Let us get hold of him; if we don't serve him out powerful quick. The hangin' bone villain, he may say his prayers mighty smart now. I'll be dog-gauned if we don't string him up afore the day's out. Hangin's a nation sight too good for him, the mean cuss. He ought to have been shot through the head right away -- that's how I'd serve him." A Missourian -- an old California acquaintance whose life Robinson had saved years before by timely medical service in a cholera panic -- called toward evening. He seemed very much affected, and did not speak for some minutes. "You once did me a good turn," he finally managed to say, "and I've been trying to repay it all day. The boys have decided to kill you. I've done everything in my power to quiet them, but it's no use. I thought I'd come and tell you about it." Only by the greatest exertion did the authorities succeed in defeating the plans of the lynchers. The chief justice of the territory, whose discourse on treason before a grand jury initiated the whole movement, a major-general of militia, and a
United States marshal stood guard over the prisoner during the night and saw him on the way to Lecompton early in the morning before the town was astir.
The grand jury of Douglas County wrought great havoc among free-state leaders -- Reeder fleeing in the disguise of a wood-chopper, Robinson a prisoner, Lane out of the territory, and other men, to whom the public confidence had been given, soon to be successfully hunted down. But this triumphant grand jury had not yet run its course. It found bills of indictment against two newspapers of Lawrence -- the "Herald of Freedom" and the "Kansas Free State"-- whose inflammatory and seditious language overpassed the limits of sufferance, and against the principal hotel of that town, which some extraordinary obliquity of vision transformed into a military fortress, "regularly parapeted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms."
Well aware that the business in hand could not be accomplished unless aided by a military force, Marshal Donaldson issued a proclamation calling upon law-abiding citizens to rally at Lecompton for his assistance. It was time to cease dawdling. Lawrence, that "foul blot on the soil of Kansas," must be humiliated; her newspaper press, wagging its tongue most vilely, silenced; her battlemented stone hotel, headquarters of abolitionism and property of the infamous Emigrant Aid Company,
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demolished, and any skulking and uncaged remnant of traitors that were harbored in the town seized or scared out of the territory. Marshal Donaldson's proclamation, circulated for the most part in three or four pro-slavery towns of the territory, and in the border counties across the river, precipitated a large armed multitude toward the rendezvous at Lecompton -- wild, hectic, mischief-meaning gangs, men cultivating the proprieties more or less in Missouri, but relapsing into a state of semi-barbarism when they touched the soil of Kansas. Governor Shannon was not at ease over the matter. "Had the marshal called on me for a posse," he wrote President Pierce, "I should have felt bound to furnish him one composed entirely of United States troops." President Pierce also was in a disquieted frame of mind. "My knowledge of facts is imperfect," he wrote Shannon May 23d, "but with the force of Colonel Sumner at hand I perceive no occasion for the posse, armed or unarmed which the marshal is said to have assembled at Lecompton."
Lawrence took apprehensive note of the hostile preparations and resorted, as during earlier troubles, to a committee of safety. Great confusion prevailed. None of the old leaders were on the ground, and new ones had not yet won their spurs. After many conferences and discussions the committee decided to temporize, to expostulate, to manuoevre -- in a word, to do anything except
fight. This unwarlike diplomacy, though not particularly soul-inspiring, was doubtless politic. When Donaldson's proclamation reached Lawrence, the citizens held a public meeting and pronounced the charges of insubordination and disloyalty contained in it unqualifiedly false. They sent messages, expostulations, appeals to Lecompton in swift, nervous succession. Nothing of overture and concession did they leave untried. "We only await an opportunity," pleaded these unappreciated and despondent patriots, "to test our fidelity to the laws of the country, the Constitution, and the Union." Deprecatory and exculpating talk fell unheeded. No humilities of concession could divert the invaders from their prey.
Discomforts and perils thickened. May 19th a detachment of the marshal's posse shot a young man -- mainly for the sensation and satisfaction of killing an abolitionist. Three adventurous fellows, on hearing the news, snatched their weapons, dashed out of Lawrence to hunt the scoundrels, and began a fusillade upon the first travelers they encountered without any nice preliminary investigations. The expedition turned out unfortunately for one of the assailants, the brutal Missourians reporting that they had made "wolf-meat" of him.
Tuesday, May 20th, was a day of quiet. Little of the stir and confusion that naturally belong to military operations appeared. Citizens of Lawrence
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began to take heart, and to conjecture that the peril might have been exaggerated. But Wednesday morning they were undeceived. At an early hour a troop of horsemen quietly took possession of the bluffs west of town. Reinforcements gradually swelled the numbers during the morning until they reached several hundreds. It was a representative gathering -- including the principal pro-slavery leaders, with Atchison at their head, the recent recruits from South Carolina and other states, the usual delegations of Missourians, and a sprinkling of actual residents in the territory.
The town lay in Sabbatic repose at the foot of the bluff. When it was definitely settled that there should be no resistance, most of the arms-bearing population whisked away like sea-birds blown landward by a tempest. The committee of safety instructed citizens who remained in town to ignore with lofty unconcern the whole noxious brood of marshals, sheriffs, and posses, and to go about their affairs as usual. Fearing that the unnatural quietude might hide some ambush, Atchison dispatched runners from the bluff to reconnoitre. They reported that the cowardly Yankees would not fight -- a disposition which radically simplified the business of writ-service.
At eleven o'clock Deputy Marshal Fain, attended by an escort of six coatless men with revolvers belted about them, walked down into the village
and arrested three men whose names were on the treason-list. Never were fewer obstacles thrown in the path of an officer. The alleged traitors, if they did not actually present themselves for arrest, conformed to the meekest and most inoffensive models of behavior. What is more, the committee of safety handed the deputy marshal a note addressed to Donaldson, in which they virtually abandoned everything for which free-state men contended, and whipped over upon out and out law and order ground. But this last and unreserved concession availed as little as those which preceded it.
After Deputy Marshal Fain s peaceable and easy success in making arrests, pro-slavery leaders -- Atchison, Jones, Donaldson, General Richardson, of the territorial militia, Colonel Titus, of Florida, Major Jackson, of Georgia, and others ventured from the bluffs and rode about town on a tour of observation. S. W. Eldridge, proprietor of the hotel, so ill-reputed in pro-slavery quarters, politely asked the strolling gentry to dine, and they cheerfully accepted the invitation. But even a good dinner, and that without charge, carried no more influence as a town-saver than the surrendering protocols.
The afternoon presented a more exciting scene. With the successful bagging of traitors, the primal and technical duties of the escort were concluded. But the nuisances were not yet abated. Marshal
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Donaldson and his advisers, though some of them belonged to the legal fraternity, reposed an astonishing confidence in the virtues and prerogatives of the famous grand jury of Douglas County. Scorning such intermediate steps as citations, hearings, opportunities for explanation or defense, and the like, they wrecked a hotel and threw two printing-presses into the river, upon the authority of a bare grand jury presentation. "That presentment," said Judge Lecompte in a letter, August 1st, 1856, to Hon. J. A. Stewart, of Maryland, "still lies in court. No time for action on it existed -- none has been had -- no order passed -- nothing done, and nothing ever dreamed of being done, because nothing could rightly be done but upon the finding of a petit jury."
But let the posse give attention. A crier is riding about among the men shouting" I am authorized to say that the marshal has no further use for you; thanks you for the manner in which you have discharged your duties; asks you to make out a statement of the number of days of service with affidavit and you shall be paid. Now, gentlemen, I summons you as the posse of Sheriff Jones. He is a law and order man, and acts under the same authority as the marshal."
Jones, scarcely recovered from his wound, was received with applause. The situation pleased him well, much better than it did Atchison, who thundered indeed, during the months of preparation,
against the Yankees with resounding oratory -- outdone in verbal savageness only by the junior editor of the "Squatter Sovereign," a modern Herod, who swore that he was prepared "to kill a baby if he knew it would grow up an abolitionist." But now, in the presence of opportunities for transmuting words into deeds, Atchison urged moderation. "I made several speeches, at least half a dozen," he said, in an account of the affair October, 1884 "riding horseback, to the different companies. I spoke in the interest of peace -- exerting myself to check, not to incite, outrage. It was not my wish that the hotel should be destroyed. I urged Jones to spare it. I told him that it would satisfy the ends of justice if he should throw a cannon-ball through it and there let the matter rest. But Jones was bent on mischief, and I could do nothing with him." The "Squatter Sovereign" of June 24th, 1856, denounces current free-state versions of Atchison's talk as false, and gives what it alleges to be a trustworthy text. "He exhorted the men above everything to remember that they were marching to enforce, not to violate, laws; to suppress, and not to spread, outrage and violence." Nor was Atchison alone in deprecating excesses. On the day after the destruction of the town, nine citizens of Lawrence met in Lane's cabin and drew up a memorial to President Pierce, denouncing the territorial officials as a set of men who
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"attempt the administration of law on principles of perjury and brigandage,... utterly ignoring the oaths they have taken,.... at will despoiling men of their property and lives." These nine sharp-tongued citizens wish to put on record the fact that many "captains of the invading companies exerted themselves to the utmost for the protection of life and property. Some of them ... endeavored to dissuade Samuel J. Jones from [his fell designs].... Colonel Zadock Jackson, of Georgia, did not scruple to denounce either in his own camp or in Lawrence the outrages.... Colonel Buford, of Alabama, also disclaimed having come to Kansas to destroy property." But the immitigable Jones successfully faced down all pacific talk.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon when the great posse marched down from its camp, dragging along five pieces of artillery, and began slowly to feel its way up Massachusetts Street a main thoroughfare of the town. The caution and deliberation of the movement indicated fear that a hidden enemy might suddenly dash out from the cabins, or deliver an unexpected volley from behind the still extant earth-works built during the Wakarusa war. Banners this host bore with various devices -- "South Carolina," "Southern rights," "Superiority of the white race," "Kansas the outpost." One flag was alternately striped in black and white; another had the national
stripes with a tiger in place of the union. But no ambushing enemy sprang upon the wary warriors. When the last rifle-pits were reached, and all visions of peril vanished like smoke-wreaths into the air, a yell of triumph burst from the ranks. It was now straightforward, innoxious, larkish business. The posse made short work of the printing-offices -- breaking up presses, rioting calamitously among files, type, stock, exchanges; hurling the ruins into the street, or dumping them into the river. Here assuredly was a legible lesson which impudent newspapers that railed against territorial laws and spoke disrespectfully of slavery might profitably lay to heart.
The stone hotel required more elaborate and painstaking attention. Jones rode up in front of it, called for S. C. Pomeroy, a representative of the Emigrant Aid Company, and as "deputy marshal of the United States and sheriff of Douglas County" demanded possession of all Sharps rifles and all artillery in town. Pomeroy, after an expeditious and fugitive consultation with the committee of safety, replied that the rifles were private property, and therefore beyond his control, but that a cannon had been secreted thereabouts which would be turned over to him. The concession was enhanced by the fact of Pomeroy's consenting to act as guide to the surreptitious arsenal. Such service ought to have put him on good terms with the champions of law and order,
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but the ingrates, so far from appreciating his exertions, had the heartlessness to discuss, though probably with no very serious intent, the question of hanging him.
Jones directed the hotel to be emptied of furniture, but his order was only partially carried out. The five pieces of artillery bristled in a row just across the street, and opened fire upon the nuisance that had sinned so grievously, so unpardonably against the public safety." I counted thirty shots," said an on-looker. The cannonade inflicted trifling damage in the porous concrete walls, and a swifter method of destruction was sought out. If the building could not readily be battered down, certainly it could be blown to pieces. A keg of gunpowder was carried into the parlor and a slow-match of bepowdered lard prepared. Furiously did the train hiss and sizzle and splutter, emitting great volumes of smoke, and promising a hideous climax of devastation; but the explosion, which reminded the spectator, who counted the artillery discharges, of "a blast down in a well," accomplished little beyond breaking a few panes of glass. In the discomfiture of more pretentious appliances of destruction, an elemental and primitive leveler remained, to which there was successful resort -- the torch. The sons of law and order victoriously fired the hotel, but not until after a careful examination of the liquor cellar. Researches in that quarter may have been in some
degree responsible for the turbulence with which the nuisance-abating concluded. Stores were pillaged, houses rummaged, and Governor Robinson's residence was burnt to the ground. Nothing escaped the curious and inquisitive marauders neither trunks, drawers, cupboards, nor clothespresses. More than one seedy wardrobe was refitted out of the spoils. Gladstone encountered some of the ruffians at Kansas City on their return, and remarked a "grotesque intermixture in their dress, having crossed their native red shirt with a satin vest or narrow dress-coat pillaged from some Lawrence Yankee, or having girded themselves with the cords and tassels which the day before had ornamented the curtains of the free-state hotel."
While these calamities were overtaking the territory a startling pro-slavery denouement occurred in Washington. Charles Sumner began his speech on "The Crime against Kansas" May 19th, which he concluded on the afternoon of the 20th, when the posse of Marshal Donaldson was tightening its coils about Lawrence. The speech, a brilliant, indignant, unmeasured, exasperating philippic against the course of the slave-power in Kansas, raised a violent and angry excitement. General Cass pronounced it "the most un-American and unpatriotic speech that ever grated on the ears" of Congress. "He has not hesitated to charge more than three fourths of the Senate
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with fraud, with swindling, with crime, with infamy, at least a hundred times over in his speech," roared Douglas; "is it his object to provoke some one of us to kick him as we would a dog in the street, that he may get sympathy upon the just chastisement?" Mason, of Virginia, lamented that public interests and usage forced association in the Senate Chamber with "one utterly incapable of knowing what truth is" -- with "one whom to see elsewhere is to shun and despise."
Preston S. Brooks, representative from South Carolina, reduced to practice Douglas's suggestion. After the adjournment of the Senate, May 22d, while Sumner remained writing at his desk, Brooks approached, muttered out charges of libeling South Carolina and her sons, and followed them up by repeated blows on the head with a cane. The senator fell insensible to the floor. This affair was a fit companion piece to the destruction of Lawrence.
When one more blow should be delivered the dispersal of the free-state legislature, which was to meet at Topeka on the 4th of July -- would not the pro-slavery triumph be complete? On whom should be conferred the honor of administering a coup de grace to abolitionism in Kansas was a matter of debate. The patriots who distinguished themselves in May were anxious to take the field again in July. A hum of preparation ran along the border. Buford and the Southern
colonels put their men into training, but the authorities in Washington began audibly to demur. The suspicions and fears of President Pierce ripened into convictions; he did not wish to have any more armed mobs convoked to enforce the laws. It was settled that federal troops should furnish whatever assistance territorial officers might need in their dealings with the pin-feathered state government. These functionaries concurred in advising a semi-heroic treatment as the mildest recommendable course. Governor Shannon, temporarily out of the territory, wrote Colonel Sumner to disperse the legislature, should it assemble -- "peaceably if you can, forcibly if you must." Sumner, though friendly to free state interests, disapproved the Topeka movement. "I am decidedly of opinion," he wrote Acting-governor Woodson June 28th, "that that body of men ought not to be permitted to assemble. It is not too much to say that the peace of the country depends upon it." June 30th Woodson wrote Sumner in an apprehensive strain. "There is now no ground to doubt," he said, "that the bogus legislature will attempt to convene on the 4th proximo at Topeka, and the most extensive preparations are being made for the occasion. The country in the vicinity of Topeka is represented to be filled with strangers, who are making their way toward that point from all directions. Last evening I received information .. . that General Lane was
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on his way to Topeka with a very large force, and was then somewhere between that place and the Nebraska line.... It is deemed important that you should be at Topeka in person.... Judge Cato will be on the ground, and I have addressed a letter to the United States district attorney, Colonel Isaacs, requesting him to come over at once and attend in person to getting out the necessary legal processes." Colonel Sumner left Leavenworth for Topeka July 1st, where he concentrated five companies of dragoons with two pieces of artillery. '`I shall act very warily," he wrote the adjutant general, "and shall require the civil authorities to take the lead in the matter, throughout."
The bustle of hostile preparations in federal camps and in Missouri, as well as among territorial officials, had a discouraging and unbracing influence upon members of the state legislature. Unless a tonic of some kind could be administered, many of them might fail to appear in Topeka on the 4th of July, and the whole anti-slavery movement come to an inglorious collapse. To keep up courage, to secure a general interchange and discussion of opinion, a curious double-headed conference began in Topeka on the 3d -- an extra and informal session of the legislature and a numerously attended mass-convention. Both legislature and convention wrestled with the same perplexing question -- What ought to be done in
the present emergency? No formal and accredited policy emerged from the babel of discordant sentiments. Some members of these bodies urged that the state legislature should meet and proceed with business until dispersed by the federal authorities; others denounced further resistance to the territorial laws as a blunder, and counseled immediate submission. Governor Robinson and the free-state prisoners confined at Lecompton addressed a letter to the legislature, deprecating the adoption of any timorous, faint-hearted policy. That in the disjointed condition of affairs there might be some recognized authority, the mass convention appointed a "Kansas Central State Committee," thirteen in number, and authorized it "to assume the management and control of the free-state party of Kansas." The general committee chose an executive committee of five: J. P. Root, president; H. Miles Moore, secretary; James Blood, William Hutchinson, and S. E. Martin.
Colonel Sumner, on reaching Topeka, opened communications at once with free-state men. He sent for Captain Samuel Walker -- a personal friend and a member of the legislature. "I hear Lane is on the other side of the river," said Sumner, "and means to fight. How is that?" "There is n't a word of truth in the story. Lane is not in the territory. He is somewhere in the East making speeches." Marshal Donaldson, who was
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present, listened to the conversation with interest. "If I should get up before those legislative fellows," he inquired, "to read a proclamation, would n't some devil shoot at me?" "Nobody," said Walker, " will lift a finger against you."
The convention sent a committee to confer with Colonel Sumner. He was very anxious that the legislature should not meet at all, as he wished to escape the odium of coercive measures. That point the committee refused to yield. An understanding, however, was reached that the legislature should assemble and begin to organize, but quietly disperse at the command of the federal authorities.
The 4th of July found Topeka thronged with men, women, and children. Two free-state military companies were also in town. A nervous, wistful, depressed sentiment prevailed, as people at large were not in the secret of the cut-and-dried programme. The mass-convention, thinking its mission not yet fully accomplished, fearing that at the last moment a panic might seize upon the legislature and prevent it from assembling, resumed its sessions in the morning and fell lustily to work.
During the forenoon Marshal Donaldson, accompanied by Judge Rush Elmore, associate justice of the territory, sallied forth with a batch of official documents: President Pierce's proclamation of February 11th, which commanded "all
persons engaged in unlawful combinations against the constituted authority of the territory of Kansas ... to disperse;" Governor Shannon's proclamation of June 4th; a proclamation fresh from Acting-governor Woodson's own hand, forbidding "persons claiming legislative powers and authorities," on the point of assembling in Topeka, to organize "under the penalties attached to all willful violators of the laws of the land;" and finally a proclamation from Colonel Sumner, who announced that he should "sustain the executive of the territory."
Mistaking the mass-convention, gasconading in the streets, for the legislature, Marshal Donaldson informed the presiding officer that he had communications for the assembly. The marshal declined to risk so doubtful an experiment as reading aloud in public, and asked Judge Elmore to take his place. Donaldson retired with confusion of face when he discovered that he had pitched his bombshells into the wrong camp.
As the hour of twelve, when the legislature was to meet, approached, the dragoons, encamped on the outskirts of the town, formed in order of battle, dashed toward Constitutional Hall and surrounded it, while the two pieces of artillery, with gunners at their posts and slow-matches burning, commanded the principal street.
It lacked a few minutes of noon when Colonel Sumner entered the House of Representatives.
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Roll-call soon began, but no quorum was present; or, rather, a majority of the members, not understanding that the perils which seemed so formidable were of a pasteboard sort, did not answer to their names. After some activity on the part of the sergeant-at-arms there was a second reading of the membership list. Only seventeen responded. Colonel Sumner then rose and commanded the legislature to disperse -- a duty which at the beginning and at the close of his brief speech he declared to be the most painful of his whole life.
This 4th of July demonstration made a bad impression in Washington. Jefferson Davis, secretary of war, was disturbed by the affair. "I looked upon them [the members of the state legislature]," said he, "as men assembled without authority, men who could pass no law that should ever be put in execution, and that the crime would be in attempting to put the law in execution, and in the mean time they might be considered as a mere town meeting." Colonel Sumner did not escape official displeasure for his part in the transaction. In defense he fell back upon verbal requisitions of Acting-governor Woodson, who "was personally present in my camp desiring the interposition of the troops."
Missouri leaders, not sharing in the apprehensions of reaction that troubled the administration, now sunned themselves in the glow of victories apparently decisive. "It was everywhere anticipated,"
in the words of an address issued January, 1857, by the National Democracy of Kansas, "that these events would put an end to violence and restore the country to law and order and quiet." Such anticipations turned out to be delusive. Heavy blows had indeed been struck, but they were ill-advised, misdirected blows, and recoiled disastrously upon those who delivered them.