By john g. Nioolay and john hay

Download 4.94 Mb.
Size4.94 Mb.
1   ...   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45

Among other instrumentalities for executing the ch.xxv.. bogus laws, the bogus Legislature had appointed one Samuel J. Jones sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas Territory, although that individual was at the time of his appointment, and long afterwards, United States postmaster of the town of Westport, Missouri. Why this Missouri citizen and Federal official should in addition be clothed with a foreign territorial shrievalty of a county lying forty or fifty miles from his home is a mystery which was never explained outside a Missouri Blue Lodge.

A few days after the " law-and-order" meeting in Leaven worth, there occurred a murder in a small settlement thirteen miles west of the town of Lawrence. The murderer, a pro-slavery man, first fled to Missouri, but returned to Shawnee Mission and sought the official protection of Sheriff Jones; no warrant, no examination, no commit­ment followed, and the criminal remained at large. Out of this incident, the officious sheriff managed most ingeniously to create an embroilment with the town of Lawrence. Buckley, who was alleged to have been accessory to the crime, obtained a peace-warrant against Branson, a neighbor of the victim. With this peace-warrant in his pocket, but without showing or reading it to his prisoner, Sheriff Jones and a posse of twenty-five Border Ruffians proceeded to Branson's house at midnight and arrested him. Alarm being given, Branson's free-State neighbors, already exasperated at the murder, rose under the sudden instinct of self-pro­tection and rescued Branson from the sheriff and Wm PW1. his posse that same night, though without other .^uest0^?" violence than harsh words.


^ch. xxv. Burning with the thirst of personal revenge, Sheriff Jones now accused the town of Lawrence of the violation of law involved in this rescue, though the people of Lawrence immediately and earnestly disavowed the act. But for Sheriff Jones and his superiors the pretext was all-sufficient. A Border-Ruffian foray against the town was hastily organized. The murder occurred November 21; the rescue November 26. November 27, upon the brief report of Sheriff Jones, demand­ing a force of three thousand men " to carry out the laws," Grovernor Shannon issued his order to the two major-generals of the skeleton militia, " to collect together as large a force as you can in your division, and repair without delay to Leeomp-ton, and report yourself to S. J. Jones, sheriff of Douglas County."l The Kansas militia was a myth; but the Border Euffians, with their back­woods rifles and shot-guns, were a ready resource. To these an urgent appeal for help was made; and the leaders of the conspiracy in prompt obedience placarded the frontier with inflammatory hand­bills, and collected and equipped companies, and hurried them forward to the rendezvous without a moment's delay. The United States Arsenal at Liberty, Missouri, was broken into and stripped of its contents to supply cannon, small arms, and ammunition. In two days after notice a company of fifty Missourians made the first camp on Waka-rusa Creek, near Franklin, four miles from Law­rence. In three or four days more an irregular

i Governor Shannon, order to date. Senate Executive Docu-Richardson, November 27,1855. ments, 3d Sess. 34th Cong., Vol. Same order to Striekler, same II., p. 53.



army of fifteen hundred men, claiming to "be the sheriff's posse, was within striking distance of the town. Three or four hundred of these were nom­inal residents of the Territory;1 all the remainder were citizens of Missouri. They were not only well armed and supplied, but wrought up to the highest pitch of partisan excitement. While the Governor's proclamation spoke of serving writs, the notices of the conspirators sounded the note of the real contest. "Now is the time to show game, and if we are defeated this time, the Territory is lost to the South," said the leaders. There was no doubt of the earnestness of their purpose. Ex-Vice-President Atchison came in person, leading a battalion of two hundred Platte County riflemen.

News of this proceeding reached the people of Lawrence little by little, and finally, becoming alarmed, they began to improvise means of de­fense. Two abortive imitations of the Missouri Blue Lodges, set on foot during the summer by the free-State men, provoked by the election inva­sion in March, furnished them a starting-point for military organization. A committee of safety, hur­riedly instituted, sent a call for help from Law­rence to other points in the Territory, "for the purpose of defending it from threatened invasion by armed men now quartered in its vicinity." Sev­eral hundred free-State men promptly responded to the summons. The Free-State Hotel served as bar­racks. Governor Robinson and Colonel Lane were appointed to command. Four or five small re­doubts, connected by rifle-pits, were hastily thrown


Shannon, proclama­tion, No­vember 29, 1855. Sen­ate Ex. Doc., 3d 8ess.34th Cong., Vol. II., p. 56.

Phillips, p. 168.

i Shannon, dispatch, December 11, 1855, to President Pierce. Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Sess. 34th Cong., Vol. II., p. 63.


ch. xxv. tip; and by a clever artifice they succeeded in bringing a twelve-pound brass howitzer from its storage at Kansas City. Meantime the committee of safety, earnestly denying any wrongful act or purpose, sent an urgent appeal for protection to the commander of the United States forces at Fort Leavenworth, another to Congress, and a third to President Pierce.

Amid all this warlike preparation to keep the peace, no very strict military discipline could be immediately enforced. The people of Lawrence, without any great difficulty, obtained daily infor­mation concerning the hostile camps. They, on the other hand, professing no purpose but that of de­fense and self-protection, were obliged to permit free and constant ingress to their beleaguered town. Sheriff Jones made several visits unmolested on their part, and without any display of writs or demand for the surrender of alleged offenders on his own. One of the rescuers even accosted him, conversed with him, and invited him to dinner. These free visits had the good effect to restrain imprudence and impulsiveness on both sides. They could see that a conflict meant serious results. With the advantage of its defensive position, Lawrence was as strong as the sheriff's mob. On one point especially the Border Ruffians had a wholesome dread. Yankee ingenuity had invented a new kind of breech-loading gun called " Sharps rifle." It was, in fact, the best weapon of its day. The free-State volunteers had some months before obtained a partial supply of them from the East, and their range, rapidity, and effectiveness had been not only duly set forth but highly exaggerated by


many marvelous stories throughout the Territory ch.xxy. and along the "border. The Missouri backwoods­men manifested an almost incredible interest in this wonderful gun. They might be deaf to the " equalities" proclaimed in the Declaration of In­dependence or blind to the moral sin of slavery, but they comprehended a rifle which could be fired ten times a minute and kill a man at a thousand yards.

The arrivals from Missouri finally slackened and ceased. The irregular Border-Ruffian squads were hastily incorporated into the skeleton "Kansas militia." The " posse " became some two thousand strong, and the defenders of Lawrence perhaps one thousand.

Meanwhile a sober second thought had come to Governor Shannon. To retrieve somewhat the pre­cipitancy of his militia orders and proclamations, he wrote to Sheriff Jones, December 2, to make no arrests or movements unless by his direction. The firm defensive attitude of the people of Lawrence had produced its effect. The leaders of the con­spiracy became distrustful of their power to crush the town. One of his militia generals suggested that the Governor should require the " outlaws at Lawrence and elsewhere" to surrender the Sharps rifles; another wrote asking him to call out the Government troops at Fort Leavenworth. The Governor, on his part, becoming doubtful of the legality of employing Missouri militia to enforce Kansas laws, was also eager to secure the help of Federal troops. Sheriff Jones began to grow im­portunate. In the Missouri camp while the leaders became alar,med the men grew insubordinate. " I


ch. xxv. have reason to believe," wrote one of their promi­nent men, " that before to-morrow morning the black flag will be hoisted, when nine out of ten will rally round it, and march without orders upon Lawrence. The forces of the Lecompton

to Ri- camp fully understand the plot and will fight under

son; Phil- jn *,

lips, p. 210. the same banner."

After careful deliberation Colonel Sumner, com-manding the United States troops at Fort Leaven-worth, declined to interfere without explicit orders from the War Department. These failing to arrive in time, the Governor was obliged to face his own dilemma. He hastened to Lawrence, which now invoked his protection. He directed his militia generals to repress disorder and check any attack on the town. Interviews were held with the free-State commanders, and the situation was fully dis­cussed. A compromise was agreed upon, and a formal treaty written out and signed. The affair was pronounced to be a " misunderstanding"; the Lawrence party disavowed the Branson rescue, denied any previous, present, or prospective organ­ization for resistance, and under sundry provisos agreed to aid in the execution of " the laws " when called upon by " proper authority." Like all com­promises, the agreement was half necessity, half trick. Neither party was willing to yield honestly nor ready to fight manfully. The free-State men shrank from forcible resistance to even bogus laws. The Missouri cabal, on the other hand, having three of their best men constantly at the Governor's side, were compelled to recognize their lack of justifica­tion. They did not dare to ignore upon what a ridiculously shadowy pretext the Branson peace-


warrant had grown into an army of two thousand ch.xxv. men, and how, under the manipulation of Sheriff Jones, a questionable affidavit of a pro-slavery criminal had been expanded into "the casns belli of a free-State town. They consented to a com­promise " to cover a retreat,"

When Governor Shannon announced that the difficulties were settled, the people of Lawrence were suspicious of their leaders, and John Brown manifested his readiness to head a revolt. But his attempted speech was hushed down, and the assur­ance of Robinson and Lane that they had made no dishonorable concession finally quieted their follow­ers. There were similar murmurs in the pro-slavery camps. The Governor was denounced as a traitor, and Sheriff Jones declared that " he would have wiped out Lawrence." Atchison, on the contrary, sustained the bargain, explaining that to attack Lawrence under the circumstances would ruin the Democratic cause. " But," he added with a sig­nificant oath, " boys, we will fight some time!" Thirteen of the captains in the Wakarusa camp were called together, and the situation was duly explained. The treaty was accepted, though the Governor confessed "there was a silent dissatis­faction" at the result. He ordered the forces to shannon to disband; prisoners were liberated, and with the Herc^De-opportune aid of a furious rain-storm the Border- iS senate

t-» f*r* i ' ' -ht- ;i Ex. Doe., 3d

Ruman army gradually melted away, is everthe- sesa. 34th less the "Wakarusa war "left one bitter sting to n6-^p-rankle in the hearts of the defenders of Lawrence, a free-State man having been killed by a pro-slavery scouting party. The truce patched up by this Lawrence treaty


ch. xxv. was of comparatively short duration. The excite­ment which had reigned in Kansas during the whole summer of 1855, first about the enactments of the bogus Legislature, and then in regard to the formation of the Topeka Constitution, was now extended to the American Congress, where it raged for two long months over the election of Speaker Banks. In Kansas during the same period the vote of the free-State men upon the Topeka Constitution and the election for free-State officers under it, kept the Territory in a ferment. During and after the contest over the speakership at Washington, each State Legislature became a forum of Kansas debate. The general public interest in the controversy was shown by discussions carried on by press, pulpit, and in the daily conversation and comment of the people of the Union in every town, hamlet, and neighborhood. No sooner did the spring weather of 1856 permit, than men, money, arms, and sup­plies were poured into the Territory of Kansas from the North.

In the Southern States also this propagandism was active, and a number of guerrilla leaders with followers recruited in the South, and armed and sustained by Southern contributions and appro­priations, found their way to Kansas in response to urgent appeals of the Border chiefs. Buford, of Alabama; Titus, of Florida; Wilkes, of Virginia; Hampton, of Kentucky; Treadwell, of South Caro­lina, and others, brought not only enthusiastic leadership, but substantial assistance. Both the factions which had come so near to actual battle in the " Wakarusa war," though nominally dis­banded, in reality continued their military organ-


izations,—the free-State men through apprehension oh. xxv. of danger, the Border Ruffians because of their purpose to crush out opposition. Strengthened on both sides with men, money, arms, and supplies, the contest was gradually resumed with the open­ing spring.

The vague and double-meaning phrases of the Lawrence agreement furnished the earliest causes of a renewal of the quarrel. "Did you not pledge yourselves to assist me as sheriff in the arrest of any person against whom I might have a writ ?" asked Sheriff Jones of Robinson and Lane in a curt note. " "We may have said that we would j. K Holl_0. assist any proper officer in the service of any legal JSy of Kan-proeess," they replied, standing upon their inter- S27|, ale?' pretation. This was, of course, the original con­troversy—slavery burning to enforce her usurpa­tion, freedom determined to defend her birthright. Sheriff Jones had his pockets always full of writs issued in the spirit of persecution, but was often baffled by the sharp wits and ready resources of the free-State people, and sometimes defied out­right. Little by little, however, the latter became hemmed and bound in the meshes of the various devices and proceedings which the territorial offi­cials evolved from the bogus laws. President Pierce, in his special message of January 24, isse. declared what had been done by the Topeka move­ment to be " of a revolutionary character" which would " become treasonable insurrection if it reach the length of organized resistance."

Following this came his proclamation of Febru­ary 11, leveled against a combinations formed to me. resist the execution of the territorial laws." Early vol. I—29



ch. xxv. in May, Chief-Justice Lecompte held a term of his court, during which he delivered to the grand jury his famous instructions on constructive treason. Indictments were found, writs issued, and the prin­cipal free-State leaders arrested or forced to flee from the Territory. Governor Eobinson was ar­rested without warrant on the Missouri Elver, and brought back to be held in military custody till September.1 Lane went East and recruited addi­tional help for the contest. Meanwhile Sheriff Jones, sitting in his tent at night, in the town of Lawrence, had been wounded by a rifle or pistol in the attempt of some unknown person to assas­sinate him. The people of Lawrence denounced the deed; but the sheriff hoarded up the score for future revenge. One additional incident served to

i Governor Robinson being on his way East, the steamboat on which he was traveling stopped at Lexington, Missouri. An unauthorized mob induced the Governor, with that persuasive­ness in which the Border Buf-fians had become adepts, to leave the boat, detaining him at Lex­ington on the accusation that he was fleeing from an indict­ment. In a few days an officer came with a requisition from Governor Shannon, and took the prisoner by land to Westport, and afterwards from there to Kansas City and Leavenworth. Here he was placed in the custody of Cap­tain Martin, of the Kiekapoo Bangers, who proved a kind jailer, and materially assisted in protecting nim from the danger­ous intentions of the mob which at that time held Leavenworth under a reign of terror.

Mrs. Bobinson, who has kindly

sent us a sketch of the incident, writes: " On the night of the 2 8th [of May] for greater security General Richardson of the mili­tia slept in the same bed with the prisoner, while Judge Lecompte and Marshal Donaldson slept just outside of the door of the prisoner's room. Captain Martin said: ' I shall give you a pistol to help protect yourself with if worse comes to worst V In the early morning of the next day, May 29, a company of dragoons with one empty saddle came down from the fort, and while the pro-slavery men still slept, the pris­oner and his escort were on their way across the prairies to Le-compton in the charge of officers of the United States Army. The Governor and other prisoners were kept on the prairie near Lecompton until the 10th of September, 1856, when all were released."

Share with your friends:
1   ...   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page