By john g. Nioolay and john hay

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precipitate the crisis. The House of Representa­tives at Washington, presided over by Speaker Banks, and under control of the opposition, sent an investigating committee to Kansas, consisting of Wm. A. Howard, of Michigan, John Sherman,1 of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri, which, by the examination of numerous witnesses, was probing the Border-Ruffian invasions, the illegality of the bogus Legislature, and the enormity of the bogus laws to the bottom.

Ex-Governor Reeder was in attendance on this committee, supplying data, pointing out from per­sonal knowledge sources of information, cross-examining witnesses to elicit the hidden truth. To embarrass this damaging exposure, Judge Lecompte issued a writ against the ex-Governor on a frivolous charge of contempt. Claiming but not receiving exemption from the committee, Reeder on his personal responsibility refused to permit the deputy. marshal to arrest him. The incident was not violent, nor even dramatic. No posse was summoned, no further effort made, and Reeder, fearing personal violence, soon fled in dis­guise. But the affair was magnified as a crowning proof that the free-State men were insurrectionists and outlaws.

It must be noted in passing that by this time the Territory had by insensible degrees drifted into the condition of civil war. Both parties were zealous, vigilant, and denunciatory. In nearly

i Owing to the illness of Mr. Its methodical analysis and pow-

Howard, chairman of the com- erful presentation of evidence

mittee, the long and elaborate made it one of the most popular

majority report of this committee and convincing political docu-

was written by John Sherman, ments ever issued.

oh. XXV,



p. 66.


ch.xxv. every settlement suspicion led to combination for defense, combination to some form of oppression or insult, and so on by easy transition to arrest and concealment, attack and reprisal, expul­sion, theft, house-burning, capture, and murder. From these, again, sprang barricaded and fortified dwellings, camps and scouting parties, finally cul­minating in roving guerrilla bands, half partisan, half predatory. Their distinctive characters, how­ever, display one broad and unfailing difference. The free-State men clung to their prairie towns and prairie ravines with all the obstinacy and courage of true defenders of their homes and fire­sides. The pro-slavery parties, unmistakable aliens and invaders, always came from, or retired across, the Missouri line. Organized and sustained in the beginning by voluntary contributions from that and distant States, they ended by levying forced contributions, by "pressing" horses, food, or arms from any neighborhood they chanced to visit. Their assumed character changed with their chang­ing opportunities or necessities. They were squads of Kansas militia, companies of " peaceful emi­grants," or gangs of irresponsible outlaws, to suit the chance, the whim, or the need of the moment.

Since the unsatisfactory termination of the " Wakarusa war," certain leaders of the conspir­acy had never given up their project of punishing the town of Lawrence. A propitious moment for carrying it out seemed now to have arrived. The free-State officers and leaders were, thanks to Judge Lecompte's doctrine of constructive treason, under indictment, arrest, or in flight; the settlers were busy with their spring crops; while the pro-



slavery guerrillas, freshly arrived and full of zeal, were eager for service and distinction. The former campaign against the town had failed for want of justification; they now sought a pretext which would not shame their assumed character as de­fenders of law and order. In the shooting of Sheriff Jones in Lawrence, and in the refusal of ex-Grovernor Eeeder to allow the deputy-marshal to arrest him, they discovered grave offenses against the territorial and United States laws. Determined also no longer to trust Governor Shannon, lest he might again make peace, United States Marshal Donaldson issued a proclamation on his own responsibility, on May 11, 1856, command­ing "law-abiding citizens of the Territory" "to be and appear at Lecompton, as soon as practicable and in numbers sufficient for the proper execu­tion of the law." Moving with the promptness and celerity of ^ preconcerted plans, ex-Vice-President Atchison, with Platte County Rifles and two brass cannon, the Kickapoo Rangers from Leaven-worth and Weston, Wilkes, Titus, Buford, and all the rest of the free lances in the Territory, began to concentrate against Lawrence, giving the marshal in a very few days a " posse " of from 500 to 800 men, armed for the greater part with United States muskets, some stolen from the Liberty arsenal on their former raid, others distributed to them as Kansas militia by the territorial officers. The Governor refused to interfere to protect the threat­ened town, though an urgent appeal to do so was made to him by its citizens, who after stormy and divided councils resolved on a policy of non-re­sistance.

Cn. XXV,

Memorial, Senate Ex. Doc., 3d Bess. 34th Cong. Vol. II., p. 74.

Phillips, pp. 289-90,


Senate Ex. Doe.,

3d Bess. 34th Cong.

Vol. II.,

, p. 75.



oh. XXV.

Memorial, Senate Ex.

Doc., 3d Sees. 34th Cong. Vol.

II., p. 77.

They next made application to the marshal, who tauntingly replied that he could not rely on their pledges, and must take the liberty to execute his process in his own time and manner. The help of Colonel Sumner, commanding the United States troops, was finally invoked, but his instructions only permitted him to act at the call of the Gov­ernor or marshal.1 Private persons who had leased the Free-State Hotel vainly besought the various authorities to prevent the destruction of their property. Ten days were consumed in these ne­gotiations ; but the spirit of vengeance refused to yield. When the citizens of Lawrence rose on the 21st of May they beheld their town invested by a formidable military force.

During the forenoon the deputy-marshal rode leisurely into the town attended by less than a dozen men, being neither molested nor opposed. He summoned half a dozen citizens to join his posse, who followed, obeyed, and assisted him. He continued his pretended search and, to give color to his errand, made two arrests. The Free-State Hotel, a stone building in dimensions fifty by seventy feet, three stories high and hand­somely furnished, previously occupied only for lodging-rooms, on that day for the first time opened its table accommodations to the public, and pro­vided a free dinner in honor of the occasion. The marshal and his posse, including Sheriff Jones, went among other invited guests and enjoyed the proffered hospitality. As he had promised to protect the hotel, the reassured citi-

Sumner to Shannon, May 12, 1856. Senate Ex. Doe., No. 10, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. V., p. 7.


zens began to laugh at their own fears. To their ch. xxv, sorrow they were soon undeceived. The military force, partly rabble, partly organized, had mean­while moved into the town.

To save his official skirts from stain, the deputy-marshal now went through the farce of dismissing his entire posse of citizens and Border Ruffians, at which juncture Sheriff Jones made his appearance, claiming the " posse" as his own. He planted a company before the hotel, and demanded a sur­render of the arms belonging to the free-State military companies. Refusal or resistance being out of the question, half a dozen small cannon were solemnly dug up from their concealment and, together with a few Sharps rifles, form­ally delivered. Half an hour later, turning a deaf ear to all remonstrance, he gave the pro­prietors until 5 o'clock to remove their families and personal property from the Free-State Hotel. Atchison, who had been haranguing the mob, planted his two guns before the building and trained them upon it. The inmates being removed, at the appointed hour a few cannon balls were fired through the stone walls. This mode of destruction being slow and undramatic, and an attempt to blow it up with gunpowder having proved equally un­satisfactory, the torch was applied, and the struc­ture given to the flames.1 Other squads had during the same time been sent to the several printing-offices, where they broke the presses, scattered the type, and demolished the furniture. The house of G-overnor Robinson was also robbed and burned.

i Memorial, Senate Executive Document, 3d Session 34th Congress. Vol. II., pp. 73-85.



ch. XXV.

House Ee-

ports, 2d

Sess. 36tli

Cong., Vol.

III., parti.,

p. 39.

Holloway, p. 334.


to the President.

Yery soon the mob was beyond all control, and spreading itself over the town engaged in pillage till the darkness of night arrested it. Meanwhile the chiefs sat on their horses and viewed the work of destruction.

If we would believe the chief actors, this was the " law and order party," executing the mandates of justice. Part and parcel of the affair was the pretense that this exploit of prairie buccaneering had been authorized by Judge Leeompte's court, the officials citing in their defense a presentment of his grand jury, declaring the free-State news­papers seditious publications, and the Free-State Hotel a rebellious fortification, and recommend­ing their abatement as nuisances. The travesty of American government involved in the transaction is too serious for ridicule. In this incident, con­trasting the creative and the destructive spirit of the factions, the Emigrant Aid Society of Massa­chusetts finds its most honorable and triumphant vindication. The whole proceeding was so child­ish, the miserable plot so transparent, the outrage so gross, as to bring disgust to the better class of Border Ruffians who were witnesses and acces­sories. The free-State men have recorded the honorable conduct of Colonel Zadock Jackson, of Georgia, and Colonel Jefferson Buford, of Alabama, as well as of the prosecuting attorney of the county, each of whom denounced the proceedings on the spot.


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