The year 1855 had been a year of much progress in Lawrence. Immigration flowed in continually, and many improvements were made. The hay tent seems to have disappeared, and the shake shanty and the log cabin took its place. There were even a few fairly built frame houses erected, and some of stone or "concrete," as it was called. The people were more comfortably housed than they were the year before. Still there was a good deal of exposure and a good deal of suffering, as many new-comers were but very inadequately sheltered. Most of the business houses were temporary affairs made to serve the occasion. The most substantial improvement was the building of the Free-State Hotel on the site of the present Eldridge House. It was built by the Emigrant Aid Company at a cost of about $20,000. It was fifty feet front and seventy feet deep, three stories high, with a basement story. It was of stone and quite solidly built. It was begun in the spring of 1855, but not completed until the following spring. The roof was on at the time of the Wakarusa war, and it furnished an excellent shelter for the troops and headquarters for the leaders. It rendered important service even in its unfinished condition.
Three churches were formed during this year, 1855. In the spring of that year Rev. Ephriam Nute was sent out by the American Unitarian Association, and commenced holding services in the open air. About the same time Mr. E. B. Whitman, a man who had been prominent in educational affairs in Massachusetts, came to Lawrence and joined with Mr. Nute in the work of developing a Unitarian Church, They took steps towards securing a house of worship, but the troubles of the summer prevented their doing much at that time. Mr. Nute was quite prominent in public affairs. He was a man of fine address, great energy, and was perfectly fearless in speech and conduct. His spirited letters to eastern papers did much to increase the public interest in the Kansas question.
The Methodists commenced services in Lawrence late in the fall of 1854, and a class was formed in the following spring. But the class became scattered and soon disbanded. During the summer, however, Rev. L. B. Dennis succeeded in making a permanent organization. They held their services in the open air under one of the trees in Central Park. Here the church was formed, and here they continued to worship during the summer. Later in the season they secured a room in the "Union House," and the following summer they worshiped again in a tent.
The Baptist Church was formed June 25th, 1855, and included the following persons: J. S. Emery, M. M. Hammond, S. Jones, Rebecca W. W. Jones, W. F. Herrick, Lydia A. Herrick, Elizabeth Parks. They worshiped in the private homes of the members for several months, and then in more public rooms and halls as they could secure them.
The times, however, were not favorable for church work or church growth. The disturbances kept the minds of the people in a continual ferment all summer, and little else was thought of beyond the public defense. All the religious services were compelled to adapt themselves to the exigencies of the times. They were held here and there as was found possible, and sometimes they were entirely suspended for weeks together. It was no unusual thing for church services to be interrupted by a call for the men to rally for the defense of the town. At other times the women and children only met, the men being away on duty. One of the pastors of this period writes: "All the public buildings are turned into barracks, the preaching hall with the rest, and nothing is thought of but the best means of defense."
The same happened in regard to the schools. The people were determined to have a free school whenever possible. Mr. E. P. Fitch opened a school in January of this year, 1855, and Miss Kate Kellogg opened a school in June and continued three months. But the disturbances so thickened later on that no further effort was made in this line until the following year.
There had been much more progress in the unifying of the community than in the enlarging of it. They were all inspired by a common purpose, and they were all confronted by common danger. These two causes drove the community together in a peculiar way. They felt the need of each other's sympathy in a way that created a peculiar bond, and the companions of those trying times ever after had a strong interest in each other. They knew each other better than citizens of older communities after years of association. They were so dependent on each other, both for protection and friendship, that the common jealousies and cliques and classes that usually play so large a part, had little chance to develop. In a very peculiar way and in a very unusual degree they were a unit, understanding each other and helping each other. Their attitude towards the territorial laws made them unusually considerate of one another. They did not recognize the territorial laws, and so could not appeal to the territorial courts. They had to settle their differences among themselves. This made them very careful to avoid differences and disputes. It put them all "under bonds to keep the peace."
Another peculiarity of this time was the identity of interest in town and country. As far as community of feeling was concerned, the country about Lawrence for fifteen miles was simply an extension of Lawrence itself. They had all come for one purpose, and they all had one cause. Their attachment to the common cause was stronger than any local attachment. They were all one community, and whether they happened to live inside the limits or outside made little difference. They had come to make Kansas a free state: that was the common bond. Where they should live was a secondary consideration. Some of them remained in town, and others went out into the country; but they were none the less one people, with one chief purpose. As far as interest and loyalty was concerned, Lawrence had just as good citizens ten miles out as in the center of town. They were all one compact people. To the westward, for example, the Barbers, Thomas Pierson, Captain Walker, Charles W. Smith, and many others, were just as loyal to Lawrence and just as ready to rally to her defense as if they lived within the limits. To the east and south it was the same way. Major J. B. Abbott, a man of rare courage and coolness, lived beyond the Wakarusa. He was born a leader, and did a great deal of valliant service. He was a sort of outpost to Lawrence. They began to touch Lawrence when they came to where he lived, and were very apt to feel something of the force of Lawrence as well. Then still further out there was Thadeus Prentice, an original character, who in appearance might be considered a companion piece to Jim Lane. He had a rare faculty of getting news. If any mischief was brewing in his direction, he would somehow get wind of it by a sort of instinct, by a sort of sixth sense. Whenever he felt that there was something in the air of this kind, he would mount his horse and ride into Lawrence. Whenever the people saw the tall, gaunt figure of "Thad. Prentice" coming down the street, they knew that it was "tidings, my Lord, tidings." He always came in with a smile, greeting his friends on the street as he passed. He had many quaint expressions which came to seem like a part of him. If everything was favorable he would reply to the questions asked him, "Oh, everything is lovely and the goose hangs high." These are but a few of those who, all around Lawrence, were just as much interested in her defense as those who lived within the town limits.
Up to December 8th the winter had been very mild. On the evening of that day a cold rain set in, which soon changed to sleet and snow. From that on the winter was very severe, said by some to be the severest ever known in the history of Kansas. The settlers were poorly prepared to face such a winter. The previous winter had been so mild that the need of protection against cold was not understood. The houses were open and exposed. Log cabins poorly chinked and shake shanties with gaping sides were a poor defense against a genuine northwester. The wind found its way through openings in the sides, and the snow sifted through the loosely constructed roof. It was no unusual thing to find six inches of snow on the floor in the morning. One lady said that water often froze upon her shawl as she stood over a hot stove cooking breakfast. Colonel Sam Walker says in a letter "that they often had to go to bed to keep from freezing." The severity of the winter had one favorable effect. It put a stop to all military movements, and if the people were cold they were quiet. They did not have to stand guard by night, nor march against the foe by day. They did not have much, but they were not in constant fear of having what little they had stolen.
A letter written by Captain Sam. Walker during this winter may be taken as illustrating the common condition:
"I failed to complete my log house before the winter of 1855-56 set in. The sides were up, roofed, and partly plastered when the Wakarusa war interrupted work. On my return home, on the conclusion of peace, the cold was so severe that nothing more could be done, and we had to shift the best we could till warmer 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 gable, 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 and make one's toilet under such circumstances was not a very comfortable performance. The wolf was never very far from our door during that hard winter of 1855-56."
Though the settlers were not molested during this severe weather, they knew the quiet was only temporary. The opening of spring would bring a renewal of hostilities. The hordes that had left Franklin so sullenly did not propose to drop the controversy. They saw they had made a mistake, and the free-state men had profited by it. Next time they would plan more wisely. They would not be caught in court again without a case. All over Missouri and the south preparations were going on to push the controversy to a successful issue for slavery. The shrewdest men in the land were planning together for the summer campaign. The general idea was to make it so uncomfortable for the free-state men that they would flee the country, and so that others would not come.
The line of attack was not hard to determine. The free-state men occupied a position that was difficult to maintain. They knew that the Shawnee legislature had been elected by Missouri votes. They pronounced its enactments an imposition and a fraud. They determined to ignore them and as far as possible to nullify them or destroy their effect. The laws were of the most extreme pro-slavery type. They not only protected slave property, but punished all acts and expressions against slavery with great severity. They could not even discuss the subject without becoming liable to criminal prosecution. Their only course was to ignore these laws and practically nullify them. Then nobody would dare to bring any slaves into Kansas. If there were no slaves in Kansas, slavery would not really exist, even though the laws did recognize it. In two years there would be another election, and by that time the free-state men felt they would be strong enough to take possession of all the machinery of government and shape the laws to suit themselves. If they could only keep things as they were till the next election, immigration from the north would do the rest.
The pro-slavery people, on the other hand, strove to force an immediate issue. They laid their plans to compel the free-state men to recognize the bogus laws, or else resist the officials charged with their enforcement. The problem of the free-state men was to ignore the bogus laws and yet avoid a collision. They might suffer violence, but as far as possible they were to avoid doing violence. Above all they were to avoid any collision with the authority of the United States.
Another element entered into the problem which must be mentioned that the whole situation may be understood. That element grew out of what has been referred to as the "Topeka movement." The free-state policy had its negative side in the rejection of the bogus laws. It had its positive side in the adoption of the Topeka constitution. During the autumn of 1855 the free-state people held a constitutional convention at Topeka which framed a state constitution. They then sent it to congress and asked to be received into the union as a state. The house of representatives passed the bill admitting Kansas as a state, but the senate rejected it. Thus the movement failed in congress, but it was kept alive in Kansas as a rallying point of defense. An election was held in January for state officers, and Dr. Robinson was elected governor. The legislature then chosen met in March and organized, and Governor Robinson sent in his message. No attempt was made, however, to put the state government into operation. But the thought was to do this if the situation became intolerable. The occasion never came and the Topeka government and constitution never went into effect.
As spring opened the policy of the pro-slavery men began to manifest itself. It was a deeply laid, shrewd scheme. It went on the assumption that the attitude of the free-state men toward the bogus laws was rebellion, and that the actors in the Topeka free-state movement were guilty of treason. They proposed to have the free-state leaders indicted for high crimes, and either have them arrested or compelled to flee from the territory. This will give a general clue to the new line of attack, and will show the animus and purpose of the violent proceedings which followed.
One of the difficulties of such a position as the free-state men were trying to maintain is that somebody is liable to go beyond the bounds defined by those who marked out the policy, and commit some deed which is abhorrent to them all, and which compromises them all. This happened several times during the Kansas struggle, and made that struggle much more severe and embarrassing. Such a thing happened just at the juncture of which we are speaking. The free-state men often had occasion to pray, "Save us from our friends." April 18th Sheriff Jones came into Lawrence to arrest some of the Branson rescuers. He did not succeed, and appeared again the next day and tried to arrest Samuel F. Tappan, but Tappan struck him in the face and escaped. This was as good a thing as Jones wanted. He now applied for a posse, and the governor gave him an officer and ten soldiers. April 23rd he appeared in town thus supported and arrested a number of citizens on various charges, most of them for "contempt of court" in not assisting him to make arrests on his previous visits. He was particularly offensive and insolent, and remained in town over night. While he was in the tent of his military posse, someone in the darkness outside shot him and wounded him. The man who fired the shot disappeared, but the citizens disavowed the act and offered five hundred dollars reward for the arrest of the assassin. Still they were held responsible for the crime, and it was used with great effect in stirring the passions of the pro-slavery people. It has never been known how severe a wound Jones received. He was reported in the pro-slavery papers as "foully murdered," "mortally wounded," "struck down in the night." As he was able to lead in the sacking of Lawrence less than a month after, his wound could not have been so very severe. But the affair was very unfortunate, as it added to the flame and placed the free-state men in a very awkward position.
The pro-slavery people brought to their aid the powerful influence of the judiciary of the territory. They had the forms of law, and they proposed to use them for all they were worth. The grand jury of Douglas county met at Lecompton early in May. Samuel D. Lecompte gave a charge which foreshadowed the new line of attack. He defined treason so as to point very plainly to the leaders of the free-state party. Among other things he said:
"This territory was organized by an act of congress, and so far its authority is from the United States. It has a legislature elected in pursuance of that organic act. This legislature being an instrument of congress by which it governs the territory, has passed laws. Those laws, therefore, are of United States authority and making, and all who resist those laws resist the power and authority of the United States, and are therefore guilty of high treason. Now, gentlemen, if you find that any persons have resisted these laws, then you must, under your oath, find bills against them for high treason. If you find that no such resistance has been made, but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, and individuals of notoriety have been aiding and abetting in such combinations, then must you find bills for constructive treason."
The mill having been set up by the chief justice, the grand jury began to grind out its grist of indictments. The first victim was ex-Governor Reeder. He was summoned before the grand jury, but he refused to obey the summons, as he was then attending the sessions of the congressional investigating committee, which was sitting in Lawrence. Deputy Marshal Fain then came to him with an order for his arrest for contempt of court. Reeder refused to be arrested, and told the marshal to touch him at his peril. This only made matters worse, as he would now be indicted for resisting an officer. He soon saw there was no escape except in flight. He fled in disguise to Kansas City, where he was concealed for several days in a friendly hotel. He was taken on board a steamboat going down the river. Going to a wooding station, below Kansas City, he jumped aboard disguised as a wood chopper. The captain of the boat of course was in the secret. He thus passed down the Missouri river and escaped safely into the free states. In the rooms of the State Historical Society at Topeka is a painting of Governor Reeder as he appeared in disguise. He is dressed as an Irish laborer, with a stick in his hand, an old clay pipe in his mouth, and an ax on his shoulder on which is suspended his "luggage" tied up in a handkerchief. It would be an expert detective who would suspect that this curious outfit was taking the distinguished ex-governor of Kansas out of the territory.
The plan of the grand jury was to proceed rapidly against all of the free-state leaders Robinson, Lane, Wood, Brown, Jenkins, and others and have them indicted for treason.
These men would either have to leave the country or be arrested and held as prisoners. Either result would tend to demoralize the free-state men. The jury conducted their business in secret, and did not intend to have their plan made public till they were ready to execute it. But one of the jurymen, who had a warm side towards some of the free-state men, warned them of their danger. All the men connected with the defense of Lawrence, and all those connected with the Topeka state government were to be indicted. Congressmen Howard and Sherman, of the congressional committee, and Governor Robinson and others held a council that night to decide upon a line of action. It was decided, among other things, that Robinson should go east at once to lay the situation before the governors and people of eastern states, and also to be out of the way when the indictments were to be served. He and Mrs. Robinson as soon as possible took a boat at Kansas City and proceeded eastward. When they reached Lexington, Missouri, a company of men came on board, pounded at his stateroom door, and told him he must leave the boat and come ashore. He asked them why he must be detained, and they replied, that they understood that he was a fugitive from justice. He told them there was no indictment against him and he had a right to do as he pleased. But his words availed nothing. They were determined to take him. The arrest was entirely arbitrary. They had no authority whatever, but they had received word from Kansas to hold him at all hazards, until the in dictment could be made out and the proper papers sent on. Mrs. Robinson was allowed to go on her journey, taking with her the papers and testimony they were bearing to eastern friends. They held the governor thus for nearly a week before the papers for his arrest were received. He was then taken back to Kansas. At Leavenworth a pro-slavery mob threatened to hang him, but were prevented from carrying out their purpose. He was then taken to Lecompton, where he and other free-state men were kept in a prison camp for several months. Among those prisoners under charge of high treason were such men as Charles Robinson, George W. Deitzler, G, W. Brown, Gaius Jenkins. Lane and Sam Wood were indicted but were out of reach. No attempt seems to have been made to arrest old John Brown. He was probably omitted because he was not a comfortable man to handle.
This wonderful grand jury distinguished itself in another line. It first indicted all the free-state leaders-some for things they had done, and some for things it was supposed they intended to do. But they were not content with searching the thoughts and interests of the heart. They turned their attention to subjects where there was no heart to search. They seemed to have discovered what some writer calls "the total depravity of inanimate things" In accordance with this principle they made the following presentment which is certainly original in the doings of courts:
"The grand jury, setting for the adjourned term of the first district court in and for the county of Douglas, in the territory of Kansas, beg leave to report to the honorable court, that, from evidence before them showing the Herald of Freedom, published at the town of Lawrence, has from time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and sedicious character, denying the legality of the territorial authorities, advising and demanding forcible resistance to the same, demoralizing the public mind, and rendering life and property unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last resort.
"Also that the paper known as the Free State has been similarly engaged, and has recently reported the resolutions of a public meeting in Johnson county, in this territory, in which resistance to the territorial laws even unto blood has been agreed upon, and that we respectfully recommend their abatement as a nuisance.
"Also that we are satisfied that the building known as the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence has been constructed with a view to military occupation and defense, and regularly parapetted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only be designed as a stronghold for resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety and encouraging rebellion and sedition to the country; and we respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed.
"OWEN STEWART, Foreman"
The Free State Hotel mentioned in this presentment had just been completed and furnished. It had been erected by the Emigrant Aid Company, and was probably the best building in the territory. It was certainly the best equipped hotel. There was nothing about it of a military character, unless its strong stone walls could be so considered. There was a motive in the indictment but it does not appear in the wording of it. The great lack of Lawrence had been a good hotel. People were hindered from coming to Kansas because they could not be comfortably cared for when they got here. Now they could tell the comfort-loving emigrant that Lawrence had as good a hotel as he would find in St. Louis. He could find a roof and a room the day he arrived, and need not live out of doors till he could build a cabin. It was bound to prove an "effective element in drawing free-state men to Kansas, and the whole question was one of immigration. The policy of the pro-slavery men was to keep away free-state settlers. To destroy this hotel was to remove a powerful attraction. All these disturbances had largely the same motive. They would keep the country in such a state of confusion and terror that settlers would be kept away.
The novelty of the proceedings becomes more manifest when we remember that the sheriff took the indictment of the grand jury for an order of the court. The legal process never went any further. There was no citation, and no trial and no sentence. These were trifles with which these high-minded men could not be troubled. They could not wait for formalities. The king's business demanded haste. The execution was the chief thing, and the execution anticipated all trial and all evidence. Lawrence, that foul nest of abolitionists, must be humiliated, and her free-spoken newspapers must be destroyed.
On the eleventh day of May, the United States marshal issued his proclamation. He stated that an attempt had been made to execute writs by the United States deputy marshal,
"Who was evidently resisted by a large number of the citizens of Lawrence, and there is every reason to believe that an attempt to execute these writs will be resisted by a large body of armed men; now, therefore, the law abiding citizens of the territory are commanded to be and appear at Lecompton, as soon as practicable, and in numbers sufficient for the execution of the law.
"I. B. DONALDSON,
"United States Marshal for Kansas Territory." The proclamation was posted in a few pro-slavery towns, and in Missouri. The response was so prompt that armed men began to gather before the free-state men had become aware of the proclamation. They saw at once what the thing meant. It was a plot to humiliate, or destroy Lawrence. The plan had been more carefully laid than in the Wakarusa war. The United States court had issued the order, and a United States marshal was to execute it. The people of Lawrence must tamely submit, or resist United States authority. They saw at once the seriousness of the situation, and bestirred themselves to avert the blow. The citizens held a meeting on the tenth of May and passed resolutions appealing to Governor Shannon to protect them from this army from another state. The governor replied that "there was no force around or approaching Lawrence, except the legally constituted posse of the United States marshal, and the sheriff of Douglas county, each of whom, I am informed, has a number of writs in their hands for execution against persons in Lawrence. I can in no way interfere with either of these officers in the discharge of their official duties.
"If the citizens of Lawrence submit themselves to the territoritorial laws, and aid and assist the marshal and sheriff in the execution of processes in their hands, as all good citizens are bound to do when called upon, they, or all such, will entitle themselves to the protection of the law. But so long as they keep up a military or armed organization to resist the territorial laws, and the officers charged with their execution, I shall not interfere to save them from the legitimate consequences of their illegal acts."
There was not much comfort in this letter and no hope of help from the governor. Another meeting was called of which Colonel Phillips in his Conquest of Kansas gives a report.
"The harsh partisan Letter of the governor could not be regarded as anything short of a declaration of war. As the people of Lawrence were anxious to avert trouble, a meeting was held and the following action taken:
"WHEREAS, By proclamation to the people of Kansas territory, by I. B. Donaldson, United States marshal for said territory, issued on the nth of May, 1856, it is asserted that certain judicial writs of arrest have been directed to him by the First District Court of the United States, to be executed within the county of Douglas, and that an attempt to execute them by the deputy marshal was violently resisted by a large number of the citizens of Lawrence, and there is every reason to believe that any attempt to execute them will be resisted by a large body of armed men, therefore,
"Resolved, By this public meeting of the citizens of Lawrence, held this 13th day of May, 1856, that the allegations and charges against us, contained in the aforesaid proclamation, are wholly untrue in fact, and in the conclusion drawn from them. The aforesaid marshal was resisted in no wise whatever, nor by any person whatever in the execution of said writs, except by him whose arrest the said deputy marshal was seeking to make; and that we now, as we have done heretofore, declare our willingness and determination, without resistance, to acquiesce in the service upon us, of any judicial writ against us by the United States marshal for Kansas territory, and will furnish him a posse for that purpose, if so requested; but that we are ready to resist, if need be, to the death, the ravages of an invading mob.
"J. A. WAKEFIELD, President:
"The resolution was forwarded to the marshal and to Governor Shannon.
"As I have said the marshal never sent a copy of his proclamation to Lawrence. The copy that reached Lawrence was sent to me from Lecompton by one of my agents, and was received a few hours after its issue. I carried it into the chamber of the committee of safety, which held a meeting that night. Its meetings were private. Several proposals were made, but the majority were unwilling to do anything. Lieutenant Governor Roberts and Colonel Holliday were opposed to any defense being made. Holliday urged that it was a busy season, and the farmers could not be taken from their farms to sustain another siege without great loss. Others urged that the merchants and business men had advanced provisions, stores and goods during the Wakarusa war, and had got pay for only a small part, and could not advance anything more for the defense of the place.
"Deitzler and several other members of the committee were for defending the place against the marshal's posse. The discussion was vague, pointless and unsatisfactory. There was no one to take the lead. One proposal was that three or four hundred men, armed only with pistols and other side arms, should go to Lecompton, and offer themselves to Donaldson as his posse, in obedience to his proclamation, and demand from the governor a share of the public arms then at Lecompton.
"The committee determined that matters should go as they were. Roberts declared that he did not mean to go out of the territory, but should stay and be arrested.
"I mention these things because they show why the impending blow was permitted. The people as a general thing wanted the town defended, and dispensed with the old committee, and elected a new one, composed in part of members of the first. The names are as follows: W. Y. Roberts, G. W. Deitzler, Lyman Allen, John A. Perry, C. W. Babcock, S. B. Prentis, A. H. Mallory, Joel G rover. A few days after this election Mr. S. C. Pomeroy arrived from the east, where he had been on business for the Emigrant Aid Society, and was admitted a member.
"A change of ruler does not always bring a change of policy. This second committee was more pacific than the first, although selected by the people with the expectation that resistance would be made. In fact it was the federal authority employed that acted as a weight against them."
It may be added to this account of Colonel Phillips that it had been the settled policy of the state, leaders not to resist United States authority. The decision of the committee not to resist does not argue any lack of courage but was in line with the settled policy of the free-state men.
The next day the committee and citizens held a joint meeting and determined to make another effort at pacification. They voted to send resolutions similar to those just quoted to the marshal with a letter as follows:
"LAWRENCE, May 14, 1856. "L.B. DONALDSON, United States Marshal for Kansas Territory:
"DEAR SIR:-We have seen a proclamation issued by yourself, dated nth of May, and also have reliable information that large bodies of armed men in pursuance of your proclamation have assembled in the vicinity of Lawrence.
"That there may be no misunderstanding we beg leave to ask respectfully that we may be reliably informed of the demands against us. We desire to state most truthfully and earnestly that no opposition will now or at any future time be offered to the execution of any legal process by yourself or any person acting for you. We also pledge ourselves to assist you, if called upon, in the execution of any legal process.
"We declare ourselves to be order-loving and law-abiding citizens, and only want an opportunity to test our fidelity to the laws of the country, the constitution and the union.
'' We are informed also that these men collected about Lawrence openly declare that their intention is to destroy the town and drive off the citizens. Of course we do not believe that you would give countenance to such threats, but in view of the excited state of the public mind we ask protection of the constituted authorities of the government, declaring ourselves in readiness to co-operate with them in the maintenance of the order and quiet of the community in which we live.
The reply of the marshal was not reassuring. It was both insolent and exasperating:
OFFICE OF UNITED STATES MARSHAL, LECOMPTON, K. T., May 15, 1856.
"MESSRS. G. W. DEITZLER and J. H. GREEN, Lawrence, Kansas Territory:-On yesterday I received a communication addressed to me, signed by one of you as president and the other as secretary, purporting to have been adopted by a meeting of the citizens of Lawrence held on yesterday morning. From your professed ignorance of the demands against you I conclude that you are strangers and not citizens of Lawrence; or of recent date, or have been absent for some time; more particularly when an attempt was made by my deputy to execute a writ of the first district court of the United States for Kansas territory against ex-Governor Reeder when he made a speech in the room, and in the presence of the congressional committee, and denied the power and authority of said court, and threatened the said deputy if he attempted to execute said process, which speech and defiant threats were loudly applauded by some one or two hundred of the citizens of Lawrence, who made such demonstrations that the deputy thought that he and his small posse would endanger their lives in executing the process.
"Your declaration that you will truthfully and earnestly offer now, or at any future time, no opposition to any legal process, is difficult to understand. May I ask, gentlemen, what has produced this wonderful change in the minds of the people of Lawrence? Have their eyes been suddenly opened so that they are now able to see that there are laws in Kansas territory which should be obeyed? Or, is it that just now those for whom I have writs have sought refuge elsewhere? Or, it may possibly be that you now, as heretofore, expect to screen yourself behind the word 'legal,' so significantly used by you. How am I to rely on your pledges when I am well aware that the whole population of Lawrence is armed and drilled, and the town fortified ? When too I recollect the meetings and resolutions adopted in Lawrence and elsewhere in the territory, openly defying the laws and the officers thereof, and threatening to resist the same to a bloody issue, as recently verified in the attempted assassination of Sheriff Jones
while in discharge of his official duties in Lawrence. If no outrages have been committed by the citizens of Lawrence against the laws of the land, they need not fear any posse of mine. But I must take the liberty of executing any and all processes in my hands as United States marshal, in my own time and manner, and shall only use such power as is authorized by law. You say you call upon the constituted authorities for protection. This indeed sounds strange, coming from a body of men armed with Sharpe's rifles and other implements of war, bound together by oaths and pledges to resist the government they call on for protection. All persons in Kansas territory, without regard to location, who honestly submit to the constituted authorities, will ever find me ready to aid in protecting them; and those who seek to resist the laws of the land, and turn traitors to their country, will find me aiding in enforcing the laws, if not as an officer, as a citizen.
'' Respectfully yours,
"I. B. DONALDSON,
"United States Marshal for Kansas Territory."
This reply cut off all hope of any relenting on the part of the marshal. Other efforts were made to avert the blow, but without effect. An attempt was made to induce the governor to secure United States troops to accompany the marshal instead of the miscellaneous mob which had assembled in answer to the marshal's proclamation. But the governor was not disposed even to do this much. He afterwards said he would have done this if the matter had been left to him. There remained nothing but to let events take their course. The marshal's posse had already begun to arrive before the proclamation was dated, showing that the plan was well understood, not by the marshal alone, but the pro-slavery people in Kansas and Missouri. The issuing of the proclamation was simply a form adopted to comply with the law. The word had gone out as to what was to be done, and the people began to gather. As they came they were armed with United States muskets, which had been sent for the use of the territorial militia. They had come promptly, for parties had been waiting on the border for these preliminaries of legal technicalities. They had failed in the Wakarusa war because these formal details had been carelessly attended to. They did not propose to have their plans upset again. Impatient as they were to get a blow at Lawrence, they would wait till the legal forms were complied with, rather than be balked again by the diplomacy of the shrewd Yankees.
As they came they formed camps at Lecompton, and other points, and awaited the orders of their chief. The whole country was once more in a state of terror. Travelers were stopped on the highway, people were robbed in their houses, stock was driven off, and houses were pillaged. A young man named Jones was murdered on his way home from Lawrence to his farm south of that place. Another man named Stewart, who went out with two others to secure the murderer, was also killed.
On the morning of May 21st, Marshal Donaldson with a posse of several hundred men, and some pieces of artillery, appeared on Mount Oread, the hill overlooking Lawrence. As these came under United States authority, it was decided to make no resistance. Deputy marshal Fain rode into town about eleven o'clock. The streets were very quiet. Some of the citizens were in prison, some who did not like the decision not to resist, took themselves out of the way. The deputy marshal rode up to the Free-State Hotel where the committee of safety were in session, and summoned a number of citizens to act as his posse in serving writs. He then arrested G. W. Smith, Gaius Jenkins, and G. W. Deitzler, who had been indicted for treason. The marshal and his men were invited to dine at the Free-State Hotel.
After dinner the marshal returned to the camp and told the men he had made all the arrests he desired at this time, and that they were dismissed. As soon as they were dismissed as the marshal's posse, Sheriff Jones summoned them to act as a posse for him, as he had some writs to serve. This then was their shrewd game. This mob was brought to Lawrence as the posse of the United States marshal. The people of Lawrence had determined in no case to resist United States authority. The town came easily into their possession. But an officer of the United States was limited by law and was compelled to pay some regard to decency and justice. All he could do was to make a few arrests to which the people made no objections. But as soon as the town had submitted and was helpless, he turned his posse over to Sheriff Jones who was hampered by no restrictions. The sheriff rode into town with a company of men and drew up in front of the hotel. He demanded first that all the arms in the place be given up to him. He gave the committee five minutes to decide. If the arms were not surrendered he would bombard the town. A hurried consultation was held, and it was decided to give up the cannon, and the arms in possession of the committee of safety. They told him the other arms were private property and not at the disposal of the committee.
The one cannon they possessed was hidden under a building and never could have been found by the invaders. But so anxiously nervous were they to appease the fussy sheriff and save the town, that General Samuel C. Pomeroy crawled under the building where the cannon was hidden, and dragged it out, and turned it over to Jones. But neither their promises nor their humiliation availed anything.
As soon as Jones had possession of the cannon and other arms, he proceeded to carry out his purpose to destroy the Free-State Hotel. He gave the inmates till five o'clock to get out their personal effects. When all was ready he turned his cannon upon the hotel and fired. The first ball went completely over the roof, at which all the people cheered, much to the disgust of Jones.. The next shot hit the walls but did little damage. After bombarding away with little or no effect till it was becoming monotonous, they attempted to blow up the building with a keg of powder. But this only made a big noise and a big smoke, and did not do much towards demolishing the house.
At every failure the citizen spectators along the street set up a shout. At last Jones became desperate, and applied the vulgar torch, and burned the building to the ground. Meanwhile the two newspaper offices had been ransacked, the presses broken and the type thrown into the river, or scattered along the street. The mob by this time had become thoroughly reckless, and were ransacking the town. Nearly every house was entered, and many of them robbed. Trunks were broken open, clothing stolen, and everything taken off to which they took a fancy. In the evening Governor Robinson's house was set on fire and burned to the ground.
Jones was exultant. His revenge was complete. "This is the happiest moment of my life," he shouted as the walls of the hotel fell. He had made the "fanatics bow to him in the dust." He then dismissed his posse and left.
The losses sustained by the people of Lawrence and surrounding country were quite heavy. It was estimated that the value of the property destroyed and stolen amounted to nearly $200,000. A newspaper correspondent speaks of seeing some of these legalized bandits in Kansas City the next day, dressed in articles stolen at the sack of Lawrence. "They had crossed their native red shirt with a satin vest, or a narrow dress coat, pillaged from some Lawrence Yankee, or had girded themselves with the cord and tassels which the day before had ornamented the curtains of the Free-State Hotel." The committee of safety sent a statement of the whole affair to Washington afterwards, and from their paper we quote a few paragraphs. "Men endeavored by argument, and women by tears, to alter the determination of Jones, but in vain. The work of pillage had commenced. The contents of the printing offices had been scattered in the streets, and the red flag planted on the roof, first of the office of the Herald of Freedom, and afterwards of the Free-State Hotel. The family of Mr. G. W. Brown were driven from their home, and the immediate pillage of the hotel was prevented only by the resolute interference of a few citizens, aided by some individuals of the mob, who kept a strict guard at the doors, and insisted that the families of the proprietors should have the time promised them by Jones in which to collect their most necessary effects and leave. At last the cannons were placed and ready, and it was announced to Colonel S. W. Eldridge, that the bombardment would commence in five minutes. His wife and children were driven off between files of United States bayonets, and amidst the yells of the impatient mob. The work of pillage spread through the whole town, and continued until dark. Every house and store which could be entered was ransacked, trunks broken open and money and property taken at will. In one house over two thousand dollars in money were carried away. The house of Charles Robinson was pillaged and burned to the ground. Towards evening the forces were drawn off to their camp, and the sack of Lawrence was concluded."
To evade the pledge of the United States marshal that his posse should not enter Lawrence, they were disbanded on the hill, and then summoned to act as a posse for Sheriff Jones. The marshal dismissed them at the town limits, and the sheriff led them in.
All this was done in the name of law by men sworn to administer the law. Among the crowd were a United States marshal and his deputy, David R. Atchison, late vice president of the United States, and other men of distinction. It is but justice to say that many of these men endeavored to restrain the mob within some sort of bounds, but the mob was not of the kind that drew nice distinctions between burning down a hotel against which no wrong had been proved, and ransacking a private house or store. They were common, rough men who could not draw the distinction between crime by order of a court, and the same crime just outside the limits of that order. They could not appreciate therefore the eloquence of gentlemen who urged them to confine their outrages within the limits prescribed by the court. The result was that Lawrence suffered beyond the appointed measure, and was a pretty thoroughly demoralized community.