Portland (Me.). Board of Aldermen.

Report of the Committee appointed by the board of aldermen of the city of Portland to investigate the causes and consequences of the riot, on the evening of June 2, 1855 online

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Online LibraryPortland (Me.). Board of AldermenReport of the Committee appointed by the board of aldermen of the city of Portland to investigate the causes and consequences of the riot, on the evening of June 2, 1855 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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To the Board of Aldermen of ilie City of Portland :

The Committee appointed by your Board, under vote of June
9th, 1855, to investigate the transactions of the evening of June 2nd,
and their consequences, have been engaged in the duties assigned to
them twelve days, laboriously examining witnesses, and other testi-
mony. They have this day completed their labors, and submit to
your Board, a report embracing the material points of the evidence,
with the conclusions they have drawn from it.

By order of the Committee,

WM. WILLIS, Chairman.
Portland, July 10, 1855.





The Committee appointed June 9th, 1855, by the Board
of Aldermen of the City of Portland, " to investigate the
circumstances attendant upon the extraordinary transac-
tions of the 2nd inst. and to report in such manner and form
as they shall think proper :" commenced their sessions at
the- Chamber of the Common Council, June 12th.

The Hon. Charles S. Davies having been named in the
order appointing the Committee, as Chairman, called the
meeting to order; and Wm. Goodenow, Esq., was chosen

After passing through some preliminary proceedings,
Mr. Davies remarked, that the state of his health would
not allow of his discharging the duties of the Chair, whiih
from the nature of the case, he foresaw must be arduous
and protracted, and while he felt it a duty to accept the
appointment, and render what aid he could on the highly
important subject which they had been invited to investi-
gRte, he thought some other gentleman on tlie Committee,
of sounder health than it was his privilege to enjoy, would

better preside over their deliberations. Ho therefore ask-
ed leare to withdraw from the position to which he had
been designated by the Board of AUiermen. Mr. Davies
Wiis accordingly excused from serving as Chairman, and
Wm. Willis, Esq. was unanimously chosen in his stead.

The place of the Rev. Mr. Stebbins, who declined act-
ing with the Committee, was supplied by the choice of James
C. Churchill. Esq. ; three of the persons named on the Com-
mittee, viz : Rev. Mr. Pratt. Samuel Hanson, and Henry B.
Hi\rt, were absent from town. Mr. Hart on his return took
his seat at the Board. The other sc^ntlemen not returninor
until the examination of witnesses had prxjceeded several
days, declined taking their se4\ts. The remaining mem-
bers of the Committee, consisting of eighteen gentlemen,
have given a prompt and assiduous attention to its duties.

Toward the close of the session of the first day. the Com-
mittee sent a notice by their Secretary, to the Mayor and
Aldennen, informing them that they were organized, and
would be ready on the following morning to hear testimony
on the subject of their appointment, or receive any commu-
nication fr:)m them.

Thev also voted that not being a judicial tribunal they
would not require any witnesses who should be brought be-
fore them to be sworn, but would take their testimony un-
der a caution, that they would speak the truth in the s,ame
manner as if they were under the s;\nction of an oath. And
thev farther voted, that they would seek information from
all sources, which could impart light or knowledge on the
circumshinces le^iding to, and resulting from, the disturban-
ces of S;\turday evening, or on the occurrences of the

Numerous witnesses conversant with the transactions of
the evening, including Aklerman Hing, the City and Depu-
ty Marshals, the Sheriff of the County, the City Solicitor,
Captains Green and Roberts, Mr. Poor of the Slate of 3Iaine,
and many other gentlemen of standing, respectability and
character, appeared and testified fully and frankly, to facts
within their knowledge ; sixty witnesses were thus ex-

The Committee also examined and considered the testi-
mony of witnesses produced and sworn before the second
Inquest, as reported in the papers ; and in several instanc-
es, had the witnesses themselves before them, to confirm or
vary the published reports. They also examined the tes-
timony taken before the first Inquest, as reduced to writing,
signed and sworn to, before the Coroner, which was verifi-
ed in several of the cases by a re-examination of the same

They had also before them the records of the City Gov-
ernment, relating to the purchase of the liquors, the estab-
lishment of the Agency, and collateral subjects.

The Committee during their investigation invited the
persons on whose complaint the warrant for the seizure of
the liquors in the agency was granted, to testify before
them. But they declined doing so, in a written commu-
nication. Two other gentlemen whose testimony they
sought, also declined to attend, viz. Henry 13. Stone, of the
State of Maine, and Capt. Charles C. Harmon. With these
exceptions, every person who had been invited to testify,
freely came before the Committee.

The Committee will now proceed to state the principal
and important facts as they appeared before them, with
liieir conclusions derived from those facts. They pass


purposely by, ^YitllOut notice, numerous statements and
conjectures which have appeared in testimony, as immate-
rial, and having no relevancy to the true issues in this case.
The law " for the suppression of Drinking Houses and
Tippling Shops," approved March 16th, 1855, went into
operation May 1st.

The act in its first section provides as follows :
" Agents may be appointed under this act by the Mayor and Alder-
men of Cities, the Selectmen of Towns, and the Assessors of Planta-
tions, as soon after the first day of May next, as may be."

Section 31st provides :

" All purchases of liquors to be sold by such agents, shall be made
by the Mayor and Aldermen of Cities, Selectmen of Towns, and As-
sessors of Plantations,"

The agent, it will be seen, has no authority to purchase
liquors, any more than any other person, and the law de-
clares, " he shall have no interest in the liquors sold, or in
the profits of the agency." He is to have a fixed com-
pensatioQ for his services.

It cannot, therefore, affect the legality of the purchase
of liquors by cities or towns, whether it is made before or
after the appointment of an agent. His duty is to sell, and
not to buy ; and he cannot sell the liquors before they are

On the 3d of May, at the first meeting of the Mayor
and Aldermen, after the law went into operation, the fol-
lowing proceedings were adopted :

" Ordered, That the Mayor, nnd Aldermen Carlton and Brooks, be
a Committee to arrange for the establishment of a City Agency for the
lawful sale of spirituous liquors, wines, &c., for medical and mechani-
cal purposes, under the provisions of an Act entided " An Act for the
Suppression of Drinking Houses and Tippling Shops," passed at the last
session of the Legislature, and approved March 16, 1855 ; and also to
prepare and report to this Board such Rules and Regulations as may be

necessary for the government of the Agent hereafter to be appointed,
and such compensation for his services as they may deem suitable."

" Ordered, That the Mayor and Aldermen be authorized to use the
shop under the City Hall, now occupied by Messrs. Waite and Butler,
for the accommodation of a City Agency for the sale of alcoholic
liquors for medicinal and mechanical purposes."

The last Order was passed by a concurrent vote of the
two Boards.

" In Board of Aldermen, May 17, 1855 :

" The Committee on the City Agency for the sale of liquors were
instructed to settle with H. H. Hay, late Agent, and to remove any
liquors of the city remaining unsold."

« May 31, 1855. The Board balloted for a City Agent for the sale
of spirituous liquors ; the whole number of ballots was six. John
Chute had four votes, and was declared elected, and appointed. Wm.
E. Morris and H. H. Hinkley had one each.

" The Board then elected Wm. E. Morris as Clerk of the City Agent.

" The salary of the City Agent for the sale of liquors was fixed at
seven hundred dollars per year, and that of the Clerk was fixed at five
hundred dollars per year, payable quarterly."

At the meeting of the Aldermen on the Sd of May, all
the members were present but Aldeiman King. At the
next meeting, May 17th, he was present, and then under-
stood by the proceedings of that meeting that an agency
had been established, but was not aware that a Committee
had been appointed to purchase liquors, although the pro-
ceedings of the meeting of May 3d were read at that of
the 17th : the fact of a Committee having been appointed,
he testifies, escaped his attention.

At the meeting of May 31st, he held a conversation
with the Mayor on the subject of the purchase of the liq-
uors, with a view of obtaining information with regard to
the legality of the purchase, and was serious, as he testi-
fied, in making that inquiry, although the conversation
closed in a sportive vein.



Mr. Ring unfortunately left the meeting with the im-
pression that Mr. Dow had purchased the liquors in his
own name, but with the honest belief, at the same time,
as he expressly states, that if he did so purchase them, it
was for the City Agency, and without a design to violate
the law, or expectation of any benefit to himself. The
language of Mr. Ring's testimony was :

" When I left the meeting of the Aldermen, I carried away the im-
pression that Mr. Dow had purchased the liquors on his own responsi-
bility, but I honestly believed that he purchased them for the use of the
Citv, and without any expectation of benefit to himself. I did not
know that he was one of the Committee to make the purchase."

The impression that the Mayor had purchased the liquor
in his own name, Mr. Ring communicated to the publishers
of the Arpis and JState of Ifaine. This led to the publication
of an imperfect and not a true version of the conversation
which appeared in those papers on Saturday morning,
June 2d.

Mr. Ring remarked to this Committee, that if he had
known the facts as they actually existed with regard to
the purchase of the liquor, his impressions on the subject
would have been different ; although he did not feel satis-
fied that the order gave the Committee authority to
make the purchase.

The Mayor, on his part, supposing that Mr. Ring was
familiar with the proceedings of the Board in regard to
the establishment of the Agency and the appointment of
the Committee, treated the matter jocosely, as a banter on
the part of Mr. Pting.

The Committee can not but believe that the false im-
pression conveyed by the published report of that conver
sation, was a primary cause of the complaint against Mr,
Dow, the subsequent seizure of the liquor, and led to the
disturbance of the evening.

The Committee appointed hy the Board of Aldermen
on May 3d, to establish the Agency, in pursuance of their
authority, arranged and furnished the room in the base-
ment of the City Hall, which had formerly been used for
that purpose, and made it ready to receive the liquors.
And believing it to be part of the arrangements of an agen-
cy, that it should be provided with liquors necessary for
medicinal and mechanical purposes, on or about the 20th
day of May, they entered into an agreement with the firm
of J. Bramson & Co., of New York, to furnish the Agency
with certain quantities of pure liquors, such as would be
most suitable to the object for which the Agency was

Mr. Bramson, one of the firm, was in town on that day,
and was introduced by Mr. W. C. Osborne to Alderman
Carlton, one of the Committee, as a large dealer in pure
and imported liquors, and a man to be relied upon. Mr,
Carlton waited upon him to the Mayor's office, and an
agreement was then and there entered into by these two
members of the Committee, having the sanction of Alder-
man Brooks, the third member, on behalf of the City, with
Mr. Bramson, to send to the Agency certain liquors accord-
ing to a memorandum then furnished him, containing spec-
ifications of the kinds and quantity of liquors, to be war-
ranted "pure," or no sale. The memorandum in writing
given to Mr. Bramson contained instructions to have the
liquors directed to the " Portland Agency, Portland, Me "

On the 31st day of May, the liquors arrived : all the
packages were marked as instructed, accompanied by bills
of lading, and an invoice of the goods, corresponding with
the marks on the packages.


The bill of parcels accompanying tlio sliipment was


" New Yokk, 25rh May, 1855.
Portland Agency, Portland, Me,,

Bought of John Bramson & Co.,
Importers of Brandies, Wines, and Havannah Segars,
No. 75 Broad Street, up stairs.
Terms — Note, at 6 months, or cash, discount."

Then followed a description of the lir[uor3 with the pri-
ces, amounting to $1618,93.

On their arrival, the liquors were immediately transport-
ed to the Agency, where they were deposited, and remain-
ed in charge of Mr. Chute, who had been appointed agent,
where they were seized u[)on the warrant, as the property
of Neal Dow, on the 2(1 of June. Neither the name of
Mr. Dow, nor of any of the Committee, appeared upon the
packages, the bills of lading, or the invoice.

Such being the facts relative to this branch of the case,
the Committee have no hesitation in declaring their be-
lief that the liquors were purchased according to law, and
were legally deposited in the City Agency, and were the
property of the City of Portland.

But if they were not legally purchased, they had been
seized under a lawful process which was then pending,
and were in custody of the law, in a building owned by
the City. If, then, this liquor had been illegally purchas-
ed, that fact could afford no justification to a mob to assault
the property of the City, and take the article by violence
from the custody of the law. The crime in either case
has no apology. The law should have been permitted o
take its course ; if the liquor was illegally purchased, the
law would declare it forfeited, and it would have been
destroyed under and by virtue of the law.


On the afternoon of June 2d, Royal Williams, Joshua
Stevens, and Alvin S. Dyer, appeared before the Judge of
the Police Court of the City of Portland, and in behalf of
the State entered a complaintunder their respective oaths,

" That they have reason to believe, and do believe, that on the first
day of June, in said year, at said Portland, intoxicating liquors were
and still are kept and deposited by Neal Dow, of Portland, in said
county, in the middle cellar under the building commonly known as
the City Hall, in said Portland ; said Neal Dow not being authorized
by law to sell said liquors within said Portland, and said liquors are in-
tended for sale within said State, in violation of law.'

The reasons the complainants had for believing the facts
to which they made solemn oath, we are not permitted to
know. One of these allegations is, that they believed
these liquors were intended for sale in violation of latv. The
Committee had hoped, in requesting their attendance be-
fore them as witnesses, to have learnt the causes and
grounds of this belief.

The warrant thus demanded was duly issued and put
into the hands of Deputy Marshal Ring. The complain-
ants required and demanded, under much excitement, that
it should be given to Constable Brady, who was in the
room to receive it. This was refused, the Judge remark-
ing that it must take the usual course.

This was between three and four o'clock, P. M. The
Deputy Marshal did not seize the liquor until about an
hour and a-half from the time of receiving the warrant.

On proceeding to the agency, he found the liquors there,
marked "Portland Agency, Portland, Me."; not seeing Mr.
Dow's name upon the packages, he had doubts about his
right to seize them ; he called for the invoice in the hands
of the agent who was present, and found the bill to corres-
pond with the marks. He then went out to consult the


Marshal and County Attorney, as to his duty, and afterwards
returning with the Marshal, he seized the liquors upon his
warrant between five and six o'clock, took an account of
them, and left them in the cellar of the agency, as the most
secure place.

As soon as the warrant was issued, persons began to
assemble in groups about the City Hall, holding converse
on the subject of the Avarrant and seizure ; and expecting
that the liquors would be taken and moved to some other
place. Some inquired of the Deputy Marshal why he
did not seize the liquors ; others said, " the liquor must
come out, and Dow must be treated like any body else."
Considerable disappointment and excitement were mani-
fested that the liquor was not removed, and at the tardy
manner in which the process had been executed. Many
persons had assembled there '' to see the liquor spilt," as
they expressed it, expecting that it would be taken out,
and on its removal be destroyed.

Uriah M. Furlong met there in the afternoon three
truckmen of his acquaintance, having their teams with
them, who told him that they came there to haul away
Dow's liquor ; that Royal Williams and others had gone to
get a warrant; and that Brady was to be the officer.

The plan seems to have been concerted that the warrant
should be placed in Brady's hands, who would have taken
the liquor from the cellar, and that it was probably doom-
ed to destruction on its way.

Mr. Chandler BacklyfTe, of Westbrook, came into town
in the afternoon, and being attracted by the crowd around
the Hall, inquired the cause. He was told in several quar-
ters, that the object was to destroy Neal Dow's liquor, that
it was under seizure, and that they were waiting for it to be


rolled out. Messrs. Joseph Johnson and Heuel Shaw, who
keep stores in the neighborhood of the City Hall, repeated-
ly heard declarations late in the afternoon, from several per-
sons, that the liquors would be taken out by violence. Al-
derman Brooks also states, that as he was going home to tea,
he saw some persons talking together near the U. S. Hotel,
and heard the remark, " that if Brady had got the warrant,
the liquor would now have been destroyed," and one said,
" now let us put it through."

The testimony of numerous witnesses concurs in this con-
dition of things in the afternoon. The persons who assem-
bled then around the Hall, were no doubt drawn there with
the expectation that the liquor would be taken out of the
Agency, under the warrant, and be destroyed. There was
no riotous conduct at the time ; but a strong feeling of im-
patience and irritation was manifested, that the liquor was
not brought out, and an occasional expression escaped, that
it should and would be taken out that night. Many wit-
nesses testified to declarations of persons to that effect.

The groups generally dispersed about tea time ; but
there is good reason to believe, that a meeting for the even-
ing at the same place, and for a more determined purpose,
was concerted. Mr, Butler, one of the police officers, was
coming from Cape Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon about
5 o'clock ; and while on Portland bridge, three men met,
and he heard one who was coming to the Portland side, say
to the two others who were going over, " be sure and come
over to the rum shop about 8 o'clock j" and the reply was,
" we'll be there."

The same witness, on his way from his store, home to
tea, about G o'clock, heard invitations repeated several times,
by persons Avho met in the street, to be at the " rum shop,"


some said " City Agency, at 8 o'clock." On his return
from tea, lie saw at two different places, squads of people,
among whom there was considerable excitement, and with
some of whom he conversed. He heard declarations dis-
tinctly made, that they would have the liquor out that
night ; one man said he would be one to help get it out.
Similar declarations were heard by other witnesses in dif-
ferent quarters of the city.

Mr. James E. Robinson stated that he heard a conver-
sation in the latter part of the afternoon near the City-
Hall on the subject of seizing the liquors ; in which a
number of persons used the expression, "we'll adjourn till
8 o'clock, and then we will have it out."

In the latter part of the afternoon, and early in the
evening, communications were made to the Mayor and
some of the Aldermen, and to the Marshal by some of the
police, of these conversations and threats, and that serious
apprehensions were entertained that an assault would bo
made in the evening upon the Agency with a view to de-
stroy the liquors. The Marshal summoned the police and
the watch to meet at his office. — The opinion prevailed
among the police and some of the Aldermen, that the
Agency would be assailed, and that there was a necessity
that a force should be stationed there to protect the build-
ing, and preserve the property stored there. Alderman
Brooks passing down after tea, between 7 and 8 o'clock,
saw a crowd near the Agency, and demonstrations of a
spirit of violence against the building ; this he immedi-
ately communicated to the Mayor.

The Mayor and a portion of the Aldermen were at their
room during the afternoon and evening, and fearing, from
the information they had received, that a riot would take


place, they ordered the Marshal in the evening to repair
to the Agency room with a portion of his police force,
suitably armed, to protect the property there. The Mar"
shal had previously procured a revolver, and in pursuance
of these orders, he caused five or six members of the po-
lice to procure arms, and to take their stations with him-
self in the Agency room. At the same time, be ordered
other police officers and a portion of the watch to remain
Outside the building to warn the crowd to desist from
violence, to disperse, and go home, and to endeavor to
preserve the peace.

The Mayor and Aldei'uren, apprehending from the
large number of persons who were assembling around the
City Hall, and the threats which had been uttered, that a
force would be required larger than the regular police,
took the precaution to notify the commanding o fficers of
the Light Guards and the Kifle Guards, two military com-
panies belonging to Portland, that a disturbance was
apprehended, and requested them to assemble their com-
panies at their respective armories.

A contract had been entered into in January last, be-
tween the City and these companies, by which in consid-
eration of a certain sum of money, they voted to tender
their services to the City " to aid its civil officers as an
armed police force, in suppressing any riots or disturban-
ces" within the City, whenever they should be called upon
by the proper authorities.

The notice and request to these officers was conveyed
verbally, to Capt. Green by Alderman Brooks, and to
Capt. Roberts by another City officer, in which their ser-
vices A\ere requested as an armed police. It was so stated
to them in express terms, in the verbal communication.


Gen. Fessenden, the City Solicitor, about this time, hav-
ing been to the City Hall and seen the excitement there,
waited upon the Mayor at the Government House. In his
testimony before the Committee he says, "I felt it my duty
to notify the government that the danger was urgent, and
that something should be immediately done for the preser-
vation of the property and peace of the City. I told them
I thought the military ought to be called out. Mr. Dow
replied that there was an agreement with the City, that
they should turn out, when called for as an armed police,
and that they had been, or that measures were taking to call
them out."

Sheriff Baker was also sent for by the Mayor, and re-

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Online LibraryPortland (Me.). Board of AldermenReport of the Committee appointed by the board of aldermen of the city of Portland to investigate the causes and consequences of the riot, on the evening of June 2, 1855 → online text (page 1 of 4)