John George Nicolay.

Abraham Lincoln: a History — Volume 01 online

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his instructions only permitted him to act at the call of the Governor
or marshal. [Footnote: Sumner to Shannon, May 12, 1856. Senate Ex.
Doc., No. 10, 3d Sess. 34th Cong. Vol. V., p. 7.] 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 citizens began to laugh
at their own fears. To their 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. [Footnote: Memorial,
Senate Executive Document, 3d Session 34th Congress. Volume II, pp.
73-85.] 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 Governor Robinson was also
robbed and burned. Very 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.

[Sidenote: House Reports, 2d Sess., 36th Cong., Vol. III, part 1, p.

[Sidenote: Holloway, p. 351.]

[Sidenote: Memorial to the President.]

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.

[Relocated Footnote: 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 Ruffians 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 Kickapoo Rangers, who
proved a kind jailer, and materially assisted in protecting him from
the dangerous intentions of the mob which at that time held
Leavenworth under a reign of terror.

Mrs. Robinson, who has kindly sent us a sketch of the incident,
writes: "On the night of the 28th [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 if worse comes to
worst!' 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 Lecompton 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."]


Online LibraryJohn George NicolayAbraham Lincoln: a History — Volume 01 → online text (page 31 of 31)