The governor calls upon Colonel Sumner for United States troops.--Proposition for the Lawrence people to surrender their arms.--The governor makes a treaty with the free-state generals.--Dispersion of the militia.
GOVERNOR SHANNON discovered that it was easier to raise than allay a storm among the excitable people with whom he had to deal, and was alarmed at the probable consequences of his own hasty action. He was sensible of the difficulty he would have to control the lawless invaders whom he had caused to be enrolled as Kansas militia. Some of the more judicious of the pro-slavery leaders saw the subject in its true and frightful aspects, and began to suggest measures to end the troubles without the trreatened loss of life and property. Hence General Eastin dispatched the following advice to Governor Shannon.--
"Information has been received here direct from Lawrence, which I consider reliable, that the outlaws of Douglas county are well fortified at Lawrence with cannon and Sharpe's rifles, and number at least one thousand men. It will, therefore, be difficult to dispossess them.
"The militia in this portion of the state are entirely unorganized, and mostly without arms.
"I suggest the propriety of calling upon the military at Fort Leavenworth. If you have the power to call out the government troops, I think it would be best to do so at once. It might overawe these outlaws and prevent bloodshed.
The governor adopted this suggestion as the easiest means of freeing himself from his unfortunate dilemma, and immediately forwarded several dispatches to Colonel Sumner, commanding at Fort Leavenworth, asking him to interpose the United States troops between the opposing parties, and thus prevent a collision. To all of which the colonel replied that he did not feel justified to act "in this matter until orders were received from the government." Some of the leaders of the Wakarusa army had attempted to intercept Shannon's dispatches to Colonel Sumner, in order to prevent the interference of the United States forces, until they could destroy the town of Lawrence. The following letter from Colonel Joseph C. Anderson, of Lexington, Missouri, indicates the feelings of the invading army:--
"MAJOR-GENERAL WILLIAM P. RICHARDSON:
General Richardson was beginning to open his eyes, and to see that an attack upon Lawrence might not, after all, be an entirely one-sided battle. It had been ascertained, in the Wakarusa camp, that Robinson and Lane had not been wholly ikle, but had collected a force of over one thousand men, many of them armed with Sharpe's rifles, and having in possession several cannon, and that they seemed as anxious for an opportunity to resist as were their enemies to attack. Hence the general proposed to the governor, that, instead of assaulting Lawrence, it would be better, in order to prevent the effusion of blood, simply to demand of the citizens to surrender their arms.
But the governor could not clearly perceive how the course suggested by his friend, would tend to "prevent the effusion of blood and preserve the peace of the territory." He knew the people of Lawrence too well to suppose they would peaceably surrender their arms, and thus expose themselves, in a defenceless condition, to the tender mercies of the fierce men who were thirsting for their blood; and he felt quite well assured that an attempt to deprive them of those arms by force, might lead to anything but the most desirable results. He, therefore, preferred to follow the more sensible advice of Colonel Sumner, who said: "I would respectfully suggest that you make your application to the government extensively known, at once; and I would countermand any orders that may have been given for the movement of the militia, until you receive the answer."
Accordingly, his excellency addressed communications to General Richardson and Sheriff Jones, ordering them to proceed no further until he should receive instructions from Washington, in reference to the employment of the United States troops. Richardson readily acquiesced; but Jones, whose voice was "still for war," addressed the following rather indignant reply to the governor:--
"Sir: In reply to your communication of yesterday I have to inform you that the volunteer forces, now at this place and at Lecompton, are getting weary of inaction. They will not, I presume, remain but a very short time longer, unless a demand for the prisoner is made. I think I shall have a sufficient force to protect me by to-morrow morning. The force at Lawrence is not half so strong as reported; I have this from a reliable source. If I am to wait for the government troops, more than two-thirds of the men now here will go away, very much dissatisfied. They are leaving hourly as it is. I do not, by any means, wish to violate your orders, but I really believe that if I have a sufficient force, it would be better to make the damand.
"It is reported that the people of Lawrence have run off those offenders from that town, and, indeed, it is said that they are now all out of the way. I have writs for sixteen persons, who were with the party that rescued my prisoner. S. N. Wood, P. R. Brooks, and Saml. Tappan are of Lawrence, the balance from the country round. Warrants will be placed in my hands to-day for the arrest of G. W. Brown, and probably others in Lecompton. They say that they are willing to obey the laws, but no confidence can be placed in any statements they may make.
"No evidence sufficient to cause a warrant to issue has as yet been brought against those lawless men who fired the houses.
"I would give you the names of the defendants, but the writs are in my office at Lecompton.
Affairs remained unchanged until the 6th of the month, when the governor called a convention of officers, to consult with them in regard to his desires and purposes. They convened at his quarters, when, after defining his position, he "soon discovered," as he says, "but one person present who fully approved of the course which he desired to pursue. The others wished to go further. Some would hear of nothing less than the destruction of Lawrence and its fortifications, the demolition of its printing presses, and the unconditional surrender of the arms of its citizens. Others, more moderate, expressed a willingness to be satisfied, if the free-state party would give up their Sharpe's rifles and revolvers. Under these unfavorable circumstances, the conference broke up at midnight, having accomplished nothing beyond the interchange of opinions on either side."
On the morning of the 7th, the governor visited Lawrence, and, in a lengthy interview with Robinson and Lane, suggested, as a means of safety to the citizens and of peace to the territory, that they should surrender their arms to General Richardson, which proposition was positively declined.
On the following day, prominent men of the pro-slavery party informed the governor that if the citizens of Lawrence did not give up their arms, the place would be attacked, and that he had better consult his own safety and keep out of danger.
His excellency, therefore, again hastened to Lawrence, where he found that the people had held a meeting, on the previous evening, and submitted to writing the terms on which they proposed to treat. These, with few alterations, were agreed to, and received the signatures of the contracting parties, as follows:--
"Whereas, there is a misunderstanding between the people of Kansas, or a portion of them, and the governor thereof, arising out of the rescue at Hickory Point of a citizen under arrest, and other matters: And whereas, a strong apprehension exists that said misunderstanding may lead to civil strife and bloodshed: And, whereas, as it is desired by both Governor Shannon and the citizens of Lawrence and its vicinity, to avoid a calamity so disastrous to the interests of the territory and the Union; and to place all parties in a correct position before the world: Now, therefore it is agreed by the said Governor Shannon and the undersigned citizens of the said territory, in Lawrence now assembled, that the matter is settled as follows, to wit:
The next day, December 9th, his excellency issued orders to Generals Richardson and Strickler and to Sheriff Jones, to disband their forces. His order to Sheriff Jones was in the words following:--
"Having made satisfactory arrangements by which all legal process in your hands, either now, or hereafter, may be served without the aid of your present posse, you are hereby required to disband the same."
The most singular part of this whole history is, that, while on a visit to Lawrence, and when stipulating a treaty with the free-state commanders, Governor Shannon furnished them with the following document:--
"TO C. ROBINSON AND J. H. LANE, COMMANDERS OF THE ENROLLED CITIZENS OF LAWRENCE:
Governor Shannon had proclaimed the people of Lawrence to be an "association of lawless men," in open rebellion against the laws, and armed with the accustomed implements of war, to resist the officers of the territory in the prosecution of their duty. He had caused their city to be besieged by a large army of infuriated men from a neighboring state, whom he had enrolled as his own militia, to subdue and disarm the rebels. But after continuing the siege nine or ten days, he visits these "lawless men," who invite him to a "convivial party," in the midst of which, when the enraged army outside was for the time being forgotten, and all was hilarity and joy, the good-natured governor signs a paper authorizing the commanders of the rebels to "use the enrolled forces under their command" in such manner as their own judgment should dictate, to resist his own forces should they attempt to prosecute the object for which they were called into the field. Generals Robinson and Lane were skilful tacticians, and Shannon a most accommodating governor. No wonder that Sheriff Jones should feel aggrieved and angry at being thus despoiled of his contemplated revenge.
But it is due to the governor that he should be allowed to give his own explanation of this strange precedure. He says:
"In the evening I was invited to attend a social gathering of ladies and gentlemen of the town of Lawrence, at the Emigrant Aid Society Hotel, which I accepted. There were but two rooms finished in the hotel; they were small, and in the third story, and were, therefore, very much crowded by the company assembled. The time was spent in the most friendly and social manner, and it seemed to be a matter of congratulation on every side that the difficulties so lately threatening had at length been brought to a happy termination. In the midst of this convivial party, and about ten o'clock at night, Dr. C. Robinson came to me, in a state of apparent excitement, and declared that their picket guard had just come in and reported that there was a large irregular force near the town of Lawrence, who were threatening an attack; adding that the citizens of Lawrence claimed the protection of the executive, and to this end desired me to give himself and Gen. Lane written permission to repel the threatened assault. I replied to Dr. Robinson that they did not require any authority from me, as they would be entirely justified in repelling by force any attack upon their town; that the law of self-preservation was sufficient, and that any authority which I might give would add nothing to its strength. The doctor replied that they had been represented as having arrayed themselves against the laws and public officers of the territory, and that he therefore wished me to give him written authority to repel the threatened assault, so that it might appear hereafter, if a renconter did take place, that they were not acting against, but with, the approbation of the territorial executive. With this view, amid an excited throng, in a small and crowded apartment, and without any critical examination of the paper which Dr. Robinson had just written, I signed it, but it was distinctly understood that it had no application to anything but the threatened attack on Lawrence that night.
The sheriff's army disbanded agreeably to orders, the greater portion of it returning disgusted and enraged to Missouri, while the people of Lawrence, in anticipation of another visit at no distant day, went quietly though busily to work at increasing and strengthening their fortifications.