The Topeka Legislature.--Arrest of its members.--Appropriation of Vermont Legislature for the suffering poor of Kansas.
JANUARY 6th, 1857.--This day having been appointed for the meeting of the Free-State Legislature, some of its members accordingly met at Topeka; but their numbers not being sufficient to form a quorum, no organization was effected. They held an informal meeting, and adopted a memorial to Congress.
Considerable apprehension had been entertained and expressed in regard to the probable results of this meeting, and hence, precautions had been quietly taken by the governor to guard against any unlawful or evil consequences. A confidential agent had been sent to give timely notice of whatever might transpire, and other arrangements were made for such action as exigencies might demand.
There were certain restless persons, however, about Lecompton, who were unwilling to trust the management of this affair to the discretion of the governor. They thought they perceived another opportunity for a disturbance, and their disposition for mischief was too strong to let this pass by unimproved. Sheriff Jones had been laying his plans, and fancied he had them so admirably arranged, that a failure to accomplish the object he desired, was impossible. These he kept carefully concealed from the governor, though he was a daily visitor at the executive office. Had not these plans been frustrated, the peaceful intentions of the executive would have been thwarted, and a renewal of a fierce civil conflict throughout the territory would have ensued. The most careful and constant watchfulness was, therefore, necessary, to guard against the secret and mischievous machinations of men who were determined that peace should not exist, except through the extirpation of their political opponents.
A writ, for the arrest of the Topeka legislators, had been quietly issued by Judge Cato, on the oath of Sheriff Jones, which was served by Deputy Marshal Pardee, (Jones being present to prevent any mistake,) on the members assembled, who yielded themselves prisoners, without resistance or hesitation.
This quiet submission to legal authority on the part of the Topeka Legislators, was the last thing the sheriff desired or expected. He had looked forward to the time of this meeting with the same anxiety and inward satisfaction as he had previously awaited the day appointed for the sacking of Lawrence. It was to be another jubilee. He was once more to play the part of a hero. His programme had been carefully prepared. The legislature was to have met--the marshal to serve his writs--the members would of course, refuse to recognise his authority--this would furnish a sufficient pretext for making forcible arrests, the attempt to do which would be resisted, and another violent outbreak and bloody strife be the result. The governor was to be soundly abused for permitting the illegal legislature to assemble--all the evil consequences were to be charged to his account--and a petition dispatched to Washington demanding his removal. The free-state party was thus to be crushed out by the sagacity and energy of the indomitable sheriff, who was to have been applauded to the skies for his unflagging patriotism. This scheme had cost Jones an immense amount of mental labor. It was the contrivance of several months' deep and anxious consideration and study. Sleeping or waking, it was doubtless uppermost in his thoughts. What, then, was his disappointment and mortification at its entire frustration. Just as he was raising the cup of triumph to his lips, it was suddenly dashed from his hand. Upon perceiving the completeness of his discomfiture, he quietly took his seat in his buggy, and sullenly drove from Topeka, doubtless muttering curses between his teeth against the legislature, the marshal, governor, and sundry other individuals who had aided in defeating the accomplishment of one of his dearest wishes. Upon reaching Lecompton, he retired immediately to his home, and was never afterward heard to refer to his futile visit to Topeka.
The prisoners were conveyed to Tecumseh, and retained until the following day, when they received a hearing before Judge Cato, who had been instrumental in the arrest, but who liberated them on bail, in their own recognisance in the sum of five hundred dollars each. They were, of course, never brought to trial, the district attorney entering nolle prosequies in theirs, as in the case of all other of the free-state treason prisoners. Thus ended in a farce, a performance which the principal actors had intended for a serious and fearful tragedy.
7th.--A letter was received by Governor Geary from his excellency, Governor Fletcher, of Vermont, giving information that the legislature of that state had appropriated the sum of twenty thousand dollars for the relief of the suffering poor of Kansas, "upon full and satisfactory proof of the necessity of their condition," and asking information in regard to the facts. In reply to which the following letter was dispatched to Gov. Fletcher:--
At the time these letters were passing there were, perhaps, two hundred men in the town of Lecompton, at least one half of whom were out of employment, though they were evidently supplied with funds from some invisible source to supply their immediate wants and support them in idleness. Laboring men and mechanics were greatly needed, but the idlers could not be induced to work. It was much easier to lounge about the groggeries and denounce abolitionists, than make a livelihood by honest industry. Fire-wood brought readily from three to four dollars per cord, and the citizens found it difficult to obtain a supply, though the river was frozen over, and any quantity of good fuel lay upon the opposite shore a few hundred yards distant, that could have been brought over by hand on rude sledges, at which easy employment at least three dollars a day could have been earned; but it was quite apparent that the most of the people about Lecompton had not come there to work. It would, perhaps, have been a degradation for the most destitute of those gentlemen, who had come to the territory to advocate the cause of negro slavery, to resort themselves to manual labor. The settlers in the country, though many of them had suffered from the past disturbances, were generally comfortable. During Governor Geary's tour of observation, he travelled many miles, and visited hundreds of families; but found very few cases of absolute distress.