Once More with Mark DC (@FilmCriticOne on Twitter)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

I apologize once more for interrupting the narrative, Gentle Readers, but I do think the ability to engage with critics is important. I previously gave Mark DC this response. As you can see from his comments there, he found it insufficient and accused me of various colorful offenses. His chief complaint, leaving aside his speculation about my sex life, appears to derive from his understanding of Bleeding Kansas as something like this:

Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, funded an army of 1,700 Texans who David Rice Atchison took into Kansas on a campaign of murder and other terrorism to ensure the newly opened territory became a slave state.

I disagree with this thesis and thus must have some kind of personal interest in whitewashing Atchison for your benefit. Quite why I would do this puzzles him at least as much as it puzzles me.

Mark bases his argument on a speech of Atchison’s which I had yet to read when he presented it to me. I’ve done that now. It is an extraordinary document that I will have much to do with in the future. However, that speech and the deeds ensuing come yet some time ahead in the narrative from where I have yet reached. Atchison spoke on May 21, 1856. I don’t know that Mark could miss this since the page he linked to on his blog has the date clearly marked. So far my narrative on Kansas matters has yet to reach May of 1855. I have concerned myself almost entirely with the election of November of 1854 and the census of February, 1855. You may, Gentle Readers, judge for yourselves whether trying to stick to a chronological narrative constitutes whitewashing past events up until the point where they receive their due coverage in the timeline. For my part, I find the suggestion absurd.

The flag of Texas

The flag of Texas

Furthermore, Mark refers to 1,700 Texans. The standard number of Missourians who crossed to vote in the delegate election of November, 1854, stands at around 1,700. I presume from this that Mark refers to the delegate election. I find no mention of Texans in the eyewitness testimony I have read, but frequent reference to Missourians. Furthermore, the witnesses report that they recognized many by name and face from their own time living in Missouri. Nor have I encountered mention of any particular flags in the testimony related to the November election. Atchison’s speech has some, but that preceded the sack of Lawrence in 1856. He describes to a solid red flag with a single star in the middle. That does not describe the Texas flag, then or now. As you can see from the adjacent image or, I am told, from looking almost anywhere within the Lone Star state, the Texas flag has red and a star, but also blue and white just as set down in Texas law during its days as an independent nation.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

Mark’s reference to Atchison enjoying the support of the administration also fails for lack of context. The speech does have Atchison calling his mob the agents of the administration, but in this particular case they fancied themselves deputy US Marshals and used the pretense of serving a warrant on some men in Lawrence to cover their invasion. James McPherson explains it in Battle Cry of Freedom, in a chapter that takes its title from Charles Sumner’s famous speech, The Crime Against Kansas:

Proslavery Judge Samuel Lecompte instructed a grand jury to indict members of the free-state government for treason. Since many of these men lived in Lawrence, the attempt to arrest them provided another opportunity for Missourians, how deputized as a posse, to attack this bastion of Yankee abolitionists. Dragging along five cannon, they laid siege to the town on May 21. Not wishing to place themselves in further contempt of law, the free-state leaders decided against resistance. The “posse” of some 800 men thereupon poured into Lawrence, demolished its two newspaper offices, burned the hotel and home of the elected free-soil governor, and plundered shops and houses.

I will doubtless have more to say about the speech when I get up to the sacking of Lawrence, but I think this situation in itself adequately explains Atchison’s claims of official sanction, especially given how he cites the US Marshal specifically:

You have endured many hardships, have suffered many privations on your trips, but for this you will be more than compensated by the work laid out by the Marshal

Very few in number at the time, US Marshals had wide power to deputize people in the field. That this one deputized Atchison’s mob doesn’t mean that Washington signed off. Such a claim would require additional support.

Finally, one more matter. I have not previously found it necessary to set out any particular standard for comments on this blog. I do not think that Mark’s posts warrant one now. However, they are well below the caliber of discourse to which I aspire and their intensely insulting, belligerent attitude has continued without abatement even when met with courtesy and a sincere desire to learn more and understand his position. He fills his own blog with similar invective. I do feel obligated out of my desire to never cease learning, but my tolerance for the level of vitriol that Mark has lobbed my way is at its end. I do not care for it personally and I do not care to subject my readers to any more of it.

Provided Mark finds it in himself to behave in a more civilized manner, he is welcome to continue commenting. If he persists as he has, I will remove those comments as I see them.

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