On Saturday morning, April 14, 1855, flush with their late victory in stealing the Kansas elections, eight men arrived at the home and office of George Park in Parkville, Missouri. Park had the good fortune to find himself in Kansas at just that moment, but his business partner, a man called Patterson, did not and so received the resolutions that these eight men produced. Those resolutions demanded that he and Park get out of town and out of state, and abjure both Kansas and Missouri thereafter. Furthermore, the men would toss their printing press in the Missouri River. While they had Patterson there, they would also tar and feather him.
Patterson’s wife and Park’s absence got in the way of the tar and feathering plan, but a mob of two hundred gathered outside the house while the eight men within delivered their manifesto for Patterson to copy down. They made sure the press went into the drink and their numbers surely helped impress upon Patterson, and later Park, their firm commitment to finish the job if both men had not made themselves scarce in three weeks’ time.
The editors of the Herald of Freedom, had words of encouragement for their aggrieved fellow newspaper men:
We congratulate our friends on this happy termination of their business for the present in Missouri. A wider field, and one of greater usefulness, is opened for them by the hands of their enemies, and they will of course enter into its possession. The name of Cassius M. Clay was comparatively unknown to fame, until the mobbing of his press, while confined to a bed of sickness, and delirious with a burning fever. Since then he stands out in bold relief, and will be remembered with pride by ever True American while his enemies are forgotten, or covered with disgrace. The murdered LOVEJOY,-who would not rather inherit his name than that of the proudest warrior of ancient or modern times. It gathers lustre with age, and is enrolled with the martyrs of freedom.
Our friends of the Luminary, whose light has been measurably obscured by the darkness which surrounded them, has suddenly emitted an effulgence, which lights up the Union, and attracts all eyes in that direction.
Cassius Clay argued for some kind of emancipation in Kentucky in the early 1850s. Someday I hope to go back and delve into that matter.
Park and Patterson might have appreciated the kind words, but one imagines they would have preferred to let this moment in the spotlight pass them by. The Herald of Freedom continued at some length, crowing about the inevitable triumph of freedom. The North had had enough and would not give another inch to the South. What had the Missourians really accomplished, besides making the editors of the Industrial Luminary famous?
Mere given its publishers a notority, and driven them to the free States armed with missiles a thousand times more potent for effect against an institution which opposes free discussion. Suppose the Missourians should commit personal injury to Messrs Park & Patterson. – Those men would be venerated through all time, as is the case with the murdered LOVEJOY, and hundreds of others wielding a pen equally potent, furnished with increased facts, would arise, and on the wings of the press would pour a volley of invective which would enroll the names of the invaders of personal liberty, on the pages of infamy; and they would be handed down from generation to generation, accumulating in hatred as the age increases in wisdom and refinement.
But behind all the cheering, the Missourians had accomplished something not entirely adverse to their goal. They had made an example. They told any who heard of their deeds that Parkville would not take kindly to anything resembling antislavery. The Herald of Freedom tactfully encouraged its readers to take the hint:
Since Parkville has signalized herself by participating in the destruction of the public press, we hope every settler in Kansas Territory will seek another locality to purchase supplies. Let no person patronize a community where the press is enslaved. Franklin absolutely refused to lodge in a place over night where the grave-yard fence was neglected, or broken down; and freemen should refuse, upon the same principle, to patronize those who are unwilling their actions should be scanned by the Argus eye of the press, and to prevent which, they resort to its destruction.
We should understand that boycott as an act of retaliation. Deny Parkville your dollars because Parkville suppresses antislavery speech. But if one denies the town one’s custom, one also has less reason venture there at all. I can’t say that the Herald of Freedom intended this note primarily as a warning against going into a town known to host a hostile mob capable of violence, but it seems likely that the readers of the time would have understood the message both ways. They should keep their dollars and bodies out of Parkville out of principle, but also for their own safety.