The Herald of Freedom on Patrick Laughlin, Part Three

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Parts 1, 2

In addition to George Brown’s two articles naming Laughlin directly and discussing his writing on the Kansas Legion, he devoted space in the November 17 Herald of Freedom to either the same or very similar stories. In both cases Brown responded to items in the Kickapoo Pioneer, the lone proslavery paper that expressed doubt about Laughlin’s revelations. The Pioneer, as quoted by Brown, had word from Lawrence of a great fright to “the decency” of Lawrence. A proslavery man supposedly started the rumor that the sheriff and some border ruffians would come up to Lawrence to enforce the legislature’s laws against antislavery publications. George Brown proudly broke those laws on the day they went into effect and had received threats from Robert Kelley of the Squatter Sovereign over it in the past.

According to the Pioneer, 

Immediately on receipt of the news the town was in an uproar-the sensation created was immense. The rust was rubbed off guns, and old swords were introduced to the grind stone to give them extra keenness. The chief of the Decency, the editor of the Herald of Freedom, brought forth his powder kegs; and, it is said, shed tears of joy to think that his days of martyrdom were at hand.

Night came and no proslavery men arrived, but the anonymous proslavery man had a good laugh at Lawrence for his trouble. He’d pulled the fire alarm and seen all his marks scurry for safety.

Brown knew a hit piece when he read one and made his opinion of it, and his version of events, clear in his introduction:

It is all news in this quarter, and will be read with a smile at the extreme gullibility of the proslavery press. The Pioneer may rest assured that an incident of the character which he mentions would cause no excitement in Lawrence. The “impliments” [sic] are always ready for service, and will require no burnishing when the contest comes.

Did it really happen? Given the situation in Kansas and the recent exposure of the Legion, the free state party could very well have felt vulnerable enough to react strongly to proslavery men arriving. Brown himself wrote of how embattled he had earlier felt in a private letter that later went public. He could have lied to save his pride. However, Brown published in Lawrence and had readers there. It seems far more likely that had a panic really erupted he would have turned it around into demonstration of proslavery perfidy.

Brown parted with a telling threat. Come on down and try something, proslavery men. Lawrence had no rusty guns or dull blades, but rather fresh arms standing ready for use. Exposed or not, the Kansas Legion still had its arms and willingness to fight in self-defense.

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