Friends of Law and Order in Doniphan, Part Two

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

We left the October 30, 1855 Squatter Sovereign reporting on the local meeting in Doniphan to select representatives for the Law and Order Convention to meet at Leavenworth. The gathering chose its delegates and further published a series of resolutions deeply informed by the late revelations from Patrick Laughlin regarding the Kansas Legion. With Laughlin then nursing a would acquired in his fight with Samuel Collins and at least two other participants in that brawl present, both of whom took part in drawing up the resolutions, they had a great deal on their minds. For once, the claim that abolitionists meant to personally murder proslavery men, women, and children in their beds seems like something they might genuinely believe in the offing.

While the committee worked, the general body of the meeting had Laughlin’s story read to them. When they came back with their resolutions, the statement of purposes cited the threat of armed abolitionists directly. Of six resolutions, only two did not reference Laughlin or the Legion in some way. One endorsed the law and order meeting and the last instructed the Squatter Sovereign to print the Doniphan proceedings.

Almost every public meeting seems to have a resolution about printing and the Leavenworth endorsement serves as little more than a procedural matter, we can fairly take the Donpihan resolutions as all about Laughlin’s news. One called on Wilson Shannon to suppress the antislavery militia, another demanded that the attorney-general arrest the Kansas Legion’s ringleaders. But all of this didn’t seem quite clear enough, so the group also resolved

That we place most implicit confidence in the statement of P. Laughlin, Esq., in exposing the murderous designs of the secret organization of the Free-Soil-Abolition party […] and that he is a gentleman of good character and high respectability, and will receive the thanks of the people of Kansas and the Nation at large, for exposing to view the treasonable designs of a secret organization, who seek to plunder the country in civil war and drench the Nation in human gore.

They believed in Laughin so deeply, in fact, that they named him one of their delegates to the convention.

This all fits very comfortably with normal proslavery polemics, but we should not let ourselves forget that the people of Doniphan had a real out break of violence in their streets less than a week prior that ended with one man dead and another wounded. We have only proslavery versions of events, but we can take it for granted that that rendering circulated freely in the town. There, Collins seems to have violently accosted Laughlin on multiple occasions. At least in the story, and possibly in reality, he lived up to the stereotype of the madman abolitionist bent on destroying whites. Thus the meeting further resolved

we most cordially invite every law abiding citizen, without distinction of party, to join us in upholding the Laws of our Territory and the Constitution of the Nation, that the horrors of a bloody civil war may be averted, and our country preserved.

Just as the group in Leavenworth which called the meeting tried to sound moderate by appealing to universal concerns about order and independent of party, so too did the Doniphan group. There they soon faced the same problem as their antecedent did. To endorse the laws of Kansas hardly made one into a moderate acceptable to all parties.

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