Charles Robinson knew that when Samuel Wood relieved Samuel Jones of Jacob Branson and delivered him to Lawrence, he brought trouble along for the ride. The sheriff of Douglas County, not a moderate man even on a normal day, would not take losing his prisoner lightly. It appears, in fact, that Jones told Wood and his company as much when they blocked the road and took Branson from his posse. Harrison Buckley, one of Franklin Coleman’s friends and a member of the posse, testified later that
Sheriff Jones said they were doing something they would regret hereafter, in resisting the laws
Josiah Hargis, another posse member and Coleman associate, agrees that Jones made a threat, adding
He then told them that he would call out the militia to enforce the law.
Given he lost his prisoner at gunpoint, one can hardly blame Jones for objecting strenuously. That Wood’s band told him that they
relied only upon their rifles as the law of the land, and would at all times defend themselves from being arrested by any process issued by any officer of the said territory
could hardly mitigate matters.
Escalation normally begets escalation. The promise of forcible resistance invites the application of force to suppress it. I don’t see how either side would back down from this easily. Jones went for help as he promised and
immediately made requisition on Governor Wilson Shannon for a sufficient force to arrest the said Jacob Branson, and execute other process in his hands as sheriff of said county; that the said Jacob Branson was taken into the town of Lawrence, in the said county, and there, as he verily believes, as he was informed by good authority, tried an acquitted by citizens of the said town, without any legal investigation; that a mob of some fifteen or twenty threatened to tar and feather and inflict other punishment upon the justice of the peace who issued the warrant; that he, as sheriff, has been repeatedly insulted by the citizens of the said town of Lawrence, and threatened with violence if he attempted to execute any process in his hands against any citizen of that place […] that the citizens of that place and vicinity are all armed with Sharpe’s rifles for the avowed purpose of resisting the execution of the laws of this Territory; that they are daily being drilled for that purpose alone
The tar and feathering sounds a bit more like a proslavery maneuver, but one doesn’t have to reach far to believe the people of Lawrence made threats against Jones and promised to obstruct his official duties. They declared often enough that they meant to resist enforcement of the laws as a matter of policy. They might also have threatened Hugh Cameron over the warrant. One can hardly deny that they had a militia, given the ladies of Lawrence presented a flag to its commander back on July. The man who received the flag, to make the connection especially clear, likewise led the party that took Branson from Jones.
How could this look like anything but the start of an armed revolt?