The Territorial Government vs. Lawrence

Daniel Woodson

Daniel Woodson

We left G.P. Lowery and C.W. Babcock on their way to see Wilson Shannon about the ersatz army converging around Lawrence. They passed many sets of guards and Lowery flirted with spiking an unattended cannon. When passing proslavery men on the road, they first cracked jokes about how the Yankees aimed to attack soon and the Missourians had best hurry. This grew less funny as they passed more and larger bands of armed men. What they came to next warrants a digression:

Just before daylight we passed one encampment, in which everybody seemed to be astir, and they came out into the road a short distance to meet us, and we stopped to talk with them. I recognized John H. Brady, who was the public printer of the Shawnee Mission legislature. He recognised me, and when he heard me say that I did not consider it safe for him to come up here, he called me by name, and said they could not let me pass. He then recognized Babcock, and was more certain we could not pass.

It looks like Lowery mixed up his pronouns here, as Brady clearly did the stopping. Either way, Brady’s presence with the proslavery men deserves notice. Public printing involved receiving many lucrative contracts from the government. For Brady to have the job indicates he had the full confidence of the Kansas legislature. Furthermore, public printers frequently also published newspapers and other partisan material for their patrons. In Brady’s case, Douglas C. McMurtrie says he farmed most of his printing out to presses in Kickapoo and St. Louis. Regardless of his personal involvement in setting type and running presses, Lowery and Babcock would have understood themselves in the presence of a proslavery man with close ties to the territorial government.

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

They already had reason to suspect, and free state men would insist for years after, a large degree of official connivance in organizing the investment of Lawrence with an eye to the free state movement’s decapitation. They didn’t know or wouldn’t believe Shannon wanted anything less, as position he did much to aid by calling in first the militia and then the 1st Cavalry. They had Sheriff Jones and the militia generals clearly set on their ruin, which constituted proof enough on its own. With the legislature out of session, that body could not offer additional evidence against itself. Its members and associates could do so independently, of course. I haven’t seen reference to their presence in the camps yet, but remain on guard for it.

The free state men had, or would soon have, other evidence against the territorial government. In The Kansas Conflict, Charles Robinson reproduced a letter from Daniel Woodson, territorial secretary. Woodson, a federal appointee, served as acting governor when the proper territorial Governor left Kansas and between the dismissal of one and arrival of the next. On November 27, Woodson wrote to an E.A. McClarey, of Jefferson City. After a three sentence description of events concluding with “Jones is in danger,” Woodson continued:

(Private.) DEAR GENERAL: The Governor has called out the militia, and you will hereby organize your division, and proceed forthwith to Lecompton. As the Governor has no power, you may call out the Platte Rifle Company. They are always ready to help us. Whatever you do, do not implicate the Governor.

Richardson and Strickler served as commanders of the Kansas militia, so Woodson can’t mean to raise it in sending this. In as many words, the Secretary tells a Missourian to gather up his militia and come over for the job. Wilson Shannon might not have actively conspired to destroy the free state movement, using the rescue of Jacob Branson as a pretext, but his second in command clearly did.

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

Robinson also reprints selections of a letter John Calhoun, a relation of the Marx of the Master Class and Surveyor-General of Kansas, in the Missouri Republican. I haven’t found a copy of the full letter, but his excerpts contain the expected parade of horrors: arsons, driving women and children from their homes, and a recapitulation of the DowColemanBranson affair.

It is estimated that some sixteen dwelling houses have been burnt, all of them in the night time, with their contents, and their occupants, men, women, and children driven to the prairies without shelter or protect. The leading spirit of these lawless movements is C. Robinson, the leading spirit also of the Topeka Convention. […] It is said that he has at least five hundred men, armed with Sharp’s rifles and revolvers, determined to offer a forcible resistance to the execution of the laws. He has threatened to hang Sheriff Jones, Coleman, and others, as soon as he can get hold of them.

Calhoun thus not only states the threat to good order in Kansas, but points to its wellspring. He clearly understood that his letter would prompt Missourian intervention aimed not at Jacob Branson, Samuel Wood, or anyone else directly involved in Branson’s rescue. Rather they would come with their sights set on the free state leadership. They probably didn’t need the help, but the Surveyor-General could confirm for any wavering that they must not settle for so paltry a prize as the recapture of Branson and seizure of his rescuers. They had a larger task at hand.

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