The Free State Embassy, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Sorry for the delay, Gentle Readers. An inattentive blogger who will remain nameless neglected to properly schedule the post.

Part One

G.P. Lowery and C.W. Babcock exchanged words with the official printer for the Kansas legislature, John H. Brady. He told them bluntly that Andrew Reeder authored all Kansas’ sorrows “and they must have his head, if they had to go to Pennsylvania for it.” If the free state embassy let their danger in the presence of bands of men armed, hostile, and likely lubricated, slip their minds for a moment, this surely recalled the peril. Lowery told the Howard Committee that things began to get more heated, so he and Babcock resumed their trip to see Wilson Shannon and deliver Lawrence’s letter. Along the way they saw more and more armed Missourians, including a fellow so far in his cups that he had a cornbread breakfast in one hand and a wagon wheel in the other. Duty drove them on and thus whatever story got this man to that point passed unrecorded.

The free staters arrived at Shawnee Mission shortly after sunrise. They, unlike Franklin Coleman’s party, found Wilson Shannon present. He took their letter and read it through:

I do not know whether that letter is anywhere in existence now. I wrote the letter, and it was signed by Governor Robinson, Colonel Lane, Mr. Deitzler, myself, and four or five others. The contents were, that he might not be aware that there was a large mob collected on the Wakarusa, who were stopping travellers and goods, and plundering the country; and that we took that means of informing him that was the fact, and that they claimed to be there by his requisition; that we wished to know if that was the fact, that they were there by his authority; and, if so, whether he would remove them, and prevent these depredations, or compel us to do it ourselves, by resorting to other means or higher authority.

If the letter survived, I haven’t found it. It doesn’t appear in the Executive Minutes where it ought to, nor does Robinson give a copy despite referring to Lowery and Babcock’s mission. Whatever happened to the original thereafter, Shannon read it and promised a response. After a while, he called the envoys back and they discussed matters:

He said there had been sixteen houses burned here by free-State men, and women and children driven out of doors. We told him we were sorry that he had not taken pains to inquire into the truth of the matter before he had brought this large force into the country, which, perhaps, he could not get out again; and that his information was wholly and entirely false, as nothing of the kind had happened.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

At the time, one imagines that Lowery and Babcock found a more diplomatic way to put that. The free state party often blamed the arsons on persons unknown, or on proslavery men trying to frame them, but they can’t have fooled many. Rumors do fly, but clearly Charles Dow knew who fired the cabin on the claim he jumped. The accusation appears in proslavery sources often enough, and with consistent enough numbers, to argue that antislavery Kansans had taken up the habit. Those displaced households, Coleman’s included, came from somewhere. If Lowery and Babcock, who hardly lived at the far end of Kansas from Hickory Point, didn’t know the fact then they must have worked hard to stay ignorant.

Shannon then, per Lowery, denied knowing anything about Missourians coming into Kansas to work their vengeance on Lawrence. He might not have at this point, but that seems like a stretch given about the time he met with the Lawrence envoys the governor also asked for federal troops to manage the situation. Either way, he held the free state proclamations about the laws of Kansas against them. From the context, it seems Shannon justified his summons of the militia on those grounds.

We explained to him that the Territorial laws had nothing to do with this case; that we were getting ready at Lawrence to fight for our lives, and the only question was, whether he would be perticeps criminis to our murder, or the murder of somebody else, should we all be slaughtered. We explained to him, that the rescue upon which he based his proclamation took place a number of miles from Lawrence; that there were but three persons living in Lawrence who were alleged to have had anything to do with it, and that they had left the town, and were not there at all from what we could judge of the intentions of the force at Wakarusa, at Lecompton, and in the county about, from their own declarations, they intended to destroy the town for a thing in which they had no part or parcel.

Lowery might have lied to Shannon’s face, but not about that. The proslavery army, to judge from the words and conduct of its leaders, aimed to rid itself of Lawrence once and for all.

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