The Peace Conference, Part Four

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Parts 1, 2, 3

We left Wilson Shannon issuing orders to prevent a wildcat attack on Lawrence. The ability of those orders to really prevent an attack premised upon rejecting his authority must not have reached very far, but Shannon had at his disposal men held in high esteem. David Rice Atchison, Albert Boone, and the militia commanders had lived in the area for years. The proslavery army knew them for solid men and would tellingly thank Atchison and Boone for their help in later accounts. Shannon also hoped for the arrival of Colonel Sumner and his 1st Cavalry from Fort Leavenworth, but to no avail. He wouldn’t receive Sumner’s final refusal to come until he returned to Shawnee Mission.

Negotiations continued the next day, December 8, 1856. Shannon promised that he would return to Lawrence at eight in the morning, but arrived “at a somewhat later hour than he had designated.” Charles Robinson saw fit to remark on the point when telling the story to Brewerton, which might sound petty and peevish. But Shannon himself had warned the free state leadership that the army might slip his control and attack them if they couldn’t reach an agreement that at least saved face. Not knowing how it would end, Robinson must have had an anxious few hours. Did Shannon’s delay mean that the proslavery men would attack? Had the governor lied to them from the start, to give the army time for preparations? Even if he hadn’t, it might mean that he couldn’t come as the struggle to restrain the horde demanded his full attention.

Shannon had a similarly anxious morning, concerned about the news of the plot to attack Lawrence. Before setting out for Lawrence, Shannon redoubled his efforts to engage prominent proslavery men in defusing the situation. This time he aimed for more than just calming tempers:

Upon consultation with these gentlemen, one of the most distinguished, proposed to select a committee of thirteen captains, to meet at Franklin a committee from the Lawrence camp, with the view of frankly interchanging opinions, and if possible, coming to some amicable settlement of our difficulties, which were now becoming hourly more complicated.

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The most distinguished gentleman sounds a bit to me like Atchison. It would make sense for the Governor to consider the Senator most distinguished and Shannon repeatedly acknowledges his help. But the governor doesn’t name names. Whoever proposed the idea, he signed off on it and then went back to Lawrence where he intended

to procure the appointment of a similar committee on their part, and bring them out to Franklin, which had been selected as a proper place for negotiation.

On his way to the besieged town, Shannon stopped at Franklin and met with his committee of thirteen captains. They agreed to remain there and wait for him and a delegation from Lawrence. He arrived to find a document awaiting signatures:

These written stipulations were, so far as their promise to execute the laws was concerned, identical with those verbally agreed upon the day before. But there were other matters which entered into this document, distasteful both in their subject-matter and phraseology. These I caused to be struck out. The remodelling and correction of this paper delayed us until four, P.M., when generals Robinson and Lane repaired with me, as a committee authorized to act for the Lawrence people, to Franklin, where we procured a room and organized the committees for business.

Shannon doesn’t say just what he found repugnant in the proposed treaty. Charles Robinson’s account doesn’t mention any revisions explicitly, but he has the drafting take place entirely on the morning of December 8 and agrees with Shannon that the proceedings took until four in the afternoon. That looks like a tacit admission that further back and forth took place.



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