Peace on the Wakarusa, Part Two

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The Peace Conference, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

The Wakarusa peace treaty declared the entire Coleman-DowBransonJones affair a huge misunderstanding. Wilson Shannon, away at Shawnee Mission, might very well have misunderstood events. Samuel Jones, in seeking Lawrence’s ruin, and Samuel Newitt Wood, in rescuing Branson from Jones, certainly did not. But the matter did descend on Lawrence through the action of Wood and his men on their own rather than by some official sanction of the town. In the interests of peace, the people of Lawrence declared that they knew nothing about the rescue until Wood had done the deed. They also rather implausibly declared that they had and intended to have no organization dedicated to resisting the laws of Kansas. The signatories to the treaty, James Lane and Charles Robinson, served as officers in no such organization. Robinson certainly had no fancy sash to mark his status as one.

Those matters disposed of, the people of Lawrence and environs

pledge ourselves to aid in the execution of the laws, when called upon by the proper authority in the town or vicinity of Lawrence. And that we will use our influence in preserving order therein; and we declare that we are now, as we always have been, ready at any time to aid the Governor in securing a posse for the execution of said process.

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

The free state party sometimes declared it knew no state officers appointed in Kansas. Yet its leaders found it in themselves to recognize Wilson Shannon when he came before them with an offer to save their lives if they would kindly save his career. This sounds like a capitulation, and rightly so, but they promise to use only their influence to serve process, and only in and around Lawrence. They make no promise about supporting Shannon elsewhere, and by placing themselves in charge of process the free state men positioned themselves to exert a de facto veto over said service. We will form posses for you around Lawrence and we, not Shannon or Jones, will implicitly decide when the situation calls for one.

To emphasize the point, immediately after the concession comes a qualification:

Provided that any person thus arrested in Lawrence or vicinity, while a foreign force shall remain in the Territory, shall be duly examined before a United States District Judge of said Territory, in said town, and admitted to bail.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

No carrying our people off to the Missourians. The whole matter must begin and end in Lawrence. Furthermore:

that all citizens arrested without legal process, by said Sheriff’s posse, shall be set at liberty.

If Jones has anyone, he must release them. If Jones wants to arrest anyone, he will only do so with the cooperation of Lawrence. If they do cooperate, he must surrender his prisoner to federal custody and that prisoner must receive bail. This all comes extremely close to declaring status quo ante bellum, as if nothing had happened at all, but with just enough of a fig leaf for Shannon to say he did his part and have an excuse to send the besiegers home.

 

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