The End of the Leavenworth Territorial Register, Part Two

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

We left George Washington Brown, the only source I’ve found on the destruction of the Territorial Register, commenting on how Mark Delahay’s paper had so little to do with abolitionism that it had endorsed one of the men leading the mob that destroyed it. He told his readers that the Register had the approval of the administration’s Washington Union all of a month before its destruction, a stamp of orthodoxy that counted for a great deal at the time. By all the conventional measures of nineteenth century politics, one might expect the mob to understand Delahay as at least moderate. The more generous might even count him on the proslavery side. He certainly didn’t make for a reasonable substitute for Brown himself.

But Mark Delahay sinned all the same. His paper

disapproved of David R. Atchison leading an armed force of Missourians into Kansas during the descent of the Border Ruffians on Lawrence. It ironically stated that it regretted that “certain duties, both of a public and private nature” had prevented Mr. Atchison from returning to Missouri by way of Leavenworth City.

This was the sum total of its offence. For daring to allude ironically to the arch-demagogue of Missouri, the Territorial Register, a “National Democratic” journal, published in Kansas, was destroyed and thrown into the river by a gang of ruffians, chiefly residents of Missouri, and followers, every one of them, of a “National Democratic” politician.

Brown stretched things here. If the Register’s disapproval of Atchison and the Wakarusa War served as a causus belli, then it made only for the final straw. Delahay had attended the Topeka Constitution back in October and November, which put him pretty firmly on the antislavery side. That he occupied the right wing of the free state movement did not, however much Brown might like it otherwise, make him into a proslavery man. It could, however, have put him within the mainstream of the national Democracy. They didn’t all have cause to run off to Kansas and join in opposing the territorial government, but other Democrats of a national stripe who had come to Kansas, like James Lane, did so. When the legitimacy of Kansas’ warring governments came before Congress, plenty of Democrats showed sympathy for the free state movement.

Thus Brown highlights an important point: the border ruffians and their Kansas auxiliaries had taken steps that, while not unprecedented in the rough world of antebellum politics, well exceeded its norms in terms of scale. You might have some violence at your own election and so ensure the outcome, but one did not customarily organize bands and invade a neighboring polity in large numbers to do the same there.

The trampling of the white man’s democracy in the name of slavery rankled more than just abolitionists. If it could happen in Kansas, it might elsewhere. Antislavery Americans had made that claim often enough. The slave power, with its doughfaced northern lackeys like Frnaklin Pierce and James Buchanan, secretly conspired to destroy white freedom. The slavocrats, left unopposed, would soon enslave all.

Those accusations always had a whiff of paranoia about them, and gave the white South more organizational credit than it deserved, but proslavery Missourians and Kansans seemed absolutely bent on making them into realities.

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The End of the Leavenworth Territorial Register, Part One

The Alton mob attacking Elijah Lovejoy's warehouse.

The Alton mob attacking Elijah Lovejoy’s warehouse.

I must begin with a minor correction, Gentle Readers. I previously put Mark Delahay’s nomination by the free state party for delegate to Congress at December 15, the day that the mob at Leavenworth seized the polls and menaced his newspaper. The nominating convention actually took place on December 22.

Speaking of that convention, Delahay attended it as he had previous free state conventions. That put him in Lawrence on the twenty-second. The proslavery men took notice, as George Washington Brown’s Herald of Freedom reported on December 29. Threats spared the Register once, but

the Platte County Regulators had determined that it should go the way of the Luminary ere long.

B.F. Stringfellow and company earned themselves a checkered past already by this point and they did live just across the river from Leavenworth. More likely than not, members of the organization played a part in the mob action on the fifteenth. With Delahay and other “leading Free State men of Leavenworth” away they saw their opportunity:

an armed and regularly organized company of fifty men, chiefly from Missouri, led by G.W. Perkins, Dr. Royall, Capt. Dunn and James Lyle marched down from Kickapoo, broke open the Register office, destroyed the press and threw it, with all type, into the Missouri river.

Dunn and Lyle have appeared in the narrative before. Lyle participated in the lynching of the less famous William Phillips. Dunn, of course, stormed the polls. I don’t recognize Perkins or Royall, but Brown helpfully identifies them as, like Dunn and Lyle, late of the army that besieged Lawrence. They had further distinctions as well:

Perkins was the candidate of the “National Democracy” for Congress; and the Territorial Register advocated his election. “Oh! shame! where is thy blush?” Dr. Royall was a delegate to the pro-slavery “law and order” Convention. Dunn is an Irish renegade. Sprung from a class and race who are opposed and despised at home, he was endowed with all the glorious rights of American citizenship, only to aid in undermining the principles on which our republican government is founded. Lyle was the clerk of the House of Representatives of the bogus Kansas Legislature […] Such are the leaders of the pro-slavery “law and order” party.

One just can’t imagine how the Whigs and Republicans lost the Irish vote so badly. Brown sounds at least as scandalized by Dunn’s Irish background as by his proslavery violence.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

The Register’s endorsement of Perkins makes for rich irony. Brown must have relished the chance to strike at proslavery violence and the right wing of his own movement, which Delahay represented. His clear satisfaction shouldn’t obscure the broader picture, though. Proslavery men didn’t attack just a radical paper like the Herald of Freedom, but even a very moderate antislavery organ:

It certainly could not be charged with “Abolitionism” as attachment to Northern ideas is styled; for it advocated the principles of the Nebraska bill; it lauded the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; it was the organ and defender of Stephen A. Douglas; it advised, from first to last, the obedience to the laws of the barons of Kansas; it was in favor of the execution of the fugitive slave bill and abhorred the higher law; its editor repeatedly and publicly declared “he had as lief buy a negro as a mule;” and regarded the question of slavery or freedom merely as “a question of dollars and cents.”

All of this held true until “within the last month,” to the point that the Register had the approval of the Democracy’s national newspaper, the Washington Union.

The Mob and the Territorial Register, Part Three

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

Not content with stopping the election of December 15, 1855 and attacking one of the poll workers, the proslavery mob at Leavenworth turned their attention to the local antislavery paper. The Territorial Register must pay. As had happened at Lawrence less than a week before, they backed down when faced with a threat. Antislavery men put the word out that if the mob wrecked the Register, then as soon as they departed the proslavery Leavenworth Herald would follow. Threats alone might not have done the job, but the mob’s leaders again opted for moderation. Those leaders arranged a distraction, as reported by William Addison Phillips:

An effort was made to satisfy the victorious heroes of the ballot-box with their laurels for the day, and the disbanding of the “militia” afforded the means of diverting the current.

I’ve previously expressed my skepticism of Phillips’ claim that the mob largely came down to militia men fresh off their Lawrence disappointment and still mustered together. I still find it hard to believe that an organized company remained together away from home, in cold weather, and without clear purpose days later. Given the scare quotes, Phillips may have agreed. But it seems that treating them as such counted for something. Archibald Payne tried to maintain order at the meeting, but gave over to Lucien Eastin, a genuine general of the militia:

General Eastin congratulated them on their good and orderly conduct, on which their recent occupation was an excellent commentary. He also complimented them on their appearance, which was quite diverting.

What Phillips meant by the force’s appearance, I have no idea. I presume it involved more about their military bearing or good order than their looks or the simple fact of their presence. If singularly good-looking men figured prominently in the Missouri or Kansas militias, I haven’t heard of it.

by far the most important part of his speech was a proposition that these men should immediately enroll themselves into regular volunteer companies as soon as they were disbanded. He said there were three thousand stand of arms due the territory from the United States, and that if they took the proper steps they could get them.

Eastin’s offer here gave the mob reason to listen. They could get access to free guns and then turn those arms on antislavery Kansans. Phillips looked into things later and found

it was really the intention thus to get the arms designed for the defense of the territory into the hands of those who are to invade it. A part of the force thus to be armed would be proslavery men, residents of the territory; but the great bulk of these arms would thus find their way into the hands of the border ruffians.

One doesn’t get the impression that the proslavery party lacked for arms, but a few thousand extras wouldn’t hurt anybody. They might even relieve the irregulars of the need to pillage Missouri’s armories before crossing the border. That would put the proslavery men on firmer legal footing at home, as well as turn them into regulars with some form of lasting official sanction. If the Lawrence militias could get that kind of approval, why not their enemies?

Thomas Jefferson, James Henry Hammond, and Uncanny X-Men #237

Between early October and late November, 1988, Marvel Comics published Uncanny X-Men #235-238. These four issues contain the first appearance of the fictional island of Genosha, a place somewhere between Madagascar and the Seychelles. The Genoshans, almost invariably white, have built up a wealthy, technologically advanced society in an otherwise inhospitable place. They enjoy every luxury that superhero comics of the late 1980s could provide. Or rather I should say the free Genoshans enjoy those luxuries, courtesy the enslaved Genoshans whose bodies and lives they pillage.

Listening to Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, which I heartily recommend to any fan of comics, brought to my notice the story’s proslavery rhetoric. It passed me by when I first read the issues and I thus understood Genosha exclusively in the light of later stories. Those painted it more directly as Apartheid-era South Africa. You can find Apartheid in the original story too, as well as other twentieth century horrors, but Jay and Miles rightly noted that this story overwhelmingly concerns slavery. Inspired, and with their kind encouragement, I read the comics again with an eye to a short post about the arguments.

My reread found four issues so dense with depictions of and allusions to American slavery that I filled four and a half pages of notes just marking out pages and panels. At first, I thought I might note such references in passing, but they come too numerous and in too many layers for such a casual treatment. Unpacking them would also distract from examining the proslavery arguments and make for a whole series of posts. I might write them in the future, but for today my original goal will suffice. Should you wish to read along, you can get digital copies of the issues on Comixology or through Marvel’s Netflix-for-comics program, Marvel Unlimited.

On the island of Genosha, they enslave mutants. In the strange and wonderful world of Marvel comics, mutants get their powers from their genes rather than through the bites of radioactive animals or via aliens handing over jewelry as decent people do. If your genome shows up in regular tests, the state seizes you and subjects you to a process that erases your mind and alters your body, literally to the point of replacing your skin, to meet the needs of non-mutant society. Most enslaved mutants work in Genosha’s iron mines and steel mills, generating high-quality material on the cheap to feed the world economy. The story also depicts mutants cleaning streets and tending gardens, but mainly they mine. Having them grow cotton would seem anachronistic in a story written in the 1980s, but it works out the same.

The architects and administrators of the system keep it a secret from the world and even their own families. Even the son of the man in charge of enslaving mutants has convinced himself that Genosha’s mutant slaves enjoy their station, right up until his affianced qualifies for enslavement. In explaining the system to her, Genosha’s Genegineer goes full nineteenth century:

Gjen1

Uncanny X-Men #237. Written by Chris Claremont. Pencils by Rick Leonardi. Inking by Terry Austin. Lettering by Tom Orezechowski. Colors by Glynis Oliver.

I know this isn’t your fault, that you view what’s happening as some horrible, unspeakable fate worse than death, but without such gifted people as yourself, how else do you think Genosha can maintain its standard or living…or even survive?

GjendependThe Genegineer here lays out a necessary evil case for slavery. Their whole civilization runs on the labor of the enslaved. They can’t do without it, even if it requires the sacrifice of loved ones. “Paradise on Earth” demands its price. Without the slaves, Genoshans “are nothing.”

The necessary evil argument can sound very sympathetic. Its advocates grant the injustice of slavery and the suffering of the enslaved. Take it from Thomas Jefferson:

There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us.  The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.  Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal.  This quality is the germ of all education in him.  From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do.  If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present.  But generally it is not sufficient.  The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities.  The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances.  And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriae of the other.

No one can question Jefferson’s especially intimate familiarity with slavery. He sounds a great deal like the Genegineer:

DIL

I am truly sorry, Jenny. I so looked forward to your becoming my daughter-in-law.

However sincere Jefferson’s or the Genegineer’s anguish over slavery, it only goes so far. Jefferson dreamed of a continent free of slaves, but his plans for emancipation always scheduled it well into the future. Someone else, not the Sage of Monticello, would have to manage the actual process. The time, conveniently, never seemed quite right. Like the Genegineer, Jefferson fretted over the consequences of abolition. In his old age, the author of the Declaration of Independence avowed

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for it is so misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.

Jefferson wanted slavery, and blacks, gone. But it wouldn’t do to go crazy for it. He would happily instead have others suffer some sacrifices in order to preserve himself in his luxuries. Just like the Genegineer:

Gjen2

 

how else do you think Genosha can maintain its standard or living…or even survive?

Slavery, whether on the fictional island of Genosha or the real state of Virginia remained necessary as well as evil. We might associate the platform of slavery in perpetuity with later writers of a more radical bent, but the Jefferson and others like him ultimately held to the same ends. They called slavery evil, often and at length, but it proved a curiously dear sort of evil from which they loathed to part. All their tender consciences and good intentions fell short in the face of its considerable rewards.

The Genegineer has some sympathy for his son’s beloved and so preaches the necessarily evil of slavery to her, but only to her and only to a point. Ultimately he goes further still, recasting slavery as a positive good in the frame of radicals in the later Antebellum. Slavery’s sacrifice of the enslaved came with a benefit. He declares Genosha “a paradise on earth,” and the government propaganda, via an “informatape” agrees:

Informatape UXM237

Over the years, Genosha has built an economy and society that is the envy of the world. There is no poverty here, no hardship, with unparalleled opportunities for education and employment ours is a free land where people are judged by deeds and character, not for the color of their skin.

Unless I’ve missed one, all the enslaved Genoshans we see have white skin. By choosing to enslave whites, they have consummated one of the more radical dreams of slavery’s defenders and followed their critique of free labor, which theorists imagined as exploitative and adversarial, to its natural conclusion. The human sacrifices, by the slaves, necessary to free Genosha from hardship and poverty, except for the slaves, likewise echo antebellum thought. Specifically, the framing of freedoms sacrificed to create freedom for others recalls James Henry Hammond’s mudsill theory:

In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that order class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purposes, and call them slaves.

By mudsill, Hammond meant the wood at the bottom of the door that keeps the mud out; the thing that people step on and might use to scrape clean their boots. Like Jefferson, Hammond had especially intimate acquaintance with slavery. Unlike Jefferson, he sold either his enslaved son or grandson.

Genoshans didn’t find a docile race inured to the climate any more than American enslavers did. They created one through the horrors of comic book science, but only the genre conventions separate them from their American counterparts. Where Genoshans could use fantasy technology to render their slaves compliant, Southern whites understood that an educated slave would soon seek freedom. Thus they undertook to suppress slave education even in such otherwise universal and urgent matters as reading the Bible. Thus, they hoped, they would keep slaves to their “natural” role and free from infection with dreams of liberty. When that inevitably failed, they resorted to violence.

James Henry Hammond

James Henry Hammond

Hammond continued, insisting that the white South cared much better for its slaves than any Yankee could hope to receive or buy with wages:

The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street in any of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South. […] Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves.

Per Hammond, the slaves had it so good that they ought to thank their enslavers. The Genoshan propaganda promised Hammond’s vision of the South. The Genegineer promised his victim that she would be just as happy, even if she came on the wrong end of the system:

PosGood

You needn’t worry, though. You’ll be cared for–well-fed, well-housed–most of the world’s population would probably kill for such a life.

If Jennifer Ransome, the Genegineer’s victim, didn’t see it that way then it didn’t matter. Though ordinary Genoshans vastly outnumbered their slaves, the opposite of the circumstance that southerners like Hammond often founds themselves in, they understood their situation much the same. Where four million slaves might once rise up in the antebellum South, and the threat of that rising justified endless repressions, “A few hundred super-powered mutants” posed an existential threat to their more numerous enslavers. Thus the Genoshans, like Southern whites, concluded that

Gjendefense

Their power is sufficient to destroy us. That’s why we have to impose such strict controls. Not slavery, child, self-defense.

They had the wolf by the ears. Not content with that, like antebellum Southern whites, the Genoshans insisted that they did the wolf a favor to hold it there. They didn’t even demand thanks, just a small bit of backbreaking labor and large helping of dehumanization, degregation, and a dash of medical torture. What else could they do? Recognize the villain of the story when they looked in the mirror?

I could go on. The comics provide something close to a guided tour of proslavery argument, if with numerous departures for genre conventions and the convenience of the story. One shouldn’t get one’s historical education from a superhero comic, but these four issues offer up a vision of slavery deeply informed by the history. They go well beyond the conventional images and famous names, demonstrating a thoroughgoing understanding of slavery itself, its function as a social control, economic system, and the defenses marshaled in its favor in the nineteenth century United States.

The Mob and the Territorial Register, Part Two

William Phillips

William Phillips

We left William Addison Phillips relating how the proslavery mob at Leavenworth, not content with stopping the referendum on the free state constitution or with brutalizing George Wetherell, decided to go after Mark Delahay’s Territorial Register too. Delahay supported the free state cause and they had a perfectly good mob all warmed up and ready for another run. Who, aside Wetherell and Delahay, would want to go home with the fun barely started?

With his audience wound up for another story of proslavery violence, Phillips had to let them down. The mob didn’t wreck the newspaper office, throw the press in the river, kill Delahay, or consummate any of the other traditional proslavery observances upon antislavery newspapers. Why not?

There is not the slightest doubt that putting it in the river on Saturday was part of the programme; but two things saved it. In the first place, a person who doe snot subscribe to the non-resistant creed informed the friends of the pro-slavery paper here that if the Missourians put the Register office in the river, the Herald office would be placed snugly beside it as soon as they left town. I do not endorse such a sentiment, of course, but I think it had a salutary effect.

If the antislavery contingent would not confront an armed mob out for blood, it could still take action after they left. Leavenworth’s questionable loyalty to the proslavery cause appears to have informed the lynching of the other William Phillips. It would stand to reason that they had numbers enough to toss the press in the river and popularity enough to get away with it, even if they eschewed a bitched brawl.

To those threats, Phillips added another consideration:

a hesitation on a part of a few of the more conservative of the pro-slavery men here, who, like Davy Atchison at the Wakarusa, were afraid that too much of a good thing “might injure the democratic party.”

Phillips might have had it just right. The proslavery party suffered a serious PR loss only a week earlier against Lawrence. They backed down in part because if they struck they would have attacked a peaceful community without any real cause and scarce official sanction. Their disappointment, however cruel, didn’t necessary trump their judgment. Delahay had done no worse, and probably much less overall, than anybody at Lawrence. If the mob afflicted him, then he might become a perfect antislavery martyr: the former Maryland enslaver, attacked by his own for the sake of his late righteousness.

The Mob and the Territorial Register, Part One

William Phillips

William Phillips

After William Addison Phillips finished speculating about why Leavenworth’s free state men didn’t rise up and put down the proslavery mob that stormed their polls and brutally attacked George Wetherell, he related another story. It seems that the proslavery men found Wetherell’s plight and the disruption of the election not entirely satisfactory. They wanted more.

The mob was swaying uneasily to and fro, and was evidently animated by some new work of mischief. The words “abolition papers,” “Delahay,” “D–n it! burn the whole infernal thing up!” “Throw it in the river!” showed that mischief to Colonel Delahay’s office, the Territorial Register, was contemplated.

Mark Delahay hasn’t appeared in our story to date. He lived, as one might imagine, in Leavenworth and there operated the Territorial Register. That the proslavery mob wanted to give him the Parkville Industrial Luminary treatment tells you his politics as of December 15, 1855. Before that, he attended the Topeka Convention and presented a motion endorsing the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It had, after all, served Kansas so very well in preventing strife over slavery.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

George Washington Brown profiled Delahay in the December 29 Herald of Freedom, in support of his nomination by the free state party for delegate to Congress:

Mr. Delahay is a native of Maryland. He is a Free State man rather from material than moral considerations. He has been a slaveholder; says he “would as lief buy a negro as a mule;” but is in favor of freedom in Kansas because our soil, climate, and productions are not adapted to slave labor. he is a “National” or Douglas Democrat, and of course in favor of Squatter Sovereignty. As he truly represents the political opinions of the majority of the citizens in Leavenworth, and is personally popular, his name will serve greatly to make the ticket popular in those districts of Kansas were freedom is not regarded as infinitely preferable to slavery, but is weighed in the balance of political expediency, and found to be rather “more desirable, if anything, to the peculiar infamy of the South.

Delahay received his nomination on the same day as the mob convened at Lawrence, so they probably didn’t know about it when they chose to bedevil his paper. His association with the free state movement and promotion of it in his paper sufficed for an unkind visit. Phillips reports that Leavenworth’s free state mayor sent to Fort Leavenworth for men to maintain the peace, but received no help from that quarter.

The mob found

the Register office was locked up. Its owner, who had refused to go to the aid of Lawrence during the siege, might have been found, peering down from a back street on the mob who threatened his press, and in a state of trepidation which showed he was not very anxious for political martyrdom just at that moment.

Some people just don’t want to rush off and die for the cause.

The Junto’s March Madness brings free journal articles

Gentle Readers, every year the early Americanists at the Junto blog do a fun popularity contest with history writing. It happens in March and involves both some species of bracket and a form of mental illness. This may entail some sort of sports reference; I lack the necessary cultural context to say. This year they’ve chosen to do journal articles and made arrangements to turn most of them open-access for the duration of the affair. In plain English, that means lots of free PDFs of scholarly articles, including Edmund Morgan’s first go at the argument he developed in American Slavery, American Freedom.

I can’t give a guided tour of the articles, as I’ve not read almost any of them. Journals remain largely inaccessible to me for logistic and financial reasons. But the selections cover such a broad scope that probably anybody with an interest in the subject will find something worth reading.

William Addison Phillips in Leavenworth, Part Three

William Phillips

William Addison Phillips

 

The December 15, 1855 attack on the polls at Leavenworth began with a demand for the ballot box. Charles Dunn, Archibald Payne, and mob wanted it and would have it by force if need be. The box left my narrative when George Wetherell tossed it under a counter and fled, but not that of the witnesses. George H. Keller, who had presided over the box’s filling as a judge of the election, caught sight of it once more after Wetherell’s ordeal:

I saw some of the crowd going up the street afterwards holding up the ballot-box, with exultive shouts, and I do not know what became of it.

William Addison Phillips told just a bit more. He didn’t say how the mob came to the ballot box or the poll book along with it, and the crowd probably prevented him from seeing, but he agreed that the mob found their quarry and paraded down the streets with it. Many “shrieks and yells” ensued, proving “that the half-tipsy invaders were ripe for further mischief.”

All of this made an impression. Per Phillips

A panic had seized the free-state men, or rather they wanted some bold and active leaders. The polls had been violated while most of the people were at dinner; but the border ruffians kept possession of the quarter of the town where the voting had been held, and but few free-state men were to be seen venturing among them. Perhaps the apology for this timid spirit lay in the fact that the men of Leavenworth were unarmed, or but indifferently armed, and that they had no volunteer military organization, the known members and officers of which could be relied on. It was with a feeling of shame and bitterness that I saw these invading, lawless villains thus violate the dearest and most sacred rights of American freemen.

For all his lamenting that Leavenworth lacked its version of James Lane or Charles Robinson, and its own military company under a John Brown or Samuel Wood, he doesn’t seem to have seen fit to step into the breech himself. One can’t fault him too badly for his unwillingness to stand up to an angry, armed mob. Leavenworth might not have taken to the leadership of an outsider even if he offered it. But all that considered, he comes down a bit hard on the town. Reading between the lines, maybe Leavenworth didn’t have a free state military organization because not enough people in Leavenworth cared to involve themselves. Some of the citizens might come to free state polls, but with Missouri just across the river they may have had very good reason to otherwise keep a low profile. Nobody would volunteer for the other William Phillips’ treatment.

 

William Addison Phillips in Leavenworth, Part Two

William Phillips

William Phillips

We left William Addison Phillips in Leavenworth. There a proslavery mob that Phillips has come over from Missouri, led by Archibald Payne and Charles Dunn, brandished a pistol (Payne), and broke in a window (Dunn) to seize the ballot box and stop the referendum on the free state constitution. Payne, who had participated in the lynching of the other William Phillips, insisted on no parley. The election judges and clerk must yield up their box, no questions asked. At that point, George Keller and George Wetherell ran for it. Wetherell, spelled Wetherill by Phillips, had the box briefly but tossed it under a counter as he fled the building.

Then, Phillips saw Wetherell

knocked down by clubs. not less than thirty men were around him and jumping on him. One man had an axe raised to strike him, if he could have done so for the crowd.

Every witness to the confrontation who I’ve read agreed that Wetherell went down in a mob scene, but no others mention the axe. One would think that Wetherell himself would have said something and consequently doubt Phillips on the point. He wrote his book during the Kansas struggle and had every reason to exaggerate proslavery violence, after all. But the witnesses also agree that the crowd pressed in on Wetherell and most people didn’t have a full view of the clerk once he fell. If that same crowd kept the axe man back, Wetherell might not have seen him for the press of bodies in the way. Failing that, he had other things on his mind what with people kicking him and jumping on his head and back. Phillips may have invented the axe, but he didn’t need to. Wetherell already faced a potentially lethal assault.

The man with the axe might have made his way to the front of the crowd given time, but he lacked that luxury:

It was the work of an instant, and immediately some few of the free-state men, who had not been frightened off, interfered. The first who interposed was a pro-slavery man, who seemed to have a trifle of the Samaritan in him; but a young man from York State, named Anthony, and a Captain Brown, both good and tried free-state men, cocked their pistols, and rushed forward, as did some others. Wetherill was raised and carried home.

Wetherell names R.P. Brown and a Mr. Anthony among his rescuers. Phillips’ proslavery good Samaritan sounds like Captain Murphy, from H.H. Johnston’s testimony:

Captain Murphy came up at that time and seeing Mr. Wetherell, took him up, raised him on his feet, and told the people round, he was a good man, and he believed a law-abiding citizen, and any person attempting to stroke him would have to fight him first.

Donald Trump has a past

Klan for AmericansGentle Readers, by now you must all know about Donald Trump and the Ku Klux Klan. Trump, frontrunner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, has the endorsement of the nation’s most famous Klansman, David Duke. Duke infamously ran for Governor of Louisiana back in the early Nineties. Had only whites voted, he would have won. The Grand Wizard joins a veritable klavern of white supremacists on Team Trump. Many politicians court that kind of endorsement, if not necessarily as many words, but few appreciate having the fact noticed. The United States magically ended racism in 2008, 1965, 1865, or some other past date. Failing that, racism didn’t really hurt anyone, or racists’ victims had it coming. White innocence runs from cradle to someone else’s grave. Sunday last, CNN confronted Trump about the endorsement.

The Donald claimed the birthright of every white American and declared that he knew nothing about David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan. The CNN anchor pressed him first on white supremacist groups in general. Trump pleaded ignorance. Even when narrowed down to the Klan, who Trump mentions by name, he dodged the question. I mention this because Trump later complained that he couldn’t hear the anchor. He did very well at naming names for a guy who couldn’t make out the other half of the conversation. In the course of all that, he claimed he needed to research the groups.

Let’s play the sucker for a moment and pretend that Donald Trump needs an education about the Ku Klux Klan. Back in 1872, the Congress published a thirteen-volume report on the work of the Klan and its allies. I must confess that I have not read all, nor even a fair portion of it. I didn’t know it existed until Joshua Rothman tweeted about it. In the course of writing this post, I’ll read more of the report than anybody in the Trump campaign ever will. Should you like to join me in this distinction, you’ve made it if you can get through the title.

After the usual preliminaries, the committee got down to business:

The proceedings and debates in Congress show that, whatever other causes were assigned for disorders in the late insurrectionary States, the execution of the laws and the security of life and property were alleged to be most seriously threatened by the existence and acts of organized bands of armed and disguised men, known as Ku-Klux.

CNN meant the descendants of these people, Donald. One might ask from whence such bands came. The committee found, based on testimony from officers of the United States military

that secret organizations were formed in the insurrectionary States soon after the close of the war, hostile to, and intended to embarrass the Government of the United States and of the States in proper administration of the affairs of the country.

George H. Thomas, son of Virginian planters disowned for his Unionism.

George H. Thomas

The witnesses here included George Gordon Meade and George Thomas, generals both. Thomas, if we believe the traditional story about Robert Lee, had the superpower of political alignment independent of his native state. Some white Virginians could think for themselves after all. Who knew?

Having lost their war to save slavery, the secret organizations latched on to other grievances. According to Nathan Bedford Forrest,

There was a great deal of insecurity felt by the southern people. […] The negroes were holding night meetings; were going about; were becoming very insolent; and the southern people all over the State were very much alarmed. […] Ladies were ravished by some of these negroes

The wanton, roving rapist of minority extraction ought to sound familiar. If he has ever left the American mind fully, I don’t know it. He had a starring turn just last summer:

You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go

Dylann Roof said those words just before he opened fire at the African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof committed his murders, assassinations really, on June 17. On June 16, the day before Roof walked into that church, Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign. He had to run, you understand, because America had problems he could fix. Among those problems:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

Trump can, and belatedly did, disavow the Klan. You don’t do these things right in the moment, or the Klan might think you mean them.  Should Trump really want to disavow the Klan and its allied white supremacists, he must begin with something far harder than statements to the media. He must commence with looking in the mirror and denouncing himself. I doubt that Trump would have a formal affiliation to a white power group, or that he would admit to one if he did. He probably doesn’t pay them dues. -He doesn’t even pay into his own charity these days.- But it scarcely takes a sartorial fondness for bedsheets and conical headgear to make you the Klan candidate. Trump, for all his pretense to the contrary, has what it really takes.

The Klan knows it. I don’t know how many Americans have voted for Donald Trump yet, but I doubt they’re all fools. They know the score. We ought to consider that before congratulating ourselves on the waning of white supremacy. Neither law of nature nor moral arc of history, however long, ensures that it will continue to wane. It may have a comeback in mind, as it has before. Trump might not win the nomination, though that seems unlikely now. He might lose in November. Win or lose, his supporters will not courteously evaporate. If any had forgotten, Donald Trump reminded a generation of politicians and aspirant politicians that you could ride brutish white supremacy to fame and considerable success. They will not soon forget. Expect them for as long as people who imagine themselves white understand that they can steal blood and treasure from people they deem black. They’ve won elections on that platform before, and not just in the nineteenth century.