“The fiendish spirit by which they are governed” The Maltreatment of Reverend William C. Clark

Pardee Butler

Pardee Butler

We left the Reverend William C. Clark giving the Herald of Freedom his opinion of his late ordeal. The good Reverend had suffered at the hands of proslavery men, possibly including some members of the Kansas legislature. Like most of us who have had a rough handling, he liked it not one bit. Never in his life had he experienced such treatment, despite enjoying the company of everyone from New England Christians to “the savage Esquimaux”. He knew he had gotten off easier than he might have, with the example of Pardee Butler prominent in his mind, but that hardly constituted much in the way of consolation. In all likelihood, he would have had far worse if he hadn’t absconded from his ship ahead of schedule.

But Clark made it home to Massachusetts, where he took sick for a while but had since recovered. He hoped to return to Kansas “in March next.” In the interim, he aimed to “take the stump” for the territory and recruit antislavery settlers. Clark almost surely planned to do that anyway, but the chance to spite his attackers by living up to their idea of his goals probably didn’t hurt. Before he got to that, he wanted his readers to know that he had long preached peace. Clark still did, but

Peace principles are the best for all classes of men; but as to wild beasts, or the bipeds of Missouri, who walk upright, wear men’s clothes, vote for the people of Kansas, and hang around steamboats-nothing but Colt’s revolvers have any influence with them: hence the duty to have them on hand.

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Here Clark anticipates Charles Robinson’s inaugural message. The proslavery men had passed beyond the pale and so no longer deserved the consideration one would normally grant a person. They had become something less than human, or at the very least no longer fit participants in the ordinary political process. On the second point, one struggles to disagree with Clark. They had eschewed the normal practices of nineteenth century politics almost from the very start.

Clark knew that his ordeal made a poor advertisement for Kansas: Come along to the land where ministers fear for their lives! You might just get lynched! The Reverend concluded with a few words to balance it all out:

I hope that no person who has had thoughts either of visiting or settling in Kansas, will be deterred by the above. The cheapest and safest way is to go out under the charge of the Emigrant Aid Co., in which case all would be perfectly safe. It is only when men are caught alone unarmed that such land pirates dare exhibit the fiendish spirit by which they are governed.


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