“Miserable and fiendish blackguardism” Sheriff Jones Visits Lawrence, Again


Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Wilson Shannon, second governor of Kansas Territory, had dealt with Samuel Jones and the free state men at Lawrence before. He hoped that putting the United States Army between the free state militias and the combination of Kansas territorial militia and random Missourians would avert the bloodshed that the proslavery men seemed set on. That time, Colonel E.V. Sumner of the 1st Cavalry refused to decamp from Fort Leavenworth for want of presidential orders. This time around, Sumner had those orders. When Shannon told him to send a small contingent to help Jones complete his arrests of antislavery men, Sumner did his duty.

Shannon’s letter to Sumner specified seven men, an officer and six others, to go with Jones. Merrill’s True History of Kansas reports that Jones got ten, under the command of a Lieutenant McIntosh. But those ten men don’t appear to have hewed to the strictly nonpartisan role that Shannon expected. They followed their orders to go and help Jones, but John Speer tells that

The troops were generally our friends, and watered their horses at all the wells where there was a horse that would drink at all; and all who knew anything they had done, got notice in time to run; and I fled for safety to the Delaware Indians.

Orders to help Jones didn’t preclude a few soldiers helping his enemies. If that didn’t get the word out, then Sumner might have done it on his own. He wrote ahead to alert the mayor of Lawrence that the Jones and his men would soon arrive. Either way, Lawrence did not happily receive Jones with soldiers at his back. The Herald of Freedom for April 26 describes Jones’ arrival three days prior:

The physical power of the General Gov’t has been used to grind us into submission to a code of bloody, barbarous enactments. A man styling himself “Sheriff of Douglas County,” comes into our town, with a portion of the U.S. Army to aid him in carrying out his objects, seizes innofensive, peaceable citizens whilst pursuing their proper employments, and without the shadow of a pretence of justice or law, drags them before a court from whose decisions neither justice nor humanity can be expected.

Merill adds that Lawrence greeted Jones and company with aplomb:

Modesty would be shocked and shame stand back abashed, were we to pen the miserable and fiendish blackguardism that was indulged in, by the peace peaceable and law-abiding citizens, against the President, Governor Shannon, and the Pro-slavery party.

He also relates that William Howard, who gave the Howard Committee its name, overheard a man offer the services of his pistol to Charles Robinson. The free state governor bid him “wait”. The Howard Report doesn’t mention that, but it seems likely enough. Merrill includes it among other threats made against Jones’ life. Nor would it strain credulity to believe that some in Lawrence openly spoke of shooting Jones.

But as Speer said, the people Jones wanted all got the word and fled before Jones and the Army arrived. He and his dragoons surrounded Speer’s house and searched it, to no avail. They spent most of the day in town, coming away with ten men that Speer declares innocent of any wrongdoing. The Herald of Freedom names six of them: John Hutchinson, E.D. Lyman, J.F. Warren, J.G. Fuller, F. Hunt, and A. F. Smith.

The unnamed four raise questions. Given the general environment of threats and sporadic force used to resist Jones in the past, they might have done something Jones deemed worthy of arrest even if they hadn’t come to his notice previously. It seems improbable that Jones would just seize random people, though not entirely out of character. That the paper describes Lawrence as “submitting without a murmur” strains credulity more. They might not have used force against the United States, but Jones likely heard Merrill’s loud denunciations and imprecations.


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