The people of Lawrence gave up. They promised no interference with J.B. Donaldson’s posse. They would accept the legitimacy of Wilson Shannon’s territorial government and all its works. They would even give up their weapons, surrendering the lot to E.V Sumner if the 1st Cavalry as soon as he dispatched men sufficient to guarantee their safety. Everything that proslavery party wanted out of the town except its destruction and the murder of every man, woman, child, and livestock present, offered up for the Governor’s and Marshal’s approval. Those worthies need only take yes for an answer.
They did. Shannon wanted Lawrence disarmed all the way back to the Wakarusa War, but he didn’t want the town wiped off the map. Donaldson probably wanted more than just to get his way in serving process, but he agreed so long as he received no resistance when he did go into town. But according to papers later sent on to the White House and released to Congress, collected in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Siciety, Volume IV (PDF page 404), both men knew things might not go so easily. They had a large group of proslavery men with their blood up, many of whom doubtless recalled how they missed their chance to level Lawrence back in December:
it was said that a portion of the posse was clamorous for the destruction of the hotel and the printing offices; and the Messrs. Eldridge were invited to return again on the following day, after time had been afforded for consultation with the captains of the companies.
At this point, the compiler of the papers notes that both Eldridges remained under guard the entire way to and from Lecompton. In dismissing them, Shannon and Donaldson wrote them a safe conduct.
One would have to search Lawrence for some time to find anyone happy with the settlement offered, but it beat getting killed. Faced with miserable choices, they took the less awful. Shannon and his allies had talked down a proslavery militants before, so this might all come to pass. As planned, the Eldridges returned on the nineteenth of May, 1856, and
found a great change in the tone of the officials. It appeared that the companies composing the posse would be satisfied with nothing short of some destruction or private property, and this feeling was so strong as to defy the power of the Marshal.
They would not let Shannon play Lucy with the football another time.
The Eldridges offered to create a posse from the people of Lawrence, which Donaldson could use as a substitute. They just needed some guns that the Marshal could provide and would swear any oaths he required. Donaldson demurred, claiming he had no weapons to give. The compiler of the documents sounds skeptical on that point, insisting that Donaldson “alleged” lacking arms rather than did lack them. Given his close coordination with Shannon in all of this, it stands to reason that he could have appealed to the Governor to release some militia arms for the job. Instead
It was evident that a course of violence was resolved upon. One of the captains -a Colonel Titus, of Florida, a member of the late expedition against Cuba-declared boldly, that the printing presses must be destroyed to satisfy the boys from South Carolina.
All the same, Donaldson promised that he would protect the Eldridges’ Free State Hotel and insisted again that if no one fought him when he came into Lawrence, with a small posse of unarmed men” he would keep the rest out and ensure they did not disband near enough to come back and take a second crack at the town. This seems to have convinced no one. The compiler relates Donaldson’s promises and refusals, then declares
The incongruities of these various statements it is not for us to reconcile.