“War then it is, by God.”

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

I must begin with a confession, Gentle Readers: I screwed up. I started out working through the petition that the people of Lawrence sent to Franklin Pierce and all its included correspondence, which I introduced as such at the time. Over the course of a long weekend and getting more than a little lost marveling at all the trees, it slipped my mind that I had not actually left the memorial’s text behind. I have worked before with executive minutes and other collections of correspondence presented similarly to the memorial, and in the same volumes, and started thinking of the documents on those lines. In so doing, I lost track of who produced the writing and so ended up musing about the nameless compiler and his unusually sharp voice. For the record, both of the previous posts hail from the memorial’s text and deserve reading as the words of interested parties from Lawrence: J.M Winchell, Lyman Allen, S.B. Prentiss, L.G. Hine, Joseph Cracklin, John A. Perry, O.E. Learnard, S.W. Eldridge, and C.W. Babcock. I don’t think it much changes my analysis of yesterday’s material, but one should always keep the partiality of one’s sources in mind and I nodded off. That’s on me.

Continuing with the memorial then, we left with J.B. Donaldson and Wilson Shannon giving the Eldridges a series of contradictory and useless answers to the problem of the proslavery army aimed at Lawrence. They told the furnishers of the Free State Hotel that the posse Donaldson had summoned against Lawrence intended to work some mayhem. They would like to guarantee the safety of the hotel, but would not lift a finger to save the newspaper presses. Nor would they, despite agreement from Lawrence to disarm and submit, accept men of the town into a posse to use as a safe substitute for Donaldson’s bloodthirsty Missourians.

The Eldridges, one of whom signed his name to the memorial, pleaded further. Donaldson had set himself on a course and would not turn from it, but Wilson Shannon had the authority to call the military into things. It would take only his word for Colonel Sumner, who wanted to help, to swoop in with the 1st Cavalry and ensure everyone’s safety. Shannon “peremptorily refused.” That they had word from Donaldson himself that his posse meant to color outside the lines and would insist upon some destruction before going home did not enter into his consideration. Instead

he said the people of Lawrence must take such consequences as should ensue; that he could protect them with the United States troops if he chose, but that he should not do so.

They tried again: Shannon wanted law, order, and the submission of the free state party. They offered all of that, but if he gave them no protection then they would have to take things into their own hands. This might well lead to civil war, something that Shannon had abjured and worked hard to prevent not six months ago. Of course that time, he bore a direct responsibility for the escalation by issuing a general call for the militia. Now he could watch with technically clean hands. Pressed to the last, the Governor

turned angrily away and left the room with the expression, “War then it is, by God.”

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