“Blow them to h-ll with a chunk of cold lead!”

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison, one of the principle architects of Kansas’ woes, had probably had a few. He may or may not have had the multi-day “debauch” that William Phillips credited him with, but he earned his reputation as a hard drinking man fair and square. As Sheriff Jones hauled Lawrence’s cannons out of town, Missouri’s former senator probably still hoped his Kansas antics would get him his seat back. He gave a speech.

Phillips referred to false versions of Atchison’s words circulating. He probably didn’t hear the speech himself -it sounds like he remained in Lawrence through the full affair- but may have had it fresh from those who did hear Bourbon Dave sound off. Atchison commenced,

“Boys, to-day I’m a Kickapoo Ranger, by G-d! This day we have entered Lawrence, and the abolitionists have not dared to fire a gun.”

That Atchison would connect himself with the proslavery militia that killed Reese Brown seems entirely in character. He associated openly with the Platte County Self-Defense Association, so Kickapoo didn’t make much of a stretch. Through “an odd mixture of drunken enthusiasm, restraining forbearance, partisan ferocity, and profanity,” Atchison affirmed they ought to destroy the Free State Hotel and the printing presses, per Judge Lecompte’s order, but must behave as “gallant” gentlemen who “respect[ed] ladies.”

Even restraint required restraint, though:

“if you find a woman armed as a soldier, and thus putting off the garb of her sex, trample her under foot as you would a snake.”

Lawrence appeared resigned to submission, but should that change and the face “the least appearance of resistance, no quarter should be shown.” Those Southern gentlemen had come a long way to kill abolitionists. If they needed an excuse, then Davy Atchison gave it to them. Over the course of his speech he dismounted, went over to one of the proslavery army’s cannons, and mounted it. One could not miss the symbolism.

Speaking of cannons, as Atchison spoke Jones arrived with the field pieces taken from Lawrence. Jones informed the mob of his own orders against the hotel and papers, courtesy of Lecompte, and reminded them of their duty to “loud and enthusiastic cheers.” Atchison took the stump again:

“And now we will go in with our highly honorable Jones, and test the strength of that d—-d Free-State Hotel!” He said something more, urging them to bravery and good order, and finished by saying, “If any man or woman stand in your way, blow them to h-ll with a chunk of cold lead!”

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