“Of unusual malignity and literary excellence” Donaldson Answers Lawrence, Part 2

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

Part 1

We left J.B. Donaldson’s response to Lawrence with the Marshal unimpressed by his correspondents’ attempt to play dumb, sincere or otherwise. So far as he cared, they knew just what he wanted. He also deemed them inclined by disposition to obstruct his work and perhaps feed him some piping hot bullets for his trouble. To support that, he cited their treatment of Sheriff Samuel Jones. That Jones represented the territorial government rather than the federal didn’t matter much to him, even if the distinction held great weight with Lawrence’s antislavery luminaries. And anyway, whatever they might say to Donaldson to ease his fears they had a whole town fortified and armed to the teeth for him to hazard on no more than their good word.

Combine all of that and Donaldson suspected that Lawrence’s leaders dealt with less than complete candor. He needed his army-sized posse. For them to tell him that they would do nothing to harm him beggared belief:

If no outrages had been committed by the outlaws in Lawrence against the laws of the land, they need not fear any posse of mine. But I must take the liberty of executing all processes in my hands, as the United States Marshal, in my own time and manner, and shall only use such power as is authorized by law.

Donaldson had to do what he had to do. If the people of Lawrence respected the law, then they had no reason to fear him. Only the guilty need worry about a legal posse, no matter how many men bent on their murder it might contain. This struck to the paradox at the heart of Lawrence’s appeal. They wanted the protection of the law against an officer of the law and his lawfully-deputized lieutenants. The Marshal drove the point home:

This, indeed, sounds strange from a large body of men armed with Sharpe’s rifles, and other implements of war, bound together by oaths and pledges, to resist the laws of the government they call on for protection. All persons in Kansas Territory, without regard to location, who honestly submit to the constituted authorities, will ever find me ready to aid in protecting them; and all who seek to resist the laws of the land, and turn traitors to their country, will find me aiding and enforcing the laws, if not as an officer as a citizen.

In other words: Lawrence could go to hell. By unsubtle implication, Donaldson said that he considered the existence of the free state movement cause for action against it. Only if they disbanded completely and submitted themselves to all the territorial laws that force and fraud had bought for slavery, would he lift a finger to protect them. Otherwise, he understood command of the forces arrayed against them his rightful place.

After relating all of this, William Phillips informed his readers that Donaldson wrote none of it. Phillips believed him too stupid to manage such a feat and pinned it on a filibuster “of unusual malignity and literary excellence.” Donaldson’s penchant for the run-on sentence argues for a less than outstanding education, but it sounds like the work of a proslavery man bent on the destruction of his foes regardless of who wrote it.

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Donaldson Answers Lawrence, Part 1

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

J.B. Donaldson had an army, which he called a posse, massing at Lecompton to move against Lawrence. The people of Lawrence asked for help from Edwin Sumner, of the 1st Cavalry. Citing his orders to only act on the request of Governor Wilson Shannon, he said he couldn’t. They asked Shannon. He told them no. That left appealing to Donaldson himself, which a public meeting did on May 14. They promised that he could serve any process he had in Lawrence without trouble, so he did not need that posse. Furthermore, they didn’t know exactly what Donaldson wanted of them. However, since the town had armed men all about harassing travelers, might the Marshal do something about that?

The US Marshal wrote back on the fifteenth:

From your professed ignorance of the demands against you, I must conclude that you are strangers, not citizens, of Lawrence, or of recent date, or been absent for some time; more particularly when an attempt was made by my deputy to execute the process of the First District court of the United States for Kansas Territory against ex-Governor Reeder, when he made a speech in the room and presence of the Congressional Committee, and denied the authority and power of said court, and threatened the life of said deputy if he attempted to execute said process; which speech and defiant threats were loudly applauded by some one or two of the citizens of Lawrence, who had assembled at the room on learning the business of the marshal, and made such hostile demonstrations that the deputy thought he and his small posse would endanger their lives in executing said process.

That barely resembles Reeder’s version of events and the minutes of the Howard Committee reveal no such dire confrontation. The former Governor might have mocked Fain and said something to the effect of “go ahead and try” in the presence of friends, but Donaldson’s version sounds like much more. All that may have taken place, but I’ve only seen claims to it here.

Donaldson didn’t buy Lawrence’s promise of peaceful cooperation either, demanding to know just “what has produced this wonderful change in the minds of the people?” The scales had surely not fallen from their eyes with regard to the laws of Kansas. Donaldson suggested that they changed their spots because those who he had warrants for had fled. Failing that, the people of Lawrence promised to comply with “legal” actions:

may it possibly be that you, now, as heretofore, expect to screen yourselves behind the word ‘legal,’ so significantly used by you?

In other words, Donaldson might come and then find that Lawrence deemed his work illegal. That prospect failed to excite, especially when combined with his knowledge

that the whole population is armed and drilled, and the whole town fortified; when, too, I recollect the meetings and resolutions adopted in Lawrence, and elsewhere in the territory, openly defying the law and the officers thereof, and threatening to resist the same to a bloody issue, and recently verified in the attempted assassination of Sheriff Jones while in the discharge of his official duties?

Donaldson ignored the distinction between Lawrence’s commitment to respect federal authority and its repudiation of the territorial government. To him, it probably didn’t matter. He likely saw Jones as an officer of the law, just like him, and didn’t care to hazard his life on the careful parsing of some abolition fanatics. That doesn’t necessarily make him a partisan hack eager to destroy the town, but at some point one has to look at the size of the “posse” he expected to help him out and wonder. One can’t put a firm number on this, but Donaldson did not need hundreds of men to guarantee his safety in Lawrence. A few dozen likely would have done the trick, especially if the men he wanted had fled as he suspected. Lawrence need not put up a fight to save people already clear of capture. It looks like still like Donaldson either had grander plans from the start or didn’t much care if his army engaged in some extracurricular depredations while he did his work.

A New Committee and More Pleas from Lawrence

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

With J.B. Donaldson’s proslavery posse bearing down on them, the people of Lawrence held a public meeting and sent off a resolution promising they would cooperate with all federal authority, but would fight to the last to defend themselves from invasion. Wilson Shannon and Donaldson himself received copies, for what good it might do. Shannon had already told the town that he would do nothing. Beyond that, the leaders of the committee of safety couldn’t agree on any course of action. Some hoped for compromise solutions. Others pointed out that even if they wanted to defend the town, they lacked the men and supplies. As a result, several who did favor armed resistance quit the committee. The townspeople sacked their old committee and made a new one, including some of the old but also fresh blood that might more likely make a fight of things. A few days later, Samuel Pomeroy returned from Emigrant Aid Society business in the east and joined.

The brief for vigorous action produced little. The new committee, though chosen to lead a resistance, feared collision with federal authority. William Phillips called the fear of national power “a dead weight on them.” They had plenty of reason to fear that clash, which may well brand them traitors to the nation as a whole and would likely imperil their lives as much as capitulation. Americans hanged traitors just as surely as proslavery men would abolitionists. While they tarried

Marshal Donaldson’s posse grew with frightful rapidity. The whole country was soon in a state of warlike confusion; that is, as warlike as a country can be when the demonstrations are all on one side. As the molestation of travellers was frequent, another meeting was held

This time George Dietzler, a member of the committee, chaired the affair. They put forward more resolutions in line with the previous meeting’s and forwarded them to Donaldson at Lecompton. They asked Donaldson

respectfully, that we be reliably informed what are the demands against us. We desire to state, most truthfully and earnestly, that no opposition whatever will now, or at any future time, be offered to the execution of any legal process by yourself, or any person acting for you. We also pledge ourselves to assist you, if called upon, in the execution of any legal process.

The authors might have played dumb here. The meeting had to know, from Donaldson’s own proclamation, that he had warrants to serve. But Lawrence also had a record of not molesting federal officers in their duties, so just what more could Donaldson want from them? They could at least get him more clearly on the record.

The letter proceeded to what they feared he did want:

We are informed, also, that those men collecting about Lawrence openly declare that it is their intention to destroy the town and drive off the citizens. […] in view of the excited state of the public mind, we ask protection of the constituted authorities of the government

The authors assured Donaldson that they didn’t believe he wanted any such thing, as one does, but they had his overgrown posse to fear. They knew Donaldson could come to Lawrence untroubled, which meant he must either have chosen to join in its destruction or to serve as the vehicle by which a posse gone wild did the work.

Indecision in Lawrence

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

J.B. Donaldson, US Marshal for the territory of Kansas, had warrants to serve on various free state leaders who lived in and about Lawrence. Serving the process of a federal court, in this case Samuel Lecompte’s district court for the territory, formed an ordinary part of his duties. He couldn’t not do it but, if he had any interest in doing it peacefully and limiting the action to his official obligations, he might have done better to summon a small posse and go in with a dozen or so armed friends. He chose instead to make use of the proslavery forces already gathering for a move against Lawrence, calling on them by a proclamation. They would converge in Lecompton and then march on the antislavery town.

They got wind of that in Lawrence and pleaded with Wilson Shannon, governor of Kansas, to come to their rescue. Shannon would happily give them all the help they required, if only they would disarm themselves and disband their defenses in the face of a force bent on their destruction. This, William Phillips thought, constituted a declaration of war. Donaldson’s force, summoned on the eleventh of May, 1856, would take at least a short while to arrive. That gave the committee of safety time to try something else, but they had no consensus on that next step. Ever since they learned of the proclamation, via Phillips, they differed on whether to even mount a defense of the town. Cyrus Holiday though the effort a waste because the farmers who had come in the winter could not come at planting time. The businessmen who had given Lawrence help then had not yet received full payment and so would not send still more. Still others thought they ought to get together their own posse, a few hundred strong, and offer it to Donaldson in lieu of his own. While at Lecompton, they could even requisition some weaponry from the stores at the territorial capital.

But Lawrence could hardly pass up a chance for a public meeting, which John Wakefield presided over. It resolved

that the allegations and charges against us, contained in the aforesaid proclamation, are wholly untrue in fact, and the conclusion which is drawn from them. The aforesaid deputy marshal was resisted in no manner whatever, nor by any person whatever, in the execution of said writs, except by him whose arrest the said deputy marshal was seeking to make. And that we now, as we have done heretofore, declare our willingness and determination, without resistance, to acquiesce in the service upon us of any judicial writes against us by the United States Marshal for Kansas Territory, and will furnish him with a posse for that purpose, if so requested; but that we are ready to resist, if need be, unto death, the ravages and desolation of an invading mob.

John A Wakefield

John A. Wakefield

Lawrence did have the facts on its side. When Fain came to arrest Andrew Reeder, no one abused him. Reeder declined to go, but Fain then parted still untroubled. He came back to Lawrence the next day, a fresh warrant in hand, and once again left unharmed. Everyone in town knew that and probably few people in Kansas could have missed the difference between Fain’s work and Samuel Jones’, the latter of whom did see armed resistance until he brought in the Army and subsequently caught a bullet in the back.

J.B. Donaldson’s Army

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

 

The latest invasion of Kansas by proslavery forces aimed at the free state headquarters of Lawrence could claim federal imprimatur. Governor Shannon declared he would not stand in its way, as Lawrence faced only a posse gathered under the authority of the federal district court to serve out its warrants. The hundreds of armed men converging on the town didn’t look much like a posse to anybody else, but this time Shannon hadn’t done anything to make himself responsible for its formation. Instead, that distinction went to J.B. Donaldson (or Donelson), the United States Marshal.

Donaldson could have reasonable apprehensions about serving process in Lawrence; the last person who came in unasked to do that job got shot. Nobody can fault a person for wanting some safety while carrying out a dangerous task. If Donaldson wanted extra protection, he could deputize people formally or informally to watch his back. The Marshal did just that, issuing a proclamation to the people of Kansas on May 11, 1856. He reminded them that he had warrants from the district court, which he had to execute. When he sent a deputy, Fain, to get that done, his deputy

was evidently resisted by a large number of the citizens of Lawrence, and there is every reason to believe that any attempt to execute these writs will be resisted by a large body of armed men

Donaldson didn’t mention Jones and his shooting, but no large group of men with guns had confronted Fain. At best, he entered a room with thirty people inside and tried to arrest Andrew Reeder. Reeder told him to get lost, which Fain then did. The Howard Committee might have provided a hostile audience to Fain, but they decided that they had no power to intervene in his business. I’ve found no reference to the deputy otherwise facing serious threats. A group of men did turn out to frustrate Jones until he got a detachment of the 1st Cavalry as bodyguards, but Donaldson specifies that the deputy Marshal, not the Sheriff, had trouble.

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

To whomever and however the threats, real or imagined, came about, Donaldson answered them thus:

the law-abiding citizens of the territory are commanded to be and appear at Lecompton, as soon as practicable, and in numbers sufficient for the execution of the law.

One doesn’t issue a call like this when one only wants five or ten trusty men. Donaldson could have gone around town and scared up as many in a few hours, most likely. He wanted an army and had to know he had one waiting for such a call, in the person of the many bands that Marc Parrott and Andrew Reeder reported moving into Kansas before the eleventh. Donaldson declined to circulate his proclamation in Lawrence, but they got wind of it all the same and sent their appeal to Shannon with it in mind.

According to William Phillips, the governor consulted with the proslavery leadership and Jefferson Buford before telling Lawrence that he would do nothing to help them.

 

Two Roads to Lawrence

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

When Wilson Shannon, Governor of Kansas, told the people of Lawrence that they could disarm themselves in the face of an armed foe bent on their destruction if they wanted him to lift a finger to save them, he claimed the only danger they might face came from a legally-constituted posse. Under ordinary circumstances, and if the governor had burdened himself with facts, one might not find much to quarrel with in that. For a governor to interfere with the work of the courts must raise suspicions of executive usurpation. But Lawrence faced rather more than a posse, and when confronted with a posse of United States dragoons, the town had offered no direct resistance.

Lawrence came to all of this by two roads simultaneously. Samuel Jones, the proslavery sheriff, came into the town to apprehend Samuel Wood. Wood, a free state militia officer, had rescued fellow officer Jacob Branson from Jones’ custody back in December. This even precipitated the first campaign against Lawrence. Wood declined to go with Jones and a scuffle ensued, which deprived Jones of a pistol. Wood and the men who helped him get free from Jones promptly made themselves scarce. Jones applied to the 1st Cavalry for help, securing about a dozen soldiers who went back into Lawrence with him, searched the town and surrounds, and found none of his original quarry. He arrested about ten others and camped in town. Someone shot him in the back. Jones survived, but the proslavery press reported his death.

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

Jones’ travail by itself may have caused the invasion, just as his previous had, but the federal government became more directly involved when Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury summoned the entire free state leadership for questioning, with execution to follow. Serving Lecompte’s warrants did not fall to Jones or his office, as he served only the territorial government. Lecompte had his appointment direct from Franklin Pierce. He presided over the First District Court of the United States for Kansas Territory and so could call on the US Marshals to handle his process. Lecompte did in the person of J.B. Donelson (also rendered as Donaldson in some sources), an Illinoisian whom William Phillips called

a comparatively illiterate and informed man,. and, judging from his manner of acting in his official capacity, totally devoid of the legal knowledge necessary to dignify his office. […] He is a man past middle age, of coarse, unintellectual face, and, from his looks, ought never to have held a station above that of town constable; he would not have been too well qualified for that.

Ugly and unqualified or not, Donelson passed the matter of Lecompte’s warrants over to a Georgian named Fain. Fain tried to serve one against Andrew Reeder, then working with the Howard Committee. Reeder dismissed Fain’s summons on technical grounds, so he returned the next day with a warrant for contempt of court. Reeder declined to go with him because he had privilege from arrest, that the summons would impede his work with the committee -Lecompte probably agreed-, and that he would find his murder while in the custody of proslavery men inconvenient just then. Meanwhile, the rest of those with warrants against them began to depart Lawrence for safer pastures. Reeder soon followed.

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

According to Phillips, Fain did not let matters sit there. Instead of going back to Lecompton to report his failure,

he went down to Franklin, where at that time a band of Southerners, under Capt. Moon, were stationed. There the alarm was given, and soon scouts were sent to Missouri to gather in the Southerners still stationed there.

Last time around, Jones had gone from losing Branson straight to Franklin to write Missouri for help. Now Fain had done the same. Where Jones could claim the mantle of the territorial government and militia for his first campaign, the second could proceed with the imprimatur of the federal courts.

Shannon to Lawrence: Drop Dead

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Captain Walker left Lecompton with a letter from Governor Shannon for the good people of Lawrence. He dodged some bullets and escaped proslavery pursuit whilst carrying it back to the town, which stared down the barrels and blades of a gathering proslavery army. The governor could come to their rescue far more effectively than he had during the Wakarusa War, considering he now had authority to draw on the 1st Cavalry to preserve order. Lawrence knew that and appealed to E.V. Sumner, in command, directly. He only had to give the town a nod and all the stress of the past few days would quickly pass.

Shannon, we should remember, hailed from the northern wing of the proslavery party. He lost his seat in the House of Representatives for voting for the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He came to Kansas determined to let slavery’s friends consolidate their ill-gotten gains in the nation’s newest territory. But he had drawn the line at armies on the march before, doing all he could to restrain the proslavery men who moved on Lawrence in December. He preferred antislavery Kansans disarmed and wouldn’t shed any tears if their wildcat government collapsed, but he didn’t want them dead. Hate him as they may, even the free state party could appreciate that. He had to do something.

Informed by the committee of safety that a force marshaled against Lawrence, the governor wrote back

there is no force around or approaching Lawrence except the legally constituted posse of the United States Marshal and Sheriff of Douglas County, each of whom, I am informed, have a number of writs in their hands for execution against persons now in Lawrence. I shall in no way interfere with either of these officers in the discharge of their official duties.

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

You could believe Wilson Shannon or you could believe your lying eyes. Shannon admitted that a force existed, but called it only a posse. The posse trick hadn’t fooled him back in the winter, but now something had changed. The federal warrants might have done it; with a US Marshal involved, the convalescing Jones and his band of hooligans might exercise greater restraint. Or the governor may have decided that since he didn’t bear personal responsibility here, as he had when he summoned the Kansas militia against Lawrence previously, they could all go hang.

Responsibility certainly factored into Shannon’s thinking. Mulling the issue over thoughtfully, he undertook the great moral and intellectual labor of placing it elsewhere:

If the citizens of Lawrence submit themselves to the Territorial laws, and aid and assist the Marshal and Sheriff in the execution of processes in their hands, as all good citizens are bound to do when called on, they, or all such, will entitle themselves to the protection of the law. But so long as they keep up a military or armed organization to resist the Territorial laws and the officers charged with their execution, I shall not interfere to save them from the legitimate consequences of their illegal acts.

Someone in Lawrence had shot Samuel Jones when he tried to execute a warrant, fair enough. But no one answered the warrants from Lecompte’s grand jury with hot lead. Even in Jones’ case, when he appeared with a posse drawn from the 1st Cavalry the people of Lawrence acquiesced. They may have played dumb or hid the people sought, but it seems violent resistance of any kind ceased with the appearance of the military. If they wanted help, they must disarm themselves in the presence of an army enemy bent on their destruction. Shannon asked more than political suicide here; he wished antislavery Kansans to commit actual suicide.

I’m on a podcast! Again!

Gentle Readers, the second half of my episode of the AskHistorians Podcast released yesterday. It picks up right where the first left off. About halfway through we get into new territory, shooting past Felix Zollicoffer and into the break-up of the Democratic party. We finish out in April, 1861. Listening back to it, I can tell that my voice was failing but I had a ball all the same.

Corrections

  • The first time I mentioned Polk’s election, I said it was in 1846. It’s 1844, as I said on later occasions.
  • Houston and Bell both concerned themselves with the issue of displacing Indians, but Houston somewhat more so. Bell expected the Indians to go off west and quietly die for us. Houston held out hope they could be assimilated.
  • Celia killed her owner with a hefty stick, not a fireplace shovel. She burned her owner in her fireplace, crushed the bones she could, and got his grandson to scatter the ashes outside for her. The bones she couldn’t crush she hid under the fireplace.
  • South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, not December 21.

Addition: Franklin Pierce’s wife is Jane Appleton. I forgot her name in the moment.

Now what’s the appropriate time to wait and give others a chance before I pitch an episode again?

I’m on a podcast!

Gentle Readers, I have news of a personal and historical nature. As you may recall, back in the spring I was flaired as an expert on Reddit’s AskHistorians. They host a podcast, the Ask Historians Podcast, run by one of the resident Mesoamericanists. Every two weeks, he interviews one of the flairs about the historical subject of our choice. It’s one of my favorite podcasts and I heartily suggest giving it a try. The podcast is on iTunes, libsyn, and I believe several other services.

A few weeks back, I was asked to participate. My favorite history podcast asked me to talk about history, one of my favorite things to do. I spent more time considering how to respond without sounding like the creepiest kind of fan than I did on whether or not to record an episode. Our discussion went well over the expected time, which you could probably all guess would happen. It’s split in two episodes, the first of which is live now. If you ever wanted to know what I sound like, or just to hear more about the Kansas-Nebraska Act, here’s your chance.

As you can probably tell, I had a tremendous time doing it. The credit for that has got to go to the fine host, 400-Rabbits. The credit for the errors that crept in during the course of speaking while excited goes to me. I’ve posted errata on Reddit. AskHistorians has a zero tolerance policy for the behavior that makes Reddit infamous, but if you’d rather avoid it anyway I understand completely. Here are the corrections and two minor additions.

Corrections

  • I referred to Enabling Acts and Organic Acts as terms used inconsistently. I recall seeing primary sources do that, but the Congress was more careful. An organic act organizes a territory, hence the name. The Kansas-Nebraska Act is the organic act for Kansas and Nebraska. An enabling act is a later law passed by Congress to authorize a territorial government to write a constitution preparatory to statehood. While speaking I confused the two as I was focused on the Wisconsin Enabling Act, which reiterated the Northwest Ordinance’s slavery ban.
  • I mistakenly referred to the Washington Territory as including modern Idaho. It’s just the top half of that. The bottom half is Oregon Territory.
  • The proposed amendment to emancipate Missouri would have kept those born after its enactment slaves until they turned twenty-five, not twenty-one.
  • I said that the sessions of Congress ran out in May. It’s actually the start of March. Slip of the tongue. I was probably thinking ahead to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act at the end of May, 1854.

Additions:

  • The senators of the F Street Mess are David Rice Atchison, A.P. Butler (SC), R.M.T. Hunter (VA), and James M. Mason (VA, wrote the fugitive slave act of 1850). Their names were in my outline, but I couldn’t find them in the moment.
  • I also blanked on the names of the two of the women who feature into the narrative, which is unfortunate. Archibald Dixon’s wife and memoirist is Susan Bullitt. Stephen Douglas’ southern wife (his first, she died in 1853 and he remarried) is Martha Martin.

Three Choices for Kansas

Stephen Douglas

Stephen Douglas

Felix Zollicoffer had one solution for Kansas’ troubles: giving the territorial legislature advance permission to write a state constitution when they found that the territory’s population had grown large enough. Galusha Grow and the rest of the House’s Committee on Territories had another: admit the free state government to statehood at once. Before both of them, Franklin Pierce had directed the Congress’ attention to settling of matters in his annual message. Grow’s and Zollicoffer’s reports to the House come in that context as well as that of Kansas’ petition. The House’s long contention over who would occupy the Speaker’s chair delayed action on Kansas as much as it did the president’s message, but the Congress had a whole second chamber just across the way with its own Committee on Territories and Stephen Douglas as the chair. He fixed Kansas until it broke last time, so why not take another crack?

Douglas might have gotten right on that at the first of the year, but illness kept him away from the capital. The Senate naturally referred Pierce’s message to his committee, so once he did arrive he got right into things. On March 12, the Little Giant came out swinging. I couldn’t find the report online anywhere, but my sources agree on the essential points: The Emigrant Aid Companies took all the blame for Kansas’ troubles, which provoked Missouri to action. Douglas ignored what James Rawley calls the “bastard birth” of the territorial government and affirmed its legitimacy. The Topeka movement amounted to a revolution. Congress ought to appropriate additional money to enforce order in the territorial and give permission at once for Kansas to write a constitution, under the extant territorial government, when it reached the proper population. Douglas and Zollicoffer had two parties between them, the Little Giant a lifelong Democrat and Zollicoffer a Whig turned Know-Nothing, but they agreed on Kansas.

Jacob Collamer (R-VT)

Jacob Collamer (R-VT)

Vermont’s Jacob Collamer dissented, arguing that the free state movement acted only because driven to strike out on their own. What else could they do with no recourse to the polls or the law of the territory? They might have done worse still, but opted for a “peaceful, constitutional” remedy. If Congress really wanted to fix things, they should repeal the whole Kansas-Nebraska act. But if the Senate would not listen to good sense,

then declare all the action by this spurious foreign legislative assembly utterly inoperative and void, and direct a reorganization, providing proper safeguard for legal voting and against foreign force.

Collamer took a conservative course. He defended the free state movement, but did not endorse its application for statehood. That would sidestep all the difficulties with its irregular nature and the extant legal government of Kansas.

Thus the Congress had three solutions before it: Douglas and Zollicoffer, who hewed to the same line as the administration, proposed largely leaving Kansas in the hands of its present government. It would become a slave state in due course. Grow and the majority of the House committee advised immediate statehood under the Topeka constitution, which would ensure a free and lily white Kansas. Somewhere on the center and leaning antislavery, Collamer advised a do-over, rolling the clock back to either before the first Assembly elections in March of the previous year or all the way to May of 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law.