More Bad News: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Eight

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Reeder’s diary.

May 15, 1856 found Andrew Reeder still closeted in a hotel in Kansas City, “elaborately cared for” by various ladies who would bring him food, flowers, “and attend to all my comforts.” All in all, Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress found it downright comfortable if he set aside the great issue of the day. He needed to be off raising support for the free state cause, not stuck in western Missouri. He also missed his “idolized, noble wife” and “precious, dearly-loved children.” That he had sent G.P. Lowrey ahead of him to bring news to his family, as well as lay down a false trail that might help Reeder escape wore on him as well. When Lowrey delivered his news, they would know their patriarch as a man on the run and in danger.

Reeder had news that the dragnet continued to tighten around Kansas. G.W. Brown remained a prisoner at Westport. Proslavery men stopped ordinary travelers on the road and stopped the mail for searching.

One traveler, coming down from Lawrence, was stopped on the road, and ordered to open his carpet-bag to see if he had any letters or dispatches from Lawrence, and, as he refused to be searched, it was cut open by the ruffians.

It would not do for the free state party to get news of their plight out in person or paper. More worrying still:

About 100 young men from the South, said to be from South Carolina and Georgia, arrived, as I am told, last evening, all armed and equipped after the fashion of Buford’s men, who, from their appearance, equipments, acts, and conversation, have evidently come, not as emigrants, but only to fight. About half of them went on to Leavenworth, and the residue landed here and went into the Territory, leaving their trunks here with Mr. Taylor, and saying that they did not want them along, as the fight would probably be over in a few weeks, and then they would go back.

Buford’s men, or a very similar group, had work ahead of him. That evening, Reeder got word secondhand from a member of the Blue Lodge that they had another invasion in the offing. They hoped to get together two thousand men and raze Lawrence for good, entering Kansas in small groups and avoiding the major roads to avoid notice until they arrived. They would take the town at night and under the pretext of enforcing indictments against its leaders. Samuel Lecompte had given them those indictments and proslavery men had come to Kansas back in December allegedly to maintain law and order. Thwarted then, the proslavery men would likely press far harder now.

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Misdirection and Another Capture: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Seven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary.

We left Andrew Reeder hiding out in a hotel in Kansas City, where he received news of Charles Robinson’s capture on May 13, 1856. Knowing that the proslavery dragnet reached further into Missouri than just the immediate border can’t have settled the delegate’s mind. Up to this point, Reeder had the company of G.P. Lowery. He advised Lowery to leave without him, on the first available boat and in a disguise. But before Lowery departed, the two arranged some misdirection. Reeder

had him to write a letter directed to me at Chicago, and mail it loosely sealed, to induce the belief that I was in the States, by the way of Nebraska and Iowa, as we were confident they would open it. I instructed him also, if he got safe to St. Louis, to telegraph up here that he had heard from me and that I was safe in Chicago.

Nineteenth century postmasters did open and scrutinize mail, most famously to hunt down antislavery publicans for destruction. Settled precedent dating back to Andrew Jackson’s administration blessed such business. Since postmasters received their jobs through patronage rather than from a professional civil service, even any inclined against such censorship had strong incentive to keep in line.

Reeder remained shut up in his room, though it seems that he had plenty of attention. He writes that no less than four ladies “most kindly waited on” him and “took a lively interest in my safety.” Come evening, Colonel Eldridge brought Reeder less enchanting company: the posse which had came for him at Lawrence had arrived at the hotel. The governor turned delegate assured Eldridge that they had a warrant for Reeder valid in Kansas, but not Missouri. Their authority ended at the border and no harm could come to him from helping Reeder out. However, should they come with a Missourian officer and process in hand, then Eldridge should give Reeder up to keep himself out of trouble.

Expecting them to come, I concealed this diary, and made preparations. I remained up, till midnight, and there was a constant running up and down from the street to their room. At 12 o’clock I went to bed and slept soundly.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Kansas’ first governor has sterner nerves than I do. He woke on the morning of the fourteenth to more welcome news. Eldridge came up and told Reeder that the posse had said nothing of him, but instead came for Grosvenor Lowery and Samuel Pomeroy, the latter an agent of the Emigrant Aid Company. But the good news came with some bad:

G.W. Brown, accompanied by Jenkins, had started for Lawrence, and had been stopped on the road by M’Gee’s party of Missourians (without any process, of course), and made prisoners. Have not learned what is done with them.

That day also brought a boat up to Kansas City which departed with great cheers from the town. Reeder thought that Robinson must have come through, but learned instead that Kansas City cheered a marshal’s party starting for Leavenworth. It says something for Reeder’s state of mind that news of an armed band heading into Kansas from Missouri came as a relief, though probably also to the fact that Andrew Reeder consistently stood for the party of Andrew Reeder. He had joined the free state movement late, when deprived of other means for political advance in Kansas, and under the condition that they make his grievance over shady land deals their own.

After a while, Reeder changed rooms for the second time. Things had quieted and the proper residents of the room had been out of it for some time. Anybody could start to wonder. At this point, Reeder hoped no one believed him present and so he might safely move on as soon as he could find a boat with a willing captain, which would remain docked through the night so he could quietly board. With Robinson captured, he needed to get moving regardless. It fell now to him to take up the governor’s mission and seek out the executives of Ohio, Michigan, and maybe even Iowa and Wisconsin to come to aid the free state cause.

“They will kill you if you go” The Capture of Charles Robinson, Part One

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The Hunt for Andrew Reeder: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary is in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 3

We left Andrew Reeder on the lam in Kansas City. A proslavery mob had come to his hotel in search of George Washington Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom. They didn’t seem to know that Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress hid out under the same roof, though some thought to look for him all the same. A mob narrowly missed both men and lingered around the building for some time before dispersing. They must have thought Brown and/or Reeder still present, as they set watchers on the building before leaving. Reeder spent the night without so much as a candle in his room.

Tuesday, May 13, 1856 brought bad news. Charles Robinson and his wife, Sara, had left Kansas ahead of Reeder. Neither took the precaution of a disguise. According to the Governor’s Kansas Conflict they carried with them, on the advice of Howard and Sherman of the Committee,

the testimony already taken by the Congressional Committee as there was great danger that it might be seized and destroyed.

The Robinsons assumed that, since no indictment had yet come for them specifically, they could probably get clear of Kansas without trouble. They left by way of Missouri, which brought them to trouble. It happened that a proslavery convention had lately finished its work at Lexington, which Robinson believed involved planning for a new invasion of Kansas. The convention knew or suspected that Robinson would soon have an indictment against him.

The free state’s first family made their way through Kansas city without incident, boarding a steamboat there. The Governor took a nap and

was thus occupied when on arriving at Lexington he was aroused by loud raps at the door of his room. On opening it he was confronted by some gentlemen, who informed him they were appointed a committee to notify him that he must leave the boat at that place.

Robinson had come as far as Lexington, Missouri but would go no farther. They believed him a fugitive and intended his arrest. The Governor protested that he knew of no indictment against him and had not traveled under any subterfuge. Fugitives simply don’t behave like that. Improvising, Robinson tried to get up a mob. He learned that the boat housed many people “drinking freely” and asked to plead his case to them. Should the Governor convince the mob, then they would protect him.

That asked a great deal of a mob in Missouri’s slave country, but Robinson had few options. The committee come to arrest him refused to let him try, claiming that mobs would listen to no reason and the reason of a known antislavery man least of all.

It appearing that force would be used if necessary, Robinson referred the matter to Mrs. Robinson, whether use such means of defense as he had-one revolver-or to go with the committee, when she promptly replied, “They will kill you if you go, and you may as well make a stand here.”

Trouble in Kansas City: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Six

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

With news of proslavery forces preparing for another march against Lawrence, and word that complying with the subpoena that Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury issued for him might end in his death, Andrew Reeder had quite enough of Kansas for the nonce. His planned escape changed routes repeatedly over the night of May 9-10, 1856. In the end, Kansas’ first governor and present free state delegate to Congress hid out in a house a mile south of Lawrence. He remained closeted there on the tenth, receiving news that whatever posse meant to take him had not appeared.

Reeder and three companions finally got going at nine at night, hoping to get past Westport, Missouri, before daybreak. Showing his face there would surely cause him trouble. Running late, they stayed the night at the home of a man called Fish and took the additional precaution of hiding the horses and carriage. The next day, Sunday,

Many persons passed, through the day, and stopped; among them Milt. M’Gee, who would have given his whole team to know who was up stairs.

I can only imagine how nerve-wracking Reeder must have found that. Sit up as silently as you can, hearing people come and go and knowing one misstep might put him into the hands of men bent on his murder. But he endured, set out again that night, and made it to Kansas City around two in the morning. There G.P. Lowrey and a Colonel Eldridge had a room ready, though Reeder says they had “dangerous neighbors across the passage.”

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

A boat arrived at Kansas City on Monday, the twelfth. George Washington Brown came on it, fleeing his own arrest for running the Herald of Freedom. They had word that a mob might form to take Brown, though if they wanted him then they probably wouldn’t mind Reeder as a bonus. Reeder changed rooms to avoid them.

A mob of 30 or 40 assembled, headed by Milt. M’Gee, who came into the hotel, and going by mistake to O.C. Brown’s room, they dragged him out and took him down town-discovered their error and let him go. Col. Eldridge came up and informed me, that I might be prepared. Sent out for about 50 Michigan emigrants, who had come up to-day and camped near town.

A marshal involved himself then, forming a posse against the mob. Reeder gives frustratingly little detail on that. His marshal sounds like local constabulary rather than a federal marshal. Given he held a public position in Westport, he probably didn’t lean antislavery. He may have intervened on the grounds of public order, particularly if he knew in advance that the mob had the wrong Brown.

Eldridge told Reeder that the mob didn’t know about or suspect they had him near to hand; they just wanted Brown. The delegate doesn’t seem so confident of that. At one point

Looking out of my front windows, however, I saw and heard M’Gee, H.C. Pate, —– Winchester, —– Brockett, and another, in conversation, and Pate was instructing a man to go in and look for someone, and describing me, so that from what I heard I recognized the description.

Regardless, the mob didn’t care to pick a fight with the marshal’s posse, “suddenly” departing. Yet

In the evening it was found that men were posted all around the house to prevent any escapes – all over the hill back of the house and in the hacks and wagons in front, besides those walking up and down the street.

Further Action from Lecompte’s Grand Jury

Samuel Lecompte

Samuel Lecompte

Samuel Lecompte, the slaveholding Chief Justice of Kansas Territory, instructed his grand jury about treasonable behavior. If anybody in Kansas did something so wild as placing themselves in opposition to and resisting the laws of the territory, then they resisted the laws of the United States too. That made them traitors and the jurors must act even if they had no evidence that treasonable action had occurred. Organization and intent to resist counted just as much. The judge went so far as to practically order his grand jury to indict free state leaders by name, running down a list of the offices they occupied in the wildcat government. They acted accordingly, ordering the arrest of the free state leadership.

In itself, that made for a tremendous attack on the free state movement. Jailed leaders would have a difficult time leading anything. They would face considerable personal danger, both from the results of legal process and any convenient accidents that might transpire. The mere fact of their imprisonment might deter support from elsewhere in the nation, as it would then necessitate collision of a kind with the authority of the United States. But the grand jury did one better than that. It found

that the newspaper known as The Herald of Freedom, published at the town of Lawrence, has from time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and seditious character, denying the legality of the territorial authorities, addressing and commanding forcible resistance to the same, demoralizing the public mind, and rendering life and property unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last resort

George Brown’s paper had done all of that, with the possible exception of the assassination business. So had The Kansas Free State, with whom he often feuded. The grand jury advised “their abatement as a nuisance.” In other words, the law should shut them down. The nineteenth century didn’t have our First Amendment scruples. People across the political spectrum agreed that speech of certain sorts did not suit public order and deserved suppression, much as some of us still believe of what we consider obscenity. Under that theory, southern states had often acted to keep antislavery publications from circulating.

Furthermore:

we are satisfied that the building known as the ‘Free-State Hotel’ in Lawrence has been constructed with the view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapeted and portholed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only have been designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety, and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this country; and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed.

I don’t recall seeing that claim except in proslavery sources, but given that the free state men had erected earthworks in Lawrence and used the hotel as a redoubt back in December, it sounds reasonable.

All of this comes together for a comprehensive program of suppression. The proslavery party would arrest the leaders of the opposition. In the nineteenth century, newspaper editors served as important agents for political parties too. Thus the papers must go as well. Then the proslavery side would take even the means of armed resistance away. A majority of Kansans might still oppose them, but without leaders or a voice to organize that resistance they could not hope to prevail.

“Unworthy even of the name of a devil” The Shooting of Samuel Jones, Part Two

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

We left Samuel Jones, Sheriff of Douglas County, still in Lawrence. He did not get his man, Samuel Wood, nor the men he came back to get who had helped Wood escape him. But Jones had a concession prize of six men in custody thanks to the backing of the 1st Cavalry out of Fort Leavenworth. Confident of his protection and the free state men’s respect of the United States military, Jones pitched a tent in Lawrence to stay the night. He and some other men had gone out to get a drink of water, a fluid antislavery sources might have us believe Jones understood only dimly for lack of study. Thomas Crowder and William Preston stood with Jones just then, and later testified that some men came up looking for Jones. As the Sheriff stooped mere feet away, he rose to identify himself and then stooped down again. Then

some person in a crowd standing near fired into the party, when the remark was made by P[reston] “Jones, you are shot,” and upon examination it was found that a bullet had passed through his pants without any injury.

No physical injury, anyway. The prose makes this all sound very dry and orderly. Someone took a shot at Jones. The bullet whizzed through his pantleg. Preston delivered a Shakespearean stage direction in a flat voice and everyone went about their lives. No one at the time could have missed the tension. Antislavery men had threatened Jones life all day long. He had a large, armed bodyguard of dragoons with him. Jones must have done at least some cursing, as our witnesses hint immediately after:

The party returned to the tent, where, when we commenced talking about this dastardly and hellish attempt at assassination

I expect that getting shot at tends to dominate conversation, but rude free state men would not let Jones, Preston, and Crowder have their chat about extremely recent events unmolested. A man, pretending drunkenness, stumbled into the tent and sat down. Jones told him to get lost, which he did.

in less than five minutes, as we were conversing together, Jones fell, exclaiming, “Oh!” He attempted to draw his knife and find the dastardly scoundrel -worse than a fiend- who would thus, under cover of night, attempt the life of a fellow-being; but the wound was such as to prevent his rising at all. The shot came from the hind part of the tent, and was aimed at the back of the sheriff. We have no doubt, ourselves, that the whole matter was concocted-the rascal hired for the express purpose of assassination; and that there are many persons in Lawrence concerned in this matter, who are very desirous to shield themselves behind this foul and dark scoundrel, unworthy even of the name of a devil.

Second time’s the charm, apparently. Subtlety went out the window after the first shot, if resident at all. Whoever wanted Jones dead must not have cared to ventilate his friends or his military guards, so they had to make sure they had the right spot to aim at.

The Herald of Freedom tries to blame the shooting on proslavery men who disliked Jones, implausibly enough. So far as aiming at him, George Brown argues that Jones

took a seat in an exposed condition-in an unoccupied tent, with a bright light beside him, which, through the cloth, rendered everything perfectly and plainly visible from the outside. In this position he received a bullet in his back-fired by an assassin hand.

Brown’s explanation relies on Jones not having company, which would come as a surprise to Crowder and Preston. Everything else would fit just fine. A light in a tent would give the shooter an ideal target, but shadows don’t come with name tags and the tent had three. Someone would have had to go look, either the shooter himself or a confederate.

“Here I am, gentlemen” The Shooting of Samuel Jones, Part One

 

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Whether or not Samuel Jones intended to use his arrest of Samuel Wood as a provocation which would discredit the free state government, he did arrest people. If he didn’t get any that he had originally come for, then he still had someone. Most of Lawrence seems to have begrudgingly accepted that, as Jones came backed by the United States Cavalry. Not everyone in town felt that way, though. By the time he left Lawrence, Jones could boast of taking six prisoners. To that collection he added two bullet holes.

We can’t say just what drove someone over the edge. The fact that Jones rounded up clearly innocent, or innocent enough, people when he couldn’t find Wood or Wood’s abettors may have done it. The simple fact that Samuel Jones, who had brought Lawrence near to destruction months before, had come back for a second round might have sufficed. George Brown suggested that a frustrated Jones pushed things too far himself:

The ‘sheriff” became insufferably insulting; got drunk, in order the better to render himself odious; drew his revolver frequently on unoffending citizens’ courted a personal assault

Going around drawing his gun on people and threatening them does sound like vintage Samuel Jones. He rarely appears in the sources without clearly cherishing his power over antislavery Kansans. With the army at his back, the sheriff had an ideal chance to play the bully in Lawrence and demonstrate his manly credentials. They would submit, like slaves. He would dominate, a true master.

Whatever drove them, some of Lawrence went off-script. Merrill’s True History of the Kansas Wars tells that a Colonel Preston

was taken aside by a citizen of the place, who frankly told him, that there was a conspiracy on foot to assassinate Sheriff Jones; as the day wore away, the crowd gathered in different parts of the city, became more and more open in their innuendoes, and when a man by the name of Hunt was arrested, he was called upon in the presence of Robinson, by some one in the crowd “to shoot Jones,” using expressions of wrath, and the deepest revenge ever indulged in, and the most insulting language to some few Pro-slavery men standing near the crowds. They were offered a fight, -told, “to pitch in, and they would see sights.”

Merrill leans proslavery, but all of that sounds reasonable enough. It would strain credulity more to believe no one in Lawrence talked about harming Jones than that they did, though that talk didn’t necessarily constitute a conspiracy as such. I don’t mean to parse things too narrowly here, but talk of a conspiracy implies a clear plan by recognized co-plotters to their end. Violent talk and threats might precede and feature into a conspiracy, but do not make one in themselves.

Merrill then quotes two eyewitnesses to the foreshadowed event. “[J]ust before dark,” William Preston and Thomas Crowder wrote, after repeated threats and insults directed at Jones, Franklin Pierce, and proslavery men in general,

With Lieutenant McIntosh, we, with a gentleman by the name of Yates, went to the camp, intending to pass off time and spend the night. Soon after we had made preparations for sleeping, Mr. Jones, and one of us, [Preston] went a few paces from the tent to get a glass of water. While so engaged some persons came up and inquired where Sheriff Jones was, and made insulting remarks concerning his courage, when he [Jones] arose from the stooping posture he was in and remarked, “Here I am, gentlemen.”

Samuel Jones: Political Schemer?

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

We left Sheriff Samuel Jones in Lawrence on April 23, 1856. He arrested ten men, none of whom he had come to Lawrence to seize. Whether they did anything to resist Jones and so warrant arrest or not, he took them along. With his Army escort, Jones must have felt confident indeed as he did not immediately leave infamous den of abolitionists that had defied him to the point of risking armed battle only months before. At least this time he got some men, if still not Samuel Wood.

Lawrence acquiesced with vulgar imprecations, rather than resort to arms. The antislavery men remained keenly aware that opposing the power of the United States would put them beyond the political pale. An injured soldier could destroy their movement by bringing the Army down on their heads, particularly as Wilson Shannon now had the authority to call on it at will. Jones knew the lay of the land as well as anybody and decided to camp in town.

The Herald of Freedom’s version of events stresses Lawrence’s submission. They would fight Missouri and the territorial government to the end, but not the nation:

To legal authority we submit, no matter how oppressive; to an authority which was created by fraud, and violence and usurpation, if peaceable and lawful means of resistance fail, we will die in our tracks before yielding an inch.

George Brown’s paper also reported that Lawrence’s resolve on the point “disappointed and exasperated” the proslavery men. He thought Jones’ arrival and subsequent events all done for show as

The Congressional Investigating Committee was in Kansas-had already commenced its labors. They feared to trust the investigation of their course to an unbiased and honorable committee. They knew too well what the result of those investigations would be, hence the necessity of a stroke of policy, to change the course of things. -A muss must be kicked up to hinder the committee from proceeding with its work. If possible, by any means, the Committee must be prevented from reporting until after the adjournment of Congress, and of course until after the Presidential election; or if that could not be done, they must forestall its action, by placing us in an unfavorable attitude; forcing us, if possible, to abandon our strong and honorable position, for one of dishonor and aggression.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Brown understood the national political landscape, but all of this looks like a reach. Jones might well have seen those goals as desirable. He knew the politics and of the committee’s arrival as well as anybody, so he could certainly make the calculation. However, he also came for Samuel Wood at the first instant he knew that Wood had returned to Kansas. The Herald reported Wood’s return on April 19. Jones arrived to claim him the very next day, just as one would expect for a lawman bent on making a swift arrest. It seems much more likely that Jones saw his quarry had returned and aimed to seize him, with the opportunity to show the impotence of the free state movement or to bring them into collision with national power coming as a bonus. That it would all take place in front of a Congressional committee can’t have hurt, of course.

Eli Thayer Goes on the Road: The New England Emigrant Aid Company, Part Two

Eli Thayer

Eli Thayer

We left Eli Thayer demoted from a leader of his own invention, the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, to a promoter of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. His signature idea, to subsidize free state settlement in Kansas to keep slavery from the territory’s bound and then try to roll it back elsewhere, whilst turning a handy profit, fell by the wayside. Conservative Whigs with deep pockets took over, dropping Thayer’s business antislavery strategy for a more conventional charitable frame focused entirely on Kansas. This brings us to July 24, 1854.

By this point, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had Franklin Pierce’s signature and the expansion of white settlement had begun. The word in Missouri had it that Thayer’s operation had its five million on hand and twenty thousand impoverished Yankees ready to turn slave stealing Hessian just down the road from Missouri’s plantation belt. Proslavery Missourians organized for self-defense, with future Squatter Sovereign editor John Stringfellow telling St. Joseph

To those having qualms of conscience, as to violating of laws, state or national, the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, as your lives and property are in danger, and I advise you one and all to enter every election district in Kansas … and vote at the point of a Bowie knife or revolver.

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The endless hosts of Yankee Hessians numbered twenty-nine. They departed Boston on July 17, with Thayer escorting them to Buffalo. He admitted that he had not mustered the legions he hoped, but you had to start somewhere. At Buffalo Thayer parted company with the expedition, but Charles Robinson and Charles Branscomb joined up. They had gone out in advance to scout locations and see about group rates for transportation. That scouting mission determined the site of Lawrence, named after the Emigrant Aid Company benefactor and slayer of business antislavery, Amos Lawrence. The company fronted a newspaper there, George Brown’s Herald of Freedom. Whilst touring to solicit donations, Thayer took care to have stacks of it on hand.

While settlement got going in Kansas, Thayer started on his lecture circuit on earnest. Past efforts had focused on Massachusetts and New York, but he now traveled all over New England. Over the three years from September of 1854, Thayer traveled north of six thousand miles and gave above seven hundred speeches. He and his companions, most often Charles Brancsomb, would arrange promotion in the local papers in advance. Thayer would give his spiel to a mass meeting and set up a Kansas League. It appears the leagues did the main work of finding people willing to go, whilst Thayer focused on exhortation and fundraising.

Thayer had an ambitious pitch, to the point where NEEAC’s leadership asked him to tone it down. They had no mind to carry the fight from Kansas into the slave states, but Thayer sold the enterprise as one which would free Kansas as the first step. Then they would press on to Missouri and Virginia, whilst also pushing out to make more free states in the west. Thayer extravagantly claimed that they could free Kansas in a year and then add a new state on top each year thereafter, and the stock would pay off whatever the directors thought. This required representatives of the company to walk back their spokesman’s remarks and distinguish between his ideas and their own.

Thayer’s boosterism, combined with the usual wild claims of an earthly paradise just aching for you to go settle it, did little to please those who took the plunge. Many emigrants pronounced Kansas a humbug and went home. At the time of Thayer’s first big tour, Lawrence boasted “one log cabin, one shake house, and a conglomeration of hay houses.” All the same, little had yet transpired in Kansas to make for interesting news. Thayer’s traveling show helped keep the territory in the public mind until the real struggle kicked off.

Pirates of the Missouri

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

We left the story of one hundred guns, two cannons, and the accessories that made them useful with a mob barely fended off and the weaponry handed over to Missourians. George Brown’s Herald of Freedom didn’t leave things end there. He admitted readily that the free state men expected that arsenal to come into their hands. They had an army to equip and feared they might soon face another one. A force of less than two thousand Missourians had brought them near to a ruinous clash only months before and since then, the free state movement had dared new provocations in bringing its constitution into force through the establishment of a separate government for Kansas Territory. With all the martial language flying about, one might expect George Brown to frame this as an enemy action. The opposing force seized a supply shipment, simple enough.

But the free state men remained intensely anxious about their project. They feared a clash with the United States Army, now at Governor Shannon’s disposal. If Franklin Pierce’s appointee, who still considered himself the head of the territorial government and the bogus legislature its legitimate elected body, chose to take their wildcat government as treasonous as the President considered it then they would have scant room to maneuver politically. As such, Brown decided that the time had come to appeal to the everyday facts of law rather than military exigencies:

The case is one of robbery, and if committed within the flow of the tide-water would be piracy. Robbery is defined by Justice Ashurst as “The stealing or taking from the person, or in the presence of another, property of any amount, with such a degree of force or terror as to induce the party unwillingly to part with his property; and this, whether terror arises from real or expected violence to the person.”

In early March of 1856, it seems the Missouri had a piracy problem. The arms smuggler had to sign his consignment over while on board the steamer Arabia, though it does sound like the transaction occurred with the ship tied to a dock. I don’t know if that would technically count as on the water or not, but close enough for titling purposes. The exchange, despite the Kansas Express’ omission of the fact, seems to have taken place under a serious threat. As such, the Missourians had progressed from stealing elections to stealing property. Given they thought an “abolitionized” Kansas would require a great deal of stealing their property, this makes for an ironic turn.

Thus the papers transferring ownership of the shipment

are not worth the paper on which they are written, and only furnish proof, in the hand writing of some of the offenders, of their guilt.

Brown, probably with far more hope than he genuinely felt, expected that a court would soon things to right and punish the guilty parties. If a Missouri jury existed that would convict any of them, it likely would have astonished everybody on either side of the Kansas-Missouri border.