“If he arrested me, he did so at his peril” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Four

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3

A Mr. Fain, late of Georgia, had a grand jury subpoena for Andrew Reeder, Kansas’ first governor and present delegate to Congress under the free state government. He took it to Reeder on the evening of May 7, 1856. The delegate decided that he didn’t care for an arrest just then, pointed to irregularities in the warrant, and sent Fain on his way. The next afternoon, he saw Fain in Lawrence. Reeder’s “Georgia friend” came to town with an armed posse. He went upstairs to speak with Mordechai Oliver, the Howard Committee’s lone proslavery member.

He soon came into the room and informed me he had an attachment for me.

The room in question housed the committee’s proceedings. They had gotten to their fourth witness of the day and eighty-seventh overall, Joseph Steward. He had information for them on the elections for the Kansas legislature. Reeder declared, as he had the day before, that he had privilege from arrest thanks to his status as Kansas’ delegate to Congress and asked the committee to protect him. The Howard Committee had that power and Congress had sent them to Kansas with a sergeant-at-arms specifically so they could arrest anybody who tried to interfere with their business and haul the guilty party off to Washington for contempt of Congress proceedings.

But Reeder tells that the committee felt otherwise:

They decided they had no power to interfere, but Howard and Sherman expressed a positive opinion in favor of my privilege from arrest; Oliver differing from them on that point. I then stated how I was privileged, made a full explanation, and declared that I would protect myself, and warned the officer that if he arrested me, he did so at his peril.

That sufficed; Fain took Reeder at his word and departed. He had a posse with him, but may not have wanted to seize Reeder in front of the congressmen. Given how well Sheriff Jones’ arrest attempt had gone for him not that long ago, and Fain’s previously-expressed concern for his safety probably played a major role in his decision. Jones got shot while in the company of United States soldiers and Fain lacked such an exalted bodyguard.

Reeder’s travail did not end there. He and the free state leadership agreed that Reeder should submit to arrest in time, which would put him in Lecompton without bail for at least six months. The delegate got word that if he went, he would be “in danger of nightly assassination and daily insult.” Given the option between fighting the good fight, either in Kansas or Congress, and risking his life “in some miserable dog-hole”, he would rather pass on the latter. That evening he wrote to Governor Shannon and Lecompte promising that if he had their guarantee of safety and ability to return to his work on the committee at the end of his questioning, he would come before the grand jury as required. He did that on the advice of unnamed friends and likewise mulled with them whether he should wait on an answer, ready to fight it out if the posse came, or quit Kansas.

Reeder’s friends came to no consensus for him save that if the US military got involved, as they had on Jones’ behalf, he must submit.

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“I was not yet ready to be arrested for treason” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Three

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2

We left Andrew Reeder, Charles Robinson, and probably the antislavery members of the Howard Committee. They had news of indictments handed down against Reeder, Robinson, and most everyone else who held office in the illegal free state government of Kansas territory. They agreed that Reeder should submit to arrest, as his national reputation would make him an ideal rallying point for the free state party’s friends abroad. Robinson should get out of Kansas and set to work raising money, men, and guns. It might come to armed rebellion at last. If it did, the free state men resolved to fight it out and hope for the destruction of the proslavery territorial government. They had to act soon, or Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury would have the entire leadership imprisoned before the fall elections.

Reeder’s diary puts this all as happening on May 7, 1856, a Wednesday. Next, “toward evening” a Georgian named Fain called on Reeder and “very politely” told the delegate that he had a subpoena for him.

I requested him to let me see it, and he handed me a copy. On looking at it I discovered that it was very irregular in form, and, as I was not yet ready to be arrested for treason, I determined not to obey it. I accordingly so informed the officer, giving, as the reasons, my privilege as Delegate in Congress, and the informality of the subpena.

The Congress itself hadn’t decided on whether or not Reeder had any privilege as delegate, but he persuaded Fain not to make an issue of it. Instead the Georgian took his leave and came on Reeder’s grand jury informant, James Legate. Fain asked Legate where he might find Charles Robinson. Legate told him that Robinson had gone off to Topeka. Fain felt sure enough in Tecumseh, but Topeka worried him. He asked if he could go and conduct his business there in safety.

Legate mischievously told him he did not know, that he must run his own risks, which so alarmed the Georgian that he at once turned back to Lecompton. The same evening we went back to Topeka; stayed till after breakfast the next day.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Reeder doesn’t say it in so many words, and Robinson declines to note his movements in detail, but it sounds like Legate told Fain that Robinson had gone while the governor remained nearby. Reeder’s “we” might or might not include the governor, but he says that Fain “was told” Robinson had gone rather than that the governor actually had.

Possible Delegate Reeder found himself back in Lawrence later on May 8. There he continued his work representing the free state side before the Howard Committee, starting at two in the afternoon. He didn’t shake Fain for long, though. He reports that he

saw my Georgia friend of yesterday come in and go up stairs for a consultation with Major Oliver, and some friends; had a small posse with him, all armed.

“We will wipe out the damned Territorial Government” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

James F. Legate served on Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury. After they voted to arrest the free state leadership and destroy the Free State Hotel and suppress Kansas’ antislavery papers, he went to warn Kansas’ former governor and present free state delegate to congress, Andrew Reeder. Reeder and the leadership put their heads together at Lawrence and decided that they might soon need to fight with guns as well as words. They made emergency plans to call together the state legislature to bulk up their institutions and endow them with a stronger legal basis. Governor Charles Robinson would go East “to raise men and arms”. Except for the travel plans, Robinson already did that job as the Emigrant Aid Company’s agent in Kansas. Reeder would stay behind and submit to arrest, his high profile making him the ideal choice for public relations.

They talked about organizing the militia and how armed resistance might soon come, but what came next seems less clear:

We did not determine what we would do as a last resort in case the General Government took the field against us, and gave us the alternative of backing our or levying war against them. This would not be the silly sham treason for which indictments are found now, but actual treason at least in the latter, although as holy and glorious in spirit as the dawn of the Revolution of ’76. Robinson declares that at least we will wipe out the d—-d Territorial Government absolutely and effectually, and to this we all assented.

In one respect, this demonstrates a shift in free state thought. They might actually go to war with the United States, a course they had refused to consider in public or private. To hear it from Robinson, the most peaceable of the group, speaks volumes. His own version, which includes Sherman and Howard in the discussion, differs slightly:

there was a possibility of a general conflict of arms; that should it be impossible to avoid such conflict without a surrender of the Free-State cause, it must be met, and if met the Free-State men should take issue rather in defense of the State organization than offensively against the territorial.

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Robinson stresses the contingency of the choice for arms more than Reeder does, but he agrees in substance. The free state governor might prefer peace, out of conviction, disposition, or circumstance, but he had asked the legislature to vote up an army and stood high in the ranks of the Kansas Legion. Battle with the United States would put them on new and much more dangerous ground, but free state militias had already mustered to fight border ruffians. In contemplating the Union itself, at least in Kansas, as an instrument of the slave power deserving forcible resistance they put themselves in line with the rescuers of fugitive slaves and diehard abolitionists in just the way they had vigorously denied only months before.

 

 

The Howard Committee’s Difficulties, Part One

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Arrivals and returns have shaped much of Kansas history so far in 1856. The Buford Expedition and Howard Committee arrived in the territory to do their work. Pardee Butler and Samuel Wood came back to Kansas after time away. Just as some of Buford’s men, or a similar group, met Butler’s return to Kansas so did the Howard Committee find itself in Lawrence when Samuel Jones came to serve the warrant he had on Samuel Wood dating back to December. Jones’ subsequent arrests of six men who helped Wood escape him got him shot in the back. This naturally had an effect on the committee’s business in the town.

The Committee might not have gone to Lawrence. They received a letter from E.V. Sumner, in command at Fort Leavenworth, suggesting they meet there. He promised that

There may be no excitement if you assemble elsewhere, but there will certainly be none here.

They answered that they intended to conduct its business at various points in Kansas, but would happily take Sumner up on the offer when they came around his way. The first business in Kansas took place at Lecompton, where they ordered copies of various documents and agreed on the rules for examining witnesses. April 23 found them in Lawrence.

Decades later, John Sherman remarked on the great development of the region that had since taken place. They came to a different Lawrence, one

in embryo, nothing finished, and my wife and I were glad to have a cot in a room in the unfinished and unoccupied “Free State Hotel”

In those modest settings, the committee had a brief meeting on the twenty-third. They had previously agreed to use Andrew Reeder and John Whitfield, both claiming election as Kansas’ sole delegate to Congress, to draw up lists of witnesses for the next day. That night, Samuel Jones took a bullet in the back.

John Wilkins Whitfield

John Wilkins Whitfield

The next morning, Whitfield wrote to the committee. In light of the attack upon Jones, Whitfield pronounced himself

unable to get my witnesses to attend the sitting of the committee at this place; they refusing, and with good reason, to expose themselves and run the risk of being assassinated, whenever night shuts in, by a lawless band of conspirators.

Whitfield’s witnesses included Samuel Jones, who had more reason than most to refuse a trip to Lawrence. Others present at told the proslavery delegate they would leave Lawrence in short order. Nor would those who planned to come previously do so in light of the danger to their lives. Furthermore:

there are others here rendering me material aid in this investigation, and without whom I cannot safely proceed, whom I cannot ask to remain and imperil their lives in so doing, or at least subject themselves to insult and contumely.

One can’t blame them. Whitfield promised that he would still happily comply with the committee’s work and bring all his witnesses to bear, but they had to meet somewhere safer than Lawrence.

Representing Kansas and the Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The question of what to do about Kansas continued to occupy the Congress in March of 1856. Would the nation stay the course with the bogus legislature and its laws, authorizing them to write a constitution with slavery and come into the Union down the road? Would they roll back the clock to last year or the year before, wiping aside all the territory had done and starting from scratch? Or would they admit the illegal free state government making their Kansas into the Kansas, free of slavery and blacks? Unsurprisingly, no more consensus existed on Kansas then than two years prior when Stephen Douglas, at the behest of Archibald Dixon and the F Street Mess, repealed the Missouri Compromise and started the mess.

John Sherman

John Sherman

The continuing debate over what to do with Kansas addressed the question of its future, immediate or otherwise. It also bore on Kansas’ present. John Wilkins Whitfield and Andrew Reeder had both arrived in Washington and presented their credentials to the House of Representatives. Kansas, entitled by law to one non-voting delegate, now had two. Choosing between Whitfield, the proslavery Indian agent twice elected to the post by fraud, and Reeder, the former governor elected by the free state government in an illegal election, meant choosing between the two governments. The House’s Committee on Elections asked the authority to call for papers and testimony on the question. Southerners objected. The House had a northern, anti-Nebraska majority. That majority had its cracks, but if it investigated then few could doubt the eventual verdict.

James Orr (D-SC)

James Orr (D-SC)

To forestall that risk, James Orr (D-SC) suggested that the House yield the question to a pair of southern lawyers. They would naturally judge Whitfield the more qualified man and seat him. Nobody fell for that. On March 19, over the unanimous objection of the South, the House voted to authorize an investigative committee of three men. One Democrat, Mordechai Oliver of Missouri, and two Republicans, William A. Howard of Michigan and John Sherman of Ohio would go off to Kansas and inquire into just what had really gone on in the troubled territory. Their report, published at the start of July, provides an invaluable source for Kansas’ first two years.

While the majority speaks clearly to what conclusions it would reach, the Howard Report would give Congress something firmer than newspaper reports and letters from constituents to judge matters. Everyone understood that newspapers had a firm partisan slant, one way or another. Testimony given under oath might hold more water. Even hostile witnesses before the committee surely lied, omitted, and evaded, but most I’ve read seem to have held themselves to a more stringent standard than they might in letters or editorials.

 

 

Storming the Leavenworth Polls, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

We left the Levenworth polls with Charles Dunn and friends tearing through the window where one came to vote and demanding the ballot box. The two judges of election and two clerks present, on confrontation with angry, armed men who had just proved capable of violence against architecture and upon studious reflection, ran for it. George Wetherell, one of the clerks, took the ballot box on the way out. He tossed it behind a counter on his way out, only to have Charles Gunn catch up and demand it from him. Gun seized Wetherell, struck him, and knocked him to the ground. The mob rushed on Wetherell, kicking him and jumping on his head and back.

Wetherell could easily have died there. The mob hardly seemed inclined to stop, but apparently didn’t care to risk a fairer fight:

Mr. R.P. Brown, Mr. Anthony, and others came to my rescue, and carried me to Mr. McCracken’s store. I was very much injured on the 15th of December. I was bruised, but received no cut wounds. I was able to be about the store a day or two afterwards a little. In a day or two I was able to attend my ordinary business. I was not right well afterwards. About the first of January, I was taken down sick with rheumatism, and have not been well since. I never had the rheumatism before. I supposed it was the effect of cold weather, and partly from my business.

To hear Wetherell tell it, the mob attacked an unarmed man. H.H. Johnston, who lived fifty to sixty yards away, disagreed. According to him,

Mr. Wetherell drew a bowie knife on him; Captain Dunn, in endeavoring to ward off the blow, knocked the knife out of Wetherell’s hand; Dunn then took Wetherell by the coat collar, by one hand, and struck him several times in the face, and then pulled him down in the mud on his face and hands. A man jumped on Wetherell once or twice with his feet when he was down in the mud, bruising him considerably about the face and head.

Another witness, William Burgess, had Wetherell run

into the street, and as he ran had a revolver and bowie knife in his hand at the same time. […] I am confident that Wetherell had a bowie knife and revolver in his hand.

John Sherman

John Sherman

The Howard Report doesn’t include the committee’s questions to witnesses, but does say when a witness responded and to whom. John Sherman pressed on the point of the weapons, and Burgess added that he

must have dropped the pistol at the scuffle for the ballot-box. While Dunn had hold of Wetherell, the latter drew his bowie knife. Dunn then knocked him down. This was all I saw.

Burgess’ version makes it sound like Wetherell drew his pistol when Dunn first demanded the box, but that would have had to happen in the presence of George H. Keller, as Wetherell’s own version has him ditch the box before leaving the building. Keller

saw no bowie knife or pistol on Mr. Wetherell, and think he had nothing of the kind. I had no arms myself more than a small penknife.

H.M. Hook, a judge of the election who missed the excitement by virtue of going out for lunch, agreed that Wetherell had no arms so far as he knew. G.W. Hollis agreed.

Did Wetherell have a knife and/or revolver that day? He could have concealed them so Keller and Hollis didn’t see. They might have lied for him, either for political purposes or personal connections. However, one could make similar arguments against Burgess and Johnston. Neither one gives a strong indication that they disapproved of the election, but Johnston seems decidedly unimpressed with Wetherell’s trauma. Minutes after his rescue, Johnston saw him:

He told me he was not hurt very badly, that he was more frightened than anything else, and would get all over it in a short time.

Pretty good for a guy that just had his head and back stomped on, and the witnesses largely agree on that happening. Painting Wetherell as an armed man would go some way toward mitigating the rough treatment. But the clerk could have not understood how badly the mob hurt him. We have to consider Wetherell’s account in the same light, but in doing so should keep in mind that a man confessing to a lengthy infirmity may have had to swallow much more pride in 1855 than he would today.

Ultimately, I don’t think the sources let us make a firm determination either way. The witnesses who have Wetherell armed appear to have seen things from afar. Those, aside Wetherell, who have him unarmed didn’t see the attack. Those facts alone suggest that he had at least the knife, but friendly and hostile witnesses could slant their stories equally well. Regardless of the weapons, George Wetherell clearly suffered a serious attack and must have feared for his life.

The Blue Lodges, Part One

John Sherman

John Sherman

Happy Juneteenth. I plan to write something on the depressingly traditional way one white American chose to celebrate it this year for Monday.

Having spend a fair bit of time on the free state militias that grew up in Kansas during 1855, it only seems fair to explore their opposite number. They operated as Blue Lodges, Sons of the South, the Social Band, the Friend’s Society, and probably under other names. The Howard Report includes testimony from eleven men on secret societies, but most of them spoke about the free state side rather than their antagonists. Only Jordan Davidson, John C. Prince, William P. Richardson, and John Stringfellow had anything to say about border ruffian organization.

Of those four, Richardson proved the least candid. His testimony consumes only a single page. John Sherman, brother of a then unremarkable officer named William, asked if Richardson belonged to any secret society aimed at “the extension of slavery into any territory of the United States”. Richardson answered in a remarkable subversion of the verbosity of the age:

I decline answering that question.

Even if Richardson would not admit to membership, would he testify that such a society existed?

I decline answering that question.

Sherman pressed on, ignoring the denials. Did such a group have anything to do with elections in Kansas? Did they, perhaps, send cash or recruit voters to go over for the day?

I decline answering that question.

Then Sherman finally dragged a new sentence out of Richardson.

Question. Would your answer to these questions, by the rules or obligations of such a society, impose upon you any penalty or danger of violence, or would it tend to criminate you?

Answer. It would subject me to no pains or penalties. I think it would be improper in me to answer these questions, but not that there is anything dishonorable about it, I do not think the committee have any right to ask me any such questions, and, therefore, I respectfully decline answering them.

Congressman Sherman heard Richardson’s denials before the affair with H. Miles Moore and so can’t have had that in mind. Nevertheless, he had reason to suspect that Richardson feared punishment if he told all. He knew from John C. Prince’s testimony on May 9, 1856, six days prior to Richardson’s, that the former

should not like to tell all I know about this society, because I think it would result to me injury; and that is one reason, though not the only one, why I dislike to answer in relation to the matter. One other reason is, that the members of the society take oaths to keep secrets those matters.

With Richardson stonewalling, Sherman pressed on. Did Richardson, who declined to otherwise comment on secret societies, know of any rule they put out requiring men like him to refuse cooperation with the Howard Committee and other outsiders? His tongue loosened by the last inquiry, Richardson finally let a few more words free:

I decline answering that question, upon the ground that the committee have no right to ask me such questions.

Richardson came back the next day and added that he had not properly understand Sherman’s question, but in the day since he had come to do so. Thus he parted with still more of his dear words:

I know of no such thing.

Glad he cleared that up.

The Sixteenth District, Part Four

John Sherman

John Sherman

Parts 12, 3

Yes, I know that I misspelled three in yesterday’s post. I’ve fixed it.

H. Miles Moore, the free state government’s attorney-general, stood at his office chatting with Howard Committee member John Sherman on May 28, 1856. A posse of twenty-five men armed with muskets and bayonets marched up on them in military order. The leader proposed to arrest Moore and another man present. Moore turned to Sherman to learn what he should do. Sherman declared himself powerless to stop the arrest. He had the right of it; House committees may have subpoena power and the ability to toss you in jail for contempt of Congress, but individual members do not have law enforcement authority.

But Sherman didn’t just cut Moore loose and hope for the best. He did what he could.

Mr. Sherman then turned to Major Wilkes, and asked him if he had a warrant for our arrest, and he said he had not. Mr. Sherman then asked him by what authority he made the arrests, and he said, “By an authority higher than my own; I am not acting on my own responsibility;” and then holding out his hand with a crumpled piece of paper in it, he said, “I have a list of names here for arrests.”

Nothing sounds at all odd about that. An unspecified, higher authority put down a list of people to arrest. What could a person do?

Moore apparently didn’t like his chances if he resisted or tried to escape, so he locked up his office and came out. He tried to question Wilkes on his own behalf:

I then inquired of Major Wilkes by what authority he arrested me, or if he had a warrant from anybody for my arrest. Major Wilkes replied, “I have no time to parley; take your place in the ranks;” which Mr. Parrot and myself did.

So much for that. They joined two other prisoners on the march. Sherman saw a chance to get more information and asked one of them about his arrest, but the column moved on. The other prisoner, a Mr. Conway, did get to say something, though:

As we started Mr. Conway turned to Mr. Sherman and said, “I have left the papers I was copying with Mrs. Sherman.”

I don’t know to read that as a statement that Conway had worked copying papers for the Howard Committee or as a way of directing Sherman to a set of papers that would shed light on things. The former seems more plausible than the latter, but the statement could support both interpretations.

Anyway, the posse

hurriedly marched down and placed [its prisoners] in a warehouse of Captain Clarkson, and kept there, under a strong guard, until the next morning, when I was sent for by the commissioner. A guard went up to the committee room with me. The committee refused to examine me while I was under guard, unless some legal authority was shown for my detention.

Moore’s captors declined to oblige.

I was then taken back. Subsequently, and while I was in custody, I was informed by Captain Clarkson that a secret council had been held, and had determined that I must leave the Territory. I asked him what were the charges against me, and if I might not go before the congressional investigating committee and make some explanation. He said that I had taken a prominent part in the free State movement, and had accepted an office under the State organization, and therefore I had become obnoxious, and with other free State men, a list of whose names they had, must leave the Territory.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

A thorough explanation of the legalities of the free state government must wait for a future date, but doesn’t this look like something out of the Eastern Bloc or a Star Chamber? A secret council decided that you had to leave the territory. No charges filed, no defense available, just leave or face the consequences. In a time when proslavery bands did lynch white dissenters, and sometimes on far less grounds than taking part in an illegal shadow government, Moore didn’t have to work hard to imagine likely consequences.

But Moore protested all the same. He had a great deal of money invested in Leavenworth. Leaving would ruin him. Furthermore, he had his wife on the way and expected her shortly. Should he abandon her?

He said that under those circumstances I would be allowed a little longer time than otherwise, but I must leave the Territory in a very short time, at all events, and his orders were imperative.

They must have let him go because his testimony, dated two days after his arrest, concludes as follows:

Being compelled thus to leave, I have requested by Messrs. Howard and Sherman, who deem my evidence important, to give it thus in private, believing as I do that my person and life would be endangered at this time should I give it in public.

The Sixteenth District, Part Three

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Parts 1 and 2

H. Miles Moore talked to other Kansans and learned how they felt about he and his Missourian comrades hijacking the election:

I had a conversation with several free State men who resided in Leavenworth city and its vicinity, in which they stated that they were disgusted with the manner in which the election was being conducted, and that the free State men would not vote, but would contest the election.

But Moore

tried to persuade them to vote, and their reply was that the people of Missouri were controlling the election, and they would not take part in it.

Moore’s own opinions of the Missourian effort evolved, as mentioned previously. I don’t know that he came around to agree with his fellow Kansans that they should have sat out the election, but he had moved away from his past justification of the electoral theft.

That change of heart had consequences for Moore. As a man of prominence, a member of Leavenworth’s town association, his activities drew the eye far more than those of some farmer out in the wilderness. Even if he did not take a leading role in antislavery efforts in the territory, Moore’s position painted a target on his back:

In consequence of my determination at this time to act thereafter with the free State party I became obnoxious to the pro-slavery men, both in Missouri and in the Territory. My person and property has been frequently threatened with violence and destruction by them for six months or more past.

John Sherman

John Sherman

Moore did not content himself with a position as a prominent local citizen, though. Making himself obnoxious to the proslavery party included taking up a position in the illegal free state government formed in response to and rejection of the legal, but fraudulently elected, territorial government. I don’t want to leap too far ahead of the narrative, but Moore’s testimony does so and includes an incident that makes more sense to include here than to wait on:

On Wednesday, May 28, 1856, I was arrested while standing at my office door, about noon, by Major Warren D. Wilkes, who had a posse with him of some twenty or twenty-five men, armed with United States muskets and bayonets. At the time of the arrest, I was conversing with Marcus J. Parrot and Hon. John Sherman, a member of the Kansas investigating committee of the House of Representatives. This posse marched down the street in a column in platoons of four, and when they reached my office they faced about and formed a line, with shouldered muskets. A man by the name of Eli Moore, who has been, and I think is now, deputy sheriff of this county, approached with Major Wilkes, and pointed out to him Mr. Parrot and myself. Major Wilkes said to us, “Gentlemen, I have to arrest you temporarily.” Mr. Parrot said to Mr. Sherman, “What shall we do?” Mr. Sherman said, “I can do nothing; I am powerless in this matter.”

This puts the lack of testimony from the Eleventh District in some context.

The freshman congressman John Sherman with whom Moore spoke sat on the Howard Committee. He went on to serve Ohio as a senator and later on authored the Sherman Antitrust Act. He also had a brother by the name of William who quite overshadows him in the historical memory.