“I’ll drive this knife to the hilt until I find your life”

John Brown

Squire Morse, an old Michigander with two kids, sold Frederick Brown some lead bars that he took over to the Grant house to make into bullets. Dutch Bill Sherman and his proslavery friends took note of that and told Morse that he needed to quit the area or he would leave it permanently at the end of a rope. He had until eleven that morning to get gone, at which point they returned and decided to upgrade his murder weapon to an axe. They also gave him until sundown, after his children cried and pleaded. Morse took his two boys and went to the Grant’s. He stayed with them for a while, but insisted on sleeping rough in the prairie rather than risk being caught in town at night. The stress of that and the threat to his life eventually ended it. The Grant family caught some of it too, with Dutch Henry Sherman calling to tell them of More’s expulsion and that many other antislavery families had to go too.

The proslavery men around Osawatomie had made dire threats before. Sanborn had it from a Mr. Foster that in the same spring of 1856,

William Sherman had taken a fancy to the daughter of one of his Free-State neighbors, and had been refused by her. The next time he met her he used the most vile and insulting language toward her, in the midst of which Frederick Brown appeared and was besought for protection, which was readily granted. Sherman then drew his knife, and, speaking to the young woman, said: ‘The day is soon coming when all the damned Abolitionists will be driven out or hanged; we are not going to make any half-way work about it; and as for you, Miss, you shall either marry me or I’ll drive this knife to the hilt until I find your life.

Frederick supposedly told Sherman that if he tried it, “he would be taken care of.” Foster tells this all after the fact in a passage largely about defending the Browns for murdering Dutch Bill, so we have to read it with some skepticism. Furthermore, if the Browns or the other Pottawatomie Rifles thought that their families in the area stood at serious risk they most probably would have either stayed home or made arrangements for their safety. Sherman may have made the threat to the woman, and Brown answered it as reported, but their behavior suggests that they believed their hostile neighbors talked big and never delivered.

Morse’s travail suggested that things had changed. The absence of the antislavery men and presence of Georgians who came those hundreds of miles to kill abolitionists bolstered their convictions.

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A rope, an axe, violent crying and violent illness.

John Brown

John Brown’s son Frederick went into Dutch’s Crossing to buy some lead bars. He aimed to use that lead for free state bullets and enlisted the Grant family to help make them. With Lawrence under threat again, they needed the ammunition. In many places, all that might go unmarked. Dutch’s Crossing presented several problems for that, all of which go back to the German-born “Dutch” Sherman brothers. Illegal squatters and likely petty criminals from way back, they went all-in for slavery and acted belligerently toward their antislavery neighbors. One of the Shermans and some of their proslavery friends saw Frederick Brown passing by with the lead and asked what he meant to do for it. Frederick told them.

The proslavery men didn’t take it out on Frederick, a relatively young man carrying a bunch of useful bludgeons; a man could get bruised trying to bruise a guy like that. Instead they went to the older Michigander who ran a store nearby and sold the lead. Squire Morse, who had two small children, received a visit first thing in the morning as soon as the free state men moved out for Lawrence. Dutch Bill, the Doyles, and Allen Wilkinson (a bogus legislature member) showed him a noose and told him that they would hang him for selling the lead.

But not just now. The proslavery men gave Morse until eleven to abandon his store and claim. They had only talked big before. Now they had a rope and gave a deadline. This fit the typical script for lynching a white man. The warning must have only felt sporting and refusing to abide by it would give them further aggravation. After making the threat, they departed to drink.

George Grant, then a child, recalled what happened next:

About eleven o’clock a portion of them, half drunk, went back to Mr. Morse’s, and were going to kill him with an axe. His little boys -one was only nine years old- set up a violent crying, and begged for their father’s life.

That childhood memory would stick with you. The violent crying and begging even moved the proslavery men, a little. They amended their deadline to sundown. Morse wasted no time:

He left everything and came at once to our house. He was nearly frightened to death. He came to our house carrying a blanket and leading his little boy by the hand. When night came he was so afraid that he would not stay in the house, but went out of doors and slept on the prairie in the grass.

Morse remained in the area, but he hid out in the bush and came in for meals with the Grants. The travail took its toll on an already older man, who soon took “violently ill” and died. A doctor saw to him in that time and attributed the death to “the fright and excitement of that terrible day when he was driven from his store.”

All this for selling some lead, which Morse himself got from Dutch Henry originally. That Sherman brother got in on the action too, going over to the Grants to tell them that they had ordered Morse out “and a good many others of the Free-State families have to go.” George Grant doesn’t report it as a personal threat to them, but the Shermans knew that Brown took his lead to them to turn into bullets. With some Georgian proslavery militants nearby and the antislavery militia away, they had to feel intensely vulnerable.

Twenty or thirty pounds of lead bars and one noose

John Brown

Affairs between the proslavery and antislavery white colonists in Kansas did not go smoothly in general. Nothing that had happened in the territory’s short, stormy history pointed toward happy coexistence. Osatwatomie fit perfectly with the rest of the territory, maybe more so courtesy of outspoken antislavery men like the Browns in close company with similarly outspoken proslavery men like the Doyles and Shermans. August Bondi found that out the hard way when, new to Kansas, he called on the former as a fellow German. On learning his antislavery politics, they told him that he’d best get lost or he might get lynched.

That conversation put Bondi in touch with the Browns, who promised to have his back if the Shermans ever followed through. For a long time, they and others like them proved all talk. That began to change in the spring of 1856, just about the time that Cato opened his court and John Junior and the Pottawatomie Rifles made their sceneAccording to George Grant, who shared his recollections in 1879:

There was a company of Georgia Border Ruffians encamped on the Marais des Cynges, about four miles away from us, who had been committing outrages upon the Free-State people; and these proslavery men were in constant communication with them. They had a courier who went backward and forward carrying messages.

When news of the new threat against Lawrence came to the area, the free state men prepared to go to the town’s rescue. Frederick Brown visited a store run by a Michigander down at Dutch Henry’s Crossing, where the Shermans lived and operated their tavern. Frederick bought twenty or thirty pounds of lead, then took it over to Grant’s father’s house on a Sunday morning. Frederick and the Grant kids, including young George, spent the day making bullets from the lead.

Heading from old Squire Morse’s store to the Grant home took Frederick past Dutch Henry’s house. There he found several proslavery men, including James Doyle and sons and Dutch William, Henry’s brother. Seeing a known free state man with a load of twenty or thirty pounds of lead got them wondering if he meant it for something. Frederick told them his business, which “much incensed” them.

The next day, the Browns and other armed men started for Lawrence. That left no one around to keep the proslavery party in check and

a number of these proslavery men-Wilkinson, Doyle, his two sons, William Sherman, known as ‘Dutch Bill’- took a rope and went to old Squire Morse’s house, and said they were going to hang him for selling lead to the Free-State men.

 

When August Bondi met Dutch Sherman

John Brown

John Brown, his son who was also a John Brown, and the Pottawatomie Rifles walked away from Dutch Henry’s tavern on April 21, 1856 with most of what they came for. They knew for a fact that Judge Sterling Cato, holding court there, would enforce the bogus legislature’s laws against being Kansas and antislavery…mostly. Cato secured no indictments against Kansans who declared against slavery, or even formed antislavery militia companies like Brown and his son. He did indict only free state Kansans, but only for regular offenses. The next day he closed up shop with those settled and moved a county over to indict another free state Kansan, this one for assault. The junior Brown made a big show of telling his band of armed men that they would meet immediately right where everyone in court could hear him, but all they did present Cato with a copy of the resolutions recently voted on to resist enforcement of the proslavery code by force if necessary. He left no record of Cato’s reaction.

All of that didn’t amount to much, really. The free state men came out of it with the knowledge that the proslavery party would not stage an immediate crackdown, but the machinery of Kansas government had lurched further to life. What didn’t happen at one court session could happen at the next. For that matter, Missouri threatened to invade Kansas yet again. Across the territory’s political divide, the proslavery men around Osawatomie had parallel anxieties: among them lived a band of armed militants sworn to wage war against the forces of law and order. The implied threat to Cato’s court had to strike close to home for the Shermans (who hosted it), Allen Wilkinson (district attorney), Thomas McGinn (grand jury foreman), William Doyle (bailiff), James Harris and James Doyle (William’s father, both jurors). The Doyles also affiliated themselves with the Law and Order Party. Wilkinson served in the bogus legislature.

Not that they had behaved well before the threat. Sanborn relates that August Bondi arrived in Kansas almost a year before all this and went to check up with his fellow Germans. Dutch Sherman told him

“he had heard that Bondi and Benjamin [another German who had come with Bondi] were Freesoilers, and therefore would advise him to clear out, or they might meet the fate of Baker,” – a Vermont man whom the Border Ruffians had taken from his cabin on the Marais des Cynges, whipped, and hanged upon a tree, but had cut him down before death, and released him upon his promise to leave Kansas.

Sandborn worshiped Brown and Bondi told him all this years later, probably while they clambered about Kansas trying to find where Bondi and Brown camped out in the spring and summer of 1856. He might have invented it as a handy way to tell how he came to meet the Brown family, though Frederick’s promise that if the Shermans caused trouble they could come to his rescue. But proslavery and antislavery Kansans often had poisonous relationships and the proslavery side in particular seems inclined to make violent threats, even if most of them didn’t go all the way to committing murder. Nothing that Bondi has Sherman threaten him with would depart from the norms established elsewhere.

“I am no longer a member of the Thirty-Fourth Congress.”

Preston Brooks (D-SC)

Henry Wilson had a rough few days of it. He reject Brooks’ challenge to a duel, going out of his way to denigrate the whole practice. Friends advised against that, but Wilson bulled on ahead. Though Brooks never came after him, for some time thereafter. Wilson learned years later of possibly serious talk about roughing him up put down by James Orr. That all fell out over the last days of May. At the start of June, 1856, the House received the reports from the committee they had looking into the matter. Those recommended expulsion for Brooks and censure of Henry Edmundson and Lawrence Keitt, effectively demanding their resignations but stopping short of forcing the two out.

The House didn’t take a vote on the recommendations until the middle of July, at which point a predictably hostile debate broke out. The South Carolinians made it a point of principle to defend their own. The Republicans naturally fought back. In the end, the House voted on sectional lines to expel Brooks. That didn’t give them the two-thirds majority they needed to do the job. Brooks opted to do it for them. According to Sumner’s Works, he gained the floor “with some difficulty” and gave an account of himself I’ve quoted liberally from.

Brooks proceeded to congratulate himself. He failed to start something that ended in

subverting the foundations of this Government and in drenching this Hall in blood. No act of mine, and on my personal account, shall inaugurate revolution

Fresh off thanking himself for failing to incite a revolution, Brooks took a second victory lap on how he used a cane instead of a whip or cowhide, that Sumner might have taken from him and so forced Brooks “to do that which I would have regretted for the balance of my natural life.” In other words, Brooks thought he might have to kill Sumner if the Senator got hold of his cowhide or whip. The House didn’t miss the implication; someone cried out, “He would have killed him!”

Undeterred, Brooks finished what he had to say:

And now, Mr. Speaker, I announce to you, and to this House, that I am no longer a member of the Thirty-Fourth Congress.

Lawrence Keitt (D-SC)

He walked out.

The next day, July 15, the House moved on to the punishments recommended for Edmundson and Keitt. Edmundson got off, 60-136. Keitt got censured 106-96. He likewise resigned. Both Keitt and Brooks submitted themselves to their constituents to fill the vacancies their resignations created. Both found themselves back in the House in early August, an absence of a little over two weeks.

To Vindicate and Rebuke: The House Majority Report

Preston Brooks (D-SC)

The Caning, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15

The House report on the caning

 

The Senate passed Preston Brooks’ assault of Charles Sumner over to the House, which had jurisdiction over him. The House had a committee already in place on the subject, which in due course delivered a minority and majority report. The minority agreed with the main facts of the case: Brooks came into the Senate and attacked Sumner, doing him harm in response to his speech about Kansas. They didn’t quite admit that Sumner suffered potentially lethal blows, but otherwise disputed nothing. Yet the minority believed that the House should do nothing whatsoever to discipline Brooks. The matter should just drop, as if nothing happened.

The majority felt strongly otherwise. They held that Sumner endured the “considerable violence” of Brooks

striking him numerous blows on or about the head with a walking stick, which cut his head, and disabled him for the time being from attending to his duties in the Senate.

The majority admitted that they couldn’t prove that Brooks meant to kill Sumner. No one gave any testimony to that effect and he did stop when told not to kill the Senator, albeit at the same time he was wrestling with another House member who made continuing more difficult. The committee deemed the assault premeditated, on the basis of Henry Edmundson’s testimony, and considered it

an aggravated assault upon the inestimable right of freedom of speech guarantied by the Constitution. It asserts for physical force a prerogative over governments, constitutions, and laws; and, if carried to its ultimate consequences, must result in anarchy and bring in its train all the evils of a “reign of terror.”

Lawrence Keitt (D-SC)

In response to all that, the House must pass “such a resolution as will vindicate its own character and rebuke the member who has, so unhappily for himself and the country, perpetrated this great wrong.” That required more than just going after Brooks, though. The majority didn’t believe anyone else had joined in the attack itself or plotted to do so, nor the precise when and where of Brooks’ intentions, but others did know that something would happen and so shared in some responsibility for it. They found that Edmundson and Lawrence Keitt had advance knowledge of the general time and place for the assault, which Edmundson’s testimony supports. Keitt sat in the chamber waiting and rushed to protect Brooks from interference when the cane struck Sumner’s skull.

Taking it all together, the majority recommended two resolutions. The House must expel Brooks for his crime and furthermore “declare its disapprobation of the said act of Henry A. Edmundson and Lawrence M. Keitt in regard to the said assault.” The latter would amount to some kind of censure, after which custom would probably require Edmundson and Keitt to resign their seats.

“Improper to express any opinion” The House Minority Report

Howell Cobb

The Caning, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15

The House report on the caning

The Senate committee on the caning of Charles Sumner passed the matter over to the House of Representatives, which had the sole power to judge and punish its own members. The House had already acted, forming a committee that investigated thoroughly. They questioned Sumner in his room, in deference to his delicate condition, and invited Brooks to participate for his own defense. Brooks recommended one witness but otherwise appears to have taken no part. The committee’s majority found essentially as we have already seen.

Nor did the minority disputed the essential facts: Brooks took offense at Sumner’s speech and caned him. The minority differed chiefly in offering lengthy quotes from The Crime Against Kansaswhich the report makes superfluous by including the full text. They stood silent on the majority’s claim that Brooks struck with a lethal weapon, instead declaring that Sumner suffered “repeated and severe blows.”

Then the minority started lawyering their way out of doing anything. Since the Constitution forged a government of limited powers, no house of Congress could have some faculty it did not grant. Those didn’t include any talk about general privileges of the Senate or House, let alone that each chamber had a sovereign right to declare its own. If one read the Constitution that way,

then the House has the power to declare that an act committed to-day, which is in violation of no provision of the Constitution, no law of the land, no rule of the House, and which is therefore, so far as the citizen may be informed, innocent in itself, a violation and a breach of its privileges, and to inflict punishment for the same.

On paper, that all makes good sense. No part of the government should have infinite, unaccountable power. Reading it in context does the minority few favors. They have argued, in essence, that since the House lacks a rule against assaulting a Senator it can’t do anything about Brooks. If they wanted to change things, then the majority should use that standard rejoinder of politicians who pretend openness to change while opposing it to the utmost: amend the Constitution. At most, Brooks should face some kind of ordinary legal case.

One could make a fair argument that the House of Representatives should not try its members for offenses, but the Constitution gave it wide power to set rules for just that purpose. It had, in fact, tried John Quincy Adams for his conduct, albeit conduct on the floor. There are genuine reasons to look askance at a legislature making itself into a general purpose court for offenses not specifically against its rules or which take place beyond its walls. If a Senator today ran over someone with his car, we wouldn’t expect the Senate to convene and subpoena his blood alcohol level. One could also argue that no one foresaw a member of one chamber launching a physical assault on a member of another and the extraordinary circumstances warranted more consideration than the minority gave them.

Howell Cobb and Alfred Greenwood, the minority, concluded that

neither House has any privileges except those which are written and declared in either the Constitution or some law or rule passed in pursuance thereof, and that the facts developed by the evidence show no violation of any such written and recognized privileges

Thus they recommended to the full House a resolution that it had no jurisdiction and “deem it improper to express any opinion on the subject.”

The House Committee Acts

Preston Brooks (D-SC)

The Caning, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15

The House report on the caning

The Senate formed a select committee on the assault of Charles Sumner. The committee, which had not a single Republican on it, ruled that Brooks had done a bad thing indeed but they had no rightful power to punish him for it. That power lay with the House of Representatives, as a coequal chamber. The Senate passed the buck, as the committee judged it constitutionally obligated, on May 28, 1856.

The House didn’t wait for the Senate. Its Know-Nothing/Republican/anti-Nebraska Opposition coalition voted a committee into existence on May 23, the day after Brooks broke his cane on Sumner’s head. On Saturday, the next day, the committee began its business by inviting Brooks to participate:

an order extending to you the privilege of appearing before it during the examination of witnesses, to suggest such questions as you may desire to have propounded by them

If Brooks had witnesses that wouldn’t cooperate, the committee placed their subpoena power at his service.

Sumner received a somewhat different missive. The committee understood that his “condition was somewhat critical” and forwarded their letter through his doctor. They explained their task and told him that they would meet properly on Monday, May 26, at 1 PM in the Ways and Means room. Sumner

will be expected to meet it whenever your attending physicians may deem it prudent that you should do so, to testify in the premises.

Brooks received a rather conciliatory letter, offering him options to defend himself. Sumner got a straight-up summons. The committee had a partisan makeup favorable to Sumner and would act as a prosecution on his behalf, so the tone seems odd. One would expect more solicitousness of Sumner than Brooks, but then Sumner would surely cooperate. Brooks might not, though he did recommend one witness in the end.

The committee did have some sympathy for Sumner’s frailty, though. They forwarded him the question they would ask in advance and invited him to prepare a statement in his boarding house. He could submit that as testimony and only have to answer directly in cross-examination. A note attached, told Dr. Boyle that he should present the letter to Sumner “the sooner the better” but only if he felt Sumner up to dealing with the affair.

Charles Sumner (R-MA)

Consideration extended to interviewing Sumner at his boarding house, though not without controversy. Howell Cobb moved that the chairman, Lewis Campbell of Ohio, call on Sumner and see if he could show up. If Sumner couldn’t just then, Campbell should find out when he might. The committee member who suggested going to Sumner then told them that Sumner essentially invited them to come over at 1:30 that day. The voted and Cobb’s measure lost.

And the committee thereupon proceeded to the lodgings of Mr. Sumner; Mr. Campbell having fist invited Mr. Brooks to proceed with them, and Mr. Brooks having declined.

Campbell must have invited Brooks in reference to his right to cross-examine witnesses. That the South Carolinian declined avoided an obviously tense, and likely traumatic, experience.

 

The Senate Committee’s Verdict

Henry Wilson (R-MA)

The Caning, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15

The House report on the caning

Henry Wilson got his action, of a sort. He demanded that the Senate do something about Preston Brooks caning Charles Sumner. At first no one rose to take up his suggestion that they form an investigatory committee, but then William Seward introduced a resolution to that effect. After a minor amendment, the Senate approved. The committee went to work sometime thereafter, delivering its report on May 28, six days after the attack.

The committee, unsurprisingly, agreed that Brooks had caned Sumner in response to words Sumner spoke on the floor of the Senate. They opted not to comment on “the various circumstances which preceded and attended this affair.” Instead, they reported looking into precedent. They had to scour the journals of the House of Representatives, as the Senate had no previous occasion to weigh in on such an event. The record held “an assault upon a member for words spoken in debate to be a violation of the privileges of the House.”

James Mason

So Brooks warranted some kind of disciplinary action. There the Senators found a difficulty. His attack upon Sumner “was a breach of the privileges of the Senate” yet “not within the jurisdiction of the Senate, and can only be punished by the House of Representatives, of which Mr. Brooks is a member.”

To support that conclusion, the committee referred to British precedent that made the houses of Parliament equals and independent of one another “in every respect.” As independent equals, neither house could exert authority over the other. Thomas Jefferson agreed in his parliamentary manual, holding that in such occasions the offended chamber should complain to the other or redress. As a member of the House, only the House could judge and punish Brooks.

The Senate might have gotten right on that, at least for the sake of maintaining the forms. The matter came almost to a vote, but then James Mason objected again. He noted

the honorable Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Butler,] who may feel, and probably does feel, an interest in this matter, is not in his seat. he has not been in the Senate to-day, I believe; I have not seen him. I think it would be better, therefore, to allow it to lie over. I do not know that he has any opinions in relation to it which he desires to express. I merely make the suggestion.

“Several senators” objected to delaying things, at which point Mason gave it up and the Senate agreed to the resolution.

The Senators might have found a way to try and punish Brooks if they wished to; politicians get creative about these things. A committee entirely unfavorable to Sumner, as the Senate elected, would probably not have exerted itself too much to find a solution. Yet on consideration, the problem does strike at the heart of bicameralism. The Constitution establishes two chambers of Congress, each with its own privileges. Those include the power to discipline their own members through use of each chamber’s rules. If the Senate could summon a congressman and punish his misconduct, then it sat as judge over the House.

One might reasonable counter with the argument that Brooks did not commit his crime in the House, but rather on the floor of the Senate. By entering the room, he entered their jurisdiction and had to abide by their rules. If Senate rules could regulate the behavior spectators in the gallery, as they did and do, then they clearly didn’t reach just Senators and those employed by the chamber as aides and officers. A Congressman might easily fall under them.

The committee found otherwise, but by referring the matter to the House and its antislavery coalition majority the Senators also knew the likely result. In relying on constitutional propriety to wash their own hands of Brooks, they probably expected that the House would find some way to handle him.

The Senate’s Committee

Henry Wilson (R-MA)

The Caning, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15

The House report on the caning

The day after Preston Brooks broke his cane over Charles Sumner’s head and left the Senator covered in his own blood, Henry Wilson got up and demanded that the Senate take “prompt and decisive action.” They had to do something, lest another Brooks come along. If Senators, in the chamber itself and for things they said in debate, faced mortal danger then democracy could not long endure. The afternoon previous, while Sumner lay blooded in his bed, the GOP caucus met and discussed strategy. They thought it best not to make a party issue of the attack and that the Massachusetts delegation ought not lead an investigation. Thus Wilson looked to the Senate in general for a solution, rising for the first substantive business on May 23, 1856. He concluded:

Senators, I have called your attention to this transaction. I submit no motion. I leave it to older Senators, whose character-whose position in this body, and before the country, eminently fit them for the task of devising measures to redress the wrongs of a member of this body, and to vindicate the honor and dignity of the Senate.

In other words, Wilson understood -or his Republican colleagues understood and convinced him- that if the GOP took a prominent role in this then it would look like a partisan affair. Proslavery men could charge that Republicans wanted revenge on Sumner’s behalf, not justice or fair inquiry. By deferring to elder Senators, Wilson sought to depoliticize the chamber’s response. Senators should view themselves as Senators and Americans first, acting with a view to the sacred prerogatives and safeguarding democracy.

Such a considered plea, complete with deference to the elder men of the Senate, drew out from every Senator in the chamber an eloquent silence. No one would stand up for Sumner. The presiding officer waited a decent amount of time and then began to move on.

Senator William H. Seward (R-NY)

William Seward cut him off mid-sentence and offered a resolution. Neither the Congressional Globe nor Sumner’s biographer give any insight on whether Seward delayed for effect, out of his own doubts, or in hopes that someone, anyone, else would step forward. No one did, so he submitted a resolution:

That a committee of five members be appointed by the President [of the Senate] to inquire into the circumstances attending the assault committed on the person of the Hon. Charles Sumner, a member of the Senate, and in the Senate chamber yesterday; and that the said committee be instructed to report a statement of the facts, together with their opinion thereon, to the Senate.

That required unanimous consent. James Mason of Virginia rose to object, though he said he didn’t do so on the general principle of things. He merely preferred that Seward revise his resolution so that the Senate would elect the committee. Seward accepted and the Senate assented and the election took place at once. Lewis Cass, Phillip Allen, Augustus Caesar Dodge, Henry Geyer, and James Pearce won the spots, with Seward coming in sixth. Henry Wilson received one vote, probably his own. The committee included no Republicans, but did include Cass despite Sumner going after him in The Crime Against KansasGeyer and Pearce both hailed from slave states, Missouri and Maryland respectively, and Dodge had a career as a friend to popular sovereignty.

Lewis Cass (D-MI)

Cass objected. He asked Senators before the vote not to support him and very much did not want to chair the committee, as “the task would impose too much labor, and I am old.” The presiding officer informed Cass that committees chose their own chairmen, which he must have known, and then further that since he had the fewest votes in the Senate they would probably not choose him anyway. Cass griped once more about being elected and let the matter drop.

Wilson would have some kind of action, but nothing about the composition of the committee could have encouraged him to expect satisfaction.