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Abraham Lincoln- A History

Abraham Lincoln- A History

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Published by: anand_jobs on Nov 16, 2010
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of the quarrel. "Did you not pledge yourselves to assist me as sheriff in the arrest of any person against whom
I might have a writ?" asked Sheriff Jones of Robinson and Lane in a curt note. "We may have said that we
would assist any proper officer in the service of any legal process," they replied, standing upon their
interpretation. This was, of course, the original controversy--slavery burning to enforce her usurpation,
freedom determined to defend her birthright. Sheriff Jones had his pockets always full of writs issued in the
spirit of persecution, but was often baffled by the sharp wits and ready resources of the free- State people, and
sometimes defied outright. Little by little, however, the latter became hemmed and bound in the meshes of the
various devices and proceedings which the territorial officials evolved from the bogus laws. President Pierce,
in his special message of January 24, declared what had been done by the Topeka movement to be "of a
revolutionary character" which would "become treasonable insurrection if it reach the length of organized

Following this came his proclamation of February 11, leveled against "combinations formed to resist the
execution of the territorial laws." Early in May, Chief-Justice Lecompte held a term of his court, during which
he delivered to the grand jury his famous instructions on constructive treason. Indictments were found, writs
issued, and the principal free-State leaders arrested or forced to flee from the Territory. Governor Robinson
was arrested without warrant on the Missouri River, and brought back to be held in military custody till
September. [Transcriber's Note: Lengthy footnote relocated to chapter end.] Lane went East and recruited
additional help for the contest. Meanwhile Sheriff Jones, sitting in his tent at night, in the town of Lawrence,
had been wounded by a rifle or pistol in the attempt of some unknown person to assassinate him. The people
of Lawrence denounced the deed; but the sheriff hoarded up the score for future revenge. One additional
incident served to precipitate the crisis. The House of Representatives at Washington, presided over by
Speaker Banks, and under control of the opposition, sent an investigating committee to Kansas, consisting of
Wm. A. Howard, of Michigan, John Sherman, [Footnote: Owing to the illness of Mr. Howard, chairman of the
committee, the long and elaborate majority report of this committee was written by John Sherman. Its
methodical analysis and powerful presentation of evidence made it one of the most popular and convincing
documents ever issued.] of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri, which, by the examination of numerous
witnesses, was probing the Border-Ruffian invasions, the illegality of the bogus Legislature, and the enormity
of the bogus laws to the bottom.

[Sidenote: Howard Report, p. 66.]

Ex-Governor Reeder was in attendance on this committee, supplying data, pointing out from personal
knowledge sources of information, cross-examining witnesses to elicit the hidden truth. To embarrass this
damaging exposure, Judge Lecompte issued a writ against the ex- Governor on a frivolous charge of
contempt. Claiming but not receiving exemption from the committee, Beeder on his personal responsibility
refused to permit the deputy marshal to arrest him. The incident was not violent, nor even dramatic. No posse
was summoned, no further effort made, and Reeder, fearing personal violence, soon fled in disguise. But the
affair was magnified as a crowning proof that the free-State men were insurrectionists and outlaws.

It must be noted in passing that by this time the Territory had by insensible degrees drifted into the condition
of civil war. Both parties were zealous, vigilant, and denunciatory. In nearly every settlement suspicion led to
combination for defense, combination to some form of oppression or insult, and so on by easy transition to
arrest and concealment, attack and reprisal, expulsion, theft, house- burning, capture, and murder. From these,
again, sprang barricaded and fortified dwellings, camps and scouting parties, finally culminating in roving
guerrilla bands, half partisan, half predatory. Their distinctive characters, however, display one broad and
unfailing difference. The free-State men clung to their prairie towns and prairie ravines with all the obstinacy
and courage of true defenders of their homes and firesides. The pro-slavery parties, unmistakable aliens and
invaders, always came from, or retired across, the Missouri line. Organized and sustained in the beginning by
voluntary contributions from that and distant States, they ended by levying forced contributions, by "pressing"
horses, food, or arms from any neighborhood they chanced to visit. Their assumed character changed with
their changing opportunities or necessities. They were squads of Kansas militia, companies of "peaceful

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