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The University of Kansas and the Sack of Lawrence

A Problem of Intellectual Honesty

by C. S. Griffin

Winter 1968 (Vol. XXXIV. No. 4), pages 409 to 426
Transcribed by Tod Roberts; digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets refer to endnotes for this text.

TRUTH, THE adage has it, is stranger than fiction, but stranger than either of them is fiction purveyed as its opposite. For over a century descriptions of territorial Kansas have had an abundance of that peculiar commodity. In the year 1856 much of Kansas was in a turmoil compounded of violence, murder, and outright war. For their own purposes, the men who described the troubled times banished fact and summoned fancy in its place. Within the territory and throughout the nation, politicians, newspapermen, and participants in the events reconstructed the recent history of Kansas at will. For a century afterward the example of the partisans of '56 endured. While Kansans themselves created fables about the territorial days and boasted that because Kansas became a free state the nation was free of slavery, abolitionists generated legends about the valor and humanitarianism of John Brown, and historians nurtured the myth that the strife in Kansas was the Civil War in miniscule. Instead of a historical reality, territorial Kansas was a state of mind.

Several of the more remarkable tales arose from the destruction of the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence. Late in the afternoon of May 21, 1856, a group of men led by Douglas County Sheriff Samuel J. Jones bombarded the hotel with cannon and then gutted the building with gunpowder and flame. The razing of the hotel, together with the burning of Charles Robinson's house, the wrecking of the equipment of two newspapers, the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State, and a certain amount of looting and vandalism, became known as the "sack of Lawrence." In order to justify the work of Sheriff Jones and his cohorts, Proslavery men in the territory claimed that they were simply executing an indictment of the grand jury of the United States district court at Lecompton and the orders of the presiding judge, Samuel D. Lecompte. Free-State men were quick to agree with their enemies, but contended that judge, jury, and Jones had acted illegally and without cause. Newspaper editors sympathetic to the Free-State cause gave the affair enormous publicity -- much of it merely falsehoods -- and labored to convince their readers that the sack of Lawrence was yet another manifestation of Proslavery barbarism. Before a month was out, Kansas mythology was immensely richer. [1]

The stories of the sack of Lawrence lived on. Among the men perpetuating the Free-State version of the affair -- which was demonstrably false -- were three chancellors, several faculty members, and various other officers of the University of Kansas. Committed in theory to an ideal of intellectual honesty, they perverted historical truth in the hope that the perversion would gain for their school several thousand dollars from the national government. In 1856 the Free-State Hotel had been the property of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, whose purpose was to aid the emigration of Free-State men to Kansas, and in the process to make a profit for the company's stockholders. During the four decades following the destruction of the hotel, representatives of the company tried to induce the United States congress to grant their claim against the national government for the $25,000 value of the structure. They failed to collect. In February, 1897, the stockholders voted to transfer the claim to the university. From then until 1929 officers of the university attempted to obtain a law appropriating the money. Like the company before them, they failed. Their efforts, however, obscured historical reality, convinced many congressmen that what was false was true, and even yielded new glosses on the older tales. And before their efforts ended, they had given rise to a bitter attempt to abridge the intellectual freedom of a faculty member who condemned the myths in presenting the facts.

By the early months of 1897 the New England Emigrant Aid Company was an organization with only a name, a history, and an unsettled claim against the United States. It had long since ceased to function, and its directors and stockholders had lost all hope of profits. On February 19 the company's charter would expire. Vice President Edward Everett Hale saw no prospect of congress' passing a compensatory bill. Because the company had no future, Hale looked favorably upon a suggestion he had received from Prof. William H. Carruth of the University of Kansas that the company transfer its claim to the Lawrence institution. [2] Carruth had long been interested in the company's past, and in 1897 be was about to publish an article describing its activities in Kansas and maintaining that the claim was eminently just. [3] Carruth thought, too, according to Hale, that university officers might induce congressmen to settle the claim in favor of the school "in consideration of the fact that this company rendered such service in the creation of Kansas." [4] Hale corresponded diligently with the company's stockholders, and by February 17 he had secured the representation of enough shares at a meeting to constitute a quorum. The stockholders presented the university with the claim. [5]

Providing that it could be collected, the claim would be manna to a suddenly undernourished school. In February and March, 1897, a majority of unsympathetic state legislators not only refused to vote the increased appropriations for which Chancellor Francis H. Snow and the regents had asked, but cut faculty salaries by from 12-1/2 to 20 percent. They lowered Snow's salary from $5,000 to $4,000 a year and the salaries of most full professors from $2,000 to $1,750. The total reduction was almost $8,000. [6] Were congress favorable to the claim when it met in December, it would relieve considerable distress. From the spring until the late fall, Carruth, Snow, and Prof. Frank W. Blackmar -- who was then writing a laudatory and uncritical biography of Charles Robinson -- worked on an effective presentation. On December 20, 1897, they submitted it to congress as a memorial in support of a bill to pay the claim introduced by Kansas Senator William A. Harris. Because of Carruth's misapprehension about the hotel's value, the bill asked for only $20,000. [7] Until 1929, when efforts to collect ended, the document stood unchanged as the university's analysis of the destruction of the building. [8]

The memorial consisted of two parts: a series of 13 statements presented as "material facts," and nine exhibits containing material purporting to prove that the statements were true. Ironically, the exhibits supported none of the assertions about the hotel's destruction. The specific statements about the grand jury, Judge Lecompte, and Sheriff Jones, moreover, either contradicted fact directly, colored events to make them seem other than they were, or bore no relation to the claim at all.

The unobjectionable statements and evidence concerned the previous history of the claim. They said that the University of Kansas was a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the state; that the New England Emigrant Aid Company, organized and existing under an act of the Massachusetts legislature, owned on May 21, 1856, lots 21 and 23 on Massachusetts street in Lawrence together with the hotel that stood upon those lots; and that the value of the building, apart from land and equipment, was $25,000. The representatives of the university reported that the company had earlier presented a claim against the national government, that the government had not paid the claim, and that the company had transferred it to the university.

These truths, however, lay on the periphery of the claim. The core was the authority, position, and activities of Sheriff Jones. Carruth said privately that the intention of the men who wrote the document was to rest the claim on the fact that Jones, an officer of the United States, destroyed the hotel without any legal authority to do so, but that he claimed such authority and thereby silenced the opposition which might have saved the building. [9] The memorial alleged that "the said Free State Hotel was destroyed by bombardment and fire by Deputy United States Marshal Samuel J. Jones, aided by a large posse, claiming to act as deputy United States marshal, and under the authority of the first district court of the United States for Kansas Territory, sitting at Lecompton, Kansas Territory, Samuel D. LeCompte [sic], judge, on the said 21st day of May, 1856." The posse, according to the claimants, was the same one which United States Marshal Israel B. Donalson had used earlier the same day to help him arrest a number of Free-State men. After the marshal dismissed the posse, it was allegedly "by the same crier who announced the dismissal, resummoned in the name of the said Deputy United States Marshal Samuel J. Jones, who then proceeded to destroy the Free State Hotel as before stated."

As evidence of the truth of their assertions, the university claimants offered only a memorial of nine Lawrence residents to Pres. Franklin Pierce, dated May 22, 1856. The memorial had originally appeared in a congressional report of 1861, known generally as the "Kansas Claims." [10] Professing to be a committee of the town's citizens, the memorialists reviewed a number of events in Kansas from May 11 to 21, 1856, including the destruction of the hotel. They combined several contemporary documents with their own observations in an effort to demonstrate that various territorial officers, including Jones, had shown "at least a criminal disregard of good faith sufficient of itself to prove their unfitness for the responsibilities they have assumed." In addition to asking Pierce to investigate the conduct of the officials and to use his authority to prevent future abuses of power, the signers asked his support for a congressional act to compensate property owners for their losses.

When discussing the work of Jones and his posse on May 21, however, the memorialists did not say at all what the university's spokesmen asserted. Instead of portraying Jones as a deputy United States marshal, the Lawrence citizens identified him specifically as "Samuel J. Jones, sheriff of Douglas County," and only in that fashion. The posse, they said precisely, was a sheriff's posse: "To evade the pledge given by the marshal that he would not allow his posse to enter Lawrence, they were disbanded by him, after the arrests were made, and enrolled as a sheriff's posse by Samuel J. Jones; the marshal thus keeping one pledge at the expense of another. On the next day they were again enrolled as the posse of the marshal." On the question of whether Jones claimed to be acting as a deputy marshal when he destroyed the hotel, the memorial to Pierce, quoted by the university spokesmen as evidence on the matter, was silent.

Nor did the memorial assert or even suggest that Jones had claimed that he was acting under the authority of the United States district court at Lecompton. The allegation of the university men was, of course, a repetition of the argument of both Proslavery and Free-State supporters in 1856. The Emigrant Aid Company had used it in 1862 to strengthen its claim against the government, and to prove it had included as evidence sworn statements to that effect from two men. [11] Strangely, the university claimants used none of that evidence. [12]

If Sheriff Jones actually claimed to be acting under the court's authority, either he was lying or he was ignorant of what the court and grand jury had done. On May 5, 1856, the spring term of the United States district court for the first district of Kansas, Judge Lecompte presiding, convened in Lecompton. That same day, the grand jury made a presentment to the court concerning the two Free-State newspapers of Lawrence and the Free-State Hotel. The members of the jury professed themselves "satisfied that the building known as the 'Free State' Hotel' [sic] in Lawrence had been constructed with a view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapetted and port holed, for the use of cannon and small arms, thereby endangering the public safety, and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this country, and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby said nuisances may be removed[.]" The grand jury's recommendation carried no legal weight whatever; it authorized no action at all. It was merely a presentment -- and Judge Lecompte identified it as such three months later -- that is, a statement of the grand jury that in its opinion an offensive or illegal state of affairs existed. It was not an indictment; a grand jury, indeed, could not indict a building instead of persons. Had the grand jury submitted a true bill of indictment, framed by the district attorney and found by the grand jury, it would have had no weight until Judge Lecompte ordered the apprehension of the persons charged. Lecompte took no official notice of the presentment, for he had no juridical power to do so. [13]

Curiously enough, the claimants for the university recognized that Sheriff Jones had no authority for his action. In March, 1897, Professor Carruth's article about the activities of the Emigrant Aid Company in Kansas wrongly identified the presentment as an indictment and wrongly argued that Jones was acting directly on the indictment, but said correctly that the court had issued no order for action. [14] The seventh statement to congress in 1897 said specifically that the grand jury had made "a presentment." But the claimants nevertheless attempted to prove that the grand jury was mistaken. After offering a rather garbled quotation from the presentment," the writers said, as their eighth statement of "material fact," that "the allegations of this presentment were false in fact, as testified by a large number of affidavits of men of unquestioned integrity." In support of the assertion, they offered two pieces of evidence. The first was the memorial of the nine Lawrence citizens of May 22, 1856. But the memorial, unfortunately, contained no affidavits of any kind, and it did not even consider the question of whether or not the grand jury had accurately described the Free-State Hotel. And in itself the memorial was no affidavit: the memorialists said only that they could prove their accusations were proof demanded. "The statements made in this communication are of facts mostly within our personal knowledge," they said, "and all of them we are prepared at any time to substantiate by testimony conclusive and unimpeachable."

After referring congressmen to the memorial, the university claimants presented a statement by William Hutchinson, sworn and subscribed to before a notary public on February 21, 1862. The Emigrant Aid Company had included it in its claim of 1862, and the university claim quoted from that document. [16] In May, 1856, Hutchinson averred, in a portion of his affidavit which the university claim omitted, he had been a correspondent of the New York Times in Lawrence, and he had personally witnessed the destruction of the hotel. The significant portion of his affidavit said that the building was made of stone, "laid up in concrete form," with walls between one and two feet thick. "It was not intended as a fortification, nor built like a fort,"Hutchinson maintained, "any more than an ordinary house. It had no portholes or rifle embrasures." Hutchinson may have been correct. But his statement, although possibly that of a man of "unquestioned integrity," was not by itself "a large number of affidavits."

Contemporary evidence, moreover, contradicted him. On April 12, 1856, the Lawrence Herald of Freedom, financed in part by the New England Emigrant Aid Company, announced that the construction of the hotel was finished. In describing the building, the newspaper reported that "there are thirty or forty port-holes in the walls, which rise above the roof, plugged up now with stones, which can be knocked out with the blow of the butt of a Sharp's rifle." [17]

Having made their specific points in favor of granting the claim, the representatives of the university summed them up. The destruction of the hotel, they wrote, "was done under the direction and command of an officer of the United States and claiming to act under the direction and order of a United States court. The action of the grand jury called by Judge LeCompte was of itself unwarranted by facts and unsupported by statutory or constitutional warrant.

"It appears, therefore, that . . . the injury was caused by the positive and direct acts of the officers of the United States." [18]

The summation somewhat changed the argument, for it said that Sheriff Jones had claimed that Judge Lecompte had actually given the order to destroy the hotel, rather than that Jones had only claimed to act under the authority of the court. Again, the charge smacked strongly of the one that Free-State men had made in 1856. No evidence appeared to prove the contention that the grand jury's action lacked statutory or constitutional warrant. What the claimants intended by the remark was unclear. If Carruth was correct in saying in December, 1897, that the writers intended to show that Jones had no legal authority for his actions, [19] and if they were fully aware of the nature of a presentment by a grand jury, it made no difference whether or not the jury had warrant for its action.

Ruins of the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence KS after the May 1856 raid by Sheriff Jones

Ruins of the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence in 1856 as sketched in Sara T. D. Robinson's book, Kansas; Its Interior and Exterior Life. The hotel was destroyed by Proslavery men led by Sheriff Samuel J. Jones, who were acting without authorization. Both the New England Emigrant Aid Company and its assignee, the University of Kansas, several times tried unsuccessfully to collect damages from the federal government.

The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 had specifically provided for grand juries in the territory, and their powers to investigate, to indict, and to make presentments were certain. [20] Quite possibly, the claimants were attempting to connect the grand jury in some way to the territorial legislature, called the "bogus legislature" by Free-State partisans, elected in 1855 with the assistance of illegal voters from Missouri. Carruth stated in his article earlier in the year that the grand jury derived its instructions "from a court established by the bogus legislature." [21] This was, of course, untrue. At any rate, the claimants neither explained nor attempted to prove their charge.

From the confusing welter of allegation and alleged evidence, only two valid facts emerged: that a group of men had destroyed the hotel, and that Sheriff Jones had led it. The claim against the national government was for an act committed by a county sheriff entirely on his own initiative. Such a claim had no basis in law. Its success before congress, then, depended not upon its justice, but merely upon the sympathies of congressmen.

Following the example of the Emigrant Aid Company, Carruth, Chancellor Snow, and their assistants presented the claim as a bill. On December 9, 1897, Senator Harris of Kansas introduced the measure into the upper house. After the routine first and second readings, the senate sent it to the committee on claims. On March 23, 1898, the committee's chairman, William V. Allen of Nebraska, reported the bill favorably to the senate. In its report the committee stated that it had carefully examined all the evidence and had considered all the facts, and that the claim was a "proper and just one for allowance by the United States." The legislators agreed with the claimants that a deputy United States marshal, claiming to act under the authority of the United States district court, had assembled a posse and razed the hotel. At the same time, however, the committee set forth the new idea, absent from the university's argument, that Jones had assumed to act under the action of the grand jury. This idea was different from the notion that Jones had claimed to act under the court's authority. The one idea had Jones making claims involving Judge Lecompte; the other had him assuming to act without Lecompte's order. [22]

On April Fools' Day, the senate passed the bill, and four days later sent it to the house committee on claims. Deciding that the senators had judged the matter correctly, the committee reported it to the whole house, and accompanied the bill with an exact duplicate of the report that the senate group had written. The house referred the bill to its private calendar, but the measure never appeared for a vote. [23]

During the meetings of the 56th congress, from 1899 to 1901, the university bill found greater favor. On December 6, 1899, Senator Harris again introduced the measure. After referral to the committee on claims, on January 29, 1900, it emerged unscathed, accompanied by a report stating that the committee report of two years earlier was correct in fact. With no objections beard, the senate passed the bill, and two weeks later it was referred to the house committee on claims. Urged on by chairman Willis J. Bailey of Kansas, the members reported the bill favorably, once again with a report which was a copy of that of the senate committee. The house put the measure on the private calendar, where it remained when the first session of that congress ended and the second session Met. [24]

Once the house reached the measure in the second session, action came quickly. On February 22, 1901, Representative Bailey secured the floor, and briefly explained the history and purpose of the bill. During the antebellum days, Bailey said, "an officer of the United States" destroyed the hotel "without process of law." Later in the day the house passed it without dissent. On February 26 it went to Pres. William McKinley for his signature. [25]

Officials of the university were delighted. Their joy was the greater because at the same time that the claim bill was moving through the national house of representatives, a bill authorizing the use of the money was moving through the state legislature. On March 1, 1901, Gov. William E. Stanley signed a bill allowing the university regents to use the $20,000 to construct and equip a building for use as a gymnasium and armory. [26] But jubilation was short-lived. In the rush of bills and business in Washington attending the adjournment of congress and preparations for McKinley's second inauguration, the President did not sign the bill. Whether or not intentionally, he gave it a pocket veto.

Never again did the university come close to success. During the next decade its officers and their spokesmen and agents had to forsake the earlier method of trying to get congress to pass a special bill, in favor of two new means. At first, they attempted to obtain a favorable decision on the case from the United States court of claims. On March 3, 1903, the senate committee on claims, having a backlog of unreported bills including one for the payment of the university claim, at a time when congress was rushing to adjournment, recommended that the senate refer a number of relief measures to the court. The senate agreed, and the university bill went along with the rest. [27] The senate's action at once created a host of new problems, for the procedure of the court of claims was exactly that of a court of law. In their memorial to congress in support of the unsuccessful bills, the writers had maintained in effect that the United States government was financially liable for an unauthorized and illegal act of one of its officers. Early in 1905, university regent Alexander C. Mitchell of Lawrence, himself a lawyer, told Chancellor Frank Strong that that idea was, in law, merely preposterous. [28] But in the meantime, Strong, Carruth, and the regents had tried to locate an attorney who would prosecute the case before the court of claims. On April 8, 1904, the regents appointed a committee of three, including Strong, Mitchell, and Frank G. Crowell of Atchison, to contract with an attorney. The regents authorized the committee to spend $250 in collecting evidence. [29] Mitchell was quite pessimistic, but thought that the university should at least press the matter to a final decision. In October, 1904, at Mitchell's solicitation, J. Willis Gleed of Topeka, agreed to take the case in return for expenses and 10 percent of the court's award. [30]

Gleed, however, was originally as doubtful as Mitchell, and after preliminary investigation he was convinced that a serious effort in the court of claims would fail. In January, 1905, he recommended that the Kansas congressmen attempt to have the matter recalled from the court and introduced once more into the national legislature. [31] But even could the claim be recalled, its prospects in congress were poor. In March, 1904, Rep. Justin D. Bowersock of Lawrence, told William H. Carruth not only that there was very slight support for the measure among congressmen, but that some senators would oppose it, were it to reappear. [32]

The upshot of the whole unpromising affair was that the regents' committee decided to leave the case before the court of claims, and at the same time attempt to attach to various omnibus claims bills an appropriation for $20,000. While the case was in the court, officials of the university proceeded with the new congressional effort. Late in 1905 the regents contracted with John C. Nicholson, the state agent for Kansas in Washington. In return for 25 percent of the amount collected, Nicholson was to lobby for the measure before congress. [33] For the next several years, while Nicholson made his appointed rounds, Strong wrote frequent letters to the Kansas congressional delegation. The claim was "absolutely just," Strong argued, and he told the politicians that all of the thousands of friends of the university, as well as the people of the state in general, would appreciate their efforts. [34]

Whatever Frank Strong might think, the court of claims found no justice in the university's case. On January 28, 1907, after considering the evidence and listening to Nicholson's arguments -- Nicholson had replaced Gleed as the university's lawyer -- the court decided correctly that when Sheriff Jones and his posse destroyed the hotel, "it does not appear that the said Sheriff had any official connection with the United States." It was true, the court said, that Jones had announced that he was a deputy United States marshal, that he was acting under an order of the "United States Court for Douglas County," and that he had a writ from the court, but all those announcements were untrue. The court made no recommendation to congress about what it should do with the university's claim, but any congressman who cared to read the decision would in good conscience have to vote against it. [35]

Both before and after the decision, the Kansans kept trying. In March, 1906, the senate committee on claims added the measure to a bill from the house, but the house committee on war claims struck it out. [36] A year later Sen. Chester I. Long failed in an effort to secure senate approval for its insertion into a general deficiency bill. [37] Vigorous efforts in 1908 secured a senate amendment to a house omnibus claims bill, but the bill later died in the house without action. [38] Then, from 1910 to 1912, the proposal struck upon the peculiar prejudices of Kansas Sen. Joseph L. Bristow. One of Bristow's more important biases was that against making appropriations for unjust claims. He told Strong that although he favored the university's claim, he had to oppose all efforts of his colleagues to insert invalid claims into omnibus bills. Bristow was particularly exercised over attempts to write into such bills compensation to the descendants of American citizens for damages suffered by their forebears from attacks by ships of the French navy during the Napoleonic wars a century before. [39] Unfortunately for the university, many of Bristow's fellow senators insisted upon paying the claims. In 1910, when Bristow fought those claims in committee, the other members retaliated by striking out the claim of the university. [40] Two years later Bristow fought the claims even harder, and he vowed to Strong that he would fight the whole bill on the senate floor even though it might include just claims along with the unjust. In February and March, 1912, Strong and Carruth tried to pressure Bristow into yielding. At their suggestion, both William Allen White and Gov. Walter R. Stubbs asked Bristow's aid, and Strong himself pleaded with the senator. But Bristow was adamant. "There is nothing that I would not do in reason to help the, University," he told Strong, "'but if this $20,000 were my own claim, or the claim of my own father, I would not support this bill in order to get it made a part of it . . . . " [41] The bill excluded the claim.

Discouraged by 15 years of failure and by the gap in the ranks of the Kansas delegation produced by Bristow's defection, Strong and his allies came close to giving up their efforts. By December, 1913, most Kansas congressmen were uninterested in the claim, for several of them were new, and during the previous year university officers had not urged it upon them. In February, 1916, Strong made a weak attempt to interest the Kansans in the matter. The initiative came not from him, however, but from former state agent John C. Nicholson, who was still interested in collecting for himself 25 percent of the $20,000. Rep. Joseph Taggart introduced a special bill to pay it, but the house committee on claims never reported it. [42] For the next 13 years the claim was quiescent.

The last attempt by the university to collect the claim was its greatest effort. It came during the second session of the 70th congress from January until March, 1929. Its originators were Chancellor Ernest H. Lindley and Olin Templin, then secretary of the Kansas University Endowment Association. On the evening of December 16, 1928, Templin and Lindley talked together about the claim, and agreed that political conditions in Washington seemed favorable to the enterprise. Their hopes rested mainly on the fact that Charles Curtis of Kansas was senate majority leader -- he was also at the time United States vice-president-elect -- and that Rep. James G. Strong of Blue Rapids was chairman of the house war claims committee; the committee's secretary, moreover, was Paul E. Haworth, Strong's son-in-law. Templin was already planning to go to Washington to urge upon congress the passage of his bill establishing a national university. He could at the same time lobby for the Free-State Hotel claim. [43]

On January 5, 1929, before Templin left Lawrence, Rep. Ulysses S. Guyer of the Kansas second congressional district introduced a bill to pay the claim. The house sent the bill to its committee on claims, where it rested when Templin arrived in Washington a few days later. [44] Shortly after his arrival, and after talking with several congressmen, Templin concluded that the bill would receive more favorable consideration from James G. Strong's war claims committee. Chancellor Lindley approved the transfer, and it was made. But Strong could guarantee nothing. The members of his committee, Templin reported after a talk with him, were "pretty hard-boiled, accustomed to considering all sorts of claims, most fraudulent or exaggerated" -- which was a nice description of the university's own bill, though Templin did not say so -- "and treating them accordingly." Templin had directed Strong's attention to the report of the senate committee on claims in 1901, which included Chancellor Snow's original statement, and told Lindley that it would be impossible to state the claim any more effectively. [45]

Both Templin and Representative Guyer, however, remained uncertain of the bill's future. By January 23 Guyer was convinced that although the bill might pass the house during the current session, it could not pass the senate as well. Templin had to agree. The prospect of partial success made it essential that the house take favorable action. After preliminary consideration, the war claims committee had set February 7 as the day for a hearing. Paul E. Haworth told Lindley that he must attend the hearing without fail; unless Lindley himself showed enough interest in the matter to be present, Haworth warned, the committee would reject the claim. Lindley was then in Crookston, Minn., attending a meeting to consider the problems of education among farmers, but on getting Haworth's message, he left at once for Washington. [46] On February 7 he appeared before the committee. A week later that group reported the bill favorably to the house. The major part of the report was a duplication of the reports of the senate committees of the 55th and 56th congresses. But the war claims committee made its own contribution to the Free-State myth: the hotel, it said, "was destroyed by Federal cannon in the disturbances leading up to the Civil War." [47]

The house did not pass the bill. Guyer succeeded in putting it on the calendar, and on February 26 the house reached it. But Lindsay C. Warren of North Carolina objected that the bill was a most unusual one, and asked that it be passed over. By unanimous consent the house agreed. [48]

One of the more peculiar aspects of the attempt of 1929 was that when Chancellor Lindley testified in favor of the bill on February 7, he did so in spite of a clear affirmation by a member of the university's department of history that the Free-State Hotel claim was completely invalid. On January 6 an article about the claim and the alleged events of 1856 that had given rise to it appeared in the student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan. The article presented a wholly new version of the sack of Lawrence. It stated that on May 21, 1856, "the U. S. Marshall [sic] of Kansas, acting under orders from Washington entered Lawrence in command of companies of South Carolinians and Georgians sworn into service as an armed posse, and burned the hotel on its opening day . . . . The town had surrendered peaceably but the men were under orders to destroy the hotel as being an offense against the government."

Four days later Associate Professor of History James C. Malin published in the Kansan a statement which refuted the several errors in the account. The Kansan version, Malin said frankly, was wholly misleading. He explained that it was Sheriff Jones, rather than the marshal, who ordered the destruction of the hotel, that the recommendations of the grand jury in the matter had no legal force, that Jones was acting without authority, and that the razing of the building "was neither the direct nor the incidental result of the action of government officials acting in line of duty. . . . In conclusion," Malin pointed out, "it is only too obvious that no one can make a case against the United States government on the ground that the property was destroyed by a United States officer acting in line of duty." [49]

When Malin's letter appeared, he had not yet heard that Lindley and Templin were prosecuting the claim. He soon learned. On January 11, be received a call from Lindley's office making an appointment with him on the afternoon of the 14th. At about one o'clock that afternoon, before the appointment, he chanced to meet Lindley on the street. The chancellor immediately gave Malin a "public tongue-lashing" for his letter to the Kansan, and at their appointment later in the day, Malin absorbed an "abusive tirade." At the same time Lindley told him both that the University was then attempting to collect the claim, and that administrative officers had prepared the story in the Kansan. So great was Lindley's wrath at Malin's correcting the errors in the story, that he prohibited Malin absolutely from publishing anything more on that period of Kansas history. Lindley, indeed, wished to dismiss Malin from his position, but an exceedingly vigorous protest by Prof. Frank H. Hodder, chairman of the department of history, caused him to reconsider. After the failure of the claim in Washington, in which Malin was not involved, Lindley dropped the matter. Without consulting Lindley, Malin later resumed publication. [50]

University of Kansas Chancellor Ernest Lindley and Prof. James Malin

Chancellor Ernest H. Lindley, distressed at the Malin statement, angrily dressed him down and demanded that he publish nothing more on that period of Kansas history.

Prof. James C. Malin wrote in 1929 that the Free-State Hotel claim was invalid and that the University of Kansas thus had no case against the U. S. government.

Lindley's effort to destroy Malin's intellectual freedom had a curious sequel. On January 23, 1929, Prof. William W. Davis, acting chairman of the department of history while Hodder was on leave, called Malin and Associate Professor Frank E. Melvin to his office to ask their assistance in preparing a statement which Lindley and Templin could use to buttress the claim before congress. Davis outlined to Malin the ideas they intended to incorporate in the document, which was already in draft form, but which Malin did not see. Malin protested that their ideas were only half-truths, whereupon Davis insisted that they had no obligation to tell the whole truth, but only to make a case favorable to the university. Malin refused his cooperation. [51]

The statement went to press, however, and Templin received and presumably distributed 200 copies of it. Compared with the presentation of 1897, the new statement was weak. Of the role of the grand jury and of the court, it said nothing. It maintained merely that Jones, identified as "the Sheriff, S. J. Jones," enlisted Marshal Donalson's posse, just disbanded, "as his official posse," and then stated that the group had destroyed the hotel. The statement also pointed out that in 1901 congress had passed the claim bill, but said that President McKinley "was unable to give it his attention." To add support to the claim, the writers asserted that the United States court of claims had approved it. [52] Both Hodder and Olin Templin objected that the assertion was untrue. Because Templin was in Washington during the preparation of the final version by Davis, Melvin, and Dean of Men John Dyer, he saw the error first in print, when it was too late to correct it. He was willing to circulate the propaganda with the error, and point it out to recipients. [53]

Hodder had seen the statement in typewritten draft. Although he remarked on the error, Davis, Melvin, and Dyer did not alter it before ordering the statement printed. [54]

Ultimately, three-quarters of a century after the event, fiction dissolved itself in truth. In 1934 Templin considered reviving the claim. He and others were interested in constructing a pioneer memorial as a monument to the heroism and sacrifice of the Kansas settlers. But this time Templin sought Malin's advice first. The officers of the endowment association, he wrote, did not wish to press the claim if there was any doubt of its justice. He desired to know the points which would relieve the national government of responsibility. Malin replied that his views then were exactly the same as they had been in 1929. They were, indeed, more fully confirmed by the fact that the original record books of the court, since discovered, contained no reference to an order for the destruction of the hotel. [55] Templin then went to the State Historical Society to examine the books and other documentary evidence, and apparently came away convinced. No one raised the claim again, and at last the University of Kansas was free from a heritage of myths and lies coming out of the Free-State past and perpetuated by men who thought money more important than historical truth.


DR. C. S. GRIFFIN, native of Rhode Island, received his advanced degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is professor of history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and is author of a forthcoming history of K. U.

1. On the myths and realities of several aspects of the history of Kansas in 1856, see James C. Malin, John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six (Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1942), passim. The real and fancied events surrounding the sack of Lawrence are presented in James C. Malin "Judge Lecompte and the 'Sack of Lawrence ' May 21, 1856," Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 20 (August, November, 1953), pp. 465-494, 553-597.
2. Samuel A. Johnson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas Crusade (Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1954), pp. 284, 285; Edward Everett Hale to "My Dear Sir," February 4, 1897 (copy). and William H. Carruth to Hale, February 9, 1897, "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers," Kansas Historical Society, Topeka.
3. William H. Carruth "New England in Kansas," New England Magazine, v. 16 (March, 1897), pp. 3-21, especially p. 13.
4. Edward Everett Hale to "My Dear Sir," February 4, 1897 (copy), "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers."
5. "Records of Annual Meetings," February 17, 1897, in Ibid.
6. State of Kansas, Session Laws, 1897, p, 91-93; Francis H. Snow to Fred B. McKinnon, March 22, 1897, and Snow to James E. Angell, March 29, 1897 (copies) "Francis Huntington Snow Correspondence, 1892-1899," Spencer Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
7. William H. Carruth to Edward Everett Hale, December 11, 1897, "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers"; Carruth, "New England in Kansas," p. 13.
8. Francis H. Snow, "A Memorial of the University of Kansas, Assignee of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, Praying Indemnification for the Destruction of the Free State Hotel at Lawrence, Kansas, on the 21st Day of May, 1856, by Officers of the United States," December 20, 1897, Senate Report No. 763, 55th Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 2-13. The allegations are on pp. 2, 3, and the exhibits, with their evidence, on pp. 3-13.
9. William H. Carruth to Edward Everett Hale, December 11, 1897, "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers."
10. House Report No. 104, 36th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 3, passim.
11. Testimony of Shaler W. Eldridge, February 16, 1863, and J. M. Winchell, February 20, 1863, in Thomas H. Webb, "Memorial of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, Praying Indemnification for the Destruction of Property, at Lawrence, Kansas, May 21, 1856," February 16, 1862, Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 29, 37th Cong., 3d Sess., C. I pp. 18, 24. Samuel Pomeroy on February 19, 1863, and William Hutchinson On February 21, 1862, swore only that Jones, when asked the authority for his action, said that he was acting as deputy United States marshal and sheriff of Douglas county. -- Ibid., pp. 22,27.
12. The failure of Snow and Carruth to use the evidence from the Emigrant Aid Company memorial of 1862 is difficult to understand. Carruth located the memorial before he and Snow sent their statement to congress. The university memorial of 1897 did use the testimony of William Hutchinson, cited in the company's memorial of 1862, regarding the value of the hotel and the question of whether or not it was designed as a fort. -- Carruth to Edward Everett Hale, December 11, 1897, "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers"; Snow, "Memorial of the University of Kansas," pp. 5, 6, 12.
13. A photographic reproduction of the text of the presentment is in Malin, "Judge Lecompte and the 'Sack of Lawrence,"' between pp. 592 and 593. For Lecompte's statement, see Samuel D. Lecompte to James A. Stewart, August 1, 1856, Ibid., p. 491.
14. Carruth, "New England in Kansas," pp. 12, 13.
15. In exhibit F the university memorial quoted the presentment as given in the "Kansas Claims," House Report No. 104, 36th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 3, pt. 1, p. 28. Except for several insignificant changes in spelling and punctuation, the quotation was accurate. But the seventh statement of the university memorial omitted and altered certain words. It left out the words "regularly parapetted and port holed, for the use of cannon and small arms," and changed the last word to "abated" instead of "removed." The statement also changed the words "rebellion and sedition in this country" to "rebellion and sedition to the country." This alteration may have had no significance. But the phrase "in this country" clearly meant eastern territorial Kansas, while the phrase "to the country" might refer to the United States government or the nation as a whole, thus making the presentment of the grand jury accuse the Free-State men of treason. -- Snow, "Memorial or the University of Kansas," pp. 3, 12.
16. Webb, "Memorial of the New England Emigrant Aid Company," p. 28.
17. Lawrence Herald of Freedom, April 12, 1856, in Malin, "Judge Lecompte and the 'Sack of Lawrence,"' p. 479.
18. The university memorial also pointed out, as part of its summary, that other claims against the United States government arose from the neglect of officers to furnish protection to the citizens. The claim of the university, the memorial said, was based on the positive acts of federal officers. -- Snow, "Memorial of the University of Kansas," pp. 3, 12, 13.
19. William H. Carruth to Edward Everett Hale, December 11, 1897, "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers."
20. United States Statutes at Large, v. 10, pp. 286, 287.
21. Carruth, "New England in Kansas," p. 12.
22. Congressional Record, 55th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 31, pt. 1, p. 46, pt. 4, p. 3126; Senate Report No. 763, 55th &cong., 2d Sess., pp. 1, 2.
23. Congressional Record, 55th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 31, pt. 4, pp. 3455, 3579, Pt. 7, p. 6060; House Report No. 1586, 55th Cong., 2d Sess., passim.
24. Congressional Record, 56th Cong., Ist Sess., v. 33, pt. 1, pp. 87, 1249, 1711, 1712. pt. 2, pp. 1808, 2866; House Report No. 600, 56th Cong., Ist Sess., passim.
25. Congressional Record, 56th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 34, pt. 3, pp. 2843, 2850, pt. 4. P. 3048.
26. State of Kansas, Session Laws, 1901, p. 730.
27. Congressional Record, 57th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 36, pt. 3, p. 2955; Alexander C. Mitchell to J. Willis Gleed, Lawrence July 13, 1904, "University Archives," University of Kansas. All letters and telegrams subsequently cited are in this collection unless otherwise noted.
28. Alexander C. Mitchell to Frank Strong, January 16, 1905.
29. Journal of the board of regents, April 8, 1904, "University Archives."
30. Alexander C. Mitchell to J. Willis Gleed, April 26, 1904 (copy); Gleed to Mitchell, October 12, 1904.
31. Alexander C. Mitchell to Frank Strong, January 16, 1905.
32. Justin D. Bowersock to William H. Carruth, March 18, 1904.
33. John C. Nicholson to Frank Strong, September 19, 1905, March 6, 1906.
34. For examples, see Frank Strong to J. M. Miller, March 13, 1906; Strong to Chester I. Long, January 7, 1907; Strong to Charles Curtis, February 6, 21, 1908 (copies).
35. Senate Document No. 274, 59th Cong., 2d Sess., passim, especially p. 3. In January, 1911, Frank Strong either dishonestly or ignorantly maintained that the claim had been "examined and endorsed by the Court of Claims." -- Strong to Charles F. Scott, January 2, 1911 (copy).
36. Frank Strong to J. M. Miller, March 13, 1906 (copy).
37. Chester I. Long to Frank Strong, March 4, 1907.
38. Frank Strong to Charles Curtis, February 21, 1908 (copy); Edward F. Colladay to William H. Carruth, March 7, 1908.
39. Joseph L. Bristow to Frank Strong, February 28, 1910.
40. Edward F. Colladay to William H. Carruth, February 21, 1912.
41. William H. Carruth to William Allen White, February 26, 1912 (copy); Frank Strong to Walter R. Stubbs, February 26, 1912 (copy); Stubbs to Strong, March 13, 1912; Joseph L. Bristow to Strong, March 4, 1912.
42. Dudley Doolittle to Frank Strong, December 3, 1913; Joseph Taggart to Strong, February 11, 1916; Strong to Jouett Shouse, January 14, 1916 (copy).
43. Olin Templin to Ernest H. Lindley, December 18, 1928; Lindley to Templin, December 20, 1928 (copy).
44. Congressional Record, 70th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 70, pt. 2, p. 1236; Ernest H. Lindley to Olin Templin, January 10, 1929 (telegram).
45. Olin Templin to Ernest H. Lindley, January 11, 1929 (two telegrams) with Lindley's handwritten reply on one of the telegrams; Templin to Lindley, January 13, 15, 1929; Paul E. Haworth to Lindley, January 31, 1929.
46. Ulysses S. Guyer to Ernest H. Lindley, January 23, 1929; Paul E, Haworth to Lindley, January 31, 1929; Lindley to the chancellor's office, February 5, 1929 (telegram).
47. Ernest H. Lindley to Paul E. Haworth, February 11, 1929 (copy); House Report No. 2534, 70th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 1 and passim; Congressional Record, 70th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 7 , pt. 4, p. 558.
48. Arthur Capper to Ernest H. Lindley, February 27, 1929; Congressional Record, 70th Cong., 2d Sess., v. 70, pt. 5, p. 4472.
49. University Daily Kansan, Lawrence, January 6, 10, 1929.
50. James C. Malin to Nyle Miller, May 26, 1953 (copy), in possession of James C. Malin.
51. See Frank H. Hodder to Olin Templin, January 6, 1929, and the accompanying copy of the draft, later printed, with Hodder's handwritten corrections. Also, Olin Templin to Ernest H. Lindley, January 15 1929; and James C. Malin to Nyle Miller, May 26, 1953 (copy), in possession of James C. Malin.
52. A Claim of the University of Kansas, on Account of the Burning of the Emigrant Aid Hotel by Officers of the Federal Government at Lawrence, Kansas, May 21, 1856 (n.p., n.d.), passim.
53. Olin Templin to John Dyer, January 21, 1929.
54. Frank H. Hodder to Olin Templin, January 6. 1929.
55. Olin Templin to James C. Malin, February 10, 1934; Malin to Templin, February 19, 1934 (copy); Malin to Nyle Miller, May 26, 1953 (copy). Letters in possession of James C. Malin.