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The news of the coming of the South Carolinians had not reached Illinois when I started for Kansas, but when I had reached Western Missouri the country was alive with excitement. Maj. Jefferson Buford had arrived with 350 soldiers, and a part of them were quartered in Atchison. Some persons whose acquaintance I had made, and who were my friends, besought me not to go on.

 

The last night I stayed in Missouri was at De Kalb. A gentleman who had come from St. Joseph stayed over night at the hotel where I put up. He was tall of stature, with a flowing beard sprinkled with gray, and was of a remarkably dignified and impressive presence. We conversed during the evening on general topics, but no allusion was made to the one exciting topic, on which almost all seemed ready to talk _instanter._

The next morning he overtook me. He was on horseback, and mentioned that he was going to Atchison, and for some distance rode beside my buggy, continuing the conversation. Then, as he could travel faster than myself, he rode on.

The reader will recognize this gentleman again in Atchison. An account of my adventures [4] on the other side of the river will be found in a letter addressed by myself to the _Herald of Freedom_:

 

[For the Herald of Freedom.]

STRANGER CREEK, Ocena P. O., May 6, 1856.

MR. EDITOR--_Dear Sir_: The bar of public opinion seems to be the only tribunal to which the free State men of Kansas can appeal for redress. I must, therefore, ask your indulgence while I make a statement of facts.

One year ago I came to Kansas and bought a claim on Stranger Creek, Atchison county. On the 17th of August, the Border Ruffians of the town of Atchison sent me down the Missouri River on a raft. We parted under a mutual pledge: I pledged myself that if my life was spared I would come back to Atchison, and they pledged themselves that if I did come back they would hang me. Faithful to my promise, in November last I returned to Kansas, and visited Atchison in open day, announced myself on hand, and returned without molestation. Kansas being sparsely settled, without churches or meeting-houses, it was determined that Mrs. Butler should live on our claim with her brother and her brother's wife, while I should return to Illinois, and resume my labors as a preacher.

April 30th I returned to Kansas, crossing the Missouri River into Atchison. I spoke with no one in the town, save with two merchants of the place, with whom I have had business transactions since my first arrival in the Territory. Having remained only a few moments, I went to my buggy to resume my journey, when I was assaulted by Robert S. Kelley, co-editor of the _Squatter Sovereign_, and others, was dragged into a saloon, and there surrounded by a company of South Carolinians, who are reported to have been sent out by a Southern Emigrant Aid Society. In this last mob I recognized only two that were citizens of Atchison or engaged in the former mob. It is not reported that these emigrants from the Palmetto State seek out a claim, and make for themselves a home, neither do they enter into any legitimate business. They very expressively describe themselves as having _come out to see Kansas through._ They yelled, "Kill him! Kill him! Hang the Abolitionist." One of their number bristled up to me and said, "Have you got a revolver?" I answered, "No." He handed me a pistol and said, "There, take that, and stand off ten steps; and I will blow you through in an instant." I replied, "I have no use for your weapon." I afterwards heard them congratulating themselves in reference to this, that they had acted in an honorable manner with me. The fellow was furious; but his companions dissuaded him from shooting me, saying they were going to hang me.

They pinioned my arms behind my back, obtained a rope, but were interrupted by the entrance of a stranger--a gentleman from Missouri, since ascertained to be Judge Tutt, a lawyer from St. Joseph. He said: "My friends, hear me. I am an old man, and it is right you should hear me. I was born in Virginia, and have lived many years in Missouri. I am a slaveholder, and desire Kansas to be made a slave State, if it can be done by honorable means. But you will destroy the cause you are seeking to build up. You have taken this man, who was peaceably passing through your streets and along the public highway, and doing no person any harm. We profess to be 'Law and Order' men, and ought to be the last to commit violence. If this man has broken the law, let him be judged according to law; but for the sake of Missouri, for the sake of Kansas, for the sake of the pro-slavery cause, do not act in this way." They dragged me into another building, and appointed a moderator, and got up a kind of lynch law trial. Kelley told his story. I rose to my feet, and calmly and in respectful language began to tell mine; but I was jerked to my seat and so roughly handled that I was compelled to desist. My friend from Missouri again earnestly besought them to set me at liberty. Kelley turned short on him and said: "Do you belong to Kansas?" Judge Tutt replied: "No; but I expect to live here in Atchison next fall, and in this matter the interests of Kansas and Missouri are identical." Chester Lamb, a lawyer in Atchison, and Samuel Dickson, a merchant of the place, both pro slavery men, also united with Judge Tutt in pleading that I might be set at liberty. While these gentlemen were speaking, I heard my keepers mutter, "If you don't hush up, we will tar and feather you." But when Kelley saw how matters stood, he came forward and said he "did not take Butler to have him hung, but only tarred and feathered," Yet in the saloon he had sad to the mob: "_You shall do as you please._" He dared not take the responsibility of taking my life, but when these unfortunate men, whose one-idea-ism on the subject of slavery and Southern rights has become insanity--when these irresponsible South Carolinians, sent out to be bull dogs and blood hounds for Atchison and Stringfellow--when they could be used as tools to take my life, he was ready to do it.

Our gunpowder moderator cut the matter short by saying, "It is moved that Butler be tarred and feathered and receive thirty-nine lashes." A majority said "Aye," though a number of voices said "No." The moderator said, "The affirmative has it; Butler has to be tarred and feathered and whipped." I began to speculate how that sort of thing would work as far north as the latitude of Kansas. There was a good deal of whispering about the house. I saw dark, threatening and ominous looks in the crowd. The moderator again came forward, and, in an altered voice, said: "_It is moved that the last part of the sentence be rescinded."_ It was rescinded, and I was given into the hands of my South Carolina overseers to be tarred and feathered. They muttered and growled at this issue of the matter. They said, "If we had known it would come out in this way, we would have let shoot Butler at the first. He would have done it quicker than a flash." One little, sharp-visaged, dark-featured South Carolinian, who seemed to be the leader of the gang, was particularly displeased. With bitter curses he said, "I am not come all the way from South Carolina, spending so much money to do things up in such milk-and-water style as this."

They stripped me naked to my waist, covered my body with tar, and for the want of feathers applied cotton. Having appointed a committee of seven to certainly hang me the next time I should come into Atchison, they tossed my clothes into my buggy, put me therein, accompanied me to the outskirts of the town, and sent me naked out upon the prairie. It was a cold, bleak day. I adjusted my attire about me as best I could, and hastened to rejoin my wife and little ones on the banks of the Stranger Creek. It was a sorrowful meeting after so long a parting, still we were very thankful that, under the favor of a good Providence, it had fared no worse with us all.

Many will ask now, as they have asked already, what is the true and proper cause of all these troubles I have had in Atchison? I have told the world already; I can only repeat my own words. I have said, The head and front of my offending hath this extent, no more: I had spoken among my neighbors favorably to making Kansas a free State, and said in the office of the _Squatter Sovereign_, "I am a Free-soiler, and intend to vote for Kansas to be a free State."

Still it will be regarded as incredible that a man should receive such treatment for uttering such words as I report myself to have uttered. The matter is plain enough when the facts are understood.

Prior to August 17, 1855, there was no Free-soil party organized in Atchison county--perhaps not in the whole Territory of Kansas. Free-soilers did not know their own strength, and were disposed to be prudent; some were timid. Here in Atchison county we determined that if the Border Ruffians were resolved to drive matters to a bloody issue, the responsibility of doing so should rest wholly with themselves. There are many Free-soilers in this county--brave men--who have no conscientious scruples to hinder them from arming themselves, and preparing to repel force with force. The Border Ruffians sought by a system of terrorism so to intimidate the Free-soilers as to prevent them from organizing a Free-soil party, or even discussing the subject of freedom and slavery in Kansas. They carried this to such an extent of outrageous violence that it came to be currently reported that it was as much as a man's life was worth to say in the town of Atchison, "I am a Free-soiler." We deprecated violence, and wished a peaceful discussion of the subject. It was therefore most fitting that a man whose profession forbade him to go armed should put to the test of actual experiment whether an American citizen of blameless life could be permitted to enjoy the right of free speech--the privilege of expressing views favorable to making Kansas a free State--such views being uttered without anything of angry, abusive or insulting language. It was for this purpose the above words were spoken, and which have been the cause of all my troubles in Atchison.

If there is any class of men who stand behind the curtain and pull the wires, we would respectfully represent to them that it will do no good to urge these understrappers on to these deeds of violence and ruffianism. We are not a class of men to utter childish complaints at any wrongs we may suffer, _but we know our rights and intend to have them._

Subscribing myself the friend of all good and civil men, whether North or South, I am very truly, PARDEE BUTLER.