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The Despotism of the Legislature.


May 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 13, 1861.


The Despotism of the Legislature.




Incontrovertible Proof of the Treachery of the State Authorities.



Burning of the Osage Bridge by Order of Gov. Jackson.


The Driving Out of Citizens from Many of the Counties.

[Special Correspondence Missouri Democrat.]

JEFFERSON CITY, May 11, 1861.

Your special reporter, authorized and instructed last Monday morning to proceed to Jefferson City and calmly and vigilantly watch events there, sends to you by express this, his report. I have not written to you before because of my inability to correctly ascertain facts—but during the excitement of last night and to-day members of the Legislature have let the cat out of the bag, and I can now give an approximation to the real truth of their proceedings. In some particulars I may err, but the main facts you can rely upon as being absolutely so, as stated.


During the week I made it my business to be around whenever I saw a crowd collect. Let me assure you that this locality is overwhelmingly for the Union and the American flag. Jackson manifests his knowledge of this by refusing to organize a corps out of Jefferson City citizens for the protection of the powder magazine, but called for troops to be sent him from among the St. Louis Minute Men. The Unionists, however, have no arms and are forced to suppress their sentiments. The least demonstration in favor of the Union would be put down by armed men imported from other places. A secession flag floats from a pole within yards of the Governor’s residence. Another secession rag is floating from the roof of a liquor and gambling shop, and a third from the house of a citizen. All those who are permitted to speak to the Governor are avowed secessionists, and cheers for Jeff. Davis and Claib. Jackson are frequently heard in the presence of his Excellency.


During the week the Legislature has held secret sessions, and every body has something to say about its mysterious doings. All sorts of rumors are afloat. The military bill has been passed and re-passed dozens of times. Several times we heard that an ordinance of secession was under discussion. Members preserved a mysterious air—the secessionists looking bold enough, and the Union men disconsolate enough.


On Friday afternoon, it was said on the streets, that a Mr. Colton Green had arrived from the Confederate States. Upon inquiry I learned that this Colton Green is from St. Louis, and was a deputed messenger from Claib. Jackson to the Montgomery Cabinet; that he has been down there begging for arms and giving appearances that if Jackson only had the weapons he could effectually squelch out the Union sentiment in Missouri. From Mr. Peckham, one of our St. Louis members, who came up on the cars with this man Green, I learned that it was openly stated on the cars that Green had returned from the South with plenty of arms for Governor Jackson. I tried to glean from Mr. Green’s conversation some facts in the case, but he put me off as a suspicious person, and I could not get him to communicate.

Mr. Peckham also stated that a company of men came up on the cars on Friday, from Camp Jackson, a part of whom were stationed at the Gasconade bridge, and the balance at the Osage. Mr. Peckham says that at every station these men set up vociferous cheerings for Jeff. Davis and Claib Jackson.


It was common talk in Jefferson City during the week that “Frank Blair would soon be driven like a dog, from the Arsenal, by General Frost.” The secessionists are constantly engaged in exciting conversation, threatening the destruction of every “Black Republican,” and the complete banishment of Unionism in Missouri. Every report that came to Jefferson of Union men being driven out of the interior counties, created intense satisfaction among the clique in the Governor’s confidence. Every expression of joy at such news was followed by threats against the Arsenal as soon as General Frost should have men enough to handle the guns, which was daily expected.


On Friday afternoon a report was circulated Frank Blair had captured General Frost’s entire command, with all the munitions just received from Baton Rouge, and that Frank Blair also was marching upon the State capital, for the purpose of arresting [the] Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State officers and the Legislature. Jackson was seen to rush to the Capitol in great trepidation. It was thought up to this moment that the Military bill was already a law, but I now learn that Jackson rushed into the House and presented the dispatch to the Speaker, who read it to the House, and that immediately a vote was taken to reconsider all the amendments to the Military bill, and that at once the most odious of its original features were restored, and the bill passed by an overwhelming majority. It is a common remark that the utmost excitement prevailed in the two Houses, and that the secessionists were frightened out of their wits. Claib. Jackson went about urging his friends to stand by him. I heard frequent threats passed against those gallant heroes, Col. Stevenson and Peckham, of St. Louis, and Owen, of Franklin. These gentlemen informed me that the proudest act of their lives was their recorded votes against this bill.


Gov. Jackson showed his fears of “personal insecurity,” by dispatching a locomotive to the Osage to burn that splendid structure, which cost the railroad company $110,000, and which was a strong and durable work. The secretary of the Senate, Mr. Nathan Claiborne, was the captain-general of this expedition. The western edge of the bridge was covered with tar and burned. It will cost $5,000 to repair the damage. This cowardly act was the work of the meanest soul that trembles with fear in that secession clique—the Governor of Missouri.


The lights were burning in the Capitol, and the Legislature had not adjourned, when I went to bed at one o’clock A.M. I saw members going to the night session with loaded guns. This morning it is openly said that the most outrageous laws were passed last night. I will recapitulate what I hear.


The military bill makes the Governor an irresponsible military dictator. The lives and the property of the subjects are completely at his disposal. In no case can he be successfully questioned. To question is to die for the crime of treason.

Three millions of dollars are appropriated to the unconditional use of the Governor. There is to be a confiscation of the funds set apart for school purposes, and for the payment of the July interest. Money, besides, has been appropriated for the immediate use of the Governor, amounting to large sums.


From what I overhear I take it as a fact that a bill has been passed appropriating money for the purpose of inducing the savage Indian tribes to the west of us to make a descent upon Kansas and Iowa. I heard Mr. Peckham denounce to a secessionist the heathenism of such a law, and the response that he received was as follows: “It will be d—d lucky for you fellows if worse things than that ain’t done to you before we are through with this thing.”


This individual is probably a Major General under the new bill. To-day the stores are nearly all closed, and Parsons is on horse back followed by a band of music drumming up recruits. Cheers are given every few moments for Jeff. Davis and Gov. Jackson.


Mr. Vest has gone home to Cooper county to raise a regiment for his “beloved South.” He is the most noisy and blatant of all the traitors, and openly scorns and spits upon the “star spangled banner,” calls upon the true friends of the South to arm for Jeff. Davis, and declares the war to be a war of extermination.


From all parts of the State news comes of the driving out of Union men by armed mobs of secessionists. From Benton and Linn counties over 350 patriotic people have been driven from their homes. Every day the Pacific Railroad had brought down some of these fugitives, who have left comfortable farms through fear of personal violence. I have been told of instances where men have been taken from the field where they were at work and driven off without the privilege of bidding good bye to their families.


[illegible] the treasurer. The news of Col. Blair’s expedition to Jefferson City obliged the loyal treasurer to abscond, taking with him all the money of the State.


It has been known here for a long time that Claib. Jackson has been secretly pledged to the Montgomery faction. He has never failed to show his utter contempt for the federal government, and has been known to favor no one but secessionists. Union men were put in communication with him, and as the acquaintance grew in strength there was beheld in the new friend an increased affection for the Southern movement. The raising of confederate flags with the Governor’s approval; the proscription of Union men from the ranks of the militia; the order, “Don’t trust a d—d one of them” (meaning the Union men); the cordial reception of Southern emissaries; the bitter persecution of Unionists by the State authorities; the profuse patronage bestowed upon undisguised secessionists;–all inevitably pointed to the certainty that Jackson was but concealing his designs when he avowed that he did not favor the secession of Missouri. There is no doubt of his constantly preparing to resort to revolution in order to carry Missouri over to the traitors. He is pledged to it in every form.


The report of the capture of General Frost is regarded as true, yet I place but very little reliance upon it. However, if not already made, it is a movement that should be made at once. There is no earthly doubt that that camp is a secession rendezvous. General Frost and Claib. Jackson are working in concert. The pretense that Missouri should arm for defense, means that Missouri should arm to back Gov. Jackson in his treason. For the Union men to lie idly by and permit this power to assume colossal proportions, is absolutely absurd. Nay, it is self destruction. Camp Jackson should be broken up, say all the Union men hereabouts. The traitors know they are not strong enough now to accomplish their designs, and they are postponing final action until their military bill is in full working order, and twenty or twenty-five thousand secessionists are armed. They make no bones of asserting publicly, that 25,000 men will soon be organized to “preserve order in the State.” We all know what that means. We all know how Nero and Caligula, and Francis of Austria, and Charles I of England preserved “order.”

I have no time to write more now, as the cars will soon leave.