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Interview between Gen. Lyon and Gov. Jackson


June 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, June 12, 1861.




Gov. Jackson and Gen. Sterling Price having, through T. T. Gantt and Judge Wm. A. Hall, solicited an interview with Gen. Lyon, and agreeing to come to St. Louis for such purpose, General Lyon, at the request of Mr. Gantt, signed the following paper, guaranteeing them from arrest on their journey to and from the city, and during their sojourn here up to the 12th.

ST. LOUIS, MO., June 8, 1861.

It having been suggested that Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson and Ex-Governor Sterling Price are desirous of an interview with General Lyon, commanding this department, for the purpose of effecting, if possible, a pacific solution of the domestic troubles of Missouri. It is hereby stipulated on the part of Brigadier-General N. Lyon, U. S. A., commanding this military department, that should Governor Jackson and Ex-Governor Price, or either of them, at any time prior to, or on the 12th day of June, 1861, visit St. Louis for the purpose of such interview, they, and each of them, shall be free from molestation or arrest on account of any charge pending against them, or either of them, on the part of the United States, during their journey to St. Louis, their stay at St. Louis and their return from St. Louis to Jefferson City. Given under the hand of the General commanding, the day and year above written.

Brig. Gen. Commanding.

This being sent, or presented to the parties to whom the passport was given, they left Jefferson City by special train and arrived as is already known. Yesterday morning, Gen. Lyon sent them an invitation to visit the Arsenal, which they felt unwilling to accept, notwithstanding Gen. Lyon offered them an escort. They, however, sent word by Thos. L. Price, Esq., that they thought as they had come all the way from Jefferson City to see Gen. Lyon, he should meet them at the Planters’. This the General did not hesitate to do, as he desired to treat them courteously, and meet them in a spirit of peace if they so desired it, and only invited them to the Arsenal because it was his headquarters, and being so occupied with necessary calls upon him, felt loth [sic] to leave his important post for so long a time. He, however, as soon as was made known to him the wish of Governor Jackson, at once ordered his horse and invited Col. F. P. Blair, Jr., and Major Conant to accompany him.

They went at once to the Planters’ House and were soon in company with Gov. Jackson, ex-Governor Price and Thos. L. Snead, the latter private secretary to the Governor.

The conference was of some four hours duration, and the views of the parties were very freely given. Governor Jackson opened the conversation by making professions of peace, but soon put General Price forward as his mouth-piece, only now and then repeating his desire—“Not to have any troops on either side. The United States troops must leave the State and not enter it, and he would disband his own troops and then we should certainly have peace.”

General Price went on at some length, to justify his course as in perfect harmony with his understanding with General Harney, and that he had not violated it one iota.

When asked by Gen. Lyon how his course was in concert with Gen. Harney’s second proclamation, in which Gen. H. denounced the military bill as treasonable and unconstitutional, and when Gen. Lyon said Gen. Harney must have sadly changed or the agreement had not been lived up to, Gen. Price made further remark that he had made no agreement whatever with Gen. Harney about the enforcement or carrying out of the military bill.

At this moment a kind friend sent to Gen. Lyon a copy of the following memorandum, which was sent from Gen. H. as the only basis upon which he said he would treat:


May 21st, 1861.

General Harney is here as a citizen of Missouri with all his interests at stake in the preservation of the peace of the State.
He earnestly wishes to do nothing to complicate matters; and will do everything in his power, consistently with his instructions, to preserve peace and order.

He is, however, compelled to recognize the existence of a rebellion in a portion of the United States, and in view of it, he stands upon the proclamation of the President, itself based upon the law and the constitution of the United States.

The Proclamation commands the dispersion of all armed bodies hostile to the supreme law of the land.

Gen. Harney sees in the Missouri Military Bill, features which compel him to look upon such armed bodies as may be organized under its provisions, as antagonistic to the United States within the meaning of the proclamation, and calculated to precipitate a conflict between the State and the United States troops.

He laments this tendency of things, and most cordially and earnestly invites the co-operation of Gen. Price to avert it.

For this purpose, Gen. Harney respectfully asks Gen. Price to review the features of the bill in the spirit of law, warned and elevated by that of humanity, and seek to discover some means by which its action may be suspended until some competent tribunal shall decide upon its character.

The most material features of the bill calculated to bring about a conflict, are, first, the oath required to be taken by the militia and “State Guards”—(an oath of allegiance to the State of Missouri, without recognizing the existence of the government of the United States;) and secondly, the express requirement, by which troops within the State, not organized under the provisions of the military bill, are to be disarmed by the State Guards.

Gen. Harney cannot be expected to wait a summons to surrender his arms by the State troops.

From this statement of the case, the true question becomes immediately visible, and cannot be shut out of view.

Gen. Price is earnestly requested to consider this, and Gen. Harney will be happy to confer with him on the subject whenever it may suit his convenience.

N. B.—Read to Gen. Price in the presence of Major H. S. Turner on the evening of the 21st of May.

The confusion and mortification into which Gen. Price was thrown by this paper, made him the object of pity, and after a few moments of hesitation he said he did not remember hearing the paper read. He said Gen. Hitchcock and H. S. Turner were to see him, but he did not see or hear of such a paper.

The conversation then became somewhat animated, Gov. Jackson still saying little, and Gen. Price insisting that no armed bodies of United States troops should pass through or be stationed in the State, as such would occasion civil war—that Missouri must be neutral, and neither side should arm—Gov. Jackson to give protection to Union men, and to disband his State troops.

On the other hand, Gen. Lyon laid down his views, as a servant of the government, somewhat to this effect: That, if the government withdrew its forces entirely, secret and subtle measures would be resorted to, to provide arms and effect organizations which, upon any pretext, could put forth a formidable opposition to the general government, and even without arming, combinations would doubtless form in certain localities, to oppress and drive out loyal citizens, to whom the government was bound to give protection, but which it would be helpless to do, as also to repress such combinations, if its forces could not be sent into the State. A large aggressive force might be formed and advanced from the exterior into the State, to assist it in carrying out the secession programme, and the government could not, under the limitation proposed, take posts on these borders to meet and repel such force. The government could not shrink from its duties nor abdicate its corresponding rights; and, in addition to the above, it was the duty of its civil officers to execute civil process, and, in case of resistance to receive the support of military force. The proposition of the Governor, would at once overturn the government’s privileges and prerogatives which he (Gen. Lyon) had neither the wish nor the authority to do. In his opinion, if the Governor and the State authorities would earnestly set about to maintain the peace of the State, and declare their purposes to resist outrages upon loyal citizens of the government, and repress insurrections against it, and in case of violent combinations needing co-operation of the United States troops, they should call upon or accept such assistance, and in case of threatened invasion, the government troops took suitable posts to meet it, the purposes of the government would be subserved, and no infringement of the State rights or dignity committed. He would take good care in such faithful co-operation of the State authorities to this end, that no individual should be injured in person or property, and that the utmost delicacy should be observed towards all peaceable persons concerned in these relations.

Upon this basis, in General Lyon’s opinion, could the rights of both the general and State governments be secures and peace maintained. It was proposed by Governor Jackson that they should go into a correspondence, which General Lyon disapproved, as their views were widely apart, and such a course would not make matters any better; but he was willing that each one should briefly put down their views and let them be published. To such a statement, Governor Jackson was not disposed to agree.

Governor Jackson and General Price returned to Jefferson City last night, at six o’clock, by special train.