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dent against a day when these shall be convenient for themselves. When this occurs, and the honest men find it out, Lynch-law is the only practical transition to a good form of government. A most horrible thing in the abstract, it becomes the sole thing in the concrete. Perhaps it is essential to it that it should in most cases be administered by a furious mob; but that is the most horrible part of its horror to a stranger.
Nearly two thousand people were assembled in a deep ravine indented in the rolling plain back of the town, around a lone cotton-wood tree, under which stood the fatal wagon. Such a dreadful multitude may God keep from the death-scene of every man whose guilt is not double-dyed! There was no attempt to classify it. Shaggy-bearded horsemen trampled under hoof swarming footmen, boys, and, shame to say it, women. Here and there stood the unhitched wagons of whole families who had come in from distant ranches to make gala-day of the execution. These were the objects of general envy, for the view from their pedestals was not only more commanding, but more comfortable. It was a selfish sort of enjoyment to sit one's saddle at such a place. Stern Justice and Domestic Felicity were both satisfied in the little family party which sat—grown people on boards, children on knees, babes in arms — cracking grim jokes with each other till the dreadful melodrama should begin.
The trial was a short one. It was testified that the two accused had proceeded to the ranche of an old farmer living twenty miles out in the wilds back of Atchison; had beaten him insensible with a pistolbutt; knocked his wife down with a chair; and then hung his boy, a child of twelve years, till, to save
himself from suffocation, he consented to reveal the hiding-place of the farmer's funds. Taking these, which amounted to forty dollars, and all the horses in the corral, they had returned to the Missouri, converted the animals into cash, and, without the least attempt at absconding, began to enjoy their gains in speculation. Three days from the date of their crime they were in the hands of Lynch. N
These facts having been announced to the crowd, an opportunity, as they say in other assemblies, was given for the brethren to make a few remarks. One man on horseback, better dressed and more refined in his appearance than the rest, held the attention of the crowd with a speech of equal force and freedom from temper, in which he drew a sketch of the defenselessness which would result to the settler if, in his lonely cabin, he could not be sure that prompt and certain vengeance hung over his would-be assassins. The people heard him with a running fire of murmurs, — saying, "Good!" "That's it!" and "I'm there too!" when he concluded his little speech with a vote for the instant death of both the bushwhackers. He was followed by others who spoke less ably, but all to the same point; and the crowd finally decided that the younger man should be executed at once, — the elder have respite till the next day but one succeeding. I may be uncharitable to communities of incipient civilization, but the respite seemed to me granted rather with a view to thrifty economy of pleasures than for the sake of pity and completed shrift. Indeed, one person told me, "If we hung 'em both on Thursday, we shouldn't have anybody to hang on Saturday."
The sentence being determined, its subject was /
asked by the immediate committee in charge, what he had to say for himself.
"Nothing," he replied, in a tone of nonchalance; "only that you're going to murder a better man than any of yourselves."
He was lifted to the wagon; surveyed the stony faces of the crowd with a quick glance that took in no single look of pity; the rope was adjusted, the wagon driven away, and there, a horrid fruit of man's hateful passions, he hung, uncovered to all vengeful eyes, and the pure, sweet, but unhelping heaven of May, quivering from the limb of the cotton-wood.
This is the wickedness of Lynch executions. Like old Tyburn, they r.ear more gallows-birds than they intimidate. The horribly hardening effects of public deaths was visible, audible in all the crowd. As the poor wretch swung there, now past injuring them, and to all noble natures an object of pity, if only for the first time, the men cracked their brutal jokes, and women laughed at them. Mothers pointed their boys to the tree, not as to a warning, but a spectacle.
"This is not, nor it cannot come to good I"
With glutted eyes and unmoved hearts the crowd slowly withdrew from their place of fascination; but, as their murmur lessened, the air was broken with wails of agony which might have melted a Marat. Lying at full length in a wagon outside of the crowd's former hem, a young woman, without friend or comforter, was crying aloud for a husband whom she called God to witness had been cruelly murdered.
These things are too horrible to dwell upon. We, at the East, are apt to think that the punishment of our old national transgressions is all condensed in the war which has smitten vis so sorely. But I felt within myself, that day at Atchison, that the bitter seed sown by ruffians under the aegis of our Federal Government never bore fruit more poison to the constitution of society than such executions as had just taken place. It is but little wonder that the contempt for law, as the sum of all atrocities under a sanctified disguise, which was studiously cultivated among the people of Kansas by a past Administration, should breed to-day all manner of cruelties, though the powers that be have changed. Barbaric habitudes of society cannot be nurtured for years, and then uprooted in a week. The arrow has been withdrawn from her heart; but "bleeding Kansas" bleeds still.
I know all the palliations which a young society may plead for its excesses; but I must say that the recklessness which met me in the street, at the business places, in my hotel, after the execution, made me wonder whether I was on earth or in hell. Women in the dress of ladies leaned across the tea-table and asked, "Have you been to the hanging?" with as much sang-froid as a New Yorker might say, "Have you seen Faust?" Then, between sips of tea and bites of biscuit, such as had been, regaled those who had not, with particulars that made a stranger sicken at his food.
I was expressing my surprise to an indigenous acquaintance made that morning, when he replied, u Haven't been long in Kansas, have you?" "Six hours," I informed him. "Thought so. Lord bless you, nobody thinks anything of being hanged in this country! Why, in one Kansas settlement there lived an old man who was too lazy to do anything for his living, and whose neighbors had to support him, until finally they got tired of sendin' on him things, and concluded to put him out of his misery. When he stood on the wagon, with the rope around his neck, one new settler in the crowd took pity on him, and called out, 'Hold hard! ye needn't hang him. I'll give him ten bushel o' corn.' 'Is it shelled ?' drawled the old man in his old, lazy voice. 'No,—'ta'nt,' says the settler. 'Drive on with your wagon,' says the old man."
After which veritable history, my new acquaintance looked up at the sky, remarked that it was a pity they didn't hang both the bushwhackers," it was such a nice day for hangin'," and bid me good-by with regrets that I could not stay over to-morrow.
To turn an Eastern man's notions still more completely topsy-turvy on the subject of tribunals and government, as we went down to the coach-office to arrange for our places overland, we met an agent, whom we had expected to transact with, going over to Leavenworth between two dragoons, to answer before the Brigadier-General of the Department for having violated some freight contract on the stageroute. I began to wonder whether, if we stayed a little longer in Atchison, we should not see a soldier tried for desertion in a justice court, or a churchmember turned out of the fold for heresy by a surrogate.
The Massasoit House, though far enough from resembling its ever-memorable namesake in Springfield, was still a very creditable hotel for a place on the extreme borders of civilization; and we should have slept well but for the fact that a party of ranchmen and wagon-drivers, who had come into town for holiday, saw fit to end their pleasantly stimulating afternoon by a night of carouse in a neighboring rum-shop. Fiddles,