Letter from Mason Brayman, 29 July 1843

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Confidential
July 29. 1843.
Dear Sir:—
By the hand of Mr. Backinstos, who leaves for your tomorrow morning, I write a few lines in reference to the present position of the matters connected with your late arrest.
You will recollect that my mission had sole reference to the investigation of the facts connected [with?] your arrest and subsequent discharge? Whether any unlawful means had been used &c:, so that the could act understandingly in the matter, after the hearing of my report.
I was surprised, on my arrival at , to find prevailing among your people, so much apprehension, and so general an impression that the of was actuated by feelings of hostility towards them, and that he would seize with avidity, the opportunity which the application of the agent of would present, of issuing another writ, and calling out the militia for your apprehension.
I will not speak of the motives which induced such a gross misrepresentation of the feelings and views of . I presume that the <​subsequent​> conduct of the individual who sought thus to place the in a wrong position has fully explained to you those motives. You will recollect, that I then assured you that the was influenced by no unkind feelings or improper motives in the matter— that he acted (and with reluctance too) in obedience to a Sacred constitutional obligation, which he could not without dishonor disobey. I know his feelings towards you, and again repeat, that no [p. 1] official act of his administration has been performed with so much pain and reluctance. He is a man of integrity and firmness as well as of a kind disposition and a cool judgment, and while he will not suffer a single citizen of to suffer wrong, he will enforce the laws with a firm hand, and suffer none to violate them with impunity.
On my return from , I found absent on public business at Rock Island, from whence he did not return for a week after I arrived. I presented him a detailed report of my investigations, in which the fact is fully established, that neither you or your people were guilty of any violence, or disorderly, or unlawful conduct whatever; but that throughout the whole of the unpleasant scene connected with your arrest, and the ill treatment which you received, your and their conduct, was that of peaceful, law-abiding and good citizens. He is perfectly satisfied on that point.
You will recollect that when I left , we all had the impression that , the agent of , still had the writ in his possession, and it was feared that he would still make it the pretext of another attempt to seize you. But on mentioning it to on my return, he replied that we laboured under a mistake— that the writ was returned to him, and remained in his possession. This writ, then, is in [p. 2] s hands— it is dead, and <​neither​> the agent of , nor any one else, has the least shadow of lawful authority to disturb you. I was pleased to find that the writ was not taken away as we feared.
I also gave the additional affidavits, which you requested me to bring, and procured those sent by , who, not finding the , left them at the house of .
Perhaps you expected that before this time, the , would have acted upon the subject— and (supposing that the writ was still out) revoked the writ. But as the writ is already in his hands— dead— no revocation is necessary— and no other action is called for until a new requisition is made by the of , if that should ever be done.
commencd the examination of the paper, soon after his return (about the 20th, I think) but in consequence of his other pressing duties, I presume he has not got through them. He is now absent in , on public business, but when he returns he will complete his examinations, and will, doubtless make such a communication to the of , as will put an end to all future demands for your person, on account of the matters alleged against you.
The affidavits which you have furnished, so clearly establish the fact that you are not a fugitive from the [p. 3] justice of , in the sense, contemplated by the Constitution and laws of the , under which he acts, that he will not, in my opinion, find the least difficulty in refusing to issue another warrant, should an hundred be demanded. It was for the want of the very evidence which those affidavits contain, that he was compelled to issue the last warrant.
I have some opportunity of knowing the feelings of , towards you, and of ascertaining his views upon the subject of these proceedings against you, as well as upon the legal question involved in the charge that you are a fugitive, whom he is bound to surrender. First, he has no prejudice, but regards yourself and the industrious and sober population, which you are gathering around you with sentiments of the same kind regard, that he feels towards all citizens of the , who are moral, just, and obedient to the laws.
As to the other points, I can assure you, with perfect confidence, that, with the evidence now before him, he will issue no more writs— that he will be perfectly satisfied that the demand of is not only unjust, (as he before believed it to be,) but so palpably illegal, and contrary to the meaning of the constitution, as to release him forever from all obligation to give you up, but and enable him to justify himself before the world in refusing to do so. [p. 4]
The idea that ever intended to call out the Militia is so perfectly absurd, that no one, but a half crazy politician, whose only hope of success depended on his efforts to inflame your people against the , would have resorted to it. An examination of the law of this will show that in cases like yours, even had you been rescued by a mob, he had no authority to do it, and it it is quite certain that he had no such desire. If the should be threatened with invasion, either for the purpose of plunder or of carrying off one of its citizens, the militia would then probably be called out in double quick time.
I believe it has been said that delays acting on this matter, for the purpose of “holding a rod over you,” to influence the votes of your people in the coming election.
To this I say that throughout this whole matter, he has nobly disregarded political considerations. When he issued the writ, he was aware that he received last year nearly the entire vote of your people, and had no reason to fear that they were disposed to take a different course now. Is it to be supposed that he would commence a persecution against by way of experiment, to compel your people to do that which, they would, in [p. 5] all likelihood do, without compulsion, if left to themselves? As well might I break the head of my best friend with a club, to make him more my friend! No Sir! there is neither truth, or good sense in this insidious charge. , is anxious for the time to arrive when this vexatious persecution against you shall cease— when your people, like all other citizens of whatever religious sect, will be left free to worship God in your own chosen way, and to vote as the predilections and opinions of each man shall dictate— each choosing for himself. He does not desire to control in the slightest degree to the action of a single individual; and he has that sense of your good manly independence and freedom of soul to know that such an attempt to do so, would meet with an indignant rebuke, and lose him your friendship forever. All his friends unite in this sentiment; and for myself, I should cease to respect an executive who could be influenced by such mercenary considerations.
Vote, preach, pray, and worship God as you please, and, so that you violate no law, you have nothing to fear from the or his advisers. His decision in your case, will be precisely the same whether he makes it before the election, or whether you vote for one or the other of the political parties. Do not therefore [p. 6] give heed to the insinuation, made only to answer bad purposes, that a rod is held over you. This rod, is turned to ashes and can do no harm. When occasion shall offer will do all that his and your friends can expect, to put this question respecti[n]g your rights forever at rest. He is now preparing a document on the subject, which he may send to the of , before any thing more is done. He may not however, take, any official action until another call is made upon him. Until which time, nothing can reach you.
What I have written are my own opinions, founded on what I know of the ’s views and feelings, and the facts of the case. Of course, I do not speake for him, having no authority to do so, but I have every confidence that the result of the matter will be as I have suggested. And I write thus fully to relieve your anxiety and that of your friends, and to assure you that no improper influences are at work, to your prejudice. This is for the perusal of yourself and such confidential friends as you desire to exhibit it to, and not for publication or public use.
Please accept my thanks, and convey them also to your excellent & family, for the kindness shown me, during my brief stay with you, and present my warmest regards to all friends— particularly to your aged .
with respect & esteem
Yours—
M[ason] Brayman [p. 7]
July 29— /43
Communicati[o]n
from
M. Brayman
Received Augt 1.— [p. [8]]

Footnotes

  1. new scribe logo

    Endorsement in handwriting of Willard Richards.