Ripon's Booth War: Aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Act in Wisconsin

FOND DU LAC COUNTY
RIPON
WAUPUN
GREEN LAKE COUNTY

 

INTRODUCTION   |  MILWAUKEE, AUG 1   |  WAUPUN, AUG 1-3   |  RIPON, AUG 3-5   |  RECAPTURE, AUG 6-OCT 8  |   DOCUMENTS

RIPON: AUGUST 3 TO AUGUST 5, 1860

     By August 3, 1860, two days after escaping from the "Bastille" in Milwaukee, Sherman Booth was already exploring the limits of his freedom as a fugitive. Newspapers reported that Booth could be seen on the streets of Waupun visiting friends and reportedly intimidating non-supporters. The evening before, he had very publicly addressed a gathering at Waupun's Dodge Hall. And, by some accounts, he had traveled outside the village to enjoy a reunion with family living in the area.
    
Federal marshals, on the other hand, were busy organizing themselves to recapture the fugitive. Deputy U. S. Marshal Francis Henry, a Milwaukean, had reached Waupun on August 2 and had confirmed that Booth was staying at the state prison as a guest of the Prison Commissioner, Hans C. Heg. Deputy William Garlick, another Milwaukean, had arrived the same day and on the morning of August 3 confronted Booth and Heg at the prison, requesting that the fugitive be turned over to him. Deputy Francis McCarty of Fond du Lac joined the others on August 3 "to assist in the arrest."
    
Converging in Waupun, sixty miles northwest of Milwaukee, Booth and the federal "bloodhounds" were ready for a test. The marshals, certain that they faced opposition, needed to evaluate their support in an area that was notoriously Republican in its politics. Booth, confident of support, needed to probe the lengths the marshals were willing to go to arrest him. But while the antagonists were together in Waupun on August 3, the test was destined not to be made there.
    
At nearly the same time that Garlick was meeting with Booth at the prison on the 3rd, the Ripon Times, edited by C. J. Allen, printed the following announcement:

We are authorized to say that Mr. Booth will be in Ripon to-morrow, and will speak at City Hall to morrow evening.

     It was only one of many such announcements about Booth's plans published in the state's newspapers. Papers like Milwaukee's Wisconsin and Free Democrat variously reported that Booth was on his way to Canada or Mackinaw, planned an immediate return to Milwaukee, or would be speaking at Oakfield, Trenton, and Fond du Lac. Citing sources close to Booth, the reports appeared with such regularity that it seems likely they were part of a campaign of misinformation designed to keep the federal authorities off balance.
    
Unlike most of the others, however, the Times' announcement was legitimate, and it is tempting to assume that Garlick's morning visit contributed to Booth's decision to remove to Ripon. The timing of the announcement, however, indicates that the arrangements had been made earlier. Given limited opportunities for communication once Booth was on his way to Waupun, it is possible the appearance was planned even before his release by Ripon area residents Edward Daniels and Oscar LaGrange from the Custom House.
    
That Booth would risk the eighteen mile trip and allow his address to be announced publicly well in advance when marshals were known to be in the vicinity suggests Booth's confidence. More than that, though, Booth must have known even before Garlick's appearance that Heg, an elected public official, could not extend the hospitality of the prison for long. As early as August 7, Heg was already the target of considerable editorial heat generated by the Milwaukee News:

When the parent swore that he would not whip his son if he would come down from his safe retreat, hopeful replied "that a man who would swear would lie," and therefore he would not trust him. We place no reliance in the statement of a prison commissioner, who by his own confession has been guilty of receiving Booth within the walls of the State prison, and guarding him so well that the officer who was in pursuit of him dare not attempt to re-arrest him.

     Booth must also have realized that any hospitality offered by family members would have been equally tenuous. Conversely, it is possible that Booth believed his greatest security to lie in numbers and welcomed a well publicized and well attended public address before his supporters, which the Times' announcement virtually assured.
    
In any case, Booth appears to have exercised precaution in making the trip to Ripon. In affidavits given on August 7 and August 8 respectively and published in Milwaukee's Daily Enquirer on August 13, Marshals McCarty and Garlick indicate that Booth left Waupun the night of the 3rd and traveled to Ripon by carriage in the company of guards. By foregoing the more convenient but more public train running between Waupun and Ripon, and by traveling at night with a guard, Booth must have felt reasonably secure. His strategy was successful. While the Times reported in its special edition on August 6 that "S. M. Booth arrived in this city on Saturday morning [August 4] under an armed escort from Waupun," McCarty's affidavit indicates that the marshals did not learn of Booth's whereabouts until he was safely established in Ripon:

We learned on the 4th inst., that he [Booth] had left the night before for Ripon, about eighteen miles distant, and this deponent with two other Deputies immediately repaired there and found said Booth in the house of one Daniels securely guarded by an armed force surrounding the house.

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

     While Booth took precautions to ensure his safe arrival in Ripon, no attempt was made to conceal his speaking engagement. Not only had it been published on the 3rd, the Times' special report on the subsequent events indicates that publicity for the address was extensive the day of the meeting:

Notice that he would speak at the City Hall in the Evening was sent out, and at the appointed time a large audience crammed the Hall to its utmost capacity, while some hundreds in the streets were unable to gain admittance.

     T. J. Mapes, proprietor of the Mapes House in Ripon, confirms the arrival of the marshals in a letter that appeared in the June 9 Milwaukee News:

On Saturday evening, among the guests arriving at my house, by the 6:40 train, were three United States deputy marshals, Mr. F. D. McCarty, of Fond du Lac, and Messrs. Henry and Stryker, of Milwaukee, having a warrant for the arrest of S. M. Booth, an escaped United States prisoner.

Mapes and his father, David Mapes, one of the founders of Ripon, were not among Booth's followers. To the contrary, they were ardent Democrats and staunchly opposed to Booth and his supporters. That their feelings were already known to Booth's pursuers seems obvious by virtue of the fact that the marshals selected the Mapes' hotel for their headquarters, and perhaps the Mapes were themselves the source of the marshals intelligence that Booth was in Ripon. In any case, the Mapes were taken into the marshals' confidence, and the younger Mapes' account makes clear their purpose:

They were shown to a room, and they informed myself and some few friends the object of their mission. A consultation was held by them in regard to the probabilities of success in case an attempt should be made to arrest him. The conclusion was that it would be useless to undertake to take a prisoner into custody and carry him away from a public meeting, known to be composed mostly of abolitionists, and men who were carried away with fanaticism on the one particular point at issue, unless it could be done in a quiet way, and the people did not oppose it. The result of the consultation, then, was for Deputy Marshal McCarty to go to the meeting, and in a quiet way to serve his warrant upon Mr. Booth, and if forced to leave his prisoner, then to retire without any demonstration of force on his part against a crowd of three or four hundred persons. Mr. McCarty remarked before leaving the Mapes House, that in making the arrest he felt no fear of personal injury, provided he prevented Booth's drawing his revolver suddenly and shooting him down before he got hold of him. Mr. McCarty then went to the hall, Messrs. Henry and Stryker also going, I believe, but not in company.

     Thus, at the time appointed for the meeting, not only did Booth have the full house that he desired, but the marshals were in place and ready to test the opposition's resolve. The Times' account of the events that evening, the most widely published of several accounts, indicates that the meeting began in an orderly fashion:

The Meeting was called to order by C. J. Allen, when Wm. Starr was chosen Chairman, and Mr. Allen Secretary. Mr. Booth was introduced to the audience, and was greeted with hearty applause, and bouquets thrown on the platform by several ladies.

     After these business-like introductions, Booth began his presentation. The Times' account offers one description of what happened next:

Mr. Booth had proceeded for some time with his speech, when Deputy Marshall F. D. McCarty, of Fond du Lac, suddenly came on the platform, and said "I have a warrant to arrest you, Mr. Booth." He barely succeeded in putting one hand on Mr. Booth when he was instantly pulled away by the bystanders. A scene of intense excitement and indescribable confusion followed. "Kill him," "shoot him," "hang him," went up in shouts from all parts of the Hall. McCarty was thrust out of the Hall by the enraged people, being kicked and beaten by his pursuers, and was thrown down the lower flight of stairs, falling upon his face. Instantly regaining his feet he fled to the Mapes House, followed by the crowd in pursuit. The Mapes House was the headquarters of the Marshal and his friends, and they appeared at the door armed and forbade entrance to the pursuers.

     This was not the only account to appear in the press over the next several days. On August 7, the Milwaukee Enquirer published an account "as ascertained from Deputy Marshals Henry and McCarty" reporting not only that Booth was deliberately provocative, but that both Booth and Daniels attempted fire revolvers at the overpowered marshal:

At the very moment when Booth had said that there had been some Deputy Marshals after him in Waupun, where he had addressed a public meeting, and walked through the streets, and that none of them dared to arrest him, pompously boasting that he would like to see the Deputy Marshal who would are to approach him for the purpose of arresting him. McCarty stepped upon the stage with the warrant, and laying his hand upon his shoulder, said "Mr. Booth, you are my prisoner." Booth took one step backward and put his hand upon his revolver in his pocket, which hand, however, was instantly bound in the iron grasp of McCarty. The rush upon McCarty was almost instantaneous, and cries of "kill him," "throw him down stairs," "tear him in pieces," were heard upon all sides, together with others of a like nature. Daniels, the prominent rescuer from the Custom House, stood with his revolver elevated over the heads of the crowd, endeavoring with both hands to depress the muzzle upon McCarty, saying several times, "you are a dead man." Mr. Henry, who was borne about helplessly in the crowd, says that for some half a minute he did not know whether McCarty had been slain or not, and that it was only by the exertion of the strength and courage of a lion, in conjunction with the most unruffled coolness, that he made his excape from the infuriated mob, a portion of which pushed him to the door of the hotel where they were stopping.

     The News account, also published on August 7 and purportedly provided by "a correspondent living in Ripon" identified only as "Outsider," reports that not only Daniels but also LaGrange, another of the rescuers in Milwaukee, played a major and a violent part. In this version they are described as armed not only with revolvers but knives:

     There was no little consternation and screaming among the women. A general melee or fight was anticipated about this time. Daniels and LaGrange were by the side of Booth, armed with revolvers and knives, and threatened to shoot, stab and mortally kill somebody, if they didn't keep out of their way and let them do as they please, and let the prisoner go free.
     Booth's nerves being somewhat unstrung, having his pockets full of bloody weapons, Daniels got on the stand and screeched for freedom and tried to compose the feelings of the dear freedom-loving audience.

     Booth's own account appeared in the Free Democrat, which has not survived. It was, however, reprinted in the Madison Argus & Democrat on August 9, and in it Booth confirms that he attempted to draw a revolver but makes no mention of Daniels and LaGrange. Booth also asserts that David Mapes was waiting with a pair of pistols to receive the crowd at the Mapes House:

While speaking an attempt was made to arrest me, by Deputy Marshal McCarty of Fond du Lac, who sprung in upon me from behind through a back door on the platform, saying he was a Deputy United States Marshal, and had a warrant for my arrest, and taking hold of me we had a quick clinch. I threw him off, and while drawing my revolver, a man rushed between us, and he was seized and hustled out of the room and kicked , and striking on the stone pavement his face was somewhat bruised, but he quickly got on his feet and ran for his life to the Mapes House, old Capt. Mapes, standing in the door, with a revolver in each hand, protecting his retreat down stairs…. Nothing but the accident of my pistol being entangled in my pocket handkerchief prevented me from shooting him.

     McCarty's account appeared in his August 7 affidavit, printed in the Enquirer on August 13. While not mentioning Daniels and LaGrange, the account asserts that multiple pistols were evident in addition to Booth's:

Booth commenced making his speech, and during his remarks, he turned and looking at this deponent, said, that "he would like to see the Marshal or Deputy Marshal, that dare attempt to arrest him." This deponent then quietly stepped on the stage, put his hand on said Booth and told him he was his prisoner, showing the warrant for his arrest. Booth started back and attempted to draw his pistol, which this deponent prevented by holding fast his arm, the crowd then rushed upon them, crying Kill him, cut him to pieces," &c., pistols were drawn and pointed at this deponent which were knocked one side by deponents arm. [sic] The crowd and rush became so great, that this deponent got mixed with them, and was forced from the building and pursued by some of them to the hotel where he stopped, crying that they would shed the last drop of their blood for the protection of Booth, and they even attempted to force the hotel, but were successfully resisted.

     T. J. Mapes' account, apparently second-hand because he appears not to have attended the meeting, is contained in his August 9th letter to the News and offers a rebuttal to Booth:

      Mr. Booth in his letter says: "While speaking an attempt was made to arrest me by Deputy Marshal McCarty, of Fond du Lac, who sprung in upon me from behind, through a back door upon the platform, saying he was a deputy United States marshal, and had a warrant for my arrest, and taking hold of me we had a quick clinch." Mr. McCarty stood for some little time at the front corner of the stage, until some words spoken by Booth to the effect that he would like to see the marshal who dared to arrest him, when he stepped on to the stage and walked directly across to Mr. Booth taking hold of him and at the same time announcing his business.
     Booth instantly made an attempt to draw his revolver, but Mr. McCarty grasped his hand while in his pocket and held it there until forced off the stage by the crowd who rushed on the instant the officer had seized his prisoner. Booth continues in his letter as follows: "I threw him off, and while drawing my revolver, a man rushed between us, and he was seized and hustled out of the room and kicked down stairs, and striking on the pavement, his face was somewhat bruised." This is all false, as the Marshal was forced off by as many men as could get hold of him, and Booth's assertion that he "threw him off" is all is all braggadocio. Shouts arose from every quarter of the room of "Put him out!" "Kill him!" kill him!" [sic] "Shoot him!" "Hang him!" and such like evidences of a civilized community. The crowd rushed for the doors and fifty or one hundred people rushed out and McCarty was lost track of, and quietly passed back into the hall, but having lost his hat in the first rush, he was easily picked out and recognized, when the shout arose again of "Here he is; damn him, kill him." The crowd again swayed toward the doors, and he was forced out with the crowd and down the steps, when making a rush he landed in the middle of the street unharmed, and with no loss but his hat. He now run to the Mapes House followed by a crowd of the more excited part of the rabble still crying, "Kill him!" "Shoot him," &c. Upon reaching the house he retired to his room, soon after followed by Mr. Henry and Mr. Stryker, who not being known to the crowd, came in for no share of the "good intentions" of these law abiding lovers of liberty.
     Booth continues to say: "he quickly got on his feet and run for his life to the Mapes House, old Capt. Mapes standing in the door with a revolver in each hand protecting his retreat." This is the most silly fabrication of the lot, as "old Capt. Mapes" has never held a revolver in his hand in his life time, neither was there a revolver or any other weapon presented. I stood in the door of my own house to protect my guest from a crazy mob, and my father, the said "old Capt. Mapes," stood beside me; but we neither displayed nor did we have any weapons but our own arms, which are ever ready to protect a citizen of the United States in the peaceable performance of his duty as an officer, against a mob of howling fanatics.

     On August 15, the Waupun Times reprinted an account from the Berlin News, whose own issue has not survived, but which also mentioned Daniels' role and the presence of knives:

Booth addressed the Republicans of Ripon Saturday night, and during his speech, McArthur [McCarty], a Deputy U. S. Marshal, stepped upon the stage and arrested him. Booth essayed to draw his pistol, but the Marshal caught his hand. Immediately thirty or forty Ripon wide-awakes rushed upon the stage, yelling shoot him, stab him, &c. Prof Daniels endeavored to shoot the Marshal, but was prevented. He was hustled out of the room. He was then stabbed several times during the melee, but not fatally injured.

     In an editorial response, the Waupun paper asked:

Now the question is, who "was then stabbed several times during the melee?" It couldn't have been Booth or Daniels, for in that case Frank [Berlin News editor, Frank Hyde] would have talked louder; it couldn't have been Marshal McCarty, for we saw him the next day but one looking very unlike he had been "then stabbed several times in the melee." Perhaps however the stabs may have been inflicted by the persons and weapons named last in this next paragraph:

We understand that a large delegation of Free Lovers from Ceresco were in attendance, the men armed with pistols and knives, and the women with "slung-shot," made by putting a good sized stone in the toe of a stocking.

     The Ripon Times account summarizes the conclusion of the events on Saturday evening:

At the Hall, as soon as order could be restored, a resolution was offered by A. E. Bovay,--"Resolved, That Mr. Booth shall not be re-arrested in Ripon,"--which was adopted amid deafening shouts and hurras. Mr. Daniels took the stand and made an impassioned speech for a few minutes, and moved that we now organize a League of Freedom, the members of which shall be pledged to resist any attempt to execute the Fugitive Slave Act. One hundred and twenty persons were enrolled as fast as the names could be written. A. E. Bovay was elected President, and C. J. Allen Secretary. A Vigilance Committee of twelve members was appointed, consisting of Edward Daniels, O. H. LaGrange, A. B. Pratt, Dana Lamb, A. E. Bovay, C. D. Loper, J. S. Landon, F. R. Stewart, I. A. Norton, F. W. Cooke, Lucius Thatcher, A. M. May, Benj. Pratt, L. P. Rivenburgh. The mass of the people then formed a procession, preceded by the Ripon Wide Awakes, and escorted Mr. Booth to the residence of Prof. Daniels. Some twelve or fifteen persons were put on duty as volunteer guards, to defend the residence of Prof. Daniels, and the remainder dispersed.

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

     Having reached a standoff on Saturday evening in front of the Mapes House, both the marshals and Booth's supporters renewed their test of wills the following day. The account in the widely quoted, Republican Ripon Times appeared in its special addition the next day, written by its editor, C. J. Allen:

     The Vigilance Committee held a meeting this morning and took measures to effect a Military organization to subserve the purposes of the League.
     To-day the people have been pouring in from the country, and at three o'clock a mass meeting was held in a grove. Col. Asa Kinney was called to the Chair, and C. J. Allen appointed Secretary. A committee consisting of Edward Daniels, A. Pickett, C. J. Allen, J. W. Sanders, I. A. Norton, I. A. Norton, P. F. Drury, and J. A. Burt, was appointed to prepare resolutions. Mr. Booth then addressed the meeting. After which Mr. LaGrange was called out and spoke for a short time. Mr. Daniels reported from the committee a series of resolutions, which were adopted unanimously. A procession then formed and marched to the City Hall--Mr. Booth going to the Hall, as he had gone to the grove, escorted by a body of armed men. The Hall was taken possession of, and guards stationed for its defense.
     At the Hall a committee of ten was appointed to wait upon the Deputy Marshals here, and request them to leave town. Messrs. William Starr, A. E. Bovay, E. Reynolds, C. J. Allen, I. A. Norton, F. A. Strong, F. R. Stewart, L. P. Rivenburgh, A. B. Pratt, and A. Leonard were appointed such committee, who repaired to the Mapes House and had an interview with Deputy Marshals McCarty, Henry, Stryker, and Garlick. Mr. Starr conveyed to them the request of the meeting, and received from them an answer, that they were U. S. officer, that they had in their possession a warrant for the arrest of S. M. Booth, and that they should depart quietly when such departure was consistent with the performance of their duties.
     While the Committee and Marshals were in conference, Rev. Hiram McKee addressed a large concourse of people in the streets.
     At this writing the streets are crowded with excited people, and Mr. Booth is strongly guarded at the Hall, to which only known friends are admitted.

     The Democrat account was published in the August 7 issue of the Enquirer, which reminded the reader with some relish that the Ripon "rioters" were well armed despite the Sabbath:

     On the next day, (Last Sabbath) the wildest excitement prevailed among the rioters, runners were dispatched over the country to bring in with their arms all who would come, and the Streets of Ripon were thronged throughout the Sabbath with an armed force, who boasted of the extremities to which they would defend Booth. The doors were carefully kept by a guard with guns, and the most orderly citizens of the community were excluded [presumably the anti-Booth element represented by the Mapes and their "friends"]. Gov. Horner, who attempted to enter this christian meeting, was met by three guns leveled at his breast, and gore would probably have been added to the threatening insults offered him, if he had not been forcibly taken away by his own friends.
     That night a meeting was again held in Borce's Hall, and resolutions were passed, to tar and feather the Deputy Marshals who were in Ripon, provided they did not leave town at once. A committee of twelve waited upon the Deputies at the Mapes house, and informed them of the proceedings, inviting them to leave quietly, or, that the excitement was so great, that they would not be responsible for the consequences of their remaining. The Deputy Marshals, however, insisted upon receiving any communication they had to make, in writing, to which the committee strongly objected, stating their fears that there might be some trap to it; to which it was replied that if their proceeding was fair and honorable, there wo'd be no objection to putting it in black and white.
     After an hours' [sic] consultation, the following vague request was agreed upon:
     The undersigned, a committee appointed by a meeting of the citizens of this town and vicinity—are instructed by said meeting, to ask that certain persons now stopping here temporarily, and by their presence and acts, inciting the people to violence and disturbance, do quietly leave the place.

Mapes House, Ripon, August 5, 1860.
W. STARR, CH'N,
A. E. BOVAY, SEC'Y,
G. W. FREDERICK,
G. A. STRONG,
F. R. STEWART,
A. B. PRATT,
E. REYNOLDS,
L. P. LIVINBURGH,
J. A. NORTON,
F. FLETCHER,
A. LEONARD,
C. J. ALLEN

The following is the reply which was made:

     MAPES HOUSE, Ripon, August 5th, '60. W. Starr, Chairman of a Committee, and others, whose names appear signed to a paper of this date, handed to us:
     GENTLEMEN:--In reply to your note, stating that you had been appointed a committee by a meeting of the citizens of this town and vicinity, and instructed by said meeting to ask that certain persons, not named, now stopping here temporarily, and by their presence and acts, inciting the people to violence and disturbance, do quietly leave the place.—We have to say that if we are the certain persons intended in your note—that we are Deputy U. S. Marshals—that we have in our possession a warrant for the arrest of S. M. Booth, an escaped U. S. prisoner—that we are American citizens—that we have no desire or intention of inciting the people to violence or disturbance—that we are stopping at the Mapes House—and shall endeavor to leave your place quietly, whenever we can do so consistently with our business and duty.

Very Respectfully, &c.,
T. HENRY, Deputy U. S. Marshall,
F. D. McCARTY, Deputy U. S. Marshall,
J. T. STRIKER, Deputy U. S. Marshall.

     A copy of the resolutions of the meeting has not yet been obtained. The marshals remained unmolested in Ripon until Booth had been run out of town.

     On August 17, the Ripon Times published the resolutions adopted during the Sunday afternoon gathering in the grove: 

Resolutions

The following are the resolutions adopted at the meeting of Sunday afternoon:
     Whereas a breach of the peace was committed in Ripon last evening, and a peaceable meeting interrupted, by an attempt made by one F. D. McCarty,--said to be a U. S. Deputy Marshal ,--to kidnap Sherman M. Booth while he was addressing said meeting; and
     Whereas the alleged ground on which this attempt was made is that the said Sheman M. Booth has violated the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, by aiding an alleged slave to escape from his kidnappers and regain his liberty, and
     Whereas the Supreme Court of this State has decided this Fugitive Act, under which the said Sherman M. Booth was convicted sentenced and imprisoned, to be unconstitutional and void, because it denies the right to trial by jury, annuls the writ of Habeas Corpus, and confers judicial powers upon Court Commissioners ,--a class of officers unknown to the Constitution, and on this decision discharged the said Booth from the judgment of the U. S. District Court, and from the fine and imprisonment involved in such judgment, and declared him a free man guilty of no wrong, and entitled to all the rights and privileges of a free citizen, and
     Whereas four or five U. S. Deputy Marshals aided, encouraged and abetted, by a few of the baser sort of our own citizens, have been, and still are, prowling about this neighborhood and vicinity, with the avowed purpose of re-kidnapping Mr. Booth and returning him to the imprisonment from which he has just been released and
     Whereas these Deputy Marshals, acting as bloodhounds for the slave catchers, have taken an oath to re-capture Sherman M. Booth, dead or alive, and to shoot him if he offers the least resistance to being kidnapped; therefore
     Resolved That we will maintain the doctrine of our Supreme Court and uphold the sovereignty and laws of the State, by enforcing the judgment of that Court and executing the writ of Habeas Corpus in protecting the liberty of Sherman M. Booth.
     Resolved, That we hold the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to be not only a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the United States and of this State, but a direct assault upon the liberties of the people, the rights of humanity, and the law of God.
     Resolved, That a people who will submit to such an invasion of their Constitutional liberties and of State Rights, as is involved in the execution of the Fugitive Slave Act in Wisconsin, are unworthy of freedom; and that imitating the example of our Fathers who fought for the establishment of liberty in this country, we pledge ourselves to each other to resist the enforcement of this unconstitutional and despotic enactment, and to maintain the doctrine of our Revolutionary sires, that Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
     Resolved, That those who executed the write of Habeas Corpus and vindicated the sovereignty and laws of the State on the first day of August, 1860, at mid-day, in Milwaukee, by liberating Sherman M. Booth from illegal imprisonment, did a noble deed; that we will stand by them and defend them from the assaults of the hounds who are dogging their tracks, and will make common cause with them against the threatened arrests and prosecutions of the minions of slavery.
     Resolved, That the people of this State are now called upon to redeem the pledges they made in former years to vindicate the doctrines of our Supreme Court in behalf of Liberty, and save our fellow citizens harmless from the pains and penalties of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act.
     Resolved, That the Federal kidnappers in our midst, and those who volunteer to aid them in executing the mandates of the slave catchers, are the shameless enemies of the people's liberties, deserve the scorn and contempt of all good citizens and ought to be treated as were the tories and cow-boys of the Revolution; and that we warn all those who have come here to make arrests under the Fugitive Act, that their speedy departure from this region will be an eminently prudent proceeding.
     Resolved, That we will not submit to have our peaceable meetings interrupted, the freedom of speech assailed, and personal liberty invaded by these kidnappers, and if this outrage is again attempted we will repel force by force, and treat the invaders of our rights as pirates and assassins of Liberty.
     Resolved, That as by the laws of Wisconsin all who arrest and re imprison a citizen for the same offences from which he has once been discharged on a writ of Habeas Corpus, have rendered themselves liable to a fine of twelve hundred dollars and imprisonment for one year in the State Prison or six months in the county jail, those who are endeavoring to arrest and reimprison S. M. Booth are open and shameless violators of the laws of this State, and should be regarded as lawless invaders of our rights and liberties.

AFTERMATH

     The Ripon Times concluded its account of the events in Ripon with a Monday morning postscript:

Comparative order and quiet reign this morning. The City Hall is vacant. Mr. Booth has gone--where, the public do not know. Report says he is on his way to Milwaukee--that he left town about eleven o'clock last night--and that two Deputy Marshals are in pursuit.

     If both parties intended the events at Ripon to be a test, this version of the affair sounds as if nothing in particular was accomplished. Booth had vanished, as he already had done twice since his liberation from Milwaukee's Custom House, and the marshals were in pursuit, as they had been continually since August 1.
    
The confrontation in Ripon had proven something, however. Booth and the marshals both discovered during the weekend the limits within which they could operate. The marshals found that they could not recapture Booth by force as long as he remained among the dedicated anti-slavery element of central Wisconsin. Booth, in turn, learned that the "bloodhounds" would neither give up nor back down in their pursuit. With one exception, an announcement that he would appear with Hans Heg before a gathering in Green Lake, there is no newspaper report that Booth addressed another public gathering before his eventual arrest.
    
A second consequence of the events of the 4th and 5th was that the Democrat press assailed the pro-Booth element in Ripon mercilessly for their role in the affair. The Berlin News opened the salvo with a widely reprinted attack on the morals of the community:

We understand that a large delegation of Free Lovers from Ceresco were in attendance, the men armed with pistols and knives, and the women with "slung shot" made by putting a good sized stone in the toe of a stocking.--Booth is staying at Prof. Daniels, whose house is guarded day and night by armed Wide Awakes. It is said that Daniels divides his time equally between guarding Booth from the Marshal, and the female members of his family from Booth.

     The letter from "Outsider" printed in the August 7 Milwaukee News continued the theme:

I have been studying to find out something about this Higher Law doctrine promulated [sic] by Booth, Daniels and others, and which is endorsed here by some styled Reverend, together with most of the strong minded women, and it amounts in plain English to just this--"Free men, Free Love and Free women, and do pretty much as we d--d please, and none of your business.

     On August 9, Madison's Argus & Democrat likewise treated the theme, under the headline "The Ripon Riot:"

     About the most disgraceful chapter in Wisconsin history are those given by us yesterday and to-day, of the riot at Ripon. This, it will be recollected, is the old site of Ceresco, the head quarters of the "Phalanx," and the hot bed, a few years since, of free love. This stain was being rapidly wiped out, and, perhaps, the memory of it would not have been now revived but for the announcement in the papers there that while "Brudder" Booth was speaking, "the ladies threw bouquets on the stage." Beautiful! The long haired seducer of Caroline Cook, greeted by the fragrant offerings of the ladies of Ripon! It would seem that the free love movement had not entirely subsided in that delectable locality, and that its votaries deemed a welcome of unusual cordiality due to its most notorious adherent who had carried its doctrines into practice. Delightful Ripon!
     The demand upon the officers of the law to leave the town was another modest proposition. Booth was merely an escaped convict. He had no other title to public sympathy—except of that sort showed by the ladies who threw bouquets at him. It has arrived at a pretty pass when a warrant cannot be served upon a runaway prisoner in a town in the State; and the officers of the law, with the warrants in their pockets, are assailed with threats of violence, if they do not leave the place. Ripon has gained for itself a beautiful reputation.

     The Enquirer on August 7 leveled another criticism, and like the first it was echoed throughout Wisconsin in the Democrat press:

When matters have come to such a pass that public opinion will justify open resistance by an armed force, to the execution of the laws; and when meetings are held upon the Sabbath by men pretending to be christians [sic], for the avowed purpose of lynching public officers who have nobly endeavored to discharge their duties, it does seem that not only order and safety have been destroyed in the community, but that religion itself has been prostituted to a mere political harlot, pandering to evil passions of men, who like Booth, have exhausted the calendar of immoralities and crime.

     In response to these attacks in general and to the charges leveled by "Outsider" in particular, the Milwaukee Sentinel published a brief editorial on August 8 in defense of Ripon:

This is a base libel upon the people of Ripon. There is not, in all Wisconsin, a more intelligent, moral, and orderly population than in Ripon. That a large majority of the electors of the town are zealous Republicans is very true; but that fact furnishes no excuse for the partisan slanders of the News and its correspondent.

     C. J. Allen, editor of the Ripon Times also published an eloquent rebuttal on August 10:

     WHERE RESTS THE RESPONSIBILITY?--No good citizen desires to see such a state of affairs as prevailed in this city last Saturday and Sunday--a community excited, angry, turbulent--men arming themselves for defense, and organized in military bands to protect themselves and their friends.
     A man appears in our midst who has been convicted for an offense under the Fugitive Slave Act, and who has escaped from imprisonment. Personally he is not known to a dozen persons in community [sic]; circumstances connected with his career have not commended him to popular regard. Yet at the first intimation that he is to be again arrested, hundreds of men become excited, solemnly pledge themselves that he shall not be taken again into custody, and rally to his defense. What is the character of the men who do this thing? They are not the depraved, the debauched, the reckless--the supporters of the grog shop, the gaming-table, or any other of the dens of vice. They are our farmers, our mechanics, our students--men, young and old, of sobriety, integrity, and honor--men who in all the ordinary routine of life are the best neighbors and citizens. Moreover they are persons of strong moral convictions, and uncompromising in their devotion to their principles.
     When such men, to the extent of large numbers in a community, resolve that an enactment which is offensive to all their ideas of right shall not be enforced, is it claiming too much to maintain that those who instigate, abet, and encourage, either actively or by their indifference, such a course of proceedings as will oblige these men to either defend their principles or abandon them, are responsible for disturbing the peace of community?
     After the recent demonstration here it must be conceded that the Fugitive Slave Act cannot be peaceably enforced in Ripon. The public sentiment is up to that point. Let this fact be recognized and respected, and there will never occur a repetition of the scenes enacted in this city on the 4th and 5th days of August last.

     The attacks of the Democrat press, however, apparently took a toll. The Republican press in the state printed very little about the subsequent events involving Ripon and Booth up until the time of his capture. Furthermore, participants like Professor Daniels, Fredericks, William Starr, A. E. Bovay, involved in the liberation of Booth or in the confrontation in Ripon, offered little resistance and quietly accepted their arrests by federal marshals. Writing more than 40 years later, O. H. LaGrange would observe:

I would not if I could undo anything than I then did. But I suffered more than I would own, in being thought a fanatic or a bravo by such men as the Taggarts and Skeels and Eggleston and Runals and Bailey, who deprecated strife, which they thought aimless, and likely to involve citizens who had taken no part in its inception.

INTRODUCTION   |  MILWAUKEE, AUG 1   |  WAUPUN, AUG 1-3   |  RIPON, AUG 3-5   |  RECAPTURE, AUG 6-OCT 8  |   DOCUMENTS
LAST UPDATED 1/24/2000 If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at rmschust@facstaff.wisc.edu or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716 (608) 221-1421.