Action of the Executive-Proclamation of county in a state of insurrection - Copy of the same-Its reception in Delhi-Arrival of Adjutant General Farrington - Organization of an armed force - Officers chosen-Extract from a letter-Mode of operating - Erection of temporary log-jails - Convening of the court-Grand Jury - Judge Parker's able charge - Allusion in the same to the demoralizing influence of the excitement upon the county - Results of the trials-number of convictions - O'Connor and Van Steenburgh convicted of murder-Sentence of the prisoners - Court adjourns - Attempt on the life of a guard - Reprieve of the sentences of O'Connor and Van Steenburgh - Revocation by the Governor, of the declaration "declaring the county in a state of insurrection" - Close-Closing remarks.
Would that with the closing up of the preceding chapter, we might have dropped the curtain over this painful narrative. But it remains for us to follow out and delineate the restoration of equilibrium and order.
In the latter part of August, Governor Wright issued the following proclamation, declaring the county in a state of insurrection. This document, both for its decided language and intrinsic worth, as having emanated from the pen of that celebrated statesman, as well as for the recital of the disturbance, its rise, progress and results, characterizes it as an indispensable link in the history of that period. And although its great length might have induced us to pass it by, yet we trust its careful perusal may avail us as a timely warning to shape our course in future.
The following is the proclamation:
"The Sheriff, District Attorney, Judges of the County Court, and other officers of the peace, and citizens of the County of Delaware, have laid before me a body of evidence, to satisfy me that the execution of civil and criminal process in that county, has been forcibly resisted by bodies of men; that combinations to resist the execution of such processes by force, exist in that county, and that the power of the county has been exerted, and is not sufficient to enable the sheriff and his deputies, having such process, to execute the same; and have applied to me to exert the authority, with which I am clothed by the 19th section of the act, entitled 'An act to enforce the laws and preserve order,' passed April 15, 1845.
The evidence presented to me, establishes satisfactorily, the following among other facts:
That the execution of civil and criminal process, began to be resisted by bodies of men, in the county of Delaware, as early as March last.
"That combinations to resist the execution of such process, by force, under the demonination of anti-rent, or equal rights associations, commenced being formed in that county, more than one year ago.
"That these associations have engrafted upon the organization, a force of disguised, masked, and armed men, subject to the orders and directions of the officers of the associations, and by and through which force, under the protection of it disguises and masks, the resistance to the execution of legal process is to be made, and is made.
"That the members of this armed force are denominated Indians, or Natives; are organized in bands called tribes, and have their leaders and commanders, called chiefs, having names in imitation of Indian chiefs.
"That the officers of the associations, and all the members of the armed force, are sworn to observe and support the constitution of the association, and to keep secret all things communicated, or known, to them, which require to be kept secret, and in the case of the disguised and armed men, the further clause is added, that they will stand by each other as long as life shall last.
"That the avowed and declared object of the associations is to prevent by force, the collections of rent, and the express duty of the armed force, is to resist the execution of process issued for that object; but that the cases of resistance by force against the execution of legal process, and the discharge of their duties by the officers of the law, have not been entirely confined to proceedings for the collection of rents, but have been extended, in some instances, to other legal process.
"That these associations, and organizations of a disguised masked, and armed force, are not confined to the county of Delaware, but exist to a great, if not to an equal extent in several adjoining counties, and that the organizations, armed and unarmed, wherever they exist, have and avow a common object, make common cause, and act in entire concert and cooperation.
"That in all the prominent and flagrant cases of resistance to the process and officers of the law, in Delaware and other counties, the members of these armed bands of disguised and masked men, have been prominent actors; and that, in the county of Delaware, before the passage of the law above referred to, this resistance had been carried to such an extent, as to require the utmost exertion of the power of the county to preserve peace and order, and execute criminal process only.
"That early in the month of May, after the passage of the law of the 15th of April last, above referred to, the sheriff of the county of Delaware, applied to the Governor, under the 2nd section of that law, and received authority to organize an armed guard of 400 men, to aid him in the preservation of order, and the execution of civil and criminal process, within the county.
"That a strong feeling has existed in the county against the provision of the law which charges upon the county, the expense of such an organized and armed force, the citizens contending that it was unequal and unjust, to require them to encounter, in their persons, the labor and peril of enforcing the law against these armed combinations, of their own and the adjoining counties, and thereby subject the property of Delaware county only, to the taxation necessary to meet the expenses thus incurred; and that the sheriff has been unable to organize a guard, under the second section of the act, of sufficient strength and permanency to enable him to execute the civil process placed in his hands, or calling for execution.
"That the consequence of this state of things has been a substantial suspension, in the county of Delaware, of all process for the collection of rents, from the close of the serious disturbances there, in March last, until a very recent and very signal instance, to be hereafter particularly noticed; the sheriff having undertaken, within that time, to execute and carry out such process in but one instance, and in that, a voluntary settlement between the parties relieved him before the point was reached, at which resistance has been usually met; and he having, in numerous other instances, declined to receive and attempt to execute such process.
"That some time during the last month, pursuant to proceedings by way of distress for rent, against a man by the name of Moses Earle, of the town of Andes, in the county of Delaware, the sheriff had appointed a day for the sale, upon the premises, of the property distrained, and upon the day of sale, attended at the place, and met a large collection of persons, which appearance and conduct satisfied him that their object was to prevent his sale; not one of whom would make a bid upon any part of the property offered for sale, and from whom he learned that a disguised and armed force of some sixty men was secreted in the woods adjoining the field, where he was trying to sell the property; whereupon he adjourned the sale to the 7th day of the present month, at the same place.
"That on the 7th day of the present month, the sheriff attended at the place of sale, accompanied by the under sheriff Osman N. Steele, Erastus S. Edgerton, a constable of the county, and Peter P. Wright, the agent of the landlord, who attended to bid upon the property. The persons found upon the premises a force of disguised, masked and armed men, about 220 strong, by which they were surrounded as soon as moments were made indicating a preparation to enter upon the sale of the property, and by a portion of whom, in obedience to the order of one acting as their chief, the horses upon which Steel and Edgerton were mounted, were shot and killed, and Steele was mortally wounded, and survived by six hours, three balls taking effect in his person, and from twelve to twenty guns being fired. The execution of civil process was thus resisted, the enforcement of the law prevented, and the order and peace of society deeply and irreparably disturbed and broken, in this instance.
"That this cold and cruel murder of a most estimable and valuable citizen, and brave and faithful public officer, for no other cause or provocation, than the discharge of his official duty, as he had solemnly sworn to discharge it, has so aroused the energies of the patriotic and law-abiding citizens of the county of Delaware, as to enable the sheriff, for the purpose of the arrest and punishment of the murderers, their aiders and abettors, to organize a guard, or posse, under the 2nd section of the law referred to, in conformity to the authority obtained from the Governor, in Delaware for that purpose; but only for a very short period, which has already expired, or is just about expiring, and without the hope or expectation on the part of the sheriff, of being able to avail himself to the aid of that guard, or posse, for any other purpose than the execution of the criminal processes, to which this startling murder may give rise.
"That it has been subsequently ascertained that, in addition to the disguised and armed force of 200 men, which actually surrounded the sheriff and his assistant, and shot down the under sheriff, an additional similar force of forty picked riflemen was stationed in the bushes by the side of the road, and near to the place of sale, with directions to which the posse, which it was apprehended would follow the sheriff, and come to his aid; to order it to halt, if it should attempt to pass; and to shoot down the men who composed it, if they should not obey the order to halt; thus making the whole disguised and armed force, assembled upon this occasion, to resist the execution of the law, and of civil process, 260 men, or more than that number.
"That considerable portions of this disguised and armed force were drawn from two of the adjoining counties, and were not citizens of the county of Delaware.
"That these organizations to resist the law and the execution of its process, have extended themselves to the magistracy of the county of Delaware, and that justices of the peace of some of the towns in that county are found enrolled as members of officers of the associations, if not under the Indian disguises, bearing arms to resist the law by force; forgetting the oath of office they have taken, and taking themselves, and administering to others, oaths to conceal violations of the law; - to the ministerial officers of the county, and that constables are also found members of one, or both, of these combinations; - to the officers of the towns, and that supervisors, the members of the local legislature of the county, are members of the anti-rent associations, swearing to support their constitution and pledge, if not Indians, swearing to bear arms against the law.
"That one of the obligations, which every person takes upon himself, on becoming a member of an anti-rent association, is to make fixed and regular contributions to the funds of the association; that a stipulated rent of two cents upon the acre of all the land held by a members of these associations is levied and paid to the treasurers, to meet the expenses of the organization; that the moneys thus collected are paid out, under the direction of a committee, to purchase materials for dresses, masks, arms and ammunition for the Indians, and to pay the expenses of their subsistence and entertainment, when called out, as well as to meet the expenses of the law suits, and litigations; and, where there is a surplus in the treasury, to pay the Indians for their time spend in the service to which they are devoted.
"That 1000 or more persons have enrolled themselves and taken the prescribed oath, as Indians, within the singe county of Delaware, while a much larger number have become members of the anti-rent associations, and that the obligations assumed toward each other, certainly by the Indians, if not by the members of the associations also, strongly imply, if they do not expressly enjoin, efforts on the part of those at liberty, to rescue those under arrest, and in the custody of the law, for acts performed as Indians, or as members of an association, and in furtherance of the objects of those organizations.
"That, since the murder of the under sheriff Steele, in the manner before related, the proceedings of the authorities and citizens of the county of Delaware have been marked by a most praiseworthy vigilance and energy, to arrest and bring to justice these resisters of the law and disturbers of the peace of the county; that many arrests have been made, and fifty or more prisoners are now confined in the county jail, either awaiting examinations, or committed to answer to charges of crime, some twenty or more of whom are charged as principals or accessories to this murder.
"It may be added, too, that individuals, and assemblages of men, have, within the period mentioned, frequently appeared in the public highways; in the fields, woods, and other places in the county, and sometimes in the face of the sheriff and his officers, both disguised and armed, in open violation of the provisions of the act entitled 'An act to prevent persons appearing disguised and armed,' passed 28th January. 1845; and that such persons, so committing offences subjecting them to punishment in the State Prison, have not been arrested; thus affording evidence that the power of the county, as faithfully exerted as the sheriff and his officers could exert it, has been insufficient for the execution of criminal process and the preservation of the criminal law within the county, in cases where the violations of that law have not been attended with consequences calculated to shock the feelings of the citizens, by the imminent danger to, or the wanton destruction of, human life.
"The fact that the law makes no provision for mounting the men to be employed by the sheriff as a posse, or guard, or for the payment for the service, or for the subsistence of horses for their use, is stated by him as one prominent cause of his inability to enlist and organize an efficient body of men for the service required. The nature of that service palpably required that a large share, at least, of the sheriff's guard should be mounted, and it is scarcely possible that any moderate number of men could have made him an efficient posse, all serving on foot.
"In the face of these facts, I cannot entertain a doubt that the testimony presented brings the case fully within the provisions of the 19th section of the act of the 15th of April last; that the execution of civil or criminal process has been forcibly resisted in the county of Delaware: that combinations to resist the execution of such process by force do exist in that county; that the power of the county has been exerted within the true intent and meaning of the act, and that it is not sufficient to enable the officers of the county having such process to execute the same.
"I do therefore, hereby, in conformity with the provisions of the said 19th section of the said act, proclaim and declare the county of Delaware to be in a state of insurrection, according to the provisions, and true intent and meaning of the act of the legislature of this State, entitled 'An act to enforce the laws and preserve order,' passed 15th April, 1845.
"In making this declaration, it becomes my duty to draw the particular attention of all the citizens of the State, and especially the citizens of Delaware and the adjoining counties, to the provisions of the 20th section of the act referred to.
"Any person who shall, after the publication of this proclamation, resist, or assist in resisting, the execution of legal process; or who shall aid, or attempt, the rescue or escape of any prisoner from lawful custody or confinement, or who shall resist, or aid or assist in resisting, any force ordered out by the governor, in the county of Delaware, is, by this section of the law, upon conviction of either of these offences, to be adjudged guilty of a felony, and punished by imprisonment in the State Prison for a term not less than two years.'
"It becomes my further duty to invoke the especial and earnest attention of all civil and military officers of the State to this proclamation, to the provisions of the two acts of the legislature particularly referred to in it, and of the responsible duties it devolves upon them. They are the guardians of the law for the people of the State, whom they have been appointed to represent and serve. They have been selected to expound, administer and execute the law, and they have solemnly sworn that they will faithfully discharge the duties of their respective offices, according to the best of their abilities.
"To such officers within the county of Delaware, and the surrounding counties, this appeal comes with peculiar force. It is to enforce the law in their immediate neighborhoods that the aid of the State is invoked. Around and among them the spirit of insurrection, of combined and organized resistance to the law, prevails and shows itself. The discharge of their whole duties, and the faithful redemption of their official oaths, are demanded alike by patriotic feeling, moral duty, and a plain sense of personal justice; and especially, if any one among their number, holding a public trust, and resting under the obligations of that oath, shall become lost to a just sense of his duty to himself and his State, and shall yield to the insurrectionary influences around him, it is incumbent upon them, while they boldly detect and expose and bring to justice the delinquent, to show by their better conduct and example, that our free institutions are not to be surrendered for a state of disorder, and violence, and crime, and murder, even though some few of their constituted guardians should not be proof against such delusion.
"To the freeman of the State I can make no stronger appeal than is presented in the simple narration of facts I have set forth. These facts show the regular progress to its result in crime and blood of every attempt to set aside the regularly constituted tribunals of civil society, organized for the protection of personal rights and the redress of personal wrongs, - to make might the measure of right between citizen and citizen. Masks and disguises are never assumed to protect men in the performance of acts toward their neighbors, which the judgement and the conscience approve; and no other acts will promote the peace, order or prosperity of society, or the happiness, or true interest of him who performs the action. Secret oaths are only administered to add to the protection of the masks, when the conscience proclaims that he who is trusted to look behind the mask may be as dangerous as he who looks upon it; that the danger is in the truth, and is to be apprehended from all who can tell it. When the mind becomes so deluded as to rely upon protections like these, and to act from the prompting which a sense of security of this character, if indulged, will never fail to engender, high crimes are the certain fruit, and the charm of the protection vanishes only when the guilt is incurred. The intelligent freeman of our State will not seek to change their peaceful and happy and prosperous institutions, the fruit of the toil and blood of our Revolutionary fathers, for a government resting upon such a basis and producing such fruits. Justice is the emblem of their government, and her light is truth.
"To the tenants who disapprove of this disguised and armed force, and have refused to give their aid or countenance to its organization and action, - and they are believed to constitute a numerous and influential body of men, - the present presents a peculiarly appropriate occasion to make more distinctly their separation from proceedings which cannot fail to be fatal to a good cause, and to prejudice good men. If they feel that the tenures by which they hold their farms are onerous; not in accordance with the genius of our institutions, or the spirit of our people; and that they ought to be changed to freehold; let them see, and feel also, that the natural sympathies of the great body of our freeholders must be with them in these impressions, and that the sure way to avert these sympathies is to attempt to accomplish a worthy end by unworthy means. Let them remember that their present tenures have resulted from voluntary contracts, freely entered into between themselves, or their worthy ancestors, and the landlords from whom they hold; and that the readiest, if not the only way, to make the change they desire, is by a contract equally voluntary between themselves and those same landlords. Let them be assured that, if they fulfil their contracts hitherto, and offer terms of commutation of their titles, which are just, and which appear to be so to fair and impartial minds, and enlightened public opinion will bring about the acceptance of such terms by the landlords.
"To the proprietors of these leasehold estates, the landlords of these tenants, the present crisis should not be without its lessons of wisdom. Indefensible as have been the attempt to repudiate their solemn contracts, and to wrest from them by force the remedies secured to them by the constitution and the laws for breaches of those contracts, they should not fail to see, at the foundation of these lawless proceedings, a rapidly growing dissatisfaction at the perpetuation of tenures, not in accordance with those by which the great body of the lands of our country are held, and not consonant with the feelings of our people. - And, while the power of the State must and will be exerted to enforce the law, protect private rights, preserve the peace and order of society, give security to the life of the citizen, and prevent the prevalence of anarchy and violence, so far as it rests in their power they should be ready to remove the causes of like troubles for the future, by a prompt and liberal arrangement of arrears of rent, whenever an opportunity shall offer; and, by tendering generous terms to the tenants, upon which they will change the tenures to fee simple titles, put an end for ever to this perpetual relation of landlord and tenant, - a relation already so fruitful of anything but peace and prosperity to either of the parties. Even if it shall become necessary to employ the military power of the State to enforce the law, as connected with their peculiar interests, they should be prepared, upon all occasions and under all circumstances, to show to the public that it is no part of their object to be benefited in their pecuniary interests, by the misfortunes or the faults of their ill-advised and misguided tenants; but that they are ready to consider, generously, the ability and the means of each tenant to pay, and, even if a coerced sale of his property must be the only rule of settlement, that they are prepared to become liberal purchasers at such sales.
"To the disguised men themselves, and to those less worthy than they, who press them forward into the danger from which they themselves shrink, I have only to say that wrong acts never serve even a good cause; that persistence in crime cannot mitigate the heavy weight upon the mind and conscience of the first crime; and that no disguises are perfect enough to protect the heart from the eye of Him who sees it thoughts and intents.
"For the sake of the character of our State and of our people, as well as for the peace and prosperity and harmony of society, I earnestly hope the day may not be distant, when I may be called upon to discharge another and a far more pleasant duty, under a provision of the same law under which I now act, by revoking this proclamation.
"Yet the law must be enforced. Our institutions must be preserved. Anarchy and violence must be prevented. The lives of our citizens must be protected, and murder must be punished. And when that portion of our citizens who, now transported by passion and led away by singular delusions, are ready to strike down the law and its ministers, shall become convinced that a different course is alike the part of wisdom and of duty, and shall again submit themselves to the laws of the State, then, and not before, can I expect to be permitted to perform that more pleasing duty.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto affixed the Privy Seal of the State. Witness my hand, at the city of [L.S.] Albany, this twenty-seventh day of August, in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-five. "SILAS WRIGHT."
The same day the proclamation of Gov. Wright, was received by mail in Delhi, Adjutant General Farrington, with instructions to superintend the organization of an armed force, also arrived from his residence in Oswego. The same evening two companies of volunteers were formed, elected their officers, reported themselves to the Adjutant General, and were formed into a separate battalion of light infantry. Benjamin T. Cook of Franklin, was elected captain of the first company, William Buckingham, of Harpersfield, lieutenant, and Angus Mc Donald, Jr., of Stamford, ensign.
The second company elected John R. Baldwin, of Stamford, captain, Thomas E. Marvine, of Walton, lieutenant, and Palmer L. Burrows, of Tompkins, ensign.
Thomas Marvin, of Walton, was unanimously elected major of the battalion, whose experience and judgement rendered him peculiarly fitted for the station. A correspondent writes as follows:
"The company of light infantry under the command of Captain Bolles, of the one hundred and fifty-first regiment, has been ordered to active service and report themselves to Major Marvine at this place.
"Col. Horton, of the sixty-ninth regiment, and Col. North, of the one hundred and fifty-first regiment, have been ordered to hold their respective commands in readiness to answer any call that may be made for additional force, should it be deemed necessary."
The next evening, the light infantry company, from Unadilla, under the command of Capt. Bolles, arrived and reported themselves to Major Marvine. The company was composed mostly of young men, who with a little drilling made excellent soldiers.
A correspondent of this date writes as follows:
"Major Marvin has now three hundred efficient and well-armed men; one hundred of whom are well mounted, ready to assist the sheriff in the execution of any process required, and to guard the jail and prisoners. This force, it is believed, will prove sufficient to answer the purpose intended, and we hope the necessity will not exist a great while for this or any other force. If those who have heretofore favored the anti-rent associations, will read the proclamation of Gov. Wright, with calmness and candor, they must be convinced of the utter impossibility - and the injustice - of standing out against the power of the State.
"After completing the organization, Adjt. Gen. Farrington left on Monday afternoon, on his return to Oswego."
Small companies were constantly kept out scouring the infected districts, in search of those who had either abetted or assisted in any of the outrages connected with the history of the disturbance for the past year. Almost every day additions were made to the number of prisoners, and in the course of a few weeks the county jail was completely filled, and it was found necessary and expedient to erect two temporary log buildings, to accommodate the increasing demand.
The following extract is from a letter dated September 2nd:
"A large number of troops have been out to-day, getting out logs to make two log- prisons. They are to be about twenty-five feet square, and very roughly constructed. Their erection becomes necessary, as the Common Pleas and General Session sits here next week, and the court-room is now occupied by some twenty-five prisoners, and the jury-rooms by some eight or ten more. The jail is full to overflowing."
The September term of the Court of common Pleas and General Sessions of Delaware county, commenced on the 8th instant. The Court of General Sessions did not close until the 20th instant, up to which time the whole number indicted for violation of law, for being disguised, armed, &c., was two hundred and forty-two.
The Circuit Court and Court of Oyer and Terminer, commences its session on the 22nd instant, his Honor, Judge Parker, presiding.
The following individuals were sworn, and composed the Grand Jury, to wit: Orrin Griffin, foreman; Fitch Ford, Gorsham H. Bradley, Platt Townsend, John Sextell, David M. Smith, James W. Knapp, Daniel S. Smith, Samuel S. Scudder, Warren Dimmick, Amasa Birch, John Hammond, Abraham Shell, Reuben S. Smith, Milton Bostwick, Edwin J. Smith, Aristarchus Blish, Gabriel S. Mead, Edmund Crooker, Novatus Blish.
After an able and lucid charge from Judge Parker, in which he dwelt at length upon the history and origin of the anti-rent troubles in the county - concluding by impressing upon them the imperative duty of prompt and fearless action as the only method of restoring peace and quiet, they retired to their room.
In the course of his charge he thus depicts the demoralizing effect upon the society and best interests of the county:
"I regret to say that in all the disorder and violence exhibited in this State, this county has occupied a prominence lamentable in the extreme; and I should suppose that the deplorable effects that are evident upon the state of things here amongst you, would restrain all from engaging hereafter in such transactions. But one year since I saw your county in a most flourishing condition-your green hills and beautiful valley bore upon their face evidence of prosperity hardly to be found elsewhere. It was a flourishing county, even under the leasehold system, and no county had gone forward more rapidly than this in the acquisition of wealth and enjoyment of social happiness. The contrast that is now presented is most deeply to be regretted. In portions of your county I am told that the crops have not been harvested. Although heaven has continued its blessings upon the labor of the husbandman, yet the husbandman-having in an evil hour been led to the commission of crime, having listened perhaps to foreign lectures, and having been thus induced to place himself in an attitude of hostility to the law-has fled, and left his crops to perish.
"And here the contrast is equally striking. In a community where but little crime was manifested, hundreds are now crowding your jail, awaiting trial - many of them, I regret to say, for a capitol offence. It is surprising that in a government like ours, things of this kind should exist; that a portion of the people be warring against their own government-for it is here a government strictly of the people. If errors in legislation have been committed, you have the power to correct them. You can give government a right direction. An yet,strange as it seems, you find a portion of the people placing themselves in open rebellion against that government, refusing to enjoy the rich blessings purchased by the blood of their fathers, and placing themselves in a position to destroy all the institutions that have thus far blessed them. This is indeed greatly to be regretted. There never can be in a free government, a government of the people, either necessity or excuse for treason. If there be anything wrong, the ballot-box is the place where redress is certain. The power is the peoples' own. But it must always be peacefully exerted-never by force."
Our space will hardly permit us to dwell in detail upon the trial of the different prisoners-suffice it to say that they resulted in two convictions for murder, four were sentenced to the State Prison for life, and thirteen for a term of years. The follow prefatory remarks and sentences of the two prisoners convicted of murder is from the Albany Argus:
"Long before the hour to which the court stood adjourned, person began to flock in. Many little groups were collected around the court room, speculating upon the nature of the various sentences that were soon to be passed; and many with eager countenances were inquiring, whether those found guilty of murder would be hung. Sometime before the bell rang for the court to convene, the room was filled to overflowing; and many an anxious face and palpitating heart were there.
"At 10 o'clock Judge Parker took his seat on the bench and ordered the sheriff to bring up John Van Steenburgh. The prisoner being brought up, Judge Parker addressed the prisoner in substance as follows:-
"'John Van Steenburgh-You have been convicted of the murder of Osman N. Steele. Have you anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?"
"The prisoner, with some emotion, replied:'all that I can say is I am not guilty.'
"Judge Parker.-'The court entertain no doubt of your legal guilt. You were one of more than two hundred men present, disguised and armed, when Steele was murdered. There is suspicion that you fired your gun. It is a painful duty that devolves upon us, but we discharge it without hesitation or fear. You have had a fair trial. You have forfeited your life. You have but a short time more to live - to prepare yourself for eternity. During that time your friends will be permitted to see you; they will see that you have religious instruction. Your fate is an awful one. The sentence of the law is, that on the twenty-ninth day of November next, you be taken from your confinement to the place of execution, and there hung by the neck until you are dead.'
"The prisoner said:'will you allow me to say a few words?'
Judge Parker: 'It will be as well for you to confer with your counsel.' "The prisoner was then remanded, and the sheriff brought up Edward O'Connor.
"Judge Parker then addressed the prisoner as follows:-
"'Edward O'Connor. You have been found guilty of the murder of Osman N. Steele-have you anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?'
"Prisoner.-'I am innocent.'
"Judge Parker.-'Upon that subject there is no doubt: you have had a fair and impartial trial. You were one of two hundred disguised and armed men present when Steele was murdered. You are clearly guilty of murder in law, if you did not fire. A most painful duty devolves upon the court. I have known you and your family for years. You are intelligent-you have had advantages-you should have appreciated them. You were just entering upon the duties of life. We have a most painful duty to discharge; nevertheless we are ready to do it. You have but a few days to live. You should prepare for eternity. You will have time to reflect. It is not the murder of Steele only that you are guilty of, but the laws themselves have been violated. An awful fate awaits you. You will have an opportunity to see your friends, and will also have religious counsel if you desire it. The sentence of the law is, that on Saturday, the twenty-ninth day of November next, you be taken from your confinement to the place of execution, and there be hung by the neck until you are dead.'
"The prisoner remarked, as he turned to be conducted back to jail-'I die innocent; remember that, my friends,'" The court finally adjourned, after a prolonged session of about three weeks, having accomplished a great amount of business. All agreed in awarding great credit to Judge Parker, for the uniform calmness and decision preserved throughout th trials of the prisoners. Indeed, his integrity and honor were so highly appreciated by all parties, that even the prisoners, many of them, preferred throwing themselves upon his mercy to risking the verdict of a jury.
During the trials, the court-house and jail were strictly guarded by an efficient force. A rumor was circulated during the trials, that a numerous body of disguised Indians, many of whom were from adjoining counties, were collecting in the vicinity of the village of Bloomville, preparing to make a descent upon the village and rescue the prisoners, as soon as their strength became sufficient. And these rumors were not altogether groundless, as facts afterward elicited went to show. A plan of attack had been concerted, but owing to the guarded condition of the village, it was not deemed expedient to risk an engagement. The following attempt upon the life of one of the picket guard, was published at the time: "Between eight and nine o"clock, on Tuesday evening of last week, considerable excitement was created in the village, by the report that one of the picket guard (Mr. Claghorn, of Masonville,) had been fired upon, a short distance this side of Mr. Wright's, on the opposite side of the river. The night was very dark and rainy, and hearing a slight noise, he stopped his horse, while his companion advanced a short distance, both listening to ascertain the cause; and while Mr. C. Was in the act of pulling the skirts of his overcoat to cover his holsters, for the purpose of keeping them dry, he was fired upon; the ball passed throught the skirts of his coat, so near to his hand as to cause a numbness, and the hand to swell.
"Mr. Claghorn remained on the ground to keep a look-out, while his companions made all haste and reported the case to Major Marvine, who promptly dispatched a posse of thirty or forty men, in hopes of being able to obtain some clue to the perpetrator of the foul deed; but the darkness of the night effectually prevented the detection of the assassin. The next morning Major Marvine himself went with others to examine; tracks were plainly seen, and followed through a ploughed field; the track was carefully measured and a pattern taken. It is ardently hoped that some clue may yet be obtained that will lead to the detection of the person guilty of so cowardly and base an attempt at murder.
"At the opening of the court, on Wednesday morning, Judge Parker requested the Grand Jury to come into court. The Judge stated that he had sent for them for the purpose of laying before them the transaction of the night previous, which he did in strong and decided language of condemnation, and exhorting the jury to be vigilant, and use every possible means within their power to ferret out the offender."
Having thus briefly reviewed the causes which led to the late anti-rent disturbance, and glanced at their immediate history, it now becomes our province to draw it to a close. It is but proper, however, to say, that the Governor commuted the sentences of O'Connor and Van Steenburgh to imprisonment for life. A leading journal thus comments:
"It is rare that the public sentiment of all parties is so unanimous in sustaining an executive in one of the most trying and important exercises of constitutional power, as in this instance. The opinion seems almost universal, that the commutation was not only wide, but right.
"We believe that this opinion is not confined to our State alone, but extends elsewhere. We have now before us a letter from a sound and able democratic member of Congress from the east, who writes from Washington:'I rejoice to hear that your Governor has commuted the sentences of Van Steenburgh and O'Connor. It is both wise and right, and must receive the cordial approbation of the people,'" v In the month of December, the Governor was officially informed of the suppression of the insurrection, and the declaration "declaring the county in a state of insurrection," was revoked. The worst stages of anti-rentism had now passed, and those who had shrunk with fear before the dark clouds of political discord, and faltered in their confidence in the stability of a peoples' government, now saw in the dim distance of the future, the sure triumph of those principles.
So far as the principle of anti-rentism existed in its purity, as a question of right and wrong, so far as the validity of the manorial titles was brought in question, so far as legal and persuasive means would prove effectual, we have ever deemed it a privilege and a duty to raise our voice uniformly on the side of the oppressed against the oppressor. But when we behold an infatuated and infuriated mob, disguised as Indians, regardless of law, determined, by force, to make all things subservient to the consummation of their own ends, without truth, reason or justice on their side, shaming, by conscious guilt, to bare their features-the impress stamp of heaven, to the light of day-concealing them beneath the well-known covering of another species, to render them impregnable against the shafts of recognition; here our co-operation terminates, and we must henceforth regard them with pity for their errors, as the lamentable victims of the machinations of a diseased and erroneous imagination. We should review with careful candor their mistaken policy and notions, and learn from their practical example that, although error may flourish for a time, and even seem to overshadow the principles of juctice, yet without any stable foundation, it falls at last by the weight of its own superstructure, and its retainers and supporters become the wanton victims of their own cupidity. The result which, in this instance, placed the finishing touch upon that sad picture, the final triumph of truth over error, can but strengthen our faith in the tenacity with which Americans still adhere to the principles of our free institutions-a fixed and nerving principle, graven deep in the heart, a stream deep and pure, which, although its surface may become ruffled by the breath of discord-although for a time its noble destiny may seem perverted and forgotten-yet it possesses a principle which, in the end, will work its signal triumph.