Death of Senator James H. Lane
(22 June 1814 - 11 July 1866)
Kansas in the Sixties, 1911:
A few of the old guard, who had been playing politics as a profession, and
proclaiming war to the knife and the knife to the hilt, when the enemy was
at a distance, were still in the saddle. They suddenly discovered, after the
fighting was all over and Lee had surrendered, that they were really mad,
and it seemed for a while as though nothing would restrain them from an
indiscriminate massacre of what was left of the Confederate troops.
According to their notion of warfare, the soldiers who had been at the
front, fighting for four years, had failed ignominiously in completing their
work. "Nary Rebel should they have left to tell the tale." But by degrees
their wrath subsided; and the next heard of them was that the whole bunch -
thirteen in all - were candidates for Governor.
A new enemy had appeared on the political field, Andrew Johnson was then
President, and his policy on reconstruction did not suit them. His home was
in the South, where slavery had existed before the war, and while he had
been a staunch Union man and always opposed to slavery, he had positive
ideas as to what the political status of the Freedmen should be.
On the eighteenth of March, 1866, a Bill entitled "An Act to protect all
persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means of
their vindication," was passed by Congress and transmitted to the President
for his approval. This bill, among other things, declared all persons of
African descent, born in this country, to be citizens of the United States,
and conferred upon such persons the right of suffrage. On the
twenty-seventh, for various reasons given, the Bill was vetoed by President
Johnson; and on April 9 it was passed by Congress over the veto. This caused
a breach between the President and the Republican party, which continued to
widen until Articles of Impeachment were preferred against the President by
the House of Representatives.
Senator Jas. H. Lane, of Kansas, voted for this Civil Rights Bill on its
original passage, but voted against passing it over the President's veto,
and that set Kansas on fire against the Senator. Indignation meetings were
held in Lawrence and other important towns, disapproving of his vote on the
veto message. This disapproval of his action in the Senate brought the
Senator home, where he hoped to stay the tide of public sentiment that had
set in against him.
He arrived in Lawrence June 16, but was coldly received by his former
friends. On the eighteenth he made a speech in Topeka and endeavored to
explain his vote and justify his action. On the twentieth he started back to
Washington, but was taken sick at St. Louis and returned to Leavenworth on
the twenty-ninth, stopping with his brother-in-law, General McCall, near
that city. On the first of July he shot himself with a derringer, and died
on the eleventh. Of this tragedy the Leavenworth Conservative said:
"On Sunday evening [July 1], being apparently in comparative good health and
sound mind, Senator Lane rode out with Mr. McCall from the Farm House.
During the time he made excuse to leave the carriage several times,
seemingly having a morbid plan of self-destruction, until, arriving at a
gate, McCall alighted to open it. As the latter reached the gate, Senator
Lane sprang from the carriage, and being then in the rear of it, exclaimed
"Good-bye, Mac!" and immediately fired a pistol, the muzzle being placed in
his mouth. The ball struck the roof of the mouth and emerged from about the
upper center of the cranium, having passed through the brain and almost
perpendicularly through the head. With a convulsive spring into the air, the
Senator fell, apparently lifeless, to the earth. The evidently pulseless
body was immediately placed in the carriage by those accompanying - McCall
and Capt. Adams, a brother of Gen. Lane's son-in-law - and taken to the
house, and surgeons summoned as speedily as possible, who proceeded to make
examinations as to the nature and extent of the wound. At present writing
(12M.) the Senator is still unconscious, and no hopes are entertained of his
Thus ended the life of James H. Lane, who in many ways was a remarkable man.
He was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, June 22, 1814. He was Colonel of the
Third Indiana Infantry in the Mexican War; Lieutenant-Governor of Indiana,
1849; elected to Congress in 1852; came to Kansas in 1855; participated in
the early struggles to make Kansas a Free State; was elected to the United
States Senate in April, 1861, and re-elected in January, 1865. While yet a
Senator he came home from Washington, organized a brigade, and made an
expedition to Osceola, Missouri. But being a United States Senator, and
having no right, as such, to command troops in the field, he retired from
the army at an early date and resumed his place in the Senate.
At his death in 1866, Edmond G. Ross, of Lawrence was subsequently elected
by State Legislature, as Senator James H. Lane's successor.