The Story of Cole Younger – 22 Amnesty Bill Fails

cowboy pictureThe killing of Lull, Daniels and Whicher within a single week was undoubtedly exasperating to the head of the Pinkerton agency, and had he not been personally embittered thereby he probably would not have avenged it so terribly.

In the next January, 1875, a posse of Pinkerton men and others, guided by Daniel H. Asker, a neighbor of the James boys, proceeded to their home near Kearney and threw a bomb into the house where the family was seated. An eight-year-old half-brother of Frank and Jesse was killed, their mother, Mrs. Samuels, had one arm torn off, and other members of the family were more or less injured. But Frank and Jesse were not taken.

There had been a feeling among many people in the state even before that these detectives were unjustly pursuing some of the Confederate soldiers, and I have been told since that Gov. Silas Woodson was on the eve of interfering with Pinkerton’s men when news came that two of them had been killed in an encounter with John and Jim Younger.

At any rate the death of the innocent little Samuels boy made still more pronounced this feeling against the operations of the detectives, and in favor of the members of the Confederate army who had been outlawed by Fremont, Halleck, Ewing and the Drake constitution, ungenerously, to say the least.

This feeling found definite expression shortly after the raid on the Samuels home in the introduction of a bill in the Missouri legislature offering amnesty to the Younger and James brothers by name, and others who had been outlawed with them by proclamation, from all their acts during the war, and promising them a fair trial on any charge against them arising after the war.

The bill was introduced in the house by the late General Jeff Jones, of Callaway county, where my brothers and myself had many friends, and was, in the main, as follows:

“Whereas, by the 4th section of the 11th article of the Constitution of Missouri, all persons in the military service of the United States or who acted under the authority thereof in this state, are relieved from all civil liability and all criminal punishment for all acts done by them since the 1st day of January, A.D. 1861; and,”

“Whereas, By the 12th section of the said 11th article of said constitution provision is made by which, under certain circumstances, may be seized, transported to, indicted, tried and punished in distant counties, any confederate under ban of despotic displeasure, thereby contravening the Constitution of the United States and every principle of enlightened humanity; and,”

“Whereas, Such discrimination evinces a want of manly generosity and statesmanship on the part of the party imposing, and of courage and manhood on the part of the party submitting tamely thereto; and,”

“Whereas, Under the outlawry pronounced against Jesse W. James, Frank James, Coleman Younger, James Younger and others, who gallantly periled their lives and their all in defense of their principles, they are of necessity made desperate, driven as they are from the fields of honest industry, from their friends, their families, their homes and their country, they can know no law but the law of self-preservation, nor can have no respect for and feel no allegiance to a government which forces them to the very acts it professes to deprecate, and then offers a bounty for their apprehension, and arms foreign mercenaries with power to capture and kill them; and,”

“Whereas, Believing these men too brave to be mean, too generous to be revengeful, and too gallant and honorable to betray a friend or break a promise; and believing further that most, if not all of the offenses with which they are charged have been committed by others, and perhaps by those pretending to hunt them, or by their confederates; that their names are and have been used to divert suspicion from and thereby relieve the actual perpetrators; that the return of these men to their homes and friends would have the effect of greatly lessening crime in our state by turning public attention to the real criminals, and that common justice, sound policy and true statesmanship alike demand that amnesty should be extended to all alike of both parties for all acts done or charged to have been done during the war; therefore, be it”

Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein, That the Governor of the state be, and he is hereby requested to issue his proclamation notifying the said Jesse W. James, Frank James, Coleman Younger, and James Younger and others, that full and complete amnesty and pardon will be granted them for all acts charged or committed by them during the late civil war, and inviting them peacefully to return to their respective homes in this state and there quietly to remain, submitting themselves to such proceedings as may be instituted against them by the courts for all offenses charged to have been committed since said war, promising and guaranteeing to each of them full protection and a fair trial therein, and that full protection shall be given them from the time of their entrance into the state and his notice thereof under said proclamation and invitation.”

It was approved by Attorney-General Hockaday, favorably reported by a majority of the committee on criminal jurisprudence, but while it was pending Farmer Askew, who had piloted the detectives in their raid on the Samuels residence, was called to his door at night and shot and killed by unknown parties.

The bill was beaten, Democrats and Confederate soldiers voting against it.

For myself, the only charge against me was the unwarranted one of the killing of young Judy during the war, but the failure of the bill left us still under the ban of outlawry.

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