Henry S. Clubb, The Maine Liquor Law: Its Origin, History, and Results, Including A Life of Hon. Neal Dow (New York: Published for the Maine Law Statistical Society, by Fowler and Wells, 1856).
[Clubb was secretary of the Maine Law Statistical Society. Contains portraits of Dow, Horace Greeley, Rev. John Pierpont, Henry Ward Beecher, Lyman Beecher, and Lucretia Mott. Chapter ten, "The Conspiracy, and Its Failure," pp. 48-65, is the official Dow side of the story. Clubb numbered his paragraphs.]
P. 48: 2. Neal Dow was now again at his
post of honor and of duty, and the secret rumsellers of
Portland - for there were not others [p.49] in the city - soon
began to wince under the keen scrutiny of his withering glance;
for although to the reformer his countenance is full of ardent
enthusiasm and philanthropic zeal, that very enthusiasm is a terror
to evil-doers. There is in the mild sarcasm of that open, intelligent,
and manly face a meaning and determination of purpose which the
rumseller reads at a single glance, and he sees at once that there
is no hope for his traffic under the administration of such a
man. . . .In the disposal of the business of his office . . .
he does not allow the claims of friendship to interfere with those
of justice, and he steadily maintains the even balance of the
. . . . . .
P. 50: 3. Up to this period there had been a municipal court, the judge of which had a permanent appointment, and he being unfavorable to the Maine Law, had frequently given decisions calculated to weaken the power of the law in the city. The friends of temperance, seeing that liquor was being brought into the city and disposed of in violation of law, as a result of this partial court, had resolved to effect a change. A law had been passed in compliance with the wishes of the citizens of Portland abolishing the municipal court, and establishing in its stead a police court. This law came into operation in May, 1855, and Mr. Carter was elected as a judge upon whom the people could depend for enforcement of their laws. The new Liquor Law coming into operation at the same time, the few persons who had commenced the sale of liquors under the jurisdiction of the judge of the old municipal court were brought to justice. They were found to be, without exception, Irishmen, no established American citizen - to their credit be it said - having been known to violate the law. These Irishmen had resorted to various methods to avoid detection; some had even buried the liquors in the earth below high-water mark. The police, under Mayor Dow's direction, discovered the places where the liquors had been concealed, and unearthed them. The police also brought to light various methods of secretly conveying liquors into the city, such as concealing liquor within casks of sugar or flour, or in boxes stuffed round with sawdust, and other smuggling schemes. The open importation of liquors, except for agencies, ceased with the operation of the new law. The sales of liquors became so few and secret under this law that little or nothing could be seen of them.
4. One of the first actions of the city council, after the election, was to order the employment of policemen under quarterly instead of annual engagements, so that any member of that force who should neglect to perform his duty, would be subject to removal at the end of the quarter, without the odium of a dismissal [p. 51] being attached to him. This appears to have had the desired effect of inducing the men thus engaged to be vigilant in the execution of their duty.
5. With a police court and an impartial judge, a mayor whom every body knew would see to the proper execution of the law, and a corporation to sustain him in his course, there is no wonder that there should be a feeling of distress and bitterness of spirit felt by the "old line politicians;" and now all hope of beating down Neal Dow by the usual tactics were destroyed by this last victory [April 1855: Dow = 1896; McCobb = 1829], a new idea appeared to seize this "Honorable Rum Party." They determined by secret conclave to take the first opportunity of raising a mob in Portland, so as to render bloodshed necessary, and then to throw the odium upon Neal Dow, and by that means secure a reaction in the public mind, such as would destroy the influence of Neal Dow and the power of the Republican party. This plot was arranged early in May, and for several weeks Neal Dow was watched as a wild beast watches its intended victim, but with more stealth and less honesty. Neal Dow, however, was guarded; for with all the cry of "rashness" and "impetuosity" which his enemies have raised against him for his prompt manner of doing business, those who know him best know that he is the last man to do any thing without proper legal authority. No opportunity, therefore, occurred for his enemies to accuse him and to seize at a circumstance which appeared likely to cause a riot, they blilndly went to work, thinking to accomplish their purposes, reckless of the consequences.
6. It appears that, pursuant to the thirty-first section of the new Liquor Law, the following orders had been made by the Board of Aldermen:
May 3, 1855
On motion of Alderman Thomas --
Ordered, That the Mayor and Aldermen be authorized and empowered to use the shop under the City Hall, now occupied by Messrs. Waite & Butler, for the accommodation of a City Agency for the sale of alcoholic liquors for medicinal and mechanical purposes, in accordance with law.
At the same meeting the following order was passed:
CITY OF PORTLAND
In Board of Mayor and Aldermen, May 3, 1855.
Ordered, That the Mayor and Aldermen Carleton and Brooks be a committee to arrange for the establishment of a City Agency for the lawful sale of spirituous liquors, wines, etc., for medicinal and mechanical purposes, under the provisions of an act entitled "An act for the suppression of drinking houses and tippling shops," passed at the last session of the Legislature and approved March 16, 1855, and also to propose and report to this Board such rules and regulations as may be necessary for the government of the agent hereafter to be appointed, and such compensation for his services as they may deem suitable.
Read and passed. Attest: Wm. Boyd, City Clerk.
The Mayor, acting as chairman of the committee on which he had been appointed, ordered liquors to the value of $1,600 for the City Agency. It will be seen by reference to the act that the law requires that the mayor should be one of the committee for this purpose, so that it was no unusual course that he should act in this capacity. It soon after became known that a number of barrels of liquor had been received in compliance with the order of the Mayor. The parties to the conspiracy before mentioned thought this a favorable opportunity; but before they could turn it to their purposes, they were obliged to invent a false statement. On Saturday, June 2d, 1855, in professing to give an account of a conversation held between Alderman Ring and Mayor Dow, the State of Maine newspaper contained the following words:
Mr. Mayor Dow replied that he had purchased them [the barrels of liquor]; and in answer to sundry other questions from the same source [Alderman Ring] stated that he paid $1600 for them-that they were private property and did not belong to the city - that they were liable to seizure as being a larger quantity than one man could require for medicinal or mechanical purposes. No appropriation, however, was made for the purchase of the liquors now in Mr. Dow's possession, and he still remains the sole owner.
The invention of the enemy in connection with violent appeals to the passions of the lowest portion of the Irish population who had been deprived by the Maine Law of the opportunity to gratify their love of whisky, and the attacks which had appeared from time to time on the character of Neal Dow in the State of [p. 53] Maine and the Argus newspapers had the desired effect of raising a feeling of hostility. This class of people were thus actually led to believe that Neal Dow hade boght these liquors for his own private speculation and aggrandizement. They therefore determined to seek revenge by taking this opportunity to prosecute the mayor under the very act he had been chiefly instrumental in framing.
7. Accordingly on the afternoon of the same day that the above statement appeared, a man named Royal Williams, in company with two other enemies of the law, appeared at the police court and made affidavit, after some little hesitation, that Mr. Dow had these liquors in his possession, as they had reason to believe, for the purpose of "selling them in the State in violation of the law." . . .There were about fifteen well-known opponents of the Maine Law in the court, showing this was a concerted arrangement. There were also at the court this afternoon three cases of trial for liquor-selling, and as the defendants in every case were Irish, it was an easy matter to excite in the minds of their "countrymen" a desire for revenge. This, then, was an excellent opportunity for the disappointed politicians of Portland to carry our their desperate designs against Neal Dow.
8. The judge issued a warrant as he was legally bound to do after such an affidavit and complaint had been made, and handed it to Deputy-Marshall Ring, who happened to be present at the time, with orders to execute it. It appears that these warrants have always invariably been given either to the city marshal or his deputies in preference to any other officers, because, being on regular salaries, they made out their costs to the city instead of having them accrue to themselves, as would be the case with other officers. By employing the city marshal, therefore, the city treasury is benefited. Notwithstanding this fact the applicants appeared to be greatly dissatisfied at the warrant being given to officer Ring, as it appears they desired that some person who would be more likely to do their bidding instead [p. 54] of acting under the direction of the judge, should receive the warrant. [After Royal Williams was told by the judge that he would be expelled from the courtroom if he continued his "boisterous" protests] The complainants [sic] and their friends soon quietly disappeared. Officer Ring then went to the cellar of the City Hall, where the liquors were deposited, and took possession of them under the warrant. He would have arrested Mayor Dow on Saturday afternoon if there had been time for trial. Williams [the complainant] had suggested to the court that ample time should be given for a trial. As soon as the officer arrived at the City Hall, a large crowd began to assemble around the building with all the demonstrations of disturbance. They were mostly Irish, and active among them were many of those who had been hanging round the court-room in the afternoon. At the fact of officer Ring having the warrant, they manifested the same indignant disappointment which had been displayed by the complainants.
9. It was not thought at the time by the authorities that any movement would be made by such persons beyond an attempt to destroy these liquors by due process of law. The observance of the law, however, was not what they desired. It had only been a plea to raise a disturbance. But late in the afternoon intelligence was communicated to the mayor and aldermen that an extensive combination had been formed, and arrangements had been made to assemble a mob for the purpose of breaking into the City Agency and destroying the liquors therein contained. . . .[p.55] The Mayor and aldermen did not at that time apprehend that any mob would or could be assembled which it would be beyond the power of the ordinary police force to quell; but early in the evening they thought otherwise. The city marshal with a few policemen, some of them with revolvers, and some of them without arms, were directed to enter the room [with the liquors] and defend it to the last extremity; and the rest of the police force were directed to do their utmost among the mob to disperse it, and to identify as many as possible of the active persons composing it. The Mayor and several of the aldermen being at the mayor's office, which is a small new building beside City Hall, in the evening were warned by repeated and urgent messages that the mob was collecting in great force, exhibiting every appearance of savage ferocity. Messages were then sent to the commanding officers of the Light Guards and the Rifle Guards, and a formal demand was made upon them for their assistance, which, for a consideration of money, they had agreed with a preceding administration to render, as an armed police, whenever they should be called upon by the city government for that purpose. Those companies were called together hastily at their armories, and were visited there by the Mayor and some of the aldermen, and formal demand was made upon them for their services and assistance in quelling the mob, as an armed police force, for as citizens in arms, according to their agreement with the city government. The Rifle Guards, first visited, had neither ammunition nor caps; and none suitable, after many efforts and much delay, could be procured in the city. While the officers of the Rifle Guards were actually employed in the effort to procure the necessary munitions, the Mayor and some of the aldermen repaired to the armory of the Light Guards, situated in the third story of the City Hall. The members of the company were there assembled in force, and an appeal was at once made to the captain to form and march out without delay. He also was without cartridges, [p.56] but was told that the appearance of his company in full rank and with determined front and with bayonets would be sufficient. The captain thought otherwise, and declined to expose his command to the fury of the mob without cartridges. During all this time were heard from below the ferocious sounds of the mob, the clatter of stones and other missiles, the rattle of broken glass, and the crash of breaking blinds, shutters, and doors. After some delay cartridges were procured and the muskets were loaded, when about twenty-four men only fell into the ranks with shouldered arms. Again the captain protested against exposing so small a force to the fury of the mob; he did not feel himself justified in so doing, but the reply to him was, that half of them would be sufficient if they were brave and true men. At the word the men marched out, with the captain, Mayor Dow, Aldermen Brooks and Carleton at their head; but some of the number fell out of ranks on the way down the stairs and through the crowd. The Sheriff of the County preceded them in the march, and stepping out in the crowd, commanded the people in the name and by the authority of the State to disperse, assuring them they otherwise would be fired upon. But he was answered only by jeers and savage brawls from the mob. The Sheriff repeated his command several times, and his voice was distinctly heard at the corner of Preble Street.
10. The marshal then gave orders to the police to keep on either side of the door, so as to be out of reach of any stones that might come in, and not to fire their pistols until some one should attempt to enter. In the mean time, the marshal repeatedly cautioned the mob to desist upon peril of their lives, and in the course of the evening they were ordered to disperse by the Sheriff of the County and also by the Mayor. At length, one man who appeared to be a ringleader in the mob came to the door, swearing horrible oaths, and using most insulting and violent language toward the police in the room. He called them "a pack of d_____d cowards," challenged them to fire, and taunted them by saying that they did not dare to fire. Then he harangued the mob, urging them to come on, assuring them that [p.57] there was no danger; that the police were cowards, and had only blank cartridges, and dared not fire upon them if they had. The marshal again warned him upon peril of his life not to attempt to enter the room. But, under his leadership, the mob made a violent rush for the door, which, however, proved too strong for them. The police then fired, but intentionally aimed over their heads, hoping to frighten, and thus avoid the necessity of killing. This checked them for a few minutes; but the same voice was again heard rallying the mob, assuring them that nobody was hurt; that they were "only blank cartridges," etc., etc., and another rush was made for the door, the leader reaching it and attempting to unbar it. The police then fired with effect. The ringleader just referred to, named Robbins, fell dead or mortally wounded close by the door. Prior, however, to this firing by the police, the Light Guards, or a portion of the company, marched through the crowd and took a position in front of the door on Congress Street, when the mob began to pelt them with stones, and several of the soldiers were severely injured. After this the crowd was several times commanded by Mayor Dow also to disperse, with the assurance that otherwise they would be fired upon. Their only reply was with groans, howls, and showers of stones. By these they were pelted incessantly, and some of them badly hurt, while the missiles were falling around in every direction, in their rebound from the walls of the building. Again the captain protested against this exposure of his men to the fury of the mob, and feared some of them would be killed if the order were not given to fire. He was told that they, the authorities and the men, all shared the danger alike. After a little further delay, and another command to the crowd to disperse, which was received as all the others had been, the order was given to the captain to fire by sections from the left. The order was repeated by the commander, and while the arms were at present, the captain asked if he should fire. Mayor Dow replied, "Wait a little." He thought that the order to fire would terrify the mob, but the shower of missiles continued as before, with [p.58] every expression of rage. As soon as the men recovered arms without firing, they began to drop off from the left, two men, badly hurt, being carried off the ground where they lay, by their comrades, until not more than six or eight muskets remained. The captain was assured, as he had been before in the armory, that he would be supported by the Rifle Guards, who were at every moment expected. When his numbers were so greatly reduced, the remaining force filed off around the east end of the City Hall, away from the mob, and marched down Middle Street toward the armory of the Rifle Guards. Near the foot of Free Street they met that company marching up in double files, when they fell in on the right, and the order was given to quicken the step. At this moment Captain Roberts informed Mayor Dow that his rifles were empty, and he had no bayonets; he had not been able to find either balls or caps to fit. Mayor Dow communicated this to the captain of the Light Guards, and instructed him to take the Rifle Guards into his armory, and arm them with his muskets. Hither they accordingly repaired at quick step.
11. On arriving at the armory, an attempt was made to throw difficulties in the way of their taking the muskets, but they were pre-emptorily demanded, and Captain Roberts of the Rifle Guards, immediately upon receiving the order, marched his men into the armory and exchanged his rifles for the muskets. A further delay now occurred in procuring ammunition. A few cartridges were secured which were lying on the table, and a demand was made upon the captain of the Light Guards for those which his men had. A few cartridges only were recovered. In the mean time the roar of the mob, with the rattle and crash of missiles and the occasional volleys of pistol-shots from the police, came up in mingled confusion form below. At this juncture Alderman Libbey came into the armory from the street and said: If any thing were to be done, not a moment should be lost; that the police could not hold out five minutes longer, but would fall a sacrifice to the fury of the mob. The Light Guards were then called out to join the force, and one of them fell into [p.59] the ranks, with two or three other citizens who came forward and volunteered to take muskets, when they all marched down, Mayor Dow sending forward a warning of their coming. They filed down the steps into Middle Street and entered the doors of the Agency on that street, and one of the Guards was struck in the forehead and badly hurt as they entered. The voice of the infuriated mob outside and at the door on Congress Street drowned every other sound; nonetheless they were warned that they would be fired upon, and three or four volleys of four shots each were fired. The gas was then lighted in the store, by which the persons there were exposed to the missiles of the mob, and to protect the members of the Rifle Guards and the police from being struck by these, they were drawn out of the building into Middle Street, the door being open, and the mob on Congress Street was warned that any person attempting to enter would be fired upon, the mob having broken open the doors, which they had been battering for more than two hours. The mob and the armed force maintained this attitude for a considerable time, an occasional stone being hurled through the building from Congress Street. But the greater part of the mob withdrew soon after, and the remainder were driven out of the streets by the bayonet. The firing of the Rifle Guard was at five minutes past eleven o'clock, and the building was attacked as early as half-past eight. Information was brought to Mayor Dow by several persons that the mob had retired with loud threats, and with the intention of procuring arms and returning to the conflict. Messengers were immediately dispatched in different directions with instructions to visit the haunts and purlieus of the rioters, and to bring instant intelligence of any appearance of a new gathering; and in the mean time the authorities hastily prepared for any further duty which might devolve upon them. But the scouts returned with the report that all was quiet.
12. Very soon after the firing from the building the police made arrests of persons who had been active in the riot, and attempts at forcible rescue were made by the mob. One man, physically powerful, collected a squad of followers and waylaid [p. 60] three policemen who were taking a rioter to jail, but the police arrested him and dispersed his followers by exhibiting their pistols.
13. It appears that the mob spirit had been gathering form and force for a month before it broke out, and that it had been stimulated and fostered by men of influence. The project had been known in Portland early in May, in Boston two weeks before its execution, and it was spoken of in Saco, North Yarmouth, Gorham, and Paris on the morning of that day.
14. The ringleader of the mob, who lost his life in it, was a strong and muscular man, a sailor, and had left Boston a day or two before to avoid arrest; he was engaged in the King riot in Portland about five years before. He engaged in this tumult deliberately, having spoken of it in the afternoon, and having refused the advice to keep away from it.
15. All the members of the police, without exception, from the beginning to the end of the affair, were perfectly cool and collected, betraying no symptom of being flurried, and the same is true of the commander and all the members of the Rifle Guards. Every thing on the part of the authorities was done with deliberation as well as with firmness and decision.
16. If that infuriated mob had accomplished
their first object, they would have become mad on the liquors
of the Agency, then setting fire to the remainder would have destroyed
the City Hall, for that purpose was avowed. Then none but God
can know how far their passions would have driven them. It was
the duty of the authorities to uphold the majesty of the law,
and to suppress at any hazard the ferocious mob which sought to
overthrow law and order, and to let loose upon the citizens all
the horrors of anarchy and riot. . . .with the calm bravery that
was manifested by Mayor Dow, Aldermen [p.61] Carleton and Brooks,
it must be conceded that there was neither a want of bravery on
the one hand nor a hasty rashness to the injury of the mob on
the other. Such conduct as was manifested by Mayor Dow and his
fellow-members of the committee would, in a monarchical country,
have been reward by a special mark of favor from the throne.
. . . . . . .
18. Notwithstanding the facts which are here stated, the newspapers of Portland devoted to the rum interest availed themselves of the opportunity to injure the character of Neal Dow to their utmost ability. . . . Their reports . . . were calculated to lead the people of America to suppose that Neal Dow had rashly ordered the firing upon an almost peaceable gathering of citizens. They even went so far as to declare him guilty of the murder of Robbins, and demanded that the law should be executed upon him for his crime! This showed plainly who were the real instigators of the riot, and on whose heads the guilt of the blood spilled must be fixed. [p.62] . . . As the inquest which was held on the body of Robbins returned a verdict which justified the authorities, an enlightened public will know where to attach the responsibility.
. . . . . .
19. A meeting was called by the opponents of Neal Dow on the following Monday, and resolutions were passed condemning his course. They also appointed a committee of nine persons to investigate the affair and to report thereon, and at the same time passed a resolution calling upon him to resign office before their committee could have time to report. This gave additional opportunity for the press to use its influence in defaming Neal Dow's character, by endeavoring to make it appear that the citizens really desired that he should resign. John L. Poor, the editor of The State of Maine, in whose paper statements had appeared which led to this outbreak, was one of the speakers at this meeting.
20. The trial of Neal Dow for having liquors in his possession to "sell in the State in violation of law," took place at the police court on the following Tuesday [June 4]. Hon. W.P. Fessenden appeared for the defense and Hon. Nathan Clifford for the prosecution. After an examination of witnesses on both sides, and the speeches of counsel, the trial came to a conclusion. In reference to the conversation above referred to of Neal Dow and Alderman Ring, the latter testified as follows:
I did not understand from the conversation with Mr. Dow that if he had procured or bought the liquors, he had done it for any other purpose than on account of the city and for the Agency.
The following day, Judge Carter decided that no agency had been established, as no agent had been appointed; but held that the statue did not specify whether the liquor should be purchased before or after the agent is selected, and that as subsequently the liquors were turned over to the city, there was not evidence of criminal intent on the part of the Mayor; so Neal Dow was discharged.
21. Both the coroner's inquest and the
trial at police court [p.63] failing to substantiate any charge
against Mayor Dow, his enemies, exasperated at the defeat of their
plans, determined to institute an inquest of their own. They accordingly
applied to the authorities, and gained permission to view the
body of their departed ringleader. It had been buried in the tombs,
and had been followed there by a procession of about 300 admirers,
and an American flag at half-mast, carried by a sailor. They commenced
an inquiry, with a coroner and jury composed entirely of known
opponents to the Maine Law. The authorities, although refusing
to recognize this as a legal inquest, took care to send a sufficient
number of witnesses to continue the inquiry for at least two weeks.
In the mean time, at the request of Mayor Dow, the Board of Aldermen
ordered an inquiry to be instituted by a committee of citizens
selected without regard to party bias. These two bodies were in
session at the time our manuscript went to press. Whatever verdict
may be rendered by either will be of but little consequence, as
the legal inquest has already pronounced upon the act.
. . . . . . .
[p.64] 23. . . . Neal Dow, on the 9th of June, made a report to the Board of Aldermen of the events of the 2d of June, relating to circumstances in a fair and candid spirit, which report was, by order of the Board, entered on the records of the city as a true and faithful account of the whole proceeding. From this official record, and from facts collected from several other sources, we have compiled the preceding account.