John Robbins, a sailor from Deer Isle, Maine, died on June 2nd 1855 in the Portland Riot. He died of a gunshot wound to the chest. Death was virtually instantaneous. About this all agree. About almost every other detail concerning the riot, such as the activities of the police and other authorities, the motives of the rioters, the role (if any) of Mayor Neal Dow's political opponents in formenting the riot, remain matters of partisan dispute. The Mayor's version appears in chapter 10 of Henry S. Clubb's admiring biography; that of his opponents in the anonymous Review of the Testimony Taken Before The Second Inquest On The Body of John Robbins.
Both are political documents. Neal Dow, newly elected mayor, was a founder of the Republican Party in Maine and played a major role in shaping its 1855 platform which called for the stringent enforcement of his Maine Law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, full civil rights for people of color, and strong measures against the poltical influence of Catholics. Democrats made the Portland Riot and Dow's conduct during it their major campaign issue, denouncing "extremism." When the Democrats won the 1855 statewide elections, Republicans blamed Dow. His influence in the party shrank. Further, the link he had forged between Republicanism and temperance in the form of prohibition shattered.
Here are some initial questions:
1) What evidence did Clubb have for claiming there was a conspiracy of Neal Dow's opponents to organize a riot? How did the anonymous Review explain the gathering of the crowd and their turning to violence?
2) What did Mayor Dow say at the meeting of the Board of Aldermen on May 31st about the purchase of $1600 in liquors?
3) What, according to Clubb, was the role of the Irish in formenting and carrying out the riot? What do you make of the silence of the Review, save for one comment near the end of the excerpt, on this topic?
4) Why didn't Deputy Marshal Ring arrest Mayor Dow on the afternoon of June 2nd?
5) Why didn't the Light Guards fire when the order was given?
6) Was Robbins the person who led the rush to the door of the agency?
7) Why were there two inquests?