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Nor is that all. When, with the coming of Draper's successor, relations were strengthened with the state University, a school of Western historians arose whose founder and leader freely admits his indebtedness to the Draper manuscripts. From our state this movement has broadened and extended until the history of the West is recognized as an integral and vital part of American history. The Westward movement has assumed its rightful place in American historiography; new emphasis has been given to the deeds of the frontiersmen; the period of history whose recovery was the vision of one has become the heritage of the
Whatever may be thought of Draper's choice of method, or of his type of scholarship, we must honor his devotion to an ideal and his unselfish services for the cause of history. He himself was a pioneer, breaking fresh trails into an uncharted wilderness. As a pioneer educator and librarian he contributed to our state's institutions; as a pioneer historian of the West he pointed the way for others to follow; as a pioneer collector he stands unrivaled; as a pioneer benefactor he bequeathed to the State Historical Society his most precious treasures. For our "goodly state," as he loved to call it, he has left an enduring legacy, and we now enter into his labors. When the roll of Wisconsin's benefactors shall have been completed and its "house of fame" prepared for the admiration and emulation of its children, there shall be written high on the list the name of the founder of our library and the donor of its great manuscript collection-Lyman Copeland Draper.
WISCONSIN'S SADDEST TRAGEDY
M. M. QUAIFE
In a display case of the State Historical Museum at Madison may be seen a handsomely-flowered vest of a pattern favored by gentlemen three generations ago. Looking at it closely the curious visitor will detect a small hole through the left front of the garment a short distance below the armhole. The tiny aperture affords mute yet eloquent evidence of the saddest tragedy in the political annals of Wisconsin, for through it sped the bullet which found the heart and terminated the life of Charles C. P. Arndt in the Council Chamber of the Territory of Wisconsin on the morning of February 11, 1842.
The flight of eighty years has stilled the passions of that early day as completely as the fatal bullet stilled the heart of Charles Arndt. The obscurity of the grave shrouds the memory alike of slayer and slain, and all the actors who took part in this once-celebrated drama have long since passed from the stage of life. It is at length possible, therefore, to review the story free from passion or prejudice, and from such a review something of interest and instruction may be derived.
Charles C. P. Arndt, the victim, was the son of Judge Arndt, an old and prominent citizen of Green Bay. The younger man was born at Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, October 31, 1811, and came to Green Bay with his parents in 1824. Several years later he returned East to complete his education, graduating from Rutgers College in 1832. He subsequently studied law at Easton, Pennsylvania, where he was admitted to the bar in April, 1835. Returning to his home at Green Bay, he was there admitted to practice 1 Biographical sketch of Arndt, in Wisconsin State Bar Association Proceedings, I, 172-173.
in the courts of Michigan Territory (the Territory of Wisconsin was organized in 1836), and here he established a family and continued in the practice of his profession until his untimely death a half dozen years later. In 1839 he was elected to the Territorial Council, of which his father, Judge Arndt, was also a member, to fill the unexpired term of Alexander J. Irwin.
James R. Vineyard, whose unhappy destiny it was to become the slayer of Arndt, was a native of Kentucky and a prominent resident of the lead mines. He bore an excellent reputation in his community, and in 1838 was elected to represent Grant County in the Territorial Council. Arndt was a northern man and a Whig, while Vineyard was a southerner and a Democrat. Partisan rivalry was keen between the two great parties in those days, and the feeling often assumed manifestations of a distinctly personal and individual character. There was, moreover, a vigorous local rivalry between the mines and Green Bay; yet despite these factors Arndt and Vineyard became close friends. Vineyard was a boarder in Arndt's house for a time, and on the very morning of the killing, the two men were observed in the lobby of the Council Chamber, their arms thrown about each other's shoulders in affectionate attitude, engaged in familiar discourse.
In all this there is no hint of the shocking affray which was about to develop. Its explanation is to be found rather in the manners and ideals of the age to which the actors in the tragedy belonged than in any considerations of a special or personal character. The immediate circumstances which provoked the affray were trivial enough. Governor Doty, between whom and the Territorial legislature much bad feeling existed, had nominated Enos S. Baker to the office of sheriff of Grant County. In the Council, to which
There is a biographical sketch of Vineyard in Memorial Record of the Fathers of Wisconsin (Madison, 1880), 178.
the nomination must go for approval, an intermittent debate over it was waged for several days, in the course of which much ill feeling was manifested. Arndt, a supporter of the Governor, favored the nomination, while Vineyard opposed it. In the course of the debate on Friday forenoon, February 11, a statement made by Arndt was characterized as a falsehood by Vineyard. Feeling ran high, and in this posture of affairs a motion was made to adjourn. Before the presiding officer had announced the result of the vote, most of the members rose from their seats and Arndt and Vineyard resumed their quarrel. Arndt demanded an explanation from Vineyard, and the two men being close together a physical combat seemed imminent. It was averted for the moment, however, by the demands of the presiding officer for order and the separation of the two men by two or three of the members. Arndt moved away from Vineyard's desk some eight or ten feet to the vicinity of the fireplace, and Vineyard remained at his desk until the President announced the adjournment. Arndt thereupon approached Vineyard and demanded to know if the latter had meant to impute falsehood to him in his remarks. Vineyard answered that he had, whereupon Arndt struck him in the face; whether with open or clenched hand is uncertain. Vineyard reeled or drew back a pace and instantly producing a pistol, shot his opponent through the breast. The stricken man fell into the arms of William S. Dering, who held him until he died without uttering a word, perhaps five minutes later.'
The scene of confusion in the Council Chamber which attended this swift tragedy may be more easily imagined
The newspapers of the day contain much about the affair. A manuscript narrative by General William R. Smith, preserved in the State Historical Library, is of first-hand authority. Smith was present at the coroner's inquest in the Council Chamber the day following the killing, the hearing being held with the body of Arndt "still lying where he died, near the fireplace of the chamber," and took shorthand notes of the testimony.
It was commonly believed that Arndt was shot through the heart. No post-mortem examination seems to have been held. Dering, who held the dying man, testified at the inquest that he lived "some eight or ten minutes."
than described. That a serious quarrel was impending was evident to all, and it was this situation, indeed, which had caused the hasty adjournment of the session. Yet it seems apparent that no one, with the possible exception of Vineyard, had anticipated a denouement so swift or with consequences so fatal, else more effective interference would have been interposed by other members to prevent it. Most of all would Judge Arndt, whose bitterness it was to witness his son gasp out his life at his feet, have interposed to save him. But so quickly was the thing done that those who would have interfered to allay the quarrel found themselves too late. Thus, President Collins testified that immediately upon declaring the adjournment, fearing further trouble, he left the chair and went toward the two men. "I heard words pass between them; Arndt struck at, or hit Vineyard. I heard a report of a pistol; Arndt staggered back. . Vineyard observed to me he would not get away. I did not see the Pistol drawn saw the muzzle, the butt was covered by his hand." In similar fashion Charles J. Learned testified: "harsh words passed between Arndt and Vineyard. I went toward them; Arndt approached from his seat towards Vineyard; both [were] excited. I took Arndt and led him to the fireplace; told him it was not time or place to indulge in quarrels. In a moment or two, the House adjourned. On this being announced, or before, Arndt stepped towards Vineyard, and demanded of him in a peremptory tone 'if he imputed falsehood to him, in the remarks he had made?' Vineyard replied, 'he did.' Arndt immediately struck him; I heard a discharge of what I presumed to be a pistol; saw no pistol drawn; do not know who discharged it."
Looking upon the dying man, Vineyard observed that he was sorry for what had been done but it could not be helped now, and turned to leave the room. Someone cried
' William R. Smith, manuscript record of shorthand notes taken at the inquest.