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In the editorial controversy which followed, the motives of each party to the debate were pointedly called in question. "The Enquirer," said the Wisconsin Whig,' “appears to be particularly hostile to Mr. Vineyard; there must be some cause for the course of this paper, other than the death of Mr. Arndt; and the malicious attempt of that print to prejudice public opinion against Mr. Vineyard is worthy of a man of the most narrow soul and fiendlike disposition, and we trust that the people who read the editorial remarks of the Enquirer will not be biased by them, but will let the facts develop themselves in due course of law." The Madison Express thus paid its respects10 to the Milwaukee Sentinel, which was edited by Harrison Reed: "It is painful to us, and doubtless to every feeling heart, and must be doubly so to the associates and relatives of all parties concerned to have this matter [the killing of Arndt] brought before the public week after week. We did not believe at first, nor do we now believe it a fit subject for newspaper discussion. But there appear to be persons who, vampire-like, are thirsting for the blood of the survivor, and who assail everyone who does not join with them in their cry for blood. Among these bloodhounds is Harrison Reed, senior editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Judas who suffered his press to be sold to the opposition. This person in an article in his paper undertakes to censure the conduct of Col. Field and Hon. Moses M. Strong for consenting to take up on the part of the defense. The facts of the case are now, we presume, all before the public, and we believe no one with a heart less black than that of the senior editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Farmer will call it a crime of the first magnitude, nor wish the prisoner to come to trial without the aid of counsel.'
No file of the Whig is known to be in existence. The quotation here presented is copied from a reprint in the Madison Express, February 19, 1842.
10 Madison Express, February 26, 1842.
To these broadsides the editors who were their objects replied with equal vigor. "May a member of the legislature," asked the editor of the Enquirer, "in a legislative hall, in the presence of the whole Council and its officers, at high noon for an assault which could not have endangered life or limb, be shot dead upon the spot without a mark of disapprobation from the public press? While we remain connected with it we say no Never! Never, while we have the direction of a public journal, may we become deaf to the cry of a brother's blood. Never may we become so dead to the sympathies of human nature and the claims of bleeding humanity as to refuse to condemn a deed of darkness which might well spread horror and gloom over a whole nation, for the sake of saving the feelings (?) or shielding from justice the blood-guilty wretch who has thrown himself out of the pale of virtuous sympathy."
"The Express," said the Sentinel, “in consequence of a personal pique against Mr. Arndt, refuses to notice the fact other than as a 'melancholy affair' which was undergoing judicial investigation! The Editor of the Express is the printer for the Council and claims to be the organ of the Whigs here, but in this thing he has shown himself unworthy of the name of man and has called down upon his head the condemnation of the respectable of all parties here, for the niggardly spirit manifested in refusing to condemn this outrage.
The legal proceedings over the prosecution of Vineyard were as tedious as the newspaper discussion was spirited. The coroner's inquest over the body of Arndt merely found that he had come to his death as the result of a pistol wound inflicted by James R. Vineyard. A hearing before Justice-of-the-Peace Seymour followed, resulting in Vineyard's commitment to jail on a charge of murder. He had secured able counsel in the persons of Moses M. Strong of Mineral Point and Alexander P. Field, secretary of
the Territory. Through their efforts a writ of habeas corpus was applied for before Judge Dunn of the Iowa County circuit; that official granted the application and admitted Vineyard to bail in the sum of twenty thousand dollarsten thousand as principal and ten thousand as surety. At the May term of the district court for Dane County an indictment for manslaughter was returned by the grand jury, and on application of Vineyard's attorneys the case was continued to the November term of court. At this term the case was again continued until the May term of 1843. Then, fifteen months after the killing of Arndt, application for a change of venue was made, and granted by the court. In October following, the case finally came to trial before Judge David Irvin at Monroe; when given to the jury that body promptly rendered a verdict of acquittal, and the prosecution of Vineyard for the slaying of Arndt was at an end.
The news of this outcome of the trial provoked a fresh storm of editorial disapproval throughout the northern and eastern portions of the Territory. Every step in the course of the long-drawn-out judicial proceedings was sharply called in question, and charges of bribery and miscarriage of justice were openly made. "So far as a legal decision can exculpate deeds of atrocity and blood," wrote the editor of the Milwaukee Democrat, "and vindicate the character of the man who perpetrates them, Vineyard is to pass in community as a man whose character is unimpeachable. But it will be in vain for him, or for those bribed and perjured friends of his, who have, to screen him, enacted this perversion of law-this mockery of justice-this contempt for the feelings of an outraged community, to attempt to wash out the blood of that foul assassination, or to stifle the cry of that blood for retribution. . . . Our horror at the deed is hardly greater than our astonishment, and indignation, and shame, at the thought that in such a case, and with
the facts in the case so fully known and so notorious, a jury could yet be found in our community capable of pronouncing a verdict of acquittal. They have taken the unenviable responsibility of fastening upon our Territory the reputation, at home and abroad, of having connived at this work of assassination; and that in the most deliberate and formal manner, in their official capacity, and while sworn faithfully to bring a decision according to the evidence of facts in the case."
In similar strain was the comment of the Racine Advocate, edited by Marshall M. Strong, one of the most brilliant men of his day in Wisconsin. "This murder," he wrote in reviewing the case, "was perpetrated in the upper house of the territorial legislature, almost during its session, in open day before twenty witnesses, by one of the highest elective officers of the Territory. The criminal is first permitted to go at large on bail, then indicted for manslaughter, and finally acquitted of that even by a jury. This will forever remain a foul blot upon our Territory. We do hereby, and shall at all times pronounce the transaction murder. We enter our protest against the decision of the Court and Jury; and we hope that Vineyard, although he has escaped the legal punishment due to his crime, will never escape the effect of public opinion and the public abhorrence of this bloody tragedy."
More scathing even, was the disapproval expressed by Louis P. Harvey, editor of the Southport American and a future governor of Wisconsin. Reviewing the proceedings, he concluded: "Every circumstance, from the commencement to the conclusion of this farce in the shape of a prosecution, has pointed to this result. But the court that has thus wiped the stain of guilt from an acknowledged criminal, has left marks of disgrace upon itself that time cannot efface."
More than one critic stressed the charge that the trial of Vineyard disclosed the existence of two brands of justice
in Wisconsin, one for the poor and friendless, the other for the rich and influential. "It was a short time after this occurrence [the killing of Arndt]," said the Southport Telegraph, "that one Coffee, in Iowa County, for provocation, took the life of a fellow-mortal. He was poor and friendless-mark the result. At the next term of the court he was sentenced to be hung by the neck until he was dead, and without delay the sentence of the court was carried into effect. James R. Vineyard, with a weapon procured for some special purpose, after provoking a conflict with an unarmed man, shot him dead. He was rich and respectable-mark the result. He now walks abroad with the honest and upright citizen. Is it strange under the circumstances we have no mob law?"
"At the time of the commission of the act," wrote one who signed himself “An Old Citizen of Brown" in the Green Bay Republican," "there was no law in existence for the removal of criminal cases, which would reach this case, but one was passed by the legislature, and the case is removed to Green County; and there remains untried until October, 1843, nearly two years after the commission of the crime!! In the meantime other crimes are punished; other murderers, who have taken human life under circumstances less atrocious and more justifiable, are tried, convicted, and executed, within a few months, and but a short distance from the scene of the 'Madison tragedy.' But others had not the standing in society which Vineyard had!! The other unfortunate was destitute of friends, and perhaps was without property and money. Moreover, he belonged not to the highest branch of the legislature, and took not the life of his victim in the legislative hall and in the sight of his fellows! No! Unfortunately he was in the lower walks of life, and killed his opponent in a tavern brawl!!"
11 I am disposed to think that the author of this letter was Morgan L. Martin, who was a member of the Council from Brown County at the time Arndt was killed.