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It is perhaps impossible at this late day to determine the reasonableness and validity of these complaints. It may be taken for granted that Vineyard's able counselors took advantage of every feature of the slipshod system of administering justice which told in favor of their client. If there was ever any evidence of bribery or perjury it has perished with the records of the trial, and we must, therefore, dismiss these charges from consideration. But even assuming that there was no outright violation of recognized practices, it is not difficult to see that Vineyard's wealth and his political and family influence may still have procured his acquittal.
Such influences would naturally accomplish their ends by indirection, leaving no trace behind for the historian to follow. In one respect adverted to by the "Old Citizen of Brown," however, we find what must be regarded as at least a suggestive coincidence. At the time of Arndt's killing there was no law for the removal of criminal cases applicable to this case. Six weeks later, within a few days after the killer had secured his release from prison on bail, he wrote to Strong, his attorney: "I wish most sincerely that you may not neglect to get a law passed changing venue in criminal cases, as you know the necessity of passing such a law."12 Now Strong was, in addition to being Vineyard's attorney, one of the most astute and influential politicians in the Territory. At the succeeding session of the Legislature (for 1842-43) he was elected president of the Council, and at this session the desired act was passed. 13 13 Toward the end of March it became a law, and in May following, the change of venue which it made possible for Vineyard was taken. Evidently it was this for which counsel had been maneuvering, for with the change
12 Letter of March 21, 1842, in Strong MSS., Wis. Hist. Library. Italics are by the present writer.
13 There was a vehement row going on between the Legislature and Governor Doty during the winter of 1842-43, as one outcome of which there was a regular and a special session of the Legislature. The act in question became a law at the special session.
of venue granted they permitted the case to come to trial at the ensuing term of court.
Of the actual trial I have found but one contemporary description, written by a correspondent of the New York Tribune. The writer, who purports to be a traveler in the West, gives a sufficiently spirited picture of the scene, dwelling particularly upon the conduct of Strong. The jury, he says, from which every man giving outward signs of intelligence was rejected, was such a group as could not have been matched "this side of Botany Bay." Most of the article is devoted to an account of Strong's speech for the defendant. It relates that before commencing the address he had a pitcher of whiskey placed upon the table before him, from which, as he proceeded, he drank long and frequently, so that before the speech was half concluded he reeled to and fro like a drunken man. The truth of this story was denied by Strong, but the incident fixed upon him a colorful sobriquet which he tried in vain to live down, and for years he was known as "the knight of the pitcher."
From the vantage point of eighty years' detachment the Vineyard-Arndt affair is chiefly interesting for the light it sheds upon the ideals and practices of society in pioneer Wisconsin. It is easy now to perceive that Vineyard and Arndt were alike common victims of conditions for which they as individuals had but slight responsibility.
Today it would be inconceivable that a member of Congress or of our state legislature should carry a loaded gun to the sessions and with it, in the heat of sudden anger, blot out the life of a fellow member and friend. In 1842, however, dueling was still a well-known custom in the United States, and personal affrays between men of standing in the community were a recognized feature of life in the lead-mine region of Wisconsin. Vineyard was Kentuckian who had been transplanted to the lead mines,
14 Issue of November 4, 1843.
and neither in Kentucky nor in southwest Wisconsin did society reprobate severely such action as he took in the affray with Arndt. It was several years after this that another transplanted Kentuckian, living in central Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, felt it incumbent upon him to participate in a duel. Less than four years before, the survivor of the tragic Graves-Cilley duel had publicly disclaimed, on the floor of Congress, responsibility for his act. "I am not, and never have been, the advocate of the anti-social and unchristian practice of dueling. I have never, up to this day, fired a dueling pistol.. Public opinion is practically the paramount law of the land; every other law, both human and divine, ceases to be observed; yea, withers and perishes, in contact with it. It was this paramount law of this nation and of this House that forced me, under the penalty of dishonor, to subject myself to the code which impelled me unwillingly into this tragical affair. Upon the heads of this nation, and at the doors of this House, rests the blood with which my unfortunate hands have been stained." A decade after Vineyard killed Arndt at Madison, Senator Foote menaced Senator Benton with a cocked and loaded pistol on the floor of the United States Senate, and several years later still, John F. Potter of Wisconsin won unbounded popularity throughout the North by his proposal to fight a duel with bowie knives.
Coming to the mines, the carrying of concealed weapons was a prevalent practice in this period. 15 A year before the Arndt killing, Charles Bracken, a prominent resident of the mines and a member of the Territorial Legislature, seriously wounded Henry Welch, editor of the Miners' Free Press, in a shooting affray on the streets of Mineral Point. No punishment was meted out in this case, and Bracken even
15 Such a practice, naturally, leaves little by way of direct record for the historian. The editor of the Belmont Gazette stated (November 9, 1836) that the practice of carrying knives and pistols prevailed "to an alarming extent." The editor of the Galena Gazette, decrying the stabbing affrays of the time, stated (January 21, 1837) that almost every man and boy carried a dirk.
had the assurance to write a letter threatening the editors of the Madison Enquirer with chastisement, because of the manner in which that paper had commented on his affray with Welch. It was five years after the Arndt tragedy that Denis Murphy was shot down at Mineral Point, for publicly cowhiding an attorney of that place. A year later still, Enos S. Baker, the very man over the question of whose nomination for sheriff of Grant County Arndt was killed, cowhided Joseph T. Mills at Lancaster, and a few days later, armed with a six-barrel pistol, met Mills, armed this time with a shotgun, and was assisted from the field with several buckshot in his stomach.
We cite these cases, every one dealing with men of standing and leadership, merely by way of illustrating the state of public opinion in the region to which Vineyard belonged. To that opinion his attorneys confidently appealed when they secured the change of venue for their client to Green County. Their confidence was justified by his prompt acquittal even on a mere charge of manslaughter. It was evidenced even more clearly before the trial and while the indictment against Vineyard was still pending, when he offered himself as candidate for the office of sheriff of Grant County and came within a few votes of being elected. A few years later he was elected to membership in the first constitutional convention, and in 1849 to a seat in the Legislature of the new state.
It may be objected that the foregoing contradicts what has been previously said as to the widespread condemnation of Vineyard by the press of the Territory. The contradiction is apparent, merely, rather than real. No paper of the mining region spoke in condemnation of Vineyard or in criticism of the court procedure upon his case. The clamor of criticism and condemnation came wholly from that portion of the Territory which lay without the mines. Between the people of the mines, where Southern stock and
Southern ideals predominated, and those of the eastern and northern counties, which were settled largely by New England and New York stock, was a wide disparity of ideals and habits. The sentiment of the North had been slowly setting against the practice of dueling for many years, when in 1838 the feeling was intensified by the senseless killing of Jonathan Cilley of Maine by William R. Graves of Kentucky. In that duel, George W. Jones of the lead mines, Wisconsin's delegate in Congress, had acted as second to one of the principals; for this he was severely criticized by his constituents in eastern Wisconsin, and this criticism contributed materially to his defeat by James D. Doty when he sought to succeed himself in the delegacy.16 The affray between Arndt and Vineyard illuminates as with a flash of lightning the differing ideals of the mining region and the eastern part of the state with respect to individual combat. To the latter section, Vineyard's act was plain murder, and the actor merited the rope; among the mines the same act was plainly regarded as an incident, regrettable in itself no doubt, which was
16 There is much contemporary newspaper evidence to this effect. Judge Knapp, speaking twenty-five years later, thus summed up the matter: “That election [of Doty to succeed Jones] may be said to have settled the question against dueling, as one of the institutions of Wisconsin, and placed the law-abiding above the chivalry in this state." Wis. Hist. Colls. VI, 374.
An incident of the political campaign of 1840 sheds interesting light upon the question in point. An attack was made upon ex-Governor Dodge, at the moment Democratic candidate for the delegacy to Congress, on the ground that he was addicted to the custom of carrying deadly weapons. In particular it was asserted that on an electioneering visit to Milwaukee he was armed with a bowie knife, the fact being revealed by the chambermaid who cared for his room. For this the Sentinel ridiculed Dodge, and the Courier, defending him, attacked the motives of the opposition editor. Upon this attack the editor of the Sentinel indulged in some illuminating comment: "We should have deemed the knife affair as deserving of but a passing notice, had it not been that we have upon frequent occasions charged ex-Gov. Dodge with the cowardly practice of arming to the teeth when among his friends, and been as often met with denials and charges of falsehood and malevolence from such men as he of the Courier-and that too when they knew our statements to be true. The public mind, in its present refined state, is always ready to condemn such practices-and it was abused and we were vilified to screen Gen. Dodge from contempt." Dodge's apologists did not deny that he had the knife, but they asserted that it was carried for possible use as a camp utensil. For the incident see Milwaukee Courier, July 14, 1841; Sentinel, July 20, 1841; Madison Enquirer, July 28, 1841. The latter, defending Dodge, said: "Gen. Dodge, born and educated in the west, has imbibed the feelings and habits peculiar to it, which in some respects differ from the cold and studied manners of the old states, and it is not a matter of wonder that he should, from a force of habit indulge in the practices so generally countenanced and necessary in a new country."