Terry pleads with Boutwell

On the same Saturday, June 28th that Boutwell wrote to the vigilance committee, David Terry managed to have a letter smuggled out of Fort Gunnybags and delivered to Boutwell. In it Terry stated his case. He was an American citizen and a state Supreme Court justice who, on June 21st, had been seized with force and violence by an armed body of men styling themselves as the Committee of Vigilance and taken to their heavily protected and well-armed fort in San Francisco. Since then he had been guarded night and day by armed men who belonged to a powerful organization acting in open rebellion to the laws of the state that they had threatened to subvert by violence and had resisted the execution of a writ of habeas corpus and publicly declared their will the supreme law of the state. He added that while the state of California had made ineffectual efforts to quell the rebellion the vigilantes had already hanged two men and banished many others and some of their members threatened to seize forts and arsenals of the United States as well as their ships of war in the harbor and then secede from the federal Union.

A burning ship in San Francisco, 1853

A burning ship in San Francisco harbor

Terry went on to say that during his imprisonment he’d been handcuffed by the rebels, his friends denied access to him and terrorism had been resorted to in order to get him to resign his office. He informed Boutwell that the vigilantes were ready to try him as a criminal for attempting to resist their authority and for an assault with intent to kill on one of their members while had had acted solely in defense against their assaults on his own life in a public street. He was now in hourly danger of suffering an ignominious death at the hands of these traitors and assassins. Because of this emergency he invoked the protection of the flag of his country and called upon Boutwell to interfere, with all the resources at his disposal, to protect his life from this impending peril. He flattered himself that because of Boutwell’s high character his appeal would receive early and favorable consideration.

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