Terry gets help from the navy

J Neely Johnson, California governor

Governor J Neely Johnson

On Friday, June 27th, the same day David Terry’s trial began, Governor Johnson wrote to Commander Boutwell, captain of the sloop-of-war John Adams, and explained his position on Terry’s eminent danger because of his imprisonment and trial by the vigilance committee and the probability of civil war if this act of lawlessness was allowed to continue. He asked Boutwell to exercise the power and means under his command for the protection and security of Terry from the vigilantes, except for such punishment as might be inflicted on Terry in due course of the law. In considering the Governor’s request, Boutwell might have wondered more about what punishment the due course of the law might inflict on Terry, or he could have wondered why the Governor turned to him instead of Captain Farragut, his superior officer, but did neither.

The bombardment of Muckie by the USS John Adams

The John Adams bombards Muckie

Boutwell immediately wrote the vigilance committee and informed them they were either in open rebellion against the laws of the country or they were an organization acting under suspension of the laws. If they were in a state of war then they must treat Judge Terry as a prisoner of war and place him aboard his ship. If they were acting under suspension of the laws then, from a desire for justice and to avoid shedding American blood by American citizens on American soil, they ought to surrender Terry to the lawful authority of the state. The attack on Terry by the vigilante police was clearly without sanction of the law and would have killed Terry had he not been armed. They should pause and reflect before they condemned to death, in secret, an American citizen who was entitled to a public and impartial trial by a judge and jury recognized by the laws of the country.

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