He owned immense tracts of land; had and disposed of all the government contracts he pleased; traveled over Europe with his salaried physician; said to this man “go,” and he went, to that “come,” and he came, and to a third “do this,” and it was done. But of all his commands “go” was most potent; for, as president of a claim club, his orders to pre-emptors were enforced by Judge Lynch. He never condescended to go to Congress, but sent an agent; furnished all the Democratic votes that could possibly be wanted in any emergency, and nobody wondered when a good list came from a precinct in which no one lived.
Republicans on their arrival in his dominion, were converted to the Democratic faith, fast as sinners to Christianity in a Maffitt meeting, and those on whom the spirit fell not, kept very quiet. People had gone there to make homes, not to fight the Southern tiger, and any attempt against such overwhelming odds seemed madness, for Lowrie’s dominion was largely legitimate. He was one of those who are born to command—of splendid physique and dignified bearing, superior intellect and mesmeric fascination. His natural advantages had been increased by a liberal education; he had been brought up among slaves, lived among Indians as agent and interpreter, felt his own superiority, and asserted it with the full force of honest conviction.
On all hands he was spoken of as Dictator, and there was both love and respect mingled with the fear by which he governed. His father was a Presbyterian minister, who taught that slavery was divine, and both were generous and lenient masters. He was the embodiment of the slave power. All its brute force, pious pretenses, plausibility, chivalry, all the good and bad of the Southern character; all the weapons of the army of despotism were concentrated in this man, the friend of my friends, the man who stood ready to set me on the pinnacle of social distinction by his recognition. Across the body of the prostrate slave lay the road to wealth, and many good men had shut their eyes and stepped over.
The territorial government under Buchanan was a mere tool of slavery. Every federal officer was a Southerner, or a Northern man with Southern principles. Government gold flowed freely in that channel, and to the eagles Gen. Lowrie had but to say, as to his other servants, “come,” and they flew into his exchequer.
So thoroughly was Minnesota under the feet of slavery, that in September, ’60—after we thought the State redeemed—the house of William D. Babbitt, in Minneapolis, was surrounded from midnight until morning by a howling mob, stoning it, firing guns and pistols, attempting to force doors and windows, and only prevented gaining entrance by the solidity of the building and the bravery of its defense. It was thus besieged because its owner and occupant had dared interfere to execute the common law in favor of freedom.
Minneapolis and its twin-city St. Anthony each had a large first-class hotel, to which Southern people resorted in summer, bringing their slaves, holding them often for months, and taking them back to the South, no one daring to make objection; until one woman, Eliza Winston, appealed to Mr. Babbitt, who took her into court, where Judge Vanderbilt decreed her freedom, on the ground that her claimant had forfeited his title by bringing her into a free State.