“Negro-Slavery, No Evil.” Part Seven

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Full text. Parts 12345, 6

The Platte County Self-Defense Association, committed to preserving slavery in Missouri, naturally had a low opinion of antislavery settlers. The group existed to keep them out of Missouri and run them out of Kansas. They worried about a racial revolution, the loss of their valuable human property, and of course the profits they reaped through the theft of lives and labor to grow their hemp. To that end, abolitionists of any stripe looked much like terrorists would to us.

But an abolitionist, to the minds of people of the time, looked like a rich man from New England. Such people would not rush to start new lives on the wild frontier. They had their money and their success. Poor people and people of middling success would take that chance. They might, however, take it with some of the funds that Eli Thayer’s and other Emigrant Aid Societies would offer. The slaveholders on the Missouri frontier knew that very well. It thus bears looking a bit more closely at how Stringfellow and his compatriots viewed the people they expected to actually chase from Kansas.

But to that other class, hired slaves of corrupt masters, who are sent for the purpose of driving our brothers from Kansas, of stealing our property, driving us from our homes, we offer no argument, but that of the strong hand.

The Platte County men would not restrict themselves to sternly worded letters and Stringfellow’s pamphleteering.

We have not, it is true, done that, which natural right would have justified us in doing. There is no law to bind them to keep the peace — there can be none, until it is enacted by the Legislature of that Territory; they are to us as would be a band of Blackfeet or Camanches, who should encamp upon our borders, for the avowed purpose of stealing our cattle and horse, of plundering our farms and villages. We would be justified in marching to their camp, and driving them back to their dens, without waiting for their attack. We are not bound to wait, until they have “stolen our negroes,” “burned our slaveholding towns.” But we have been so “law abiding and orderly,” that we have not done this: we have simply said, “we will when called upon,” go to the aid of our friends, and assist in expelling those who proclaim their purpose to be the expulsion of our friends. Robbers and murderers have no right to call on the law for protection.

In other words, they should have already gone off and purged Kansas antislavery settlers. No law governed it and those people represented the worst of two sorts of human being to nineteenth century whites: slaves and Indians. They deserved driving out for the crime of their mere existence. Yet in their forbearance, the Platte County Self-Defense Association stayed their hand. They, to use the infamous words of Roger Taney constituted

beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Free soil settlers in Kansas might, by accident of birth, end up as white men but Stringfellow laid it out in plain language. No law protected or should protect any such person. If they came, then they meant war. If they threw a war, the Missouri slaveholders would come.

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