A View of Kansas, Part Two

Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley

The Chicago Democratic Press’ correspondent, who Horace Greeley kindly reprinted for us, gave the reader ample reason to go to Kansas. While not perfect, it offered good land and tolerable weather. The nearer portion of it had all the timber one would want to make homes, barns, fences, and all the rest of a successful farm. Even the Indians, from whom one would take the land, seemed almost like white people with their successful farms.

One might take from the Chicago paper’s name that it leaned Democratic. From that one might also conclude that as the Kansas-Nebraska Act came out of a Democratic Congress and Democratic administration, the paper would stop there. Greeley might have printed its words regardless, since they would entice antislavery men to go off to Kansas all the same. The article did commence with careful neutrality, avoiding slavery entirely. But it came at last to the subject:

The course which the officers of the government feel bound to pursue is producing much ill-feeling among the emigrants. They are hardy and enterprising, and seem determined each for himself to preoccupy a large slice of this new and valuable territory. Desperate efforts are being made by the Missourians to induce slaveholders to go there, but the balance of feeling is against it. Many of the most intelligent slaveholders admit there is no chance for them. This should not lull our northern people for a single moment, and they certainly should not be deterred by the blustering of the Missourians from going there.

Yes, the men from Missouri made dire threats. They said they would run off antislavery settlers, violently if necessary. They had every advantage geography could offer and a good head start. But slavery did not travel easily. Not every Missouri man came over committed to bringing it along and few wealthy planters would risk valuable human property on land that might soon go free. The Democratic Press continued:

We look upon it as a patriotic duty, for our young men especially, to settle this territory and make it a free State, thereby removing forever the greatest obstacle to the permanence and future prosperity of the American Union. It will confine Slavery to definite limits. The northern people would respect their rights under the Constitution, and leave them to enjoy their “peculiar institution” till their interest and their duty should conspire to lead them to abolish it. The peace, we fear, the very existence of the Union is at stake in the settlement of this great question. Let all who love their country be ready to “be up and doing” when the time for final action shall arrive. The safety and glory of the country is at stake, and we know there are thousands of strong arms and warm hearts ready to enlist in this enterprise. There is no fear for Nebraska. Let Kansas be settled with freemen and we are done with the fearful agitation of the Slavery question forever.

Stephen Douglas

Stephen Douglas

Save Kansas; save the Union.

The appeal stands out in part for coming from a Democratic paper, and a Chicago one at that. Douglas’ dream of revitalizing the party in the North by taking slavery off the table seemed no closer to reality. When he tried to rescue it in Illinois, he found Chicago unsympathetic. Then a speaking tour to rehabilitate himself ran hard up against Abraham Lincoln. Northerners, even Northern Democrats, refused to get over how he sold them out to the Slave Power. Some of them would go so far as to make a new political party over it.

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