A Free State Fourth, Part Six

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Charles Robinson stood up before the Lawrence Fourth of July gathering and denounced the proslavery party as a band of slavers not content with forcing black slavery upon the country. They wanted to chain up whites as well. To convince his audience that he had not gone off the deep end, Robinson produced lines from proslavery papers where the authors proudly strutted about, declaring their mastery. Ships and houses might have masters, but men? Those with black skin had masters. To enforce their mastery, the proslavery men would make any utterance of antislavery beliefs a crime and outlaw every perpetrator. They said themselves that they would and had set up committees to watch for such transgressors and drive them from Kansas, or just kill them.

Robinson’s examples came from Kansas and Missouri, fittingly enough, but he made sure to add in others to connect the abuses the free staters had endured and expected to endure thereafter with slavery itself rather than simply the circumstances of one territory on the frontier. Thus he also delved into newspapers and sermons from farther abroad:

A Charleston paper from 1835 declared

‘the gallows and the stake’ awaited the abolitionist who should dare to appear in person among us.

The Augusta, Georgia Chronicle had it

The cry of the whole South should be death, instant death to the abolitionist, whenever he is caught.

The Columbia, South Carolina Telescope added

Let us declare through public journals of our country that the question of slavery is not and shall not be open to discussion; that the system is too deep-rooted among us, and must remain forever; that the very moment any private individual attempts to lecture us upon its evils and morality, and the necessity of putting means in operation to secure us from them, in the same moment his tongue shall be cut out and cast upon the dunghill.

A Parson Brownlow finished the tirade:

The true-hearted citizens of East Tennessee and property-holders ought to enter into leagues, and whip, black, and ride on a rail, irrespective of age, calling, family, association, every preacher, citizen, or traveller, who dares to utter one word in opposition to slavery, or who is found in possession of an abolitionist document. These are our sentiments, and we are willing and ready to help others to carry them out.

Robinson began in telling his audience that he would not preach abolition to them. He spoke concerning the plight of Kansas alone and would not ask them to oppose slavery elsewhere. With these lines he turned around and did so anyway. Though Robinson did not ask them to draw the inference, he clearly indicted slavery at large. Their own papers and showed that slavery required the end of white republicanism. It demanded extinguishing free speech and free lives along with the freedom and lives of the slaves. This held not just for slavery in Kansas or Missouri, but slavery everywhere it reached.

If Robinson’s audience would not follow the thinking to its natural end, then at least he couched it in their personal interests in Kansas. That could keep their minds on the destruction of white republicanism that brought them around to begin with, rather than put them off. If they did follow Robinson’s argument all the way, he might make a new abolitionist or two.

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