A Free State Fourth, Part Seven

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Charles Robinson did not, he declared, stand up on the Fourth of July, 1855, to preach abolition to the people of Lawrence. He slipped more than a bit into his speech and implied more all the same, but he kept his focus on slavery’s ill effects upon white men and the commercial development of Kansas. Abolitionists used those arguments as well, but he came short of what David Wilmot once called “morbid sympathy for the slave” in which his fellow abolitionists likewise indulged. His audience could appreciate Wilmot’s sentiment well enough. Many probably shared it.

But the proslavery party would acknowledge no such difference:

And who, or what is an abolitionist? Why everybody is an abolitionist, according to their dictionary, who dares to have an opinion of his own upon the subject of the rights of man in any respect differing from theirs. No distinction is made between the man who is opposed to the establishment of slavery in Kansas and him who is opposed to its existence in the States; between the man who would return him who had escaped to his master and him who would direct the fugitive to the land of liberty. Said one of the chivalry, whose name is suggestive of hemp factories, ‘Had I the power, I would hang every abolitionist in the country, and every man north of Mason and Dixon’s line is an abolitionist.’

I don’t know who Robinson quoted, but it sounds like he meant for his audience to get it. The hemp reference inclines me to think he quoted one of the Stringfellows, but I can only speculate on the matter.

Of course, one couldn’t really kill all the abolitionists. The proslavery men could shoulder the burden of their existence, provided it did not continue in Kansas. Robinson called that a demand for all to “bow down and worship the calves they set up.” He had as much enthusiasm for expulsion from Kansas as one might expect:

Made to leave! Gentlemen, look at that beautiful banner, think from whence it came, and of the motives which prompted its presentation, and then think about being MADE TO LEAVE your country, for no crime!

Robinson’s warm-up act involved the ladies of Lawrence presenting a flag to the local militia. Short of taking the thing and literally winding it around his body, one can’t get much more literal about wrapping oneself in the flag. Theatrics aside, the free state men lived in America too. They had as much right as any proslavery man to settle in American territories and move freely between them.


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