A Free State Fourth, Part Eight

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Robinson’s red, white, and blue wardrobe choices eventually brought him back around to the free state party’s central problem. Whatever they did, they put themselves in opposition to and defiance of the established, legal government of the Territory of Kansas. Opposition they could risk, though dissent on the matter of slavery in slave states tended to provoke violent reactions. Open defiance of the state went a step further, especially when they also sought support from the executive in Washington.

But Americans had a perfectly good excuse for defying a legally established government, what with coming from a nation founded by traitors:

Persons may teach that the Declaration of Independence is a lie; that tyranny and oppression a thousand-fold more severe than that which our ancestors rose in rebellion against are right; that marriage is a mockery; that the parent shall not have possession of his own child, nor the husband his wife; that education is a crime; that traffic in human beings, the bodies and souls of men, is a virtue. All may be taught with impunity in this boasted land of ours, and those who teach such things must be recognized as gentlemen and Christians; but to teach that all men are created equal; that they have an inalienable right to life and liberty; that oppression is a crime, and that education, religion, and good morals are virtues-this is not to be tolerated for a moment. Tar and feathers, the gallows and stake, await all persons who dare express a belief in such dangerous doctrines, if we can believe our masters.

For a guy who pledged not to preach abolition to the crowd, Robinson chose his examples with a peculiar focus on the ills of slavery. The proslavery party did not propose breaking up marriages, taking children, preventing education, or buying and selling lives unless those marriages, children, educations, and lives belonged to black people.

By invoking those sins of slavery in the same breath as Robinson declared that the white men of Kansas now had their masters too, bent on enslaving them, he dealt in potent stuff. Such an argument could prompt snorts of derision. Everybody knew that the Missourians and their Kansan friends had no intention of breaking up white marriages, seizing white children, or anything of the sort. In bringing the contrast to mind, he might very well get back answers that he had gone off the deep end and only reminded people that slavery happened to people with black skin, not white. That might easily lead to the further conclusion that white Kansans had little to fear from the proslavery forces.

Robinson knew the risk and so immediately introduced a new reason to oppose slavery’s advocates and their mastery:

the whiskey-drinking, profane, blasphemous, degraded, foul-mouthed, and contemptible rabble that invaded our Territory at the late elections our masters? Never! never! I can say to Death, be thou my master; and to the grave, be thou my prison-house; but acknowledge such creatures as my masters, never!

Do you want to submit to a bunch of boozy, foul-mouthed, irreligious scumbags? If one must pick a master, at least find one with some class.

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