Another Lawrence Convention

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

With a string of defeats under their belt that would make the most optimistic man wince, antislavery Kansans could clearly not persist as they had in making protests and pledging resistance. They had to actually resist if they hoped to accomplish anything, save perhaps making themselves into a sad story for northern newspapers. Sympathy would not beat the slave power.

The Herald of Freedom reported, in its August 18, 1855 issue, on a new convention at Lawrence. Declaring that

The people had long since determined to repudiate the legislature of Missouri; but the great question with them seemed to be, what should be done when the acts of that body of men in session at the Shawnee Mission should be repudiated. The way is now clear. A State Constitution must be adopted, and submitted to Congress.

In calling their foe the legislature of Missouri and refraining even from that when discussing the Assembly of Kansas, they framed the issue clearly. They represented Kansas. The others, wherever they lived and whatever they said, did not. To adopt Kansas as one’s home meant adopting them as its voice and their politics as one’s own. Disregarding the bogus legislature elected by fraud, they would make their own Kansas and dare the nation to deny them the fruits of white male self-government.

Rarely has it been our good fortune to mingle with a body of men where so great an amount of talent was congregated as on this occasion. From five to six hundred persons, from the most distant parts of the Territory, were in session. They advised together, and acted like freemen bent on a great purpose.

The Herald of Freedom reported that the convention-goers resolved differences among themselves,

all agreed upon the necessity of energetic action, and of doing something to redeem ourselves from our present thraldom. -Cool deliberation produced unity of action. To-day, look out upon the Territory where you may, and not a particle of division is seen among the Free State party.

John A Wakefield

John A Wakefield

The paper then proceeded to a detailed report of the convention. Elected officers included John A. Wakefield, who wrote a memorial on the movement’s behalf in addition to serving as one of its vice-presidents, and Martin F. Conway. Charles Robinson found himself on the business committee, charged with drawing up resolutions. G.W. Brown, the Herald of Freedom’s editor, served as one of the secretaries. The convention received and read a letter from Samuel D. Houston, who had won his seat in the Kansas Assembly fairly back in March but resigned it in protest. A Reverend Lovejoy, relative of the white abolitionist movement’s first martyr, spoke to the convention. If the Lawrence convention did not include every single prominent antislavery man in Kansas, it at least came close.

A Mr. Patterson, perhaps George Park’s partner in the Industrial Luminary, informed the convention that

the time had come to be up and doing something-acting-words would not do the work. Every person, man, woman or child-slaveholder or freeman-is satisfied that if slavery is not a moral evil it is a political evil, and something should be done for its eradication.

So abolitionists, who considered slavery a moral evil, and antislavery men who considered it a political evil, came together to do something at last.


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