The free state convention at Lawrence, Kansas, considered resolutions authored by Charles Robinson’s business committee. Those resolutions repudiated Kansas’ Assembly, the fruit of fraud and force. They declared themselves true Americans, inheritors of the Revolution oppressed by latter-day redcoats. They took care to embrace the virtues of white republicanism, which would appeal both to more people of Kansas and to the nation at large more than an emphatic antislavery or abolitionist position would. They did oppose bringing slavery to Kansas, but repeatedly proclaimed their fidelity to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that ordained the people of Kansas could vote it in or out. As the people of Kansas, they chose the latter but accepted the principle that a fair election could decide such things. Kansas had enjoyed no such election. Even proslavery Americans, as faithful exponents of white republican self-governance should feel sympathy with them.
Aside from all that, and their embrace of Andrew Reeder as a political martyr to their cause, Robinson’s committee proposed this revealing resolution:
We regard it, in this crisis, as incumbent upon the people of Kansas to set aside all differences of political opinion, to cultivate a comprehensive and intimate intercourse with each other, to effect a thorough union, and otherwise prepare for the common defense.
We regret to learn that measures were taken by a few persons on Wednesday evening last, to organize the Democratic party in this Territory. Such a movement can result in no good to any one, but may do much damage. There is but one issue pending in Kansas, and that issue must be settled before others are precipitated upon us. The movement looks to us like an effort to suppress the public will, and we hope it will not be successful.
In light of this recent history, the resolution might as well have read: “No parties but this one; no issue but this one. Are you paying attention Jim Lane?”
Lane aside, the resolution speaks to the awareness on the part of the free state men that they did not form a happy collective, all of one mind and perfectly united. They had not forgotten their politics when they crossed over from Missouri. They agreed that they did not want slavery in Kansas, but not necessarily on anything else. Like the Republican party on the national level, opposition to slavery formed the lowest common denominator that united them and just like the national Republicans, they knew that the further and harder they pressed away from it the more they risked their new coalition.
Party activities could help strengthen bonds and smooth over differences, of course. People who work together in common cause get used to one another and find themselves more inclined to accommodate one another, or so people with healthy social lives tell me. The Lawrence Convention made for just that kind of activity, but it might go down like the previous one as an isolated event. Robinson’s resolutions proposed otherwise:
we consider the attempt to establish a Territorial form of government in this Territory, as thus far an utter failure; and that the people of the Territory should, at some convenient period, assemble, at their several places of holding elections in the various Districts of the Territory, and elect Delegates to a Convention to form a State Constitution for the State of Kansas, with the view to an immediate State organization, and application, at the next session of Congress, for admission into the American Union, as one of the States of the American Confederacy.
This effort would entail far more than a few isolated meetings that passed rousing, if impotent, resolutions.
The Herald of Freedom reports some dissent from the proposed resolutions. James Lane suggested sending the committee back to rewrite the whole slate. A Mr. Holliday wanted an entirely new committee to go to work. But their proposals failed and the first resolution, condemning the election fraud and violence, went through with unanimous approval.