Free State Men Coming Together

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

The convention-goers at Lawrence could not decide if they went too far or not too far enough. Jim Lane pressed them not to anger other states and find some middle road in a struggle against proslavery men who wanted them silenced, imprisoned, excluded from politics, or driven from the state. A Mr. Holliday insisted that they had gone down the same impotent path as the free state movement had before by meeting, having speeches, and resolutions. None of that had accomplished anything. They must instead organize military companies. Martin F. Conway considered their gathering a party affair and didn’t think it proper that they go on to write a constitution.

The discussions continued on Wednesday, August 15. After notes about the opening prayer and reading of the minutes, the Herald of Freedom reports that the convention took up Charles Robinson’s second proposed resolution. This one declared the acts of the proslavery legislature illegitimate and thus not binding. As James Lane first rose to object to just such a resolution, he rose and submitted an amendment to it that the convention referred to committee. Then Mr. Holliday had his say again:

Mr. Holliday spoke briefly, but to the point, upon the resolution, and said he was glad that during the night the conflicting elements of the day previous had been harmonized, that he believed all parties would united in adopting the Majority report.

Sounds like some combination of back room politics and horse trading carried the day. The paper recounts several others declaring their support, if with some cavils about wording. A Reverend Gilpatrick struck a note of sympathy with moderates by reiterating the theme Charles Robinson took up back on the Fourth of July:

The question is not whether we will have slaves in Kansas; but whether we will be slaves ourselves. A worse than Vandal horde are riveting chains upon us. For myself, I will not consent they shall do it. I would rather go to a southern plantation and labor by the side of the meanest slave, and be compelled to toil for life, than submit to the degradation and kind of enslavement proposed to be heaped upon us.

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Robinson himself, who came with all his Massachusetts abolitionist baggage, struck a similarly conciliatory, coalition-building note in taking up Conway’s scruples. The Herald of Freedom reported:

He could not consent that a movement for framing a State Constitution should originate in this Convention. He would be happy to meet with a Convention of the PEOPLE at large at another time

So everyone got along now. Over the night they talked through their differences and came to a meeting of the minds. But there remained a bone of controversy between them. That matter deserves its own post, which will come Monday.

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