The Squatter Sovereign on the Laws of Kansas, Part One

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

The Squatter Sovereign apparently did not feel that the Big Springs convention deserved any response except some threats directed at Andrew Reeder and his supporters. Robert S. Kelley, or his partner John Stringfellow, took another few swipes at Reeder in an article covering Governor Shannon’s late doings and the race for delegate to Congress. They griped about the temerity of calling for an election on a date not authorized by the legislature. They speculated that this separate election constituted the Plan B for the free soilers: either they would appear to yield the field and invite proslavery candidates to split the vote in advance of storming the election and making Reeder the delegate from Kansas, or they would use the later election where he would run unopposed as a fallback. I suspect this gives the antislavery men more credit than they deserve. The rich irony of the proslavery party complaining about potential trickery at elections passed, naturally, unmarked in the pages of the Squatter Sovereign.

But while looking for something more on those lines, I came across a piece worth more attention. In an editorial signed “S,” John Stringfellow, or someone writing in his name, addressed comments from Missouri. Apparently some of the papers in the Show Me State had strange ideas about what Stringfellow and company had done at Shawnee Mission. The Speaker of the House set them straight:

we did not pass any law exempting negroes from sale under execution. -A bill was introduced into the lower house, of that character but it met with no favor, and after it was amended, so as only to exempt household slaves, it received but four votes.

If I have read that right, some Missourians thought that the proslavery legislature passed a law prohibiting the sale of slaves under penalty of death. This rather beggars belief, but it might speak to just how vulnerable Missourians thought their slave property to internal subversion. They couldn’t even trust reliable proslavery men to stand up for the institution, or so they imagined.

Nor did they legislate

preventing free negroes and mulattoes from emigrating to the Territory, though I think from the feeling amongst all parties here, they will meet with but poor encouragement to come.


permitting negroes to testify against white persons

Robert S. Kelley

Robert S. Kelley

Those charges came from the abolitionist press and good Missourians should ignore them. But the Assembly of Kansas very much did

pass a law for the encouragement of Abolition emigration from the Territory. -Amongst other provisions, is one providing against the utterance of the opinion that slaves cannot be legally held in bondage in the Territory.

See, proslavery Missourians? The proslavery Kansans have your back, as well they should considering most of them had occupied the latter category all of two years prior. They fought not just for slavery in Kansas, but for its salvation in western Missouri and, more generally, it’s future in the Union as a whole.

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