An Antislavery Dissent, Part Four

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Parts 12, 3

Having just cast the proslavery Kansans and their Missourian allies as manipulative geniuses who took their every action with the intent of producing reactions which would help the free soil movement sabotage itself, C. Stearns proceeded with the next act in his original composition How To Lose Kansas Without Really Trying

Again: the pro-slavery party are not gods in intellect; by any means; as witness their Nero-like legislation, which bears the palm of stupidity as well as that of baseness. They are no better judges of what will harm them, and help us, than we ourselves are.

Stearns previous argument relied on the proslavery men having better political judgment than the free state men. One wonders if Stearns read his own writing. How can we square his argument that the proslavery men would vent their outrage only so as to provoke the free state men into folly with his position that they have no more wits about them than anybody else? I can only speculate that Stearns thought slavery’s friends quite a bit smarter than its foes, but didn’t want to put it down in writing. He must have hoped that George Brown and his readers wouldn’t notice.

That curious contradiction glowing on the page, Stearns moved back to practical concerns. He told his readers that Congress could very well refuse the application of the state government that the free soil party intended to make. It would, honestly, have good reason to do so as Kansas already had a government recognized by Congress. Setting up a rival one both rejected congressional authority, sure to win friends in Washington, and outright broke the law. Maybe California could, and did, get away with that but California had a friend in the White House. Stearns proceeded to consider what would happen in the event that Congress sent them packing:

let it be borne in mind that to be thrown upon our own resources after having assumed a hostile attitude to our Legislature, will be certain destruction to us. Let not folly or blind confidence in those assuming to lead us, influence us in this matter. The moment we organize as a State, and fail admission into the Union, that moment we shall fall a certain prey to our enemies. We might as well act with caution in this matter, and follow the advice of sterling anti-slavery men here and at the East, as to rush madly on under the guidance of interested politicians.

Do you get the feeling that Stearns really dislikes the free state leadership? He only speaks of them to impugn their motives and insult their character and intelligence. When discussing strict practicalities, like the genuine threat of proslavery retaliation, he maintains the high opinion of himself but writes with a rather softer edge.

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