Andrew Reeder and Andrew Francis did not get off to the best start, what with Francis complaining about Reeder to his face before learning just to whom he spoke, but once the laugh track finished they reconciled. Francis proved something of a hot commodity in Lawrence. By his own account, several people tried to interest him in a secret society which he heard called the Kansas Regulators. Nichole Etcheson’s Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era and Alice Nichols’ Bleeding Kansas agree that the Francis heard of the same group as Patrick Laughlin’s Kansas Legion. Francis names the same principals in and about Lawrence as Laughlin did, though he insists that he heard them called regulators exclusively.
The morning after Francis made the acquaintance of Reeder, he
was conversing with Governor Reeder, James H. Lane, E.P. Lowry, and several others, one by the name of Chapman and one by the name of Hornsby, but these latter gentlemen had merely come up to us as we were standing on the corner of the street talking. I had noticed black ribbons tied in the shirt bosoms of several gentlemen. I noticed one also tied to Governor Reeder’s shirt bosom. I made the inquiry as to what those black ribbons meant. Colonel Lane asked me to go with him, and he would show me something that would please me better than what I had seen the night before. the night before I had attended a masonic lodge. Colonel Lane was in the lodge while I was there. I made some reply to Lane as though assenting to go with him, saying, I would have to see something that would please me extraordinarily well if it pleased me better than what I had seen the night before.
They went to the masonic lodge together, Gentle Readers. I don’t know what happened inside those walls, but I suspect it did not involve the kind of pleasures we might expect to come with that language. Lane took Francis off to the law office of John Hutchinson for the sought-after extraordinary pleasing. There they found Charles Robinson at the door, with a lady. Lane pulled Robinson away from the woman, over the doctor’s objections, and they went inside. There Robinson explained what he and Lane had gotten up to and why:
the substance of the explanation was, that Kansas was a beautiful country and well adapted to freedom, and the best Territory in the world for the friends of freedom to operate on, more especially for those who were engaged in the free white State cause. After proceeding in that strain for a while, he asked me if I was willing to pledge my word and honor that I would keep secret what I saw there, and who I saw there, provided he would pledge his word and honor that there was nothing that would interfere with my duties as a citizen, or that was disloyal in any respect.
Francis proved game enough and
Colonel Lane then took me in hand, and told me he would administer the grand obligation
They wrote like this in the nineteenth century. The language of romantic friendship did not necessarily carry sexual connotations and many phrases they used innocently have only gained them since. Such words could take on more familiar significance, but did not do so necessarily. To suggest that it did would require more evidence than its mere usage.
The grand obligation involved a lengthy oath which takes up the better part of a printed page and covers so much ground that it really deserves its own post.