Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Four

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3

James Lane swore Andrew Francis to numerous duties, including risking his life and defying the law. Those oaths made him a Kansas Regulator. Among them, Francis swore himself to secrecy about everything he had disclosed in his testimony to the Howard Committee. What became of that oath? Had he, like Patrick Laughlin, decided that the group did not suit him? He lacked Laughlin’s personal reason to object to secret societies. By his own admission, he did not come into the Legion planning to expose it all. Did the prestige of a congressional committee strike him as sufficient to overrule his obligations?

No. Francis informed the committee that Lane had not proceeded to vet potential recruits with sufficient care. When he emphasized that the Kansas Legion and free state party came together to reject the legislature and its acts, Lane discovered that he had the wrong man for the strategy:

I remarked to the colonel, that I was sworn to support those laws in taking my oath as a lawyer, and that I considered that that oath was administered by a higher power than he exercised, and hence I should not keep the obligations he had given to me, and that under no circumstances would I consent to do anything to subvert the institutions of the country, or place myself in opposition to the laws, and he might depend upon it I would expose it in the first convenient opportunity. I also told him I could not consistently keep both obligations that had been imposed upon me.

Francis further told Lane that as a minister, he felt Lane’s oath conflicted with his “Christian duties”.

I can’t imagine quite what went through Lane’s mind in trying to get Francis into the Kansas Legion. Did he just go out and proposition everybody, then swear them before finding out if they would keep their word? This seems a novel way to operate a secret society, though I suppose we should thank him for his poor judgment. Had he chosen only tight-lipped, dependable men we might not have any sources.

Lane did not gracefully take no for an answer:

He stated then to me that if that was my determination, and I did express myself so publicly, I would hardly get away from the city with my life. I replied to him that I should express myself so under all circumstances, both in public and in private; that I was opposed to the thing, and was also bitterly opposed to the formation of a constitution.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Lane managed to recruit into and expose his organization to a man who, however much he agreed with making Kansas a free white state, disagreed with essentially the entire strategy that the free state movement had adopted. That might have made Francis unrealistic, considering all that had happened, but the real answer probably lays further back. Francis’ own party explicitly preferred no black Americans in Kansas, but failing that to have them in as slaves. Thus the legislature’s enactments, however obnoxious, did not necessarily conflict with Francis’ principles. If he had to swear to uphold the right to slavery in Kansas, what of it? Francis told the committee when he began his testimony that he

took the position that slavery was just and legal, but, as a matter of expediency, I would prefer to have Kansas a free State, provided there were no negroes allowed to live in the Territory. If they were to be here, I preferred that they should be under masters.

Thus Francis had no particular reason to want to undermine the infrastructure of slavery, but rather a keen interest in at least leaving it be should the calamity of black Kansas residents ensue. Depending on how likely he saw that fate, he might have even read the circumstances as requiring him to uphold and bolster the legislature’s interlocking network of proslavery law.

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