Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Five

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

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

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4

James Lane and Charles Robinson had the wrong man in Andrew Francis. They thought they had someone on board with the general free state strategy of making their own government and striking for statehood in defiance of the legal territorial government. Francis, though he did prefer a free Kansas to an enslaved one, did not sign up for any such plan. He had sworn oaths that prevented him from honorably and honestly joining with the free state men in general, to say nothing of their notionally secret paramilitary, the Kansas Legion/Kansas Regulators. Neither his masonic fellowship with Lane, nor Robinson’s “beautiful sash […] looking like a blue and gold one joined together, trimmed with gold lace” could convince Francis otherwise. He found Lane’s death threats equally unpersuasive.

How, then, did Francis come to serve as a clerk in the free soil delegate election? It transpired that Francis

came from Belmont county, Ohio. I have lived in Pease township, Smith township, and Richland township, in that county. I was born in Belmont county, and practiced medicine there a part of the time, and part of the time worked at the printing business in the “Gazette” office. […] I have practiced medicine now for about five years. I practiced medicine in Scotland county, Missouri. I never made law a regular study. When I was a boy I was going to school in St. Clairsville; I was constantly using Governor Shannon’s books, and in that way got a preliminary knowledge of law. I have known Governor Shannon ever since I can recollect; was born in the same town where he lived, and lived close by him.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Andrew Francis and Wilson Shannon went way back. At the time, one got a knowledge of law mostly by borrowing books from practicing lawyers and studying under them rather than at university. However preliminary Francis considered his legal education, it sufficed to admit him to the bar in Kansas. That entailed swearing to uphold the laws of Kansas. He could not break that oath to uphold his later oath to the Kansas Regulators. The relationship with Shannon got him to the polls when Andrew Reeder ran for delegate to Congress:

Our election of the 9th of October was held under the authority of the Big Springs convention. I took part in that election, because I had been told by men that I thought reliable that Governor Shannon had said that election would be regarded as lawful. Subsequently I found that statement was not correct, and therefore I dissolved my connexion with the party. I would not have acted in that election but for the representations made to me in relation to Governor Shannon.

But Francis knew who ran the election. He had to have understood what they intended when he went and worked at the polls, right? Apparently so:

I had carefully read the proceedings of the Big Springs convention before the election. When I acted as clerk I did not credit the allegations made in the resolutions of that convention, as to armed invasions of Missourians, &c., but regarded that as the usual statements of partisans, a little too highly colored. […] I have never regarded that there had been sufficient illegal voting at the polls to control either branch of the legislature. I acted at that election because I regarded it a legal one upon the representation made to me as to Governor Shannon’s view of it.

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

With hindsight, all of this makes Francis sound a bit thick. However, he did not have the Howard Report on hand. He testifies elsewhere that he had not noticed any secret societies operating in Missouri. That left me scratching my head until I checked a map. Francis lived in Scotland County, in far northeastern Missouri, before he moved to Kansas. The Atchison and Stringfellow election stealing consortium operated on the other end of the state. He also came into Kansas in May of 1855, thus missing the stolen elections entirely. Given that, one can easily imagine that he understood persistent griping about Missourian invasions as so much sour grapes from a set of two-time partisan losers.

Francis did, however, grant that even if the free soil men told the truth about the election stealing, then

if they were not legally elected the people had better submit to them, as a matter of policy, until they could elect a legislature legally, upon the principle that honest men need not law, and rogues and disunionists need it to the utmost extremity.

To Francis’ eyes, the rogues and disunionists came from the free state movement. They had, after all, misled him about the election. Then they tried to involve him an insurrection. When he declined, James Lane threatened his life. Small wonder he thought little of them thereafter.

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