Andrew Francis must have had a thoroughly strange few days in October of 1856. He came to Lawrence to give over returns for the free state congressional delegate election and James Lane tried to recruit him into a secret society, the Kansas Regulators. In the course of swearing him in, he found out that they had antislavery politics rather more extreme than his own and that their oath contradicted one he had given as a member of the bar to uphold the laws of Kansas. He also found out that Wilson Shannon, who he knew from their time in Ohio, had not in fact signed off on the election wherein he served as a clerk. Someone had lied to him about the governor. When Francis told Lane that he had the wrong man, they argued and Lane told him that he might not make it out of Lawrence alive. From that, one might expect that Francis immediately ran to tell all who would hear him just what had happened. One could understand even a more committed antislavery man going over to the other side after such treatment, let alone someone like Francis with more qualified beliefs.
According to Francis, he planned something on those lines:
At the time I took this obligation [to the Kansas Regulators]. I formed the determination to disclose it, as I thought it my duty as a citizen and a law-abiding man to do so. That design was formed during the time the obligation was being administered to me. I told Colonel Lane of my design after I had taken the obligation.
This did not start the argument with Lane that ended with threats. Instead
Lane gave me authority to institute other councils, and proclaimed me a Kansas regulator. I think he told me that both before and after I had told him I would make the disclosure.
Lane’s curious choice to keep trusting a man who declared that he planned to betray the Regulators seems perverse in the extreme, but Francis adds that Lane expected then that Lawrence would soon face an attack. He might have understood Francis as an acceptable risk since the loyal and disloyal would soon sort themselves into lines of battle. Faced with an actual Missourian invasion in front of him, something Francis admitted he did not then believe in, his mind might change. In the event of an attack, the free state men would need all the people they could get. If Lane truly expected an attack in the near future, then that might have overridden other concerns.
Either way, Francis did not immediately run and tell his tale. Instead he waited through the winter. In that time he received an officer’s commission from Lane, which he did not use but did keep on hand. In March, 1856, others in his area signed up, making a list of men and setting off to Lawrence for guns. Francis refused to sign on. The ringleader, a Mr. Bainter, told Francis that if he did not sign then Bainter would include him “willing or not,” so that Francis could have his share of the guns. Francis
asked him then what arms were to be drawn, and he replied a Sharp’s rifle and a brace of revolvers. I made the remark that I should like very much to have them.
Francis might have wanted the guns for any number of reasons. The tumultuous winter might have changed his mind somewhat. He might have just heard that he could have free guns. Either way, he clearly knew where the rifles came from. Though Bainter didn’t say as much, and didn’t come to him wearing the customary black ribbion of a Regulator,
Col. Lane had told me, when I was in Lawrence, that several thousand Sharp’s rifles were coming on from the east. Mr. Bainter said that there were several thousand Sharp’s rifles at Lawrence.
Lane said that thousands of the rifles would come to Lawrence. Later on, Bainter said that they had several thousand of the same rifles in the same place. Francis could do the math.
Andrew Francis makes for a very interesting case study. From our remove, we can easily imagine that people lined up in neat ranks in Kansas. Whatever one’s qualms, one signed on either proslavery and with the border ruffians or antislavery and with the free state movement. But he and others carved out a space for themselves somewhere between. Lane’s behavior in sending the commission along, and persisting in treating Francis as a Regulator despite his objections to the party program, suggest that he recognized as much. His own past moderation probably informed that judgment. He could also hardly have missed that, Francis’ protests aside, the doctor and minister hardly high-tailed it to Missouri or wrote to a Stringfellow to tell the world the moment he got clear of Lawrence.