Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Seven

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, 5, 6

Andrew Francis did not hurry about realizing his plan to expose James Lane, Charles Robinson, George Brown, and the rest of the Kansas Regulators to the world. Lane thought him still trustworthy enough in the winter of 1855-6 to send him an officer’s commission. Francis found the Regulators acceptable enough to knowingly accept arms from them, though not enough so to put his name down as among their number to to use Lane’s commission. Francis did not, by his own admission, do all that much in that time to expose the secret society. In private, he told a probate judge that the Regulators existed and what they stood for just days after, but he testified that he hardly counted it “a disclosure” on those grounds. Given George Brown had printed that free state men had a mutual protection understanding in the pages of the Herald of Freedom and people walked around Lawrence wearing conspicuous black ribbons, I expect this didn’t come as much of a shock.

But at the end of March or start of April, Francis came before a grand jury:

I had been summoned before the grand jury to testify with regard to other things, and they asked me with regard to that, and had no hesitancy in testifying about it. I think I had been admitted at the time I gave that evidence.

Francis doesn’t go into details, but he does count that testimony as a disclosure. Thus it seems most probable that he told essentially the same story that he told to the Howard Committee. He avowed that his summons did not arise from any involvement in armed strife itself. He steered clear of the battles the preceding winter. Only when the Committee subpoenaed him did Francis come to testify explicitly about the Regulators. Repeatedly he emphasized that after his initiation he had nothing to do with free state militias, eventually declaring he

supposed that the military organization was to shoot down law-abiding men if they should attempt to enforce the laws. That was my supposition from the time I was initiated, and has always been my supposition.

Francis insisted, however, that having himself fallen for the lie that Wilson Shannon signed off on the free state election, he believed

as good, and honest, and loyal men as ever lived have been deceived and led to counsel resistance to the laws from these inflammatory publications and these seditious speeches I have spoken of, and but for them, they would not have taken that position.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Francis believed, and avowed throughout his testimony, that this deception included the notion that Missourians had come into Kansas and stolen the territory’s elections. I don’t know about Francis’ neighbors, but his fellow Kansans often disagreed for better reasons than what they read in the papers. Given the choice between believing him and believing their lying eyes, present to see what he missed, they found themselves more credible. Nothing in his testimony indicates even much curiosity about past election fraud. He admits to hearing the stories, but seems to have classed them as ordinary expressions of political partisanship and never inquired further.

This in itself says something. People of every age can exaggerate and invent in the service of their politics but Francis’ lack of inquiry suggests that he found the stories flatly absurd on their face. He made that determination before he knew that free state men had misled him about Shannon’s opinion of the election, so their reduced credibility thereafter can’t factor into the judgment. What the border ruffians actually did must have sounded as wild to Francis as the notion that the British Royalty and various political leaders appear human in public but at home reveal themselves as shapeshifting reptilians does to us.

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