“The Laws Must be Enforced”

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

The free state movement undertook a very conspicuous business. They held elections all around Kansas for their convention at Topeka. Delegates gathered and there wrote a constitution for the territory which they proposed to submit to the voters on December 15, 1855. To run the polls, they needed judges of election and clerks. To carry the returns they needed couriers. To arrange polling places they had to communicate with people in each district. All of this might sound simple and straightforward to us, looking at it from the top down, but it took a great deal of organizing. This meant free state men moving around all of Kansas, including proslavery territory. The Squatter Sovereign, John Stringfellow and Robert Kelley’s paper, noticed. Under the headline “The Law Must be Enforced”:

We see there is a determination on the part of the Abolition papers at Lawrence, and a faction who act and think with them, to resist the Laws passed by our Legislature. This state of affairs is to be regretted, and the matter should be immediately looked into. The laws must be rigidly enforced, and that immediately or else anarchy and confusion will spread over the territory.

The laws effectively forbade antislavery activity in Kansas, so naturally the Squatter Sovereign favored strict enforcement. Laws against Missourians coming to Kansas for a day to vote did not enter into it, of course. The editors declared that the free state movement proposed “bold and daring nullification”which demanded

the attention of the officers in that section of the Territory to the matter, to perform their duty. If resistance, as is threatened, is made, then let a sufficient number be summoned, though it should take every law and order man in the Territory, and the offenders be brought to justice.

On behalf of Atchison County, Stringfellow and Kelley pledge five hundred “good and true men” to the cause. If those worthies did not suffice, then the rest of Kansas would chip in as

this rebellion must and will be quashed. If blood must flow, let it run freely. Let each individual proselite of the higher law doctrine, be singled out and brought to trial where justice will be done, though Heaven and the Union should fall.

Robert S. Kelley

Robert S. Kelley

Immediately following the Squatter Sovereign’s bold pledge of lives, it reported “Another Outrage”. A free soiler had come around posting notices of the free soil elections on October 9. This miscreant

insulted our citizens by attempting to put up some of the aforesaid bills in this place. He was “caught in the act” and a large roll of his contraband goods taken from him and burned before his eyes. It was with the greatest difficulty that some of our citizens were prevented from hanging the culprit; but he was permitted to return after denying any knowledge of the contents of the bills and promising to “sin no more.”

Given how the citizens of Atchison treated Pardee Butler back in August, the paper likely didn’t exaggerate their fury. The messenger, the Sovereign continues, chose to depart Kansas at once and by the most direct route instead of hazarding “himself in the hands of the indignant Squatters of Kansas.”

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