The Friends of Law and Order, Part One

Robert S. Kelley

Robert S. Kelley

Proslavery men interfered with antislavery activity. This interference could take the form of fistfights, mob attacks, intercepting mail, and legislation that essentially outlawed antislavery publications and organization. The code imposed on Kansas would accomplish nothing without enforcement. Robert S. Kelley made a start at that in stopping distribution of the Herald of Freedom, but no one had yet gone down to arrest George Washington Brown, despite his deliberate provocations. They had better luck near Atchison, but winning Atchison and losing Kansas would have made for a paltry victory. Thus, on October 3, 1855, “a meeting of the friends of Law and Order” at Leavenworth convened to discuss the problem, appoint a committee, and write up a public statement.

A cloud has arisen in the political firmament, portentous of much evil to our country-a fanatical spirit engendered in some of the hot-beds of Abolitionism at the North has sprung into existence in our midst, and threatens to nullify and disregard the Code of Laws recently given by the Legislative Assembly to the people of the Territory. Open rebellion and hostility to the laws are proclaimed, and a defiance to the authority of all Legislative enactments threatened.

They had most of the facts right. If a majority of the free state men would have objected to the claim that they held to abolition doctrines, then they couldn’t argue that they had abolitionists in their midst. Nor could they deny, after so many meetings where they declared it eagerly, that they proposed to nullify the enactments of the proslavery legislature. Forming their own government and writing a constitution counted as open defiance.

So the proslavery men faced a crisis. The laws they enacted to keep Kansas safe for slavery appeared to have little force. The government they instituted for the same purpose now had a rival. Kansas seemed out of control and that anarchy would abet abolition with its economic ruin and race wars. Their enemies came together in an unholy alliance:

Men from the North, bred in an atmosphere of hostility to the Institutions of the South-and from the East, with all the bigotry of the ancient Puritans, their forefathers-and from the South, with their fiery hot blood, and impetuous temper, impotent of any restraint-and the bold Pioneer of the West, rude and uncultivated, have all met on our soil as one common centre, and now compose one distinct political organization.

Here the proslavery men had the worst of all worlds: Northeastern Puritan hatred and religious fanaticism joined to the rage of a son of the South joined to the rude, rough ways of the West. Everything a proslavery man might fear, and one thing he might otherwise have relied on, came together against him as a single body. In defiance of all expectations, these disparates maintained and strengthened their unity, “settled down with a community of mutual brotherly love.”

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

Despite all of that, Kansas had enjoyed the blessings of good government. The strength of the American character and its commitment “to live in harmony and in accordance with the eternal principles of justice and right” had ruled over the “grosser passions” of Kansans to date. Kansas “advanced rapidly in all things tending to develope the greatness of her future destiny”. The “boundless resources” of the “lovely plains” promised a pleasant and lucrative future to all.

It would be unbecoming the settlers of such a domain to lose all the advantages they are sure to reap, by permitting anarchy and confusion to run riot and dispel the law-abiding portion of the community. Rather let all the lovers of Law and Order combine to resist the efforts which are now being made to throw distraction in our midst. Let us with firm composure assure those who are now opposing us, that treason cannot find a resting place in Kansas,-without a straight maintenance of law and order, there can be no security for our persons or property.

Kansas had a wonderful future ahead of it but the abolitionists would burn it all to the ground if given half a chance. It fell on good, patriotic Kansans to unite for law and order or the Black Republicans and their fellow travelers would destroy it all.

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