Resolutions of the Law and Order Party, Part Three

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Shannon goes to Leavenworth: parts 1, 2

The Law and Order convention at Leavenworth, with Wilson Shannon presiding, published the usual resolutions of such a gathering. They pronounced themselves conservative, establishment men beset by abolitionist fanatics. They had a good word for the Constitution, another for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and a kind smile at the laws of Kansas. These, they would defend at all hazards. They had to, as no government democratic, republican, or even despotic, could endure long if it tolerated open flouting of its edicts. No one would have the freedom to judge the laws for themselves and obey only those they chose, when and how they chose, or law itself would fail before whim and caprice. The free state movement did just as they said they could not abide, setting up its own government, running its own election, writing its own constitution, and establishing its own military. This could not stand. Indeed, the movement “should be crushed at once.”

But the convention had not yet fully expressed its outrage. It resolved that the Topeka constitutional convention

called by and elected by, and composed of members of one political party, the so called “Free State Party,” and neither called nor elected by the PEOPLE OF KANSAS, would have been a farce if its purpose had not been treasonable; and any constitution presented by such a convention is unworthy the serious consideration of freemen, and if presented to Congress, as the Constitution of Kansas-should be scouted from its Halls as an insult to its intelligence, and an outrage upon our sovereign rights.

The implication that allowing antislavery politics to advance meant submission features heavily in proslavery rhetoric. Women and slaves submitted, not free men. Thus slavery’s friends, like its foes, declared that they would not tolerate their own enslavement. A white man must resist, lest he appear neither white nor a man.

Two more resolutions have good words to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, both cheekily affirming the right power of the people in the territory to decide for or against slavery for themselves free from meddling by Congress or people from other states. I imagine the men gathered in Leavenworth, fully aware that Missouri votes elected many of them to the legislature, got at least a good smirk out of those.

Then the Law and Order Party, which cast itself as a nonpartisan group and framed its concerns in at least arguably universal tones, expressed

our gratitude to the Democrats of the Northern States for their undeviating support of the true principles of Government, contained in the organic law of this territory.

The non-partisan party thus endorsed the proslavery wing of Northern Democracy. One could expect little else from a body where an appointee of that Democracy presided.

The convention disbursed “contempt and scorn” for the antislavery press for

misrepresenting the facts growing out of the organization of this Territory, all of which are calculated to mislead public sentiment abroad and retard growth and settlement and prosperity of this Territory.

Reading this, one has to remember that no one has the Howard Report to consult. Most everything a person could learn about events in Kansas came from the press and every paper in the land had an open partisan affiliation. Thus to some degree one believed what suited one’s politics. If the convention didn’t deny antislavery reports, then less committed people might take them more seriously.

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