The Young America Ticket

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Given both the predominance of orthodox free state sources and the natural focus on them by historians, as well as the plain evidence of very lopsided votes for their policies and tickets, one can get the idea the free state Kansans spoke with one voice. Their own publications reveal otherwise. When he introduced the free state ticket to his readers in the December 29 Herald of Freedom, George Brown admitted

Some gentlemen have been nominated for whom we would not vote if Kansas was a state, and admitted to the Union […] The Free State Party of Kansas is a political alliance, formed for the purpose of excluding the blighting curse of slavery from our soil. We all agree in desiring to see Kansas a Free State; but this is the only political issue in which our aspirations or opinions harmonize.

As such, the ticket reflected the diversity of thought within the antislavery ranks. National Democrats and Republicans share space with those shying away from either title in favor of euphemisms like “National Sovereignty” and “Squatter Sovereignty”. The former meant affirming that the Congress had the power to decide on slavery for Kansas, while the latter declared that Kansans ought to do the same, but both agreed that slavery ought not prevail.

That diversity didn’t satisfy everyone. Proslavery Kansans might sit out the free state elections then-upcoming under the Topeka Constitution, but Charles Robinson (Governor), W.Y. Roberts (Lieutenant Governor), P.C. Schuler (Secretary of State, J.A. Wakefield (Treasurer), Mark Delahay (congressional representative) and the others didn’t run unopposed. Rather two rival groups contended for state office, as Brown relates in the January 12 Herald of Freedom: The Young America ticket and the Anti-Abolition ticket.

“Young America” has substituted the name of M.J. Parrott, as Lieut. Governor […] and Scott Anthony, of Leavenworth, instead of Mr. Floyd, as Clerk of the Supreme Court. The other nominations of the Convention remain unaltered.

What did that mean? Brown reported the Young America set advanced Parrott on the grounds that Roberts had withdrawn from consideration, then cited letters he printed in his previous issue. There three men, W.M. McClure, E.R. Zimmerman, and G.P. Lowry, wrote to Roberts that they’d heard about the withdrawal put forward as entirely above-board and done with the assent of the free state establishment. Roberts answered:

I have heard the report to which you refer, and that I have no connection or sympathy therewith; but, on the other hand, have opposed the movement from beginning to end, as disorganizing and opposed to the interests of the Free State party of Kansas, and shall continue to discountenance the movement should it be persisted in.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

That ought to have settled things, but Parrott and company changed their story. Roberts, they said, meant only that he would not stand for a ticket that swapped his and Charles Robinson’s places to make Roberts the governor and Robinson the lieutenant governor. When McClure, et al, wrote to Roberts they did specifically mention the position swap. That makes the claim halfway plausible, but given Roberts’ broad rejection of disorganization it sounds like a stretch.

Given that Young America didn’t field a full ticket, but rather changed only a few names, it sounds suspiciously like the work of either a few disgruntled types who hewed to the hallowed principle that they deserved public office, not those other people. Roberts suggests the darker motive that Young America’s boosters wanted to sabotage the free state movement as an end unto itself. Either, or both, explanations withstand scrutiny. The business of swapping positions reads very much like something designed to cause confusion and inspire jealousy. But we could point to ideology too. Parrott has played the role of conservative, aligned with James Lane’s faction, on previous occasions and might have taken the free state ticket as entirely too radical when headed by Robinson.

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