The Anti-Abolition Free State Ticket

 

Cyrus Holliday

Cyrus Holliday

George Washington Brown reported that two rival tickets, in addition to the one approved by the free state convention, contended at the polls on January 15, 1856. The first of those, the Young America ticket, first tried to swap the governor and lieutenant governor positions from the candidates the free state convention used. Rebuffed in this, they put forward their own lieutenant governor, Marcus Parrott. He lost handily to Charles Robinson.

The other party of antislavery Kansans dubbed themselves the Anti-Abolition Free State ticket. Brown named “Messrs. Garvey, Holliday, Elliott, & Smith” the principals. I recognize Cyrus Holliday’s name from past efforts to unite antislavery Kansans under a single banner, which makes his participation here seem odd. He can’t have had very cold feet, given his participation not that long prior in the Kansas Legion.

According to Brown, the Anti-Abolition ticket

charged the [free state] Convention with corruption, perfidy, and abolitionism.

It also hadn’t nominated them for office, which Brown noted. Garvey, Holliday, Elliot, and Smith all put themselves forward at the convention and won defeat “by overwhelming majorities.” In the nineteenth century, every politician but one’s own comes off as a venal office-seeker, but the convention did spurn them.

The Anti-Abolition men held out that the establishment free state ticket didn’t really represent Kansans; it represented the Emigrant Aid Society. No one could deny that Charles Robinson, who ran for governor on it, acted as the society’s agent. Brown reported another wrinkle in this:

C.K. Holliday, less than a year ago, applied to that Society to be appointed its agent. We state this on the highest authority. His request was refused, and since then he has been, Stringfellow and Atchison, perhaps, excepted, the most industrious calumniator of it.

Thwarted ambition probably plays its part here, but Holliday and company knew the political landscape of Kansas. White Kansans disliked slavery, at least when Missourians demanded they have it, but they also voted overwhelmingly for a black law to bar slaves and free blacks alike from the state. Back at Big Springs, the free state movement had declared itself fundamentally not abolitionist. A powerful constituency existed that explicitly wanted slavery and black Americans of all statuses kept clear of the territory. By tarring Robinson with his Emigrant Aid Society credentials, the Anti-Abolitionists could call to mind his connections to New England radicals and his stands in favor of such wild notions as black men, and even women of all colors, voting.

But Robinson made no secret of his connections. His place on a ticket with more moderate men, and his close working relationship with conservatives like James Lane, had to help ameliorate that. Thus Holliday, editor of the Freeman, went to press with an extra edition

intended for circulation in the remote parts of the Territory, in which it is stated that Dr. Robinson had declined.

Antislavery Kansans, we know you like Charles Robinson and his dirty Emigrant Aid Society. But even if you’ve made a deep, personal commitment you can’t help it if the guy refused to run. Vote for us instead.

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Brown published a letter from Robinson on the issue, where he claimed in the mode of the disinterested politician that he had not put his own name forward. The free state convention did that. At the time, everyone would have understood this as nearly irrefutable evidence that Robinson had done so. They might say in public that the office found the man, but in private everyone knew otherwise. So conscripted, Robinson felt bound to oblige:

since it [Robinson’s name] has been thus used, I have not authorized, and shall not authorize any man, or set of men, except the Convention, to withdraw it; and the above statement [Holliday’s] is without a shadow of truth, as all similar statements will be.

Not content with that dirty trickery, Holliday also published that James Lane inspired and endorsed his ticket. Lane also wrote Brown to reject the notion, insisting like Robinson that the convention governed him and he gave his “earnest support” to “the entire ticket”. He further noted that he thought the odds of admission for their free Kansas “fair” and thus

would consider any division of our party at this crisis peculiarly unfortunate, and trust it may be avoided.

 

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