“Effrontery Unparalleled!” The Kansas Pioneer Association

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Way back at the dawn of Kansas Territory, in the summer of 1854, most of the white immigrants came in from Missouri. This distinguished them from the usual first wave of white settlement in a new territory not at all. Some of them, as they reveal in their Howard Report testimony, had shifted a jurisdiction westward two or three times before. Whether they moved once or many times, nineteenth century Americans tended to stay at similar latitudes. A fair majority of early Kansans came from Missouri just the same way as early Nebraskans came from Iowa or early Kentuckians had come from Virginia. In Missouri’s not all that black black belt, the Massachusetts, New England, and other Emigrant Aid Societies broke the rules by trying to arrange otherwise. Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow averred:

Were these miscalled “emigrants” poor and honest farmers, seeking a home and the advantages of a new country for themselves and families, we might applaud the charity of those who originated the scheme: were these associations fair means of deciding the contest between the friends and opponents of negro-slavery, we might admire the energy of the abolitionists: but when we find these miscalled emigrants really negro-thieves, their purpose not to procure a home in Kansas, but to drive slaveholders therefrom; that they are not freemen, but paupers, who have sold themselves to Ely Thayer & Co., to do their masters’ bidding; who hesitate not to proclaim that they are expert in stealing slaves; that they intend to follow their calling, self-defence requires that means equally active, equally efficient, should be adopted by those who are threatened.

Pauper mercenaries, dirty Hessians by way of New England, justified Stringfellow and Atchison’s Platte County Self-Defensives in breaking some rules of their own. If the Yankees could send on an army, then the South could do the same. Missouri’s army had seized Kansas’ territorial government. It had come bent on destroying Lawrence and narrowly missed the chance. In smaller detachments and with local help, it had lynched and murdered antislavery Kansans.

For the most part, the Missourians who went to Kansas and meant to stay there gravitated toward the antislavery side as their former neighbors increasingly trod all over their sacred right as white men to self-determination. Not all of them did, and the northeastern reaches of the territory remained generally proslavery, but enough found themselves sympathetic to the free state movement to turn out at its elections in numbers much larger than the legal polls saw.

As the winter of 1855-6 receded, thoughts turned to new beginnings. In Missouri and elsewhere in the South, those new beginnings might best come in Kansas. After marking the people of Jackson County as among Missouri’s most zealous proslavery invaders, border ruffians rivaling Platte County’s, the Herald of Freedom noted shared the articles of incorporation for the Kansas Pioneer Association of that county.

The Kansas Pioneers had the “Effrontery Unparalleled!” to declared their

object shall be to forward, encourage and assist, actual pro-slavery emigration to the Territory of Kansas by assisting suitable persons, who may need such aid, in removing into and subsisting in the Territory, and guaranteeing to them the means needful to purchase and pay for their land when it shall come into market.

Thus the border ruffians, who once justified their depredations on the grounds that antislavery Americans cheated by subsidizing settlement of politically-reliable men in Kansas, now proposed to do precisely that themselves. Where once they sent along weapons, if deprived of  necessary pieces to function, the Missourians would now send proslavery people, come to stay.

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