The Bylaws of the Kansas Pioneer Association

Eli Thayer

Eli Thayer

After a good year of outrage at how Emigrant Aid Societies in northern states had paid the way of antislavery settlers to come to Kansas, Missourians had had enough. If Yankees could cheat by subsidizing migration of politically-reliable men, then so could they. At Jackson County court house, they formed the Kansas Pioneer Association and published their plan. Pauper mercenaries could come from near to Kansas territory just as they could from afar.

The KPA’s founders knew they needed more than hopes, dreams, and occasional extralegal violence to make a go of this. Like a good company, they aimed to sell shares and use the proceeds to fund their emigrants. They would take any sum, but if one wanted a say in how the organization operated it would cost you $20. Operations would begin in earnest as soon as they had two thousand dollars lined up. That didn’t mean they would actually have that cash on hand, but rather they would elect officers and a board of directors who could go out and requisition the funds, up to 25% of what one pledged per quarter.

All of this sounds very normal for the time, up to and including language that the Board would have full control of the funds but promised to use them for the declared ends alone, and the founders

further empower said Board to form a connection with other societies or organizations similar to this in their ends and aims, and blend all of the energies and means of this Society with those of such other societies or organizations, upon such terms as they may deem advisable.

Here the Missourians put on paper what had clearly happened informally in the past. The network of Blue Lodges which had powered their state’s previous operations against Kansas seem to have worked on strictly personal connections and mutual understanding. The expenses of boarder ruffianism came out of the pockets of the filibusters themselves and from the large planters of the area on a case-by-case basis. Now they openly declared coordination, which must have come easier for an organization with clearly legal means and ends. Contrary to proslavery protestations, no precedent of law or custom forbade organizations underwriting westward migration. What Eli Thayer could do, they aimed to do better.

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