“Neither the spirit of servility nor arrogance” The Free State Memorial to Congress, Part One

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Jefferson Buford and his few hundred men reached Kansas in May, 1856. That takes us rather ahead of where we left Kansas, with the opening of the Topeka Legislature and some piracy on the Missouri river. That left us in early March. As we followed Buford and company into Kansas, we ought to turn around and follow two free state men out. The Topeka government drew up a memorial to present to Kansas and sent it along with one of the free state of Kansas first senators, should the Congress opt to admit the territory to the Union. Thus James Lane returned to Washington City.

The memorial insisted that the “law abiding citizens” who were “proud of their attachment to the constitution” accepted the government that the Kansas-Nebraska Act created for them, right up until such time as they had enough people on the ground to qualify for statehood. When that time came, “they were willing to be governed by the will of the majority.”

They might have set up a wildcat state government opposed to that territorial government now, but they had reasons. The free state legislature continued by recapping those reasons: from the very first election, Missourians had crossed the border to vote illegally. Real Kansans had put up with that three times in a row, in the name of peace and quiet. Only the adoption of Kansas’ slave code, with its attack on white freedom, did they decide they must take things into their own hands. Submitting to those laws

destroys the freedom of speech, controls the liberty of the press, and is an innovation upon those rights guaranteed by the constitution. Obedience to it would be an act unworthy of an American citizen.

I don’t make it my business to deem acts worthy or unworthy of Americans, but having read those laws I can’t argue with the account of their effects. Presented with dire assaults on sacred rights, including even the right for antislavery people to sit on juries, they felt they had to strike for statehood on their own.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

If that didn’t suffice, then the memorialists reminded the Congress that

Late in November, about two thousand armed men, with seven pieces of artillery, made an attack upon the town of Lawrence, and held it in a state of siege for about two weeks. […] The enemy declared their intentions to destroy the town and slaughter its inhabitants

All that happened. Expecting, quite rightly, no help from Franklin Pierce’s White House, they had to do something. Thus the memorialists

come to you in neither the spirit of servility nor arrogance, but as American citizens, knowing their own rights, and asking them at your hands; and in requesting the attention of your honorable bodies to the constitution adopted by them […] your memorialists respectfully pray for the admission of Kansas as a State into the confederacy

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