The Buford Expedition, Part Seven: Pierce Rains on the Parade

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Previous Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Jefferson Buford had his money and his men. He named places to gather and aimed to set out for Kansas in April, 1856. From the start, Buford planned a military expedition. In January, he informed the world that he would take no noncombants and outlined an organization which would have companies and officers. This all put him into a very awkward position come February, when Franklin Pierce issued his law and order proclamation, where he specifically called out

persons residing without the Territory, but near its borders, contemplate armed intervention in the affairs thereof; it also appearing that other persons, inhabitants of remote States, are collecting money, engaging men, and providing arms for the same purpose

Contemplating armed intervention in Kansas affairs? Collecting money? Engaging men? Providing arms? From remote states? This has as much Jefferson Buford as Ely Thayer written all over it, though given Pierce’s record he almost certainly intended only antislavery emigrant aid operations. Still, the president

call[ed] on the citizens, both of adjoining and of distant States, to abstain from unauthorized intermeddling in the local concerns of the Territory, admonishing them that its organic law is to be executed with impartial justice, that all individual acts of illegal interference will incur condign punishment, and that any endeavor to intervene by organized force will be firmly withstood.

Most probably, Pierce would still do nothing against Missourians. Buford’s party might warrant different treatment, particularly with how he had spread it all over the papers and talked openly about how they would go to fight. Should the proslavery president and the proslavery filibuster come into conflict, that might end awkwardly for everyone. Thus Buford sent out the word in March that his men would not go to Kansas armed.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

That settled, they got going. At Buford’s hometown, Eufaula, a hundred men departed on March 31. Buford himself led them out. They stopped at Columbus, Georgia, and collected almost as many again. Some opted to pay their own way and set off straight for Kansas via Nashville, but Buford’s party made it to Montgomery as planned, arriving on April 4.

There were now collected here about three hundred and fifty men, of whom one hundred were from South Carolina, fifty were Georgians, one was from Illinois, one from Boston, and the rest were Alabamians. The Alabama Journal of this date characterizes the emigrants collected in Montgomery as a superior class of young men, quiet, gentlemanly, temperate. Later, some members of the party seem not to have deserved this praise.

Montgomery rolled out the welcome mat for Buford and company, hosting a reception where his lieutenant Alpheus Baker gave “a stirring address” that sounds like a standard proslavery affair: ever since the Missouri Compromise, the South had suffered under “unjust” laws and abolitionist attack. The final battle of the sections would come in Kansas, where

Her chivalrous sons must come to the rescue, to uphold and maintain their constitutional rights and protect their institutions.

The Buford Expedition, Part Six: The Daughters of South Carolina

Mary Chesnut

Mary Chesnut

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Previous Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

We left Jefferson Buford at the Alabama legislature, where he made his pitch for Kansas emigration. A visiting Massachusetts man got word of that and went straight to Ely Thayer when he got home with the news. Buford aimed to field a proslavery regiment in Kansas, all armed and ready to fight. The Emigrant Aid Society, while it had trafficked in guns at least informally, dealt more with the money end of things. Thayer and the good, antislavery people of Worcester got together and made a start on remedying that deficit to the tune of 165 guns and fifteen thousand dollars for further emigration.

Buford had not started the fight over Kansas, but Thayer and company realized that he had taken it to a new level. His plan, like the Emigrant Aid Society’s, found supporters. If Buford couldn’t shake any money loose from the state of Alabama, he could get some from Alabamans to go with the proceeds from selling forty of his Alabaman slaves. A meeting in Columbus, Georgia, resulted in a Colonel Gayle promised his county would deliver up five thousand dollars. Gayle seems to have had plenty of cash on hand, as Fleming notes that he later offered $100,000 for the execution of Abraham Lincoln. In less conventional fundraising,

A daughter of South Carolina sent to the editor of a newspaper a gold chain which would realize enough to furnish one man, and she begged him to let the ladies of her neighborhood know when more money was needed. “We will give up our personal embellishments and expose them for sale.”

Floride Calhoun

Floride Calhoun

That makes for a cute detail, but it speaks to an important reality. Nineteenth century America permitted political action by women in only tightly constrained venues. As the mothers of future citizens, they had a legitimate place in seeking to improve the moral condition of the country. They could do that through the action of various benevolent societies. We remember mostly the suffrage, temperance, and antislavery movements but nineteenth century women also practiced politics through church groups and exerting informal influence on their male relations. The women of South Carolina might have made a sentimental gesture in selling their jewelry, and most men probably read it that way, but they also took a political stand. They too lived in the Palmetto State and understood themselves as a slaveholding people, in solidarity with the slaveholders of Missouri and imperiled by antislavery activism in all its forms.

Should things worked out as they expected and antislavery agitation inspired slaves to revolt, the murderous hordes would come for the Mary Chesnuts as much as the James Chesnuts, the Floride Calhouns along with the John C. Calhouns. We know that no massacres came, but we have the benefit of hindsight they lacked. So far as they knew, the slaves told the truth when the menfolk tortured plans to kill all the whites out of them. Denmark Vesey, at least in their minds, really wanted to go on a killing spree in Charleston before sailing off to Haiti. That whites, then and now, proved far more prone to such things didn’t enter into it.


The Two Triumphs of Simone Manuel

Gentle Readers, I live by Lake Huron; my whole town does. I can be at the lake in five minutes by car or half an hour as the podcast-listening blogger in no particular hurry walks. Back in my mother’s day, to graduate high school here you had to be able to swim and prove it. By the time I graduated, that requirement had long gone. Now you know how I got out of high school; as a child I enjoyed being in the water but never quite learned how to swim. I did not know until today that I shared that with 68.9% of black children in the United States.

I don’t know from sports, but I found out that Simone Manuel won a gold medal in swimming at the Olympics. No other black woman from the United states had done so. This makes her another first black American for us to celebrate come February and forget promptly, as we usually do. The firsts matter, but our conventional focus on them risks two costly mistakes. We can take a first person as the end of a story, the victory lap in a story of progress. Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and Barack Obama broke through the color line, so we have triumphed over white power. Everyone applauds as the curtain falls. Pay no attention to the rabid white supremacy still raging almost undisturbed behind it. It would not do to demean the achievements of talented individuals in breaking down social barriers, but I think it makes far more sense to consider them as beginnings of stories than ends.

I did not see Manuel win her gold. I have seen other events where the reporter comes immediately to the American who wins second place for an interview. You expect that when you watch an American network. Maybe the person from Tuvalu or Belarus actually won, but the home country’s network will focus on the home country athletes even if language barriers didn’t very often argue for it. Not so for Manuel, who had to make do with a still photo on Twitter while the American news discussed an Australian swimmer. Priorities, you know? Maybe the law made her an American, but white Americans have never quite made our peace with that.

The other peril of focusing on first arises from that. In taking a first achievement as a kind of trivia point, we easily miss just why it mattered. Maybe it would have taken until Manuel hit the water for a black American woman to win a swimming gold, but we can’t know because white Americans have long insisted that black people have no place in our swimming pools. We have dumped acid into them to keep our waters white. We have drained the pools and filled them with dirt or concrete. More often, we’ve abandoned public pools that must accept swimmers of all colors in favor of private pools we can keep whites-only. We don’t much care for black people getting their blackness into our pools. Take it from Strom Thurmond himself:

Thurmond had a seat in the United States Senate into the twenty-first century. South Carolina kept voting for him and he ended his career as a revered and exceptionally elder statesman. Why wouldn’t he? His name made for a good trivia question and everybody knew his checkered past, but that kind of thing rarely disqualifies any white man from much of anything in the United States.

All the black children who don’t learn how to swim, and so die from drowning at five times the rate of white children. But if we poison them to cut costs then you can’t expect white America to care much about mere accidental deaths. I say accidental because so far as I can tell the statistics omit suicides; the people who drowned did not mean to do so. But in another sense, they don’t qualify at all. You can’t learn to swim without some dependable water nearby and for a great many people, particularly in cities, that means a pool. White Americans left those behind to die from lack of funds, where we didn’t destroy them, rather than let black Americans enjoy the water with us. We chose that policy and we have kept right on choosing it. We know the consequences and we, as we almost always do, took the deaths of black Americans as at least an acceptable loss. Some of us surely go so far as to prefer it.

I can’t know what went through the minds of the directors, film crew, and reporters who ignored Manuel’s achievement, but flag-waving enthusiasm didn’t enter into it or she would have gotten far more coverage than she did. We are all trained to believe black Americans just don’t count, even beyond how we’re trained to think women don’t count. But meaner things lurk in the national consciousness. She didn’t win her races for an America that we’ve been trained all our lives to see as our own: the white male land playground build on stolen land and lives. She represented an America that that country has fought for centuries. For her to win, it had to lose. We do not celebrate our losses.

Simone Manuel beat her opponents in the pool. She beat Strom Thurmond and all his modern doppelgangers too.

The Buford Expedition, Part Five: A Response from Eli Thayer

William Lowndes Yancey

William Lowndes Yancey

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Previous Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4

Jefferson Buford had requested donations to help fund his plan to colonize proslavery men in Kansas. The forty slaves he sold, which Fleming reports went for seven hundred dollars each, would only go so far. He really wanted money from Alabama, but he would take it from private hands and named William Lowndes Yancey the man to collect the cash. Over the course of February, he and others undertook a speaking tour to promote the effort. They cast their net, as one might expect from where Buford named his rendezvous points, across South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Buford’s speaking tour took him to Montgomery, where he made his case to the Alabama legislature in person. A representative from Wilcox County introduced a bill to give Buford $25,000, but the legislature in general proved less keen on the business. The bill died in committee. A Massachusetts man, William T. Merrifield of Worcester, had come to Montgomery just the day before. According to Eli Thayer’s A History of the Kansas Crusadehe got his news directly from legislators who saw the speech.

Mr. Merrifield came home immediately, fully impressed with the belief that we ought to protect our men from this section and send men enough there to counteract the designs of the pro-slavery raiders. He was thoroughly convinced, from what he had seen, that we could and ought to do it. Having in his mind the suggestion of steps to be taken, the next morning, after he arrived home, the first man he met on the street was Mr. Eli Thayer.

That sounds a little too neat, but Thayer also lived in Worcester and would have had frequent cause to come to the post office where the meeting took place. Merrifield told Thayer his idea and Thayer, already in the business of sending men and probably off-the-books guns to Kansas, decided to get right on it. Thayer went off to Boston at once, where he learned that he would have the cash he needed.

Eli Thayer

Eli Thayer

On the ninth of February, 1856, a meeting convened at the city hall. Thayer and S.C. Pomeroy gave speeches, which went over well enough that

before the audience left the hall twenty-three rifles, equivalent to the sum of $575 were subscribed for

Thayer himself pledged ten rifles, $25 each, provided that Worcester could get together the funds for another seventy-five within the week. They did better, outfitting 165 men with guns and ammunition. Two further meetings brought the cash total to north of fifteen thousand.

The Buford Expedition, Part Four: “What military and other service do I require?”

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Previous Parts: 1, 2, 3

The winter of 1856 found Jefferson Buford’s expedition to save Kansas for slavery and make back his investment of forty slaves’ sale price about ready to go. Plans had changed a bit since he announced it. Buford would no longer take women, children, or slaves as subsidized emigrants; he wanted fighting men. According to Buford, “the great number of emigrants” required him to make one more adjustment. If you wanted to come, you absolutely had to meet Buford at one of his stated points of departure: his home of Eufaula, Columbus (Georgia), or Montgomery. But if you came, you got to go:

I will receive all males over eighteen from any Southern State, who join me at the time above designated; their rations to begin from the time above named for rendezvous. Emigrants must pay their own expenses to the place and day of rendezvous.

You could come from Delaware or Texas, but Buford would not put himself on the hook for your transport. However, you wouldn’t really have to pay:

Those gentleman in Carolina and other States forming companies to join me, can very easily obtain free transportation for their companies by proper application to the directors of the railroads over which they must pass.

When Buford said railroads, he meant the plural. Nineteenth century rail networks rarely connected to one another in any sensible scheme, particularly in the South. Buford thus asked anybody coming from afar to gamble on multiple railroad owners having a soft spot for dodgy colonization ventures, possibly to the degree of forgoing dozens of fares. Maybe they would, but that seems an awful lot to ask a poor emigrant to chance. Buford knew that full well. He advised anybody interested to throw a public meeting and put out the collection plate. However, he specified that contributions should not hinge on an individual going, but rather come earmarked “for the common benefit.”

Then Buford walked back his military language. After asking often for fighting men, coming armed and organized into a regiment and companies with officers, he walked it back:

I am asked, what military and other service do I require? None, except that when he gets to Kansas, the emigrant shall begin some honest employment for a living, if he be working on his claim, that will give him credit to buy bread on. On his way there he is expected to be orderly and temperate, to attend the reading of the Scriptures and prayer night and morning, to learn to fear God, to be charitable to our enemies, gentle with females and those in power, merciful to slaves and beasts and just to all men.

A cynical mind might note that Buford laid the temperance, religious, and humanitarian obligations upon his colonists only while they traveled. In Kansas, they needed only look to their own profit. A more generous one might admit that access to religious services might prove difficult on the frontier, however scrupulous the supplicant.

Buford closed his letter of February 1 with a request that interested parties write at once and the names of two men in South Carolina who he believed in the process of raising their own companies to join him. He gave his assurance that those worthies would totally for sure have free rides on the railroad. If you came from South Carolina, you should sign up with them.

The Buford Expedition, Part Three: “For the Privilege of Joining my Party”

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Jefferson Buford planned a nice vacation for himself and a few hundred of his most proslavery friends. They would go to Kansas on his dime, but he would take donations and promised to pay passage for a proslavery colonist for every fifty dollars received. To get the ball rolling, he sold forty of his slaves. Come the start of 1856, Buford nearly had everything in place. If not for some of his men refusing to go before the spring, he might have set out in February as planned. They insisted and Buford relented, scheduling departure for the end of March and beginning of April, depending where one came from. He also announced that he would underwrite only limited baggage: six blankets, a gun, a backpack, and a frying pan. If you wanted more, you had to pay for it yourself. Nor would Buford pay for the relocation of slaves, women, or children. In the time between his original November announcement and January, he realized he needed fighting men.

In case someone missed the point, even after Buford’s frequent talk about how you had to come ready for battle and keen on martial glory, he then told the world that he would organize his “regiment” into companies with officers elected by their members. Said officers would “have no emoluments” as “the organization is on the principle of volunteer militia to sustain the laws.” No uniforms, no extra pay, but you would get your chance to kill some abolitionists. That had to count for something, right?

If the growing peril in Kansas did not inspire Buford to promise relocation to noncombatants, then his finances might have done the job. He moved from discussing the military organization back to the ledgers, declaring that he didn’t plan to lose money on this business. In exchange

for the privilege of joining my party, for subsistence and transportation to Kansas, and furnishing the means to enter his pre-emption, each emigrant agrees to acquire a pre-emption, and to pay me, when his titles are perfected, a sum equal to the value of one-half of his pre-emption, which obligation he may discharge in money or property at a fair valuation, at his own option.

Preemption meant you could squat on land, register your claim, and then pay for it at a set minimum price. Buford had previously guaranteed to his adventurers a good forty acres. Now he wanted them to get it themselves and pay him half. That sounds suspicious, possibly rightly so, but Buford may just have not done his homework. He explains the shift in plan on the grounds that he thought you could claim preemptions “before patent”. I think that means he thought you could buy the land at preemption rates before living on and developing it as a prerequisite. Buford learned otherwise “on examining the act”. But he still had good news. Men of legal age, widows, and heads of families who hadn’t claimed a preemption elsewhere, and who did not have 320 acres already to their name, could have 160 acres at $1.25 a pop provided they lived on and improved it. So why wouldn’t you go to Kansas?

I don’t doubt that Buford really wanted to win Kansas for slavery, but it sounds like he meant to make a profit nearly as badly. The plan to have employees “settle” land and preempt it for you goes way back in American history. Buying the land at auction meant paying a fair market price. You might not turn an obscene profit. But get some handy “settlers” and you could claim vast acres for a song.


The Buford Expedition, Part Two: “six blankets, one gun, one knapsack, and one frying pan”

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Jefferson Buford of Eufaula, Alabama, sold forty of his slaves to save slavery in Kansas Territory. He wanted proslavery men, “crazy enough” to go to Kansas at fifty dollars a head. But not too crazy. Buford foresaw a place for heroes to defend “that great Thermopylae of southern institutions”, but he didn’t want maniacs. He wanted something more on the order of disciplined adventurers.

How did that work out for Buford? Walter Lynwood Fleming relates that at the end of December of 1855, Buford wrote to the Advertiser and State Gazette of Montgomery with good news. He had

honest, clever, poor young men from the country, used to agricultural labor, with a few merchants, mechanics, printers, and carpenters.

I went looking for the original, but couldn’t find it online. I think Fleming would have quoted a number of Buford gave one, but can’t say for certain. Either way, by January 19, 1856, Buford felt he had enough men on tap to set out. He published an announcement to that effect, laying out the details. He wanted to get going on February 11, but Buford’s colonists wouldn’t be ready in time. Some refused to leave before Spring. Citing that and the winter ice on the Missouri and the Kansas, Buford accepted a delay. He still meant to go, mind you. His men should gather at Eufaula on March 31; Columbus, Georgia on April 3; and Montgomery on April 5th. He would gather up others as he went between those places.

The company will travel from Montgomery by steamers via Mobile and New Orleans, or else by railroad via Atlanta to Nashville, and thence by steamer to Kansas.

The fragmented state of roads and rails in the antebellum South made such circuitous routes the norm. But roundabout or not, Buford aimed to go. He even paid the way for his men, though not for everything. His subsidy for luggage did not of very far at all:

I engage to transport no baggage except six blankets, one gun, one knapsack, and one frying pan to each emigrant. For baggage over and above this the emigrant must himself engage transportation; many will have no more and I must treat all alike.

This must have constituted a change of plans, as Buford then adds:

While I thought my company would be small I expected to be able to take women, children, and slaves; but I find I must leave them to give place to men who are now greatly needed in Kansas to preserve the public peace and enforce the laws. I now expect over four hundred men and I will take no females, nor slaves, nor minors under eighteen years of age. Women and children should not be exposed there in tents in the spring, but the husbands should go first and prepare houses.

One can read that three ways. Buford might very well have gotten far more men than he hoped, or fewer financial backers than he hoped. These four hundred make the first time he’s given a hard number. Even if finances didn’t enter into it, whether from too many interested parties or too few paying subscribers, Buford laid out his plan in public before the Wakarusa War. He might well appreciate now that Kansas would require more than militant bluster to save for slavery. Buford could have imagined a colonial venture with a military sideline back in November, but now realized he needed a military venture with a colonial sideline.

Some Recent Reading (August 2016)

I do a lot of reading for the blog. You see a great deal of it in the period documents quoted extensively in just about every post. I also read full-length books by modern historians, which appear less frequently as such but always inform my writing. Now and then I even get my hands on journal articles. Astonishingly enough, a history blogger frequently reads history. Often, I have read that history very slowly. Historians can produce excellent prose, but most do not. The job is to communicate information and analysis rather than to have one on the edge of one’s seat with suspense. We all know everybody died at the end. I mostly muddle through, though I possess sufficient quantities of boringness that now and then a book really does grab me.

The past three books have gone rather differently. I developed a system. Did you know they divide books into chapters? I have ignored these things for ages, just reading until I get tired of it and moving on. This produced considerably inconsistency. Sometimes I would read for an hour or two, sometimes ten minutes. Over time I got the sense that often I made no progress through books, which served as a disincentive to continue. Three books back, I decided to try what I do for this blog. You’ve no doubt noticed that I have a preferred length for blog posts. Ideally, they run for about one idea and 300-500 words. I hit the one idea mark rarely, but the words much more consistently. I usually end up between 500 and 600. Wordy nineteenth century authors work against me. Then I stop, most of the time. I often could write more, and sometimes bank a few days ahead, but it feels like a good balance between the willingness of readers to push on in a conventionally short form medium like a blog and my own endurance. I feel done, but not exhausted, when I finish. I have settled on using chapters as a similar benchmark. If I finish a chapter a day, I have done my duty to research and can move on or continue as I like. Gentle Readers, your author has reached the third grade at last.

That dazzlingly complex routine has pushed me along through James Huston’s Calculating the Value of the Union. A genuine slavery scholar recommended it to me. Huston, despite his protests, writes very little new. The South had a massive investment in slave property with which it would not lightly part. What distinguishes his work comes more in the remarkably thoroughness of it. He has economic graphs and charts upon charts, which he carefully walks through in prose sections. Huston approaches the question as an economic historian to an almost maddening degree at points, insisting always on an emphasis in property rights and varying conceptions of them. In other words, antebellum white Southerners considered people an acceptable form of property. At times it verges on recreating the strange theory that great political disputes come down to men discoursing politely in high society, but he pulls from quite crossing the line. As such, Huston wrote a good book that I hesitate to recommend. It features far more numbers than people and discusses almost everything at a highly abstracted level. But if you like that kind of thing, or just love economic graphs, Huston has one hell of a book for you.

From Huston I went to an essay collection: Contesting Slavery: The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation, edited by Matthew Mason and John Craig Hammond. You never know quite what to expect with these, as each chapter comes from a different author and addresses a different topic. I picked it up because I enjoyed Mason’s Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic, which argues persuasively that slavery constituted an important political issue long before either its otherwise anomalous appearance in the Missouri Crisis or the arrival of immediate abolitionism with William Lloyd Garrison in the 1830s. Mason’s book ends with at Missouri. The essays in Contesting Slavery reach from the 1750s to the 1840s, connecting the antislavery defeat in 1820 with the rise of militant abolitionism in the 30s and the re-emergence of more political antislavery in the 1840s. That puts Garrison and company in a much-needed context.

Along the way I also learned much more about the presence of early slave systems in the Old Southwest, which at least complicates the traditional understanding (which I have shared) that the founders simply chose not to bar slavery from the Lower South west of the Appalachians and so it came. Quite the opposite. Slavery already existed on the ground, if not on the scale that it soon would, and westerners of sometimes doubtful loyalty insisted upon it as the price for their allegiance. The weak federal government of the late eighteenth century had little power to either force them into line or enforce a slavery prohibition even had the will existed, though the will also did not exist.

Every essay has worthwhile things to learn; I heartily recommend the collection.

Which brought me to Eric Foner’s dissertation-turned book: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. I came warily to this book. I respect Foner tremendously as a historian, but his first book came out before my parents left high school and covers ground where you would expect subsequent scholars to frequently tread. I might pick up badly outdated ideas, or just see the original version of thought that has become so standard it appears everywhere; old news either way. I feared in vain. I have no doubt that some points of Foner’s have seen revision, but except for the dated language -Foner often refers to “the Negro” and “the race issue”- and a larger focus on direct political action than one would probably have now, it felt contemporary. Nor did Foner simply talk about ideology, though he organizes his chapters around ideological analysis and only does a chronological narrative within them. Rather Foner gave a relatively detailed account of just how the Republican party formed, warts and all. I saw him call it a book about how to build a political party a few years ago, via youtube, and it really is. The last few chapters even include some trailers for his more famous work on Reconstruction in the limits of Free Labor thought. If you want to understand Lincoln’s party before Lincoln led it, you do yourself a disservice not to get a copy.

The Buford Expedition, Part One: Forty Slaves, Fifty Dollars, and “some crazy enough”

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

The State of Missouri, which had born the weight of advancing slavery in Kansas Territory alone for two long years, finally had enough. The free state party had not quietly accepted defeat and gone away, but rather persisted in the green glow of Emigrant Aid Society cash. If antislavery Americans could subsidize emigration to Kansas, then why not proslavery Americans? The Show Me State published an appeal for the South to do just that. In Alabama, this inspired Thomas J. Orme to declare that if the state would hand over $100,000, he would put five hundred proslavery men in Kansas at once. Nobody obliged Orme. Walter Lynwood Fleming, from whom I have all this, doesn’t delve into why. I imagine the state had better things to do with such a massive amount of money than a decidedly speculative venture.

On November 26, eight days after Orme’s stillborn proposal, the delightfully named Major Jefferson Buford came out with his own. An Alabama lawyer and veteran of Second Creek War, Buford took to the pages of Eufaula’s Spirit of the South:

Who will go to Kansas? I wish to raise three hundred industrious, sober, discreet, reliable men capable of bearing arms, not prone to use them wickedly or unnecessarily, but willing to protect their sections in every real emergency.

Buford sounds like he had some mixed feelings about recruiting fighting men. He clearly wants soldiers, but not just soldiers. His expedition meant to go to Kansas to stay, not as a long distance version of a Missourian election raid. If you joined up with the Major and removed to Kansas, to which he hoped to depart by February 20, 1855, Buford promised:

a homestead of forty acres of first rate land, a free passage to Kansas and the means of support for one year. To ministers of the gospel, mechanics, and those with good military or agricultural outfits, I will offer greater inducements.

You could go to Kansas to do more than kill Yankee abolitionists. Buford would set you up nicely and take care of you until he could. He pledged twenty thousand of his own money, which he raised by selling forty of his slaves. He also

expect[ed] all those who know how and have confidence in me and who feel an interest in the cause to contribute as much as they are able.

Like a latter-day PBS drive, Buford promised that for every fifty dollars someone kicked in, he would put a settler in Kansas

able and willing to vote and fight if need be for our section, or in default of doing so, that I will on demand refund the donation with interest

They didn’t have tote bags, baseball caps, or surplus copies of Ken Burns documentaries to hock in the nineteenth century, but you would buy a settler or get your money back. Should the state kick in a nice pile of cash -hint, hint- Buford would break it up into fifty dollar allotments and use it just the same way. So

Here is your cheapest and surest chance to do something for Kansas,-something toward holding against the free-soil hordes that great Thermopylae of southern institutions. This is their great day of darkness, nay, of extreme peril, there ought to be, there needs must be great individual self-sacrifice, or they cannot be maintained.

Every endeavor had its risks; people went west in far less fraught circumstances and failed. But the cause of the South demanded the section produce “some crazy enough to peril even life in the deadly breach” to go save Kansas for slavery at fifty dollars a head.




Missouri Calls for Help

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Before delving back into the maltreatment of William C. Clark, I wrote about the Kansas Pioneer Association of Jackson County, Missouri. They aimed to do what the Emigrant Aid Societies had done for more than a year: subsidize emigration of politically-reliable white men to Kansas. There they would vote for slavery, vs. the Emigrant Aid Societies’ freedom, and cement the institution’s grip on the nation’s most troubled territory. Missourians had heretofore considered such behavior cheating, but firm principle yielded to clear advantage as often to them as to us. Nor did they come alone to the prosalvery side of the Emigrant Aid Game, though their side did come to the business tardily. Walter Lynwood Fleming explains why in The Buford Expedition to Kansas (PDF). My copy is from Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF) on the grounds that I found it first.

Fleming puts proslavery delay down to how “it was doubtful if the anti-slavery party would ever be strong enough to control the elections” but Yankee Emigrant Aid operations got to work at the job.

In the movement of importing men the North had already two years the start, the South being confident that no exertion would be necessary in order to secure Kansas as a slave State. So there was very little pro-slavery emigration into this debatable land before late in 1856 except from the neighboring State of Missouri.

Fleming then recounts how the first territorial elections went in favor of the South. He neglects how the South ensured what, whether he means the delegate election of November, 1854, or the legislative elections of March, 1855. As a member of the Dunning School, Fleming leaned proslavery about as hard as one could at the turn of the twentieth century. That proslavery Missourians invaded Kansas in large numbers to control the territorial elections seems to simply not register as relevant to him. Come late 1855 “the outlook was gloomy for the pro-slavery cause.”


Pro-slavery emigrant aid societies were now organized in Missouri, and soon other similar societies were formed in the remaining Southern States. Missouri appealed to her sister States in the South to come to her assistance.

I haven’t found the original appeal online anywhere; my searching turns up Fleming’s citation and ought else. But he does quote from it. Citing the two years of southern reverses, which Missouri had born alone, the appeal held

The time has come when she can no longer stand up single-handed, the lone champion of the South, against the myrmidons of the North. It requires no foresight to perceive that if the ‘higher law’ men succeed in this crusade, it will be but the beginning of a war upon the institutions of the South, which will continue until slavery shall cease to exist in any of the States, or the Union is dissolved.

The Missourians had it mostly right on both counts. They depicted Kansas as coming to a crisis point, which would last at least through the elections of October, 1856. If the proslavery party could not control matters, they would lose the territory. Kansas required

bolt, determined action. Words will no longer do any good; we must have men in Kansas, and that by tens of thousands. A few will not answer. If we should need ten thousand men and lack one of that number, all will count nothing. Let all then who can come do so at once. Those who cannot come must give money to help others to come.

Failure in Kansas would lead, as always, to the loss of the whole West to freedom and the restriction of slavery to the southeast. Excitement reigned through the end of 1855, with the slave states

now thoroughly canvassed by agents of the pro-slavery emigrant aid societies.

Someone would take Missouri up on the offer. According to Fleming, “Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia” rushed to get in line. An Alabaman named Thomas J. Orme published an appeal of his own on November 18, 1855:

If the people of Alabama will raise $100,000, I will land in Kansas 500 settlers. I have over one hundred volunteers now.