“We must have men in Kansas”

Joshua Giddings (R-OH)

Joshua Giddings could promise John Brown no war in Kansas from the comfort of Washington City. Brown had to deal with the reality on the ground. At first, it didn’t look too bad and Brown’s perpetual optimism might well have kicked in. He busied himself readying a cabin for a man he knew who planned to move to Kansas soon. Then he and the boys set to surveying the boundaries of the Ottawa reservation. March brought new streams of white colonists along with Giddings’ promises, mostly from the free states.

Those Yankees came in part because the Emigrant Aid Societies stepped up their efforts, spurred on by warnings from Kansas and Franklin Pierce’s openly proslavery course. That brought its own reaction, with the Missourian operating kicking into higher gear. To this point, the Show Me State had largely worked on its own in Kansas. The whole South might express solidarity, as Giddings said the North did for the free state cause, but solidarity did not win far away elections or make one’s home secure. The Kansas Emigrant Aid Society of Missouri, a proslavery outfit, begged more than well wishes from the other slave states:

The time has come when she [Missouri] 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 struggle in Missouri would lead to a struggle for the South entire. Anxious border state men and deep South enslavers alike had to take note, because events in Kansas now neared a critical stage. Kansas had elections in October of 1856 “and unless at that time the South can maintain her ground all will be lost.” Enough talk, the time for action had come and slavery did not have much time at all to win through.

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 them who can come do so at once. Those who cannot come must give money to others to come.

Tens of thousands of men would probably come near equaling Kansas’ white population, but urgency breeds exaggeration. Even if nowhere near so many men showed up armed and ready to fight for slavery, the proslavery side now threatened to at least match the Yankees with a national movement. Already anxious about more Missourians showing up, they had to wonder how many men might make the long trek from other states. Back in December, the Missourians had homes nearby to get back to. Anyone who came from farther away would probably mean to stay for the duration and want more satisfaction for the trouble. Giddings might promise peace, but the other side looked bent on war.


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