The Constitution and Ritual of the Kansas Legion, Part Five

Cyrus K. Holliday, Grand Vice-General of the Kansas Legion

Cyrus K. Holliday, Grand Vice-General of the Kansas Legion

Parts 12, 3, 4Squatter Sovereign article

Patrick Laughlin published the constitution and rituals of the Kansas Legion, but his article included more information still. It appears that when the Grand Encampment had their first session, on February 8, 1855, they passed a resolution that offers a useful reminder that their movement did not consist entirely of twenty-first century egalitarians, but rather nineteenth century white Americans. In April, the legion’s founders wrote their constitution. In February, they had this to say:

Whereas, while we regard the Freedom of Kansas Territory as the highest of all political considerations which may now or hereafter engage our attention as a free and intelligent people, we at the same time regard it as impolitic and wrong to adopt any line of policy that may in any manner interfere with the domestic relations of our neighboring States or Territories–therefore,

Resolved, that we hold it to be just and proper in our relations with our sister States as a fundamental principle of action, and most promotive of the public good of the Territory, that laws preventing the emigration of either Slaves or Free negroes be enacted by our coming General Assembly and eventually engrafted in the constitution of the State.

Andrew Francis wanted to join the free state movement because he understood its goal as largely the same as his free white state party: no black Americans in Kansas. Missouri need not worry, as Kansas would let Missourians come and take back their absconded slaves. Kansan whites need not worry, as they would not let any black person free or slave remain long in their territory. Every black person would lose if they had their way, and therefore every white person would win.

David Wilmot

David Wilmot

Not every antislavery Kansan went along with that, as recurrent debates over Jim Lane’s black law demonstrate, but they could not carry the state on their own. For every Charles Robinson, who would make black men and women of all races into voters, the United States had at least dozens of David Wilmots bent on constraining slavery only as a way to make the continent whites only. The egalitarians could grumble about it and write protests, but without the numbers they could accomplish little else. Worse, if they insisted too forcefully they might break the tide of resentment that repeated theft of elections had engendered in white Kansans and send some of the black law men back over to the proslavery side. I don’t know that we could say which course would have led to a better outcome any easier than they could have.

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Laughlin concluded his exposure of the Legion with suitable fireworks:

Now that I have shown the foul, treasonable and murderous plottings of a party in which preachers of the Gospel stand pre-eminent-it is my duty to give also to the world, in order to make my statements more perfect, the Grip, Signs, and Passwords of this modern army, made up of the chivalrous sons of darkness.

Thus Laughlin told Kansas, and anybody in Missouri who cared to read it as well, not just what he knew or the contents of documents. He also provided the means to infiltrate a meeting. They need not take his word for it, but could go see for themselves. While present they could note the faces, then return home and tell their friends.

The article concludes with a statement of Laughlin’s character. Seven men swore to having known Laughlin since he came to Kansas and

take pleasure in saying that his demeanor has been that of a gentleman, and that they consider his statements perfectly reliable in every respect.

The seven worthies included James Forman and James Lynch, both of whom took part in the Laughlin-Collins clash. I suspect we know now just how Collins came to see Lynch as his enemy. Two other Formans, John and A.P. signed as well, likely relatives of James.

 

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The Constitution and Ritual of the Kansas Legion, Part Four

Cyrus K. Holliday, Grand Vice-General of the Kansas Legion

Cyrus K. Holliday, Grand Vice-General of the Kansas Legion

Parts 12, 3Squatter Sovereign article

 

You had to swear twice to join the Kansas Legion. The first time, you swore not to reveal what you would learn of the group and its business at the meeting where they planned to induct you. Then, reeling from the stunning revelation that this secretive group of antislavery men constituted a secretive group of antislavery men, must swear a more binding oath. The Constitution and Ritual of the Kansas Legion set this down word for word and Patrick Laughlin published it with the rest of the Legion’s secrets.

The Howard Report also contains a version of the oath, as remembered by Andrew Francis. Francis uses the Kansas Regulators. He joined after Laughlin’s original publication, some time shortly after October 11. At his induction, Andrew Reeder impressed on Francis that the Regulators had nothing to do with the Kansas Legion that Laughlin exposed. Other witnesses, notably Martin F. Conway, also testify to two organizations. Given the similarity between the groups, their identical politics, the short timespan between the fall of one and the presumed rise of the next, I don’t take this claim very seriously. Francis’s testimony suggests that he tended to take people very much at their word. That considered, I see the Regulators as unlikely to differ substantially from the Legion. Most likely, the members changed their name and altered a few habits rather than founded an entirely different group.

The oath that the Legion specified might not perfectly match the oath Francis recalled, even if he originally swore the same words. That could come down to actual changes, imperfect memory, or local variations in usage, but the two bear examination together all the same. The official oath begins

I, _____, in the most solemn manner, here, in the presence of Heaven and these witnesses, bind myself that I will never reveal, nor cause to be revealed, either by word, look or sign, by writing, printing, engraving, painting or in any manner whatsoever anything pertaining to this institution, save to persons duly qualified to receive the same. I will never reveal the name of this organization, the place of meeting, the fact that any person is a member of the same, or even the existence of the organization, except to persons legally qualified to receive the same.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

This substantially matches Francis’ oath. He references “the Almighty” instead of “the presence of Heaven” and phrases the obligations differently, but captures the same meaning. Francis adds that the oath required him to obey, to the cost of his own life, the commands of his superiors. The Legion’s oath has nothing like that. Instead, one must

support, maintain and abide by any honorable movement made by this organization to secure this great end [a free Kansas], which will not conflict with the laws of the country and the Constitution of the United States. I will unflinchingly vote for and support the candidates nominated by this organization, in preference to any and all others.

One could take the obedience unto death part as read, but the text doesn’t really suggest that. Someone could have added it in accord with local usage, but one wouldn’t expect local variants to have much traction in the immediate surrounds of the men who wrote down the original. A more severe version of the oath might have gone out after Laughlin put the Legion in the papers. Francis might have remembered things told to him informally as part of the oath. Or he might have resented the Legion/Regulators for letting him think Wilson Shannon supported them and added it out of spite.

Francis’ oath also bound him to commercial non-intercourse with proslavery men, to whatever degree he could manage. The Legion’s oath has no such provision. Nor does it require, as Francis claims he swore, that one must bear arms. However, the Legion’s constitution provides that encampments of thirty or more must form military companies and the prescribed rituals consistently refer to members as soldiers, so I don’t think he went far off script in reading that between the lines.

The Legion’s oath concludes

To all of this obligation I do most solemnly promise and affirm, binding myself under the penalty of being expelled from this organization, of having my name published to the several Territorial Encampments as a perjurer before Heaven and a traitor to my country-of passing through life scorned and reviled by men, frowned on by devils, forsaken by angels, and abandoned by God.

Frnacis didn’t call these lines out as such, but if they appeared in the oath he swore then they might well have discomfited him on religious grounds. He mentions such scruples in his testimony, as well as concerns about swearing to oppose the legislature’s work conflicting with his oath as a lawyer.

The induction ritual continued with a recitation of the familiar free soil grievances and the insalubrious effects of slavery upon the prosperity of the land. The Colonel would then teach the secret handshake, knocks, and passwords. The new member must not forget to whisper the latter. It wouldn’t do for every Atchison, Stringfellow, and Kelley to learn them.

 

 

Friends of the Free State Militia, Part Four

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Friends of the Free State Militia: parts 1, 2, 3

My previous consideration of the free state militia in the fall of 1855 has focused on lesser known figures. However, Andrew Francis named a rather more famous man who signed up for the Kansas Regulators about the same time that he did. Francis’ testimony indicted another Andrew, Kansas’ first governor. Andrew Reeder saw fit to testify at length to the Howard Committee. He devoted most of his time to defending his conduct as governor, as one would expect, but after the recitations of threats against him for delaying elections, for setting aside elections, and the ever-fruitful subject of his land speculations, Reeder delved into his involvement with secret societies:

In the month of September, 1855, I was invited to become a member; assented, and proceeded to the place of meeting; found about 25 to 30 men assembled; was assured by the presiding officer that the objects were such as would not conflict with any of the obligations of an honorable man and a good citizen, and an assurance that if I so found them, i would not reveal the existence of the society, in case I desired to take the oath when I should hear it.

Reeder then heard the oath, declared it “unexceptionable,” and sore it. He affirmed, however, that he had never seen a written constitution for the Regulators. They must have learned from Patrick Laughlin’s exposure of the Legion not to put such things in writing. Reeder also told the committee that he only attended the meeting where he joined. By the time he testified, he had either forgotten or “forgotten” all the passwords save for the one that Andrew Francis testified to. All the same, he remembered enough of the oath to give an account quite similar to Martin Conway’s:

The principal points of the oath of initiation were-to labor by all honorable means to make Kansas a free State; mutually to protect and defend each other against violence; always to keep a firelock and ammunition in the house; to wear a weapon of defence, in the shape of a knife or revolver; to rush to the rescue of a brother who should be assailed by violence, whenever there was a greater probability of saving his life than of losing my own.

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Reeder read the oath Francis recited and declared, like Conway, that he recalled no promise to transact business as exclusively as possible with free State men, to obey orders to the point of death, to wear badges marking himself as a member, to take up arms against the government, and so forth. The governor admitted that badges existed, but added that as he received permission to wear one or not as he liked, he did not view their use as inherent or obligatory in membership.

For the rest, Reeder said

I have not the slightest recollection, and do not at all believe they constitute a part of the oath. I am very confident that I took no such pledges; and had they been proffered, I should have refused at once; and I could not have taken such an obligation, or had it offered to me, without recollecting it.

But had Reeder taken an oath against the laws of the Kansas legislature, he told a slightly different story:

it is possible that there may have been a pledge to oppose, disavow, or repudiate them as not binding, and not to avail myself of them, and such a promise I may have made and forgotten.

Even if he had, Reeder insisted, he did not intend or swear to pursue his opposition through force of arms. He would never have sworn that, and would have remembered if he did, because he deemed many of the legislature’s works “of so indifferent a character, and not peculiarly obnoxious in themselves” that he wouldn’t consider them worth fighting over. Reeder must here mean something like the ferry bill he vetoed and other workaday legislation. He certainly didn’t have in mind the more radical proslavery acts. If he had, then I doubt he would have long remained in the free soil party, even if he came initially out of spite against the legislature for his ouster.

 

Friends of the Free State Militia, Part Three

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Friends of the Free State Militia: part 1, 2

Martin F. Conway told the Howard Committee that two secret societies operated in and about Lawrence in 1855. The first, the Kansas Legion, tried to expand across Kansas and failed. It probably didn’t help that Patrick Laughlin exposed them. The second, the Kansas Regulators, endured longer. Both groups aimed to defend free soil Kansans and their political activities, which they fairly construed as self-defense given the belligerency of the proslavery forces. Conway told the committee that his group did not propose to subvert the territorial government and gave a plausible explanation of how they managed the feat: Other states had wildcat governments that the Congress accepted, so why not Kansas?

In his testimony, Conway also gives the committee a sense of the Regulators’ size and level of activity:

I attended meetings of the society during the month of September [1855]. There were a great many initiated every night, ten, fifteen, twenty, and thirty at a time, many of whom would be strangers to me. […] Our meetings were weekly.

Assuming four weeks to the month, which fits that September almost exactly, Conway saw a minimum of forty and as many as 120 men sworn in. The town of Lawrence had under 1,645 people in the 1860 census, so a fair portion of the male population signed up. Andrew Francis’ reference to every man on the street wearing a Regulators ribbon seems relatively credible in light of that.

Conway found a different point to disagree with Francis, though. While he could not recall every word of the oath administered to him, and believed that the exact form varied from time to time, he remembered the general thrust of it. Francis had it that Regulators swore commercial non-intercourse with proslavery men, that they should keep ready at all times to bear arms for the free State even to subverting the government, oppose the legislature in all its acts, and that if someone had forgotten to swear them to some part of the oath it still applied. Conway did not remember, or chose to forget

any obligation required of any member to transact all the business he had, so far as he was able with free State men. I am positive I never heard any obligation required that, under all circumstances and at all times, members should hold themselves in readiness to take up arms in defence of free State principles, even though it should subvert the government, I do not remember any obligation requiring members to oppose to the utmost of their powers the laws of the so-called Kansas legislature. I do not remember of any such obligation as: “If any part of any obligation is at this time omitted, I will consider the same as binding when legally informed of it.” I do not remember any portion of the obligation requiring members to commit it to memory.

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

The things Martin Conway did not remember constituted the majority of the oath Francis claimed to swear. I find Francis’ account more credible than Conway’s, but they could both be right. Conway could have lied to the committee; he certainly pushed close to it in declaring the Regulators not subversive. He might have chosen to own up to his obvious involvement while denying the Regulators’ more radical practices. He might also have sworn a different oath which left out those provisions. James Lane could have exceeded his authority in swearing Francis to extra duties, or chosen to do so because as an outsider to Lawrence he felt Francis not as trustworthy as Conway or others. Lane doesn’t appear to have testified on the issue, so he can’t tell us himself if he did any such thing.

 

Friends of the Free State Militia, Part Two

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Friends of the Free State Militia: part 1

G.P. Lowery told the Howard Committee that he had joined the Kansas Regulators, but that Andrew Francis and Patrick Laughlin had the gravely exaggerated the organization’s activities and ambitions. They existed only to defend free soil Kansans against attack by proslavery Kansans and Missourians who meant them harm. They did not extend across all Kansas, but confined themselves to the Lawrence area. They had no intention of subverting the territorial government. He might have meant the last point, but doing so would have required a very fine distinction between the physical protection of members of the free state movement and the same movement’s political aims.

Martin F. Conway, who we met resigning his seat in the legislature, added more to the record. He admitted to joining the Kansas Legion to

protect the rights of the people against the encroachments of the people of Missouri. It was formed in consequence the invasion at the previous March election, and the recent outrages in Leavenworth.

Conway puts the date of founding at the middle of June, which makes sense for a reaction to Missourian election stealing back in March, as well as the special election stolen in Leavenworth in late May. Given he refers to outrages in the plural and the date fits, he probably also had in mind the lynching of William Phillips. Conway identified the group as the one that Patrick Laughlin exposed in the fall. In stating that its activities aimed to protect the rights of Kansans, Conway casts it as an explicitly political group. That group boasted a written constitution and divisions all around Kansas. That would conflict with Lowery’s story, but Conway went on to explain

it was found to be cumbersome and unwieldy, and it fell into disuse, and I do not know as it ever accomplished anything.

[…]

Another secret society was afterwards formed, the proceedings of which were intended to be secret, but the existence of which was intended should be known to the public. It was instituted about the middle of September, 1855. The object of this society was to protect the movement of the people of Kansas for a free State organization against those attempts which it was expected the Missourians would make to defeat the movement.

This second group included Andrew Francis. It remained a political group, even if Conway couched its mission in terms of self-defense. The Kansas Regulators would defend the persons of free state Kansans, but Conway explicitly includes their political activities under its aegis:

In proceeding to accomplish the object we had in view it was necessary for us to have meetings, conventions, elections, and various other gatherings of the people, and knowing ourselves liable at such times to be attacked by pro-slavery men in the Territory, as well as by invaders from Missouri, we resolved upon this secret organization as a means of defence of ourselves and resistance to them.

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

So they organized into regiments with appointed officers. Did they plan to subvert the government? G.P. Lowery said they did not. Martin Conway insisted that the Regulators operated “purely” defensively. But then he went on to say

the position we took in forming this secret society and in perfecting a State organization was, that as soon as the State government should be put in operation it would supersede the Territorial government, and the laws made under that territorial government, not by any violent method, but in the regular order of things as had been the case in other territories; that even if the Territorial laws had been valid and of full force, they would have been superseded by the State government as soon as Congress should recognize us as a State.

They would not subvert the territorial government, but rather supplant it. Other states had gone and declared themselves, then asked for admission to the Union. Kansas could do the same and have precedents to support its case. I don’t know that any of those efforts came in open defiance of the legally established territorial government, though. Conway envisions the State movement as “preliminary” and thus not technically subversive. They didn’t call themselves a state, but rather a movement organizing to make one.

The territorial government could, one supposes, see all of this and congratulate them on their fine civic spirit. John Stringfellow, Robert Kelley, and all the rest might line up to praise the free state men for their initiative. They might also sprout wings and fly.

Friends of the Free State Militia, Part One

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

So far, we’ve heard from informants critical of the Kansas Legion/Regulators. Irishman Patrick Laughlin would have nothing to do with a secret society that reminded him of the Know-Nothings. Andrew Francis only involved himself under the mistaken impression that Wilson Shannon signed off on for the free state election and ultimately liked neither the deception that got him to that point nor the politics of resistance that the free state movement had endorsed. G.P. Lowery, who helped initiate Laughlin, had rather different things to say about the business. While admitting that he belonged to the same group as Francis, and so also admitting that Laughlin’s Legion and Francis’ Regulators differed in name only, he insisted that

the reason for its organization was that for a long time free State men in Lawrence had been subject to insult and personal attack made upon them singly, in and out of the town, in the neighborhood, by persons who were in the habit of taking every opportunity to harass and browbeat free State men when they found them unarmed and away from assistance. The society was organized expressly to make free State men acquainted with each other, and give them a common interest in defending each other.

All of that fits the narrative that George Brown published. Free State men feared for their safety in light of violent attacks upon themselves and so bound together in self-defense. That makes it all sound downright apolitical, or at least that while the politics drew hostility to the free soilers they banded together in the Legion on the rather less political grounds of their allergy to bullets. If they made Kansas a free state along the way, so much the better. However, Lowery went on,

The society was purely a local one, and never, to my knowledge, has been organized elsewhere than in Lawrence. Very shortly after its organization it produced its desired effect, and then went out of use and ceased to exist.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Laughlin and Francis both received charges to go forth and found, or facilitate the founding of, new branches of the Legion. Lowery might have just not known about that. Laughlin names him (as “Lowrie”) as a member but doesn’t place him in the leadership. However, he does appear in a prominent enough role later on in the winter of 1855 to suggest that he amounted to more than a random free soiler. It seems unlikely either way that Lowery could have missed all the people coming to Lawrence and going as members of his group. Indeed, he admits later that he heard talk of expanding the Legion to Leavenworth.

Lowery further insists that he attended no meetings after his initiation and could not recall the full details of his oath, but

Doctor Francis testifies to matters as being in the oath which were not contained in it. The oath required us to keep fire arms and ammunition; to use all lawful and honorable means to make Kansas a free State; to wear at all times on our persons a weapon of death; and, I think, to go to the assistance of a brother when the probability of saving his life was greater than of losing our own. I do not recollect anything in the oath which required us to deal with free State in preference to pro-slavery men, or to wear upon the person at all times the insignia of the order, or to obey at all times the orders of superior officers even unto death. It was not a part of the oath to be in readiness to take up arms in defence of free State principles, even though it should subvert the government.

Lowery really loses credibility there. They would stop short of subverting the government, even if the broader movement of which they formed a part and which brought them together in self-defense had declared for just that? One suspects Lowery had in mind more forestalling retaliation or legal consequences for his activity, as well as preserving the reputation of the free State movement outside Kansas (He gave his testimony in New York.) and testified accordingly.

Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Seven

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Andrew Francis did not hurry about realizing his plan to expose James Lane, Charles Robinson, George Brown, and the rest of the Kansas Regulators to the world. Lane thought him still trustworthy enough in the winter of 1855-6 to send him an officer’s commission. Francis found the Regulators acceptable enough to knowingly accept arms from them, though not enough so to put his name down as among their number to to use Lane’s commission. Francis did not, by his own admission, do all that much in that time to expose the secret society. In private, he told a probate judge that the Regulators existed and what they stood for just days after, but he testified that he hardly counted it “a disclosure” on those grounds. Given George Brown had printed that free state men had a mutual protection understanding in the pages of the Herald of Freedom and people walked around Lawrence wearing conspicuous black ribbons, I expect this didn’t come as much of a shock.

But at the end of March or start of April, Francis came before a grand jury:

I had been summoned before the grand jury to testify with regard to other things, and they asked me with regard to that, and had no hesitancy in testifying about it. I think I had been admitted at the time I gave that evidence.

Francis doesn’t go into details, but he does count that testimony as a disclosure. Thus it seems most probable that he told essentially the same story that he told to the Howard Committee. He avowed that his summons did not arise from any involvement in armed strife itself. He steered clear of the battles the preceding winter. Only when the Committee subpoenaed him did Francis come to testify explicitly about the Regulators. Repeatedly he emphasized that after his initiation he had nothing to do with free state militias, eventually declaring he

supposed that the military organization was to shoot down law-abiding men if they should attempt to enforce the laws. That was my supposition from the time I was initiated, and has always been my supposition.

Francis insisted, however, that having himself fallen for the lie that Wilson Shannon signed off on the free state election, he believed

as good, and honest, and loyal men as ever lived have been deceived and led to counsel resistance to the laws from these inflammatory publications and these seditious speeches I have spoken of, and but for them, they would not have taken that position.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Francis believed, and avowed throughout his testimony, that this deception included the notion that Missourians had come into Kansas and stolen the territory’s elections. I don’t know about Francis’ neighbors, but his fellow Kansans often disagreed for better reasons than what they read in the papers. Given the choice between believing him and believing their lying eyes, present to see what he missed, they found themselves more credible. Nothing in his testimony indicates even much curiosity about past election fraud. He admits to hearing the stories, but seems to have classed them as ordinary expressions of political partisanship and never inquired further.

This in itself says something. People of every age can exaggerate and invent in the service of their politics but Francis’ lack of inquiry suggests that he found the stories flatly absurd on their face. He made that determination before he knew that free state men had misled him about Shannon’s opinion of the election, so their reduced credibility thereafter can’t factor into the judgment. What the border ruffians actually did must have sounded as wild to Francis as the notion that the British Royalty and various political leaders appear human in public but at home reveal themselves as shapeshifting reptilians does to us.

Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Six

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Andrew Francis must have had a thoroughly strange few days in October of 1856. He came to Lawrence to give over returns for the free state congressional delegate election and James Lane tried to recruit him into a secret society, the Kansas Regulators. In the course of swearing him in, he found out that they had antislavery politics rather more extreme than his own and that their oath contradicted one he had given as a member of the bar to uphold the laws of Kansas. He also found out that Wilson Shannon, who he knew from their time in Ohio, had not in fact signed off on the election wherein he served as a clerk. Someone had lied to him about the governor. When Francis told Lane that he had the wrong man, they argued and Lane told him that he might not make it out of Lawrence alive. From that, one might expect that Francis immediately ran to tell all who would hear him just what had happened. One could understand even a more committed antislavery man going over to the other side after such treatment, let alone someone like Francis with more qualified beliefs.

According to Francis, he planned something on those lines:

At the time I took this obligation [to the Kansas Regulators]. I formed the determination to disclose it, as I thought it my duty as a citizen and a law-abiding man to do so. That design was formed during the time the obligation was being administered to me. I told Colonel Lane of my design after I had taken the obligation.

This did not start the argument with Lane that ended with threats. Instead

Lane gave me authority to institute other councils, and proclaimed me a Kansas regulator. I think he told me that both before and after I had told him I would make the disclosure.

Lane’s curious choice to keep trusting a man who declared that he planned to betray the Regulators seems perverse in the extreme, but Francis adds that Lane expected then that Lawrence would soon face an attack. He might have understood Francis as an acceptable risk since the loyal and disloyal would soon sort themselves into lines of battle. Faced with an actual Missourian invasion in front of him, something Francis admitted he did not then believe in, his mind might change. In the event of an attack, the free state men would need all the people they could get. If Lane truly expected an attack in the near future, then that might have overridden other concerns.

Either way, Francis did not immediately run and tell his tale. Instead he waited through the winter. In that time he received an officer’s commission from Lane, which he did not use but did keep on hand. In March, 1856, others in his area signed up, making a list of men and setting off to Lawrence for guns. Francis refused to sign on. The ringleader, a Mr. Bainter, told Francis that if he did not sign then Bainter would include him “willing or not,” so that Francis could have his share of the guns. Francis

asked him then what arms were to be drawn, and he replied a Sharp’s rifle and a brace of revolvers. I made the remark that I should like very much to have them.

Francis might have wanted the guns for any number of reasons. The tumultuous winter might have changed his mind somewhat. He might have just heard that he could have free guns. Either way, he clearly knew where the rifles came from. Though Bainter didn’t say as much, and didn’t come to him wearing the customary black ribbion of a Regulator,

Col. Lane had told me, when I was in Lawrence, that several thousand Sharp’s rifles were coming on from the east. Mr. Bainter said that there were several thousand Sharp’s rifles at Lawrence.

Lane said that thousands of the rifles would come to Lawrence. Later on, Bainter said that they had several thousand of the same rifles in the same place. Francis could do the math.

Andrew Francis makes for a very interesting case study. From our remove, we can easily imagine that people lined up in neat ranks in Kansas. Whatever one’s qualms, one signed on either proslavery and with the border ruffians or antislavery and with the free state movement. But he and others carved out a space for themselves somewhere between. Lane’s behavior in sending the commission along, and persisting in treating Francis as a Regulator despite his objections to the party program, suggest that he recognized as much. His own past moderation probably informed that judgment. He could also hardly have missed that, Francis’ protests aside, the doctor and minister hardly high-tailed it to Missouri or wrote to a Stringfellow to tell the world the moment he got clear of Lawrence.

 

Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Five

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4

James Lane and Charles Robinson had the wrong man in Andrew Francis. They thought they had someone on board with the general free state strategy of making their own government and striking for statehood in defiance of the legal territorial government. Francis, though he did prefer a free Kansas to an enslaved one, did not sign up for any such plan. He had sworn oaths that prevented him from honorably and honestly joining with the free state men in general, to say nothing of their notionally secret paramilitary, the Kansas Legion/Kansas Regulators. Neither his masonic fellowship with Lane, nor Robinson’s “beautiful sash […] looking like a blue and gold one joined together, trimmed with gold lace” could convince Francis otherwise. He found Lane’s death threats equally unpersuasive.

How, then, did Francis come to serve as a clerk in the free soil delegate election? It transpired that Francis

came from Belmont county, Ohio. I have lived in Pease township, Smith township, and Richland township, in that county. I was born in Belmont county, and practiced medicine there a part of the time, and part of the time worked at the printing business in the “Gazette” office. […] I have practiced medicine now for about five years. I practiced medicine in Scotland county, Missouri. I never made law a regular study. When I was a boy I was going to school in St. Clairsville; I was constantly using Governor Shannon’s books, and in that way got a preliminary knowledge of law. I have known Governor Shannon ever since I can recollect; was born in the same town where he lived, and lived close by him.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Andrew Francis and Wilson Shannon went way back. At the time, one got a knowledge of law mostly by borrowing books from practicing lawyers and studying under them rather than at university. However preliminary Francis considered his legal education, it sufficed to admit him to the bar in Kansas. That entailed swearing to uphold the laws of Kansas. He could not break that oath to uphold his later oath to the Kansas Regulators. The relationship with Shannon got him to the polls when Andrew Reeder ran for delegate to Congress:

Our election of the 9th of October was held under the authority of the Big Springs convention. I took part in that election, because I had been told by men that I thought reliable that Governor Shannon had said that election would be regarded as lawful. Subsequently I found that statement was not correct, and therefore I dissolved my connexion with the party. I would not have acted in that election but for the representations made to me in relation to Governor Shannon.

But Francis knew who ran the election. He had to have understood what they intended when he went and worked at the polls, right? Apparently so:

I had carefully read the proceedings of the Big Springs convention before the election. When I acted as clerk I did not credit the allegations made in the resolutions of that convention, as to armed invasions of Missourians, &c., but regarded that as the usual statements of partisans, a little too highly colored. […] I have never regarded that there had been sufficient illegal voting at the polls to control either branch of the legislature. I acted at that election because I regarded it a legal one upon the representation made to me as to Governor Shannon’s view of it.

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

With hindsight, all of this makes Francis sound a bit thick. However, he did not have the Howard Report on hand. He testifies elsewhere that he had not noticed any secret societies operating in Missouri. That left me scratching my head until I checked a map. Francis lived in Scotland County, in far northeastern Missouri, before he moved to Kansas. The Atchison and Stringfellow election stealing consortium operated on the other end of the state. He also came into Kansas in May of 1855, thus missing the stolen elections entirely. Given that, one can easily imagine that he understood persistent griping about Missourian invasions as so much sour grapes from a set of two-time partisan losers.

Francis did, however, grant that even if the free soil men told the truth about the election stealing, then

if they were not legally elected the people had better submit to them, as a matter of policy, until they could elect a legislature legally, upon the principle that honest men need not law, and rogues and disunionists need it to the utmost extremity.

To Francis’ eyes, the rogues and disunionists came from the free state movement. They had, after all, misled him about the election. Then they tried to involve him an insurrection. When he declined, James Lane threatened his life. Small wonder he thought little of them thereafter.

Andrew Francis and the Kansas Regulators, Part Four

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3

James Lane swore Andrew Francis to numerous duties, including risking his life and defying the law. Those oaths made him a Kansas Regulator. Among them, Francis swore himself to secrecy about everything he had disclosed in his testimony to the Howard Committee. What became of that oath? Had he, like Patrick Laughlin, decided that the group did not suit him? He lacked Laughlin’s personal reason to object to secret societies. By his own admission, he did not come into the Legion planning to expose it all. Did the prestige of a congressional committee strike him as sufficient to overrule his obligations?

No. Francis informed the committee that Lane had not proceeded to vet potential recruits with sufficient care. When he emphasized that the Kansas Legion and free state party came together to reject the legislature and its acts, Lane discovered that he had the wrong man for the strategy:

I remarked to the colonel, that I was sworn to support those laws in taking my oath as a lawyer, and that I considered that that oath was administered by a higher power than he exercised, and hence I should not keep the obligations he had given to me, and that under no circumstances would I consent to do anything to subvert the institutions of the country, or place myself in opposition to the laws, and he might depend upon it I would expose it in the first convenient opportunity. I also told him I could not consistently keep both obligations that had been imposed upon me.

Francis further told Lane that as a minister, he felt Lane’s oath conflicted with his “Christian duties”.

I can’t imagine quite what went through Lane’s mind in trying to get Francis into the Kansas Legion. Did he just go out and proposition everybody, then swear them before finding out if they would keep their word? This seems a novel way to operate a secret society, though I suppose we should thank him for his poor judgment. Had he chosen only tight-lipped, dependable men we might not have any sources.

Lane did not gracefully take no for an answer:

He stated then to me that if that was my determination, and I did express myself so publicly, I would hardly get away from the city with my life. I replied to him that I should express myself so under all circumstances, both in public and in private; that I was opposed to the thing, and was also bitterly opposed to the formation of a constitution.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Lane managed to recruit into and expose his organization to a man who, however much he agreed with making Kansas a free white state, disagreed with essentially the entire strategy that the free state movement had adopted. That might have made Francis unrealistic, considering all that had happened, but the real answer probably lays further back. Francis’ own party explicitly preferred no black Americans in Kansas, but failing that to have them in as slaves. Thus the legislature’s enactments, however obnoxious, did not necessarily conflict with Francis’ principles. If he had to swear to uphold the right to slavery in Kansas, what of it? Francis told the committee when he began his testimony that he

took the position that slavery was just and legal, but, as a matter of expediency, I would prefer to have Kansas a free State, provided there were no negroes allowed to live in the Territory. If they were to be here, I preferred that they should be under masters.

Thus Francis had no particular reason to want to undermine the infrastructure of slavery, but rather a keen interest in at least leaving it be should the calamity of black Kansas residents ensue. Depending on how likely he saw that fate, he might have even read the circumstances as requiring him to uphold and bolster the legislature’s interlocking network of proslavery law.