Dispensing with the Apologies Tyrannical and Imbecile, Charles Sumner moved on to the Apology Absurd. Absurdity meant claiming that proslavery filibusters who seized control of the Kansas territorial government by force acted in self-defense. More than usual, Sumner’s contempt for the argument shows through the refined nineteenth century prose. I can only imagine how it came across when performed before the Senate. That left only one apology to go: Infamous.
That apology arose from
false testimony against the Emigrant Aid Company, and assumptions of duty more false than the testimony. Defying Truth and mocking Decency, this Apology excels all others in futility and audacity, while, from its utter hollowness, it proves the utter impotence of the conspirators to defend their Crime.
Sorry, Proslavery Senators. Chuck has had it up to here with you. Painting the Aid Company’s mission as one “of sincere benevolence” which aspired to no fortifications beyond “hotels, shcool-houses, and churches” attended by implements of war such as “saw-mills, tools, and books”, would not fly. Eli Thayer’s effort meant for peaceable settlement of the frontier and not a thing beyond it. To damn them as pauper mercenaries, the dregs of the North, “sacrificed” the “innocent”. Those who walked in Christ’s footsteps in Kansas found themselves “scourged and crucified, while the murderer, Barabbas, with the sympathy of the chief priests, goes at large.”
Left to his own devices, Sumner claimed that he would just dismiss the Apology Infamous with sneering contempt. He aimed to do that, but since he had the Senate there and others took it seriously, he felt obliged to do more. He defended the Emigrant Aid Society as an ordinary benevolent association, just like countless others. Americans joined together to build churches and schools, sell thread, sail ships, and make toys. Voluntarily associations sought
to guard infancy in its weakness old age in its decrepitude, and womanhood in its wretchedness; and now, in all large towns, when death has come, they are buried by organized societies
If “emigrants to another world” could have their places readied by a corporation, then why not emigrants to Kansas? People had come together in common purpose since Antiquity, when Greeks colonized the Mediterranean and then the Romans followed. Every nation of the white world did such things not merely through private office, but under the aegis of the state. Furthermore, Emigrant Aid Companies settled Plymouth, Virginia, and Georgia. Did the proslavery Senators have something against America?
Sumner conceded that people moving west within the United States usually didn’t have any organization backing them. You got together your money and moved, on your own or with the help of friends and family. “Tens of thousands” went west that way, but they ventured forth “with little knowledge, and without guide or counsel.” To remedy that, and because the fate of freedom hung in the balance, Massachusetts opted for an improvement and chartered the company.
The conspirators against Freedom in Kansas now shook with tremor, real or affected. Their wicked plot was about to fail. To help themselves, they denounced the Emigrant Aid Company; and their denunciations, after finding an echo in the President, have been repeated, with much particularity on this floor
Sumner told a slanted version of events. He denied military organization in Kansas by antislavery forces in the Apology Absurd. Now he doubled down and made the Emigrant Aid Company into a pacific institution of philanthropy. He may have had that technically right, in that the Company itself doesn’t seem to have shipped guns to the territory in its own right, but its agents on their own did that work in parallel and with knowledge of the bosses back home. That notion, Sumner called “absolutely false” and said he had permission from the Company to say so on their behalf. At its most extreme, the Aid Company simply planted capital in Kansas, largely in the form of sawmills, and encouraged men to go chase after it. Eli Thayer’s outfit had more in common with a Bible Society than a paramilitary, to hear Sumner tell it.