The Remedy of Justice and Peace: The Crime Against Kansas, Part 14

Charles Sumner (Republican-MA)

Prologue, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13Full text

If the Senate wanted Civil War, Charles Sumner told them how to get it. They need only take the present territorial government of Kansas in as its legitimate government, rendering permanent the proslavery usurpation of its elections. The proslavery men on the ground, already not shy about violence, would surely step up their campaign to purge the land of dissenting whites. Antislavery men in turn would look more ardently to their defense. Money and guns would flow into the state from both sections and soon the violence would spread.

Should the Senators wish to avoid that, they had a solution on hand. William Seward proposed junking Stephen Douglas’ bill to take the present government of Kansas and make it a state. Instead, the Senate should recognize the free state movement and its Topeka Constitution. They had all the officers of a proper government ready to go the moment Congress gave the word. Sheriff Samuel Jones kept a list.

Rarely has any proposition, so simple in character, so entirely practicable, so absolutely within your power, been presented, which promised at once such beneficent results. In its adoption, the Crime against Kansas will be all happily resolved, the Usurpation which established it will be peacefully suppressed, and order will be permanently secured.

Senator William H. Seward (Republican-NY)

The country should thank William Seward for saving the Union. Sumner spent a brief paragraph praising him that must have gone over well during the rehearsal, then moved on to why Kansas deserved statehood. First, the Kansans asked for it and statehood would take Washington off the hook for Kansas’ expenses. Those included expenditures for keeping the peace, which Sumner attributed with considerable justice “on account of the pretended Territorial Government.” Second, Kansas showed the ability to defend itself during the Wakarusa War. That argued for its passing the stage of an enfeebled state in need of a direct patron. Third and last, Sumner pointed out that Kansas had “the pecuniary credit” to afford to run its own affairs.

Anticipating objections, Sumner ran down them in short order. The Constitution left admission of states entirely to the whim of Congress, placing no test upon them save for not making states by carving land out of existing states without leave. (To answer the obvious question, West Virginia’s formation had the assent of the then-recognized government of the state.) Nor did precedent of law insist on a minimum population, though folk wisdom often thinks so. Even if it did, Kansas had more people in 1856 than Delaware or Florida and so easily matched the customary bar. One might object that Kansas did not have enough people to qualify for a single member in the House, according to then-current ratios. Florida gained admission despite that. Furthermore, the ratio of representation changed regularly until unwise capping of the size of the House in the early twentieth century. With that the case, Sumner argued that a controlling precedent found in the ratio at the time of the Louisiana Purchase ought to apply.

Thomas Hart Benton

Likewise, while Kansas had a wildcat state movement Sumner could point to prior occasions where the Congress had respected such organizations and given them statehood. Most recently, California got that treatment. Previously, Michigan “now cherished with such pride as a sister state” did. Michigan, like Kansas, presented itself to Congress with all the usual officials and a constitution adopted without prior approval. Andrew Jackson, Thomas Hart Benton, and James Buchanan all endorsed Michigan’s statehood at the time, a fact remembered on the state’s maps. In the end, only eight Senators voted against Michigan and the chamber even voted full compensation for the senators forwarded with Michigan’s application retroactive to the start of the session. To deny Kansas now would “bastardize Michigan”.

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Senator Sumner Goes to Washington

Charles Sumner (Free Soil-MA)

Henry Adams, the fourth generation of his family to appear in this blog, brought the good news to Charles Sumner twice: Massachusetts chose him as its new senator. Sumner, with no previous experience in office and a stormy career as a spokesman and activist for prison reform and against war and slavery, had reason to doubt his abilities. Winning appeared relatively easy. Governing, if Sumner had any opportunity to at all, would prove harder. Washington and its politicians had displeased a much less radical Sumner on his one prior visit and he had come to public life only with some reluctance and the encouragement of John Quincy Adams.

Barely elected at all, after great struggle, and by a coalition damned by members of both national parties, Sumner lacked the wind at his back that a newly-elected man might hope for. Nor could he dream of putting his stamp on the nation while he remained a member of a tiny minority. His rhetoric, the one area where he might reasonably expect to excel, would now face opposition from skilled proslavery debaters. To employ it to any use, Sumner would have to master the Senate’s arcane rules and traditions or risk making a fool of himself.

Sumner’s embarrassments began as soon as he presented his credentials. By Senate tradition, the senior senator for one’s state presented a newcomer to the chamber. Sumner’s Massachusetts peer chose to oversleep rather than risk the wrath of Daniel Webster, leaving him to hunt down Lewis Cass and beg an introduction. Instead of the customary phrasing where a Senator begged leave to present a colleague, Cass informed the others only that

I have been requested to present the credentials of Charles Sumner, a Senator elect from the State of Massachusetts.

John Hale

Thomas Hart Benton, just defeated for re-election courtesy of David Rice Atchison, had a more sympathetic but just as disheartening welcome for Sumner. He told the new senator that all the great men had gone and taken the great issues of the day with them. Settling down into the desk previously occupied by Jefferson Davis, Sumner could look across a chamber with few allies. New Hampshire’s John Hale seemed like a shady character despite their shared party. He got on better with Salmon P. Chase. Sumner feared William Seward, who he otherwise liked, would always put Whiggery above antislavery. Hamilton Fish, Seward’s New York colleague, lamented Winthrop’s lost seat but went out of his way to make Sumner welcome.

Sumner found unlikely friends among the chamber’s Southern contingent. They knew many Yankees made antislavery speeches back home, but what went on back home didn’t necessarily translate to personal relationships in Washington. Soon Massachusetts antislavery extremist claimed Pierre Soulé as his best friend. He likewise befriended Andrew Pickens Butler, who sat next to him. Seeing in Sumner a man who knew his classics, Butler relied on him to check the quotations he planned to use in speeches. In these situations, and otherwise socially, Sumner declined to raise his antislavery opinions and instead talked or history and far-off happenings.

Soon Sumner settled, if not entirely comfortably, into the regular spin of Washington society. With everyone far from home, the political class formed their own small world with an unending cycle of dinners and other social occasions where they entertained each other in small groups for a large portion of the week. A single week of his first month saw Sumner hosted by Millard Fillmore, the French Minister, and Francis Blair. His party might earn him political isolation, and a few men rubbed Sumner wrong or took a dislike to him, but he didn’t suffer much from personal ostracism.

The Buford Expedition, Part Ten: A Letter to the Wyandotte

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, 7, 8, 9

We left Jefferson Buford’s men in Mobile, where they got the Bibles that Montgomery proved too impious to have on hand in sufficient numbers. Armed with books, if possibly not guns, Buford’s men embarked on the Florida for New Orleans. They picked up a few more men there and divided themselves between the America and Oceana to steam up the Mississippi for St. Louis. They arrived on April 23, 1856. According to Fleming,

The people of St. Louis rated Buford’s enterprise very highly, and regarded him as the best friend of Kansas in the whole South.

St. Louis leaned slightly antislavery, but that didn’t make them abolitionists. They stuck by Thomas Hart Benton through his preaching silence and compromise on slavery, combined with quite a bit of carping at antislavery agitators. St. Louis could very well understand Buford as a legitimate counter to antislavery radicals who had set up their own government in Kansas.

While in St. Louis, Buford wrote ahead to a Colonel William Walker, who Fleming describes as the governor of “Nebraska Territory”, a Wyandotte Indian establishment predating white settlement. He doesn’t use the word, but this sounds like a reservation. Buford refers to it as “the Wyandotte reserve.” Eufaula, Alabama’s favorite son wanted to settle on Wyandotte land “provided that the tribe will freely consent to my doing so, but not otherwise.” That sounds terribly broad-minded of Buford. He promised to place

only orderly, good citizens, -among them blacksmiths, carpenters, brick and stone masons, physicians, school teachers, agricultural laborers, etc., etc., and any who becomes obnoxious to the Indians I wold have removed.

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

Previously whites could not settle on Indian country at all unless they had a license as an Indian agent or worked as missionaries. I don’t know that the organization of a territorial government ended those restrictions; Andrew Reeder got in hot water, officially, in part for speculating in Indian lands. In advance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the United States negotiated cessions from Indian reservations but some continued in Kansas at least up through statehood in 1861. If Indians could not sell to Reeder, then I don’t know how they could grant Buford’s men permission to settle. The law may have changed or settlement might matter less than sale to it. Buford could also have just not done his homework, as he found that land preemption didn’t work quite like he thought previously. Or he might have expected that once his men had occupation of the land, their very whiteness would extinguish Wyandotte rights.

Regardless, Buford predicted

both parties would be benefited, and especially would it aid your views in building up your city of Wyandotte, which, by the way, seems the place endowed by nature for the great town of the Territory.

He closed with his hope that they would soon meet in person.

Jefferson Buford’s stay in St. Louis featured more than warm welcomes and letters to Indian chiefs. Someone broke into one of his trunks and made off with $5000. Buford never saw it again.

 

The Fuss and the Industrial Luminary, Part Seven

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Magers’ paper.

The Platte County Self-Defense Association’s mob of two hundred sent George Park’s printing press to the bottom of the Missouri River, thus silencing the Parkville Industrial Luminary’s non-agitation on slavery and criticism of the proslavery border ruffians’ intervention in Kansas. As a nice bonus for David Rice Atchison, the destruction also revenged him on Park for publishing remarks that Bourbon Dave made in his cups. The incident sheds light on the fact that the filibusters feared for Missouri’s slavery in more than an abstract sense. As B.F. Stringfellow set down, they feared they may have already lost Missouri to slavery. Certainly their failure to evict Frederick Starr for his suspected abolitionism earlier on gave them reason to wonder. An enslaved Kansas would reverse their nightmare of an abolitionist safe haven, instead giving Kansas-based border hooligans a base to police proslavery orthodoxy on the Missouri frontier.

The story could end with the Industrial Luminary’s press rusting in the river. But Park’s reaction sheds more light on the complicated nature of slavery politics in the Missouri hinterland. He circulated a letter in response to the destruction of his press, pronouncing himself

filled with the deepest concern for the events that have transpired and the passions that bear sway-premeditated as they have been, by a large and powerful secret organization.

But at the same time:

I am happy to know that the people of Parkville and vicinity took no part in it

Men from Platte County did, but not from Parkville and environs. The mob surely didn’t let Park or any associates run a census of its members, but one imagines that small town residents in a frontier area knew one another well enough by sight to spot any familiar faces. That said, Park knew the limits of his town and his own conscience. He may favor a free soil Kansas on economic grounds, but

the charge of abolitionism is false; I have never harbored such a thought, nor meditated an action, detrimental to the honor, the interests, or institutions of Missouri; but have labored unceasingly to promote her prosperity. It is true I have not believed the honor and interests of Missouri to be in that course of policy marked out by some politicians-duty has compelled me to cross their path, which has brought on my devoted head the bitterest persecution.

That stand brought a mob of Atchisonians down on Park, but not his close neighbors. Would they permit no dissent at all? Park declared his love for both sections, his desire for a peaceful Union, and reminded readers of his service in the Texas Revolution. He dared the mob to come, insisting he would not leave his home. He’d rather be consigned to the waters with his press, but even his death would not destroy freedom of the press. But

If there is no security in the land of Washington-if an American home affords no protection-if the time has arrived when this union must be dissolved, and all its kindred ties and mighty interests broken and destroyed, and drenched with fraternal blood, then let me be buried beneath the turbid waters of the Missouri, rather than live to see such a scene. God save our country!

Park’s brave words did not stop him from leaving town in the end. Magers’ paper references a circular letter dated November 8, 1855. Therein the people of Parkville protested his eviction and said they needed him back. They could decide for themselves who did and did not belong among them, even if they disclaimed abolition and free soil in the doing. Park did return, and got $2,500 in damages out of the mob, but later found himself in Illinois and did not return to Missouri until after the war.

We can take from this that the people of Parkville tolerated George Park just fine and resented the Self-Defense Association’s meddling in their affairs. His free soil beliefs might make that tolerance less than pleasant on occasion, or they may have distanced themselves from it in the name of not bringing a mob down on their heads, but they felt confident enough to take a stand in his favor. In their forebearance, they lived up to the Self-Defensives’ nightmare: Missourians who would not tolerate proslavery vigilantes dictating to them the range of permissible opinion.

The Fuss and the Industrial Luminary, Part Six

The Alton mob attacking Lovejoy's warehouse.

The Alton mob attacking Elijah Lovejoy’s warehouse.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Magers’ paper.

The fact that George Park criticized the actions of the Platte County Self-Defense Association and other border ruffian bands who crossed into Kansas to control its elections might have in itself earned him a visit from the mob and a printing press delivered with care to the bottom of the Missouri River. Furthermore, while Park’s surname and founding of the town put the Park in Parkville, he did have the poor fortune to hail originally from Vermont in an area where most men, per Magers, treasured Virginian, Kentuckian, and Tennessean heritage instead. That he had gone off to fight for Texas’ independence, where he escaped a firing squad, might not enter into it. Nor his long and successful residence in the town that bore his name. His decision to channel Thomas Hart Benton and curse abolitionists and nullifiers alike, in the heart of Atchison Country, could not have done him any favors. But Magers suggests another factor in bringing the Self-Defense Association to the Industrial Luminary‘s office that Saturday morning. He draws on a letter sent by Frederick Starr to the New York Tribune and published on June 4, 1855. I didn’t find a letter bearing Starr’s name, but I think Magers means this. It begins by setting the scene:

On a warm day last Summer a large crowd had assembled at the town site of Atchison in Kansas to attend a sale of lots. “Dave” himself was there, and as there was much whisky and many friends, he got “glorious” a little earlier in the day than usual. So with much spitting on his shirt and making himself generally more nasty than common, the Vice-President delivered himself something after this wise:

“Gentlemen, you make a d[amne]d fuss about Douglas-Douglas-but Douglas don’t deserve the credit for this Nebraska bill. I told Douglas to introduce it-I originated it-I got Pierce committed to it, and all the glory belongs to me. All the South went for it-all to a man but Bell and Houston-and who are they? Mere nobodies-no influence-nobody cares for them.”

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

A friend of Bourbon Dave’s heard the remarks and came back to Parkville with them. George Park’s partner in the newspaper, Patterson, took the words down and published them in the next issue. The Tribune’s correspondent remarked that Atchison’s friends, though not the man himself, had sobered up by this point. His paper, The Platte Argus, published a denial but the Parkville witness shot back that he heard what he heard and any man who said otherwise lied.

It might have all ended there, but John Bell had a nephew in St. Louis who read the account and did not care for Atchison calling his uncle a friendless nobody. Said nephew wrote Atchison. Did he say it?

The tone of the letter was strongly suggestive of “the usual satisfaction.” Dave evidently thought his three hundred pounds of flesh too good a mark for a pistol-ball, and he accordingly replied to the nephew that he had the most distinguished consideration for his uncle and never said such a word about him-if he had said anything that the lying scoundrels had tortured into what they had published, he begged that it might be passed by as he was “in liquor at the time.” And thus the Vice-President escaped the vexation of personal responsibility for his language. Drunkenness is not unusually regarded as a valid plea for a lawyer to make in behalf of a client, but it seems very good for a Vice-President.

To hear the correspondent tell it, Atchison got the proper number of cold shoulders from the affair. That would surely keep it fresh in his mind. If he wrote anything like the letter to Bell’s nephew it must have galled him. The author of his troubles? Surely not Bourbon Dave or his bottle, but rather George Park’s paper. Magers writes that Atchison kept up a strong grudge against the Industrial Luminary. When Park criticized Atchison’s border ruffians, he finally had a casus belli to let him take his revenge and, conveniently, police proslavery orthodoxy at the same time.

The Fuss and the Industrial Luminary, Part Five

The Alton mob attacking Lovejoy's warehouse.

The Alton mob attacking Elijah Lovejoy’s warehouse.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4. Magers’ paper.

What did George Park do, in the eyes of the Platte County Self-Defense Association, to earn the destruction of his printing press and the threatening of his life if he remained in Missouri or dared move to Kansas? The Herald of Freedom cited an article that Park published in the Industrial Luminary, happily reprinting the it. This took a bit of cheek, especially given what had already happened in Kansas proved that proslavery Missourians would not stay on their own side of the line and could very well bring violence when they came. The Herald’s press could go in the drink just as the Industrial Luminary’s had, possibly with the editors tied to it. Magers at one point says that the mob planned to do that with George Park, but he never provides any evidence on that front.

The Herald had some things to say to any Missourians thinking of such mayhem, which it used to preface its reprinting of Park’s offensive article:

It was said that destruction of the LUMINARY OFFICE was designed as an example to others, and it is very knowingly hinted that ours will meet a similar fate. Very well, we have concluded to give any number of persons who wish to perpetrate such an act of folly a free pass to “kingdom come,” and we pledge them every assistance in our power. Probably many of them never took an upward journey, and would like to try the experiment of sailing on a blaze of glory, such as a couple of kegs of gunpowder, exploded at an opportune occasion, would furnish. We have not a member in our family, ourself included, who would not deem a transit into the future life with, companions deu voyage of a goodly number of printing press destroyers as a favor rarely to be met with.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Their “eyes would see the glory of the coming of the Lord,” all right. To make it clear to any aspirant proslavery martyrs that they would die in vain, the editors also told the reader that they had duplicate subscription books and arrangements with others to continue publication should circumstances ever require them to ride their gunpowder straight into Heaven.

Park’s own piece began with a fairly straightforward account of the theft of the legislative elections at the end of March. He put on Reeder, who he supposed would soon go off to Washington to get the opinion of the Pierce administration, the decision to set aside the election and so “Abolitionize” the territory “or countenance such action which has for its ulterior object a dissolution of the Union.” But what else could Reeder do?

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

We have occupied a conservative and national ground, promptly opposing the measures and men who have brought this crisis. Will the President meet it? Surely he cannot longer follow counsels from among Abolitionists and Nullifiers? The country demands that, sound, firm, energetic men have the direction of public affairs-who will impress and enforce justice and law. There is virtually no law in Kansas, and no security for life and property, save in the sense of honor and justice cherished by every true pioneer. This may save the country from bloodshed; but the Government is held up to ridicule and contempt, and its authority disregarded-Judges of elections have been displaced, and others appointed-the polls have in some instances been guarded with pistols and bowie-knives-and some of those elected are going to the governor swearing that if he does not give a certificate of election immediately, they will “cut his throat from ear to ear!” Is the flag or our country to be no longer a protection?-or are individuals, or companies of men to declare WE WILL! and it MUST be so, without regard to law? Is this what the authors of the Nebraska-Kansas bill meant by Squatter Sovereignty?

This challenged the Self-Defensives and their allies directly. More keenly, Park attacked them on decisively Bentonian line. Thomas Hart Benton always said that abolitionists and nullifiers alike made problems for the Union. The best way to handle slavery involved no agitation on it at all, either for or against. For that sin, Atchison eventually conspired to unseat him. Here George Park may well have quoted the former senator, right in the heart of Atchison country.

The Eighteenth District, Part Two

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

We first met David Rice Atchison as Missouri’s senator. Unlike that state’s other long-serving man in he Senate, Thomas Hart Benton, Atchison took a firm proslavery position. This eventually alienated him from Benton, who preferred studied silence on slavery, and the two men went from cooperation to bitter enmity that culminated in Atchison and his supporters in the Missouri legislature joining forces with the Whigs to oust Benton from his seat. Benton had served Missouri in the Senate for as long as Missouri had a seat in that body and promptly came back to Washington to occupy a seat in the House.

Atchison celebrated his triumph by abandoning his customary opposition to organizing the territory west of his plantation home on the Missouri frontier. When Stephen Douglas got together an eleventh-hour attempt to organize that land in the spring of 1853, going so far as to ask the Senate to vote then and there and debate later so he could get the bill passed before its session expired. The session ran out all the same, but Atchison had changed his stripes. He cited inevitability and the impossibility of repealing the Missouri Compromise, but also that he may have had a few too many drinks.

Then Atchison went home and got an earful. They supported a proslavery man and they expected him to stay that way. Under no circumstances could Atchison remain proslavery if he would accept a den of slave-stealing abolitionists next door to their plantation homes. Bourbon Dave got right with slavery and went back to Washington demanding concessions from Douglas, which eventually culminated in a Kansas-Nebraska Act that struck down the Missouri Compromise Atchison considered a permanent fixture of American law just a year before.

Atchison’s exertions in Washington, and then back on the Missouri frontier resulted in the loss of his Senate seat, tying his future tightly to that of slavery in Kansas. If he could show that he’d won Missouri’s slavery the security its practitioners craved, then they might take him back in a few years. They had, ever all, elected a man with similar proslavery credentials to fill his spot. So Atchison found himself at the head of an army of 1,100 men in March of 1855. They swept through the Fourteenth District (parts 1, 2, 3, 4), where they set aside the local proslavery ticket for one of their own and Atchison loudly proclaimed that his men would vote or

kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

They voted and moved on, coming to the Eighteenth District. It seems there that Atchison saw no cause to repeat his murderous threats. He did, however, misplace his army. I don’t know quite how, as armies and car keys don’t have much in common, but stranger things have happened. A week before the election, he appeared on the doorstep of Arnet Groomes:

General David R. Atchison stopped with me to stay over night. A partner of Mr. Johnson, of Platte City, a General Dorris, introduced me to General Atchison. One of them asked to stay, and I refused; he said he had a company of men and had lost them, and wanted to stay all night. I said I was not fixed to do so. He said he would let his horses stay in the lot without anything to eat, and he would lay down on his blanket. I then said he could get down, and I would let him have what little I could.

How the mighty had fallen. A year ago, David Rice Atchison and his friends had control over the Senate. Now he had to beg to sleep on the ground in the middle of nowhere.

Groomes relented and let them into his house. Atchison and his companion quizzed him: had he seen their missing army? No, but he had passed through St. Joseph and seen them start into Kansas. They told him that they had asked around and nobody seemed to know where their wagons had gone.

Then Atchison did something that might have been innocent, but comes off decidedly creepy:

General Atchison took me with a candle to look in his blankets for a Bowie knife he said he had lost, and while he was looking for that I saw the handles of two or three Bowie knives and some revolvers. They were not on his person, but in his blankets, and he said he had lost one of his Bowie knives. I turned away when I saw that, as I was surprised to see a man with more than one knife or pistol.

I don’t know if Atchison genuinely lost a knife and wanted help finding it or not, but a stranger taking his host out in the dark and showing him a little arsenal like that has a strong hint of menace. Without using the words, Atchison let Groomes know that he could handle himself and came ready for trouble if Groomes offered it. This to a man who just opened his house to strangers.

The Fall of David Rice Atchison

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

George Goode (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Frank Blair, and the rest of the Missouri legislature had it out over the place of slavery in their state’s future. Would Missouri remain a southern state, not just tolerating but endorsing and trying to expand slavery? Would it turn its back on the South and become, as immigrants flooded in and slaves trickled away, a part of the North? Would Missouri send Thomas Hart Benton back to the Senate seat that it had before, displacing David Rice Atchison in the process? Goode stood for Atchison and slavery. Blair stood for Benton and non-agitation on slavery that bled over into free soil sentiment.

The Missouri legislature had its vote and came to some grief for it. Atchison had a rival for the proslavery vote, a Whig named Alexander William Doniphan who insisted that his party would best protect Missouri’s slavery. Because he believed in the power of Missouri Whiggery, Doniphan refused to throw his support to Atchison despite their strong agreement on slavery. As a result, they split the proslavery vote and each went home with roughly 37%. Benton came in at 25%. The Missouri legislature chose slavery, but could not agree on who ought to protect it. The deadlock denied Doniphan or Atchison the 50% of votes they needed to claim the Senate seat and so it would remain vacant at least until 1857 when a new Missouri legislature would take its seats.

Some people think that we ought to go back to having the state legislatures elect senators. Problems like this, and still more interesting times when multiple men claimed to have won the legislature’s vote and appeared in Washington, demonstrate why the states agreed to give up that power with the Seventeenth Amendment. However much they enjoyed choosing senators directly, split votes and deadlocks could mean losing the seat entirely for a time.

Alexander William Doniphan (Whig-MO)

Alexander William Doniphan (Whig-MO)

Did his initial loss mean Atchison packed up and went home, forgetting all about Kansas and retiring comfortably to steal the labor and lives of his slaves? Not at all. He still believed slavery right, still believed that it must spread to Kansas to ensure its security in Missouri, and still believed Missourians like himself and his Platte County friends had every right to go over and decided the future of Kansas for the Kansans. If he and his organization could triumph there, it could only improve his chances of convincing the next legislature that Davy Atchison protected slavery better than any Whig. Barring some radical transformation of Missouri politics in a free soil direction, or some staggering and conspicuous loss in Kansas, Atchison’s border ruffian activity could only help him.

Losses have a way of motivating some people. The Platte County men took new urgency from their failure to oust Frederick Starr. Spurred on by their embarrassment at home, they moved across the border and stole Kansas’ election for delegate. Now Andrew Reeder had taken his census and soon would come an election for territorial legislature. A non-voting delegate to Congress made for a paltry trophy, but the territorial legislature would have vast power to shape Kansas’ future. With a real prize on the line and all the more reason to fight for it, Atchison and his border ruffians would not dare think of sitting out the upcoming Kansas elections.

Goode for Atchison, Part Four

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

George Goode continued faithfully with his promise to comment only on the great issue of slavery in Missouri and not on the ongoing struggle between Thomas Hart Benton’s supporters of silence and non-agitation on slavery and David Rice Atchison’s proslavery, Kansas stealing radicals. He summarized the position of another of Atchison’s critics:

His objections to Senator Atchison are that he is too impulsive, and his “heated impulses might lead him astray;” but his chief objection seems to be that he (Atchison) sympathises with, and is greatly controlled by a Southern clique-men who are hostile to the best interests of this country, and who, if their counsels continue to prevail, will rend this Union asunder.

The non-partisan, taking no part in the anti-Benton/pro-Benton split, found himself tracing

the political proclivities, and identify of opinion and feeling of the gentleman from Boone with those of the Benton leader

That promise of non-partisanship held rock solid as Goode dissected what his opponent said

And here I would explain that I should not say one word in reference to what the gentleman from Boone asserted about Senator Atchison, but for his uncalled for allusion and reflection on the Southern gentleman whom he is pleased to designate as a clique-hostile to the best interests of the country. In this we see him exhibiting the same hostility to the Southern men as are habitually exhibited by teh Benton leader;-and who are these men with whom Senator Atchison associates, and whose influence, and whose alleged treasonable designs are so much to be deprecated? Mason, Hunter, Butler, and Dawson-in fine, all the Southern Senators, for all of these may be said to be the friends of Senator Atchison. And what have these men done to justify an allusion so invidious and disparaging? Nothing. The reason for their denunciation is that they are Southern gentlemen, and TRUE TO THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUTH.

The Missouri legislature’s debate over who would fill Atchison’s seat in the senate concerned the men in question, but clearly both Frank Blair and George Goode saw the issue as a debate over slavery by proxy. Would Missouri remain the northwest frontier of the South, subject to the paradoxical strains that produced extremists like Atchison in vulnerable constituencies, or would it slide away and become something more like Benton’s St. Louis, with few slaves and some day no slaves?

Remember Goode assails here a man who agrees with him on practical terms. Rollins, the gentleman from Boone, believed that Congress should not exercise the power he thought it had to make Kansas into a free territory. Goode differed only in believing that Congress had no such power. But that made Rollins a subversive.:

The gentleman from Boone, true to his proclivities, and yielding as it were unconsciously to the bias of his feelings, speaks of Senator Atchison as one unsuited to his place, attacks his opinions and acts, and seeks to depreciate his capacity, and discredit his pretensions,. The party, too, by whom he (Atchison) is supported, are likewise attacked, their actions assailed, and their motives questioned-and all this in a speech of great length and much compass of allusion-and yet, in that speech, we have nothing in condemnation of Col. Benton or his party,-that party which is led here by an avowed Free-Soiler,-whose views and opinions here boldly expressed are, as I honestly believe, subversive to the peace and prosperity of this State. The gentleman from Boone can see nothing to condemn in those views and opinions expressed by the champion of the Benton party on this floor. HE EITHER APPROVES THEM OR DARES NOT AVOW HIS ANSWER!

One struggles to read all of this and not catch Joe McCarthy’s stench rising off the words. Goode sounds like he sees a free soiler behind every bush. He spends pages attacking a man who agrees with his preferred outcome on the Kansas question over what looks like little more than a technicality.

But in all honesty, Blair’s position, and Benton’s, sound like something a free soiler in a slave state would say. That made neither foaming at the mouth abolitionists,  but they did see a future for Missouri with less slavery. Perhaps in time Missouri would have no slavery. The slave states of the North went free by such slow processes. Letting Kansas turn Missouri into an exposed salient of slavery jutting up into the North would surely leave the institution more exposed, especially as most of Missouri’s slavery took place dangerously near the border. If Kansas went free, and St. Louis continued to grow as a city just barely enslaved and filling with immigrants and northerners, Missouri’s slave power would have to take still more extreme and startling anti-democratic steps to save their property. With such a process underway, men like Rollins from Boone might easily turn free soil completely. Paranoia, and political theater, certainly informed Goode. So did genuine fears of a free future.

Goode for Atchison, Part Three

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

When last we left George Goode (parts 1, 2), he spoke out against Francis Blair, Jr. Blair supported Thomas Hart Benton for the Senate seat then occupied by David Rice Atchison, late of Kansas election stealing. Goode understood Blair as arguing

That the free States are more prosperous than the slave States; that he is in favor of Kansas being a free State, because of the greater prosperity attending that condition; and, further, because, if made a free State, the advantages to Missouri would be much greater than if it were made a slave State-as a necessary corollary, he would have Missouri to be a free State. The whole may be reduced to a simple syllogism-the greater prosperity is to be found in States that are free. Mr Blair is in favor of the greatest prosperity, therefore, he is in favor of all States being free-Kansas and Missouri included, of course.

Blair and the other Bentonians insisted that they had no truck with abolitionism, but Good summarized his argument fairly. He used standard abolitionist arguments. He supported the largest, most immediate abolitionist goal in the minds of Missourians of the time. Maybe Blair didn’t care for the label, but if he couldn’t put any daylight between himself and the abolitionists then why pretend a distinction existed?

Goode could have taken a page from B.F. Stringfellow’s Negro-Slavery, No Evil (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). His lengthy defense of slavery (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) drew on census figures to show just how well the institution worked out economically. He could have done the same drawing on plantation ledgers. The antislavery movement simply had it wrong here; slavery generated tremendous profits for the slaveholders.

Instead he engaged in a lengthy and fairly rambling alternative history of Congress’ power over slavery. Goode would have his audience believe that Jefferson never intended to bar slavery from the west, as the Northwest Ordinance he wrote covered only half the western territories. Goode simply ignored that Jefferson tried to bar slavery from all the west first and took the Northwest alone as a consolation prize. From there he went through the usual parade of antislavery offenses. The North broke faith with the Missouri Compromise when it did not vote overwhelmingly in favor of Arkansas’ statehood. It did so again when it demanded freedom for the Mexican Cession.  Only in the Kansas-Nebraska Act did the nation finally come  back to what Goode considered the proper position on regulating slavery:

We claim that the interference by the Federal Government with the institution of slavery, is authorized in but two cases:

1. Taxation as a basis of representation in the slave States.

2. The obligation of the free States to restore fugitive slaves to their lawful owners.

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

This deals with Kansas, Atchison, Benton, and Blair only by implication. Goode then moves further abroad to assail a different politician entirely, a James S. Rollins who held that Congress had the power to bar slavery from the territories but ought not exercise it. One couldn’t get on George Goode’s good side by only agreeing with him on the preferred outcome. You had to agree all the way down or you amounted to a secret free soiler:

the gentleman says that if to believe in the power of Congress to legislate on Slavery in the Territories is to make one a Free-Soiler, he pleads guilty to the charge; but, if to believe that to exercise such power is inexpedient, unjust, and unpatriotic, then he is no Free-Soiler.-Now, the gentleman must feel that his position is not defensible by fair argument, or he would not resort to the shallow artifice of trying to make it appear that he is called a Free-Soiler, the patriotism of himself and others impeached, and odious epithets applied to him and them for no other reason, as he would have us believe, than an honest difference of opinion as to the much questioned right of Congress to legislate on the subject of Slavery in the Territories. It cannot be necessary to say to men of sense and fairness, that it is not the fact; and no one knows better than the gentleman himself that there is no foundation for such a conclusion.

Goode would settle only for agreement top to bottom. Everybody else might turn abolitionist. Goode drove the matter home by linking his new opponent back to Thomas Hart Benton, producing a letter where he called Benton’s loss of a senate seat a national calamity. There, by even the most charitable reading, Goode broke his initial promise to avoid comment on the dispute between Benton’s and Atchison’s parties.