Abolitionists in Kansas
In 1831 William Lloyd Garrison began the publication of the Liberator,
the first newspaper in the United States to take a radical stand for the
slavery. Two years later the National Anti-Slavery Society was
organized at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in a short time the members of
the organization became divided to some extent as to the methods to be
pursued in the efforts to secure the emancipation of the slaves. Some clung
to the theory of gradual freeing of the slaves, with compensation to the
slaveholders as a last resort, while others advocated the immediate and
unconditional liberation of every slave, by force if necessary, and without
compensating their owners. These extremists in 1835 were nicknamed
"abolitionists" by those who favored slavery, and also by the conservative
element in the society. Although this name was first applied in a spirit of
derision, the extremists accepted it as an honor. In a short time a number
of abolitionist orators, speakers of more than ordinary ability, were
Among these may be mentioned Wendell Phillips, Gerrit Smith and Charles Sumner,
who never lost an opportunity of presenting their views, and the public was kept
on the alert, wondering what they would do next.
The society became divided in 1840 on the question
of organizing a political party on anti-slavery lines. From that time each
branch worked in its own way, and by the time Kansas
was organized as a territory the abolitionists -- the radical wing of the
original society -- had become strong enough to attract attention from one
end of the country to the other.
one of the most radical abolitionists, is probably
in history. Illustration by Currier
& Ives, 1863.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
pro-slavery men, there was no distinction between those who
were in favor of the gradual, peaceable emancipation of the slave and those who
were in favor of immediate emancipation at whatever cost. All were
"abolitionists." The following utterances of pro-slavery orators and extracts
from the pro-slavery press will show how the advocates of slavery regarded the
Free-State men as "abolitionists" indiscriminately.
At a squatter meeting near
Leavenworth on June 10, 1854, a resolution was
adopted declaring that "We will afford protection to no abolitionist as a
settler in Kansas." A
pro-slavery meeting in Lafayette County,
December 15, 1854, denounced the steamboats plying on the Missouri River for
carrying abolitionists to Kansas. As a result of this agitation, the Star of
the West in the spring of 1856 was allowed to carry about 100 persons from
Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina to Kansas unmolested, but on her next trip,
with a number of Free-State passengers, she was held up at Lexington, Missouri,
where the passengers were disarmed, and upon arriving at Weston,
not permitted to land. Other steamers encountered similar opposition.
In February, 1855,
Lawrence was denounced because it was "the home of about 400
abolitionists," and at a Law and Order meeting at Leavenworth on the November
15, 1855, John Calhoun said: "You yield and you will have the most infernal
government that ever cursed a land. I would rather be a painted slave over in
Missouri, or a serf to the Czar of Russia, than have the abolitionists in
On October 5, 1857, occurred the election for members of the legislature, and on
October 23rd the Doniphan Constitutionalist, a pro-slavery paper,
accounted for the Free-State victory by saying that the "sneaking abolitionists
were guilty of cutting loose the ferry boats at Doniphan and other places on the
day of the election, by order of
James H. Lane." To this, the Lawrence Republican
retorted: "Bad man, that Jim Lane, to order the boats cut loose; great
inconvenience to the Missourians and the Democratic Party."
At the beginning of the border troubles the Platte Argus
said editorially: "The abolitionists will probably not be interfered with if
they settle north of the 40th parallel of north latitude, but south of that line
they need not set foot."
pro-slavery convention at Lecompton on December. 9, 1857, adopted resolutions
denunciatory of Governors Reeder, Geary and Walker for their efforts "to reduce
and prostitute the Democracy to the unholy ends of the abolitionists."
instances might be multiplied indefinitely, but enough has been said to show
that the pro-slavery men made no distinction whatever between the radical and
conservative wings of the Free-State party. If a man was opposed to
though willing to let it alone where it already existed, he was just as much of
an "abolitionist" as the extremist who would be satisfied with nothing less than
immediate emancipation of all slaves, without regard to constitutional
guarantees or the simplest principles of equity.
The radical anti-slavery people claimed that the Civil War was an anti-slavery
conflict, and maintained that this view was justified by the emancipation
proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, notwithstanding
Lincoln's previous utterance that
he was not striving to abolish slavery, but to preserve the
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History,
Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar, A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing
Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these page is not verbatim,
as additions, updates, and editing have occurred.
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