This guide provides a narrative of events and links to on-line resources. In the case of "Bleeding Kansas" it is certainly true that the victors have written the history. Overwhelmingly, the available sources reflect the free state side. Those looking for a shorter narrative should consult the Public Broadcasting System's Africans in America series website page on Kansas. The resource bank on antebellum slavery is especially rich. Those looking for an encyclopedic treatment can go to the University of Kansas' online transcription of William G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas (1883). Despite its age, Cutler's work remains extraordinarily useful. Particularly valuable are the numerous primary sources either reprinted in full or extensively quoted.
"Come on, then, gentlemen of the slave states. Since there is no escaping your challenge, we accept it in the name of freedom. We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas, and God give the victory to the side which is stronger in numbers, as it is in right." -- Senator William Seward, on the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, May 1854
Stephen Douglas' success in getting the Kansas-Nebraska bill through Congress is perhaps the greatest Pyrhhic victory in American history. It undid the sectional truce known as the Compromise of 1850, a truce Douglas himself played the key role in arranging. It greatly weakened his own wing of the Democratic party and thus his own base of support. It did even greater harm to the Whigs who virtually disappeared as a party in the November elections, their place taken by the Republicans and the Americans, popularly know as the Know-Nothings. It set off, as Seward proclaimed, a race for Kansas which turned that territory into a battleground. Its passage may well have made the Civil War inevitable.
What made the Kansas-Nebraska bill so pregnant with disaster? In 1820 the Missouri Compromise provided that all territories north of the southern boundary of Missouri, with the exception of Missouri itself, were to be closed to slavery. The goal was to create an automatic mechanism for determining whether a given territory would be free or slave so that the issue would no longer arise in Congress. The Compromise worked as intended for a quarter of a century. Territories were admitted to statehood two by two so that the number of slave and free states remained equal. The War with Mexico, along with the agreement with Great Britain over Oregon, brought the issue once again to the fore. The huge acquisition of land from Mexico meant the Compromise line no longer neatly bisected the western territories. The acceptance of British claims to what became British Columbia further inflamed Northerners. Led by David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, northern politicians promised to attach a proviso to any measure dealing with the land seized from Mexico. This Wilmot Proviso excluded slavery. Southerners, led by John C. Calhoun, claimed that any restriction on the rights of Southerners to bring their slave property into any portion of the territories, including the Missouri Compromise, was unconstitutional. [Calhoun's "Southern Address" of 1849, along with a list of the signers, is available at Furman University.]
The Compromise of 1850 settled this dispute, if only temporarily. It admitted California as a free state, although part of it lay below the Missouri Compromise line. It settled remaining questions over the admission of Texas. It outlawed the slave trade in the District of Columbia, long a demand of anti-slavery activists in the North. It established a new Fugitive Slave law which required state and national officials to cooperate in the recovery and return of escaped slaves. And it bypassed the central issue of slavery in the conquered territory (other than California) by leaving the question to be resolved by the settlers at the time of application for statehood. Since much of this land was known as the Great American Desert, the expectation was that this would be in the distant future. The Compromise of 1850 was unpopular in both North and South. It had taken all of Douglas' very considerable Parliamentary skills to cobble together separate majorities for each of its provisions. There was no majority for the whole. [For a discussion of anti-slavery activists' views of the Compromise of 1850, see "The Struggle Against Slavery."]
Where the Compromise of 1850 left the Missouri Compromise line was unclear. The 1850 measures were silent on the subject other than to note that the newly conquered lands did not fall under its formula. Some argued that the Compromise of 1850 superceded the Missouri Compromise and that the line no longer separated slave and free territories. Others claimed that the line still was in force with respect to the Louisiana Purchase lands.
If the Southwest seemed unlikely to attract settlers in large numbers any time soon, that was not true of the Louisiana Purchase lands. This was especially the case with the vast Nebraska territory which, in the beginning of 1854 stretched from north of what would become Oklahoma to Canada. All of it, under the terms of the Missouri Compromise, was to be closed to slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska measure divided the territory into two parts -- Kansas, due west of Missouri, and Nebraska. It noted that the Missouri Compromise line no longer applied since it had been repealed by the Compromise of 1850, a claim which outraged Northern opinion. It then used the same formula as the 1850 measures to resolve the issue of slavery. Stephen Douglas, chair of the Senate Committee on Territories and author of the bill, called this Popular Sovereignty. This doctrine held that the citizens of the territory would decide for themselves whether or not to admit slavery. Officially they would make this choice when applying for statehood. As a practical matter, it would come earlier, with the meeting of the territorial legislature which would have the power to pass laws regulating the "peculiar institution."
Northerners charged that Douglas had sold them out. He himself joked that he could have travelled the entire route between the District of Columbia and his home in Illinois by the light of his own burning effigies. Southerners took the Northern reaction as proof of their increasing enmity to slavery. The Secession Era Editorials Project at Furman University collects numerous comments upon the bill. Their general tone is captured in the following excerpts from the Albany Evening Journal and the Jackson Mississippian.
Albany, New York, Evening Journal [Whig] (23 May 1854)
From the Secession Era Editorials Project, Furman University
The crime is committed. The work of
They tell us that the
It was fitting that the Law should be passed as it was. It was in accordance with its spirit that it should be conceived in treachery, sprung upon the House by a fraud, and forced through it by a Parliamentary lie. It was appropriate that one member should be bribed and another bullied, and another bought, until the ranks of Slavery were full. Had Law or Order or Honesty had aught to do with its passage, there would have been a strange incongruity between the means and the end.
We cannot read the future. We cannot predict what will be the consequences of this last and most fatal blow to Liberty. But we can see what the duty of Freemen is, and we mean it shall be through no fault of ours if it is left undone.
Jackson, Mississippi, Mississippian [Democratic] (31 March 1854)
From the Secession Era Editorial Project, Furman University
The contrast between the attitude of the opposers of the Nebraska Bill at the North, and its advocates at the South, is very striking, and affords much food for agreeable reflection to those who feel a just pride in the sound sense, and the calm, deliberate judgment which characterize the action of the people of the slave-holding States, upon questions of public interest.
Look to the North, and what do we realize? We are
regaled by the coarse vituperation of the New York Tribune,
and the insane ranting of Fessenden, (who was once appropriately toasted
at a free negro festival as a "white brudder with a black heart,")
the sickly cant of Sumner, -- the detestable demagogism of Seward, --
the horrid screeching of Lucy Stone, and her unsexed compatriots, -- the
sacrilegious imprecations of ministers who degrade the holy calling, and
the disgraceful orgies of tumultuous assemblages of all ages, colors,
and conditions, who make night hideous with their frantic howlings. In
the South, scarce a ripple seems to agitate the surface of society. All
is calmness and equanimity. Here and there we read of resolutions adopted
by Conventions of the people, or their legislature, but they are distinguished
by no mark of intemperance and unnecessary excitement. We hear of no burnings
in effigy, -- we witness no wild demonstrations; we listen to no furious
The Misissippian summarized both the scale of Northern outrage and the sense of insult among white Southerners at this Northern reaction:
A paper before us, says, that Isaac Toucey, a Connecticut Senator, who advocated the bill, has been hung in effigy, by a portion of his constituents. On his heart was a broad label, bearing the words, "Toucey, the traitor." It further remarks, that for thus betraying the "cause of freedom and his constituents" he deserved a "still more stinging rebuke." A public meeting at Leesburg, Ohio, resolves that "such member of Congress who votes for, or in any way gives countenance to, the bill for the organization of the Nebraska Territory, as reported by Senator Douglas, of Illinois, is a traitor to his country, to freedom and to God, worthy only of everlasting infamy." A remonstrance against the bill, signed by more than three thousand Clergymen of New England, characterizes it as a "great moral wrong," a "breach of faith," -- a measure full of danger to the peace and even existence of the Union, and exposing us to the righteous judgment of the Almighty. A newspaper which is everywhere regarded as the most influential organ of those who oppose the bill [New York Tribune], asks, If the slave power, aided by a few deserters from freedom, intend to deliberately crowd and plunder the North as they propose in this Nebraska bill, how long can this government go harmoniously on?" A meeting at Amsterdam, New York, Resolves, "That the territory of Nebraska and Kansas is the sworn heritage of freedom -- That it shall never be reduced to slavery. That if by the degradation and treachery of demagogues, whom the North has honored to her own shame, freedom may be wounded in the house of her friends, we shall hold it to be our solemn duty, God helping us, through whatever peril the path may lie, to aid in restoring to the North and to humanity, all the rights and immunities of which they shall have been, through such degradation and treachery, deprived."
Why did Douglas unleash such fury? He could not have known in advance its full extent but he did realize the bill would be highly unpopular in the North and would likely harm the Democrats there in the November elections. Historians agree the answer is: He wanted southern support for a northern route for the intercontinental railroad. He wanted the road's eastern terminus to be Chicago. Southerners, led by Senator David Atchison of Missouri, countered that a southern route, starting in St. Louis, would be easier and less expensive to build since the northern route would have to cross the Rocky Mountains. Organizing Kansas on the basis of popular sovereignty was a bid for Atkinson's support for the northern route.
It was, most historians agree, a calculated risk. Popular sovereignty had worked in 1850. The residents of California had requested admission as a free state. There were so few settlers in the other lands taken in the Mexican War, and so little prospect of more going there, that popular sovereignty effectively became a formula for avoiding the issue of slavery in the territories. Further, it rested upon a well-established democratic principle, the right of people to govern themselves. Of course, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in an October 1854 speech, if one considered the negro a man, then it was not self-government for the residents of Kansas to choose slavery. It was despotism. Further, there were practical difficulties. An "important objection to this application of the right of self-government," Lincoln continued, "is that it enables the first FEW, to deprive the succeeding MANY, of a free exercise of the right of self-government. The first few may get slavery IN, and the subsequent many cannot easily get it OUT." Douglas continued to argue that the residents of Kansas would, as a matter of fact, choose to prohibit slavery even as he maintained, as a matter of principle, they had the right to choose to admit it.
Once the Nebraska bill came onto the Senate floor and Northern protest swelled, Southern Democrats united behind the measure. Support for the bill became a test. Anyone opposed to it was not a friend of slavery. Franklin Pierce threw the administration's influence behind it. It passed. Pierce then named a territorial governor and other officials. Popular sovereignty was no longer a formula for avoiding the issue of slavery in the territories; instead it operated in exactly the opposite fashion. The race for Kansas was on.
Senator Atchison himself, pictured at right, led the southern forces, most from his own state of Missouri. These "ruffians," as even they came to call themselves, were not settlers for the most part. They came in armed groups, set up camp, voted pro-slavery, and returned home. One of their number, a young Englishman, later published in his memoirs his recollections of life with the "ruffians." Another Englishman left an account of his own run-in with them.
The free soilers had a most unlikely leader, Worcester school master Eli Thayer, who organized the Emigrant Aid Society. The Society's first report, really a prospectus for potential settlers, is available at the Kansas Collection of the University of Kansas. It contains the Massachusetts act of incorporation which created the Society, Thayer's description of how it would assist potential settlers, and a glowing description of the land written by Dr. Charles Robinson who had gone out to the territory in 1849 and who would play a leading role on the free soil side in the upcoming troubles. Southerners perceived the Society as a plot to steal Kansas. Most "ruffians" apparently believed that it was their sacred duty to foil this conspiracy. Northerners saw the Society as upholding the cause of freedom and as advancing civilization. Witness:
John Greenleaf Whittier, "Song of the Kansas Emigrant"
We cross the prairie as of old
The fathers crossed the sea,
To make the West, as they the East,
The homestead of the free.
We go to rear a wall of men
On Freedom's southern line,
And plant beside the Cotton tree
The rugged northern pine.
We're flowing from our native hills
As our free rivers flow,
The blessing of our mother land
Is on us as we go.
We go to plant the common school
On distant prairie swells,
And give the Sabbaths of the wilds
The music of her bells.
Upbearing, like the ark of God.
The Bible in our van.
We go to test the truth of God
Against the fraud of man.
Just under 400 emigrants left for Kansas under the auspices of the Society in March of 1855. Months earlier, in November of 1854, the first territorial election to select a delegate to Congress took place. Of 2871 votes cast, the Congressional Committee created in 1856 to investigate the Kansas "troubles" (the Howard Committee) determined that 1729 (60%) were illegal:
Thus your committee find that in this, the first election in the territory, a very large majority of the votes were cast by citizens of the State of Missouri, in violation of the organic law of the territory. Of the legal votes cast, Gen. Whitfield received a plurality. The settlers took but little interest in the election, not one-half of them voting. This may be accounted for from the fact that the settlements were scattered over a great extent, that the term of the delegate to be elected was short, and that the question of free and slave institutions was not generally regarded by them as distinctly at issue. Under these circumstances, a systematic invasion, from an adjoining state, by which large numbers of illegal votes were cast in remote and sparse settlements for the avowed purpose of extending slavery into the territory, even though it did not change the result of the election, was a crime of great magnitude. Its immediate effect was to further excite the people of the northern states, induce acts of retaliation, and exasperate the actual settlers against their neighbors in Missouri.
On March 30, 1855 there was another election, this one for a territorial legislature. There were, according the census just taken, 8,601 residents in Kansus, 2,905 of whom were eligible to vote. The Missourians returned in force. Acording to the Howard Committee, the special Congressional Committee,
The evening before, and the morning of the day of the election, about one thousand men arrived at Lawrence, and camped in a ravine a short distance from the town, and near the place of voting. They came, in wagons (of which there were over one hundred) or on horseback, under the command of Colonel Samuel Young, of Boone county, Missouri, and Claiborne F. Jackson, of Missouri. They were armed with guns, rifles, pistols and bowie knives; and had tents, music and flags with them. They brought with them two pieces of artillery, loaded with musket balls.
. . . . .
When the voting commenced, . . . Colonel Young offered to vote. He refused to take the oath prescribed by the governor, but said he was a resident of the territory. He told Mr. Abbott, one of the judges, when asked if he intended to make Kansas his future home, that it was none of his business; if he were a resident then he should ask no more. After his vote was received, Colonel Young got upon the window sill and announced to the crowd that he had been permitted to vote, and they could all come up and vote. He told the judges that there was no use swearing the others, as they would all swear as he had. After the other judges had concluded to receive Colonel Young’s vote, Mr. Abbott resigned as judge of election, and Mr. Benjamin was elected in his place.
The polls were so much crowded till late in the evening that for a time they were obliged to get out by being hoisted up on the roof of the building, where the election was being held, and passing out over the house. Afterwards a passageway was made through the crowd by two lines of men being formed, through which voters could get to the polls. Colonel Young asked that the old men be allowed to go up first and vote, as they were tired with the traveling, and wanted to get back to camp. During the day the Missourians drove off the ground some of the citizens, Mr. Stearns, Mr. Bond and Mr. Willis. They threatened to shoot Mr. Bond, and made a rush after him, threatening him. As he ran from them, shots were fired at him as he jumped off the bank of the river and escaped.
None of the 1855 Emigrant Society parties had yet reached Kansas, although some two hundred or so settlers who had gone out in 1854 were in the territory. This is important since Southerners defended the activities of the "ruffians" as necessary to counter the influence of the Society. The pro-slavery forces triumphed as 6,307 men voted, a substantial majority of them Missourians. Even if all 2,905 eligible voters had cast ballots, an unrealistic assumption, at least 3,402 Missourians voted illegally. If the first election was "a crime of great magnitude," the second was more grievous still. This new territorial legislature would write the initial laws concerning slavery. They were the FEW Lincoln warned of who could bring slavery IN, thus thwarting the will of the MANY who wished to keep it OUT. Worse still, they had been elected by fraud.
Governor Andrew Reeder accepted the election results, although he later changed his mind, repudiated them, and went over to the free state side. By then he had been removed from office by the Pierce administration. Before this happened, the legislature got down to business passing laws making the advocacy of anti-slavery sentiments a felony. They removed from office all appointees who would not declare in favor of slavery. They wrote a Slave Code more stringent than that in any of the slave states.
Dr. Charles Robinson, the agent of the Emigrant Aid Society, who had written its original description of the territory, rallied the free soil forces on July 4, 1855:
I can say to Death, be thou my master, and to the Grave, be thou my prison house; but acknowledge such creatures as my masters, never! Thank God, we are yet free, and hurl defiance at those who would make us slaves.
Look who will in apathy, and stifle they who can,
The sympathy, the hopes, the words, that make man truly man.
Let those whose hearts are dungeoned up with interest or with ease,
Consent to hear, with quiet pulse, of loathsome deeds like these.
We first drew in New England’s air, and from her hardy breast
Sucked in the tyrant-hating milk that will not let us rest.
And if our words seem treason to the dullard or the tame,
Tis but our native dialect; our fathers spake the same.
Let every man stand in his place, and acquit himself like a man who knows his rights, and knowing, dares maintain. Let us repudiate all laws enacted by foreign legislative bodies, or dictated by Judge Lynch over the way. Tyrants are tyrants, and tyranny is tyranny, whether under the garb of law or in opposition to it. So thought and acted our ancestors, and so let us think and act. We are not alone in this contest. The whole nation is agitated upon the question of our rights. Every pulsation in Kansas pulsates to the remotest artery of the body politic, and I seem to hear the millions of freemen, and the millions of bondsmen in our own land, the patriots and philanthropists of all countries, the spirits of the revolutionary heroes, and the voice of God, all saying to the people of Kansas, ‘Do your duty.’
Free soil partisans decided to declare the actions of the legislature invalid, to hold their own election, and to create their own territorial government with its own capitol, Lawrence. A call went out to "all bona fide citizens of Kansas Territory, of whatever political views or predilections, to consult together, in their respective election districts," and elect "delegates to assemble in convention, at the town of Topeka, on the 19th day of September, 1855, then and there to consider and determine upon all subjects of public interest, and particularly upon that having reference to the speedy formation of a state constitution, with an intention of immediate application to be admitted as a state into the Union of the United States of America." A convention at Big Springs, on September 5, declared the Legislature elected in March was illegitimate and "that its laws had no validity or binding force; and that every freeman was at liberty, consistently with his obligations as a citizen and a man, to defy and resist them."
In early October first the pro-slavery and then the free soil partisans held elections for Congressional delegate. Each boycotted the one called by the other. The free soilers also elected delegates to a Constitutional Convention, held later in the month in Topeka, which drafted a free state constitution which it submitted to the residents for ratification on December 15. It was approved, again with the pro-slavery side boycotting. They then set up an alternative territorial government with Dr. Charles Robinson serving as governor. It met in March 1856.
There were, as of that March, two territorial governments. One, recognized by the Pierce Administration, had stolen the March 1855 election and then had made the mere advocacy of anti-slavery a felony. The other had summoned itself into existence. It had not stolen the elections it sponsored. But proslavery settlers had boycotted them. So neither side could truthfully claim to represent the will of the people. Popular sovereignty meant nothing under such circumstances.
Many historians, notably David Potter, have pointed out that "the great anomaly of 'Bleeding Kansas' is that the slavery issue reached a condition of intolerable tension and violence . . . in an area where a majority of the inhabitants apparently did not care very much one way or the other about slavery." An "overwhelming proportion of the settlers were far more concerned about land titles" than anything else. The explanation for this "anomaly" is not far to seek. Richard Cordley, a Congregational minister who came to the territory in 1857, wrote in his LAWRENCE, KANSAS: FROM THE EARLIEST SETTLEMENT TO THE CLOSE OF THE REBELLION, Published by E. F. Caldwell LAWRENCE, KANSAS 1895 LAWRENCE JOURNAL PRESS:
When the Kansas bill passed the people of the South expected to take possession of the territory. They urged those on the border to "move right over," and take their slaves with them. They said "two thousand slaves settled in Kansas would make it a slave state." But the southern people did not have the "courage of their convictions." They did not dare take their slaves over. There never were but a handful of slaves in Kansas, and these were on the border where they could be easily withdrawn. But southern people determined to take possession of Kansas, and as soon as the bill was passed the men in the border counties of Missouri began to rush over, and stake off claims. In a few weeks the whole region was claimed under the pre-emption laws by persons residing in Missouri. They paid no attention to the terms of the law, but each man marked off the land he wanted, drove a stake down and wrote his name upon it, and went back home. This gave them no title and no claim because it did not comply with the law. But they agreed among themselves to shoot any man who interfered with them. When the real settlers came two months later they found many embarrassments. They might travel fifty miles and not see a human habitation or a human face, but if they attempted to claim a piece of unoccupied land, they found it already claimed by somebody in Missouri. This man had not complied with the law, and had secured no title, but then he had a revolver and a bowie knife, and in the unwritten code of the border these stood for law and right, and pretty much everything else.
Under these conditions, settlers without connections to the proslavery side could expect no satisfaction of their claims. Pro-slavery settlers could count not only on the territorial government but also on various secret Missouri societies, all pledged to making Kansas a slave state. The Congressional Committee (the Howard Committee) offered this description. They were:
. . . known by different names, such as 'Social Band,' 'Friends' Society,' 'Blue Lodge,' 'The Sons of the South.' Its members were bound together by secret oaths, and they had passwords, signs and grips, by which they were known to each other. Penalties were imposed for violating the rules and secrets of the order. Written minutes were kept of the proceedings of the lodges, and the different lodges were connected together by an effective organization. It embraced great numbers of the citizens of Missouri, and was extended into other slave states and into the territory. Its avowed purpose was not only to extend slavery into Kansas, but also into other territory of the United States, and to form a union of all the friends of that institution. Its plan of operating was to organize and send men to vote at the elections in the territory, to collect money to pay their expenses, and, if necessary, to protect them in voting. It also proposed to induce pro-slavery men to emigrate into the territory, to aid and sustain them while there, and to elect none to office but those friendly to their views. This dangerous society was controlled by men who avowed their purpose to extend slavery into the territory at all hazards, and was altogether the most effective instrument in organizing the subsequent armed invasions and forays. In its lodges in Missouri the affairs of Kansas were discussed, the force necessary to control the election was divided into bands, and leaders selected, means were collected, and signs and badges were agreed upon. While the great body of the actual settlers of the territory were relying upon the rights secured to them by the organic law, and had formed no organization or combination whatever, even of a party character, this conspiracy against their rights was gathering strength in a neighboring state, and would have been sufficient at their first election to have overpowered them, if they had been united to a man.
John H. Gihon, M.D., secretary to Governor Geary, provided in GEARY AND KANSAS. GOVERNOR GEARY'S ADMINISTRATION IN K A N S A S: with a complete HISTORY OF THE TERRITORY U N T I L J U L Y 1857: EMBRACING A FULL ACCOUNT OF ITS DISCOVERY, GEOGRAPHY, SOIL, RIVERS, CLIMATE, PRODUCTS; ITS ORGANIZATION AS A TERRITORY, TRANSACTIONS AND EVENTS UNDER GOVERNORS REEDER AND SHANNON, POLITICAL DISSENSIONS, PERSONAL RENCOUNTRES, ELECTION FRAUDS, BATTLES AND OUTRAGES. ALL FULLY AUTHENTICATED. (1857) a vivid if hostile account of the Blue Lodges' early attempt to destroy the Lawrence settlement in 1854:
On the 6th of October a large body of armed men, in wagons and on horseback, with grotesque banners and other strange devices, came from Westport to Lawrence, to disperse the settlers at that place. They demanded that the abolitionists should take away their tents and be off at short notice, or otherwise they would be ''wiped out." The immigrants refused to obey this mandate, but prepared themselves in martial array, to protect their property and lives. This was entirely unexpected on the part of the invaders. They never imagined the possibility of the abolitionists showing fight. So, after considerable swaggering, they started back for Missouri, threatening, with huge oaths, that they would return in a week, with a force sufficiently large to compel submission to their requirements. These threats were unheeded; the settlers continued to build up their town; and the invaders did not return at the appointed time.
Bands of armed men were also organized to intercept the passage of the Missouri River. These parties entered the upward-bound steamboats at Lexington and other Missouri landings, and upon finding companies of northern emigrants, deprived them of their arms, and, in many instances, compelled them to go back. These outrages became so frequent and intolerant, that the river was virtually closed to all free-state travellers, who could only reach Kansas by taking the northern land route through lowa and Nebraska.
Gihon's account provided numerous examples of proslavery outrages, even though he insisted that the free state faction, especially Jim Lane's "Army of the North," committed almost as many. He quoted the Squatter Sovereign, a pro-slavery paper, version of what happened at Atchison:
"On Thursday last one Pardee Butler arrived in town with a view of starting for the East, probably for the purpose of getting a fresh supply of free-soilers from the penitentiaries and pest-holes of the northern states. Finding it inconvenient to depart before morning, he took lodgings at the hotel and proceeded to visit numerous portions of our town, everywhere avowing himself a free-soiler, and preaching the foulest of abolition heresies. He declared the recent action of our citizens in regard to J. W. B. Kelley [who was run out of town for his free state views], the infamous and unlawful proceedings of a mob; at the same time stating that many persons in Atchison, who were free-soilers at heart, had been intimidated thereby, and feared to avow their true sentiments; but that he (Butler) would express his views in defiance of the whole community.
"On the ensuing morning our townsmen assembled en masse, and, deeming the presence of such persons highly detrimental to the safety of our slave property, appointed a committee of two to wait on Mr. Butler and request his signature to the resolutions passed at the late pro-slavery meeting held in Atchison. After perusing the said resolutions, Mr. B. positively declined signing them, and was instantly arrested by the committee.
"After the various plans for his disposal had been considered, it was finally decided to place him on a raft composed of two logs firmly lashed together; that his baggage and a loaf of bread be given him; and having attached a flag to his primitive bark, emblazoned with mottoes indicative of our contempt for such characters, Mr. Butler was set adrift in the great Missouri, with the letter R legibly painted on his forehead.
"He was escorted some distance down the river by several of our citizens, who, seeing him pass several rock-heaps in quite a skilful manner, bade him adieu, and returned to Atchison.
"Such treatment may be expected by all scoundrels visiting our town for the purpose of interfering with our time-honored institutions, and the same punishment we will be happy to award all free-soilers, abolitionists, and their emissaries."
Butler states that Robert S. Kelley, the junior editor of the Squatter Sovereign was one of the most active members of the mob that committed this disgraceful act, and that he assisted to tow the raft out into the stream, where he was set adrift, with flags bearing the following strange inscriptions: "Eastern Emigrant Aid Express. The Rev. Mr. Butler for the Underground Railroad." "The way they are served in Kansas." "For Boston." "Cargo insured--unavoidable danger of the Missourians and the Missouri River excepted." "Let future emissaries from the north beware. Our hemp crop is sufficient to reward all such scoundrels."
Under such circumstances, non-slavery settlers had to turn to the Lawrence (free soil) side. They also made haste to arm themselves. As the Rev. Cordley told the story:
As soon as the result of the March election was finally determined, the free-state leaders sent to their friends in the east for arms. George W. Deitzler was sent to Boston to lay the matter before the friends of free Kansas. Only two persons knew of the object of his mission. New arms were needed for self-defense. Amos A. Lawrence and others, before whom Mr. Deitzler presented the case, at once saw the seriousness of the situation. Within an hour after his arrival in Boston, he had an order for one hundred Sharpe’s rifles, and in forty-eight hours the rifles were on their way to Lawrence. They were shipped in boxes marked "books." As the border ruffians had no use for books, they came through without being disturbed. A military company known for many years afterwards as the "Stubbs" was organized, and was armed with these rifles. Other boxes of "books" rapidly followed these, and other companies in Lawrence and in the country were armed with them. The fame of these guns went far and wide, and produced a very salutatory effect. They who recognized only brute force came to have a great respect for the Sharpe’s rifles. A howitzer was procured in New York through the aid of Horace Greeley, and shipped to Lawrence.
John Brown received his first public notice for transporting weapons for the free state side. The Herald of Freedom wrote:About noon (December 7), Mr. John Brown, an aged gentleman from Essex County, N. Y., who has been a resident of the Territory for several months, arrived with four of his sons - leaving several others at home sick - bringing a quantity of arms with him, which were placed in his hands by Eastern friends for the defense of the cause of freedom. Having more than he could use to advantage, a portion of them were placed in the hands of those more destitute. A company was organized and the command given to Mr. Brown for the zeal he had exhibited in the cause of freedom both before and since his arrival in the Territory.
Neither Free Soilers nor their opponents were able to establish effective control over the territory. There were minor skirmishes, a great deal of threatening, innumerable disputes and arguments, but no real government. Neither side recognized the laws passed by the other; neither accepted the jurisdiction of the other's courts. And, despite all of the posturing, neither had taken the offensive. [Gihon provided a very detailed account of the "Wakarusa war" of December 1855, a move upon the free soil capitol of Lawrence which ended in a truce. John Brown was a participant in the "war" and described it at length in a letter to his family, reprinted in Cutler's History.] This was about to change. On May 5, 1856 a grand jury returned an indictment which, as Gihon noted, amounted to a declaration of war upon the free soilers:
The grand jury, sitting for the adjourned term of the First District Court in and for the county of Douglas, in the Territory of Kansas, beg leave to report to the honorable court that, from evidence laid before them, showing that the newspaper known as The Herald of Freedom, published at the town of Lawrence, has from time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and seditious character, denying the legality of the territorial authorities, addressing and commanding forcible resistance to the same, demoralizing the popular mind, and rendering life and property unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last resort;
Also, that the paper known as The Kansas Free State has been similarly engaged, and has recently reported the resolutions of a public meeting in Johnson county, in this territory, in which resistance to the territorial laws even unto blood has been agreed upon; and that we respectfully recommend their abatement as a nuisance. Also, that we are satisfied that the building known as the `Free-State Hotel' in Lawrence has been constructed with the view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapeted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only have been designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety, and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this country; and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed. OWEN C. STEWART, Foreman.
The "steps" taken to remove "this nuisance" have come to be known as the "sack of Lawrence." I.B. Donaldson, the U.S. Marshall for the Kansas territory summoned a posse, which amounted to some 800 men, most from Missouri, to serve the warrants. The residents of Lawrence, unwilling to put themselves in the position of resisting directly federal authority, offered to permit Donaldson to carry out his duties. On the morning of May 21 one of Donaldson's deputies, with a small party, entered the city, arrested several residents for treason, had lunch at the Free State Hotel, the purported fortress, and returned to the main body of the posse. They were free to go. The marshall's business was complete. At this point, Sheriff S.J. Jones, appointed by the pro-slavery side, stepped forward. He too had warrants to execute. Specifically, he intended to carry out the order to suppress the free soil newspapers and destroy the Free State Hotel. He also needed a posse. The Missourians, led by Senator Atchison, cheered. They would have an opportunity to enter Lawrence after all. Gihon quoted the account of the pro-slavery "Lecompton Union, the most rabid pro-slavery paper in Kansas, the Squatter Sovereign excepted":
During this time appeals were made to Sheriff Jones to save the Aid Society's Hotel. This news reached the company's ears, and was received with one universal cry of `No! no! Blow it up! blow it up!
About this time a banner was seen fluttering in the breeze over the office of The Herald of Freedom. Its color was a blood-red, with a lone star in the centre, and South Carolina above. This banner was placed there by the Carolinians--Messrs. Wrights and a Mr. Cross. The effect was prodigious. One tremendous and long-continued shout burst from the ranks. Thus floated in triumph the banner of South Carolina,--that single white star, so emblematic of her course in the early history of our sectional disturbances. When every southern state stood almost upon the verge of ceding their dearest rights to the north, Carolina stood boldly out, the firm and unwavering advocate of southern institutions.
Thus floated victoriously the first banner of southern rights over the abolition town of Lawrence, unfurled by the noble sons of Carolina, and every whip of its folds seemed a death-stroke to Beecher propagandism and the fanatics of the east. O! that its red folds could have been seen by every southern eye!
Mr. Jones listened to the many entreaties, and finally replied that it was beyond his power to do anything, and gave the occupants so long to remove all private property from it. He ordered two companies into each printing office to destroy the press. Both presses were broken up and thrown into the street, the type thrown in the river, and all the material belonging to each office destroyed. After this was accomplished, and the private property removed from the hotel by the different companies, the cannon were brought in front of the house and directed their destructive blows upon the walls. The building caught on fire, and soon its walls came with a crash to the ground. Thus fell the abolition fortress; and we hope this will teach the Aid Society a good lesson for the future.
R.H. Wilson, the young Englishman who joined Atchison's forces, recounted the "sack" this way:
So one fine morning we "Border Ruffians," as the enemy called us, struck camp and marched out some fifteen hundred strong, with two 6-pr. field-pieces, to attack Lawrence, my company acting as the advance guard. We halted the first night near Lecompton, our capital, my company being on picket duty, spread out fan-like some two miles round the camp. Next morning Governor Shannon, our own party's governor, paid us a visit of inspection, and was pleased to express his high approval of our discipline and workmanlike appearance.
I can't say much for our discipline myself, but there is no doubt we were a fighting lot, if only the Northerners had given us the chance of proving it.
The morning after the inspection we marched on Lawrence, where we expected a sharp fight, which we were fully confident of winning. My company acted again as the advance guard, and when, about midday, we reached Mount Oread, a strongly fortified position, on which several guns were mounted, covering the approach to the town, great was our surprise to find it had been evacuated. As soon as our general received the report, he ordered our company to make a wide circuit round the town, to seize the fords of the Kansas River and hold the road leading east.
Then he moved the rest of his force to within half a mile of the town, formed square on the open prairie, and sent in a flag of truce, demanding an unconditional surrender of the place. To the no small disgust of the "Border Ruffians," Governor Robinson, without further parley, threw up the sponge, and meekly surrendered the town and the 2,600 men it contained.
No doubt his men were not very keen on fighting, being the riff-raff of the Northern towns enlisted by the Emigrants' Aid Society, and most of them quite unused to bear arms of any kind. Many of them bolted for the Kansas River ford and the Eastern road; and we of Miller's's company took quite three times our own number of these valiant warriors prisoners. I well remember how scared the poor wretches were! I am glad to say that the prisoners' lives were spared, all but two, and they were hanged by the Provost Marshal for horse-stealing, the penalty for which was invariably death, in that Western country, even in ordinary times.
Though the prisoners were spared, I regret to say the town was not, for Atchison's men got completely out of hand, battered down the "Free State Hotel," and sacked most of the houses. It was a terrible scene of orgy, and I was very glad when, about midnight, we of Miller's company were ordered off to Lecompton to report the day's doings to Governor Shannon. There we were kept several days, scouring the country for Free Soilers, and impressing arms, horses, and corn.
[Cutler's History provides a detailed account of the "sack" along with several important primary materials.]
David Potter wisely observed that there were two wars for Kansas. The one on the ground was far less important than that for northern public opinion. The "sack" of Lawrence was a free soil triumph in this second war. An even greater defeat for the pro-slavery cause came a day later. Even as Atchison's "ruffians" were marching on Lawrence, his senatorial colleagues were debating the free soil constitution for Kansas adopted in the December 1855 election boycotted by the pro-slavery side. There was no chance that the Senate would approve it. What was at stake, again, was northern opinion. Leading the opposition was South Carolina Democrat Andrew Butler. Massachusetts Republican Charles Sumner gave the major speech in favor of the free state constitution, "The Crime Against Kansas." Sumner was a master of vituperation and he turned this talent directly against Butler:
The Senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight -- I mean the harlot, Slavery. For her, his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this Senator. The frenzy of Don Quixote, on behalf of his wench Dulcinea del Toboso, is all surpassed. The asserted rights of Slavery, which shock equality of all kinds, are cloaked by a fantastic claim of equality. If the slave States cannot enjoy what, in mockery of the great fathers of the Republic, he misnames equality under the Constitution -- in other words, the full power in the National Territories to compel fellow men to toil, to separate husband and wife, and to sell little children at the auction block -- then, sir, the chivalric Senator will conduct the State of South Carolina out of the Union! Heroic knight! Exalted Senator! A Second Moses come for a second exodus!
. . . .
With regret, I come again upon the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Butler] who, omnipresent in this debate, overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had applied for admission as a State; and, with incoherent phrases, discharged the loose expectorations of his speech, now upon her representative, and then upon her people. There was no extravagance of the ancient Parliamentary debate which he did not repeat; nor was there any possible deviation from truth which he did not make with so much of passion, I am glad to add, as to save him from the suspicion of intentional aberration. But the Senator touches nothing which he does not disfigure -- with error, sometimes of principle, sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accuracy, whether in stating the Constitution or in stating the law, whether in the details of statistics or the diversions of scholarship. He cannot
open, but out there flies a blunder.
Sumner's unmeasured abuse angered many Southerners, none more than Congressman Preston Brooks, a relative of Butler's. The next day, May 22, the day after the "sack" of Lawrence, Brooks entered the Senate chamber looking for Sumner whom he found at his desk. The Senate was not in session and very few others were in the room. Brooks walked up to Sumner, raised his cane, and struck the Massachusetts Senator over the head with it repeatedly. He continued to strike even after the cane broke from the force of the blows. He continued to strike even after Sumner slumped to the floor. A Congressional colleague, Lawrence Keitt, stood guard to prevent anyone from coming to Sumner's rescue. A larger version of Winslow Homer's lithograph is available at the Library of Congress's American Treasures website.
Even northern Democrats saw the assault as barbaric, although some pointed out that Sumner's speech went well beyond the usual limits of debate. Some Southerners also faulted Brooks. He may have been provoked, Sumner may have disgraced the Senate with his speech, but Brooks did not have the right to attack Sumner. The views of most Northerners were caught by the New York Tribune. Most Southerners rallied to Brooks' support. Indeed he became a popular hero below the Mason-Dixon line. Furman's Secession Era Editorial Project collects a broad range of comment on the event. Senator Butler defended his relation's attack in a speech on the Senate floor. Brooks had intended to whip Sumner, he said. It was only the fact that his "foolish" cane broke that led him to the beating he actually bestowed.
New York, Tribune, 23 May 1856 [Republican]
From the Secession Era Editorial Project, Furman University
The particulars show that Mr. Sumner was struck
unawares over the head by a loaded cane and stunned, and then the ruffianly
attack was continued with many blows, the Hon. Mr. Keitt of South Carolina
keeping any of those around, who might be so disposed, from attempting
We are either to have Liberty or Slavery. Failing to silence the North by threats, notwithstanding the doughfaced creatures who so long misrepresented the spirit of the Republic and of the age, the South now resorts to actual violence. It is reduced to a question whether there is to be any more liberty of speech south of Mason and Dixon's line, even in the ten miles square of the District of Columbia. South of that, liberty has long since departed; but whether the common ground where the national representatives meet is to be turned into a slave plantation where Northern members act under the lash, the bowie-knife and the pistol, is a question to be settled.
Columbia, South Carolina, South Carolinian, 27 May 1856 [Democratic] "Public Approval of Mr. Brooks"
From the Secession Era Editorial Project, Furman University
We were not mistaken in asserting, on Saturday last, that the Hon. Preston S. Brooks had not only the approval, but the hearty congratulations of the people of South Carolina for his summary chastisement of the abolitionist Sumner.
Immediately upon the reception of the news on Saturday last, a most enthusiastic meeting was convened in the town of Newberry, at which Gen. Williams, the Intendant, presided. Complimentary resolutions were introduced by Gen. A. C. Garlington, and ardent speeches made by him, Col. S. Fair, Maj. Henry Sumner, and others. The meeting voted him a handsome gold-headed cane, which we saw yesterday, on its way to Washington, entrusted to the care of Hon. B. Simpson. At Anderson, the same evening, a meeting was called, and complimentary resolutions adopted. We heard one of Carolina's truest and most honored matrons from Mr. Brooks' district send a message to him by Maj. Simpson, saying "that the ladies of the South would send him hickory sticks, with which to chastise Abolitionists and Red Republicans whenever he wanted them."
William E. Gienapp has argued persuasively that this was a turning point in the history of the Republican Party. Millions flocked to its banner in the North. The party did everything it could to keep Sumner's speech and Brooks' reaction in the forefront of northern consciousness. David Donald, author of the standard biography of Sumner, estimates that more than a million copies of the speech were distributed during the fall campaign. "The Crime Against Kansas," The conquest of Kansas, by Missouri and her allies. A history of the troubles in Kansas, from the passage of the organic act until the close of July, 1856 by William Phillips, Sarah Tappan Doolittle Robinson's (wife of the free soil governor) Kansas: its interior and exterior life. Including a full view of its settlement, political history, social life, climate, soil, productions, scenery, etc. (1856), and other free state publications all highlighted the Missourians' disregard for law. The party's platform for the 1856 presidential campaign focused almost exclusively upon the issue of slavery in the territories and contained a detailed recital of the "crimes" against Kansas. Even the campaign songs focused upon the attack upon Sumner and the "crimes" against Kansas. For the full text, click on the excerpt below.
Less publicized was John Brown's massacre of five pro-slavery settlers in retaliation for the "sack" of Lawrence. William G. Cutler's account from 1883 in his History of the State of Kansas is well-documented. James Townsley, one of the participants, made a public statement of his own role which Cutler reprinted in full. As to the actual killings, Townsley said:
The old man Doyle and his sons were ordered to come out. This order they did not immediately obey, the old man being heard instead to call for his gun. At this moment, Henry Thompson threw into the house some rolls or balls of hay in which during the day wet gunpowder had been mixed, setting fire to them as he threw them in. This stratagem had the desired effect. The old man and his sons came out, and were marched one-quarter of a mile in the road toward Dutch Henry's crossing, where a halt was made. Here old John Brown drew his revolver and shot old man Doyle in the forehead, killing him instantly; and Brown's two youngest sons immediately fell upon the younger Doyles with their short two-edged swords. One of the young Doyles was quickly dispatched; the other, attempting to escape, was pursued a short distance and cut down also. We then went down Mosquito Creek, to the house of Allen Wilkinson. Here, as at the Doyle residence, old John Brown, three sons, and son-in-law, went to the door and ordered Wilkinson out, leaving Frederick Brown, Winer and myself in the road a little distance east of the house. Wilkinson was marched a short distance south and killed by one of the young Browns with his short sword, after which his body was dragged to one side and left lying by the side of the road.
We then crossed the Pottawatomie and went to Dutch Henry's house. Here, as at the other two houses, Frederick Brown, Winer and myself were left outside a short distance from the door, while old man Brown, three sons and son-in-law went into the house and brought out one or two persons with them. After talking with them some time they took them back into the house, and brought out William Sherman, Dutch Henry's brother and marched him down into Pottawatomie Creek, where John Brown's two youngest sons slew him with their short swords, as in the former instances, and left his body lying in the creek.
Historians still argue over Brown's motivations, and over his sanity for that matter. Clearly he was enraged over the "sack" of Lawrence. Cutler noted that there had been rumors of pro-slavery settlers intending to do something of the same sort to the free state people and suggested that Brown's actions were preemptive. Townsley provided a more direct explanation of the attack:
He said it was to sweep the Pottawatomie of all Pro-slavery men living on it. To this end, he desired me to guide the company some five or six miles up to the forks of the creek, into the neighborhood where I lived, and point out to him on the way up, the residences of all the Pro-slavery men, so that on the way down, he might carry out his designs. Horrified at his purpose, I positively refused to comply with his request, saying that I could not take men out of their beds and kill them in that way. Brown said, 'Why, don't you fight your enemies?'
In Kansas the massacre unleased a season of guerilla warfare with each side raiding the other's settlements, stealing livestock, and occasionally killing each other. English adventurer and "ruffian" R.H. Wilson recalls an incident a few days after Pottawatomie:
On the march. . . to Stranger Creek, and whilst scouting ahead of the company with two other men, I came on the bodies of two young men lying close together, both shot through the head. The murdered men, for it was brutal murder and nothing else, were dressed like Yankee mechanics, and apparently had been done to death the previous night.
I had heard that one of our scouting parties had taken some prisoners, but that they had escaped; and now it was plain what had been done by some of our ruffians.
In the North the massacre was downplayed or ignored by Republicans. Mordecai Oliver's Minority Report of the Special House Committee on the troubles in Kansas (the Howard Committee), pp. 105-107, presented clear evidence linking Brown to the murders along with graphic testimony of their brutality. In Kansas, among free state and proslavery partisans both, Brown's involvement was an open secret, as a letter written immediately after the massacre indicates. Nonetheless Brown travelled freely through the North, speaking in public, and raising funds for the free state cause. He always denied that he had been responsible. This northern reaction parallels, as David Potter pointed out, the Southern response to Preston Brooks. Here were two indefensible acts. The fact that so many chose not to repudiate them but to ignore, deny, or defend them suggests just how embittered the clash over Kansas had become.
James Buchanan inherited this crisis when he assumed the presidency in 1857. He pledged in his Inaugural Address to guarantee to every male resident of the territory an opportunity to vote on the question of slavery:
. . . it is the imperative and indispensable duty of the Government of the United States to secure to every resident inhabitant the free and independent expression of his opinion by his vote. This sacred right of each individual must be preserved. That being accomplished, nothing can be fairer than to leave the people of a Territory free from all foreign interference to decide their own destiny for themselves, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.
The whole Territorial question being thus settled upon the principle of popular sovereignty—a principle as ancient as free government itself—everything of a practical nature has been decided. No other question remains for adjustment, because all agree that under the Constitution slavery in the States is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective States themselves wherein it exists. May we not, then, hope that the long agitation on this subject is approaching its end, and that the geographical parties [a reference to the Republican Party which had support only in the North] to which it has given birth, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, will speedily become extinct?
There had been numerous elections already in Kansas but none meeting the president's criterion. Yet, if such an election could be held, there actually was reason to believe the crisis could be resolved. Buchanan turned to Robert Walker, an experienced politician with whom he had served in the Polk Cabinet. Walker, pictured at left, lived in Mississippi and owned slaves but had grown up in Pennsylvania. He was what Buchanan most needed, a realist not an ideologue. Walker, upon arriving in the territory, immediately counted heads. He wrote to the president:
Supposing the whole number of settlers to be 24,000, the relative numbers would probably be as follows: Free State Democrats, 9,000, Republicans, 8,000, Proslavery Democrats, 6,500, Pro-Slavery Know-Nothings, 500.
This meant that there were more than twice as many Free State voters as proslavery (17,000 vs. 7,000) but nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans (15,500 vs 8,500). A fair and open election would mean Kansas would enter the union as a free state and with a substantial Democratic majority. Given the party's overall poor showing in the North in the last two elections, this would be a welcome outcome. The challenge facing Walker was persuading the free state settlers to participate in the upcoming election to choose delegates for a constitutional convention. This he failed to accomplish. Instead the free state side again boycotted. After all, none of the elections overseen by territorial governors appointed by Democratic Presidents had been fair.
As a result, the proslavery side won. And they wrote a constitution, known as the LeCompton Constitution. It would have made Kansas a slave state. There was, however, still hope, Walker maintained. Buchanan had pledged that the residents of Kansas could vote on the proposed constitution. Those who drafted the LeCompton Constitution had no intention of allowing an up or down vote. Instead they proposed a referendum limited to the question of slavery. William G. Cutler provided a lucid summary of the choice voters faced:
The slavery clause gave the Legislature power to provide for emancipation (by compensation to the owner) of all slaves; but denied the power to prevent the introduction of more slaves. A vote 'for the Constitution with Slavery,' was a vote to establish and forever maintain the institution, with the power to emancipate vested solely in the Legislature. A vote 'for the Constitution with no slavery,' was a vote to recognize the existence of slavery now there, to keep those slaves now in the Territory, and the natural increase of slaves during their lives, and was a vote to 'strike out' the power of the Legislature to emancipate. The Constitution 'without Slavery,' meant that slavery in the Territory shall be confined to slaves now there, and their increase from generation to generation, with no power on the part of the Legislature to emancipate by compensation, or in any other way. The Constitution 'with Slavery,' allowed more slaves to be brought to Kansas, but gave the Legislature power to provide for their emancipation.
Walker would have none of this, but Buchanan determined that the LeCompton provisions met his criterion for a fair vote on the issue. This decision not only outraged Republicans, it produced a revolt within his own party led by Stephen A. Douglas who saw LeCompton as travesty on his principle of popular sovereignty. Buchanan prevailed in the Senate but not in the House. The House measure which did pass called for a resubmission of the constitution to the voters of Kansas. This failed in the Senate. The bill that finally did pass, the English Bill, offered Kansans a twofold bribe. If they would adopt the LeCompton Constitution with slavery intact, they would be admitted into the Union and receive 5,500,000 acres of public lands for schools and other purposes. If they rejected LeCompton, they could not reapply for statehood until their total population increased to 93,500.
In May of 1858 the last of the great Kansas bloodlettings, the Marais Des Cynes Massacre, occured. A Baptist minister, B.L. Read, survived to tell the tale. Whittier wrote one of his most stirring works. It began:
"A blush as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air for wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never Bleach out in the sun!"
Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead.
Kansans resoundingly rejected the LeCompton constitution by a six to one margin in August of 1858. Cutler provided a county-by-county breakdown of the vote. Even Atchison, named after the Missouri Senator, voted against it. The struggle over Kansas was finally over. That for the Union was about to begin.