THE MASSACHUSETTS EMIGRANT AID COMPANY.
This was the parent aid association, and with possibly one exception, was the
most efficient agency of its kind in influencing and aiding a Free-soil
emigration to the Territory. An account of its organization, laws and modes
of operation will give the reader a definite idea of the practical workings of
the emigrant aid system.
Hon. Eli Thayer, of Worcester, Mass., then a member of the Massachusetts House
of Representatives, in March, 1854, presented a petition for the incorporation
of the "Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company." A charter in accordance with the
petition was given by the Legislature without delay. It was signed by the
Governor, April 26, and was to take effect immediately. The act of
incorporation reads as follows:
To incorporate the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company,
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court
assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. Benjamin C. Clark, Isaac Livermore, Charles Allen, Isaac Davis,
William G. Bates, Stephen C. Phillips, Charles C. Hazewell, Alexander H.
Bullock, Henry Wilson, James S. Whitney, Samuel E. Sewall, Samuel G. Howe,
James Holland, Moses Kimball, James D. Green, Francis W. Bird, Otis Clapp,
Anson Burlingame, Eli Thayer and Otis Rich, their associates, successors and
assigns, are hereby made a corporation, by the name of the Massachusetts
Emigrant Aid Company, for the purpose of assisting emigrants to settle in the
West; and, for this purpose, they shall have all the powers and privileges,
and be subject to all the duties, restrictions and liabilities, set forth in
the thirty-eighth and forty-fourth chapters of the Revised Statutes.
SEC. 2. The capital stock of said corporation shall not exceed five millions
of dollars. Said capital stock may be invested in real and personal estate:
Provided, the said corporation shall not hold real estate in this
Commonwealth to an amount exceeding twenty thousand dollars.
SEC. 3. The capital stock of said corporation shall be divided into shares of
$100 each; but no more than $4 on the share shall be assessed during the year
1854, and no more than $10 on the share shall be assessed in any one year
SEC. 4. At all meetings of the stockholders, each stockholder shall be
entitled to cast one vote for each share held by him; Provided, that no
stockholder shall be entitled to cast more than fifty votes on shares held by
himself, nor more than fifty votes by proxy.
The incorporators and others interested met at the State House, in Boston, May
4, accepted the charter and chose a committee to report a plan of operation
and to devise and recommend a system of operation. The committee consisted of
Eli Thayer, Alexander H. Bullock and E. E. Hale, of Worcester, and Richard
Hildreth and Otis Clapp, of Boston. On May 12, the committee made its report,
which detailed essentially the objects and plans of work afterward carried
out. It was as follows:
I. The objects of this corporation are apparent in its name. The immense
emigration to America from Europe introduces into our ports a very large
number of persons eager to pass westward. The fertility of our Western
regions, and the cheapness of the public lands, induce many of the native-born
citizens of the old States also to emigrate thither. At the present time,
public and social considerations of the gravest character render it desirable
to settle the territories west of Missouri and Iowa; and these considerations
are largely increasing the amount of Westward emigration.
The foreign arrivals in America last year were 400,777. In the same year, the
emigration to the Western States, of Americans and foreigners, must have
amounted to much more than 200,000 persons. The emigration thither this year
will be larger still. And from the older Western States large numbers are
removing into new territory.
Persons who are familiar with the course of the movement of this large annual
throng of emigrants know that, under the arrangements now existing, they
suffer at every turn. The frauds practiced on them by "runners," and other
agents of transporting lines in the State of New York, amount to a stupendous
system of knavery, which has not been broken up even by the patient, labor of
the State officers, and by very stringent legislation. The complete ignorance
as to our customs in which the foreign emigant (sic) finds himself,
and, in more than half the foreign emigration, his complete ignorance of our
language, subject him to every fraud, and to constant accident. It is in the
face of every conceivable inconvenience that the country receives every year
400,000 foreigners into its seaports, and sends the larger portion of them to
its Western country.
The inconveniences and dangers to health to which the pioneer is subject who
goes out alone or with his family only, in making a new settlement, are
familiar to every American.
The Emigrant Aid Company has been incorporated to protect, emigrants, as far
as may be, from such inconveniences. Its duty is to organize emigration to
the West and bring it into a system. This duty, which should have been
attempted long ago, is particularly essential now, in the critical position of
the Western Territories.
The Legislature has granted a charter, with a capital sufficient for these
purposes. This capital is not to exceed $5,000,000. In no single year, are
assessments to a larger amount than 10 per cent to be called for. The
corporators believe that if the company be organized at once, as soon as the
subscription to the stock amounts to $1,000,000, the annual income to be
derived from that amount, and the subsequent subscriptions may be so
appropriated as to render most essential service to the emigrant, to plant a
free State in Kansas, to the lasting advantage of the country, and to return a
very handsome profit to stockholders upon their investment.
(l.) The emigrant suffers whenever he goes alone into his new home. He
suffers from the fraud of others; from his own ignorance of the system of
travel, and of the country where he settles; and, again, from his want of
support from neighbors, which results in the impossibility of any combined
assistance, or of any division of labor.
The Emigrant Aid Company will relieve him from all such embarrassments, by
sending out emigrants in companies, and establishing them in considerable
numbers. They will locate these where they please on arrival in their new
home, and receive from government their titles. The company propose to carry
them to their homes more cheaply than they could otherwise go; to enable them
to establish themselves with the least inconvenience, and to provide the most
important prime necessities of a new colony. It will provide shelter and food
at the lowest prices, after the arrival of emigrants, while they make the
arrangements necessary for their new homes. It will render all the assistance
which the information of its agents can give. And, by establishing emigrants
in large numbers in the Territories, it will give them the power of using at
once those social influences which radiate from church, the school and the
press, in the organization and development of a community.
For these purposes, it is recommended, first, that the Directors contract
immediately with some one of the competing lines of travel, for the conveyance
of 20,000 persons from Massachusetts to that place in the West, which the
Directors shall select for their first settlement.
It is believed that passage may be obtained, in so large a contract, at half
the price paid by individuals. We recommend that emigrants receive the full
advantage of this diminution in price, and that they be forwarded in companies
of 200, as they apply, at these reduced rates of travel.
(2.) It is recommended that, at such points as the Directors select for
places of settlement, they shall at once construct a boarding house, or
receiving house, in which 300 persons may receive temporary accommodation on
their arrival; and that the number of such houses be enlarged as necessity may
dictate. The new comers, or their families, may thus be provided for in the
necessary interval which elapses while they are making their selection of a
(3.) It is recommended that the Directors procure and send forward steam
saw-mills, grist-mills, and such other machines as shall be of constant
service in a new settlement, which cannot, however, be purchased or carried
out conveniently by individual settlers. These machines may be leased, or run
by the company's agents. At the same time, it is desirable that a printing
press be sent out, and a weekly newspaper established. This would be the
organ of the company's agents; would extend information regarding its
settlement, and be, from the very first, an index of that love of freedom and
of good morals which it is hoped may characterize the State now to be formed.
(4.) It is recommended that the company's agents locate, and take up for the
company's benefit, the sections in which the boarding-house and mills are
located, and no others. And, further, that whenever the territory shall be
organized as a free State, the directors shall dispose of all its interest
there; replace by the sales the money laid out; declare a dividend to the
(5.) That they ten select a new field, and make similar arrangements for the
settlement and organization of another free State of this Union.
II. With the advantages attained by such a system of effort, the territory
selected as the scene of operations would, it is believed, at once fill up
with free inhabitants. There is reason to suppose that several thousand men
of New England origin propose to emigrate under the auspices of some such
arrangement this very summer. Of the whole emigration from Europe, amounting
to some 400,000 thousand persons, there can be no difficulty in inducing
30,000 or 40,000 to take the same direction. Applications from German agents
have already been made to members of this company. We have also intimations,
in correspondence from the free states of the West, of a wide-spread desire
there, among those who know what it is to settle a new country, to pass on, if
such an organization can be made, into that now thrown open. An emigrant
company of those intending to go has been formed in Worcester County, and
others in other States.
In view of the establishment by such agencies of a new free State in that
magnificent region, it is unnecessary to dwell in detail on the advantages
which this enterprise holds out to the country at large.
It determines in the right way the institutions of the unsettled territories
in less time than the discussion of them has required in Congress. It opens
to those who are in want in the Eastern States a home and a competence without
the suffering hitherto incident to emigration. For the company is the
pioneer, and provides, before the settler arrives, the conveniences which he
first required. Such a removal of an overcrowded population is one of the
greatest advantages to Eastern cities. Again, the enterprise opens commercial
advantages to the commercial States, just in proportion to the population
which it creates, of free men who furnish a market to our manufactures and
imports. Whether the new line of States shall be Free States or Slave States
is a question deeply interesting to those who are to provide the manufactures
for their consumption. Especially will it prove an advantage to Massachusetts
if she create the new State by her foresight, supply the first necessities to
its inhabitants, and open in the outset communications between their homes and
her ports and factories.
In return for these advantages, which the company's rapid and simple effort
affords to the emigrant and to the country, its stockholders receive that
satisfaction, ranked by Lord Bacon among the very highest "of becoming
founders of States," and, more than this, States which are prosperous and
free. They secure satisfaction by an investment which promises large returns
at no distant day.
Under the plan proposed, it will be but two or three years before the company
can dispose of its property in the territory first occupied and reimburse. At
that time, in a State of 70,000 inhabitants, it will possess several
reservations of 640 acres each, on which its boarding-houses and mills stand,
and the churches and schoolhouses which it has rendered necessary. From these
centers will the settlements of the State have radiated. In other words,
these points will then be the large commercial positions of the new States.
If there were only one such, its value, after the region should be so far
peopled, would make a very large dividend to the company which sold it,
besides restoring its original capital, with which to enable it to attempt the
same adventure elsewhere.
It is to be remembered that all accounts agree that the region of Kansas is
the most desirable part of American now open to the emigrant. It is
accessible in five days continuous travel from Boston. Its crops are very
bountiful, its soil being well adapted to the staples of Virginia and
Kentucky, and especially to the growth of hemp. In its eastern section the
woodland and prairie land intermix in proportions very well adapted for the
purposes of the settler. Its mineral resources, especial its coal, in the
central and western parts, are inexhaustible. A steamboat is already plying
on the Kansas River, and the Territory has uninterrupted steamboat
communication from New Orleans and all the tributaries of the Mississippi
River.* All the overland emigration to California and Oregon by any of the
easier routes passes of necessity through its limits. Whatever roads are
built westward must begin in this territory. For it is here that the emigrant
leaves the Missouri River. Of late years, the demand for provisions and
breadstuffs made by emigrants proceeding to California has given to the
inhabitants of the neighboring parts of Missouri a market at as good rates as
they could have found in the Union.
It is impossible that such a region should not fill up rapidly. The
Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company proposes to give confidence to settlers by
giving system to emigration. By dispelling the fears that Kansas will be a
slave State, the company will remove the only bar which now hinders its
occupation by free settlers. It is to be hoped that similar companies will be
formed in other free states. The enterprise is of that character that, for
those who first enter it, the more competition the better.
It is recommended that the first settlement made by the Directors shall
receive the name of the city in this commonwealth which shall have subscribed
most liberally to the stock of the company in proportion to its last decennial
valuation; and that the second settlement be named from the city next in order
in so subscribing.
It is recommended that a meeting of the stockholders be called on the first
Wednesday in June to organize the company for one year, and that the
corporators at this time make a temporary organization, with power to obtain
subscriptions to the stock, and make any necessary preliminary arrangements.
ELI THAYER, for the Committee.
* Navigation of the Kansas River, contrary to the belief of the committee, did not prove a very
great aid to the colonists, and has never been a valuable or important element in the development
of the State. The many natural inducements to emigration put forth in the report have been greatly
modified by more exact information.
The foregoing report was immediately published in all the leading papers in
the Northern States, with such favorable comments as showed that the plan was
enthusiastically adopted by the people. The New York Tribune, in a
manner characteristic of the intellectual giant who was its founder and
editor, christened it "A Plan for Freedom." and under that heading published a
continuous stream of editorial articles calculated to awaken the enthusiasm
and enlist the support of its readers in the scheme. Other papers of all
shades of politics, gave the project a most cordial support. The following
extracts show the prevailing feeling at the North.
SPIRIT OF THE NORTHERN PRESS.
May 20, 1854, the New York Tribune published the report, and closed its
editorial comments as follows:
It is expected that after the permanent organization of the company is
effected, on the 7th of June, public meetings will be held in Boston and this
city and elsewhere, to further the objects of the undertaking. The spirit
which has been aroused throughout the free States by the perfidy of our
rulers, is such that we cannot entertain a doubt that, under proper auspices,
the society in question will not only enlist the co-operation of our principal
cities, but that of the innumerable flourishing towns and villages scattered
throughout the free States.
But we cannot too earnestly impress upon the minds of the movers in this work,
the absolute necessity of such an organization, in point of character, as will
raise the association entirely above every shadow of a suspicion of improper
management, or of its having any object in view but those of the most
disinterested, honest, and lofty character. Such a taint would be fatal.
But, totally freed from everything of the sort, and under the control of
energetic men, it is difficult to set bounds to the amount of usefulness it
may be instrumental in conferring upon our common country.
In the same issue Mr. Greeley says: "Examine the Plan for Freedom' put forth
in this day's paper, and enter upon the labors there suggested. We here
present ample scope for the activity of every man, and suggest fields of
operation in which all may profitably engage."
A week later, May 31, the Tribune says::
The "Plan for Freedom" which we put forth in Monday's paper already awakens an
echo in the public mind. In addition to further active steps of the gentlemen
in the city who have taken hold of the subject, we have received voluntary
offers of subscription by letter, together with the most fervent expressions
of zeal and determination from all quarters to rally in defense of freedom,
and in opposition to the gigantic schemes of aggression started by the slave
power. The contest already takes the form of the People against Tyranny and
Slavery. The whole crowd of slave-drivers and traitors, backed by a party
organization, a corrupt majority in Congress, a soulless (sic) partisan
press, an administration with its law officers armed with revolvers, and
sustained by the bayonets of a mercenary soldiery, will altogether prove
totally insufficient to cope with an aroused people.
June 1, the Tribune says:
We are in receipt of additional letters, making inquiries and tendering
further subscriptions. The plan is received by all with pre-eminent favor,
and enlists the warmest sympathies of freedom. We hope to be able to give
to-morrow the names of the gentlemen who will stand sponsors for the New York
subscriptions, and after that, we hope to see the subscription go on with a
vigor and heartiness worthy of the great cause it is designed to promote. The
plan is no less than one to found free cities and extemporize free States.
Let it be made the Great enterprise of the age.
The Era, the Worcester Spy, the Boston Journal, the
Atlas (Boston), the Commonwealth (Boston), the Providence
Journal, the Cincinnati Gazette, the Milwaukee Sentinel,
the Evening Transcript (Boston) and scores of other influential
Northern journals promptly followed the Tribune in a cordial and
enthusiastic endorsement of the plan embodied in the report. The emigration
fever was not slow in development among the Northern people.
The provisions of the charter granted the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company
not proving satisfactory to many interested in the movement, the company
finally organized under private articles of association June 13. The objects
and plan of operation remained the same as expressed in the report before
given. The management of affairs was intrusted to three trustees. The first
trustees were Eli Thayer, Worcester; Amos A. Lawrence, Boston; Moses H.
Grinnell, New York. Subsequently, Mr. J. M. S. Williams, of Cambridge, became
a Trustee, Mr. Grinnell being Treasurer of the New York Company.
The company subsequently organized under a new charter obtained from the
Massachusetts Legislature, under the title of "The New England Emigrant Aid
Company," with a capital stock of $1,000,000. Under this charter it worked,
and by the new name it is known in history.
THE EMIGRANT AID COMPANY OF NEW YORK AND CONNECTICUT.
The Emigrant Aid Company of New York and Connecticut was organized July 18,
1854, under a charter granted by the Legislature of Connecticut during the
session of the same summer. Its objects were of the same general character as
those of the Massachusetts Company, but designed to facilitate the work by a
division of the vast field of operations to be covered. The first officers of
this company were: Eli Thayer, President; R. N. Havens, Vice President; Moses
H. Grinnell, Treasurer.
Other societies and associations were formed at various points, either as
auxiliary to these two corporations or acting independently in the work of
co-operative Kansas emigration.
The Union Emigration Society was organized in the city of Washington "by such
members of Congress and citizens generally as were opposed to the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise and to the opening of Nebraska and Kansas to the
introduction of slavery." It appointed agents in several States for the
purpose of calling public attention to its movements and organizing auxiliary
The three associations before mentioned were the most important organizations
in the North, and of them the New England society took the lead in the work.
Under its auspices, auxiliary societies were formed in various communities,
known as Kansas Leagues, with a constitution and by laws, whereby companies of
emigrants were made up and arrangements made for their emigration and
settlement on lands adjacent on their arrival in Kansas. The articles from
the constitution of the "Worcester County Kansas League," below quoted, show
the design of these co-operative associations:
ARTICLE 4. It shall be the duty of the Master of Emigration to receive and
keep the names of all persons desiring to emigrate from Worcester County; to
agree upon the time and conveniences for their departure, and to confer with
the Emigrant Aid Company, so as to make the best arrangements for their
conveyance to Kansas, and their location there.
ARTICLE 5. The moneys of the Society shall be appropriated to promote such
emigration into the above-named Territory as shall be opposed to the
introduction of slavery into the same; or, if slavery shall be introduced, as
shall be in favor of repealing all laws tolerating the same; and also for such
means for promoting free emigration as the Directors may select. Provided
that nothing shall be done, in virtue hereof, in contravention of the
Constitution, nor in conflict with the existing laws of the land.
ARTICLE 7. It is the design of this Society to co-operate with the Emigrant
Aid Company, in the colonization of Kansas with freemen.
Under the inspiration and through the instrumentalities of these various
organizations, the great flow of Northern emigration began to set toward
Kansas by midsummer, and thenceforth her fields became the theater of the most
momentous struggle in the history of nations. It was the beginning of the
final contest in America between freedom and its deadliest foe, and in it were
the issues of life and death to the great Republic. For the weary years that
followed the world looked on with bated breath.
The summer and fall of 1854 witnessed the beginning of the settlement of
Kansas and the first attempts of the people to exercise the republican rights
of citizenship under the provisions of the territorial act and in accordance
with the principles of "squatter sovereignty." As had already been shown,
during the early summer much of the valuable land in the eastern part of the
Territory, along the Missouri River and up the Kansas as far as where Lawrence
now stands, had been claimed by citizens of Missouri, and not a few had made
bona fide settlements with their families and (in a few instances)
their slaves. Up to August, there were not probably fifty free State families
within the boundaries of the organized Territory who had come in since the
passage of the act.
The first notable arrival of Northern emigrants was a party numbering
twenty-nine men, mostly from Massachusetts and Vermont. They were the first
who came under the auspices of the New England Emigrant Aid Society. They
were accompanied and directed by Charles H. Branscomb, of Boston, who, as
agent of the company, had, during the early summer, visited Kansas, and
selected the site for a New England settlement on the spot where Lawrence* now
stands. This party left Massachusetts July 17, 1854, arrived at Kansas City
July 28, and at Lawrence August 1.
* For a detailed account of the settlement of Lawrence and all other cities
and villages of Kansas, the reader is referred to the county histories, where
the minor occurrences, individual experiences and other historical matters of
local interest are fully noted. The accounts given in the State history are
only sufficiently full to insure the completeness of the narration of events
of general interest. - ED.
September 6, the second New England party arrived, under the direction of Hon.
Samuel C. Pomeroy and Gov. Charles Robinson. It numbered in men, women and
children nearly two hundred, and the city of Lawrence may be said at that time
to have been fairly founded. Later in the fall, two other parties of New
England emigrants arrived, and, with many other free State emigrants from New
York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa, who located at Lawrence and in the
vicinity, made up the most important settlement in the Territory. It was, in
fact, the only point where the anti-slavery sentiment was predominant in the
fall of 1854, and thus became the earliest point of attack for the combined
energies of the pro-slavery settlers, land claimants, politicians and ruffians
from over the Missouri border.