William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 37] [part 35] [Cutler's History]


The news of the sack of Lawrence fanned anew the flame of excitement throughout the Northern States. The tone of the papers, the resolutions of the public meetings held all over the North to consider and discuss Kansas affairs, the voice of the Northern pulpit - all were warlike. Henry Ward Beecher, then in his glorious prime, advocated sending Sharpe's rifles, instead of Bibles, to Kansas, and pledged his Brooklyn parish to furnish a definite number. The emigration fever raged with increasing heat, complicated with a fighting delirium which boded no good to the Pro-slavery party, which had thus far held Kansas by the throat. Every party that set out came prepared for defense; and many came eager for the fray. There were fewer women and children, less house-luggage, fewer agricultural implements; more men, more arms, more ammunition.

The peaceful organizations known as Emigrant Aid Societies, working for the legitimate end of assisting bona-fide settlers in establishing themselves in their Kansas homes, were overshadowed by Kansas Aid Societies, whose avowed object was, with men and money to aid them in defending them. The movement took full possession of the North. Monster meetings were held in the large cities, immense sums raised and companies of emigrants organized to proceed forthwith to the field of contest. Col. Lane, Col. Wood, Gov. Reeder, S. C. Pomeroy, Col. Holliday and other Free-State men from Kansas, many of whom were under indictment for treason, canvassed the States, speaking nightly to excited crowds, and arousing the most intense sympathy in behalf of the suffering Free-State settlers of the Territory.

One of the earliest and most enthusiastic Kansas meetings held was at Chicago, Saturday evening, May 31, in court house square. The Kansas speakers were Col. James H. Lane and Mr. Hinman, "fresh from the smoking ruins of Lawrence." The Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, gave a two-column report of the meeting under such head-lines as these: "Illinois Alive and Awake!" "$10,000 Freemen in Council!" "2,000 Old Hunkers on Hand!" "$15,000 Subscribed for Kansas!!!"

Hon. Norman Judd presided, and made the opening speech. He was followed by Francis A. Hoffman. J. C. Vaughn, in an eloquent speech, presented the claims of Kansas for immediate relief, and offered the following resolutions:

Resolved - That the people of Illinois will aid the Freedom of Kansas.

Resolved - That they will send a colony of 500 actual settlers to that Territory, and provision them for one year.*

Resolved - That these settlers will invade no man's rights, but will maintain their own.

Resolved - That we recommend the adoption of a similar policy to the people of all the States of the Union, ready and willing to aid; and also, a thorough concert and co-operation among them, through committees of correspondence, on this subject.

Resolved - That an Executive Committee of seven, viz., J. C. Vaught, Mark Skinner, George W. Dale, I. N. Arnold, N. B. Judd and E. I. Tinkham, be appointed with full powers to carry into execution these resolutions.

Resolved - That Tuthill King, R. M. Hough, C. B. Waite, J. H. Dunham, Dr. Gibbs, J. T. Ryerson and W. B. Egan, be a finance committee to raise and distribute material aid.

* The plan, here adopted, of sending in emigrants, provisioned for one year, as well as that subsequently adopted, of arming them for self-defense, did not originate at this meeting. It was a Southern idea, first conceived early in March by Maj. Buford, of South Carolina, adopted by most Southern Emigrant Aid Societies in the South, and practically carried out before a company was ever raised, provisioned or armed by any Northern organization. Early in April Buford's "regiment," as it was called, was in Kansas. Other parties, armed and "provisioned for a year" (nominally so - the promises were not fulfilled) came in during the first half of May from other Southern States. More than half of the military posse organized for the sacking of Lawrence, had recently arrived from the South, armed and promised "provision for a year," on their sworn allegiance to the slave powers.

Following the reading of the resolutions, they were seconded by Peter Page, Esq., and passed amidst the most enthusiastic and prolonged cheering.

Next, Hon. W. B. Egan, one of the most eloquent Irish orators of the city, spoke to his Irish fellow-citizens, rousing them to the highest pitch of excitement.

[Image of Col. James H. Lane] The President then introduced Col. James H. Lane, of Kansas. As he rose up and came forward, he was greeted with an outburst of applause from the crowd that continued for some minutes, during which time he stood statue-like, with mouth firm set, gazing with those wondrous eyes down into the very heart of the excited throng. Before the applause had subsided sufficiently for his voice to be heard, the fascinating spell of his presence had already seized upon the whole vast audience, and for the next hour he controlled its every emotion - moving to tears, to anger, to laughter, to scorn, to the wildest enthusiasm, at his will. No man of his time possessed such magnetic power over a vast miscellaneous assembly of men as he. With two possible exceptions (Patrick Henry and S. S. Prentiss), no American orator ever equaled him in effective stump-speaking, or in the irresistible power by which he held his audiences in absolute control. On that night he was at his best. It was doubtless the ablest and most effective oratorical effort of his life. No full report of it was given at the time. One of the hundreds of young men made Kansas-crazy by the speech, and who forthwith left all and followed him to Kansas, thus wrote of it twenty years after.* (* Col. S. S. Prouty.)

He was fresh from the scenes of dispute in the belligerent Territory. He made a characteristic speech, teeming with invective extravagance, impetuosity, denunciation and eloquence. The grass on the prairie is swayed no more easily by the winds than was this vast assemblage by the utterances of this speaker. They saw the contending factions in the Territory through his glasses. The Pro-slavery party appeared like demons and assassins; the Free-State party like heroes and martyrs. He infused them with his warlike spirit and enthusiastic ardor for the practical champions of freedom. Their response to his appeals for succor for the struggling freemen was immediate and decisive.

It is doubtful if the writer of the above, or any other of the ten thousand hearers of that night, can recall a single sentence of his speech. The emotions aroused were so overwhelming as to entirely obliterate from memory the spoken words. A few broken extracts are preserved below. He began:

I have been sent by the people of Kansas to plead their cause before the people of the North. Most persons have a very erroneous idea of the people of Kansas. They think they are mostly from Massachusetts. They are really more than nine-tenths from the Northwestern States. There are more men from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, than from all New England and New York combine.

Speaking of the President, he said:

Of Franklin Pierce I have a right to talk as I please, having made more than one hundred speeches advocating his election, and having also, as one of the electors of Indiana, case the electoral vote of that State for him. Frank was, in part, the creature of my own hands; and a pretty job they made of it. The one pre-eminent wish of mine now is that Frank may be hurled from the White House; and that the nine memorials sent him from the outraged citizens of Kansas detailing their wrongs, may be dragged out of his iron box.

Of the climate of Kansas, he said:

Kansas is the Italy of America. The corn and the vine grow there so gloriously that they seem to be glad and to thank the farmers for planting them. It is a climate like that of Illinois, but milder. Invalids instead of going to Italy, when the country became known, would go to Kansas, to gather new life beneath its fair sky and from its balmy airs. The wild grapes of Kansas are as large and luscious as those that grow in the vineyards of Southern France.

He alluded to Col. W. H. Bissell, then the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, as follows:

It is true I was side by side with your gallant and noble Bissell at Buena Vista and in Congress. I wish I could describe to you the scene on the morning preceding that glorious battle. On a ridge stood Clay, Bissell, McKee, Hardin and myself. Before us were twenty thousand armed enemies. It was a beautiful morning, and the sun shone bright upon the polished lances and muskets of the enemy, and their banners waved proudly in the breeze. In our rear the lofty mountains reached skyward, and their bases swarmed with enemies ready to rob the dead and murder the wounded when the battle was over. Around us stood five ragged regiments of volunteers, two from Illinois, two from Indiana, and one from Kentucky; they were bone of your bone, blood of your blood, and it was only when you were near enough to look into their eyes that you could see the d---l was in them. It did not then occur to me that I should be indicted for treason because I loved liberty better than slavery.

He then gave a warm and glowing tribute to Col. Bissell, his brother-in-arms.

Then followed a most vivid and awful narrative of the outrages perpetrated upon the Free States' men by the Missouri ruffians; so vivid that the Osawatomie murders seemed but merited retaliation, and most sweet revenge to his excited hearers.

The Missourians (said he), poured over the border in thousands, with bowie knives in their boots, their belts bristling with revolvers, their guns upon their shoulders, and three gallons of whisky per vote in their wagons. When asked where they came from, their reply was, "From Missouri;" when asked, "What are you here for?" their reply was, "Come to vote." If any one should go there and attempt to deny these things, or apologize for them, the Missourians would spit upon him. They claim to own Kansas, to have a right to vote there and to make its laws, and to say what its institutions shall be.

Col. Lane held up the volume of the Statutes of Kansas, then proceeded to read from it, commenting as he read:

The Legislature first passed acts virtually repealing the larger portion of the Constitution of the United States, and then repealed, as coolly (sic) as one would take a chew of tobacco, provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Of this bill I have a right to speak - God forgive me for so enormous and dreadful a political sin - I voted for the bill. I thought the people were to have the right to form their own institutions, and went to Kansas to organize the Democratic party there, and make the State Democratic, but the Missouri invaders poured in - the ballot boxes were desecrated - the bogus Legislature was elected by armed mobs - you know the rest.

The Pro-slavery fragment of the Democratic party talk much about Know-nothingism. It is their song day and night. Well, these Kansas law-makers have gone to work and repealed at once the clause in the Nebraska Bill, that gave the right to vote to foreigners in Kansas on declaring their intention to become citizens, and made it requisite for them to have lived in the Territory five years, and to take the final oath; and at the same time, they made all Indians who adopted the habits of white men, voters at once. And what was the distinguishing habit of white men? Why, it was understood to be drinking whisky. All that was necessary to naturalize a Kansas Indian was to get him drunk. What Know-nothing lodge ever went so far in their nativism as this? - made foreigners in the Territory wait five years to become citizens, and enfranchising the drunken, thieving Indians at once, one and all!

The Pro-slavery fragment of the Democratic party also delights in the term "nigger worshipper," to designate Free-State men. I will show you that these Pro-slavery men are of all nigger worshippers the most abject. According to the Kansas code (Col. Lane read from the book, giving page and section), if a person kidnaped a white child, the utmost penalty is six months in jail - if a nigger baby, the penalty is death. Who worships niggers, and slave nigger babies at that? To kidnap a white child into slavery - six months in jail - to kidnap a nigger into freedom - Death!"

He concluded his scathing review of the infamous code as follows:

Is there an Illinoisan who says enforce these monstrous iniquities called laws? - show me the man. The people of Kansas never will obey them. They are being butchered, and one and all will die first! As for myself, I am going back to Kansas, where there is an indictment pending against me for high treason. Were the rope about my neck, I would say that as to the Kansas code it shall not be enforced - never! - NEVER!"

Following, he argued, elaborately and conclusively, the rights of Kansas to come into the Union as a Free State "now". He closed his speech with a detailed account of the murders and outrages perpetrated upon the Free-State settlers, given with a masterly power of tragic delineation which brought each particular horror, blood-red and distinct, before the eyes of the excited throng. He knew of fourteen cases of tar and feathering - "the most awful and humiliating outrage ever inflicted on man." He told of Dow, shot dead while holding up his hands as a sign of his defenselessness; lying, like a dead dog, in the road all the long day, until in the evening his friends found his body, dabbled in his life blood, and bore it away; Barber, unarmed, shot on the highway, brought dead to Lawrence, where his frantic wife, a childless widow, mid shrieks of anguish, kissed the pallid lips that of her were silent evermore - Brown, stabbed, pounded, hacked with a hatchet, bleeding and dying, kicked into the presence of his wife, where in agony he breathed out his life - she, now a maniac, --- A voice from the crowd called. "Who was Brown?" Lane continued:

Brown was as gallant a spirit as ever went to his God! And a Democrat at that - not one of the Pro-slavery fragment, though. For the blood of free men shed on the soil of Kansas - for the blood now flowing in the streets of Lawrence - for every drop which has been shed since the people asked to be admitted as a State, the Administration is responsible. Before God and this people I arraign Frank Pierce as a murderer!

In conclusion I have only this to say: The people of Kansas have undying faith in the justice of their cause - in the eternal life of the truths maintained - and they ask the people of Illinois to do for them that which seems to them just.

The Chicago Tribune, in its report of the meeting, June 2 says

We regret we can only give a meager outline of the eloquent and telling effort of Col. Lane. He was listened to with the deepest interest and attention by the vast throng, and as he detailed the series of infamous outrages inflicted upon the freemen of Kansas, the people were breathless with mortification and anger, and wild with enthusiasm to avenge those wrongs. During Col. Lane's address, he was often interrupted by the wildest applause, or by deep groans for Pierce, Douglas, Atchison, and the dough-faces and ruffians who had oppressed Kansas, and by cheers for Sumner, Robinson, and other noble men who have dared and suffered for liberty.

* * * * * * * * *

Language is inadequate to give the reader a conception of the effect of the recital of that tale of woe which men from Kansas had to tell; the flashing eyes, the rigid muscles, and the frowning brows told a story to the looker on that types can not repeat. From the fact that the immense crowd kept their feet from 8 till 12 o'clock, that even then they were unwilling the speakers should cease, or that the contributions should stop; from the fact that working men, who have only the wages of the day for the purchase of the day's bread, emptied the contents of their pockets into the general fund; that sailors threw in their earnings; that widows sent up their savings; that boys contributed their pence; that those who had no money gave what they had to spare; that those who had nothing to give offered to go as settlers and do their duty to Freedom on that now consecrated soil; that every bold declaration for liberty, every allusion to the revolution of 76, and to the possibility that the battles of that period were to be fought over again in Kansas were received as those things most to be desired - something of the tone and temper of the meeting may be imagined.

* * * * * * * * *

The effect of the meeting will be felt in deeds. Be the consequences what they may, the men of Illinois are resolved to act.

* * * * * * * * *

Take it with its attending circumstances - the shortness of the notice, the character of the assembled multitude, and the work which was accomplished - it was the most remarkable meeting ever held in the State. We believe it will inaugurate a new era in Illinois. We believe it is the precursor of the liberation of Kansas from the hand of the oppressor, and of an all-pervading political revolution at home.

About half past 12, Sunday having come, the meeting unwillingly adjourned, and the crowd reluctantly went home. At a later hour, the Star Spangled Banner and the Mart saillaise (sic), sung by bands of men whose hearts were full of the spirit of these magnificent hymns, were the only evidences of the event that we have endeavored to describe.

The subscriptions in money, given by upward of two hundred different persons and firms, in sums ranging in amount from $500 down to 10 cents - the latter sum being given by a boy, all he had - amounted to over $15,000. IN addition were given the following utensils and supplies, for the use and comfort of the emigrants. The names of the donors and explanatory notes are given, as reported:

F. R. Gardiner, six rifles, three with double barrels, sure as each pop.
Major Van Horn, one sixteen-shooter.
C. W. Davenport, one six-shooter, and ten pounds of balls.
An editor and a lawyer, four Sharpe's rifles and themselves.
D. G. Park, one can of dry powder.
C. H. Whitney, one revolver.
J. M. Isaacks, one Sharpe's rifle.
G. M. Jermome, Iowa City, one rifle. J. A. Barney, one rifle.
H. A. Blakesley, one rifle.
W. H. Clark, one double-barreled rifle and $10.
J. A. Graves, one Sharpe's rifle.
Frank Hanson, one double-barreled gun and $25.
A German, one pair of pistols.
J. H. Hughes, one Colt's revolver.
F. M. Chapman, one horse.
Urhlaub & Sattler, three revolvers.

This meeting* although not the first of a like character held in the Northwest during that spring, was remarkable as being the first great outburst of enthusiasm, which, breaking local bounds, spread to every town and hamlet from the Mississippi to the Atlantic coast. It was the "little cloud no larger than a man's hand" which forthwith spread over the whole heavens, and out of it came money, and arms, and ammunition, and a ceaseless tide of emigrants and troops of armed men - all setting Kansas-ward. Out of it came "Lane's Army of the North," in the imagination of the frightened Pro-slavery Kansans and Missourians, "a mighty host terrible with banners," coming, in uncertain but irresistible force, by a route indefinitely defined as from the north, to sweep as with the besom of destruction, the Territory clean of the Territorial laws and every man who had advocated their enforcement. The army proved neither so numerous in numbers nor so terrible in its vengeful visitations on the Pro-slavery settlers, as to justify their fearful apprehensions; nevertheless, its heralded approach inspired the Free-State settlers with renewed courage, opened a new path of immigration into the Territory, and proved one of the many great moral forces which brought victory and peace at last.

The tide of emigration, moving by the inspiration of the spirit born at the Chicago meeting from all parts of the North, was met and temporarily stayed on the Missouri River. A part, turning to the route of the "Army of the North," entered the Territory through Iowa and Nebraska, while many, the numbers increasing from month to month, waited at different points near the eastern border until the obstructions had disappeared, and then poured into the Territory in such overwhelming numbers as to assure the State to freedom evermore.

* A meeting was held in Milwaukee, Wis., as early as March 1, at which $3,000 in money was raised, arms and provisions furnished, and a company consisting of several families and an escort of single men, well armed, under E. G. Ross, were already on their way to the Territory by the Iowa route, before the Chicago meeting was held.

A colony from New Haven, Conn., had also been equipped with Sharpe's rifles as early as the middle of March (twenty-five rifles were pledged them by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and furnished by members of his church). This company arrived in the Territory about the middle of April, and settled in Wabaunsee County.

A party from McLean County, Ill., were on their way early in April, with arms sufficiently numerous to cause them to be robbed and forbidden entrance into the Territory by the Missourians.

Many other parties from different parts of the country were on their way during the latter part of April, all carrying more or less arms for defense, if necessary.

[TOC] [part 37] [part 35] [Cutler's History]