KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


TERRITORIAL HISTORY, Part 6

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PLATTE COUNTY SELF-DEFENSIVE ASSOCIATION.

Organizations were formed along the line, and pains taken to thoroughly advertise their existence and dire intentions toward Abolitionists; doubtless as much to intimidate the emigrants as to injure them. The most remarkable and formidable was the Platte County Self-Defensive Association, which was formed at Weston, Mo., July 29. The doctrines and objects of the Association, as set forth in constitution and preamble, were: (1) Expulsion of all free negroes from the country. (2) Traffic between whites and slaves forbidden. (3) Slaves not allowed to hire their own time. (4) Themselves, their honor and their purses, mutually pledged to bring to immediate punishment all Abolitionists.

On motion of Dr. George Bayliss, the following resolutions were adopted:

Resolved, That this association will, whenever called upon by any of the citizens of Kansas Territory, hold itself in readiness together to assist and remove any and all emigrants who go there under the auspices of the Northern Emigrant Aid Societies.

Resolved, That we recommend to the citizens of other counties, particularly those bordering on Kansas Territory, to adopt regulations similar to those of this association, and to indicate their readiness to co-operate in the objects of this first resolution.

Dr. Bayless (sic), in advocating his resolutions, said: "I cannot fight much; but I pledge you I will go with you, and you shall have all my skill as a surgeon for your wounded and dying." Col. Peter T. Abell was at the time no less intolerant to the Abolitionists. He was "ready to go the first hour it shall be announced that the emigrants have come, and with my own hand help hang every one of them on the first tree!" Gen. B. F. Stringfellow also spoke strongly in favor of the Pro-slavery party.

Six presidents were appointed, who were to act on any cases brought before them, and their judgment, in concurrence, with two members of the Association, was to be final, and to be defended by the entire membership. Nearly 1,000 pro-slavery men enrolled themselves as members of this club, pledge to the violation of all law, save the lynch law they had set up.

The proceeding of this meeting were subsequently indorsed at a public meeting held at Platte City, August 9, at which time further resolutions were adopted declaring "That those who are not for us are against us; that those who hate slaveholders have no right to slaveholders' money; that the purpose of the association is to trade with friends and to let enemies alone so long as they let alone the Association;" also recommending that merchants make their purchases in the cities of the slaveholding States, and that they purchase foreign products from those who import directly from Europe. At a still later meeting held at Weston, Mo., August 12, resolutions were adopted declaring slavery as it existed to be neither a moral nor a political evil to the white race, and that the condition of the negro, in slavery, was better than it had ever been in freedom; and further declaring in favor of the extension of negro slavery into Kansas.

The members of this association were not, as a whole, a savory lot. The rank and file were not even what would be called the best society, even in Western Missouri. They were of that most pitiable, despicable, and often desperate class known in all the Slave States as "poor white trash," and in Missouri as "pukes." They were filthy, shiftless, debauched and lawless. Too poor to own a slave or a farm, they were the most strenuous advocates of proprietary rights, and the most blatant defenders of the "peculiar institution." They had, from natural instinct, gravitated along the Missouri frontier, then the limit of law's dominion, and within a half day's ride of the barbarous freedom, where brute force and prowess, or savage craft and cunning were the only laws recognized. In this school, the virtue, amenity, refinement and intelligence of civilized life had given place to the combined vice and brutality of the three races with which they mingled; beneath, and mutually despised by all. As a class, they were cowardly; merciless to the defenseless or helpless, whether man or brute; yet, rivaling the very slaves they despised in servility to those they feared, or from whom they hoped reward; venal to the extent of any crime, provided the recompense was sufficient to insure immunity from punishment. They were, without doubt, the most desperate and depraved specimens of humanity within the borders of the Republic - the very jackals of the human race. Among them were grades of excellence and depravity. Some were brutal heroes, who knew not physical fear, and would do and dare what others planned and boasted; reckless of life, murder and assassination, with all its concomitant crimes and horrors, was to them no more than sowing and reaping to the husbandman. These were the "Border Ruffians" of Territorial days, the red-handed followers of Quantrell during the war, and the Jameses and Youngs who, with inherited murderous instincts, still haunt the homes of their predecessors, rebellious even to death, against the wholesome restraints of law.

The farmers, large landholders, capitalists, merchants and industrious artisans living in Western Missouri, or emigrated to the new Territory, largely outnumbered the class above described. They were many of them slaveholders, and nearly all conscientiously, or from personal interest, favored the extension of slavery into the new Territory. Yet, they were high minded, despised meanness, believed in fair play and law and order, and in living up to all contracts to the letter. Like Benton, they had had no hand nor heart in the recent abrogation of the old compromise, took no pride or satisfaction in it, and gave but lukewarm support to any lawless efforts to forestall the settlement of the Territory, or otherwise push hastily the advantages of the faithless abrogation.

The politicians were thus left with no immediate allies in the proposed work of forcing slavery into the new Territory, except the mob element before mentioned. They believed, or professed to believe, that, under the auspices of the Emigrant Aid Societies of the East, the lowest and most degraded classes were being shipped to the Territory in numbers sufficient to vote in a free State, and thus thwart, under the principles of Squatter Sovereignty which they had evoked, the very ends they were intended to subserve. With scruples grown lax through had use in the political school of ethics, and believing that the righteous end justified the questionable means, they decided, legally if possible, but by force if they must to establishing slavery in the Territory - pitting in the lawless strife that was inevitable, the Missouri Pukes against what they were pleased to term the "pauper scum' of the Eastern cities. So they rallied their forces, descending in their oratory, methods, means and morals to the debauched understanding of the ignorant rabble they intended to use.

The Platte County Association was the earliest development of the revolutionary designs of the pro-slavery propagandists. It was prematurely formed, and managed to bring about its own dissolution before it had even reached the proposed field of its destiny. Having no call as yet to regulate matters in Kansas, the members set up a court of inquisition in Missouri. No stranger could enter Weston or any town in the vicinity, whose steps were not dogged by members of this self-constituted police, until it was ascertained from whence he came, wither he was going and what were his opinions as to slavery. If not "sound on the goose," as it was termed, warning to leave was peremptorily served on the hapless stranger, who, seeing no legal redress, generally deemed to prudent to go at once. A citizen of Iowa, Thomas A. Minnard, who was temporarily sojourning in Weston, with his family, while having a house erected on his claim in Kansas, had the temerity to declare he would vote for Kansas to be a free State. He was tried condemned as an Abolitionist and ordered to leave the country in twenty-four hours, or receive fifty lashes on the bare back. He had been a Democrat and an advocate of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and was still a Democrat; all of which did not palliate the offense in the eyes of the court, and he accordingly fled with his sick wife to the worlds of Kansas. Another, an old citizen (which aggravated the offense) was condemned as an Abolitionist on the uncorroborated testimony of one negro, and, with half his head shaved, ordered to leave the country within forty-eight hours or receive 150 lashes. He managed to get off within the allotted time. Rev. Frederick Starr, an educated clergyman of irreproachable character and a resident of the county for seven years, was arraigned for the offense of teaching negroes to read and riding in a buggy with a "negro wench." He pled guilty, but, in extenuation, showed that he had the consent of the negro's owners and that it was the custom of the country for whites to ride in the same vehicle with their colored servants. He was acquitted, yet the spirit of espionage that prompted the arraignment was none the less reprehensible. Further, the organization attempted to dictate to the merchants as to their modes of doing business - where they should purchase their goods and to whom they might or might not sell them. Under these regime, the travel was diverted and the trade of Weston languished. The outraged community became aroused to a sense of the indignity and disgrace of the situation, and determined to put an end to mob rule in Weston and set themselves right in the eyes of the public without delay.

Accordingly, as mass meeting of all the best citizens of the place was held September 1, at which the following were adopted:

WHEREAS, Our rights and privileges as citizens of Weston, Platte Co., Mo., have been disregarded, infringed upon and grievously violated within the last few weeks by certain members of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association; and,

WHEREAS, The domestic quiet of our families, the sacred honor of our sons and daughters, the safety of our property, the security of our livings and persons, the good name our fathers left us, the good name of us all and the city of our adoption, are each and all disrespected and vilely aspersed, and contemptuously threatened with mob violence; wherefore it is imperatively demanded that we, in mass meeting assembled, on this the 1st day of September, 1854, do make prompt, honorable, effective and immediate defense of our rights and privileges as citizens of this glorious Union. Therefore,

Resolve (1), That we, whose names are hereunto affixed, are order-loving and lawabiding citizens.

(2) That we are Union men; we love the South much, but we love the Union better; our motto is, "The Union first, Union second, and Union forever."

(3) That we disapprove Bayliss' resolution as containing nullification, disunion and disorganizing sentiments.

(4) That we as consumers, invite and solicit our merchants to purchase their goods wherever it is most advantageous to the buyer and the consumer.

(5) That we hold every man as entitled to equal respect and confidence until his conduct proves him unworthy of the same.

(6) That we understand the Douglas bill as giving all the citizens of the Confederacy equal rights and equal immunities in the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska.

(7) That we believe in the dignity of labor. It does not necessarily detract from the moral or intellectual character of man.

(8) That we are competent to judge who shall be expelled from our community, and who shall make laws for our corporation.

(9) That mere suspicion is not ground of guilt. Mob law can only be tolerated when all other laws fail, and then only on proof of guilt.

(10) And, lastly, that certain members, the leaders of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association, have proclaimed and advocated and attempted to force measures upon us contrary to the foregoing principles, which measures we do solemnly disavow and disapprove and utterly disclaim as being diametrically opposed to common and constitutional law, and as having greatly disturbed and well-nigh destroyed the order, the peace and harmony of our community; and as being too well calculated to injure us in our property and character at home and abroad, we will thus ever disavow and disclaim.

G. W. GIST, Chairman.
J. B. EVANS, Secretary.

This very determined and patriotic manifesto was signed by 170 of the most staid and reliable citizens of the place, and was backed by sufficient physical force to effectually end the meddlesome functions of the association thereafter.

BLUE LODGES.

The dissolution of the open organization being accomplished, the elements were re-organized under conditions more fitted for the work. Secret lodges were organized under various names - "Social Band," "Friends' Society," "Sons of the South," "Blue Lodge," etc. Their objects, under whatever name adopted, were identical, and long after were plainly stated, on elicited and ample proof, by the Congressional investigating committee of 1855, as follows:

Its members were bound together by secret oaths, and they had pass-words, 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 to 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 Territories 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 the first election to have overpowered them, even if they had been united to a man.

The existence of this secret organization was an "open secret" in Missouri, and was not unknown to the reading public of the North, at the time of Gov. Reeder's arrival. As early as November 16, the St. Louis Democrat announced: "Senator Atchison is at present engaged in the upper country, banding a secret society of 5,000 persons. These, according to rumor, are pledged to move into Kansas on the day of the first election, to vote slavery into the Territory."

Knowing the state of affairs along the Missouri border, and having ascertained by personal investigation the needs and wishes of the actual settlers in the Territory, Gov. Reeder, decided that their rights should not be put in jeopardy by the hasty ordering of the Territorial election of a Legislature. His proclamation for the election of a Congressional Delegate only, coupled with the provisions therein contained, defining the qualifications of legal voters, and providing against fraud, was received with ill-concealed chagrin by the leaders of the slavery democracy, who had, up to that time, cherished the hope that the Administration had sent them a tool, if not an ally. There were not long in discovering that he was neither.

November 14, a meeting was held at Leavenworth, at which, after much talking, a memorial was drawn up, and a committee chosen to present the same to Gov. Reeder. The meeting, its objects, its leaders and its results are all shown in the following, which is copied and condensed the the Kansas Weekly Herald of November 24, 1854.

INTERESTING CORRESPONDENCE.

The subjoined interesting correspondence, together with the letter from the committee of the Leavenworth meeting, to which the Governor's last letter below is a reply, have been furnished us for publication. In giving insertion to this correspondence, on a subject in which the people feel a lively interest, we are compelled, in consequence of the press of matter upon our columns, to omit at present, the letter of the committee to the Governor, but we will publish that document in our next.* We would have preferred inserting the whole correspondence at once, but not being able to do so, we give the Governor's reply.

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* The document alluded to was not published as promised, but its import is plainly shown in Gov. Reeder's letter.
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Following this unequivocal editorial approval of the course of Gov. Reeder is a letter addressed to him by J. C. Thompson, Robert H. Higgins and M. F. Conway, asking a copy of the correspondence between him and the committee, to which he replied by furnishing the following letter:

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas Territory, November 21, 1854.

To F. Gwinner, D. A. N. Grover, Robert C. Miller, William F. Dyer and Alfred Jones, Esqrs.,

Committee:

GENTLEMEN: - On the 16th inst. You called on me in the capacity of a committee claiming to represent and speak for a meeting of citizens of Kansas Territory, held the preceding day at Leavenworth City, and presenting me your memorial in behalf of that meeting. The memorial commences with the statement that you are acting under a resolution of such meeting and ends by "urgently pressing" me to "comply with the wishes of those by whom we were appointed."

Finding that you did not come as individual citizens, acting for yourselves, but as the representatives of others, I took the ground that it was necessary and proper for me to know whom you represented, and that I must have a copy of the proceedings of the meeting which appointed you. Your chairman seemed at first to think that was unnecessary. I replied that it was very obviously necessary I should know by the only authentic evidence, that you had been appointed and by whom; and I further stated that unless the proceedings were furnished I should not consider myself bound to notice your memorial. You then agreed to furnish them. I waited their coming until last evening, when I received from the post office a communication from you, dated the 17th inst., but with no post-mark to inform me when it was mailed. This communication declines to furnish the proceedings of the meeting - professes to give the reasons for the refusal - contains the very deliberated enunciation of some inherent rights of the people of Kansas, which no one would ever think of questioning, and some other propositions which must, in a confusion of correspondence have got into that letter by mistake, as I have been utterly unable to discover how they were connected with the subject of discussion; and again requests that my answer to your memorial be made known to you and those "whose organ you have the honor to be." The reasons you give may be briefly stated. First, you say, that some of you at least are "recognized inhabitants" of Kansas, and asserting your own character as honorable men, you claim that I should have endorsed your own opinion on that head by taking your allegation of the facts instead of asking for the usual and natural evidence of them. Secondly, That the people of Kansas have a right to make known their wishes to the executive without putting them in writing, or organizing any meeting for that purpose. To the latter, I have only to say, that I admit cheerfully the proposition it contains, but I am entitled to have a copy of the proceedings of this meeting which has been held, and an extract from which you profess to give. As to the first reason, passing over the indelicacy of gentlemen putting their personal character unnecessarily and improperly in issue, and demanding of me who never impugned or impeached it, that I should dispense with the forms and vouchers which the occasion demanded, by adopting in lieu thereof, any estimate of that character whatever, and especially one made by yourselves, as the basis of my official action, I beg leave to remind you that you are requiring more than this, and with signal modesty, demand that I should surrender my judgment to yours, and if you should be of opinion that the meeting who sent you was composed of "citizens of Kansas," I should take for granted that you are infallible, adopt your conclusions, and consider it unnecessary to judge for myself. Doubtless this would save a vast deal of trouble, and, if I could take your infallibility for granted, it would leave me but little to do, but to register your decrees. That, however, is not my mode of doing business, and although I seek the opinions and suggestions of others, I prefer to judge for myself. There is another very singular aspect of this reason of yours. Without inquiring of me what I intended to do in relation to an election of members of the Legislature, you attract public attention by assembling a meeting, and after a speech appropriate to the design of the meeting, a committee is formally appointed to prepare a grave and diplomatic memorial to quicken me in the performance of my official duty, and when you have made the affair thus public, precise and ceremonious, so far as it is calculated to cast censure on my judgment and fidelity, you modestly insist that all the residue of the proceedings shall be as informal as you choose to make them, and whilst you by your actions are censuring me, I shall be required in the same transaction, to recognize you as men who cannot possible err in motive or in judgment. These rules of logic and equity I have never learned; and I think, gentlemen, that to you belongs the merit of their discovery.

Your reasons being thus disposed of, allow me to repeat, you come to me as the agent of others, whom you allege are citizens of Kansas, and therefore entitled to a reply. I ask for a copy of the proceedings, in order that I may be satisfied as to that fact. You peremptorily refuse to give them. By all the rules of common sense, common courtesy and common justice, I would be justified in refusing to notice your communication, as I had once resolved to do. I have, however, changed my mind, and will proceed to state some facts within the knowledge of the whole public in this vicinity (who will decide between us if we disagree), and which I should have proven almost entirely by your own evidence had you not, from the pinching exigencies of the case, been compelled to refuse a copy of the proceedings.

The meeting was not of the citizens of Kansas, as your proceedings will show if you will produce them. It was a meeting composed mainly of the citizens of Missouri and a few of the citizens of Kansas. Your own body, whom I am now addressing, contains two undoubted residents of Missouri, one of whom is your Chairman, who resides with his family in the town of Liberty, Mo., as he has done for years, and whose only attempt at a residence in Kansas consists of a card nailed to a tree, upon ground long since occupied by other settlers, who have built and lived upon the claim. The President of your meeting was Maj. John Doughearty, a resident and large land-holder in Clay County, Mo., as he has stated to me since the meeting, and will not hesitate to state again, as he is a highminded, honorable man, above all concealment or disguise.

The gentlemen principally composing your meeting came from across the river, thronging the road from the ferry to the town, on horseback and in wagons, in numbers variously estimated by different persons at two hundred to three hundred, and after the meeting was over they returned to their homes in the State of Missouri. These are facts notorious here, as any public occurrence can be, and every man who had eyes to see and ears to hear is cognizant of them.

They were the subject of much remark and the cause of deep dissatisfaction, and even on the ground in the meeting and in reply to the speech of your Chairman, who was chief spokesman on the occasion, this invasion of our Territory was loudly complained of by some of the outnumbered citizens of Kansas, and has frequently since been made the subject of indignant complaint to me. Such is the meeting from which you derive authority, and such the title by which you assume to interfere in the regulation of our affairs. Few men, with all the facts before them, would be hardy enough to say that the assumption is entitled to any respect. The law guarantees to us the right to mange our own affairs. It is the great, much discussed feature of our Territorial Government, and one which our people highly prize, under the pledges of which the inhabitants of the Territory have come and staked their future fortunes on our soil.

The pledges of that law must be redeemed, and it is a poor and pitiless boon to have escaped from the domination of Congress if we are only to pass under the hands of another set of self-constituted rulers, foreign to our soil and sharing none of our burdens, no matter what may be their virtues or their worth as men and citizens at home. It may be very desirable for gentlemen to live among the comforts of the States, with all the accumulated conveniences and luxuries of an old home, and make an occasional expedition into our Territory to arrange our affairs - instruct our people and public officers and control our government - but it does not suit us, and I much mistake the people of this Territory if they submit to it. One thing I am certain of, that, having sworn to perform the duties of the office of Governor with fidelity, I shall denounce and resist it in friend or foe, and without regard to the locality, the faction or the "ism" from which it comes.

Thus much the citizens of Kansas have a right to demand at my hands, and to fail in it would be the boldest dereliction of official duty. We believe that we are competent to govern ourselves, and as we must bear the consequences of our own error and reap the fruit of our own decisions, we must decline any gratuitous help in making them.

We shall always be glad to see our neighbors across the river as friends and visitors among us, and will endeavor to treat them with kindness and hospitality. We shall be still more pleased if they will abandon their present homes and dot our beautiful country with their residences to contribute to our wealth and progress, but until they do the latter we must respectfully but determinedly decline to allow them any participation in regulating our affairs.

When that is to be done, we insist that they shall stand aside and permit us to do the work ourselves.

This, gentlemen, with due respect for you personally, is the only reply that I shall give to the suggestion in behalf of your meeting relative to the time and manner of taking our census and holding our election. Your obedient servant,

A. H. REEDER.

From the publication of the foregoing letter dates the absolute estrangement and divorce, both in confidence and sympathy, between Gov. Reeder and the revolutionary plotters over the Missouri border. He was solemnly pledged to defend the bona fide settlers against all outside interference in their affairs. He had boldly announced that he was the Governor of Kansas, and as such, deemed it his duty to throw around and over its people the protection of the law. Thence forth, the line was sharply drawn, and avowed hostility and bitter enmity prevailed, where before had been only the uncertainty of distrust.

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