|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.