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


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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 thereafter.

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 location.

(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 stock-holders, and

(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.


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 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 societies.

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.

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