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The United States of America: A History
Book 3: Chapter VIII - Kansas


THE great Louisiana purchase from Napoleon was not yet wholly portioned off into States. Westward and northward of Missouri was an enormous expanse of the richest land in the Union, having as yet few occupants more profitable than the Indians. Two great routes of travel—to the west and to the south-west—traversed it. The eager searcher for gold passed that way on his long walk to California. The Mormon looked with indifference on its luxuriant vegetation as he toiled on to his New Jerusalem by the Great Salt Lake. In the year 1833 it was proposed to organize this region into two Territories, under the names of Kansas and Nebraska. Here once more arose the old question—Shall the Territories be Slave or Free? The Missouri Compromise had settled that slavery should never come here. But the slave-owners were able to cancel this 1854 settlement. A law was enacted under which the inhabitants were left to choose between slavery and freedom. The vote of a majority would decide the destiny of these magnificent provinces.

And now both parties had to bestir themselves. The early inhabitants of the infant States were to fix for all time whether they would admit or exclude the slave-owner with his victims. Everything depended, therefore, on taking early possession.

The South was first in the field. Missouri was near, and her citizens led the way. Great slave-owners took possession of lands in Kansas, and loudly invited their brethren from other States to come at once, bringing their slaves with them. But their numbers were small, while the need was urgent. The South had no population to spare fitted for the work of colonizing. But she had in large numbers the class of "mean whites." In the mean white of the Southern States we are permitted to see how low it is possible for our Anglo-Saxon humanity to fall. The mean white is entirely without education. his house is a hovel of the very, lowest description. Personally he walks in rags and filth. He cannot stoop to work, because slavery has rendered labour disreputable. He supports himself as savages do—by shooting, by fishing, by the plunder of his industrious neighbours' fields and folds. The negro, out of the unutterable degradation to which he has been subjected, looks with scorn upon the mean white.

The mean whites of Missouri were easily marshalled for a raid into Kansas. The time came when elections were to take place—when the great question of Slave or Free (1855) was to be answered. Gangs of armed ruffians were marched over from Missouri. Such a party—nearly a thousand strong, accompanied by two pieces of cannon—entered the little town of Lawrence on the morning of the election-day. The ballot-boxes were taken possession of, and the peaceful inhabitants were driven away. The invaders cast fictitious votes into the boxes, outnumbering ten or twenty times the lawful roll of voters. A legislature wholly in the interests of slavery was thus elected. In due time that body began to enact laws No man whose opinions were opposed to slavery was to be an elector in Kansas. Any man who spoke or wrote against slavery was to suffer imprisonment with hard labour. Death was the penalty for aiding the escape of a slave. All this was (lone while the enemies of slavery were an actual majority of the inhabitants of Kansas

And then the Border ruflians overran the country—working their own wicked will wherever they came. TThie outrages they committed read like the freaks of demons. A man betted that lie would scalp an abolitionist. He rode out from the little town of Leavensworth in search of a victim. He met a gentleman driving in a gig, shot him, scalped him, rode back to town, showed his ghastly trophy, and received payment of his bet. Men were gathered up from their work in the fields, ranged in line, and ruthlessly shot to death, because they hated slavery. A lawyer who had protested against frauds at an election was tarred and feathered; thus attired he was put up to auction, and sold to the highest bidder. The town of Lawrence vas attacked by eight hundred marauders, who plundered it to their content —bombarding with artillery houses which displeased them— burning and destroying in utter wantonness.

But during all this unhappy time the steady tide of Northern emigration into Kansas flowed on. From the very outset of the strife the North was resolute to win Kansas for freedom. She sought to do this by colonizing Kansas with men who hated slavery. Societies were formed to aid poor emigrants. In single families, in groups of fifty to a hundred persons, the settlers were promptly moved westward. Some of these merely obeyed the impulse which drives so many Americans to leave the settled States of the east and push out into the wilderness. Others went that their votes might prevent the spread of slavery. There was no small measure of patriotism in the movement. Men left their comfortable homes in the east and carried their families into a wilderness, to the natural miseries of which was added the presence of bitter enemies. They did so that Kansas might be a Free State. Cannon were planted on the banks of the Missouri to prevent their entrance into Kansas. Many of them. were plundered and turned back. Often their houses were burned and their fields wasted. But they were a self-reliant people, to whom it was no hardship to be obliged to defend themselves. When need arose they banded themselves together and gave battle to the ruffians who troubled them. And all the while they were growing stronger by constant reinforcements from the east. There were building, and clearing, and ploughing, and sowing. In spite of Southern outrage Kansas was fast ripening into a free and orderly community. In a few years the party of freedom was able to carry (1859) the elections. A constitution was adopted by which slavery was excluded from Kansas. And at length, just when the great final struggle between slavery and (1861) freedom was commencing, Kansas was received as a Free State. Her admission raised the number of States in the Union to thirty-four.


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