Free-State Opposition

The Topeka Constitutional Convention met in the building on the left in October, 1855
[Kansas State Historical Society]

As early as January 29, 1855, a small group of men in the politically charged town of Lawrence organized a "Free State Society" intending to "use all its influence for the prohibition of slavery in Kansas." After the March 30 "bogus" election, however, opposition to pro-slavery tactics and measures grew as more settlers throughout the territory became radicalized.

But what was the best way to resist the Bogus Legislature and its acts? Some favored armed defense of their towns or even taking the field against the Missourians. Others urged "civil disobedience" and eventual triumph at the ballot box. Some wanted to work within the traditional Democratic Party; others favored forming a new party, the Free State Party. Should they immediately apply to Congress for statehood? Should not only slavery but African-Americans themselves be barred from the territory?

The men profiled below were all active working out answers to these questions in one or more of the free-state gatherings of 1855:

April 5: Canvassing the Vote
Fourteen armed free-state men guarded Governor Reeder at the Shawnee Manual Labor School while election results were certified. Reeder satisfied neither side by setting aside results and ordering a second election in some but not all districts.
May 22: Second Election
In this predominantly "free-state" election, five districts produced no pro- slavery candidates. Only in Leavenworth was there a contest, again won by the pro-slavery candidates elected in March.
June 25: Lawrence Convention
An assembly gathered to consider "the relation the people of this country bear to the Legislature about to convene at Pawnee." They declared: "That we are in favor of making Kansas a free Territory, and as a consequence a free State."
July 4: Fourth of July Speech
Five of the May 22 candidates protested their ouster from the Legislature at Pawnee on the 4th of July. In Lawrence, between 1,500 and 2,000 citizens celebrated the holiday with speeches and military parades. In a fervid oration, Charles Robinson told the assembled crowd: "It is for us to choose ... what institutions shall bless or curse our beautiful Kansas..."
July 11: Lawrence Meeting
Free-State activists in Lawrence called for a territory-wide convention on August 14.
July 17: Sand Bank Convention
The editors of the Lawrence Kansas Free State called a meeting on the bank of the Kansas River to reconcile the split between those who wanted to immediately form a state government and apply for statehood and those wanting to embrace all free-state elements and eventually defeat pro-slavery advocates at the polls.
July 27: National Democracy Convention
Democrats gathered in a failed attempt to stay within the party stating respect for the rights of citizens of other states and "kindly [requesting them] to let us alone."
August 14: Reconciliation Meeting
Another Lawrence meeting was held to reach agreement between the expelled members of the Legislature, the National Democrats and the Sandbank conventioneers. Representatives came from all over the territory.
September 5: Big Springs Convention
About 100 delegates and many spectators gathered at a point on the California Road in western Douglas county. A Free-State Party was formed, eschewing abolitionism and stating: "The best interests of Kansas require a population of free white men."
September 19: Delegate Convention
The Topeka convention was called to consider formation of a State and applying to Congress for admission as a State.

October 23: Topeka Constitutional Convention
A state constitution was written with a ratification vote set for December 15. Also set were referendums on a General Banking law and exclusion of Negroes from the state. A memorial to Congress prayed admission to the Union. An election of state officers was called for to administer the new state.
Free-State Men
Thomas J. Addis John C. Archibald James M. Arthur
Henry Barricklow Aurelius Bowen George Bratton
Orville C. Brown Harrison Burson John Butler Chapman
Samuel Collins Rufus H. Crosby William Crosby
George A. Cutler George W. Deitzler Charles A. Foster
James P. Fox Rufus Gilpatrick William Graham
William R. Griffith Abelard Guthrie John Hamilton
Benjamin Harding John F. Javens Robert Klotz
Richard C. Knight John Landis Luke P. Lincoln
Grosvenor P. Lowery Caleb May Bryce W. Miller
William Moore William G. Nichols George W. Partridge
Phillip Schuyler George W. Smith Andrew Taylor Still
John A. Wakefield George F. Warren Augustus Wattles
J.N.O.P Wood Samuel N. Wood John Wright

Charles Clark