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"A Model New England State": Northeastern Antislavery in Territorial Kansas, i854-i860 Gunja SenGupta One crisp Saturday morning in October 1854, the news of an unexpected visitor filled the pioneer settlement of Lawrence, located about six miles above the mouth of the Wakarusa Creek in Kansas territory, with excitement . Over two months earlier, the founding fathers and mothers of that preeminent center of free-state activism had left old America to make their home in the territory, organized in May 1854 under the highly combustible Kansas-Nebraska Act. They traveled west under the auspices of a corporation later known as the New England Emigrant Aid Company (NEEAC), dedicated to securing freedom to Kansas and dividends for its bondholders through the organized emigration of free labor.1 The cause of the commotion in Lawrence that Saturday morning was a surprise visit by the first governor of Kansas territory, the Hon. Andrew H. Reeder, a Douglas Democrat from Pennsylvania. Samuel C. Pomeroy, general agent of the NEEAC, addressed a few words of welcome to the distinguished guest from a hastily erected platform. Pomeroy invited Reeder to share the treasures of their beloved town, which consisted not of "wealth . . . computed by dollars and dimes" but of "the facilities for high intellectual and moral culture," planted by the fathers of New England in "the infancy of the [American] Republic," to stand as the I wish to thank my dissertation adviser Clarence L. Mohr and committee members Lawrence N. Powell and Richard B. Latner of Tulane University for their valuable help with my 1991 dissertation on which this essay is based. I am, however, solely responsible for any weaknesses that remain. ' Samuel A. Johnson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas Crusade (Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 1954; rpt., Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977). Civil War History, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1, · 1993 by The Kent State University Press 32CIVIL WAR HISTORY "great bulwarks of Freedom and Happiness." The NEEAC agent continued , "We come to you with the Bible in one hand, and the spellingbook in the other, with the purpose of laying the one upon the altar of a Free Church, and the other upon the desk of a Free School."2 Pomeroy's words summed up significant elements of the Kansas crusade 's appeal among middle-class white Northerners. Refracted through the lens of leading antislavery players in the embattled territory, the contest for a free Kansas emerged as more than an attempt to defeat slavery at the polls. It was inspired by a larger social vision that sought to weave the threads of Protestant civilization and republican liberty bequeathed by New England's Pilgrim fathers into a uniquely northeastern tapestry of "Americanism" over the morally and economically vulnerable West. Three New York and New England-based organizations helped shape that perception of the issues underlying "Bleeding Kansas" in the free North: the American Missionary Association (AMA), the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS), and the New England Emigrant Aid Company. These institutions represented between them the two major strains in American antislavery thought, namely a religioushumanitarian impulse relatively free of overt racism and a tradition of concern for the economic welfare of white America based on the ideology of free labor.3 Although the northeastern evangelicals and entrepreneurs represented different degrees of radicalism on the antislavery spectrum, they ultimately based their divergent religious and economic critiques of the South's "peculiar institution" upon a common belief in "an improvable , and progressively improving world." Engendered by economic changes associated with the capitalist transformation of Northern society, the notion of progress was accompanied by increasing pride in the values of that society and implied their dissemination among backward peoples. This "civilizing" mission translated into the middle-class northeasterners ' desire to fashion all "deviant" groups—such as western pioneers, 2 The Herald of Freedom, Jan. 13, 1855 (hereafter cited as the Herald). The Herald was the official organ of the NEEAC in Kansas. Even though it never achieved a very wide circulation in the territory, it remained the principal source of Kansas news to readers in the Northeast and hence played an important role in shaping that section's image...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 31-46
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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