Arguably the first shots of the War Between the States were fired by Reverend Beecher’s guns in mid-1850s Kansas; John Brown’s armed attack on Virginia in 1859 was a logical result of abolitionist fanaticism. Unwilling to work toward a practical and peaceful solution to the riddle of African slavery in the United States, they plunged the country into revolution and war costing nearly a million lives.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Northernizing the South
“By the fall of 1856, some members of the Massachusetts aid committee, concluding that private support for the Kansas free-State settlers was not sufficient to protect them from proslavery advocates there, were urging northern State governments to intervene in the territory. [Amos Lawrence] consulted with some of his conservative friends about the idea and was told the State of Massachusetts had no constitutional authority to act in Kansas affairs.
Lawrence admitted that such an action could then only be justified upon “higher law” ground. The concept of higher law was one abolitionists were fond of invoking, and Lawrence confessed that it was a concept “which I never believed tenable, except for extreme cases, which come up once in a lifetime.”
[Lawrence] told Samuel Gridley Howe that he deemed the denial of honest elections in Kansas to be “a sufficient cause for revolution.” Lawrence hoped to avoid civil war in the territory, but if it came to that, he predicted, “it will be a contest between liberty and slavery, and it cannot last long for the slaves will not wait for its termination.” Instead, they would revolt and the uprising would spread into neighboring Missouri, toppling slavery there.
The leaders of the [New England Emigrant Aid] company made every effort to divorce themselve’s from the abolitionist camp. Rather than emphasize the evils of slavery for the slave, most of the men active in the [company] stressed the threat of slavery to northern values and institutions . . . New Englanders believed that the very future of republican government was at stake in Kansas and, furthermore, the nation.
Thus for them, Kansas became battleground between New England and Southern ways of life. Eli Thayer, who founded the company, shared in this New England sense of mission. He hoped to keep the Emigrant Aid Company alive and to use it to promote free-labor colonies north and south of Kansas. By 1858, he was even proposing to “New Englandize” Central America . . . “we [will] send steam engines sir, which are the greatest apostles of liberty that this country has ever seen.”
[At] . . . the company’s annual meeting in 1856 he raised the possibility of colonizing Virginia . . . and in 1857 settled some northerners in western Virginia, near the Ohio River. By such means, Thayer proposed to “Northernize the South.” [Lawrence]. . . preferred to secure the western territories for freedom and let the superiority of the northern economic system eventually transform the South. Until then, the Southerners should be left alone to bear responsibility for owning slaves; “it is not for us who imported their ancestors to complain.”
(Cotton and Capital, Boston Businessmen and Anti-Slavery Reform, Richard H. Abbott, UMass Press, 1991, pp. 42-47)