Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 17 Part 1



The debates in Congress on the Kansas-Nebraska bill stirred the country. Its enactment caused enthusiasm in the South and indignation in the North, but neither the North nor the South was unanimous in its attitude toward the bill. There was an anti-slavery element in the South. In addition, some slaveholders there were not in favor of the aggressive policy of the slave power. They were opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. But it was impossible for them to assert themselves in any effective manner against the radical pro-slavery coalition, which had seized upon the Democratic party as a means of accomplishing its purpose. The Alleghany Mountain system projects itself into the South from Pennsylvania and Ohio to Central Georgia. Its whole range was inhabited by a people animated by the love of liberty. As a body these people were opposed to slavery. They owned a few slaves. They never faltered in their allegiance to the Federal Union.

In the North there was an element subservient to the slave power. It maintained close political relations with the slave propagandists. For the South, as a whole, loved slavery more than public office. It selected Northern men as its candidates for President of the United States, caring nothing about who held that great office so long as it could control the policy of the Government.

Generally, the North was deeply offended by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the South was filled with joy. In the Northern states there were meetings to protest against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and in some localities this resentment engrossed the attention of the people to the exclusion of ordinary affairs. It attained its greatest volume in New England. It was clear that the people there would not accept the Repeal without serious opposition. The people of the North had followed closely every step in the process of the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska bill. By the terms of the bill, the great Northwest lay open to slavery. To prevent the South from reaping the full benefit of its victory, there was no assistance in any appeal to the law-making body of the land. It was necessary that this appeal should be made to public sentiment. An appeal to the moral sense of the people is rarely made in vain.

There are always and everywhere persons anxious to enter any contest as leaders. By hasty and ill-advised actions they often bring matters to a deplorable issue. The theory of organized emigration was not a new one. America had been peopled to some extent by such emigration. Many plans to colonize various parts of the world had been discussed in the United States before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.

At a meeting held in the City Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, on the 11th of March, 1854, more than two months before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, Eli Thayer proposed to fill up Kansas with free men - "with men who hated slavery and who would drive the hideous thing from the broad and beautiful plains where they were going to raise free homes." Thayer was serving his second term as a Representative from Worcester, in the Legislature of Massachusetts. He was a visionary man given to the evolution of fantastic schemes by which to accumulate money.1 He struck upon the plan of connecting the anti-slavery sentiment of the North with a speculative enterprise to be carried out in Kansas. He says: "I pondered upon it by day and dreamed on it by night. By what plan could this great problem be solved? What force, could be effectively opposed to the power which seemed to be about to spread itself over the Continent? Suddenly it came upon me like a revelation. It was organized and assisted emigration."2

Mr. Thayer drew up a charter for the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company immediately after the Worcester meeting. He presented it to the Massachusetts Legislature, where it was favorably reported, and soon afterwards passed. It was approved by the Governor on the 26th day of April. On the 4th of May at a meeting in the State House at Boston, a committee was appointed to report a plan of operation. Mr. Thayer was the first member of the committee, and another member was Edward Everett Hale, then and long afterwards classed as a member of that hermaphroditic aggregation known as Dough-faces. The committee made a report on the 12th of May. As this report was made the basis of the future operations of the company, it is here set out.


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 State 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 emigrant 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 of 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.

(1) 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 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 the 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 interests there; replace by the sales the money laid out; declare a dividend to the stock-holders, and

(5) That they then 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 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 widespread 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 emigration 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 determined 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 requires. 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 is 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 America 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, especially 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 with 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 as 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 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.

When it came to the sale of the stock of the company, it was found that any stockholder would be liable for all the debts it might contract. Under such a contingency the stock was not in demand. It was burdened with too many possibilities of loss to investors. To correct this fundamental weakness, Mr. Thayer surrendered his Massachusetts charter. The company was continued as a private enterprise, with a capital stock of two hundred thousand dollars, under the name of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, and under the management of Mr. Thayer.

Other emigration companies were organized. One was the Emigrant Aid Company of New York and Connecticut, formed July 18, 1854, and later chartered by the Connecticut Legislature. Eli Thayer was its president. The Union Emigration Society was formed in Washington City, May 29, 1854. These, with the original society, comprised the three large societies formed to promote sectional emigration into Kansas. Many smaller ones were soon to be found in different parts of the North. They were uniform in purpose.3

A summarization of the main purposes of the Emigrant Aid Company emphasizes these -

1. It would colonize Kansas with foreigners to the number of forty thousand annually.

2. It would send twenty thousand of the inhabitants of Massachusetts to Kansas every year. These were to be persons who hated slavery and would use every effort to destroy it.

3. It would procure other emigrants to Kansas, and these were also to be workers against making Kansas a slave state.

4. It promised the stockholders who might put up the five millions of capital of the company, the satisfaction of becoming founders of States - and of having "an investment which promises large returns at no distant day."

5. It was recommended that the director immediately make contracts with competing lines of travel for the transportation of twenty thousand persons from Massachusetts "to that place in the West which the director shall select for the first settlement."

6. Steam saw mills, grist mills, and other machinery were to be shipped into Kansas for the use of these twenty thousand people from Massachusetts, and others whom the company might send there.

7. A newspaper was to be established at the first point selected for settlement, which was to be the organ of the company - not a newspaper representing the sentiments and interests of the community.4

8 The first settlement was to be named in honor of the city which gave the most money to the enterprise. This provision failed to develop satisfactorily, when it was changed to a shrewd plan to induce vain and corpulent old gentlemen with heavy money-bags to come forward and compete for fame.

9. Land was to be procured, and when it had increased in value, it was to be sold for an advanced price. The proceeds were to be then invested in other tracts of new land around which settlements were to be erected. When that land increased in value it was to be sold, and so on. The report estimated that there would be seventy thousand inhabitants in Kansas in two or three years. Upon this increase in population the hope of increase in the value of land was based. These transactions were "to return a very handsome profit to stockholders upon their investment."5

1About this time Mr. Thayer was in some manner interested in a business in Kentucky. It was a factory erected for the purpose of extracting oil, called coal oil, from bituminous coal, designed to be used in lamps for lighting purposes. Later Mr. Thayer was a member, the leading spirit, in a colonization scheme at the mouth of the Big Sandy River. The land was in the fork of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers. There a town was laid out and named Kenova, - composed of syllables from the names of each of the states of Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia. This Virginia scheme was probably the second one to be established in his great plan to build a cordon of free states across the South. Just what Mr. Thayer realized out of this venture is not known. John Brown was condemned for attempting to establish anti-slavery communities along the Allegheny Mountain Range, south from Harper's Ferry. These different plans were designed to accomplish the same purpose. Thayer made money by his. John Brown made none and lost his life. As designs for settling the slavery question, one was no more hare-brained than the other.

2 Situated as Kansas was, slavery never had the ghost of a show to impose itself on her institutions. She lay north of the accepted bounds of slavery. People migrate principally along climatic lines. Kansas was much more accessible from that country north of the Ohio River, and its line extended westward, than it was from the South. The farmer of the North was not encumbered with human chattels. He owned a farm, if a landowner at all, usually not to exceed one hundred and sixty acres, and not a plantation. He could close his affairs and move to a new country much more easily than ,could a planter encumbered with a cotton plantation and his slaves. Many of these plantations contained several thousand acres each. On them were hundreds of slaves. It requires much time and expense to close up a business of such dimensions and move to a new unsettled country. Every effort to do this, by slaveholders, failed even in Kansas. How could it have been done in Wyoming, or Nevada, or Washington, or Montana?

3 The histories of Kansas have generally placed the organization of the local societies in Western Missouri before mention of the New England Emigrant Aid Society. So far as their employment in Kansas was intended, they were organized after the New England society had been incorporated.

4 In accordance with this declaration of one of the purposes of the company, G. W. Brown, of Conneautville, Pennsylvania, was hired by Mr. Thayer to take his paper to Kansas, there to be published in the interest of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Mr. Brown denied this for many years in very blustering and violent language, but the fact is well established, and was later admitted by Mr. Thayer, who, however adds the saving clause that Mr. Brown paid the money back. It is somewhat strange that Mr. Brown would have been so bitter in his denials if he had repaid the money.

5 Many people were misled as to the intentions of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Benevolence had no place in its designs. It was a money-making enterprise. It connected the anti-slavery sentiment of the North with its purpose because that was the uppermost question of the day. It was supposed that many people would contribute to the purchase of its stock for sentimental reasons, and such proved to be the case. In treating this phase of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, Mr. Holloway, in his History of Kansas, said at page 119:

"The existence of this Aid Society doubtless facilitated emigration, by scattering information respecting the Territory over the land, by calling the attention of the people to the importance of settling Kansas in order to prevent the extension of slavery, and by the assurance which they gave that mills, schoolhouses and churches would be erected to accommodate the new country. Beyond this the work which they did towards peopling Kansas was insignificant. The only advantages which the New England Emigrant Aid Company furnished those who came under its immediate auspices, were the reduction of the fare about $5.00 and affording them the pleasure of a large company. The consequence was most people preferred to come independent of it. Not a cent was ever given by the company towards paying a single emigrant's fare; not a guarantee ever given that any person would be supported free after arriving in the Territory."

Mr. Holloway, (page 115), expressed doubt as to the justice of forming these sectional societies, but like most writers, approved them on the ground that good finally resulted. He admitted, (page 125), that "The direct effects of these societies were as a drop in the ocean in the settling of Kansas with freemen." The claim that the New England Emigrant Aid Company called attention to Kansas has always been made by those connected with it. The exact reverse is true. Mr. Thayer connected his company with Kansas for the reason that Kansas was already the spot-light of America, because of the interest aroused by the debates in Congress on the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the discussion of the bill and the debates in the newspapers, and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Mr. Thayer was a shrewd business man, and he saw that his plan was already advertised.

Mr. Holloway said, in addition to the above, that the total number of persons the New England Emigrant Aid Company sent to Kansas, was "as many as two thousand." As a factor in settling Kansas, the company was a failure. It was not until thirty years later that Mr. Thayer and his associates fell upon the plan to get glory, as they had gotten money, out of the speculative connections with Kansas. They then formulated the claim that the company had made Kansas a free state. The only danger Kansas ever was in of becoming a slave State resulted from the organization of sectional emigration to settle the Territory.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.