Circular Letter to the Members of the National Kansas Committee, [9 July 1856 - 16 July 1856]1To the Members of the National Kansas Committee.2To Hon. A Lincoln–3Dear Sir:
The necessity of organizing your State, so as to secure whatever aid in men or money Kansas may need, is apparent to you, and we need not enlarge upon it.
We would press you, therefore, most earnestly, to act promptly on this subject, and if you are unable to attend to this important business as it should be attended to, we urge you to recommend to us, at once, some fit and upright citizen of your State who will do it.*4
The main purposes of our organization and for which we urge the immediate raising of means, are:
First. The retaining of all actual settlers now in Kansas.
Second. To induce all absentees forthwith to return to the Territory, paying, if necessary, for this end, their passage, furnishing them with clothing, &c. [etc.]
Third. To induce fresh emigrants to go into the Territory as rapidly as possible.
The members of the committee at Chicago, with such others as may meet with them, will hold a continual session and act until a general meeting of the committee can be had.
The necessity of a general meeting for the more permanent organization of the committee must be apparent to every member. We need only specify one or two objects, which it is essential to accomplish, to insure success to the Free State cause.
First. A thorough concert of action among the Free States— such a concert as will secure promptness and efficiency in whatever they may do.
Second. The obtaining of a financial and general agent, whose business qualifications and integrity shall command entire confidence.5
For these and other purposes, we recommend a meeting of the National Committee to be held at Chicago, on the 30th day of July, A.D. 1856.6
In reference to the appointment of a financial and general agent, we trust that every member of the National Committee will do what he can to present to the committee the name of a suitable person, who, if elected, will serve.
The necessity of an organization of the States, and of a full meeting of the National Committee, at the time and place specified, is too plain to be urged. Kansas can be saved to freedom only by a prompt and vigorous action on the part of the Free States. Her citizens oppressed and harassed by the border men of Missouri, and the ruffians of the South, and without the protection of the general government, are well nigh discouraged.7 They need food and clothes, and must have money to sustain life, and men to uphold them in their heroic struggle. Let us see that they are promptly and fully sustained.By Order of the Committee,H. B. HURD, Secretary.8
*By reference to the second resolution passed at the Buffalo Convention, you will observe that State, County and Town Associations are to be formed for the purpose of obtaining monthly contributions.9 We would urge upon you that this plan be put into immediate operation. For this purpose we would suggest that a Committee be formed, in some principal town in your State, which shall act as the central Committee, and attend to the organization of the County and Town Associations. As soon as the central committee is organized, it should publish a circular to the State, directing such associations to be formed and reported to it, and should also send one to some proper person in each county and town, so as immediately to enlist all the effort possible. It would be well also, to employ some fit person to canvass your whole State for the same purpose. Our work must be promptly and thoroughly done.
1This undated printed circular addressed to Abraham Lincoln is likely that from the executive committee of the National Kansas Committee which William F. M. Arny enclosed to Lincoln in his letter of July 16, 1856. It was presumably composed some time following the Buffalo, New York convention of July 9-10, 1856, that established the National Kansas Committee and before the date of Arny’s covering letter.
Albany Evening Journal (NY), 10 July 1856, 3:2.
2In his covering letter Arny informed Lincoln that he had been appointed to the National Kansas Committee at the organizing convention in Buffalo. The organization was one of many aid societies formed in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Bleeding Kansas crisis with the aim of promoting and financing the migration of Free-Soilers to the Kansas Territory.
Ralph Volney Harlow, “The Rise and Fall of the Kansas Aid Movement,” The American Historical Review 41 (October 1935), 1-25.
4Lincoln apparently declined the appointment to the National Kansas Committee and suggested Jesse W. Fell in his place. Fell also declined Arny’s offer of appointment and recommended that Arny himself fill the role. Arny ultimately took the position and was also named general transportation agent for the organization.
Francis Milton I. Morehouse, The Life of Jesse W. Fell, vol. 5, of University of Illinois Studies in the Social Sciences (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1916), 56; Ralph Volney Harlow, “The Rise and Fall of the Kansas Aid Movement,” The American Historical Review 41 (October 1935), 16.
5Samuel G. Howe of Boston became the general financial agent of the National Kansas Committee.
Ralph Volney Harlow, “The Rise and Fall of the Kansas Aid Movement,” The American Historical Review 41 (October 1935), 16.
6A published update on the activities of the National Kansas Committee in Chicago stated that the committee had “perfected their organization” at their July 30, 1856, meeting. To this end, in addition the members of the committee who resided in Chicago, Howe and Thaddeus Hyatt intended to stay in the city to work with the committee. In regard to the object of coordinating actions among the free states, the account stated that the committee was “in constant communication with the Free State men of Kansas, and the various committees in the North.”
The Boston Daily Atlas (MA), 12 August 1856, 2:3.
7Once the Kansas-Nebraska Act established “popular sovereignty” as the means to determine whether the Kansas Territory entered the union as a free or slave state, outside forces on both sides of the issue worked to exert their influence. Slaveholders in Missouri were particularly active in these efforts, and Missourians crossed the border into Kansas to vote in Kansas elections and commit acts of intimidation and violence. See Bleeding Kansas.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 199-214.
8No letter from Lincoln to Hurd concerning this circular has been located, nor has any response by Lincoln to the covering letter by Arny.
Printed Letter Signed with a Representation, 1 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).