National Kansas Committee

In response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Bleeding Kansas crisis, Republicans and other anti-slavery groups created aid organizations to finance and promote the migration of Free-Soilers to the Kansas Territory. This, they hoped, would ensure the adoption of an anti-slavery constitution in the territory. In June 1856, Andrew H. Reeder proposed that a national group be formed to supervise and support 5,000 additional armed settlers in Kansas. In response, on July 9 and 10, 1856, multiple Kansas aid groups came together in a National Kansas Aid Convention at Buffalo, New York. This convention created a National Kansas Committee to co-ordinate support for anti-slavery efforts in Kansas. The committee was to hold its meetings in Chicago, with an appointed representative from every state. The committee selected as its organizing officers Thaddeus Hyatt as president, Samuel G. Howe as general financial agent, Eli Thayer as agent in charge of organizing the states, William F. M. Arny as transportation agent, Harvey B. Hurd as secretary, and Horace White as assistant secretary. Abraham Lincoln was appointed to the committee, but apparently declined and suggested Jesse W. Fell in his place. The committee was generally ineffective in increasing aid to Kansas or in coordinating existing groups. It provided funds to John Brown, but was apparently unaware of his planned raid on Harper’s Ferry. Hurd reported that by spring 1857, donations to the committee had ceased.

Ralph Volney Harlow, “The Rise and Fall of the Kansas Aid Movement,” The American Historical Review 41 (October 1935), 1-25; Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 77, 197; Francis Milton I. Morehouse, The Life of Jesse W. Fell, vol. 5, of University of Illinois Studies in Social Sciences (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1916), 56.