Last of the Great Scouts HTML version
The Shadow Of Partisan Strife
OWING to the conditions, already spoken of, under which Kansas was settled, all classes
were represented in its population. Honest, thrifty farmers and well-to-do traders
leavened a lump of shiftless ne'er-do-wells, lawless adventurers, and vagabonds of all
sorts and conditions. If father at times questioned the wisdom of coming to this new and
untried land, he kept his own counsel, and set a brave face against the future.
He had been prominent in political circles in Iowa, and had filled positions of public
trust; but he had no wish to become involved in the partisan strife that raged in Kansas.
He was a Free Soil man, and there were but two others in that section who did not believe
in slavery. For a year he kept his political views to himself; but it became rumored about
that he was an able public speaker, and the pro-slavery men naturally ascribed to him the
same opinions as those held by his brother Elijah, a pronounced pro-slavery man; so they
regarded father as a promising leader in their cause. He had avoided the issue, and had
skillfully contrived to escape declaring for one side or the other, but on the scroll of his
destiny it was written that he should be one of the first victims offered on the sacrificial
altar of the struggle for human liberty.
The post-trader's was a popular rendezvous for all the settlers round. It was a day in the
summer of '55 that father visited the store, accompanied, as usual, by Will and Turk.
Among the crowd, which was noisy and excited, he noted a number of desperadoes in the
pro-slavery faction, and noted, too, that Uncle Elijah and our two Free Soil neighbors,
Mr. Hathaway and Mr. Lawrence, were present.
Father's appearance was greeted by a clamor for a speech. To speak before that audience
was to take his life in his hands; yet in spite of his excuses he was forced to the chair.
It was written! There was no escape! Father walked steadily to the dry-goods box which
served as a rostrum. As he passed Mr. Hathaway, the good old man plucked him by the
sleeve and begged him to serve out platitudes to the crowd, and to screen his real
But father was not a man that dealt in platitudes.
"Friends," said he, quietly, as he faced his audience and drew himself to his full height,--
"friends, you are mistaken in your man. I am sorry to disappoint you. I have no wish to
quarrel with you. But you have forced me to speak, and I can do no less than declare my
real convictions. I am, and always have been, opposed to slavery. It is an institution that
not only degrades the slave, but brutalizes the slave-holder, and I pledge you my word
that I shall use my best endeavors--yes, that I shall lay down my life, if need be-- to keep
this curse from finding lodgment upon Kansas soil. It is enough that the fairest portions
of our land are already infected with this blight. May it spread no farther. All my energy
and my ability shall swell the effort to bring in Kansas as a Free Soil state."