Kansas Free-State Party

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KANSAS FREE-STATE PARTY. Organized by aggrieved settlers in 1855, the Kansas Free-State Party rejected the territorial legislature elected by the controversial means spawned by the flawed Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Emigrants primarily from free states resented that residents of the slave state of Missouri nonetheless voted in the Kansas territorial election of 30 March 1855. The territorial government elected by such methods rebuffed several "free-state" delegates while endorsing a slave code seeking to organize Kansas as a slave state.

Protest meetings culminating at Big Springs on 5 September 1855 launched the Free-State political organization that supported a shadow "free-state" territorial government formed at Topeka. Competition emerged between Dr. Charles Robinson, a representative of antislavery New England emigrants, and James H. Lane, a former Democrat from Indiana. Lane led Midwestern settlers in resisting slavery's establishment in Kansas but also in promoting the exclusion of free blacks from the territory. On 15 December 1855 free-state voters approved a discriminatory referendum, 1,287 to 453. The eventual free-state constitution did not formally exclude blacks; it did deny blacks the suffrage while allowing segregated schools.

The Free-State Party encouraged Republicans in Congress to block pro-slavery efforts to control Kansas. A referendum authorized by the English bill of 1858 prevented such pro-slavery hopes while delaying the admission of Kansas as a free state until January 1861. Identified with national Republicans, the Free-State Party formally merged with that party in 1859 at an Osawatomie meeting attended by Horace Greeley. Turmoil in territorial Kansas contributed to the onset of the Civil War in 1861.


Rawley, James A. Race and Politics: "Bleeding Kansas" and the Coming of the Civil War. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1969.

SenGupta, Gunja. For God and Mammon: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs, Masters and Slaves in Territorial Kansas, 1854–1860. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

Vernon L.Volpe

See alsoRepublican Party .

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Kansas Free-State Party

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