Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We Will Not Submit Tamely

I did some reading to test my thesis that the invention of the metal cartridge revolver was a disruptive technology that destabilized the status quo sufficiently to make the beginning of the Civil War no coincidence. I don’t think I have enough to support this idea, but I found some interesting movement away from slavery as an economic system that coincides with the mass production of firearms. I bring you Bleeding Kansas.

The territory that contained what is now Kansas was above the latitude for what could become a slave state under the Missouri Compromise. Nonetheless, the Kansas-Nebraska Act signed May 30, 1854 permitted the residents of those territories to decide for themselves whether to become a free or slave state. Pro-Slave Missourians crossed state lines to elect of a pro-slave legislature in 1855 (I want to look further into the laws they passed, which I suspect included prohibitions against slaves and free negros from possessing arms).

Up in New England, Christian Sharps invented the knife-edge breech block and self-cocking device for the "box-lock" Sharps Model 1851.  In that year, Sharps manufactured and sold 20,000 units, using mass production techniques. The Model 1853 "Slanting Breech" Carbines became equipped with the Sharps-patented pellet primer system.

The Sharpes Model 1853 Carbines were nicknamed "Beecher's Bibles," after New York clergyman and abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher.  Ward and other northeastern abolitionists shipped 900 Sharps Carbines to Free Soil settlers Kansas in heavy crates marked BIBLES. Here is a part of a March 31, 1856 letter of thanks to Rev. Beecher:
Recent events have shown that emigration to Kansas in this enlightened age and country has been attended by circumstances clearly indicating that there is not even here exemption from the common necessity. We therefore accept the weapons, also, and like our fathers, we go with the Bible, to indicate the peaceful nature of our mission, and the harmless character of our company, and a weapon to teach those who may be disposed to molest us (if any such there be), that while we determine to do only that which is right, we will not submit tamely to that which is wrong. We wish nevertheless to have it distinctly understood, that we do not anticipate the occurrence of any contingency that will render it necessary to use these deadly weapons for our protection, and that they cannot be so used while in our hands except in the last resort, and for the defence of those rights and liberties that are dearer than life itself. 
***
In great haste, your truly,
C. B. Lines,
In behalf of the Company 
Thereafter, Abolitionist and slavery forces fought several battles in Kansas, including:
  • A May 26, 1856 raid by pro-slave Missouri Ruffians a raid against Lawrence, Kansas, where Freesoilers had convened a Convention 10 months earlier; 
  • The May 24, 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre, where abolitionist John Brown kills five pro-slavers; 
  • The June 2, 1856 Battle of Blackjack, near Baldwin in Douglas County; 
  • The July 4, 1856 attack of abolitionist stronghold Tokeka, Kansas under direct orders from President Franklin Pierce; 
  • The August 16, 1856 Battle of Fort Titus 
  • The September 15, 1856 Battle of Hickory Point 
Ultimately, with the October 5, 1857 elections, Kansas free-staters won control of the legislative branch. Later,  in a vote again tainted by fraud by pro-slave Missouri Ruffians,the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution was approved on December 21, 1857.  Thereafter, the Lecomption Constitution was resoundingly defeated.  

Kansas became a free state, with the balance in the U.S. Congress tipping irrevocably toward freedom.  Thanks to the 1853 Sharpes Carbine.

6 comments:

ikaika said...

Good work.
Now I'm expecting the NRA to run a story on Beecher's Bibles in an upcoming Rifleman.
Maybe they should be seizing the slavery defamation from the left wing and really stuffing it back in their faces (in a scholarly way of course).

Tom said...

I think you'll find this book very helpful Frith. And even if not, it's a very good read.

Anonymous said...

To Tom: I so enjoy your intellect. What would you be doing if you weren't in finance? You might never consider this but I wish you would consider, and maybe you have, politics. Respectfully yours, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I noticed this was posted by Frithguild... Tom I love your intellect but Frithguild, if you composed this blog... great job!

Tom said...

There you go Frith - better think about running for office.

(We both know I'm too easily disliked to get anywhere in politics.)

frithguild said...

Been there done that!