A wave of indignation and shock swept over the North following Stephen A. Douglas' introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in the United States Senate in January, 1854. The South conceded Nebraska to the North, because of the Territory's geographic proximity to Northern transportation routes and the free-state of Iowa. In return, the South expected the North to concede the loss of Kansas as a future slave state. But many Northerners were not willing to assent to this new compromising proposal without a struggle.
Eli Thayer, a freshman Congressman in the Massachusetts State Legislature, invisioned a scheme to use Douglas' concept of squatter sovereignty to the North's advantage. He proposed and guided through the Bay State Legislature a charter for a large moneyed corporation over a month before President Franklin Pierce signed the Territorial Bill and made it an act of law.
Thayer's plan called for the corporation to aid Northern settlers willing to emigrate to Kansas, by obtaining group ticket rates on railroads and steamboats going West. He also planned to use the money raised from the selling of company stock on internal improvements in Kansas, including saw and grist mills, cabins, hotels, churches, and schools. Because of several organizational problems and the question of the amount of liability of each stockholder, the condition of the corporation remained unsettled until its re-organization in March, 1855.
The New England Emigrant Aid Company was most active in the affairs of Kansas from March, 1855, through the spring of 1857. The Company was especially active in Kansas during the "Bleeding Kansas" crisis of 1856, assisting the Territory's beleaguered settlers. The Company's work officially ended in Kansas in 1862, following several years of relatively little activity.
The Company was not a financial success. It never paid any stock dividends, and its officers and agents were only able to raise a little more than $190,000, nearly all of which was expended in Kansas. Also, only about 1,300 people traveled to Kansas under the auspices of the Company; however, many of the Company's agents and settlers became prominent local businessmen and politicians, and several established political careers in Washington, D. C.
The overall influence of the New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas free-state cause was far greater than the above statistics seem to indicate. The influence of the Company within Kansas and upon the nation as a whole, has been admirably portrayed by Dr. Samuel A. Johnson. There have been no recorded attempts prior to this thesis to evaluate the response in Massachusetts to the Company's goals and efforts to create a free state in Kansas. It is to this point that this thesis is addressed and provides an original contribution.
The writer of this thesis fervently subscribes to the belief that the Company played a very significant role in popularizing the "Bleeding Kansas" issue, and in galvanizing the attitude of the people of the Bay State to the free-state cause. Extensive newspaper files, correspondence, and diaries of prominent men associated directly or indirectly with the Company are utilized to support this belief.
Careful research reveals that many of New England's most prominent businessmen, especially the conservative Whig faction, actively supported the Company. Most clergymen also lent their moral support to the cause, although their financial support was disappointing. Most disappointing of all, was the initial lack of strong support from the more prominent Bay State politicians.
The Company began to enjoy more political and moral support following the Republican Party's emphasis on "Bleeding Kansas," and especially after the beating of Charles Sumner. However, Eli Thayer remained the only active politician within the Company's organization. The most vigorous and nearly unanimous support of the Company's goals and efforts was secured from the editors of the Republican, Whig, and Know-Nothing newspapers. The Abolitionists' Liberator and the Democratic press were almost alone in denouncing the Company's activities.
Although the people of Massachusetts did not flock en masse by aid of the Company to Kansas, and gave of their financial means somewhat guardedly, this thesis concludes that they did in all other ways rally behind the Company's crusade to save Kansas.
Godfrey T. Anderson
Wilfred J. Airey
Walter C. Mackett
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Abolitionists Slavery -- United States -- Anti-slavery movements. Kansas -- History.
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Butler,, Randall R. II, "The New England Emigrant Aid Company and the response in Massachusetts to its goals and efforts to create a free Kansas, 1854-1856" (1973). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 876.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives