Posted 140 days ago
There were a few parallels to the modern day that really stood out to me in this piece. Although I think we refer to the past as being too close to day's problems, there certainly are connections that we can make. For example, Wickenden writes:
The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act enabled voters in the Western territories to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. A large migration of settlers, subsidized by abolitionists in the East, set out to insure that Kansas entered the Union as a free state. They found themselves facing off against pro-slavery militias, led by David Rice Atchison, a recently retired U.S. senator from Missouri. The militias, dubbed Border Ruffians by the Northern press, vowed to “lynch and hang, tar and feather, and drown every white-livered Abolitionist who dares to pollute our soil.”
We tend to think of political and campaign financing as part of modern politics. But it's clear that since the very early stages of our republic, wealthier and older states have sought to influence the politics of other ones. Some cry out that they infringe on their sovereignty, and that may be true to some extent, but who in their right mind would have wanted to live in a country with slaves? I believe in States' rights to an extent, but violations of human rights should never be condoned on the false premise of "constitutional" or "judiciary" rules. But that is one of the pitfalls of a federal state.
The militia, thinking it was their right to determine politics through force, did the following:
The day before the polls opened, a thousand well-armed militia members crossed the border, intent on voter suppression and fraud. Carrying preprinted ballots, they fanned out to free-state towns, stuffing ballot boxes and accosting voters and election judges. When the Ruffians’ candidates won, the besieged free-staters refused to accept the results of a patently fixed election. Rejecting what they called the “bogus legislature,” they established a rival government and set out to write their own constitution.
The immediate parallel that I drew was to the recent riot at the capitol building, where Southerners waving Confederate flags protested the results of the election. The 1850's seems ages ago, but there are some constants to how we do politics and run our country that haven't changed over the years.