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The company sign.

The New England Emigrant Aid Company[n 1] (originally the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company) was a transportation company created to transport immigrants to Kansas Territory to shift the balance of power so that Kansas would enter the United States as a free state rather than a slave state. Created by Eli Thayer in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the population of Kansas Territory to choose whether slavery would be legal, the Company is noted less for its direct impact than for the psychological impact it had on proslavery and antislavery elements. Thayer's prediction that the Company would eventually be able to send 20,000 immigrants a year never came to fruition, but it spurred Border Ruffians from nearby Missouri, where slavery was legal, to move to Kansas in order to ensure its admission to the Union as a slave state. This in turn further galvanized Free-Staters and enemies of "The Slave Power".

Thayer's intention was to capitalize on antislavery sentiment in the Northern United States and send settlers to Kansas to purchase land and build houses, shops and mills. They could then sell the land at a significant profit and send the proceeds back to Thayer and his investors. At the behest of several investors who found the notion of profiting from the antislavery cause distasteful, the Company's model was shifted to that of a benevolent society and it was rechristened the New England Emigrant Aid Company in 1855. While the Company achieved neither a profit nor a significant impact on the population of Kansas, it played an important role in the events that would later be termed Bleeding Kansas.


The Company was formed in the midst of the sectional crisis that preceded the American Civil War. To the Northern United States, the concept of popular sovereignty, which stated that the population of each new U.S. state should be allowed to decide whether it was a free or slave state, was seen as an attempt by Southerners to gain power. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act threatened to extend popular sovereignty into the newly created Kansas Territory, Eli Thayer, a second-term Congressman from Massachusetts, hatched the idea of an Emigrant Aid Company in the winter of 1853-4. His primary partners in the venture were Alexander H. Bullock and Edward Everett Hale, and together they set Thayer's plans in motion on March 5, 1854.[2] Thayer announced the Company at a rally against the impending passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in Worcester on March 11. Shortly thereafter, the Company's charter was approved by the Massachusetts Legislature for up to $5,000,000 in capital.[3][4]

Officially, the Company was a profit-making venture, and how the settlers voted was of no consequence to the company. For example, the company secretary, Thomas Webb released a pamphlet in 1855 stating that although the settlers sent to the territories would not be required to vote for one side or the other, but they were expected to support the free-state movement.[3] A number of abolitionists questioned the profit motive behind the company, and even many of Thayer's potential investors balked at the notion "that people might say we were influenced by pecuniary considerations in our patriotic work". Although Thayer personally disagreed with such hesitations, in 1855, the Company reorganized as a benevolent society and changed its named to the New England Emigrant Aid Company.[5]

Reaction and impact[]

The success of the endeavor prompted other aid assistance companies to form back East, in New York or Ohio, with new companies such as the Worchester Country Emigrant Aid Society.[6][7]

The company was directly responsible for creating the Kansas towns of Lawrence and Manhattan, and it played a key role in founding Topeka and Osawatomie. Lawrence was named after the Company secretary, Amos Lawrence.[8] Multiple politicians were found in the emigrants who left for Kansas, such as Daniel Read Anthony, Charlies Robinson, Samuel C. Pomeroy, and Martin F. Conway, who would later be Kansas' first U.S. Representative.

The exact number of people who left for Kansas is unknown. James Rawley puts the numbers somewhere around 2000, of whom about a third returned home,[9] while The Kansas Historical Society puts the number around 900 who left for Kansas in 1855 alone.[8]


  1. Sometimes referred to as the New England Emigrant Aid Society.[1]


  1. Goodrich (1998) p. 10
  2. Template:Cite conference
  3. 3.0 3.1 "New England Emigrant Aid Company". Kansas Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved August 2, 2009. 
  4. Thayer (1889), pp. 15-25.
  5. Davis (1984), pp. 40-41.
  6. McLaurin, Melton Alonza (1991). Celia, A Slave. Georgia: University of Georgia Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780820313528. 
  7. Johnson, Oliver (1887). The Abolitionists Vindicated in a Review of Eli Thayers' Paper on the New England Emigrant Aid Society. F.P. Rice. p. 28. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Barry, Louie (August 1943). "The New England Emigrant Aid Company Parties of 1855". Kansas Historical Quarterly (Kansas State Historical Society): 227–268. 
  9. Rawley (1979), p. 85.

Further reading[]

  • Corder, Eric (1970). Prelude to Civil War; Kansas-Missouri, 1854-61. New York: Crowell-Collier Press. 
  • Davis, Kenneth Sydney (1984). Kansas: A History. States and the nation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393301796. 
  • Etcheson, Nicole (2004). Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0700612874. 
  • Freehling, William W. (1990). The Road to Disunion. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195058143. 
  • Goodrich, T.H. (1998). War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0811719219. 
  • Rawley, James A. (1979). Race & Politics: "Bleeding Kansas" and the Coming of the Civil War. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803238541. 
  • Thayer, Eli (1889). History of the Kansas Crusade: Its Friends and its Foes. 

External links[]

de:New England Emigrant Aid Company