Free-Staters were those settlers in Kansas Territory during the Bleeding Kansas era in the 1850s who opposed the extension of slavery to Kansas. The name came from the term "free state". This meant a U.S. state without slavery.
Some Free-Staters were abolitionists from New England. Other Free-Staters were abolitionists who came to Kansas Territory from Ohio, Iowa, and other midwestern states. However, the majority of Free-Staters, regardless of where they were from, did not claim to be abolitionists at the beginning. Instead, the official Free-State line supported the idea of excluding all Black people from the state of Kansas. While they didn't have slaves themselves most were prejudiced against black people believing the popular idea they were inferior. Most of the settlers seemed to want free soil for white people only.
Pro-slavery Southerners in Kansas Territory said all Free-Staters were abolitionists. This was in order to motivate the South's opposition. However, Eli Thayer and other New England Company leaders denied that they were seeking to abolish slavery. Also, the failed Topeka Constitution drafted by the Free-Staters in 1855 would have excluded any black person from settling in Kansas. This is whether they were slaves or free. In contrast, abolitionists wanted equal rights for all blacks and to end discrimination against them.
As time passed and the violence in Bleeding Kansas increased, abolitionists became associated with the Free-State movement. In 1858, the Free-Staters proposed a second constitution, the Leavenworth Constitution, which banned slavery and also would have given the right to vote to black men. This constitution also failed because of unresolved conflict between the two sides. Kansas became a state in 1861 after the fourth and final Wyandotte Constitution was agreed on. Holton, Kansas was named for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin free-stater Edward Dwight Holton.
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