Item #346851 Liberty, the Fair Maid of Kansas, in the Hands of the Border Ruffians. Kansas Nebraska Act, John L. Magee.

Liberty, the Fair Maid of Kansas, in the Hands of the Border Ruffians.

[Philadelphia]: [1856].

Lithographed print. 11-3/4x17-1/4 inches. Toning, minor remnants of prior mounting on verso Murrell, p. 190; Nevins and Weitenkampf, A Century of political cartoons, p. 78; Weitenkampf, p. 115; Reilly 1856-9. Item #346851

"This political cartoon appeared during the 1856 presidential election and takes a vehement stance against the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Designed to open these territories to settlement, this act employed the doctrine of popular sovereignty to allow the people living in Kansas and Nebraska to vote these states into the Union as either slave or free. This resulted in the outbreak of violence between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the Kansas Territory, earning it the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.” This print depicts scenes of violence by pro-slavery “border ruffians” from Missouri who have crossed into Kansas against the free-soil settlers living there. In the foreground, leading figures of the Democratic Party are depicted as border ruffians. The personification of “Liberty, the Fair Maid of Kansas,” wears a Phrygian cap and a cape made of the American flag, and occupies the center of the illustration. Kneeling on the ground before Franklin Pierce, under whose presidency the Act had been passed. As he stands over her, with his foot on her cape, she begs him, “O spare me gentlemen, spare me!!” Pierce, shown heavily armed and drinking from a bottle, drunkenly guarantees her safety. To their right, Lewis Cass, a Democratic Senator from Michigan, leers at Liberty and sarcastically agrees with Pierce that she will be unharmed. On the right, Stephen Douglas scalps an anti-slavery settler. Douglas had designed the Act, hoping that the settlement of the western territories would allow for the construction of a transcontinental railroad. To the left of Pierce, presidential hopeful, James Buchanan, and William Marcy, Pierce’s Secretary of State, loot the body of a killed free-soiler. Marcy’s trousers are damaged and marked with “50 cts,” referring to a joke used by his political enemies. When serving as an associate justice for the Supreme Court of New York, he had used state funds to repair his pants. In the background, various scenes of violence perpetrated by the border ruffians are exhibited. Although there was actual violence in “Bleeding Kansas,” the imagery of theft and abduction in this print speaks to the possession of pro-slavery ideology over the virgin lands of Kansas" (

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