Border Ruffian

The Border Ruffians were pro-slavery activists from the slave state of Missouri, who in 1854 to 1860 crossed the state border into Kansas Territory, to force the acceptance of slavery there. The name was applied by Free-State settlers in Kansas and abolitionists throughout the North. Armed Ruffians interfered in territorial elections, and attacked Free-State settlements. This violence was the origin of the phrase "Bleeding Kansas". The Ruffians contributed to the growing sectional tensions, and helped bring on the American Civil War.

Notably, only a few of the Border Ruffians actually owned slaves; most were too poor. What motivated them was hatred of Yankees and abolitionists, and fear of free blacks living nearby. The Ruffians were driven by the rhetoric of leaders such as U.S. Senator David Rice Atchison of Missouri, who called Northerners "negro thieves" and "abolitionist tyrants." He encouraged Missourians to defend their institution "with the bayonet and with blood" and, if necessary, "to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district."

Ironically, the bulk of Free-State men in Kansas were not abolitionists, and opposed the presence of both free blacks and slaves. "We want no slaves and we want no Negroes" was the prevailing sentiment reported by an abolitionist in 1854.

Additionally, the presence of bands of both Kansan and Missourian combatants in the area made it difficult for families on the border to remain neutral.

Full article...


American History

Political History

Early and Antebellum America (1789-1860)

Spread the Word