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Publication Details

Squatter sovereign.

More information about this newspaper title may be available on the source website.

Source: Chronicling America [US Library of Congress]

Country: United States

State: Kansas

City: Atchison, Kan. Terr.

Issues of this title available in Elephind: 98

Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 388

Earliest Date: 3 February 1855

Latest Date: 5 December 1857


Squatter Sovereign

Founded in Atchison, Kansas, the Squatter Sovereign was the shrillest, most widely read voice of Kansas proslavery opinion.  Based on the principle of “squatter sovereignty,” which stated that the citizens of any state or territory should have the right to regulate their domestic institutions as they see fit, the first issue of the paper featured the tagline: “The Squatter claims the same sovereignty in the territories that he possessed in the states.”  Proslavery elements in particular championed this viewpoint, and the Squatter Sovereign promoted the migration of Missourians and other proslavery groups into the territory in order to influence elections.

The Squatter was first published on February 3, 1855, by Robert S. Kelley and John H. Stringfellow through the Atchison Town Company.  The paper immediately endorsed the extension of slavery in Kansas and opposed the abolitionists arriving in the territory.  In April of 1856, the Squatter wrote: “If Kansas is not made a slave state, it requires no sage to tell that without some very extraordinary revolution there will never be another slave state; and if this is not enough, then we say, without the fear of successful contradiction, that Kansas must become a slave state or the Union will be dissolved.”  The paper directed extreme criticism at Eli Thayer of the New England Emigrant Aid Company who had assisted a handful of antislavery settlers bound for the territory. 

During the Squatter’s run, Kelley became engaged in a feud with Henry Rives Pollard, the editor of another proslavery paper the Kansas Weekly Herald.  The exchange between the editors finally enraged Pollard to the point of challenging Kelley to a duel.  Although labeled by some a border ruffian, Kelley chose not to risk having his career terminated. Kelley suggested that if Pollard would devote as much time and space to editing a newspaper worthy of the name and support the cause for which the papers were founded and boost the community in which he proposed to live, he wouldn’t have time to fight a duel.  (Pollard was later assassinated in Richmond, Virginia, for comments published in his paper, the Southern Opinion.)

When the Squatter was sold to Robert McBratney, Franklin G. Adams, Samuel C. Pomeroy, and Thaddeus Hyatt in 1857, what had been the virulent voice of the proslavery faction in the territory became a free-state paper.  Stringfellow and Kelley left Kansas and eventually served in the Confederate army.  Business demands took precedence over politics, however. Although the town company was still dominated by Southern proslavery elements, Eastern immigration was seen as both desirable and necessary.  When the paper came into the hands of John A. Martin in 1858, it was renamed Freedom’s Champion and, later the Atchison Daily Champion.

Provided by: Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS