Enforce the Laws Flag
"Enforce the Laws!" was the demand of proslavery men in Kansas Territory, a call to preserve Federal laws allowing the practice of slavery. The motto appears on this flag, which flew over a proslavery camp southwest of the free-state city of Lawrence.
In August 1856 citizens of Lawrence were being harassed by proslavery men who had set up three camps near the city. One was at Franklin, to the southeast. Another was Fort Titus, a fortified log house at Lecompton. The third was Fort Saunders, southwest of Lawrence on Washington Creek.
Still recovering from the sacking of the city on May 21, the free-state men wanted to destroy the three proslavery camps. After repairing fortifications around Lawrence, they turned their attention to these camps. James Lane led 81 men, including 25 on horseback, in attacking the log fort at Franklin on August 12. After a three-hour battle, the proslavers fled the fort when a fire was started. The cannon they left behind, known as "Old Sacramento," was taken by the free-staters and put into immediate use.
Fort Saunders became the next target. Free-state forces marched on the fort with a larger force on August 15, and the camp gave up without a fight. Richard Foster, a free-stater, later wrote, "When about three miles distant, they could see us on a hill, and they at once fled. We found their flag in the bushes, with the motto, 'Enforce the Laws.' Some arms, ammunitions, and tents fell into our hands here. We reduced the fort to ashes."
The freestaters completed their work the next day, removing the threat at Fort Titus after a battle in which the cannon "Old Sacramento" was used against the proslavery forces.
Major James Abbott, himself active with the free-state forces during the territorial era (see the Abbott Howitzer), presented this flag to the Kansas Historical Society in 1887. It is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Enforce the Laws Flag
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: October 2004
Date Modified: February 2016
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