Beecher's Bibles

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"Beecher's Bibles" was the name given to the breech loading Sharps rifles that were supplied to the anti-slavery immigrants in Kansas.

The name "Beecher's Bibles" in reference to Sharps carbines and rifles was inspired by the comments and activities of the abolitionist New England minister Henry Ward Beecher, of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, of whom it was written in a February 8, 1856, article in the New York Tribune:

"He (Henry W. Beecher) believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well. . . read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle."

The arms purchased by anti-slavery organizations were, on at least one occasion, shipped in wooden crates marked "books," though there is no verifiable evidence that any firearms were shipped in boxes marked "Bibles." The New England Emigrant Aid Society also disguised shipments of arms intended for Kansas in crates marked "Tools" and possibly in boxes identified as "machinery" and even in "German immigrant trunks." Beecher himself contributed funds for the purchase of Sharps carbines and, after the interception of shipments by pro-slavery men, is said to have issued bibles and carbines to individual abolitionists bound for Kansas. The weapons were intended for the conflicts fought over slavery in the Kansas Territory leading up to its induction into statehood. As decreed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the issue of slavery in the new state was to be determined by popular sovereignty, thus unleashing a wave of bloody violence between pro- and anti-slavery forces throughout Kansas. The Beecher family was among the foremost abolitionist families in the country; Henry Ward's sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, had in 1852 written the anti-slavery classic Uncle Tom's Cabin.

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