Lane, James H., soldier and politician, was a prominent figure in Kansas during the territorial period and the early years of statehood. His father, Amos Lane, was born at Aurora, N. Y., March 1, 1778, and was a cousin of Joseph Lane of Oregon. After his admission to the bar he began practice at Lawrenceburg, Ind., before that state was admitted into the Union. He served as speaker of the Indiana house of representatives, and was twice elected to Congress as a Democrat. James H. Lane was born at Lawrenceburg, Ind., June 22, 1814. His mother was a woman of fine intellect and took a deep interest in the education of her son, who was of restless disposition, preferring a life of activity to books. He began his business career as a merchant and pork packer, but in 1846 practically gave up his business to organize a military company for service in the war with Mexico. He was elected captain of the company, and later was commissioned colonel of the Third Indiana regiment. At the close of the war he began to take an active interest in politics, and in 1848 was elected lieutenant-governor. Before the close of the term he was elected in 1852 to represent the Fourth Indiana district in Congress, and the same year was a presidential elector at large on the Democratic ticket. While in Congress he voted for the Kansas-Nebraska bill and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. In April, 1855, he came to Kansas and located on a claim near Lawrence. Holloway says: "He came to the territory a strong Democrat, and an administration man, and remained conservative in his speeches, until he saw that it was more popular to be radical, then changed to be the most radical man in the West."
The inference might be drawn from Holloway's statement that Lane changed his views to increase his personal popularity. Yet he was not the only one who came to Kansas as a Democrat and after arriving in the territory changed his opinions. There were scores of such men, and in a large majority of such cases the change was due to honest convictions that the administration was wrong. In June, 1855, Lane assisted in organizing the "National Democracy," one of the cardinal principles of which was that the citizens of other states should "let Kansas alone." Had the Democratic party taken this view Lane might have continued to act with it, but at that time the policy seemed to be to make Kansas a slave state "by fair means or foul," and Lane went over to the free-state side. He was a member of the first free-state convention at Lawrence on Aug. 14-15, 1855, and was chosen president of the free-state territorial committee. After the Topeka constitutional convention was held and the constitution was ratified by the free-state men, Lane was elected United States senator under the new government, but of course, was not admitted to a seat in the senate. In the years that followed he was recognized as the leader of the radical, "fighting," free-state advocatesthose who believed in meeting the border ruffians on their own ground and fighting them with their own weapons, actuated by the ancient tenet, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." When Kansas was admitted in 1861 Lane was again elected to the United States senate, and this time was successful in obtaining his seat. At the commencement of the Civil war he was instrumental in raising the company known as the "Frontier Guard" (q. v.), which was the first military organization to reach Washington. He also organized a brigade and commanded it for some time before receiving a commission as brigadier-general. While in command of this brigade he recruited the Third and Fourth Kansas regiments. When he was commissioned brigadier-general Gov. Robinson appointed Frederick P. Stanton to the senate, but Lane declined the commisison[sic] in order to retain his seat. (See Robinson's Administration.)
In 1862 Gen. Lane received a commission as a recruiting officer and aided materially in organizing the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Kansas regiments. In 1865 he was reëlected to the United States senate for a full term of six years. While serving this term he indorsed President Johnson's opposition to the Freedman's Bureau and the Civil Rights bill, which rendered him unpopular in certain circles, and it was hinted that he was involved in serious Indian frauds. These accusations preyed upon his mind until it is thought he became deranged. On Sunday, July 1, 1866, he rode out in a carriage with his brother-in-law, Capt. McCall, from the government reservation at Fort Leavenworth. When McCall got out of the carriage to open a gate Lane also sprang from the vehicle, called out, "Good-bye, Mac," placed the muzzle of a pistol in his mouth and sent a bullet through his brain. He lingered until the 11th, when he died. He was buried at Lawrence, and Cutler's History of Kansas says: "His faults, which were many, may well find sepulchre with his moldering dust; but his virtues are enshrined in the hearts of the thousands all over Kansas, who still revere his memory as their great leader, counselor and friend."
Gen. Lane was united in marriage in 1843, at Lawrenceburg, Ind., with a Miss Baldridge, daughter of a colonel in the United States army and a granddaughter of Gen. Arthur St. Clair. Mrs. Lane died at Columbus, Ohio, July 21, 1883, and was buried at Lawrence by the side of her husband. Their son, James H., became a lieutenant in the United States army.Pages 100-102 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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