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Lane, James Henry

LANE, JAMES HENRY (1814-1866), American soldier and politician, was born at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on the 22nd of June 1814. He was the son of Amos Lane (1778-1849), a political leader in Indiana, a member of the Indiana House of Representatives in 1816-1818 (speaker in 1817-1818), in 1821- 1822 and in 1839-1840, and from 1833 to 1837 a Democratic representative in Congress. The son received a common school education, studied law and in 1840 was admitted to the bar. In the Mexican War he served as a colonel under General Taylor, and then commanded the Fifth Indiana regiment (which he had raised) in the Southern Campaign under General Scott. Lane was lieutenant-governor of Indiana from 1849 to 1853, and from 1853 to 1855 was a Democratic representative in Congress. His vote in favour of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill ruined his political future in his own state, and he emigrated in 1855 to the Territory of Kansas, probably as an agent of Stephen A.Douglas to organize the Democratic party there. He soon joined the Free State forces, however, was a member of the first general Free State convention at Big Springs in September 1855, and wrote its " platform," which deprecated abolitionism and urged the exclusion of negroes from the Territory; and he presided over the Topeka Constitutional Convention, composed of Free State men, in the autumn of 1855. Lane was second in command of the forces in Lawrence during the " Wakarusa War "; and in the spring of 1856 was elected a United States senator under the Topeka Constitution, the validity of which, however, and therefore the validity of his election, Congress refused to recognize. In May 1856, with George Washington Deitzler (1826-1884), Dr Charles Robinson, and other Free State leaders, he was indicted for treason; but he escaped from Kansas, made a tour of the northern cities, and by his fiery oratory aroused great enthusiasm in behalf of the Free State movement in Kansas. Returning to the Territory with John Brown in August 1856, he took an active part in the domestic feuds of 1856-1857. After Kansas became a state, Lane was elected in 1861 to the United States Senate as a Republican. Immediately on reaching Washington he organized a company to guard the President; and in August 1861, having gained the ear of the Federal authorities and become intimate with President Lincoln, he went to Kansas with vague military powers, and exercised them in spite of the protests of the governor and the regular departmental commanders. During the autumn, with a brigade of 1500 men, he conducted a devastating campaign on the Missouri border, and in July 1862 he was appointed commissioner of recruiting for Kansas, a position in which he rendered faithful service, though he frequently came into conflict with the state authorities. At this time he planned a chimerical " great Southern expedition " against New Mexico, but this came to nothing. In 1864 he laboured earnestly for the re-election of Lincoln. When President Johnson quarrelled with the Radical Republicans, Lane deserted the latter and defended the Executive. Angered by his defection, certain senators accused him of being implicated in Indian contracts of a fraudulent character; and in a fit of depression following this accusation he took his own life, dying near Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on the nth of July 1866, ten days after he had shot himself in the head. Ambitious, unscrupulous, rash and impulsive, and generally regarded by his contemporaries as an unsafe leader, Lane was a man of great energy and personal magnetism, and possessed oratorical powers of a high order.

See the article by L. W. Spring entitled " The Career of a Kansas Politician," in vol. iv. (October 1898) of the American Historical Review, and for the commoner view, which makes him not a coward as does Spring, but a " grim chieftain " and a hero, see John Speer, Life of Gen. James H. Lane, " The Saviour of Kansas," (Garden City, Kansas, 1896).

Senator Lane should not be confused with James Henry Lane (1833-1907), who served on the Confederate side during the Civil War, attaining the rank of brigadier-general in 1862, and after the war was professor of natural philosophy and military tactics in the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1872 to 1880, and professor of civil engineering and drawing in the Alabama Polytechnic Institute from 1882 until his death.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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