Lawrence was the center of Kansas's anti-slavery movement. It was named for Amos Lawrence, a New England financier who provided aid to anti-slavery farmers and settlers. This group went beyond simple monetary aid. New England Abolitionists shipped boxes of Sharps rifles, named "Beecher's Bibles," to anti-slavery forces. The name for the rifles came from a comment by Henry Ward Beecher, the anti-slavery preacher who had remarked that a rifle might be a more powerful moral agent on the Kansas plains than a Bible. The lines were now drawn. Each side had passion, and each side had guns.
The administration of President Franklin Pierce refused to step in to resolve the election dispute resulting from the "border ruffians." In the spring of 1856, Judge Samuel Lecompte demanded that members of the anti-slavery government in Kansas, called the Free-Soil government, be indicted for treason. Many leaders in this government lived in Lawrence. On May 21, 1856, the pro-slavery forces sprung into action. A posse of over 800 men from Kansas and Missouri rode to Lawrence to arrest members of the free state government. The citizens of Lawrence decided against resistance. However, the mob was not satisfied. They proceeded to destroy two newspaper offices as they threw the printing presses from the Free-Soil newspaper into the nearby river. They burned and looted homes and shops. As a final message to Abolitionists, they aimed their cannons at the Free State Hotel and smashed it into oblivion.