Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow was born on September 3, 1816, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was known for his stand favoring slavery in the state of Kansas.
His thought at the time that owning slaves in Kansas was an essential element in maintaining the established practice of slavery in Missouri and throughout the South. Stringfellow traveled throughout the nation to advocate for Southern investment in Kansas. In fact, in one of his speeches he was quoted as saying, “Should Kansas be free, the lure of freedom for runaway slaves would be right across the river.” At the time he was referring to the fact that Missouri was a slave state.
He believed that slavery served as a positive moral good on the grounds that the institution was beneficial for whites whether slave owner or not. He somehow also believed that blacks would benefit from being held in slavery.
Perhaps his beliefs were influenced by the fact that he was born into a family that lived in the South and accepted that blacks were inferior and should be used to promote the wealth of the white plantation owners.
In spite of his arguments for keeping slavery during the struggles in Kansas, the Civil War later compelled Stringfellow to accept the reality that Kansas would enter the Union as a free state in 1859. Being loyal to the Union he later changed his opinion primarily due to financial interests.
Although owning a few slaves, he was never a large-scale slave owner as an adult. Once Kansas entered the Union, he invested heavily in railroads. Living in Kansas he purchased a stake in the Atchison and St. Joseph Railroad. This business interest would eventually merge with other railroads to form the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
Stringfellow served as the company’s attorney, joining business ties with Kansas Republican Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy and former Free-State Supporter Cyrus K. Holiday.
The career shift represented a remarkable turnaround for Stringfellow, who was born a Democratic cotton planter in Virginia and ended up a Republican railroad tycoon.