Candle Box.As the depository of fraudulent election returns the Calhoun "candle box" is an interesting incident in early history. Gov. Robert J. Walker came to Kansas determined that Kansas citizens should have fair play. Although he defended the territorial legislature as legitimate, he entreated the free-state men to vote in the election of delegates to the Lecompton constitutional convention; offered military protection at the polls, and pledged himself to oppose the constitution if it were not submitted to the people. Surveyor-General John Calhoun and his colleagues were candidates for delegates in Douglas county, and Gov. Walker compelled them to pledge themselves that the constitution should he submitted to the people for ratification or rejection. The surveyor-general and his friends did not approve of Mr. Walker's policy, because submission of the constitution to the people would lose Kansas to slavery and would defeat the Calhoun chance for United States senator.
The fall election came and by fraud, violence and a Cincinnati directory, the pro-slavery party won. Gov. Walker investigated the election, probed the fraud, and gave the certificates to the free-state men. This did not increase his popularity with the Calhoun faction, which made the Lecompton constitution, but refused to submit it as a whole to the people, Calhoun was president of the convention, the recipient and judge of the returns, with power to issue certificates of election, ignoring the governor who should have had this presidency and power. When the non-submission of the constitution became apparent, Gov. Walker and his friends made every effort to have it rejected by Congress, which resulted in a big contest between the two elements represented. "The pro-slavery element had power in Congress to bind in the thrall of that constitution. Frauds were charged and denied. The battle wavered. Nothing but the exposure of these frauds, shocking the moral sense of the nation and making the glaring wrong impossible, could give victory to the people. Such exposure could save Kansas to freedom and prevent immediate civil war likely to grow out of the enforcement of a constitution forced on a protesting people. The territorial legislaturefree-state because of Gov. Walker's rejection of the fraudulent returnsseconded their friends at Washington by instituting an investigation. They appointed a committee to inquire. Calhoun determining they should not see the returns fled to Missouri." L. A. McClean, the chief clerk to Mr. Calhoun, was left to manage the situation. While at a ball at the Eldridge House, he was summoned before the investigating committee and swore that Mr. Calhoun had taken the returns to Missouri with him. When Mr. McClean returned to the office after the ball he concealed the returns in a place soon made known by one of the employees of the surveyor-general. This employee was known as Dutch Charley and was employed by Mr. Calhoun as a man of all work. He was a free-state man, and deeply interested in the plots of his employers, which plots he revealed to Gen. Brindle, receiver of the land-office at Lecompton, to whom he was a faithful friend. When McClean gave his testimony Brindle suspected it was false and urged Dutch Chancy to investigate the night after McClean returned from Lawrence to Lecompton. McClean put the returns in a candle box which he concealed in the ground under the woodpile in front of the office. Dutch Charley tracked him from the window, reported it to the authorities. The free-state sheriff of Douglas county with a posse called upon McClean and recovered the box and election returns. When the people found that McClean had sworn falsely they would not sustain him and he fled into Missouri.Pages 277-278 from volume I 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 May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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