Grasshopper Falls Convention.The third session of the territorial legislature was the first session of the free-state legislature. The first legislature was composed of pro-slavery men who met at Pawnee, and adjourned to Shawnee Mission, in 1855. The second legislature, which met in Jan., 1857, was also composed of pro-slavery men. The third territorial legislature, which met in special session at Lecompton, Dec. 7-19, 1857, was the offspring of the "Mass and Delegate Convention which assembled at Grasshopper Falls in Jefferson county on the 26th of August of the same year. The situation in Kansas was the topic of the times when Robert J. Walker was appointed governor of the territory. At the time of his appointment it was thought by the administration, and the real friends of the Democratic party, that civil war was on the eve of breaking out in Kansas which threatened to involve the whole Union. The Topeka legislature had determined to put its government into practical operation, which would evidently bring on a collision between it and the territorial authorities; each party would be supported by different states, and thus war was inevitably the consequence. The policy therefore determined upon by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker, in order to avert this calamity, was to sustain the dignity of the territorial legislature by compelling obedience to its enactments, and suspend action on the part of the state legislatures, by giving every assurance and guarantee that the election of delegates to the constitutional convention should be fairly conducted, and the constitution framed by them be submitted "to a fair and full vote for ratification or rejection by the people." (See Walker's Administration.)
At a delegate convention held at Topeka on June 9, the free-statemen resolved not to participate in the constitutional convention, but determined to meet on July 15. Also it made Topeka its capital, passed an act for taking the census and for election of state officers. The delegate convention assembled in Topeka on July 15, 1857, declared its fealty to the state government, nominated candidates for state officers, to be voted for on Aug. 9, and asked for the resubmission of the constitution. The prominent members of the organization in an informal conference, agreed that the existence of the free-state party demanded the control of the territorial legislature and that it could be secured if the promises made by Gov. Walker for a fair vote and honest count were fulfilled. To insure honest voting at the fall election it was resolved "That Gen. James H. Lane be appointed at this convention and authorized to organize the people in the several districts, to protect the ballot boxes at the approaching election in Kansas." The complement of this resolution was one calling for a mass meeting of the citizens of Kansas to be held at Grasshopper Falls on Aug. 26 to take such action as might be necessary in regard to the October election. Another resolution called for a delegate convention to be held at the same time and place, to carry out the decisions of the mass convention; there were to be twice as many delegates as there were free-state senators and representatives. The question of participating in the October election, for members of the legislature and delegate to Congress, engaged the attention of the free-state men during the summer. The notion of abandoning the state organization, and so far recognizing the validity of the territorial legislature as to vote under the provisions was unpopular at first, but the far-sighted ones reasoned that it was impractical to contest the election, and wiser to take part in said election. The Federal government had recognized the territorial legislature as legitimate, which tended greatly to preclude the success of the Topeka constitution. Should the free-state men be victorious at the coming election they would have obtained all they sought by the state organization. Should they be defeated they would stand the same chance of triumph under the Topeka government. They had, therefore, little to lose and much to gain by going into an election.
The mass and delegate conventions met at Grasshopper Falls as planned. It was an important assemblage, and was a crisis in the history of the territory. G. W. Smith was chairman of the mass convention and W. Y. Roberts of the delegate convention. After much spirited discussion the following resolutions were passed by the mass convention:
"Whereas, It is of the most vital importance to the people of Kansas that the territorial government should be controlled by the bona-fide citizens thereof; and,
"Whereas, Gov. Walker has repeatedly pledged himself that the people of Kansas should have a fair and full vote, before impartial judges, at the election to be held the first Monday in October, for delegate to Congress, members of the legislature, and other officers; therefore, be it
"Resolved, That we, the people of Kansas, in mass convention assembled, agree to participate in said election.
"Resolved, That in thus voting, we rely upon the faithful fulfillment of the pledge of Gov. Walker, and that we, as heretofore, protest against the enactments forced upon us by the voters of Missouri.
"Resolved, That this mass meeting recommend the appointment of a committee to wait upon the territorial authorities, and urgently insist upon a review and correction of the wicked apportionment endeavored to be forced upon the people of Kansas, for the selection of members of the territorial legislature.
"Resolved, That Gen. J. H. Lane be authorized and empowered to tender Gov. Walker the force organized by him under resolutions passed by the convention held at Topeka on the 15th of July last, to be used for the protection of the ballot-box."
The delegate convention nominated M. J. Parrott as a candidate for delegate to Congress, appointed "a territorial executive committee of twenty members to have their office at Lawrence, five of whom should constitute a quorum, for the transaction of business, and recommended to the citizens of the voting precinct to choose a committee of three persons, who should keep a record of all the votes cast, those refused and the reasons of refusal, and that citizens should be present in sufficient number to sustain such a committee."
The free-state men were fearful of success, and in their speeches to the people they reviewed the situation thus: With the administration against us; with one-half of the six months' voters virtually disfranchised; with an election law framed expressly to keep the newly arrived immigrants from the polls; with a hellish system of districting staring us in the face; with most of the officers of the election Border Ruffians of deepest dye; with the slave party in Missouri boldly avowing through Gen. Atchison, their determination to invade us; with only the already half violated pledge of Gov. Walker to rely on; we do not feel at liberty to cherish a very lively expectation of a fair election."
The election day was Oct. 5, and notwithstanding the obstacles the free-state men won. Nine free-state men and 4 pro-slavery men were elected to the council, and 25 free-state men and 14 pro-slavery men were elected to the house of representatives.Pages 777-779 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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