Robinson's Administration.In anticipation of a speedy admission into the Union, the Wyandotte constitution provided that, in case it was ratified by the people, an election for state officers should be held on the first Tuesday in Dec., 1859. An election was accordingly held at the specified time and the following state officers were chosen: Dr. Charles Robinson, governor; Joseph P. Root, lieutenant-governor; John W. Robinson, secretary of state; George S. Hillyer, auditor; William Tholen, treasurer; Benjamin F. Simpson, attorney-general; William R. Griffith, superintendent of public instruction; Thomas Ewing, Jr., chief justice of the supreme court; Samuel A. Kingman, associate justice for four years; Lawrence D. Bailey, associate justice for two years; Martin F. Conway, representative in Congress.
The expectations of the framers of the constitution were not realized, for a number of vexatious delays occurred, and it was not until Jan. 29, 1861, that President Buchanan signed the bill admitting Kansas into the Union as a state. Gov. Robinson took the oath of office on Feb. 9, 1861the same day that Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens were elected provisional president and vice-president of the Southern Confederacy by the convention at Montgomery, Ala. The other state officers elected in 1859, with the exception of William Tholen, treasurer of state, were also sworn into office and the new state government was duly inaugurated. Mr. Tholen had entered the volunteer service, the governor refused to accept his bond, and appointed H. R. Dutton to the vacancy on March 26.
One of the first official acts of the new governor was to appoint Martin F. Conway, Thomas Ewing, Jr., Henry J. Adams and James C. Stone to represent Kansas in the "Peace Conference," then in session at Washington, and on the day of his inauguration he issued a proclamation calling the legislature to meet in special session in Topeka on March 26. The legislature met at the appointed time and organized with Lieut.-Gov. Root as the presiding officer of the senate and W. W. Updegraff as speaker of the house. The members of the senate in this first state legislature were: E. P. Bancroft, J. F. Broadhead, J. C. Burnett, Jesse Connell, H. B. Denman, H. R. Dutton, P. P. Elder, H. W. Farnsworth, O. B. Gunn, S. E. Hoffman, S. D. Houston, J. M. Hubbard, Samuel Lappin, John Lockhart, Edward Lynde, J. A. Martin, J. H. McDowell, Josiah Miller, Robert Morrow, T. A. Osborn, J. A. Phillips, H. N. Seaver, H. S. Sleeper, W. Spriggs and Samuel N. Wood.
The representatives were: W. F. M. Arny, J. B. Abbott, P. M. Alexander, A. Allen, D. C. Auld, D. E. Ballard, Oliver Barber, J. C. Bartlett, J. J. Bentz, W. D. Blackford, F. N. Blake, N. B. Blanton, W. E. Bowker, B. J. Brown, Henry Buckmaster, Thomas Butcher, J. M. Calvert, S. R. Caniff, A. J. Chipman, R. W. Cloud, G. A. Colton, J. E. Corliss, J. D. Crafton, S. J. Crawford, H. W. Curtis, G. A. Cutler, W. R. Davis, Abraham Ellis, J. E. Eaton, Archibald Elliott, F. W. Emery, W. P. Gambell, W. H. Grimes, Alfred Gray, A. K. Hawks, J. E. Hayes, H. H. Heberling, T. P. Herrick, Ernest Hoheneck, Numeris Humber, J. H. Jones, W. C. Kimber, C. B. Keith, Horatio Knowles, Jerome Kunkle, W. W. H. Lawrence, James F. Legate, E. P. Lewis, E. J. Lines, Asahel Lowe, James McGrew, S. B. Mahurin, J. A. Marcell, J. E. Moore, P. G. D. Morton, A. W. Mussey, J. T. Neal, Thomas Pierce, J. S. Rackliff, Abraham Ray, G. H. Rees, W. B. Sanders, J. W. Scott, O. H. Sheldon, J. H. Smith, L. T. Smith, W. H. Smyth, C. Starns, Andrew Stark, J. W. Stewart, E. D. Thompson, Benoni Wheat, R. P. C. Wilson and Levi Woodward.
The house met in the Ritchie block, on the southeast corner of Sixth street and Kansas avenue, until a leaky roof drove the members to the Congregational church. The senate met in the Gale block, a short distance south of Sixth street on Kansas avenue. On March 30 Gov. Robinson submitted his first message to the general assembly. He congratulated the people on the fact that, "after a pupilage of more than six years, they are permitted to inaugurate a government of their own." He then reviewed the history of Kansas under the French and Spanish dominations; as subject to the executive power of the governor of Indiana Territory; as a part of the Territory of Louisiana; as unorganized territory following the admission of Missouri in 1821; the organization of the territorial government in May, 1854; the border troubles and the several constitutional conventions of the territorial period. He called attention to the fact that the old territorial laws, not at variance with the state constitution, were continued in force, but as in some instances the phraseology was not in strict harmony with the constitution, he recommended the appointment of a codifying committee to make such revisions as might be necessary, in order that the laws might conform to the constitution. The concluding paragraph of the message is as follows:
"While it is the duty of each loyal state to see that equal and exact justice is done to the citizens of every other state, it is equally its duty to sustain the chief executive of the nation in defending the government from foes, whether from within or without, and Kansas, though last and least of the states of the Union, will ever be ready to answer the call of her country."
The legislature remained in session until June 4. On April 4 James H. Lane and Samuel C. Pomeroy were elected to represent the state in the senate of the United States. Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, and when the news reached Topeka the members of the legislature organized themselves into a military company and spent their spare time in drilling or studying military tactics. On the 22nd was passed an act of 56 sections providing for the organization of the militia of the state, and under its provisions Gov. Robinson organized 180 companies, which were formed into eleven regiments, four brigades and two divisions. By the act of May 1 the governor was authorized to tender to President Lincoln "one or more regiments of the volunteer militia of the state to be mustered into the regular service of the United States." The immediate result of this act was the organization of the First Kansas, which was mustered in at Fort Leavenworth on the day the legislature adjourned, and it was quickly followed by others. (See War of 1861-65.)
On June 3 the governor approved an act directing the electors of the state to vote at the election on the first Monday in November on the question of a permanent location of the seat of government. At the election Topeka received a decided majority of the votes and was declared the permanent capital.
One of the most important acts of the session, and one fraught with the most far-reaching consequences, was the act of May 3 authorizing the issue of 7 per cent. bonds to the amount of $150,000 to defray the current expenses of the state. In the act Austin M. Clark and James C. Stone were designated as agents of the state to negotiate the sale of the bonds. By the act of May 7, what were known as "war bonds" to the amount of $20,000 were authorized, the money derived from their sale to be used in repelling invasion and for the protection of the state. On May 14 Clark and Stone reported that they had been unable to find a market for the state bonds, and the governor, secretary of state and the auditor were then empowered to negotiate their sale. The manner in which the bonds were finally disposed of became a subject of investigation at the next session of the legislature.
It will be remembered that soon after his inauguration Gov. Robinson appointed four representatives to the Washington "Peace Conference." In that conference Ewing and Stone voted for peace and compromise, but the peace sentiment was not very strong in Kansas, as is evidenced by the resolutions adopted by a Republican state convention at Topeka May 22, 1861. These resolutions were offered by D. R. Anthony, and were as follows:
"Resolved, by the Republican party of the State of Kansas in convention assembled, That the existing condition of national affairs demands the emphatic and unmistakable expression of the people of the state, and that Kansas allies herself with the uprising Union hosts of the North to uphold the policy of the administration.
"That the grave responsibilities of this hour could not have been safely postponed, and that they have not arrived too soon, and that in the present war between government and anarchy the mildest compromise is treason against humanity.
"That we spurn as precious sophistries all suggestions of the peaceful dismemberment of the Union, and pledge our fortunes and our honor to its maintenance intact and inviolate."
At this convention Martin F. Conway was nominated for Congress and a state central committee was appointed. Toward the close of the year the question as to when the terms of the state officers would expire began to be widely discussed. Some contended that as these officials were elected late in 1859 for two years their terms would terminate with the year 1861. In October the Republican state central committee above mentioned received the following petition:
"We, the undersigned citizens, suffering in common with others from the impotency or malice of the present state executive, and earnestly desiring a state government that will, in a patriotic and energetic manner, defend our people from invasionknowing that by plain and emphatic provisions of the state constitution the term of our state officers expires on the first day of January, and that the legislative enactment continuing the state officers beyond that time is null and void, and that there is not sufficient time, before election, to hold a nominating convention, do respectfully pray your honorable body to nominate a full state ticket of efficient Union men, without reference to their political antecedentsmen who will conduct the state government with reference to the good of the whole country, and not upon personal grounds."
In response to this petition the committee nominated a ticket headed by George A. Crawford for governor. The election in November was for attorney-general, treasurer and members of the legislature. Crawford received 7,437 votes for governor, but the board of canvassers refused to canvass the vote. The matter was carried to the supreme court, and on Jan. 21, 1862, Chief Justice Ewing handed down an opinion overruling Crawford's motion and declaring the election of governor in 1861 illegal. (1st Kan. p. 17.)
Another important decision of the supreme court about that time related to the acts of the last territorial legislature, which was in session at the time the act of admission was signed by President Buchanan, and did not adjourn until Feb. 2, 1861. In the interim several acts were passed. To determine the legality of these acts the question was brought before the supreme court, and Justice Kingman rendered a decision that the acts were legal and had the same force as though they had been passed by a state legislature. (State of Kansas ex rel Hunt vs. Meadows, 1st Kan. p. 90.)
The second state legislature convened on Jan. 14, 1862. Lieut.-Gov. Root again presided over the senate and M. S. Adams was elected speaker of the house. In his message at the opening of the session Gov. Robinson congratulated the people of the state on the bountiful productions of the past season, "affording a striking contrast to the almost universal dearth of the year preceding."
"At the commencement of the last session of the legislature," says the message, "seven states of the Union had rebelled against the government. That number has been increased to twelve, including our neighboring statesMissouri and Arkansas. This has had the effect to disturb seriously the quiet and good order of our community. While but few disloyal persons were to be found in Kansas, tens, hundreds and thousands, who were hostile to the government, have hovered along our borders, menacing the peace of the state.
"Although invasions have been inconsiderable in number and magnitude, they have had the effect to cause a general feeling of disquiet throughout nearly all the border counties. The feeling of insecurity has been greatly increased from a knowledge that the state was utterly powerless for defense. No appropriation was made by the last legislature for arming, equipping or subsisting the state militia, and consequently it could not be used for our protection. An act was passed at the last session to authorize the state to borrow $20,000 to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, and defend the state in time of war, but this was appropriated simply to the expenses incurred in raising two regiments of infantry, three companies of cavalry, and two companies of artillery, for the service of the United States. Thus the sum, insignificant at it was, after the First, Second and Third regiments were mustered, could no longer be made available for any purpose. The incessant calls for assistance, from all parts of the state, upon the executive, to whichowing to the helpless condition in which the legislature left himhe was unable to respond, has, in consequence, given rise to universal complaint. An attempt was made, under the general authority of the constitution, to call into the field a portion of the militia to protect the people from invasion; but no person could be found willing to furnish them with provisionstherefore, they were dismissed."
This portion of the message was an answer to the governor's criticsthe men who had sent the petition to the Republican state committee the preceding Octoberand explained why he had not done more toward protecting the state from invasion. He reminded the legislature that the danger was still as great as ever, and that if the United States troops were withdrawn the state would be compelled to rely upon its own resources for protection. As much of the burden of providing means of defense would fall upon the border counties, the governor recommended that the expense be borne by the state.
He announced that the public lands donated by the ordinance of admission and other acts of Congress had been selected during the summer of 1861 by a commission consisting of S. E. Hoffman, H. B. Denman and E. P. Bancroft. These lands aggregated 1,459,840 acres.
With regard to the situation in the United States senate, the message says: "On the 20th day of June last, the president appointed the Hon. James H. Lane a brigadier-general. On receiving a dispatch from the secretary of war, that the appointment had been made and accepted, Hon. Frederick P. Stanton was appointed to succeed Gen. Lane as senator. Gen. Lane, however, still claimed his seat as senator, and a contest resulted. Upon investigation, the senate committee reported: 1st, That James H. Lane is not entitled to a seat in this body. 2nd, That Frederick P. Stanton is entitled to a seat in this body. As Gen. Lane has received a second appointment as brigadier-general, and a confirmation by the senate, there is, undoubtedly, a vacancy in the United States senate for the legislature to fill at its present session."
The action of Gov. Robinson in appointing Mr. Stanton to the senate was based upon clause 2, section 11, article 1, of the Federal constitution, which provided that "No person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house (of Congress) during his continuance in office." The governor, believing that a commission as brigadier-general constituted holding an office under the government, and also believing that Gen. Lane would resign his seat in the senate, made the appointment in order that Kansas might be fully represented in the upper branch of the national legislature. However, on Feb. 26, 1862, Gen. Lane wrote to the legislature that he had resigned his commission as brigadier-general and would continue as senator. This rendered it unnecessary for the legislature to elect his successor as recommended by the governor in his message, but the incident marked the beginning of a controversy between the friends of Gen. Lane and the supporters of Gov. Robinsona controversy which lasted for years.
Mention has already been made of the bond issues authorized by the first state legislature, and that these bonds became a subject of investigation in the second session of the general assembly. The matter came up in the house on Jan. 20, 1862, when a resolution was adopted requesting the governor "to communicate to this house any information in his possession, relating to the sale of the $20,000 war bonds, authorized to be issued by the act of May 7, 1861, and also relating to the sale of the $150,000 bonds issued under the law passed May 3, 1861, setting forth 1st, By whom sold; 2nd, When sold; 3d, To whom sold; 4th, At what price sold."
On the 30th the governor sent a special message to the house, submitting a statement from Auditor Hillyer to the effect that $62,200 of the bonds authorized by the act of May 3 were issued to various persons in taking up and redeeming state scrip, leaving a balance unsold of $87,800; that after the failure of Clark and Stone to negotiate the bonds, the governor, secretary of state and auditor were constituted a board with authority to dispose of the same; that some of the persons who had received bonds in return for state scrip, being compelled to raise money, were offering and selling their bonds as low as forty cents on the dollar, and that this interfered with the sale. The auditor then goes on to say: "The secretary and myself went east last fall and sought in vain to find purchasers in any financial community. We then proposed to Robert S. Stevens, Esq., to undertake their sale as agent. This he at last consented to do, provided he should receive all he could obtain over 60 cents on the dollar. To this we agreed, and entered into a contract accordingly. After great effort and much delay, Mr. Stevens succeeded in making a sale of $87,200 of bonds$50,000 of the denomination of $500 each, and $37,200 of the denomination of $100 each. He paid into the state treasury $30,000 in cash, the balance, something over $20,000, is on deposit in New York, and will be paid into the treasury as called for."
After the passage of the act of May 3, 1861, authorizing the issue of $150,000 of bonds, a supplementary act was passed containing the provision that none of the bonds should be sold for less than 70 cents on the dollar. The action of Mr. Stevens in turning into the state treasury only 60 cents on the dollar was considered a violation of the supplementary act, and when the governor's message of Jan. 30, 1862, was submitted to the legislature, the house ordered the appointment of a special committee of five to investigate fully the entire transaction and report to the house. The special committee was composed of Martin Anderson, Horace L. Jones, B. W. Hartley, Thomas Carney and Sidney Clarke. On Feb. 13, 1862, this committee reported practically the same condition of affairs as given by the auditor in his communication to the governor, with the further information that Stevens had sold the bonds to the secretary of the United States interior department for 85 cents on the dollar, but had turned over only 60 cents to the state. The report concluded with the resolution "That Charles Robinson, governor, John W. Robinson, secretary of state, and George S. Hillyer, auditor of the State of Kansas, be and they are hereby impeached of high misdemeanor in office."
Pursuant to the report and resolution of the committee, Preston B. Plumb, Azel Spaulding, F. W. Potter, W. R. Wagstaff and Davies Wilson were appointed managers of impeachment, and on Feb., 26 they reported eight articles of impeachment against the secretary and auditor and five against the governor.
The legislature adjourned on March 6, and on June 2 the senate sat as a court of impeachment. Frederick P. Stanton, Wilson Shannon and N. P. Case appeared as counsel for the state officers, and the prosecution was conducted by Atty.-Gen. Simpson, Azel Spaulding, Davies Wilson and W. R. Wagstaff. In each case the first article of impeachment related to the unwarranted assumption of power and violation of law on the part of the accused in accepting 60 cents on the dollar for bonds which the law expressly stated should not be sold for less than 70 cents. The secretary of state and the auditor were each found guilty on the first article and acquitted on the other seven. In the case of Gov. Robinson the vote on the first article stood 18 for acquittal to 2 for guilty, and on each of the other four it was unanimously "not guilty." On June 12 the court voted18 to 3to remove John W. Robinson from the office of secretary of state, and on the 16th the same penalty was inflicted on Auditor Hillyer by a vote of 18 to 2. The two men, however, continued to discharge the duties of the offices to which they had been elected until July 28, 1862, when Sanders R. Shepard succeeded to the office of secretary of state and David L. Lakin to the office of auditor. The two dismissed officials appealed to the supreme court, which tribunal, on Dec. 31, 1862, declared valid the action of the state senate as a court of impeachment.
John W. Robinson died on Dec. 11, 1863, at Fort Smith, Ark., while serving as surgeon of the Second Kansas regiment. Wilder says: "He was generally believed to be innocent of any intentional wrong doing in the sale of the state bondsan illegal act for which he was impeached, as secretary of state, and removed from office. No other Kansas politician has died of a broken heart."
On Sept. 17, 1862, a Republican state convention was held in Topeka and the following ticket nominated: Governor, Thomas Carney; lieutenant-governor, Thomas A. Osborn; secretary of state, George A. Crawford; auditor, Asa Hairgrove; treasurer, William Spriggs; superintendent of public instruction, Isaac T. Goodnow; attorney-general, Warren W. Guthrie; associate justices, Lawrence D. Bailey and John H. Watson; representative in Congress, A. Carter Wilder. Although Mr. Crawford was the unanimous choice of the convention for secretary of state, and was nominated by acclamation, he declined to accept. Subsequently W. W. H. Lawrence was placed on the ticket in his place. On the 29th of the same month a Union state convention met at Lawrence and nominated a ticket headed by W. R. Wagstaff for governor. At the election on Nov. 4, 1862, the entire Republican ticket was victorious, Carney receiving 10,090 votes to 5,463 for Wagstaff, and the other candidates receiving similar majorities.
The two years of Gov. Robinson's administration had been trying ones for him. Elected the first governor of a young state, without developed resources and without established credit; coming into office on the eve of a great civil war which threatened to dismember the Union; assailed by critics, and hampered in various ways, it is probable that all he endured will never be known. On Jan. 12, 1863, he willingly turned over the office, with its honors and trials, to his successor, Thomas Carney.Pages 592-599 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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