1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 14 Part 1

CHAPTER XIV

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT

The country of which Kansas was a part was known as early as 1844 as "The Platte Country." It was inevitable that the whites should sooner or later demand that country for settlement. The two great trails across the continent passed through it. Knowledge of its fertility and suitability for settlement gradually spread over the United States. Not-withstanding the fact that the eastern portion of it abutting on the State of Missouri had been given to Emigrant Indian tribes, many people believed that it should be thrown open to white occupation. In the year 1844 the Secretary of War recommended the organization of a territorial government for that part of the country lying immediately West of the State of Missouri.1 Mr. Douglas was a member of the House Committee on Territories. On the 17th of December, 1844, he introduced a bill to establish the Territory of Nebraska. The bill was referred in the usual manner, and an amendatory bill was reported January 7, 1845. This bill was referred to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, but no further action was ever had on it. The country embraced in the Territory of Nebraska, as defined in the bill, extended from thirty-six thirty to what is now the north line of the State of Nebraska.

No other effort was made to organize a territory from the Platte Country until 1848. In the meantime Mr. Douglas had been elected Senator from Illinois. A bill which he had introduced in the Senate to establish the Territory of Nebraska was made the order of the day for April 24,1848, but no action was ever had on it.

On the 4th of December, 1848, Mr. Douglas gave notice in the Senate that he would prepare and introduce another bill for the organization of Nebraska Territory. The bill was introduced on the 20th of December, 1848, but no action was ever taken by the Senate on that bill.

The introduction of these bills increased the demand for the organization of a territory west of Missouri. In some of the Emigrant Indian tribes having reservations there, men of education and influence were to be found. This was especially true of the Shawnees, Delawares and Wyandots. They comprehended their condition, and plainly discerned the tendencies of the time. Only an invisible line separated them from the people of Missouri. There were missions in the reservations of these tribes where good schools were maintained. Among the Wyandots especially, there were a number of excellent business men. There was not so much as a quarter-blood Indian in the entire tribe. Many of the Wyandots had very little Indian blood. They had sought the country in the fork of the Missouri and Kansas rivers because of its proximity to civilization. They erected comfortable dwellings, and they had an established government of their own, which was very nearly as good as any in the states. A number of the Wyandots engaged in business at Westport, and, later, at the Kansas Landing, which finally became Kansas City, Missouri. These people realized that the organization of a territory for the country in which they lived would enhance the value of their lands. They understood perfectly that the government would eventually find a way to divest them of their reservation as it had done in the case of all the tribes east of the Mississippi River. They were not averse to being included in an organized state or territory.

The people of Missouri were more interested in the organization of a territory adjoining their Western frontier than those of any other state. The organization of this territory soon became a political issue in Missouri. Thomas H. Benton was the great Senator from that state at the time. He had served nearly thirty years. He had favored slavery, but had become more liberal in his views with passing time. When the Democratic party was made a pro-slavery party Benton was no longer in accord with it. Two factions developed in the party in Missouri. One was lead by Benton, while the other was led by David R. Atchison. With Atchison were a number of men who had assisted in carrying the Democratic party over to the extreme slavery interests. Among these were William C. Price, of Greene County, and Claiborne F. Jackson. These men resolved to drive Senator Benton from public life. They caused to be introduced in the General Assembly in December, 1848, what became known as the "Jackson Resolutions," for the purpose of "instructing Benton out of the Senate." These resolutions affirmed that the actions of the Northern states on the subject of slavery had released the slaveholding states from all further adherence to the basis of the Missouri Compromise. Also that the right to prohibit slavery in any territory belonged exclusively to the people thereof to be expressed and exercised by them in forming their constitution for admission as a state. Also that the passage of any act of Congress conflicting with the principles of these resolutions would force Missouri to act with the other Southern states against the encroachments of "Northern fanaticism." The sixth resolution instructed the representatives of Missouri to act in conformity with the resolutions. These resolutions were prepared by the followers of Senator Calhoun, of South Carolina, and who were active in the slavery propaganda which was taking possession of the Democratic party. They were formulated by William C. Price.2

Senator Benton was not a man to be dictated to in such a matter. The General Assembly to be elected would either re-elect Benton or choose his successor. On the 26th of May, 1849, Benton delivered a speech at Jefferson City in which he denounced the Jackson resolutions and appealed to the people. He declared that they were "a mere copy of the Calhoun resolutions offered in the Senate." He insisted that the resolutions entertained "The covert purpose of disrupting the territorial union and misleading the people of Missouri into co-operation with the slaveholding states for that purpose. "The campaign was one of great bitterness, and it ended by leaving the result in doubt. It was not certain that Benton had been beaten. The joint session of the two houses began January 10, 1851. On the 11th, a member of the house offered a resolution that one-half of the State of Missouri was misrepresented in the person of Thomas H. Benton in the United States Senate, and that the joint session would not adjourn until a United States Senator who would reflect the true interests of Missouri had been elected. The Whigs did not have a majority in the joint session, but each faction of the Democratic party preferred that they should win rather than that the other wing of the Democratic party should succeed. On the fortieth ballot Henry S. Geyer, a Whig, was elected United States Senator to succeed Thomas H. Benton. He won by the aid of the radical pro-slavery element in the General Assembly.

It had been supposed by the pro-slavery faction of the Missouri Democracy that the defeat of Senator Benton would mean his retirement from public life. This proved to be a wrong conclusion. Senator Benton became a candidate for Representative in Congress in 1852. In his canvass for that office, the organization of Nebraska Territory became an issue in Missouri.

Senator Benton had long been known as the champion of that country extending west from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean. In his first public utterance concerning this vast territory he had been opposed to extending the limits of the United States beyond the crest of the Rocky Mountains. William Gilpin was an adherent of Senator Benton and for many years his warm personal friend. Gilpin was the apostle of the West. No other man of his day was so well informed as to the topography and resources of the regions of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast. His vision of that country revealed to him a land of many states, and supporting a dense population. He saw it girded about with railroads. He traveled over it and explored it from Independence to the mouth of the Columbia. He believed the great iron highway to penetrate that country would leave the frontier of Missouri at the mouth of the Kansas River. He imbued Senator Benton with his views; and to Gilpin more than Senator Benton is due the careful and scientific exploration of the West.

The necessity for railroad communication with the Pacific Coast was growing more pressing. California had been made a State, and the settlement of Utah demanded markets for products, and the importation of manufactured articles. Benton had introduced in the Senate, in 1849, a bill for the construction of a Central National Road to the Pacific. On the 16th day of December, 1850, he introduced a much more elaborate bill for a "Central National Highway to the Pacific Ocean," which was to begin at the Mississippi, in Missouri, and end at the Bay of San Francisco.

During his canvass for his election to the House of Representatives, the construction of this road was connected with his advocacy of the organization of Nebraska Territory. He insisted that all that part of the Platte Country not included within the boundary of specified Indian reservations, could be legally settled upon and occupied by citizens of the United States. Later he had a map prepared and published, showing the unoccupied lands, and he came to advocate the immediate settlement of these lands whether a territory was organized or not.

The continual agitation of the Nebraska question influenced the Indians living in the Platte Country, and caused them to act for themselves. At Fort Leavenworth, in 1848, the great "Council Fire" of the Northwestern Indian Confederacy had been rekindled by the Emigrant Indian tribes. The Wyandots had been for generations the keepers of that fire, and upon its revival in the West, they had been continued in that responsible office - they stood at the head of the renewed Confederacy. In the winter of 1851-2, they petitioned Congress to establish a Territorial Government for Nebraska. No notice was accorded the petition, and they took further action, such as they supposed would compel attention. On the 12th day of October, 1852, they held, in the Council-house, in what is now Kansas City, Kansas. an election for a Delegate to Congress William Walker set down this in his journal: "Attended the election for Delegate for Congress from Nebraska Territory. A. Guthrie received the entire vote polled."

At Fort Leavenworth there was opposition to the action of the Wyandot Nation. The Commandant there threatened to arrest Mr. Guthrie if he persisted in having the election held. The action of this officer was inspired, no doubt, by the radical Democracy of Missouri. Seeing that Mr. Guthrie paid no heed to the opposition of the military, the power which had caused this opposition changed tactics. Mr. Banow, at the Fort, became a candidate for Delegate, and the military authorities caused another election to be called. Mr. Guthrie, though recently elected, stood in the election called by the officers at Fort Leavenworth, and defeated Mr. Banow by a vote of 54 to 16. Having been twice elected, Mr. Guthrie was not again molested.

Abelard Guthrie was a member of the Wyandot Nation. He was a white man who had married Quindaro Nancy Brown, an accomplished Wyandot woman. He was a native of Ohio, having been born at Dayton, in that State. During the Mexican War, he had been a paymaster in the Army. In this capacity he had traveled over that portion of Mexico traversed by the armies of the United States. He was a man of intelligence and character. He had been in the United States Indian service before his connection with the Army and knew many of the Wyandot Indians. When he returned from Mexico he followed them to the mouth of the Kansas River, and was there married to Miss Brown. 3

Mr. Guthrie set out for Washington, November 20th. On December 1st he wrote to Governor Walker, from Cincinnati, that he had traveled from St. Louis to Cincinnati with the Missouri Senators, Atchison and Geyer, and that no assistance from them could be expected.


ABELARD GUTHRIE
[Copy of Portrait Owned by
William E. Connelley]

When Mr. Guthrie arrived in Washington he set to work with energy to accomplish the purpose for which he had been sent. On December 9th he wrote Governor Walker that Willard P. Hall,4 member of the House, had prepared a bill and would introduce it the following week. The bill provided for the organization of the Territory of the Platte with the following boundaries: On the south, thirty-six thirty; on the north, the forty-third degree; on the west, the summit of the Rocky Mountains; on the east, by Missouri. So effective were Mr. Guthrie's efforts that the Chairman of the Committee on Territories assured him that if Mr. Hall did not introduce his bill, the Committee would introduce one. Mr. Hall introduced his bill on the 13th of December, and it was referred to the Committee on Territories. Hall's bill was never reported by the Committee, but in lieu thereof William A. Richardson, of Illinois, from the Committee, reported a bill on February 2, 1853, providing for the organization of Nebraska Territory, with boundaries identical with those in Hall's bill. In the Committee of the Whole the bill met with strong opposition from Southern members and was reported back to the House with a recommendation for its rejection, but on February 10, 1853, it passed the House by a vote of 98 to 43. On the following day it was sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Committee on Territories of which Stephen A. Douglas was Chairman. On February 17th, Mr. Douglas reported the bill without amendment. Several unsuccessful efforts were made to have it taken up. The Congressional term expired by limitation March 4, and the bill died with the session. Mr. Guthrie believed he had a majority for it in the Senate, and could it have been brought to a vote at an early date it might have passed the Senate.

Although he failed in securing the passage of his bill, Mr. Guthrie virtually accomplished the object sought in his election. He forced a consideration of the question of the organization of Nebraska Territory, and convinced the slave power that the question would have to be settled at the coming session of Congress.

It was determined by the Wyandots that a Territorial Convention for the purpose of organizing a Provisional Government for Nebraska Territory should be held on the day appointed for their national festival, the Green Corn Feast. Their annual National election was often held on this ancient anniversary. In the year 1853 it was fixed to fall upon Tuesday, August 9th. The other Emigrant tribes were notified of this intention, and asked to send delegates; and all white men then resident in the Territory among the Emigrant tribes were requested to be present and participate in the work. Russell Garrett says the notices were written. Only such white persons as were then in the service of the Government in the capacity of Agents, Missionaries, Agency-farmers, Agency-blacksmiths, and Agency-carpenters, and the licensed Indian traders were permitted to live in the "Indian Territory." Colonel Benton was advised of this conclusion of the Wyandots, and he approved it, if, indeed, he had not urged it.

The determination to organize the Provisional Government of Nebraska at the Convention in the interest of the "Central Route" made it necessary that this meeting should be held in the Council-house of the Wyandot Nation. Abelard Guthrie was, perhaps, the only Wyandot notified in advance of this change in the program. Governor Walker in his "Notes" says: "In the summer of 1853, a Territorial Convention was held pursuant to previous notice to be held in Wyandot. The Convention met on the 26th of July - ." This statement does not say that the notice was that the Convention should meet on the 26th of July. In Governor Walker's entry in his Journal, describing the Convention and its proceedings, he states that he did not attend this meeting until noon and then only after he had, Cincinnatus-like, been sent for. It is more than probable that he did not know of the change in the order of events until he arrived at the Council-house. The series of Resolutions adopted by the Convention and which served the Provisional Government as a Constitution bears only one resolution in his handwriting. And it was not his intention to accept the position of Provisional Governor. Public office had no attractions for him. He intended that one of his brothers, either Matthew R. Walker or Joel Walker, splendid business men of great energy, and both possessing fine executive ability, and several years younger than himself, should be selected as the Provisional Governor of Nebraska Territory.5


1 The suggestion of "Nebraska" for the name of a territory was made by Hon. William Wilkins, Secretary of War under President Tyler. This is the original mention of Nebraska in connection with the territory to be organized in that country between the states of Missouri and Iowa and the crest of the Rocky Mountains. In his report dated November 30, 1844, he discussed at some length the exploration of Lieutenant Fremont. He was moved to this discussion by the disinclination manifested by Congress to organize a Territorial Government for Oregon. He believed that the organization of Nebraska Territory and the extension westward of military posts, would strengthen the claim of the United States on the Oregon country. He said in his report: "A territorial organization of the country, and a military force placed on the very summit, whence flows all the great streams of the North American Continent, either into the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean, would no longer leave our title to the Oregon territory a barren or untenable claim. Its possession and occupancy would thenceforth not depend upon the naval superiority on the Pacific Ocean. Troops and supplies from the projected Nebraska Territory would be able to contend for its possession with any force coming from the sea."

2 Judge Price often told the author that he formulated the Jackson resolutions. In a conference, at Jefferson City, of the men opposed to Benton, ways and means of eliminating him were under discussion. All agreed that he must be beaten and politically discredited in Missouri because of his growing aversion to slavery. The question was: How to do it. Price proposed the substance of the Jackson resolutions, saying that Benton would not obey them. His refusal would put him in opposition to the Democratic party of Missouri, then becoming a slave party. At first his suggestion was not accepted, but before the conference adjourned, it had been agreed to, and Judge Price was instructed to draw up the resolutions. In the History of Clay and Platte Counties, Mo. 1885, p. 149, it is said that these resolutions were the work of Judge W. B. Napton, of Saline County. But there is no doubt that they were written by Judge Price; Judge Napton may have had a hand in their formation.

3 Quindaro Nancy Brown was descended from Adam Brown, who was captured by the Wyandot Indians in Greenbrier County, Virginia, in Dunmore's War. He was carried to the Wyandot country and adopted by the tribe. He married a Wyandot woman, and his descendants were numerous in the Wyandot Nation. For full accounts of Brown and the Wyandot Indians, see Connelley's Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory.

4 Willard Preble Hall was born at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, May 9, 1820. In 1840 he came to Missouri and studied law with his brother, William A. Hall, of Randolph County. In 1841 he removed to Platte County where he engaged in the practice of law. In 1843 he removed to St. Joseph, Missouri, which was his home during the remainder of his life. In 1844 he was one of the candidates on the Democratic Electoral ticket. He was a member of Doniphan's Expedition. He and Colonel Doniphan prepared the first code of laws for New Mexico after it became part of the United States. While absent from Missouri with Doniphan, he was elected to Congress from the St. Joseph district. In 1861 he was chosen Lieutenant Governor of the Provisional Government of Missouri. The Governor was in feeble health much of the time and Mr. Hall frequently acted as Governor of Missouri during the Civil War.

5 William Walker was a Wyandot Indian of one-sixteenth blood. He was born in what is now Wayne County, Michigan, March 5, 1800. His father, William Walker, Senior, was captured in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1781, by the Delaware Indians. He was then a small boy. The Delaware Indians gave him to the Wyandots. He was adopted into the Wyandot tribe and married Catherine Rankin, daughter of James and Mary (Montour) Rankin. Mary Montour was the descendent of that famous Indian woman, Madame Montour, and the daughter of Queen Esther, who slew the captives at Bloody Rock, in the Valley of Wyoming. The son of William Walker, the captive, was William Walker, who became Provisional Governor of Nebraska Territory. He was well educated, having attended, at Kenyon, Bishop Chase's famous college at Gambier, Ohio. He was Head Chief of the Wyandot Nation, at Upper Sandusky, Ohio. He came with his tribe to the mouth of the Kansas River in the summer of 1843. The Wyandots bought the land in the fork of the Missouri and Kansas rivers from the Delawares. William Walker built a commodious residence on the bank of Jersey Creek, in what is now Kansas City, Kansas. He was the leading man of the Wyandot Nation. He kept a Journal of his daily transactions for nearly forty years. This is one of the most valuable records relating to Kansas. A portion of his Journal is published in Connelley's Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory. William Walker is not to be confused with Robert J. Walker, who was later a Territorial Governor of Kansas.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.

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