1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 14 Part 3

The Territorial Council, Sec'y and Governor, then proceeded to open the returns of the Territorial Election. After canvassing the Returns it appeared that Thomas Johnson had received the highest number of votes and was declared elected delegate to the 33rd Congress.

Tuesday, November 8, 1853. - J. W. Garrett, deputy Secretary, attended at my House and we issued the certificate of election to Thomas Johnson, delegate elect to the 33rd Congress.

The Wyandots felt outraged by the action of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs but as their interests were so largely in his hands they could do nothing else than submit without protest, and this they all did, except Mr. Guthrie. He filed a contest for the seat of Delegate and vigorously attacked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the public prints. He spent a portion of the winter in Washington and labored for the Territorial Government of Nebraska until he was convinced that the slave power would organize two Territories, and endeavor to make one for slavery, and permit the other to come into the Union, free. In relation to Mr. Guthrie's attacks on the Commissioner of Indian Affairs Governor Walker says:

Saturday, November 12, 1853. - . . .

Mr. Guthrie called and examined the election returns for delegate, and intends taking copies of them.

Thursday, November 24,1853. - . . .

Wrote a communication to Col. Manypenny, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, correcting an error in a communication published in the Missouri Democrat by Mr. A. Guthrie in relation to a speech delivered by the former to the Wyandott Council.

Thursday, January 12, 1854. - . . .

Rec. two letters from A. Guthrie. In trouble again. Wants certificates to prove his charges against Commissioner Manypenny. I can't help him much.

Saturday, January 28, 1854. -

Rec'd an "Ohio State Journal." This is the amount of my mail. Guthrie out on Col. Manypenny again. The former, I fear, will come off second best. He is imprudent and rash.

But bitter as the fight became between Johnson and Guthrie, they were not the only candidates voted for at this election. Governor Walker says:

Upon canvassing the returns it was found that a third candidate was voted for in the Bellevue precinct, in the person of Hadley D. Johnston, Esq., who rec'd 358 votes.

From information derived from that precinct it appeared that Mr. Johnston was an actual resident of Iowa, and at that time a member of the Legislature of that State; and an additional circumstance tending to vitiate the election in this precinct was that a large majority of the voters were actual residents of that State. The officers were compelled to reject these returns.

Mr. Johnson, many years later, made a statement concerning his election from which a quotation is made. His credentials consisted only of the certificate of the judges and clerks of the election stating the fact that he received a certain number of votes in the election held in the Bellevue precinct. The poll-books must have been sent to the Provisional Government as the returns were canvassed there; and it is more than probable that Mr. Johnson's certificate was not written until after it was known that the votes of the Bellevue precinct had been rejected by the Territorial Council. Mr. Johnson said:

As early as 1848, the subject of the organization of a new territory west of the Missouri river was mentioned, and in congress I think a bill was introduced in that year, but did not become a law, and in 1852 the subject having been long discussed, a bill was introduced, but again without result. In 1852, however, the railroad question having been agitated more generally during the preceding year, during the session of 1852-3, a bill was reported to congress providing for the organization of the Territory of Nebraska, within the boundaries, substantially I believe, now embraced in the states of Kansas and Nebraska. Prior to this, however, some of the citizens of western Missouri, and a few persons residing or staying temporarily in the Indian country west of the Missouri river, took steps to hold an informal election of a delegate who should attend the coming session of congress and urge the passage of the territorial bill. This election, though not sanctioned by any law, and informal, was ordered to be held by a meeting of a number of persons held in the Indian country south of the Platte river, who fixed a day on which the election was to be held, and designated certain places at which votes would be received. Among the places named, appeared Bellevue or Trader's Point. A newspaper printed somewhere in Missouri, containing a notice of this election, accidentally came into my possession a few days prior to the date fixed for the election. On reading this announcement, I immediately communicated the news to prominent citizens of Council Bluffs, and it was at once decided that Iowa should compete for the empty honors connected with the delegateship. An election at Sarpy's was determined on; arrangements made with the owner of the ferry-boat at that point to transport the impromptu emigrants to their new homes, and they were accordingly landed on the west shore of the Missouri river a few hundred yards above Sarpy's trading house, where, on the day appointed, an election was held, the result of which may be learned from the original certificate hereto annexed, a copy of which was sent to the Honorable Bernhart Henn, the member of the house of representatives from Iowa, by him submitted to the house, and referred to the committee on elections, but for reasons obvious to the reader of the proceedings of Congress immediately following, no report was ever made by that committee in the case.

I may remark here that I consented with much reluctance to the use of my name in this connection, and for several reasons: I was poor and could not well afford to neglect my business and spend a winter at Washington; the expenses of the trip I knew would be a heavy drain upon my limited exchequer; besides I had so lately neglected my private affairs by my service at Iowa City. However, I finally yielded to the earnest request of a number of my personal friends, who were also ardent friends of the new scheme, and consented to the use of my name, at the same time pledging my word that I would proceed to Washington if chosen and do the best I could to advance the cause we had in hand. In addition to the ballots cast for me for delegate at this election, the Rev. William Hamilton received 304 votes for provisional Governor; Dr. Monson H. Clark received 295 for Secretary, and H. P. Downs 283 for Treasurer.

These proceedings at Sarpy's landing were followed by various public meetings in Iowa (and also in Missouri), at which resolutions were adopted, urging the organization of Nebraska territory. Amongst others, meetings were held at Council Bluffs, St. Mary's, Glenwood, and Sidney, at which the actions at Sarpy's were endorsed. Earnest and eloquent speeches were made by such leading citizens as Hon. W. C. Means and Judge Snyder of Page county, Judge Greenwood, Hiram P. Bennett, Wm. McEwen, Col. J. L. Sharp, Hon. A. A. Bradford, L. Lingenfelter, C. W. McKissick, Hon. Benjamin Rector, Charles W. Pierce, Dan. H. Solomon, __ Downs, I. M. Dews, George Hepner, Wm. G. English, Geo. P. Stiles, Marshal Turley, Dr. M. H. Clark, and others.

In the month of November, Council Bluffs was visited by Hon. Augustus C. Dodge, Col. Samuel H. Curtis, and other distinguished citizens of other states, who attended and addressed meetings of the people of the town, warmly advocating the construction of our contemplated railroads, and the organization of Nebraska territory. In its issue of December 14, 1853, the Council Bluffs Bugle announced that "H. D. Johnson, delegate elect from Nebraska, passed through our place on his way to Washington last week."

In compliance with my agreement, I set about making arrangements to visit the national capital, which, as you may suppose, was not easily accomplished. Before starting, however, a number of our citizens who took such a deep interest in the organization of a territory west of Iowa, had on due thought and consultation agreed upon a plan which I had formed, which was the organization of two territories west of the Missouri river, instead of one as had heretofore been contemplated, and I had traced on a map hanging in the office of Johnson & Cassady a line which I hoped would be the southern boundary of Nebraska, which it finally did become, and so continues to the present time.

In starting out upon this second pilgrimage, I again faced the dreary desolate prairies of the then sparsely settled Iowa, but not as a year before, solitary and alone. B. R. Pegram, then a young and enterprising merchant of Council Bluffs, being about to visit St. Louis, it was agreed that we should travel in company to Keokuk, he with a horse and buggy, I with a horse and saddle. The trip was accomplished in safety, and on arriving at Keokuk, we took a steamer for St. Louis, shipping the horses and buggy.

On arriving at St. Louis, I tried in vain to sell my horse for a satisfactory price, and leaving him with a friend to be sold afterwards, I took a steamer bound for Cincinnati, whence I boarded a railroad train for Washington. (I remark in parenthesis that my horse was not sold, but subsequently died, to my great grief and considerable loss.)

On my arrival at Washington (early in January, 1854) I found that a bill had already been introduced in the senate, and I think referred to the committee on territories, of which the Hon. Stephen A. Douglas was chairman. This bill provided for the organization of the territory of Nebraska, including what is now Kansas and Nebraska, or substantially so. I also found seated at a desk, in the House of Representatives, a portly, dignified, elderly gentleman, who was introduced to me as the Reverend Thomas Johnson. He was an old Virginian; a slave holder, and a Methodist preacher. This gentleman had also been a candidate for delegate at the informal election, and was credited with having received 337 votes. He had preceded me to Washington, and together with his friends, ignoring our Sarpy election, had, through some influence sub rosa, been installed in a seat at a desk aforesaid, where, being duly served with stationery, etc., he seemed to be a member of the house.

Previous to this time, in one or two instances, persons visiting Washington, as representatives of the settlers in unorganized territory, and seeking admission as legal territories, had been recognized unofficially, and after admission had been paid the usual per diem allowance as well as mileage, and in the present case I think my namesake had looked for such a result in his own case, but for my part I had no such expectation.

On being introduced to Mr. Johnson, who seemed somewhat stiff and reserved, I alluded to the manner of my appointment to the present mission, which, like his own, was without legal sanction, but was for a purpose; told him there was no occasion for a contest between us for a seat to which neither of us had a claim; that I came there to suggest and work for the organization of two territories instead of one; that if he saw proper to second my efforts, I believed that we could succeed in the objects for which we each had come.

After this explanation the old gentleman thawed out a little, and we consulted together upon the common subject.

Hon. A. C. Dodge, senator from Iowa, who had from the first been an ardent friend and advocate of my plan, introduced me to Judge Douglas, to whom I unfolded my plan, and asked him to adopt it, which, after mature consideration, he decided to do, and he agreed that, as chairman of the committee on territories, he would report a substitute for the pending bill, which he afterwards did do, and this substitute became the celebrated "Nebraska Bill," and provided, as you know, for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.

The Hon. Bernhart Henn, at that time the only member of the house from Iowa, who also was my friend and warmly advocated our territorial scheme, finding that the Rev. Thomas Johnson was seated in the house and posing as a member and not wishing to see him more honorably seated than myself, interceded, I presume with one of the doorkeepers, who admitted me into the house and seated me at a desk beside my friend, the minister, who it afterwards appeared, was like myself, surreptitiously admitted to the seat occupied by him, unknown to the speaker, or perhaps to the chief doorkeeper.

The fates decreed, however, that we were not to hold our seats a great while, for one day the principal doorkeeper approached me as I sat in my seat, and politely inquired who I was, and by what right I occupied the seat; and being by me answered according to the facts, he informed me that as complaint had been made to the speaker, he was under the necessity of respectfully asking me to vacate the seat, as such was the order of the speaker. I replied to him, that of course I would do so, but, I added, as my neighbor on the left occupied his seat by a right similar to my own, I felt it to be my privilege to enquire why I should be ousted while he was permitted to remain. On this the doorkeeper turned to Mr. Johnson, who corroborated my statement, whereupon the "two Johnsons," as we were called, were incontinently bounced and relegated to the galleries.

I never learned, nor did I care to know, whether I was removed at the instance of the friends of Mr. Johnson, or whether a Mr. Guthrie, who had also been a candidate for delegate, had fired a shot at his adversary, the Rev. Thomas. If the latter was the case, in firing he hit two birds. I did not feel hurt by this event, but believe that the dignity of the other Johnson was seriously touched, and himself mortified.

I ought perhaps to mention the fact that in our negotiations as to the dividing line between Kansas and Nebraska, a good deal of trouble was encountered, Mr. Johnson and his Missouri friends being very anxious that the Platte river should constitute the line, which obviously would not suit the people of Iowa, especially as I believe it was a plan of the American Fur Company to colonize the Indians north of the Platte river. As this plan did not meet with the approbation of my friends or myself, I firmly resolved that this line should not be adopted. Judge Douglas was kind enough to leave that question to me, and I offered to Mr. Johnson the choice of two lines, first, the present line, or second, an imaginary line traversing that divide between the Platte and the Kaw. After considerable parleying, and Mr. Johnson not being willing to accept either line, I finally offered the two alternatives - the fortieth degree of north latitude, or the defeat of the whole bill, for that session at least. After consulting with his friends, I presume. Mr. Johnson very reluctantly consented to the fortieth degree as the dividing line between the two territories, whereupon Judge Douglas prepared and introduced the substitute in a report as chairman of the committee on territories, and immediately, probably the hardest war of words known in American history commenced.

The claims made by Mr. Johnson that he was so frequently consulted by Judge Douglas and that he exercised so much influence on the Kansas-Nebraska bill may well be attributed to his afterthought and his desire to connect himself prominently with an important historical event. Judge Douglas was getting his instructions from the slave propaganda of the South - not from a nondescript and discredited delegate from the free State of Iowa.

Governor Walker's Journal says on March 27, 1854: "Heard that Hon. Thomas Johnson, Delegate elect from this Territory, returned from Washington yesterday."

The cause of the failure of the Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory to secure recognition from the Government of the United States was the division of the Territory it represented into two separate Territories by the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Governor Walker says in his Notes that the provisional government of Nebraska continued in existence till after the organization by Congress of the two Territories and the arrival of A. H. Reeder, the first Governor of Kansas.

What did this movement for the organization of Nebraska Territory accomplish? It forced the Thirty-third Congress to action. The results which Mr. Guthrie claims for himself in his statement to Congress are justly the results of this whole movement. The claim that these results were due to the organization and efforts of the Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory is sustained by history. Few movements in America have produced more far-reaching consequences. Here is what he said in a letter to Hon. Henry L. Dawes, Chairman, Committee on Elections, asking per diem and mileage as Delegate.6

Allow me also, if you please, to submit the following propositions:

If your committee have any sufficient evidence, or can obtain any, that it was the intention of the party then in power, or any other party, to organize this Territory within any reasonable or definite period, I will abandon my claim.

If the committee have any sufficient evidence, or can procure any, that there was any other course as likely to succeed in securing an organization as that of sending to Congress a man acquainted with the condition wants, soil, climate, and resources of the Territory, I will give up my claim.

If the committee have any sufficient evidence, or can get any, that it was not the design of the slave power to secure this Territory, by quiet and stealthy legislation and colonization, for the benefit of its favorite institution, I will abandon my claim. But here I wish you to examine the law of 3oth June, 1834, annexing this Territory to the State of Missouri for judicial purposes; and the law of 1836, annexing to the same State forever and for all purposes the very large and fertile portion of this Territory lying between the Iowa State line and the Missouri river, cutting us off entirely from contiguous free Territory, the effects of which were disastrously felt during our civil troubles, and to the present day; and also to the several abortive attempts of the late Mr. Douglas to organize this Territory.

If the committee have any sufficient evidence, or can obtain any, that this Territory would not eventually have been received into the Union as a slave State under the skillful management and well matured plans of southern statesmen and their Northern friends, I will abandon my claim.

If the committee have any evidence, or can get any, that my movement for a government for Nebraska did not frustrate this design, I will abandon my claim.

If your committee have any sufficient evidence, or can obtain any, that the republican party would have been in existence but for this very act of mine in forcing upon the consideration of Congress the policy of erecting a territorial government over this magnificent region (which the slave power had already practically grasped, and was guarding with jealous care), I will abandon all claim to per diem and mileage.


6See Connelley's Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory. There will be found copies of the documents relating to the Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory, also accounts of the prominent men in the Wyandot Nation.

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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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