1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 19 Part 3

In this same schedule, Governor Reeder defined the qualifications for suffrage at the election. These qualifications developed the difference between Governor Reeder's conception of what was necessary to be done in Kansas Territory, and what the Pro-Slavery party had determined upon as necessary. This did not appear at once, but the issue between the Governor and that wing of his party he was to deal with, and account to, was made. These qualifications were as follows:


By the Territorial Bill it is provided as follows:

That every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years, who shall be an actual resident of said Territory, and shall possess the qualifications hereinafter prescribed, shall be entitled to vote at the first election; Provided, that the right of suffrage and of holding office, shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States, and those who shall have declared on oath their intention to become such, and shall have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act; And Provided further, that no officer, soldier, seaman or marine, or other person in the army or navy of the United States, or attached to troops in the service of the United States, shall be allowed to vote or hold office in said Territory, by reason of being on service therein.

The requisites of age and color are easily understood. That of residence is well defined in the law, and means the actual dwelling or inhabiting in the Territory, to the exclusion of any other present domicile or home, coupled with the present bona fide intention of permanently remaining for the same purpose.

When a voter is not a native of the United States, the proof of his right to vote must be the production of his certificate of his naturalization; or of his declaration of intention under the seal of the court, and the want of it cannot be supplied by his oath.

In case he has only declared his intention to become a citizen, he must then be sworn by the judges or a Justice of the Peace to support the Constitution of the United States and by the provisions of the "Act of Congress, approved May 30, 1854, to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas." When this latter oath is administered, the word "oath" should be marked opposite his name on the list.

The meaning of the last proviso, relative to the army and navy is, that the persons designated in it shall not vote if their presence in the Territory is referable only to the performance of their duties, and the obedience of orders. The officer or soldier who would vote here, must have a residence here (the meaning of which is already explained), irrespective and independent of his presence here under orders.

It is perhaps unnecessary to say that every voter can vote only in his own district.

Three candidates for Delegate to Congress presented themselves for the suffrage of the Territory at this election. General J. W. Whitfield, a resident of Jackson County, Missouri, and agent of the Pottawatomie Indians, was the man favored by the Pro-Slavery party. Honorable Robert P. Flenneken had come out from Pennsylvania with Governor Reeder expressly to be elected Delegate to Congress at this time. He had no other business in the Territory, and supposed that with the influence of Governor Reeder to back him, he would have little trouble in securing the office. He was disappointed when he failed to become the Democratic nominee, and was compelled to run as an independent candidate. Honorable John A. Wakefield, Chief Justice of the Mutual Settlers' Association of Kansas Territory, became the Free-State candidate. There was no great interest developed in this election. The people were not so much interested in their representation in Congress, as in local matters. The settlers had only recently come into the Territory, and there had been no time for the formation of any common mind on any subject. The issue of slavery was not generally discussed. Contrary to what might have been expected, people coming in under the auspices of the Emigrant Aid Company did not support the Free-State candidate, but were in favor of the election of Mr. Flenneken on the ground that his election would be in the interest of business development.

The Pro-Slavery people devised a meeting which developed a test of the position of Governor Reeder, toward the Price-Atchison idea of dealing with Kansas. This meeting was held at Leavenworth on the 14th of November. A Memorial was drawn up and a committee appointed to present it to the Governor. This Memorial has not been preserved, but its nature may be determined from the reply made to the committee by Governor Reeder, which is here set out.


To F. Gwinner, D. A. N. Grover, Robert C. Miller, William F. Dyer and Alfred Jones, Esqrs., Committee:

Gentlemen: - On the 16th inst. you called on me in the capacity of a committee claiming to represent and speak for a meeting of citizens of Kansas Territory, held the preceding day at Leavenworth City, and presenting me your memorial in behalf of that meeting. The memorial commences with the statement that you are acting under a resolution of such meeting and ends by "urgently pressing" me to "comply with the wishes of those by whom we were appointed."

Finding that you did not come as individual citizens, acting for yourselves, but as the representatives of others, I took the ground that it was necessary and proper for me to know whom you represented, and that I must have a copy of the proceedings of the meeting which appointed you. Your chairman seemed at first to think that was unnecessary. I replied that it was very obviously necessary I should know by the only authentic evidence, that you had been appointed and by whom; and I further stated that unless the proceedings were furnished I should not consider myself bound to notice your memorial. You then agreed to furnish them. I waited their coming until last evening, when I received from the post office a communication from you, dated the 17th inst., but with no postmark to inform me when it was mailed. This communication declines to furnish the proceedings of the meeting - professes to give the reasons for the refusal - contains the very deliberate enunciation of some inherent rights of the people of Kansas, which no one would ever think of questioning, and some other propositions which must, in a confusion of correspondence have got into that letter by mistake, as I have been utterly unable to discover how they were connected with the subject of discussion; and again requests that my answer to your memorial be made known to you and those "whose organ you have the honor to be." The reasons you give may be briefly stated. First, you say, that some of you at least are "recognized inhabitants" of Kansas, and asserting your own character as honorable men, you claim that I should have endorsed your own opinion on that head by taking your allegation of the facts instead of asking for the usual and natural evidence of them. Secondly, That the people of Kansas have a right to make known their wishes to the executive without putting them in writing, or organizing any meeting for that purpose. To the latter, I have only to say, that I admit cheerfully the proposition it contains, but I am at a loss to understand what possible bearing it has upon the question whether I am entitled to have a copy of the proceedings of this meeting which has been held, and an extract from which you profess to give. As to the first reason, passing over the indelicacy of gentlemen putting their personal character unnecessarily and improperly in issue, and demanding of me who never impugned or impeached it, that I should dispense with the forms and vouchers which the occasion demanded, by adopting in lieu thereof, any estimate of that character whatever, and especially one made by yourselves, as the basis of my official action, I beg leave to remind you that you are requiring more than this, and with signal modesty, demand that I should surrender my judgment to yours, and if you should be of opinion that the meeting who sent you was composed of "citizens of Kansas," I should take for granted that you are infallible, adopt your conclusions, and consider it unnecessary to judge for myself. Doubtless this would save a vast deal of trouble, and, if I could take your infallibility for granted, it would leave me but little to do, but to register your decrees. That, however, is not my mode of doing business, and although I seek the opinions and suggestions of others, I prefer to judge for myself. There is another very singular aspect of this reason of yours. Without inquiring of me what I intended to do in relation to an election of members of the Legislature, you attract public attention by assembling a meeting, and after a speech appropriate to the design of the meeting, a committee is formally appointed to prepare a grave and diplomatic memorial to quicken me in the performance of my official duty, and when you have made the affair thus public, precise and ceremonious, so far as it is calculated to cast censure on my judgment and fidelity, you modestly insist that all the residue of the proceedings shall be as informal as you choose to make them, and whilst you by your actions are censuring me, I shall be required in the same transaction to recognize you as men who cannot possibly err in motive or in judgment. These rules of logic and equity I have never learned; and I think, gentlemen, that to you belongs the merit of their discovery.

Your reasons being thus disposed of, allow me to repeat, you come to me as the agent of others, whom you allege are citizens of Kansas, and therefore entitled to a reply. I ask for a copy of the proceedings in order that I may be satisfied as to that fact. You peremptorily refuse to give them. By all the rules of common sense, common courtesy and common justice, I would be justified in refusing to notice your communication, as I had once resolved to do. I have, however, changed my mind, and will proceed to state some facts within the knowledge of the whole public in this vicinity (who will decide between us if we disagree), and which I should have proven almost entirely by your own evidence had you not, from the pinching exigencies of the case, been compelled to refuse a copy of the proceedings.

The meeting was not of the citizens of Kansas, as your proceedings will show if you will produce them. It was a meeting composed mainly of the citizens of Missouri and a few of the citizens of Kansas. Your own body, whom I am now addressing, contains two undoubted residents of Missouri, one of whom is your Chairman, who resides with his family in the town of Liberty, Mo., as he has done for years, and whose only attempt at a residence in Kansas consists of a card nailed to a tree upon ground long since occupied by other settlers, who have built and lived upon the claim. The President of your meeting was Maj. John Doughearty, a resident and large land-holder in Clay County, Mo., as he has stated to me since the meeting, and will not hesitate to state again, as he is a highminded, honorable man, above all concealment or disguise.

The gentlemen principally composing your meeting came from across the river, thronging the road from the ferry to the town, on horseback and in wagons, in numbers variously estimated by different persons at two hundred to three hundred, and after the meeting was over they returned to their homes in the State of Missouri. These are facts notorious here, as any public occurrence can be, and every man who had eyes to see and ears to hear is cognizant of them.

They were the subject of much remark and the cause of deep dissatisfaction, and even on the ground in the meeting and in reply to the speech of your Chairman, who was chief spokesman of the occasion, this invasion of our Territory was loudly complained of by some of the outnumbered citizens of Kansas, and has frequently since been made the subject of indignant complaint to me. Such is the meeting from which you derive authority, and such the title by which you assume to interfere in the regulation of our affairs. Few men, with all the facts before them, would be hardy enough to say that the assumption is entitled to any respect. The law guarantees to us the right to manage our own affairs. It is the great, much discussed feature of our Territorial Government, and one which our people highly prize, under the pledges of which the inhabitants of the Territory have come and staked their future fortunes on our soil.

The pledges of that law must be redeemed, and it is a poor and pitiless boon to have escaped from the domination of Congress if we are only to pass under the hands of another set of self-constituted rulers, foreign to our soil and sharing none of our burdens, no matter what may be their virtues or their worth as men and citizens at home. It may be very desirable for gentlemen to live among the comforts of the States, with all the accumulated conveniences and luxuries of an old home, and make an occasional expedition into our Territory to arrange our affairs - instruct our people and public officers and control our government - but it does not suit us, and I much mistake the people of this Territory if they submit to it. One thing I am certain of, that, having sworn to perform the duties of the office of Governor with fidelity, I shall denounce and resist it in friend or foe, and without regard to the locality, the faction or the "ism" from which it comes.

This much the citizens of Kansas have a right to demand at my hands, and to fail in it would be the boldest dereliction of official duty. We believe that we are competent to govern ourselves, and as we must bear the consequences of our own errors and reap the fruit of our own decisions, we must decline any gratuitous help in making them.

We shall always be glad to see our neighbors across the river as friends and visitors among us, and will endeavor to treat them with kindness and hospitality. We shall be still more pleased if they will abandon their present homes and dot our beautiful country with their residences to contribute to our wealth and progress, but until they do the latter we must respectfully but determinedly decline to allow them any participation in regulating our affairs.

When that is to be done, we insist that they shall stand aside and permit us to do the work ourselves.

This, gentlemen, with due respect for you personally, is the only reply that I shall give to the suggestion in behalf of your meeting relative to the time and manner of taking our census and holding our election.

Your obedient servant,

General Whitfield declared himself on the issue of the day at a meeting in Leavenworth. The convention which presented the Memorial to Governor Reeder assumed to itself the authority to nominate a candidate for Delegate to Congress. Of such authority it had none, and its proceedings were entirely irregular. Its actions could be binding on no one. It did, however, eliminate all the Pro-Slavery candidates except General Whitfield. His declaration, made in the meeting, amounted to a platform and was reported in the Kansas Herald as follows:

Gen. Whitfield, candidate for delegate to Congress from Kansas Territory, addressed quite a large assemblage of the people from the stump, this place on Wednesday last. He was listened to with marked attention by a great crowd who had been brought thither by the call for a convention to nominate a candidate.

Gen. Whitfield said in becoming a candidate, he did so upon his own hook, without the urgent solicitation of friends, or the aid and authority of a convention. He was a candidate and should remain so until the evening of the day of election, independent of a convention or nomination. He said he was a free man, and should submit only to the will of the majority of the people as expressed at the ballot box.

He declared himself the firm and unwavering friend of the squatter, and in favor of extending to every settler on the public lands a preemption. He was in favor of so modifying the Delaware Treaty as to secure a preemption to every settler on the Delaware lands. He would use all the influence in his power to make said change in the treaty; and he thought his connection with the Indians and the Indian Department, together with the personal relations existing between himself and heads of Departments, the President, the editor of the Washington Union, and many members of Congress would enable him to do as much as any man to effect this desirable object. He said the treaty could and would be changed, that he had always opposed it, and had told Mr. Manypenny, when he was first informed the Delaware Treaty was made, it could never be carried into effect. He condemned it then, and his opinions were not now manufactured for this race. He said he had encouraged settlers to go upon the Delaware lands, and believed they would never be disturbed.

Among his other duties, if elected, he said, he should endeavor to have mail routes established wherever they were needed. He was a railroad man, but did not believe that anything in that line could be accomplished, for Kansas Territory, at this short session of Congress.

He advocated the principles of the Kansas bill, and believed that the people alone should settle the question of slavery for themselves. The bill gave them this power, and had taken the question from the halls of Congress, and placed it where it properly belongs.

Gen. Whitfield, in conclusion, said he had nothing to do with the convention, knew nothing of its origin, believed it did not come from the settlers, and he should not abide the action of the convention. He was before the sovereigns, and it was with them to do as they pleased with him on the 29th of November.

The above is about the substance of the remarks of Gen. Whitfield, as we remember them. We took no notes of his speech at the time. His remarks, we believe, were generally well received. It is said that he will be a formidable competitor in the race.

It was the actions of this convention which made it necessary for Mr. Flenneken to become an independent candidate. He issued a statement to the qualified voters of Kansas Territory through a committee, in which it was said for him:

To the Qualified Voters of Kansas Territory:

In view of the election to be held in the Territory on the 29th instant, for delegates to the House of Representatives of the United States, the undersigned, a committee of the numerous friends of the Hon. Robert P. Flenneken, offer him as a candidate for the said office, and announce some of the reasons why, in their opinion, he should be supported.

Mr. Flenneken has been, heretofore, a citizen of Fayette County, in the state of Pennsylvania, where he has been for many years a consistent, sound and National Democrat - a citizen of the highest moral and social standing, and a lawyer of distinguished reputation and successful practice. He was formerly a member of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and, under the appointment of President Polk, a Representative of the United States at the Court of Denmark, where he attained much reputation by the ability and fidelity with which he discharged his duties. He has settled in the Territory with the intention of making it his future permanent residence, and his family are preparing to follow him.

His general intelligence - his sound and reliable prudence and good sense - his clear and comprehensive intellect - his legal knowledge - his general and favorable acquaintance with the members of Congress and the public men attached to the National Administration, give us the surest guarantee that he will make a most useful, efficient and valuable Delegate, in whose hands the important interests of the Territory will be well taken care of, and to whom we may confidently look for procuring the appropriations for military roads and bridges, public buildings, geological survey, the modification of Indian treaties and for adjusting the many post routes and post offices throughout the Territory.

Some persons, we regret to say, are making an effort to introduce into this election the question of free and slave labor, and to array the advocates of each against the other, and in favor of different candidates. We cannot see the necessity or propriety of agitating this question at this time. A Delegate in Congress will have no duties to perform connected with it in any way, and should be elected only with an eye to his value, efficiency and influence in procuring the legislation which we so much need to advance the prosperity and improvement of the Territory. The man who can best do this should be elected without reference to his views on other questions. Mr. Flenneken does not run as a candidate upon this issue, and we do not place him before the people on that ground. The weakness of the Territory requires that all citizens upon both sides of that question should stand side by side and work in harmony, concert and good feeling, to advance the progress of our Territory, with the greatest possible rapidity. It will be time enough to make issue upon the question of slavery, when it shall come up for decision; and it would inflict a deep injury upon our interests to elect a Delegate to Congress upon this issue, no matter which party should succeed, as it would immediately array against him the members of Congress who should differ in opinion from the successful party - whereas if our Delegate is elected without raising the question, we shall not excite in Congress the opposition of the other party, and it will he comparatively easy to obtain what the wants of the Territory require.

We may add that the best evidence of our sincerity is, that we ourselves are divided in opinion upon the question - some of us being antislavery men and some pro-slavery men, whilst we are, nevertheless, united in the support of Mr. Flenneken. We believe him to be the man whom the Territory needs for the office - the man who can best advance its interests in Washington - and, from all the information we can receive, the man who will be strongest before the people at the polls, and whom the majority of them desire, and we therefore recommend him for your support.

November, 18, 1854.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

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

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