1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 21 Part 3

To His Excellency, Franklin Pierce, President of the United States:

The undersigned, your memorialists, members of the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Kansas, respectively represent that a crisis has at length arrived in the affairs of this Territory which makes it imperative that you should interpose, so that our Government (the wheels of which have been dragging so heavily heretofore, and which have at last come to a stand) may be relieved of the clog which has been attached to it, and be enabled to move once more in its regular course. A brief history of our Territory written and unwritten, since its organization, will enable you to see the causes which have conduced to this end; and the remedy being in your own hands, we trust and believe you will not hesitate immediately to apply it.

On the 30th of May, 1854, more than one year since, the bill opening the Territory for settlement, west of Missouri and Iowa, was passed. The public, excited by the glowing descriptions of those who had been in the Territory, and by the debates in Congress regarding the future political destiny of this newly-opened country, immediately rushed in by thousands from every quarter of our widespread Union. No Territory, ever organized by this Government, has been peopled with half the rapidity of this, save California, owing to the unnatural stimulus above alluded to. A people thus numerous - thus diversified from birth, education, previous associations, and present intention and object required, it seems to us, for their government, the most prompt action on the part of those called on to preside over them. From the month of May until October, there were no officers here; the Governor appointed to organize the Territory under the provisions of the bill, arriving in the latter month. So soon as it was ascertained, by rumor, that he had arrived (for he never in any way made it public), it was presumed that he would immediately order the census of the Territory to be taken, an election for members of the Legislative Assembly to be held, and call them together at once, so that laws might be enacted for the preservation of the public peace and weal. But what was the course pursued by that official? The citizens of our Territory received him with open arms, and even in Missouri, the State bordering on our line, he was tendered a supper on the day of his arrival, to enable him to meet with the distinguished gentleman of that section of Missouri, together with the private citizens of the vicinity.

Received thus frankly and cordially, both in Kansas and on the border, urged time and again to provide for the election of a Legislature - the people knowing of no laws in force. and the Governor, having no settled opinion upon the subject. appointing Justices of the Peace in various sections of the Territory, some of whom enforced the Pennsylvania, some the Ohio and some the Missouri code, acting, as a matter of course, under his instructions - still with all these various imperative necessities urging his compliance, he heeded them not, but assumed himself to act as the law-making power, by prescribing the various codes above, and usurping the powers of the judiciary in issuing the writs, and sitting as an examining court upon a charge of "assault with intent to kill," the prisoner being at the time incarcerated within the walls of a prison, and before discharging him demanding his recognizance, which was taken however by a Judge whose district had, as yet, not been assigned him. In the midst of all this confusion, turning coolly from those who had thus warmly welcomed him, associating with those only from one particular section of the Union, persisting in not adopting that course which alone could produce order from this chaos, it is not singular that loud complainings should be heard, and that sinister motives should be attributed to him for his conduct.

The Governor then commences his course of speculation, beginning by arraying himself directly in opposition to the opinions of the General Government, as expressed by the Attorney General in relation to Delaware lands, by purchasing property on those lands, and stating that the opinions of the law officer of the General Government were incorrect, and of no force if correct, thus setting an example of insubordination to those less informed, and which may end in a conflict between the people of this Territory and the General Government, unless the rights of the squatters on those lands are recognized in conducting the sales of them. He then commences a tour of observation through the Territory for the ostensible purpose of preparing for a census, etc., but which from his subsequent conduct, proved to be only one of speculation, for he was known to be a large shareholder in many of the various town companies throughout the Territory. Finally, in the month of February, when the snow was some two feet in depth, he ordered a census to be taken (the herculean task which had so much alarmed him), and it was so taken in about three weeks, under the unfavorable circumstances above stated.

A proclamation was then issued for an election of members to the Legislative Assembly to be held on the 30th of March, 1855, said proclamation containing a section claiming by the Governor the right to decide contested elections, thereby virtually claiming the right to override the will of the people, as expressed through the ballot box, and to fill the Legislature with whomsoever he chose - virtually disfranchising every man in Kansas Territory, and also enacting a Maine Liquor Law, by providing for the destruction of liquor under certain circumstances. After the contest was over, and the result known, he delayed the assembling of the body until the 2d day of July, more than three months afterward, and that, too, when the whole Union was convulsed on account of alleged outrages in Kansas Territory, and yet no law for the punishment or prevention of them. When at last they did meet upon the call of the Governor, at a point where they had previously in an informal manner protested against being called, with an avowal of their intention to adjourn to the point at which they are now assembled, for the reasons that the requisite accommodations could not be had; where there were no facilities for communicating with their families or constituents; where they could not even find the common food to eat, unless at an enormous expense, there being no gardens yet made by the squatters; where the house in which we were expected to assemble, had no roof or floor on the Saturday preceding the Monday of our assembling, and for the completion of which the entire Sabbath, day and night, was desecrated by the continued labor of the mechanics; where at least one-half of the members, employes and almost all others who had assembled there for business or otherwise, had to camp out in wagons and tents during a rainy, hot season, and where cholera broke out as a consequence of the inadequate food and shelter, and where under all these circumstances of annoyance, they finally passed an act adjourning to this point, where ample accommodations are provided, and where the Governor himself had previously made it the seat of government, they were met by his veto, which is herewith transmitted. The bill was reconsidered by the House in which it originated, and passed by the majority prescribed by the organic act, then acted upon by the other House, and also passed by the same prescribed majority - a copy of which proceedings is herewith transmitted. Upon our assembling at this point. in accordance with a concurrent resolution passed as contemplated by the law, transmitted to you, we passed various bills, which were sent to the Governor for his approval. On the 21st of July, he returned the bills with his objections to signing them (all of which we herewith transmit), addressed to the "House of Representatives of Kansas Territory," and "to the Council of the Territory of Kansas," respectively - by which he assumes that we are not the "House of Representatives of Kansas Territory," nor the "Council of the Territory of Kansas," which to say the least of it, is a glaring inconsistency, yet not more so than the rest of the document, which you will perceive by reading the points made by him. We will briefly state them, without an argument to show their utter fallacy, so shown by himself as we are confident that you will perceive them at a glance. One point is that Fort Leavenworth is the seat of government, made so by the organic act, that a law passed anywhere else than at the seat of government would be illegal.

That he had the right to call the Legislature to meet at a point not the seat of government (that is, Pawnee), and that laws enacted there (though not the seat of government) would be legal, thereby destroying the preceding proposition.

That we could have passed an act at Pawnee, though not the seat of government, and therefore illegal, establishing a permanent seat of government, and by an ILLEGAL ADJOURNMENT - because passed at a point not the seat of government - have met at such permanent seat of government, and there have made legal and binding statutes; or, by the same ILLEGAL process have adjourned to Fort Leavenworth, the seat of government, and there have made legal and binding statutes.

We would respectfully represent that if the above are the honest opinions of Governor Reeder, you must admit his utter incompetency to discharge the high duties imposed upon him, and he should be removed. If they be not his honest opinions, then he is acting with the sinister design of defeating the whole object for which we are assembled.

If he believes that Fort Leavenworth is the seat of government. and that laws passed anywhere else than at that point would be illegal and void, then to call us to Pawnee to legislate is a willful, deliberate and base attempt to render all our acts, of whatever character, wholly illegal and void, because, by his own showing, Pawnee is not the seat of government, and acts passed anywhere else than at the seat of government are of necessity void, and for which he should be removed.

We will not proceed further with this, but will simply aver that, from the action of Congress, Fort Leavenworth is not now the temporary seat of government. The bill provides, in the 31st section, that Fort Leavenworth shall be the temporary seat of government, and that such buildings as may not be needed for the purpose of the military shall be used by the Governor and Legislative Assembly. A subsequent clause of an appropriation bill provides for the appropriation of $25,000 to be expended upon the contingency, or rather the appropriation made upon the contingency, that the requisite buildings could not be obtained from the military or War Department.

That appropriation having been made and paid over, proved conclusively that the contingency mentioned has arisen, and that the buildings are refused. A subsequent appropriation made on the 3d of March, 1855, provides that the sum of $25,000 be appropriated, and that, in addition to the amount already appropriated, shall be expended in making suitable buildings at the permanent seat of Government. Now, if Fort Leavenworth is the seat of government and the place for the Legislature to meet and transact business, then this absurd consequence follows: That they must meet and transact business at Fort Leavenworth; that they shall not use any of the buildings already erected there; and that they shall not have any of the money to erect other buildings which could be occupied.

Now, as the law never contemplated an absurdity such as this, forcing a Legislative Assembly, even though composed of squatters, to meet out of doors, and forbid their erecting houses, we infer that the 31st section of the bill is virtually repealed; and having no seat of government created by competent authority, the selection of the point for the temporary seat of government legitimately belongs to the Legislative Assembly whenever and wherever convened. And we further submit that, according to the spirit and letter of the law, we have that right, even if Fort Leavenworth be the seat of government. We submit that as all government is for the good of the governed, and as this is one of the legitimate subjects of legislation vested in the people of every State in the Union, and as there could have been no intention on the part of the wise and good men who framed this bill, when they fixed the seat of government temporarily, to have done so other than for the comfort and convenience of the sovereigns; that they never intended to fix an arbitrary rule which the people could not alter, if found convenient; that it was more a permission granted by Congress that we might have the use of those buildings or sit at that point than a command that we should not select another point, if more desirable.

We will and do further represent that the position assumed by the Governor is a despotic and tyrannical one, calculated to lead to the worst consequences if he is not forthwith removed.

Already threats in advance have been made that no respect will be shown to any act passed by this Legislative Assembly, whensoever and wheresoever such act or acts may be passed. Several papers in the Territory boldly advocate this position. A man professing to have been elected to this Legislature (M. F. Conway), who afterward tendered his resignation, advocates this doctrine of resistance. The Governor is, and has been, on terms of intimacy with these very persons; and with him as their leader, they may be led to the commission of acts which will inevitably result in widespread strife and bloodshed.

Now, we submit that the course pursued by the Governor is unwarrantable and factious, even if he be right in the opinions advanced, that our acts are illegal and void. The courts are the tribunals to decide this issue, and no man, Governor or private citizen, has a right to set the laws at defiance, even if unconstitutional and void, until so decided by the proper courts.

This principle is so well understood that we are not prepared to imagine that Gov. Reeder is ignorant of it, even taking his own arguments as an index of his intelligence; and there must be a willful and base design to lead the less informed into the commission of treasonable acts, for which he should be removed.

In conclusion, we charge the Governor, A. H. Reeder, with willful neglect of the interests of the Territory; with endeavoring by all the means in his power to subvert the ends and objects intended to be accomplished by the "Kansas and Nebraska Bill"; by neglecting the public interests and making them subservient to private speculation; by aiding and encouraging persons in factious and treasonable opposition to the wishes of the majority of the citizens of the Territory and the laws of the United States in force in said Territory; by encouraging persons to violate the laws of the United States, and set at defiance the commands of the General Government; by inciting persons to resist the laws which may be passed by the present Legislative Assembly of this Territory; and, finally, by a virtual dissolution of all connection with the present Legislative Assembly of this Territory.

For these, and many other reasons, we respectfully pray Your Excellency to remove the said A. H. Reeder from the exercise of the functions now held by him in said Territory; and represent that a continuance of the same will be prejudicial to the best interests of the said Territory. And as in duty bound, we will ever pray, etc., etc.

THOS. JOHNSON, President of the Council.

JOHN H. STRINGFELLOW, Speaker of the House.

Members of the Council - William Barbee, A. M. Coffey, D. A. N. Grover, Richard R. Rees, H. J. Strickler, E. Chapman, John W. Forman, A. McDonald.

WILLIAM P. RICHARDSON, Secretary of Council.

J. A. HALDERMAN (Attest).

Members of the House - Joseph C. Anderson, 0. H. Brown, A. S. Johnson, M. W. McGee, Samuel Scott, George W. Ward, James Whitlock, H. W. Younger, John M. Banks, D. I,. Croysdale, R. L. Kirk, H. D. McMeekin, W. H. Tebbs, Thomas W. Watterson, Samuel A. Williams, F. J. Marshall, Joel P. Blair, H. B. C. Harris, William G. Mathias, A. Payne, A. B. Wade, Jonah Weddell.

A. WILKINSON, Clerk of the House.

JAMES M. KYLE (Attest).

The letter removing Governor Reeder was dated July 28, 1855, and is as follows:


Sir: Your communication of the 26th of June has been received, and submitted to the President. In reply, he directs me to say that, after due consideration of the explanations which you offer in regard to your purchases of Kansas half-breed lands, and the facts in the case as reported to him and communicated to you by the department of the interior, he finds nothing in those explanations to remove the impressions which he had previously entertained of the character of the transaction. He directs me further to say, that your communication is not less unsatisfactory in what it altogether omits to explain. The letter addressed to you by this department on the 11th ultimo distinctly mentioned other grave matters of accusation of the same class. You assume that, when circumstances exist in the conduct of a public officer which require the question of his dismissal from office to be considered, it is the duty of the executive to make formal specifications of charge, and upon this erroneous presumption you withhold explanation in regard to the matters alluded to, although they were peculiarly within your own knowledge, and you could not but be well aware that some of them, more especially the undertaking of sundry persons, yourself included, to lay out new cities on military or other reservations in the territory of Kansas, were undergoing official investigation within that territory.

The incompleteness of that investigation at that time prevented its being spoken of explicitly by this department; but it was taken for granted that you would have cheerfully volunteered explanations upon this subject, so far as you were concerned, more particularly as you had summoned the legislative assembly of the territory to meet at one of the places referred to, denominated in your official proclamation "Pawnee City." I have, therefore, by the direction of the President, to notify you your functions and authority as governor of the territory of Kansas are hereby terminated.

I am sir, respectfully, &c.,

W. HUNTER, Acting Secretary.

Andrew H. Reeder, Esq., Governor of the Territory of Kansas.

On the 31st of July his removal was announced officially and on the 16th of August the Governor sent the following letter to the Legislature:

To the Honorable Members of the Council and the House of Representatives of the Territory of Kansas:

Gentlemen: - Although in my message to your bodies, under date of the 21st instant, I stated that I was unable to convince myself of the legality of your session at this place, for reasons then given, and, although that opinion still remains unchanged, yet, inasmuch as my reasons were not satisfactory to you, and the bills passed by your houses have been, up to this time, sent to me for approval, it is proper that I should inform you that after your adjournment of yesterday, I received official notification that my functions as Governor of the Territory of Kansas were terminated. No successor having arrived, Secretary Woodson will of course perform the duties of the office as Acting Governor.


The Territorial Secretary, Daniel Woodson, became thus the Acting Governor of Kansas Territory. He was in complete accord with the designs of the Legislature and with the intention of the South to force slavery on Kansas. In this purpose he never wavered, and he never scrupled at anything he believed would accomplish that end.

The Legislature having won its battle with the Governor, and being legally organized and officially recognized and without restraint, proceeded with the transaction oŁ its business in a rapid manner. It enacted a code of general laws modeled on those of the State of Missouri. In many of its sections the Missouri laws were taken in toto, a provision being added that where the name Missouri occurred, Kansas Territory was to be understood as inserted. These laws had been taken by Missouri from the code of New York, and were entirely unobjectionable. In principle many of them are still the laws of Kansas, although the code was repealed when the Free-State men came into power. The Legislature, however, enacted a slavery code which was infamous. It fixed the penalty of death for any person who should decoy away slaves or incite insurrection among them. It disqualified as jurors all anti-slavery citizens. To cause any rebellion among slaves, the penalty was death. To, in any manner, induce any slave to conspire against a citizen of the Territory, was death. To present or circulate any book or paper for the purpose of inciting rebellion or revolt on the part of slaves, free negroes, or mulattos, against any citizen of the Territory, was to incur the penalty of death. All the officers for the counties in the Territory were appointed by the Legislature. These were to hold their offices for two years, and until after the general election of 1857. Those officers necessary to be appointed after the adjournment of the Legislature were to be named by some officer which the Legislature had already appointed. The permanent seat of government was fixed at Lecompton, in Douglas County, about nine miles west of Lawrence. The Free-State citizens of the Territory were disfranchised by the following section:

SECTION 1. Every free white male citizen of the United States, and every free male Indian who is made a citizen by treaty or otherwise, and over the age of twenty-one years, who shall be an inhabitant of this Territory, and of the county or district in which he offers to vote, and shall have paid a Territorial tax, shall be a qualified elector for all elective offices; and all Indians who are inhabitants of this Territory, and who may have adopted the customs of the white man, and who are liable to pay taxes, shall be deemed citizens; Provided That no soldier, seaman, or mariner in the regular army of the United States shall be entitled to vote by reason of being on service therein; and Provided further, that no person who shall have been convicted of any violation of any of the provisions of an act of Congress entitled, "An Act respecting fugitives from justice and persons escaping from the service of their masters," approved February 12, 1793, or of an act to amend and supplementary to said act, approved September 18, 1850; whether such conviction were by criminal proceeding or by civil action for the recovery of any penalty prescribed by either of said acts in any courts of the United States, or of any State or Territory, of any offense deemed infamous, shall be entitled to vote at any election, or to hold any office in this Territory; and Provided further, That if any person offering to vote shall be challenged, and be required to take an oath or affirmation, to be administered by one of the Judges of the election, that he will sustain the provisions of the above recited acts of Congress, and of the act entitled, "An act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas," approved May 30, 1854, and shall refuse to take such oath or affirmation, the vote of such person shall be rejected.

A law was passed organizing a Territorial Militia. The two Major-Generals provided were A. M. Coffey, and William P. Richardson.

Four Brigadier Generals were created: William A. Heiskell, William Barbee, F. J. Marshall and Lucien J. Eastin.

Eight Colonels were created as follows: William C. Yager, George W. Johnson, S. A. Williams, Skilsman Fleming, Robert Clark, James E. Thompson, David M. Johnson and Archibald Payne.

Hiram J. Strickler was appointed Adjutant and Thomas J. B. Cramer was appointed Inspector General.

These slavery laws were unreasonable, and their barbarous provisions made them impossible of execution. The Free-State men were prohibited from holding office, yet were taxed. They were not allowed to have any voice in the government, but were required to sustain it with their substance. It would seem that the Legislature designed to goad the Free-State men into resistance of these laws. But not satisfied with the infamies already enacted, on the last day of the session, a concurrent resolution was offered by the Speaker, while Mr. Anderson was in the chair, and it was adopted as follows:

WHEREAS, The signs of the times indicate that a measure is now on foot fraught with more danger to the interests of the Pro-slavery party and to the Union than any which has yet been agitated, to wit: To organize a national Democratic party; and

WHEREAS, Some of our friends have already been misled by it; and

WHEREAS, The result will be to divide Pro-slavery Whigs from Democrats, thus weakening our party one-half; and

WHEREAS, We believe that on the success of our party depends the perpetuity of the Union; therefore,

Be it Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Council concurring therein, That it is the duty of the Pro-slavery party, the Union men of Kansas Territory, to know but one issue, Slavery; and that any party making or attempting to make any other is, and should be held, as an ally of abolitionism and disunion.

This resolution was intended to define the issue upon which the battle would be waged by the slave power for supremacy in Kansas. It fixed the political status of the citizens of Kansas Territory. That all Anti-slavery citizens of the Territory would revolt at the slave code and the restrictions placed upon them was a foregone conclusion. The Legislature adjourned without any provision for a session in 1856, but in October of that year members of the succeeding House were to be elected.

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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