1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 25 Part 2

Second Day.

The first business taken up was the report of the Committee on Platform, and Colonel Lane made the report. In some accounts of the convention it is said that the resolutions were bitterly attacked and warmly discussed. Failure of the whole plan seemed imminent. One of the delegates has left this record.

At this critical crisis Judge Smith arose and began a speech of great earnestness and feeling. With his white locks trembling in the wind, and tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks, he besought them in a spirit of a patriarch and a patriot, to cast aside all minor differences, and to unite in one common struggle toward rescuing Kansas from the vile dominion of slavery.

Colonel Lane was the last man to speak. He delivered a thrilling speech which swayed the men of the convention as the wind sways the grass of the prairies. At the conclusion of his address the platform was adopted unanimously with great enthusiasm. In the account of the convention in the Kansas Free State there is no mention of dissension concerning the platform. It says, "the report was adopted by three prolonged hearty cheers and adopted with but two dissenting votes." The platform is here given in full:

THE FIRST FREE STATE PLATFORM

WHEREAS, The Free-state party of the Territory of Kansas are about to originate an organization for concert of political action in electing our officers and molding our institutions; and whereas, it is expedient and necessary that a platform of principles be adopted and proclaimed to make known the character of our organization and to test the qualifications of candidates and the fidelity of our members; and whereas, we find ourselves in an unparalleled and critical condition, deprived by superior force of the rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Kansas Bill; and whereas, the great and overshadowing question whether Kansas shall become a free or a slave State must inevitably absorb all other issues except those inseparably connected with it; and whereas, the crisis demands the concerted and harmonious action of all those who from principle or interest prefer free labor to slave labor, as well as of those who value the preservation of the Union and the guarantee of republican institutions by the Constitution; therefore,

(1) Resolved, That, setting aside all minor issues of partisan politics, it is incumbent upon us to proffer an organization calculated to recover our dearest rights, and into which Democrats and Whigs, native and naturalized citizens, may freely come without any sacrifice of their respective political creeds, but without forcing them as a test upon others. And that when we shall have achieved our political freedom, vindicated our rights of self-government, and come as an independent State upon the arena of the Union, where those issues may become vital where they are now dormant, it will be time enough to divide our organization by those tests, the importance of which we fully recognize in their appropriate sphere.

(2) Resolved, That we will oppose and resist all non-resident voters at our polls, whether from Missouri or elsewhere, as a gross violation of our rights and a virtual disfranchisement of our citizens.

(3) Resolved, That our true interests, socially, morally and pecuniarily, require that Kansas should be a free State; that free labor will best promote the happiness, the rapid population, the prosperity and the wealth of our people; that slave labor is a curse to the master and the community, if not the slave; that our country is unsuited to it, and that we will devote our energies as a party to exclude the institution and to secure for Kansas the constitution of a Free State.

(4) Resolved, That in so doing, we will consent to any fair and reasonable provision in regard to the slaves already in the Territory, which shall protect the masters against total loss.

(5) Resolved, That the best interests of Kansas require a population of free white men, and that in our State organization we are in favor of stringent laws excluding all negroes, bond and free, from the Territory, but that, nevertheless, such measure shall not be regarded as a test of party orthodoxy.

(6) Resolved, That we will discountenance and denounce any attempt to encroach upon the constitutional rights of the people of any State, or to interfere with their slaves, conceding to their citizens the right to regulate their own institutions, and to hold and recover their slaves without any molestation or obstruction from the people of Kansas.

(7) Resolved, That the stale and ridiculous charge of abolitionism, so industriously imputed to the Free-state party, and so pertinaciously adhered to in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, is without a shadow of truth to support it; and that it is not more apparent to ourselves than it is to our opponents, who use it as a term of reproach to bring odium upon us, pretending to believe in its truth, and hoping to frighten from our ranks the weak and timid who are more willing to desert their principles than they are to stand up under persecution and abuse with a consciousness of right.

Judge James S. Emery of Lawrence submitted the report of the Committee on Late Legislation. The report consisted of a series of resolutions stating the Free-State position and attitude, as follows:

Resolved, That the body of men who, for the last two months have been passing laws for the people of our Territory, moved, counseled and dictated to by the demagogues of Missouri, are to us a foreign body, representing only the lawless invaders who elected them, and not the people of the Territory - that we repudiate their actions as the monstrous consummation of an act of violence, usurpation and fraud, unparalleled in the history of the Union, and worthy only of men unfitted for the duties and regardless of the responsibilities of Republicans.

Resolved, That having, by numerical inferiority and want of preparation, been compelled to succumb to the outrage and oppression of armed and organized bands of the citizens of a powerful State of the Union - having been robbed by force of the right of suffrage and self-government, and subjected to a foreign despotism, the more odious and infamous because it involves a violation of compacts with sister States more sacred than solemn treaties, we disown and disavow with scorn and indignation the contemptible and hypocritical mockery of a representative government into which this infamous despotism has been converted.

Resolved, That this miscalled Legislature, by their reckless disregard of the Organic Territorial Act, and other Territorial Legislation, in expelling members whose title to seats was beyond their power to annul, in admitting members who were not elected, in altering the pre-emption laws and the naturalization laws, and in legislating at an unauthorized place - by their refusal to allow the people to elect any of their officers - by imposing upon us their own appointees, down to the most insignificant officers, many of whom were unquestionably residents of Missouri at the time - by leaving us no elections save those prescribed by Congress, and therefore beyond their power to abrogate, and even at these, selling the right of suffrage at our ballot-boxes to any non-resident who chooses to buy and pay for it, and compelling us to take an oath to support a United States law, invidiously pointed out, by stifling the freedom of speech and of the press, thus usurping a power forbidden to Congress, have trampled under foot the Kansas Bill, have defied the power of Congress, libeled the Declaration of Independence, violated the Constitutional Bill of Rights, and brought contempt and disgrace upon our republican institutions at home and abroad.

Resolved, That we owe no allegiance or obedience to the tyrannical enactments of this spurious Legislature - that their laws have no validity or binding force upon the people of Kansas, and that every freeman amongst us is at full liberty consistently with all his obligations as a citizen and a man, to defy and resist them if he chooses so to do.

Resolved, That we will resist them primarily by every peaceable and legal means within our power, until we can elect our own Representatives, and sweep them from the Statute-book, and, as the majority of the Supreme Court have so far forgotten their official duty - have so far cast off the honor of the lawyer and the dignity of the judge as to enter, clothed with the judicial ermine, into a partisan contest, and by by[sic] an extra-judicial decision giving opinions in violation of all propriety, have pre-judged our case before we could be heard, and have pledged themselves to these outlaws in advance, to decide in their favor, we will therefore take measures to carry the question of the validity of these laws to a higher tribunal where judges are unpledged and dispassionate - where the law will be administered in its purity, and where we can at least have the hearing before the decision.

Resolved, That we will endure and submit to these laws no longer than the best interests of the Territory require, as the least of two evils, and will resist them to a bloody issue as soon as we ascertain that peaceable remedies shall fail, and forcible resistance shall furnish any reasonable prospect of success; and that, in the meantime, we recommend to our friends throughout the Territory, the organization and discipline of volunteer companies and the procurement and preparation of arms.

Resolved, That we cannot and will not quietly submit to surrender our "Great American Birthright" - the elective franchise: which, first by violence, and then by chicanery, artifice and weak and wicked legislation, they have so effectually accomplished to deprive us of, and that with scorn we repudiate the "Election Law" - so-called - and will not meet with them on the day they have appointed for the election, but will ourselves fix upon a day for the purpose of electing a Delegate to Congress.

Colonel Lane moved to amend the resolutions by striking out that part impeaching the actions of the Supreme Court, but his motion was lost. Mr. Guthrie offered a substitute for one of the resolutions, but his motion was laid on the table. The question was then put on the adoption of the report, and carried with but one dissenting voice.

The Committee on State Organization made the following report:

The Committee, after considering the propriety of taking preliminary steps to framing a Constitution and applying for admission as a State into the Union, beg leave to report that, under the present circumstances, they deem the movement untimely and inexpedient.

The people of the Territory had not yet accepted the idea of forming a State constitution and this resolution expressed the sentiment of a great majority of the Free-State people in the Territory. The discussion of this report developed serious difference of opinions. It was participated in by Colonel Lane, Mr. Houston, Judge Wakefield, Mr. Vail, Mr. Curtiss and P. C. Schuyler. It seemed that there was no hope of harmonious action, and the convention took a recess for one hour. When it reassembled the discussion was continued, those speaking being Mr. Tuton, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Smith. It being impossible to come to an agreement, Mr. Hutchinson offered the following as a substitute for the report, which was agreed to:

Resolved, That this Convention, In view of its recent repudiation of the acts of the so-called Kansas Legislative Assembly, respond most heartily to the call made by the People's Convention of the 15th ult., for a Delegate Convention of the people of Kansas Territory, to be held at Topeka on the 19th inst., to consider the propriety of the formation of a State Constitution, and such other matters as may legitimately come before it.

The Committee on Congressional Election submitted the following report, which was adopted:

WHEREAS, The citizens of Kansas Territory were prevented from electing members to a Territorial Legislature, in pursuance of the Proclamation of the Executive on the 30th of March last by armed mobs who came into the Territory and forced upon the people the votes of non-residents and others inimical to the interests of the resident voters of Kansas Territory, thereby defeating the objects of the Organic Act, which, among other things, provided that after the first election the Legislature shall provide for the Election of a Delegate to Congress. And whereas, the Legislative body lately sitting at Shawnee Mission were not at a place where valid laws could be made, and where consequently no valid provision for the coming election could be made; the people are driven to the necessity of meeting in their sovereign capacity to provide for said election. Therefore,

Resolved, By the citizens of Kansas in Convention assembled, that an election shall be held in the several election Districts in this Territory, on the 2nd Tuesday of October next, under the regulations prescribed for the election of the 30th March last, in reference to the places and manner of holding the same and the manner of making the returns as well as all matters relating to the formula of the election, excepting the appointment of officers and the persons to whom returns shall be made which shall be determined by this Convention; for the purpose of electing a Delegate to represent this Territory in the 34th Congress of the United States.

The reasons which have induced your Committee to recommend the separate Election, are several: First, to vote upon the same day at the same polls would be an acknowledgment of the right of the late Legislature to call an election. This objection might be obviated, should we go to the polls in obedience to the decision of this Convention only, but then another difficulty arises. - From evidence going before us, we are convinced that a large portion of the Free-State Party will decline to vote at the expense of an oath to support special named laws, - nor is this sentiment confined to the opposers of the Fugitive Slave Law and others mentioned, but extends to the believers in the Justice and propriety of that enactment, among whom are some members of your Committee.

Second, should we be disposed to vote on the day appointed by the Legislature, past experience tells us that we shall by force be prevented from exercising that right of freemen, while by the adoption of a second day, we avoid unnecessary disturbance, and may send our Delegate to claim his seat, confident that the last fact taken with the various legal grounds, why the Legislature were incapacitated from making binding laws will claim the favorable attention of Congress. We would also recommend the appointment of a Committee to draft a memorial to Congress setting forth more elaborately the reasons which have induced this course, and which may be placed at each poll on the day of election finally appointed by the Convention so it may be signed by every voter. We also recommend that duplicate copies of the returns be made and one copy be presented to the Governor of the Territory for his signature and the seal of the Territory, and if he refuses the other duplicate copy may be sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Upon the other subject referred to the Committee, they recommend the following:

Resolved, That this Convention vote for Delegate, viva voce.

G. P. LOWRY, Chair'n.
WM. S. ARNOLD, Sec y.

The Committee on Miscellaneous Business brought in the following report:

MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS

Resolved, That the alleged cause for the removal of Gov. Reeder and other Territorial officers, has no sufficient foundation in truth or plausibility; that the purchase of the half breed lands was a fair and honorable transaction which can tarnish the reputation of no man; that it was for a fair and full consideration, and characterized by no concealment or impropriety; that the vendors were fully competent to make their own bargains and protect their own interests, and were allowed abundant time to consult their friends and neighbors; that the contract was made with the full knowledge of the Agent and Interpreter, and was subjected to the supervision of the President, and as the President has refused to respond to the earnest and pointed request to say what law or rule has been transgressed, we are compelled to believe that it was in violation of no law or artificial regulation.

Resolved, That the specification of an interest in Pawnee City, which was only furnished after the removal had taken place, and, therefore, had precluded any opportunity for explanation or reply, is as unfortunate and unfounded as the other; as it is a well-known fact that Governor Reeder had no participation in the laying out of the town; that it was laid out and located before his arrival in the Territory, and that his first connection with it w as the voluntary and unsolicited transfer by the original stockholders of an interest therein to the five Territorial officers who had then arrived, among whom, of course was the Governor; that the town was then, and for some time before and after, outside of the Military Reserve, having been excluded by the experienced and intelligent officer in command at the post, although since included by the Secretary of War.

Resolved, That the demand to answer to the vague charge of "other speculations in the lands of the Territory," without further explanations or specifications, and the refusal of the President to state what was alluded to by him, or to give the name of the accuser, and his giving the specification only after the removal was made, are strong and unmistakable indications that the removal was a foregone conclusion, and the demand of explanation merely an empty ceremony, adopted because it could not be evaded.

Resolved, That the doctrine asserted in the letter of removal, that a public officer, when called on to explain accusations affecting his official tenure and private reputation, has no right to ask specifications - to ask such a statement of the charge as to render it intelligible - is as novel as it is monstrous and unjust.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to wait upon the Hon. Wilson Shannon, Governor of Kansas, and present him with a copy of the proceedings of this meeting; to ask the aid of the Executive in putting the same in active operation.

Resolved, That the Free State Committee take steps to collect such facts relative to the political constitution of the Territory which will be valuable and needed in Congress at its coming session; and that each member of the Free State Party be requested to collect and forward to some member of the Committee all the well authenticated facts which they may collect.

When the report had been read, Colonel Lane said that he had not the slightest knowledge of the facts recited in the resolutions and was unwilling to express an opinion thereon, nor was he willing to enter into the quarrel between Governor Reeder and the Administration, but the report was adopted.

NOMINATION OF DELEGATE TO CONGRESS

When Governor Reeder was apprised of the arrangements for the Big Springs convention, he was making his preparations to return to his home in Pennsylvania. A day or two before the convention met he was at the Free-State Hotel, in Kansas City, Missouri. He concluded to attend the convention, and borrowed a carpet-bag from Colonel S. W. Eldridge, proprietor of the Hotel. Into this he packed some papers and clothing and set out for Lawrence. He attended the convention and inspired the report of the committee on the late legislation. Indeed, it is said that he wrote the report. He was indignant at the treatment he had received at the hands of the Administration and the Legislature. The phrase - "that we will endure and submit to these laws no longer than the best interests of the Territory require, as the least of two evils, and will resist them to a bloody issue" later made much trouble for the Free-State men in Kansas. When the matter of nominating a candidate for Congress came up, Mr. Conway moved that Andrew H. Reeder, late Governor of Kansas, be nominated by acclamation, as the candidate of the Free-State party. The Kansas Free State reports the action of the convention as follows: "The motion was carried by nine deafening cheers." Mr. Reeder was then called for. He came forward and delivered an eloquent speech, substantially as follows:

Mr. President and Gentlemen:

I thank you for the friendship and support which your applause evinces. Such applause and approval well repays any man for all the injustice that can be heaped upon him. You all will do me the justice to say that your nomination has been given entirely without solicitation from me or my friends. To accept it will seriously interfere with my private engagements, and on that ground I have continually refused it when urged until told by men from all parts of the Territory that my name was essential to success. I now accept the nomination, on the condition that it shall not be required or expected of me to canvass the Territory in person. To do so would not be consonant with my feelings, as, in case of an election, I desire to enter the halls of Congress able to say, "I come here with clean hands - the spontaneous choice of the squatters of Kansas." In giving me this nomination, in this manner, you have strengthened my arms to do your work, and in return, I now pledge to you a steady, unflinching pertinacity of purpose, never-tiring industry, dogged perseverance and all the abilities with which God has endowed me to the righting of your wrongs, and the final triumph of your cause. I believe, from the circumstances which have for the last eight months surrounded me, and which have at the same time placed in my possession many facts, and bound me, heart and soul, to the oppressed voters of Kansas, that I can do much toward obtaining redress for your grievances.

Day by day a crisis approaches us. In after times posterity will view this as a turning point - a marked period - such as to us now are the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and the era of the alien and sedition laws. We should take each step carefully, so that each shall be a step in the way of progress, and so that no violence be done to the tie that binds the American people together. If any one supposes that any institutions or laws can be imposed by force upon a free and enlightened people, he never knew, or has forgotten, the history of our forefathers. American citizens bear in their breasts too much of the spirit of other and trying days, and have lived too long amid the blessings of liberty to submit to oppression from any quarter, and the man who, having once been free, can tamely submit to tyranny is only fit to be a slave.

I urge the Free-state men of Kansas to forget all minor issues and pursue with determination the one great object, never swerving, but ever pressing on, as did the wise men who followed the star to the manger, looking back only for fresh encouragement.

I counsel first, that peaceful resistance be made to the tyrannical and unjust laws of the spurious Legislature; that appeal be had to the courts, to the ballot-box and to Congress for relief from this oppressive load - that violence be deprecated so long as a single hope of peaceable redress remains; and, at last, should all peaceful efforts fail - if, in the proper tribunals, there is no hope for our dearest rights, outraged and profaned if we are still to suffer that corrupt men may reap harvests watered by our tears, then there is one more chance for justice. God has provided in the eternal frame of things, redress for every wrong, and there still remains to us the steady eye and the strong arm - and we must conquer, or mingle the bodies of the oppressors with those of the oppressed upon the soil which the Declaration of Independence no longer protects. I am not apprehensive that such a crisis will ever arrive. I believe that justice may be found far short of so dreadful an extremity, and, even should an appeal to arms come, if we are prepared, that moment the victory is won. Our invaders will never strike a blow in so unjust a cause.

"Thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just."

Let the Proclamation from the people calling the election be signed by every voter; let the legal requirements of an election be strictly observed. Our position should be only that of asking that the law be carried out.

When Ethan Allen was asked at Ticonderoga by whose authority he demanded the fort, he replied: "In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." I expect that you will so prepare me, that, to a similar question, I may boldly answer: "The great Jehovah and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill Congress." . . . Let no rashness endanger the Union which we all love, and to which we all cleave.

I am reluctant to believe that the correct public sentiment of the South indorses the violent wrongs which have been perpetrated by Missourians upon the people of this Territory, and I wait to hear its rebuke. Should it not come, and all hope of moral influence to correct these evils be cut off, and the tribunals of our country fail us, while our wrongs still continue, what then? Will they have grown easier to bear from long custom? God forbid that any lapse of time should accustom freemen to the duties of slaves, and, when such fatal danger as that menaces, then is the time to

"Strike for our altars and our fires,
Strike for the green graves of our sires,
God and our native land."

The address exerted a powerful influence on the convention and it is said that many of the delegates were in tears. The convention adjourned without any formal motion. Some committees had been appointed by the convention; one consisting of S. C. Pomeroy, James H. Lane and G. W. Brown was to wait upon Governor Wilson Shannon, who had recently arrived in the Territory, and communicate to him the action of the convention. The Kansas Free State Executive Committee was appointed by the Big Springs convention, and its members were, Charles Robinson, Chairman; Joel K. Goodin, Secretary; George W. Smith, John A. Wakefield, L. Macy, Fry W. Giles, William Phillips, Charles A. Foster, J. P. Fox, J. D. Stockton, W. K. Vail, John Brown, Jr., W A. Ely, George F. Warren, John Hamilton, Hamilton Smith, Lotan Smith, Martin F. Conway, Samuel D. Houston, L. R. Adams, Luther R. Palmer, John E. Gould, Abelard Guthrie.

Honorable H. Miles Moore, delegate from Leavenworth, later wrote of the Big Springs Convention as follows:

It had in truth and in fact accomplished a great and glorious work for the Free-State cause in Kansas; it had fully organized the party in the Territory, put forth its platform, nominated a Delegate to Congress, appointed a day for his election, and indorsed the constitutional convention called to be held at Topeka on the approaching 19th of September. It had flung its banner to the breeze inscribed in letters of living light: KANSAS MUST AND SHALL BE FREE, PEACEABLY IF WE CAN, BUT FORCIBLY IF WE MUST. NO SLAVE SHALL LONGER CLANK HIS CHAINS ON HER VIRGIN SOIL. The days of secret Free-State meetings called by "Many Citizens," "Sundry Citizens," etc., held in Lawrence or elsewhere, with the names of the participants suppressed or not announced, was past, thank God! From this time henceforth their names were to be published broadcast and known and read of all men; no skulling now, but a fight in the open and to the death if need be. The Big Springs convention had given new life and inspiration to the Free-State settlers throughout the Territory, where before a spirit of despondency and apathy had prevailed. Hope and courage took on new life. Free-State meetings were held in many towns and settlements in the Territory.

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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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