WYANDOT INDIANS PIONEERS IN THE MOVEMENT - THE FIRST ELECTION - A "BOLTING" CONVENTION - KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL PASSED - WELCOME TO GOVERNOR REEDER - ORDERS AN ELECTION - CANDIDATES FOR TERRITORIAL DELEGATES - THE FIRST INVASION - EYES OF A NATION ON SHAWNEE MISSION - THE BOGUS LAWS - THREE MAKERS OF KANSAS HISTORY - GOVERNOR SHANNON TO THE FRONTIER - THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION - THE WAKARUSA WAR - EMIGRANT AID SOCIETIES - THE CAPITAL AT LECOMPTON - GOVERNOR GEARY ON THE SCENE - GOVERNOR ROBERT J. WALKER - THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION - LEAVENWORTH CONVENTION - GOVERNOR MEDARY - ELECTIONS BEFORE STATEHOOD.
THREE MAKERS OF KANSAS HISTORY.
Dr. Charles Robinson, a practicing physician, came to Kansas in 1854 and located at Lawrence. He was a native of Massachusetts, born in 1818 in the town of Hardwick. He was a fine specimen of the Now Englanders descended from the stock that landed at Plymouth Rock. Appearing in Kansas as a promoter of the plan to fill Kansas with Free State settlers, through the troublesome years he was leader of the Free State party - a statesman, a diplomat and an organizer. He origi nated the "Topeka movement" that consolidated the Free State senti ment and held it together, and when the fight was over was made gover nor of the Free State of Kansas.
"JIM" LANE. (KANSAS WAR-TIME SENATOR.)
James H. Lane came to Kansas in 1855. He had been a lieutenant governor, member of congress and colonel of an Indiana regiment in the Mexican war. General Lane, who bore the military title and even exercised its functions in war times without a commission, was not like Governor Robinson, from or of New England. He was born in Southern Indiana, and at the time of his coming to Kansas was in his forty-first year. As a member of congress he had voted for the Kansas-Nebraska bill and his mission in Kansas was to set up a Free State government. His faults were many, but he was a leader and rallied about him a following that displayed for him a devotion inspired by no Kansas "chieftain" since. He was a "roarer," a magnetizer, and a "natural" orator - meaning thereby one who, rising up and addressing his fellow creatures, moves them by voice and gesture, glance and glare of his eye, so that they cheer, hurrah, yell, even though opposed to him, for him and his side of the question. His "animating powers" were given as a rule to the Free State party. He went after some preliminary "moves" for Freedom, and took his clarion with him. His most active and eventful years were after the admission, when he achieved the object of his life-long ambition, the United States senate. It all ended in his dying by his own hand.
And then in the month of August, 1855, came to Kansas, John Brown, whose name soon was to fill the world. The first mention made of him in Kansas annals, he appeared in Lawrence with his sons on the night of the excitement following the killing of Thomas W. Barber. They were all armed. John Brown had studied and pondered, and talked and written and prayed about slavery all his life. John Brown joined the Free State party, not as a leader or counselor, but as a terror to its foes. He loved not conventions, or compromises, or constitutions. He and his sons and followers abode in the wilderness and came forth at the notes of the conflict, as the eagles to the slaughter, and then went away. When the fighting and killing in Kansas seemed over, he disappeared, to appear again upon the height of a scaffold, where all the world could see him to curse or bless. His name came to be sung by thousands of armed and marching men and his rude farmer's features to be made familiar to all the world in painting and sculpture. It is true, though, that all might have been different had there been less of brutal intolerance in Missouri and Kansas in 1855.
Governor Reeder did not recognize the validity of the Shawnee Mission legislature, claiming that it was in session where it had no legal right to be, and in the summer he was removed from office by the president of the United States. After an interval by Secretary and Acting Governor Daniel Woodson, Wilson Shannon of Ohio came in the fall of 1855, to take charge of the affairs of the then turbulent territory. Governor Shannon was said to have delivered his inaugural address at Westport, Missouri, but when he reached Shawnee Mission, the then "capital" of Kansas territory, he was welcomed by Hon. O. H. Brown with the following address that was remarkable for its eloquence:
"Governor Shannon: In the name of the people of Kansas, I am proud to welcome you to our prairie home. Coming from every state in the Union - from almost every civilized country on the globe - the people of Kansas have mingled their sympathies and combined their energies to protect our infant republic. Kansas, the offspring of Missouri, the hope and pride of America, will ever imitate the excellence and rival the beauty of her illustrious parent. When you grasp the hands of the pioneers you may trust your honor in their custody. With them the gentle pressure of the hand attests the cordial welcome of the heart. We have no Catalines here, no lank and hungry Italians with their treacherous smiles - no cowards with their stilettoes - no assassins of reputation. Here man walks abroad in the majesty of his Maker. He breathes the pure air, surveys the beauty, and reaps the products of nature. His heart expands with gratitude and devotion. The morning prayer is heard on every hill; the evening orison is chanted by the glad tenants of every valley and glen. What earthly power can retard the progress of such a people? They must be great - great in all the attributes of sovereign power. In the name of such people, welcome, Governor Shannon."
Governor Shannon began his administration by committing himself to the cause of slavery for the new territory.
Meanwhile the Free State people were not idle. Numerous public meetings and conventions were held. All of these culminated in the Big Springs convention in September, 1855, at which James H. Lane reported a platform in which the exclusion of all negroes, bond and free, from the territory was recommended. Governor Reeder was nominated for delegate to congress and the convention resolved in favor of holding another convention which should provide for a constitutional convention.
The convention that framed the Topeka constitution met in Topeka October 22, 1855, and it was in session sixteen days. Of the men in that convention Governor Robinson, in an address twenty years after, said: "Eighteen of the members gave their politics as Democrats, six as Whigs, four as Republicans, two as Free Soilers, one Free State and one Independent. The Democratic party being in power at that time, the lines were distinctly drawn between the conservative and the radical members from the first. The radicals wasted no thought on the offices, as they accepted the conclusion that no radical could be made available for office. None but Democrats, Whigs of the old school, or blackmen could be fellowshipped. Men who had anti-slavery convictions, who would tolerate free negroes in the state, and especially such as would vote to enfranchise them were regarded as abolitionists of the darkest dye and likely to be fit subjects for an insane asylum before one could be provided for their accommodation. Evening sessions were held for the purpose of discussing a resolution or approving of the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska bill. The Democrats and Conservatives were desirous of being loyal to their party and insisted that the troubles in Kansas were not the legitimate fruits of the bill, but in consequence of the violation of its spirit. The Radicals denounced the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and declared the pretense of squatter sovereignty was a sham and a mockery and was so intended to be by its authors. The convention was nearly equally divided on this question, there being seventeen ayes to fifteen noes."
Out of the Topeka constitutional convention came the Topeka state government and the Topeka legislature. The officers elected under the Topeka constitution were: Governor, Charles Robinson; lieutenant-governor, W. Y. Roberts; secretary of state, P. C. Schuyler; auditor, G. A. Cutler; treasurer, J. A. Wakefield; attorney general, H. Miles Moore; supreme judges, M. Hunt, S. N. Latta, M. T. Conway; supreme court reporter, E. M. Thurston; clerk of the supreme court, S. B. Floyd; state printer, John Speer; representative in congress, M. W. Delahay.
There was an abundance of noise and bluster in the territory, but the killing near Doniphan of Collins, a Free State man, by Laughlan, a Pro-Slavery man, October 20, 1855, started things. This had been preceded by the lynching of William Phillips and Pardee Butler. Under title of the "Law and Order" party the Pro-Slavery forces attempted to govern the territory. The killing of Dow by Coleman, a Pro-Slavery man, led to the arrest of Branson, a Free State man. The arrest was made by Samuel Jones, sheriff of Douglas county, Kansas, by appointment of the Shawnee Mission legislature. Jones was also postmaster of Westport, Missouri. A party of Free State men, led by Sam Wood, famous in Kansas for many years, rescued Branson from the sheriff. Branson took refuge in Lawrence. The sheriff, "in the name of law and order," called on the governor to call out the militia. About fifteen hundred Missourians answered the call and moved to the mouth of the Wakarusa river near Lawrence. Something like eight hundred Free State men assembled at Lawrence called on the president, congress and Charles Sumner to protect the right. Governor Shannon appeared in Lawrence and tried to quell the storm. He visited the armies and finally ordered the "law and order" militia to disperse. At this stage appeared in Lawrence old John Brown and his four sons, disgusted with Governor Shannon's efforts to restore peace and crying out for war.
So the close of the year 1855 found not only Kansas, but the United States, in an upheaval. The Republican party, organized the year before in Michigan, rose rapidly to power in the north and it championed the cause of Free Kansas.
The year 1856 was only fifteen days old when the election of state officers under the Topeka constitution was held. This brought face to face in Kansas the two governments, the Free State government and the Territorial government. President Pierce in a special message to congress, in January, recognized the Pro-Slavery legislature and declared the Topeka government treasonable and rebellious. In February Nathaniel P. Banks was elected speaker of the house of representatives, and that body afterwards voted to admit Kansas under the Topeka constitution.
The Topeka legislature, after meeting on the 4th of July, dispersed on the order of Colonel E. V. Sumner, afterwards a distinguished general in the Union army, backed by a strong force of cavalry and artillery. The federal authorities affected to regard the Topeka movement as treasonable, and many men engaged in it were arrested and confined in a stockade at Lecompton. "Law and order" produced its customary results and the United States marshal and his deputies made arrests right and left.
As the north had organized Emigrant Aid Societies and sent emigrants to Kansas, so parties were sent from Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. As the northern states had made appropriations, so Alabama appropriated $25,000 to aid her "Kansas emigrants." These new settlers were active in the affairs of the territory. In May, 1856, Lawrence was invaded by a large force, commanded by General Atchison, and the Eldridge House and the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State newspaper offices were destroyed under the direction of the sheriff and by the finding of the grand jury. It was all in conformity with the law - such as it was. The United States marshal was in general charge of operations.
After this, old John Brown was heard from on the other side. James P. Doyle, his two sons, William Sherman and Allen Wilkinson, Pro-Slavery settlers on Pottawatomie creek, were called to their doors at night and hacked to death. The next month Brown and his party met H. Clay Pate at Black Jack. Captain Pate told the story very neatly afterwards.
"I went to take old Brown and Brown took me."
The regular army troops in the territory were kept moving about, first to "enforce the law" and later to keep the hostile parties from getting together. Among the officers were several who rose to high rank during the Civil war. Among these were Colonel Joseph E. Johnston. With rare exceptions the officers executed their orders with discretion and humanity and received the final respect of all parties.
The fighting Free State men attacked the southern camps and garrisons at "Fort Titus," harrassed them, and, with the "armies of invasion," like that which attacked and burned Ossawatomie, and with the movements of the regular troops, Kansas, in the summer of 1856, presented a truly martial appearance. The Free State people began to get discouraged in August, when the militia were again ordered out against them, and many left the territory. In September, Jefferson Davis, secretary of war, made a requisition on the governors of Illinois and Kentucky for two regiments of infantry to "crush the insurrection in Kansas" on the order of General Persifor F. Smith in command at Leavenworth.
The capital of the territory was removed early in the action to Lecompton, and there Governor Shannon lived during his rule, which was broken by absences, during which Acting Governor Woodson exercised authority. Lecompton was favored by the federal government and was fertilized by a moderate stream from the national treasury.
In September, 1856, Governor John W. Geary, coming up the river, passed Governor Shannon going down. Governor Geary arrived in Leavenworth. He was a rather fine writer and described Kansas in his earliest dispatches as the "fittest earthly type of hell." He seems to have sympathized with the Free State people and ordered the militia to disband. The Free State men captured the Pro-Slavery forces at Slough creek and Hickory Point. The victors were arrested by the United States troops, kept prisoners at Lecompton and twenty of them afterward sentenced by Judge Cato to the penitentiary. Governor Geary was determined on peace. He went to the Wakarusa and ordered the Pro-Slavery army under Governor John W. Reid to disperse. He held a conference with the leaders which he declared the "most important since the days of the American revolution." This was the last of the great invasions.
General Lane appeared with a proposition for a duel between one hundred Free State men, including himself, and one hundred slaveholders, including General Atchison, to settle the question by "wager of battle," with twelve United States senators and twelve members of the house for referees; but nobody yearned for the trial.
In October there was an election for members of the territorial legislature, - the next in order after the Shawnee Mission legislature, a delegate to congress, and on the question of calling a constitutional convention, which afterwards met as the Lecompton convention. The Free State men did not vote. Governor Geary made a tour of the territory. He was greatly pleased with the "pacification" of the territory, which he believed he had effected, and called for a day of thanksgiving. With the end of 1856 the "treason trials" had fizzled out; the Free State prisoners at Lecompton escaped whenever they wished; the immigration by the way of Iowa was no longer obstructed, and the people generally began to talk about town sites. It was announced that half a million dollars had been invested in Quindaro.
With the beginning of 1857 came the legislature to Lecompton. Governor Geary vetoed many bills and they were passed by a two-thirds vote over his head. The governor, so happy a few months before, found that a chief executive of Kansas is of few days and full of trouble. He was literally spit upon by a man who was killed, however, a few minutes later by the governor's brother-in-law. A few days later he quietly resigned his office. He was afterward a major general in the Union army and governor of Pennsylvania.
Appointed to succeed Governor Geary, Robert J. Walker had been a distinguished man, having been secretary of the treasury under President Polk. Secretary Stanton preceded him and made the customary number of speeches. Governor Walker arrived in May. At Leavenworth he met the customary enthusiastic reception. The Free State people did not vote for delegates to the Lecompton constitutional convention and it got only about two thousand votes. Governor Robinson was tried for "usurpation of office" and acquitted; and the "law and order" arrangements broke down.
The Lecompton constitutional convention met at Lecompton in September, and a large Free State meeting at that place passed resolutions and ordered it off the premises. For want of a quorum, it adjourned to October 19th, and again to November 3rd. Before this last meeting an election was held for delegates to the territorial legislature. Violence was not attempted at this election, fraud being considered preferable. Oxford, in Johnson county, with perhaps forty votes, polled 1,628 Pro-Slavery votes; McGee county, the present Cherokee and Crawford, polled 1,200, and Kickapoo was nearly as expert. Governor Walker set the election returns aside for "informality." By this charge the legislature was made Free State. The papers began to speak of other things than politics. It is announced that "5,000 gallons of sorghum have been made in Kansas this year;" "a meeting of the corporators of the Jefferson City & Neosho Valley Railroad is held;" and "Sam Wood, as justice of the peace, opens the first court in Lawrence."
The Lecompton constitutional convention assembled under the presidency of John Calhoun and the protection of Sherman's battery, which afterwards distinguishel[sic] itself at the first battle of Bull Run, and other United States forces. It adopted a constitution virtually establishing slavery in Kansas and providing for a fraudulent submission of itself, "The constitution with slavery," or the "Constitution without slavery." By the end of the month of November, Stephen A. Douglas was denouncing the Lecompton constitution, and when the people voted on it in August, 1858, there were 1,788 for and 11,300 against it. In 1858 the Topeka government was kept up; state officers and a state legislature were also elected under the Lecompton constitution; the territorial legislature continued in business and Governor Denver reigned in Governor Walker's stead.
In this year the Leavenworth constitutional convention was held. It went farther than the Topeka constitution had gone, and the word "white" was left out of it. T. Dwight Thacher, who was laid to rest in Kansas soil a few years ago, was a member of this convention and has left behind the best history of it. State officers were elected under it, but not one of all these various sets was to hold office. The time was not yet.
The war drifted away to the southward, to Linn and Bourbon counties. The Free State leader was James Montgomery, a religious man of a type of piety singularly like that of John Brown. In the course of these "troubles" occurred the Marais des Cygnes massacre by a party from Missouri under Captain Hamilton, which was commemorated in a poem by Whittier, perhaps the most remarkable called forth in the great mass of verses inspired by the Kansas struggle. In this affair five men were killed and four severely wounded. Great efforts were made to suppress these disturbances, but the struggle had become a war for reprisal and revenge and kept on during 1858.
In December, Samuel Medary, destined to be the last territorial governor of Kansas, took the oath of office. His attention was first directed to the fact that John Brown was carrying off negroes from Missouri, and that Montgomery was still finding texts in the Old Testament to justify the slaying of his enemies. Governor Medary was lonely as far as the co-ordinate branches of the government were concerned, since the legislature had become Free State - in fact, Republican - and had a habit of meeting at Lecompton and adjourning to Lawrence. The Topeka government finally gave up, merging in the regular territorial legislature. Governor Medary's time was largely taken up suppressing Brown and Montgomery. The legislature of 1859 abolished the "bogus laws," and passed a law abolishing slavery which Governor Medary did not sign. On April 19, 1859, Governor Medary called an election for delegates to one more constitutional convention (the fourth), to meet at Wyandotte. The election was held June 7th. It was a great election and 14,000 votes were cast; the Republicans elected thirty-five, the Democrats seventeen delegates.
During the territorial days of Kansas twenty-five general elections were held. The list follows:
(1) 1854, November 29. - Election of J. W. Whitfield,
proslavery, delegate to congress.
(2) 1855, March 30 - Election of members of the territorial legislature by fraudulent voters from Missouri.
(3) 1855, May 22. - Election to fill vacancies in the legislature caused by Governor Reeder throwing out illegal votes.
(4) 1855, October 1. - Election of delegate to congress, provided for by the territorial legislature. No free state men vote. J. W. Whitfield reelected.
(5) 1855, October 9. - Election of delegate to congress, as provided for by the free state convention at Big Springs. Total vote cast for A. H. Reeder; free state men only voting.
(6) 1855, October 9. - Election of delegates to the Topeka constitutional convention; only free state men participate.
(7) 1855, December 15. - Election on the adoption or rejection of the Topeka constitution. Free state men only vote.
(8) 1856, January 15. - Election of state officers, delegate to congress, and members of the legislature, under the Topeka constitution; free state men only vote.
(9) 1856, October 6. - Territorial election for delegate to congress, for members of the legislature, and on the question of calling a convention to form a state constitution. Free state men do not vote.
(10) 1857, June 15. - Election of delegates to the Lecompton constitutional convention. Free state men do not vote.
(11) 1857, August 9. - Election. of officers under the Topeka constitution, member of congress, and members of the legislature, and the resubmission of the constitution itself; free state men only vote.
(12) 1857, October 5, 6. - Election of territorial legislature and delegate to congress. All parties vote. The vote, as ordered by the legislature of 1855, was viva voce. Section 9, chapter 66, of the statutes of 1855, provided that if all the votes offered could not be taken before the hour appointed for closing, the judges should, by proclamation, adjourn to the following day, and the election to be continued as before. The bogus vote at Oxford was polled on October 6th, and was thrown out, because it was physically impossible to register so many in one day. There seems to have been no other election at which the voting was extended into the second day. On the first day at Oxford 91 votes were polled, and on the second day 1538.
(13) 1857, December 21. - Election on the Lecompton constitution, with or without slavery, as provided by the convention. Free state men abstain from voting.
(14) 1858, January 4. - Election of state officers, members of the legislature, and delegate to congress, as provided for by the Lecompton constitution. Both participate. The free state vote for governor, compared with the vote cast against the constitution, made it apparent that 3351 free state men who visited the polls took no part in the election for state officers. The free state candidates, however, prevailed by majorities ranging from 311 to 696; but this was rendered nugatory by the ultimate defeat of the constitution.
(15) 1858, January 4. - Election on the adoption or rejection of the Lecompton constitution, ordered by the territorial legislature, special session, now free state, called for the purpose by Secretary Frederick P. Stanton. Only free state men vote.
(16) 1858, March 9. - Election of delegates to Leavenworth constitutional convention, as provided for by the territorial legislature. Only free state men vote.
(17) 1858, May 18. - Election on the Leavenworth constitution and state officers under it. Only free state men vote.
(18) 1858, August 2. - Election on the Lecompton constitution as submitted by the English bill. Both parties participate.
(19) 1858, October 4. - Election of members of the territorial house of representatives and superintendent of schools.
(20) 1859, March 28. - Election for or against a constitutional convention.
(21) 1859, June 7. - Election of delegates to the Wyandotte constitutional convention.
(22) 1859, October 4. - Election on the adoption or rejection of the Wyandotte constitution.
(23) 1859, November 8. - Election of delegate to congress and territorial legislature. (24) 1859, December 6. - Election of state officers, members of the legislature, and representative to congress under the Wyandotte constitution. (25) 1860, November 6. - Election of territorial legislature.
The state was admitted January 29, 1861, and began business with the officers and legislature elected December 6, 1859, the latter assembling for the first time March 26, 1861.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project