SENATOR BRISTOW'S ADDRESS - GOVERNOR STUBBS ON "KANSAS" - HENRY J. ALLEN'S ELOQUENCE - CONGRESS MAN MADISON'S TRIBUTE - WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE ON "THE OLD INSURGENTS" - JOHN H. ATWOOD'S SPEECH.
A semi-centennial celebration of the adoption of the Wyandotte constitution by the people of Kansas was held in October, 1909, and, as was befitting an occasion of such historic importance, it was ordained that the celebration be held in Kansas City, Kansas, the metropolis of Kansas that grew from the little village of Wyandotte of 1859. It was held in the banquet hall of the great Scottish Rite temple adjoining the historic old burial ground of the Wyandot Indians, and under the auspices of the Mercantile Club. Many men of distinction in Kansas guests and the glories of the commonwealth, and its triumphs under the Wyandotte constitution, were sung. At that time only five men who sat as delegates in the convention of fifty years before were living:
John T. Burris, delegate from Johnson county, residing at Olathe.
C. B. McClelland, delegate from Jefferson county, residing at Oskaloosa, Kansas.
R. C. Foster, delegate from Leavenworth county, residing at Dennison, Texas.
B. F. Simpson, delegate from Lykins county, residing at Paola.
Samuel D. Houston, delegate from Riley county, residing at Salina. Mr. Houston, who died a few months after that celebration, was the only one of the five survivors that did not attend.
Mayor U. S. Guyer was the presiding officer and the speakers were Governor W. R. Stubbs, United States Senator J. L. Bristow, Congressmen E. H. Madison, William Allen White, Henry J. Allen and John H. Atwood.
"The City's Place in National Life," was the subject on which Senator Bristow spoke. "There is no state like Kansas," he said. "I ought to be permitted to talk a little about Kansas, although that subject was assigned to someone. They may jest about Kansas. They may say that we are erratic, that we are impulsive, that we are even insane in Kansas. But I would rather be insane in Kansas than sane in New York. There are things that they can't and don't say about Kansas. They can't say that we have not convictions; they never say that we don't say what we think and act likewise. Kansas is not afraid of any set of men. Kansas is the product of the day on which she was born. In the early day we fought for human liberty and to-day we are fighting for political and commercial liberty. Why should not Kansas lead in renovating the morals of men and politics of the nation? In my heart I love Kansas and my ambition in public life is to do something that will add to the prosperity of the state and welfare of its people.
"This hearty reception, I think, is not so much for me personally as it is for some of the things I have been trying to stand for. In the olden days, in other countries, the nations began with the cities and their stone walls. The nation was not builded until the cities were erected. The history of the nations was the history of its cities.
"In our country it is different. The nation up to this day has been ruled by a rural people, not an urban people. In the past the cities have not been potent in the making of our laws. The legislation has been molded by the people from the farms and the villages. But the people are drifting rapidly to the city. The urban population is to play a great part in the future of this country. Municipal government is to be potent in the government of the nation. We are to rest our destiny on the patriotism of the city voters. In time they will control. The city governments must be clean if the national government is to be good.
"There is danger ahead. I know of the governments of two cities controlled by political machines that are outrageously corrupt. I know of only one political organization that is more wickedly and criminally corrupt than the Democrats in Tammany Hall in New York City and that is the Republican machine in the city of Philadelphia.
"I had thought that such rural influences in our politics as come from Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska and other agricultural states of few larger cities would keep our national government clean, but in the last session of congress there was a signal of danger that is vital to our nation.
The governor said that the citizens of Kansas should take an interest in the development of the Missouri river. "The Lord has done wonderful things for Kansas," he continued. "He has not done any greater thing for this state than to place a great canal over there on the eastern border. Don't you know that seagoing vessels ought to be able to come up the river and touch on Kansas soil?
"Kansas people should take an interest in this river improvement. The river should be used to distribute the products of this state to the world. By improving the Missouri river you can make Kansas a greater state and make Kansas City, Kansas, a greater city. The river should be improved on a large scale, not a few miles a year. A river should be improved as a railroad is built. You do not build four or five miles of railroad a year. You survey the whole route and then strike out and build it for the whole distance as fast as you can.
"Let us make Kansas as sound as a bullet in its moral and business life. We have some great institutions in Kansas. We have the greatest university and the greatest agricultural college in the country.
"It appears that the United States is to have the model government of the world. If this is true Kansas should be the model state in this model nation. All over the state the cities are adopting the commission form of government. This is an encouraging sign. It means that the cities will not be a corrupting influence in the state as they are in so many other states.
"I am glad to see the citizens of the state taking a greater interest in Kansas City, Kansas. If you follow out your progressive plans this city will have a population of 400,000 or 500,000 before many years are gone.
To the enthusiasm of youth that painted the prairies of Kansas with their wealth of green and purple and gold, Henry J. Allen, a favorite of all Kansas word painters, added the philosophical reflections of middle age in his address on "Sunny Kansas." "I am happy to be here in this city to-night," he said at the beginning, "because it gives me an opportunity to congratulate the people of Kansas City, Kansas, on the spledid progress they are making. And I want to congratulate you upon the fact that you have proved that a great city can be both prosperous and respectable at the same time. Here I find you are now, at this late season of the year, building three hundred and fifty new homes, and every hammer, in the hand of a workman on those homes, drives another nail into the lie that a town can't be built without saloons. We all love Kansas City, Kansas, and with every forward stride of the city our love increases. It's because it is our Kansas City, and in touch with everything that makes our state so dear to us." Mr. Allen talked of "dimpling valleys where rest the peaceful cities of Kansas; of broad acres that yield abundantly; of autumnal landscapes where the great artists of nature paints with deeper colors because of the prosperity of Kansas." "But," he added with a glow of enthusiasm, "the greatest of all the manifestations of sunshine in Kansas is in the character and the quality of our civilization. True, we are laughed at and are made the subject of jest, but when it comes to acute thinking we are not as dull as Rhode Island. We are alive and thinking - every man, woman, boy and girl in the state is thinking, and acquiring a wealth of ideas. We may not have the highest degree of sanity, but we have a high degree of mental activity. We take leadership.
"My friends," Mr. Allen said in closing his address, "the germ of our Kansas citizenship is the love we have for our state, for the town he helps to make, for the home he helps to build, for the trees and grass and flowers he plants. Teach the boys and girls to love their homes, their city, their state and their nation, and Kansas will have the best civilization of earth. "
The subject of Congressman Edward H. Madison's address was "Kansas Under the Wyandotte Constitution." "There are some men here to-night," Mr. Madison said, "who ought to receive the homage of every man and woman in Kansas - venerable men who helped write the constitution of Kansas liberty. It is a great thing to participate in the building of a constitution for a great commonwealth. This Kansas constitution exists to-day practically as it was written in the old warehouse at the side of the river in old Wyandotte. They had the United States constitution for a model, and when they selected a constitution they selected one which ever since has stood for freedom and liberty.
"The constitution that these men framed had nothing of retrogression. There was nothing in it that would have to be eradicated in the future in order that the state might exist. Like the United States constitution it dealt with broad principles and was a constitution that will endure. These men who assembled at Wyandotte formulated a magnificent charter of liberties. That constitution and the laws that were framed under it were an invitation to every God-fearing citizen, wherever he might be, to come to Kansas and make his home.
"The Kansas constitution and Kansas laws have made it a great state. A few years ago they were denouncing us all over the country as a set of cranks because we had adopted a prohibitory law. Now every state in the Union is following our example. Kansas essentially is, and always will be, a state of farmers. The great problems of this state are not settled in the cities but by the farmers in the country. These men have declared against the saloon just as the men who assembled here fifty years ago declared against human slavery. And one will not return to Kansas any sooner than the other. There is another reform that has come to Kansas that is going to stay. That is the primary election law. The reason that its going to stay is because its fundamentally and absolutely right."
Mr. Madison closed his address with a plea for fairness to the railroads which pushed out into Kansas in advance of civilization, and asked that they be shown appreciation for their help in opening up the country.
"We have met to-night to celebrate the semi-centennial anniversary of the adoption of the Wyandotte constitution of the state of Kansas," William Allen White said. "That constitution is the fundamental law of our state. It is not a sacred document. It is human and faulty, now more or less out of date, and it has been considerably amended for its betterment. But when it was adopted that constitution stood for one big thing - the overthrow of slavery in the west. It was a Free State constitution. It marked the close of fifty years of compromise on the question of slavery and brought on the 'irresponsible conflict.' And we are gathered here to honor the memory of the men who, through the long dark years of the contest, struggled to make Kansas a free state. They did not believe in freedom as a political precept. They fought slavery as a great moral wrong, with no thought of party solidarity. They battled for the eternal right as their conscience saw the right. They left party; left friends, left home and ties of blood; they risked their personal liberties and disdained to save their own lives, for the blessed privilege of fighting in the great combat. They were the old Kansas insurgents. It is difficult for us to realize to-day what odds they fought against. For the forces of conservatism were entrenched. Those who stood pat on slavery, and who believed in the sacred rights of property in human beings, had with them the constitution of the United States, the armies of the United States, the courts of the United States. They had with them the respectable majority of the people of the United States - the upper classes of our socieety.[sic] The old insurgents were unconstitutional. They were in rebellion against the arms of their country. They were disturbers of the public peace. They were disreputable, lawbreaking fanatics, who had only God's sheer justice on their side in that great struggle. They were denounced as visionaries. They were abused as enemies to the flag they loved. They were outcasts from the parties. They were hanged as traitors. Presidents sneered at them, courts banned them, and the smug forces they were fighting laughed the old insurgents to scorn; but they fought on. They were told that government is compromise, but they refused to compromise. They were told that the constitution of the United States was against them, and it was; but they did not yield or falter. They were defeated at the polls; they were whipped in many a border battle. They saw their cause go down to defeat time and time again, but they did not desert it; for their faith in the ultimate triumph of justice was supreme. And so they won by their faith - won for Kansas and humanity.
"Now these things are recited here to point a moral and adorn a narrative. It seemed in the fifties, in Kansas, as if the established order had the world by the tail with a down-hill pull. But there is just one trouble with tail holds - the tail sometimes pulls out. The thing which latter-day scientists designate as an immortal cinch may lose its immortality as easily as a sixteen-year-old loses her hairpins. The cinch of today is liable to become the thing we try to explain tomorrow. For is it not written - that nothing fails like success. Fifty years ago the sacred institution of private property in human beings was prancing down the corridors of time as closely as a traction engine. Then the corridors of time came up kerflop, and sent the sacred institution of private property in human beings scooting through oblivion like a buckshot out of a bean shooter. Today the sacred institution of private property in the vested right to gouge the American people in trusts and rebates and extortionate tariffs may do well to pick a convenient star to grab as it passes into the dazzling perihelion. For the sidewalk is going to begin to flop during the next ten years. There is something dynamic in faith. The old insurgents had faith; the others had the works; and the faith of those old boys blew up the whole works. That is what you might call faith without works.
"This is a queer world; man comes forth to battle declaring that God is on the side of the heaviest artillery, and lo! there is a sunken road that swallows the artillery. The unflinching heroes behind the brick wall at Hugemount, and the day is lost; a sacred institution elects senators, controls presidents, writes laws, dominates constitutions, and behold a half crazed fanatic appears at Harper's Ferry, and 'his soul goes marching on.' And so today - the great financial forces that dominate our American politics should profit by these examples. If this be treason - don't shoot the pianist - he's doing his best. And in closing these remarks let me leave this parting thought: As our fathers won their fight by faith, so shall our faith today be justified. And in looking back to honor them, let us honor them by consecrating ourselves in the contest now before us, that we may become worthy bearers of a great heritage."
A humorous description of the present political situation in Kansas. "This Kansas now is a veritable Republican paradise," he said. "The Republicans have always fought and flourished in Kansas. Glick and Leedy put them out a couple of years, but that did not stop the Kansas Republicans from fighting. Why look at 'Joe' Bristow, who has shied his castor even at the president! It is not right that I, a poor, beaten, whipped Democrat should be here in company with these Republicans flushed with victory.
"Daniel Boone wasn't in it as an Indian fighter, compared with Stubbs. Stubbs goes around burning the villages of good Republican Indians and he does it cheerfully, too. There is considerable turmoil, even in the ranks of the Republicans, in Kansas. That is pleasing to observe, but then comes the realization that it don't do the Democrats any good. They're getting more and more Republicans all the time.
"There was a machine once here in Kansas. But these insurgents poured water in the machine's gasoline and poured sand in the bearings. Now the machine exists no more."
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