THE LEGISLATURE AT SHAWNEE MISSION.
Having now an undivided and unanimously Pro-slavery membership, the
Legislature proceeded to carry out its pre-arranged programme. Both Houses
passed a bill on July 4, entitled "An act to remove the seat of Government
temporarily to the Shawnee Manual Labor School, in the Territory of Kansas."
The bill was promptly vetoed by Gov. Reeder, and as promptly passed over
his veto, and the Legislature adjourned thereby to the Shawnee Mission,
where it was to meet on July 16. The veto message read as follows:
TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE TERRITORY OF KANSAS:
I return to your House, in which it originated, the bill entitled "An act to
remove the seat of Government temporarily to the Shawnee Manual Labor School
in the Territory of Kansas," with my objections. I cannot give the bill my
official sanction for several reasons. It provides "that until the seat of
government is located by law, the Governor and Secretary of State (by which is
doubtless meant the Secretary of the Territory), shall respectively keep their
offices at the Shawnee Manual Labor School."
This permission seems to me peculiarly objectionable. The Legislative and
Executive departments, here as elsewhere, are entirely independent of each
other in the performance of their respective duties within their separate
spheres, and must each be left to the discharge of their own proper functions,
independent of the control of the other, in any way that would interfere with
the exercise of that discretion, which is properly confided to them. Under our
organic law there is even yet another consideration bearing upon this
well-known doctrine, which forces itself upon our attention.
The Executive department is an emanation of the power of the Federal
Government, represents the authority of that Government, and the incumbent is
appointed by it. His duties are defined by Congress, who may at any time
restrict or enlarge them, and prescribe the mode in which they shall be
performed, and to the Federal Government alone, from which his power is
derived, and by which his movements are directed, is he responsible for the
manner in which his official functions are performed. This controlling power
over the Territorial Executive can neither be taken away from Congress by the
Territorial Legislature, nor can it be exercised by the latter, concurrently
with the former, because this would involve the possibility of an
irreconcilable conflict between the two. The control of the Executive is not
parted with by Congress, under the 24th section of the organic law, because as
already shown, such control by others would be inconsistent with the spirit of
the act. The General Government have legislated in various portions of the
act, as to the general duties of the Executive, and in reference to this point
particularly, now involved, have gone as far as they then deemed expedient, by
providing that the Governor and Secretary shall reside in the Territory. They
may at any time go further and provide at what point of the Territory the
offices shall remain; but we must await their action in the matter, as that of
the only power which can prescribe it; so long as they see proper to leave to
the incumbent of the Executive Department the privilege of locating his office
anywhere within the Territory, that privilege cannot be taken away by the
When the actual seat of government is fixed by competent authority, it would
certainly become the duty of the Executive to locate his office there, and
this brings us to the inquiry whether the bill which I now return is within
the rightful powers of the Legislature, as conferred by Congress.
It professes to locate the seat of government temporarily, as
contradistinguished from a permanent location. This distinction is well
founded and well understood, and is recognized as well in the organic law as
in the act of Congress of March 3, 1855, and a temporary seat of government is
recognized as one upon which none of the public money appropriated by
Congress, shall be expended in the erection of public buildings.
By the organic law, the Governor was vested with the power to fix the place
for the meeting of the first Legislative Assembly. By the same law, Congress
themselves fixed the temporary seat of Government, and by act of March 3,
1855, they conferred upon the Legislature the right to fix a permanent seat of
government. The power of the Legislature is thus clearly defined. Congress has
chosen to confine one branch of this subject to the Governor, to retain
another to themselves, and to commit the third to the Legislature.
The Legislature may undoubtedly, by virtue of the act of Congress, passed
March 30, 1855, entirely supersede the temporary seat of government by a
permanent location, upon which the public appropriation is to be expended for
buildings; but in no other mode can the object be attained. Had Congress
abstained from fixing a temporary seat of government, the Legislature might,
perhaps, by implication, have had the power to do so; but when they exercise
it themselves, and, in the same law, prohibit the Legislature from any
legislation inconsistent with the provisions of the act, it would seem that
the door is closed for any such legislation as contemplated by the bill which
has been submitted tome (sic).
It follows then that the Legislative Assembly has no right to prescribe where
the office of the Executive shall be held, except by means of the
establishment of a seat of government, and that they are confined to the
fixing of a permanent and not a temporary one, and it would seem equally clear
that as Congress has provided for the place of their first meeting, for the
temporary seat of government, and also for the permanent seat of government,
that it was their intention that the Legislature should sit only at one place
of the three.
Conclusive as this view of the case appears, I may add that I cannot perceive
the expediency of the bill. The effect will be at once to adjourn your present
session to the place mentioned, and whilst I am prepared to admit that the
Legislative Assembly are satisfied of the existence of sufficient reasons for
this step, their reasons are not apparent or convincing to me; and on the
other hand, it is the loss of the time (more valuable because limited) which
our organic law allots to the Legislative session, and because it will involve
a pecuniary loss in view of the arrangements which have been made at this
place for our accommodation.
A. H. Reeder, Governor.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, July 6, 1855.
The Legislative body, without a head, met at the Shawnee Manual Labor School
on the 16th of July, according to adjournment. It had already by its acts,
dethroned the Governor, and left him only the symbol of inability and
helplessness, with no executive function except to follow them in their
travels from place to place. His authority as the Executive head of the
Territorial Government had been entirely ignored. He was virtually deposed -
not by the President, who had appointed him, but by the lawless and arrogant
behest of a body of men responsible only to their Missouri constituents and
the Pro-slavery junta which ruled the National Government at Washington,
headed by S. A. Douglas and Jefferson Davis, directed to the Kansas Department
by Hon. David Atchison, with Franklin Pierce, President of the United States,
as a figure-head, who wielded scarcely more influence with the national
conspirators, seeking to fasten slavery upon the nation, than did his
subordinate, Reeder, with those who held the Territory of Kansas by the throat.
The legislators were by no means easy to mind at the situation. Nothing except
a revolution could render the laws they might pass valid or of any moral
force, if the Executive ignored them and took the ground of Gov. Reeder, that
they were not a legally constituted body, and that therefore all laws they
might pass were void.
The dead-lock between the Governor and the Legislature was determined on the
presentation of the first act passed after its assembling at Shawnee. It was
unimportant in itself, being only to incorporate a Ferry Company at the town
of Kickapoo. The Governor returned the bill, however, without his approval. He
states at the beginning of his message:
I see nothing in the bill itself to prevent my sanction of it, and my
reasons for disapproval have been doubtless anticipated by you as necessarily
resulting from the opinions expressed in my message of the 6th instant.
Following, the Governor discussed the powers of the Legislature, quoting from
the organic act and other authorities to show that, by the illegal temporary
removal of the Legislature to a place other than the appointed by the
Governor, who only had the power to designate its place of meeting, it had
destroyed its own existence as a law-making body. The veto message closed as
It seems, then, to be plain, that the Legislature now in session, so far as
the place is concerned, is in contravention of the act of Congress, and
where they have no right to sit, and can make no valid legislation.
Entertaining these views, I can give no sanction to any bill that is
passed; and if my views are not satisfactory, it follows that we must act
independently of each other. * * * * * * * * *
If I am right in these opinions, and our Territory shall derive no fruits
from the meeting of the present Legislative Assembly, I shall, at least,
have the satisfaction of recollecting that I called the attention of the
Assembly to the point before they removed, and that the responsibility,
therefore, rests not on the Executive.
A. H. REEDER, Governor.
SHAWNEE METHODIST MISSION, July 21, 1855.
The Legislature was quite prompt, after the receipt of this veto message, in
doing what it could to purge itself of an unpleasant Governor, as it had
already of its unpleasant members. It could not vote him out, as it had the
obnoxious members, but it had good reason to believe that, having, so far as
its powers allowed, proved its loyalty to the slave power, it would have no
trouble in removing the slight obstacle remaining in the person of Gov.
Reeder, by appeal to the central power at Washington. Accordingly, July 27,
six days after the veto of the Kickapoo Ferry bill, the following memorial was
adopted in join sessions of the two Houses:
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 complaining 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 officers 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 or 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
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
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. I 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 all
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 use 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 that point for the temporary seat of government
legitimately belongs to the Legislative Assembly whenever and wherever
convened. An 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
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 every 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.
WILLIAM P. RICHARDSON, Secretary of Council.
J. A. HALDERMAN (Attest)
Members of the House - Joseph C. Anderson, O. H. Brown, A. S.
Johnson, M. W. McGee, Samuel Scott, George W. Ward, James Whitlock, H. W.
Younger, John M. Banks, D. L. 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
A. WILKINSON, Clerk of the House.
JAMES M. KYLE (Attest).
Meantime, the Legislature had, by letter, requested through the United States
Attorney, a decision from the United States Court as to "whether the
adjournment of the assembly to the place (Shawnee Manual Labor School) was
legal." The court rendered a prompt opinion, signed by S. D. LeCompte, Chief
Justice, and Rush Elmore, Associate Justice, concurred in by A. J. Isacks,
United States District Attorney, that the whole thing was regular, and that
"the want of concurrence of the Governor present no objection to the efficacy
of the acts of the Legislative Assembly, two thirds of the members of each of
its constituent bodies concurring therein."
The judicial branch of the Territorial Government, by this extra-judicial
decision gave assurance to the Legislature of a support, lacking which it
would have feared to go further. Its authority as a law-making body thus
confirmed, so long as its members were undivided, could enact whatever laws it
deemed fit, the veto of the Governor notwithstanding. Indeed, a Governor, in
the light of this decision, ceased to be an element in the Government, or even
a hindrance to legislation.
It was voted to forward this memorial to Washington by a special messenger.
J. H. Stringfellow was chosen as the fittest bearer of dispatches. He
declined, and Andrew McDonald was selected. Armed with the formidable
document, and fortified with a certificate of election from the
Legislature, he departed for Washington.