William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 21] [part 19] [Cutler's History]


The nomination of a Free-State Delegate to Congress being in order, M. F. Conway, with a short but forcible speech, nominated Hon. Andrew H. Reeder. There was no opposing candidate. His name was received with an outburst of applause, which meant more than an ordinary nomination by acclamation. It meant a condemnation of the Territorial Legislature and the National Administration. It meant a vindication of Gov. Reeder, and an unconquerable determination to fight to the bitter end the powers that had usurped the government of the Territory and removed him without cause. It meant the extreme challenge of an outraged people against every power, high or low, that stood opposed to their guaranteed constitutional rights.

In response to calls for Reeder, Reeder! Reeder!! The ex-Governor appeared on the stand, and made the speech which irrevocably severed him from the Administration and the Democratic party, and placed him where he ever after stood, among the foremost champions of free speech, free labor and free men. He spoke substantially as follows:


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 straightened 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 depreciated 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 crisis will ever arrive. I believe that justice may be found far short of so dreadful and extreme, 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 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."

At the close of the speech, a moment of dead silence ensued, broken with a simultaneous burst of applause, shouts, and defiant ejaculations - "Yes, we will strike!" "Freemen can never be slaves!" "Three cheers for Reeder, Reeder! Reeder!!" "Nine cheers for Reeder and Right!" Thus the work of the convention closed in an enthusiastic furor of cheers, hand-shaking, swearing and tears.

S. C. Pomeroy, James H. Lane and G. W. Brown were appointed a committee to wait upon Gov. Shannon, lately arrived in the Territory, and communicate to him the proceedings of the convention.

The work of this convention organized the free-state party of Kansas, 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 coming 19th.

Prior to the convention held at Big Springs, the Free-state movement had been conducted somewhat cautiously. Meetings had been called by "many citizens," "sundry citizens," etc., and were clandestinely feeling their way, doubtful of what strength might really be developed. Executive committees had been appointed at the Lawrence mass meetings, and had done their work faithfully and well. The persons composing them were not publicly announced for obvious reasons.

The first Kansas Free-state Executive Committee, deriving its power from a delegate convention, was appointed by the Big Springs Convention. The members constituting it 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. Vaill, 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.

The Big Springs Convention inspired the Free-state people throughout the Territory with hope and courage, where before had been despondency and apathy. Free-State meetings were held at nearly every settlement in the Territory, where resolutions indorsing the "Big Springs platform" were passed, and delegates chosen for the Constitutional Convention.


The delegate convention called for the purpose of considering the expediency of the formation of a State government with a view to application to Congress during the next session for admission as a State, met agreeably to call, at Topeka, on the 19th of September. It continued in session two days. The work accomplished appears in the following minutes of proceedings:


Wednesday, met at 11 A. M. Convention called to order by G. W. Smith, Esq., of the First District. Temporary officers chosen were: Chairman, Erastus D. Ladd, of Lawrence; Secretary, Cyrus K. Holliday, of Topeka.

Chose as Committee on Permanent Organization, G. W. Smith, A. Curtiss, W. Y. Roberts, J. F. Brannan, Joseph Hayes.

Chose as Committee on Credentials, Joel K. Goodin, J. A. Wakefield, A. M. Jordan, S. Mewhinney, Hamilton Smith, Thomas J. Addis, P. C. Schuyler, J. H. Nesbitt, L. P. Lincoln.

James Redpath was given a scat as reporter for the Missouri Democrat; William A. Phillips, for New York Tribune; Joseph L. Speer, for Chicago Tribune. James Redpath was elected reporter of the convention.

Adjourned to half-past 1 o'clock P. M.

Re-assembled at 2 o'clock P. M.

Committee on Delegates reported the following members of the convention:

First District - G. W. Smith, E. D. Ladd, G. W. Deitzler, S. C. Smith, J. K. Goodin, John Speer, M. Hunt, J. H. Lane.

Second District - Robert Buffam, J. A. Wakefield, David Buffam, D. Vancil, A. Curtiss, N. Alguyor.

Third District - W. Y. Roberts, C. K. Holliday, A. M. Jordan.

Fourth District - Samuel Workman, Amos Hanna, Samuel Mewhinney.

Fifth and Sixth Districts - Hamilton Smith, James F. Brannan, Thomas J> Addis.

Seventh District - P. C. Schuyler, J. D. Wood.

Eighth District - J. H. Nesbitt, S. R. Junkens.

Tenth District - L. P. Lincoln, Joseph Hayes.

Thirteenth District - J. B. Chapman, T. Jenner, Richard Murphy.

Sixteenth District - Marcus J. Parrott, H. Miles Moore, R. H. Phelan, M. W. Delahay, S. N. Latta.

The Committee on Permanent Organization reported the following list of permanent officers:

President - W. Y. Roberts.

Vice Presidents - J. A. Wakefield, P. C. Schuyler, L. P. Lincoln, J. K. Goodin, S. N. Latta, R. H. Phelan.

Secretaries - E. D. Ladd, J. H. Nesbitt, M. W. Delahay.

Report adopted, and officers took their seats.

Parliamentary rules adopted.

A Business Committee of fifteen members appointed as follows: G. W. Smith, Samuel Mewhinney, J. A. Wakefield, C. K. Holliday, L. P. Lincoln, Hamilton Smith, J. H. Nesbitt, T. J. Addis, Thomas Jenner, J. B. Chapman, H. Miles Moore, Marcus J. Parrott, G. W. Deitzler, P. C. Schuyler, J. D. Wood.

Committee reported, and convention adjourned to Thursday morning, 9 A. M.


The report of the Business Committee, on motion of Col. Lane, was recommitted, with instructions to report blanks instead of specified time for election of delegates and holding a constitutional convention, and blank as to the number of delegates. The committee subsequently reported with blanks to be filled by the convention, in accordance with instructions.

On motion of Col. Lane, a committee of eighteen was appointed, one from each district, "with full powers to write, print and circulate an address to the people of this Territory and to the civilized world, setting forth our grievances and the policy we have been compelled to adopt, and which we have determined at all hazards to carry out."

The Committee on Address appointed was J. H. Lane, W. Y. Roberts, Hamilton Smith, P. C. Schuyler, H. Miles Moore, J. S. Emery, A. M. Jordan, M. W. Delahay, Erastus D. Ladd, G. W. Deitzler, J. A. Wakefield, Samuel C. Smith, Thomas J. Addis, J. H. Nesbitt, L. P. Lincoln, John Speer, G. W. Brown, S. N. Latta, James Pierce.

Convention adjourned for dinner, and at 2 o'clock P. M. reconvened.

The Committee on Business reported, and their report was adopted. It was voluminous. It repeated in its preamble the grievances which had force the citizens to the course they had adopted, and offered the following resolutions:

(1) Resolved, By the people of Kansas Territory, in Delegate Convention assembled, that an election shall be held in the several election precincts of this Territory on the second Tuesday of October next, under the regulations and restrictions hereinafter imposed, for members of a convention to form a constitution, adopt a Bill of Rights for the people of Kansas, and take all needful measures for organizing a State Government preparatory to the admission of Kansas into the Union as a State.

(2) Resolved, That the apportionment of Delegates to said convention shall be as follows: Two Delegates for each Representative to which the people were entitled in the Legislative Assembly by proclamation of Gov. Reeder, of date of March 10, 1855.

(3) Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed by the Chair, who shall organize by the appointment of a Chairman and Secretary. They shall keep a record of their proceedings, and shall have a general superintendence of the affairs of the Territory so far as regards the organization of a State Government, which committee shall be styled the Executive Committee of Kansas Territory.

(4) Resolved, That it shall be the duty of the Executive Committee of Kansas Territory to advertise said election, at least fifteen days before the second Tuesday of October next, and to appoint three judges thereof for each precinct; and the said judges of each precinct shall appoint two clerks, all of whom shall be duly sworn or affirmed to discharge the duties of their respective offices impartially and with fidelity; and they shall open said election, at 10 o'clock, A. M., at the place designated in each precinct by the said Executive Committee, and close the same at 4 o'clock P. M. And, in case any of the officers appointed fail to attend, the officer or officers in attendance shall supply the vacancy or vacancies; and, in case of all of them failing to attend, ten qualified voters shall supply their places. And the said judges shall make out duplicate returns of said election, seal up, and transmit one copy of the same within five days, to the Chairman of the Executive Committee, to be laid before the Convention, and they shall, within ten days, seal up and hand the other to some member of the Executive Committee.

(5) Resolved, That the Chairman of the Executive Committee of Kansas Territory shall announce by Proclamation the names of the persons elected as Delegates to said Convention; and in case the returns from any precinct should not be completed by that day, as soon thereafter as practicable, and in case of a tie, a new election shall be ordered by the Executive Committee, giving five days' notice thereof, by the same officers who officiated at the first election.

(6) Resolved, That all white male inhabitants, citizens of the United States, above the age of twenty-one years, who have had a bona fide residence in the Territory of Kansas for the space of thirty days immediately preceding the day of said election, shall be entitled to vote for a Delegate to said Convention; and all white male inhabitants, citizens of the United States, above the age of twenty-one years, who have resided in the Territory of Kansas for the space of three months immediately preceding the day of election, shall be eligible as Delegates to said Convention.

(7) Resolved, That if, at the time of holding said election, it shall be inconvenient on account of Indian hostilities or any other cause whatever, that would disturb or prevent the voters of any election precinct in the Territory from the free and peaceable exercise of the elective franchise, the officers are hereby authorized to adjourn said election into any other precinct in the Territory, and to any other day they may see proper, of the necessity of which they shall be the exclusive judges, at which time and place the qualified voters may cast their votes.

(8) Resolved, That said Convention shall be held at Topeka, on the fourth Tuesday of October next, as 12 o'clock P. M., of that day.

(9) Resolved, That a majority of said Convention shall constitute a quorum, and that the said convention shall determine upon the returns and qualifications of its members, and shall have, and exercise all the rights, privileges and immunities incident to such bodies, and may adopt such rules and regulations for its government as a majority thereof may direct. If a majority of said convention do not assemble on the day appointed therefor, a less number is hereby authorized to adjourn from day to day.

(10) Resolved, That in case of the death, resignation, or non-attendance of any Delegate chosen from any district of the Territory, the President of the Convention shall issue his writ, ordering a new election, on five days' notice, to be conducted as heretofore directed.

(11) Resolved, That no person shall be entitled to a seat in the convention at its organization except the members whose names are contained in the proclamation of the Chairman of the Executive Committee. But, after the convention is organized, scats may be contested in the usual way.

(12) Resolved, That the members of the convention shall receive as a compensation for their services, the sum of three dollars per day, and three dollars for every twenty miles travel to and from the same, and that Congress be respectfully requested to appropriate a sufficient sum to defray the necessary expenses of said Convention.

(13) Resolved, That on the adoption of a Constitution for the State of Kansas, the President of the Convention shall transmit an authenticated copy thereof, to the President of the United States, to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives; to each member of Congress and to the Governor of each of the several States of the Union, and adopt such other measures as will secure to the people of Kansas the rights and privileges of a sovereign State.

Territorial Committee appointed was: James H. Lane, Cyrus K. Holliday, Marcus J. Parrott, Philip C. Schuyler, George W. Smith, Joel K. Goodin.

With a vote of thanks to the President and other officers and three enthusiastic cheers for the new Government, and the convention adjourned.

The work of the Executive Committee and the Free-state residents of the Territory was most vigorously prosecuted in accordance with the plan laid out by the Topeka convention. The Executive Committee issued a proclamation "to the legal voters" with a most stirring preamble, calling for the election of delegates to the constitutional convention to be holden in Topeka on the fourth Tuesday in November, designating the polling places, instructing the judges of election and otherwise providing for an election.

The election of a Free-state Delegate to Congress, in accordance with the action of the Big Springs convention, was, by proclamation, ordered to be holden on the same day. The date of this most important election was October 9, 1855.


As the reader already knows, the elections were no index of the voting strength of the Territory. The Big Springs convention, for reasons set forth in its published resolutions, had appointed a different day from that designated by the Territorial Legislature for the election of a Delegate to Congress. The latter had appointed October 1, on which day it was quite sure that the Pro-slavery voters of the Territory, re-enforced by their Missouri allies, would possess and control every ballot-box in the Territory. The Free-state voters had appointed October 9, at which time it was equally certain that the Free-state voters would rally to a man, and that, except in a few precincts bordering on Missouri, there would be no attempt made to interfere with the elections. The semi-revolutionary condition of affairs was present of two elections for the same office, both claiming the suffrages of the voters of Kansas.

First Election - The Free-state men took no part in this election, as theirs had been appointed at a later date. Nevertheless the Missourians came over as before, in large numbers, some paying the $1 poll-tax required by the Territorial statute, others voting without being required so to do. The precincts in which illegal voting occurred, as shown by the Investigation Committee, were reported as follows: "They (the Missourians) were present and voted at the voting places of Atchison and Doniphan, in Atchison County; at Green Springs, Johnson County; at Willow Springs, Franklin County; Lecompton, Douglas County; Fort Scott, Bourbon County; Baptiste Paola's, Lykins County, where some Indians voted, whites paying the dollar tax for them; Leavenworth City and Kickapoo City, Leavenworth County. At the latter place, under the lead of Gen. B. F. Stringfellow and Col. Louis Burns, of Missouri." The abstract of the poll-book showed that 2,738 votes were case in the Territory, of which number J. W. Whitfield, the Pro-slavery candidate, received 2,721. Of this number the committee reported 857 as illegal, and several precincts where illegal voting was alleged not counted, as no witnesses were examined. The returns being made according to law, the Territorial Governor granted the certificate of election to Whitfield.

[TOC] [part 21] [part 19] [Cutler's History]