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


[TOC] [part 29] [part 27] [Cutler's History]


(Transcriber's note: this section does not appear in the table of contents of the original copy of the book.)

Pending the contest, the House, against the strenuous opposition of the Pro-slavery members, on March 19, 1856, appointed through the Speaker, a committee, consisting of three members, authorized to inquire into and collect evidence in regard to the troubles in Kansas generally, and particularly in regard to any fraud or force attempted, or practiced, in reference to any elections which had taken place in said Territory, or under any pretended law which may be alleged to have taken effect therein. They were to have full power to send for, examine, and copy all papers; to examine persons on oath, etc. They were authorized to hold investigations at such times and places as they should deem advisable, to employ clerks and other assistants to facilitate their investigations; were granted leave of absence until their investigations should be completed. Provisions were made to prevent any obstruction or hindrance of the committee in its investigation, and the President requested to furnish to said committee adequate military force for its protection in case of opposition by lawless bands of men; $10,000 was appropriated for the expenses of the committee, which was to report to the House, with all the evidence collected, at the completion of the proposed investigation.

The following named gentlemen, appointed by the Speaker, constituted the committee:

John Sherman, of Ohio, Free-soil; William A. Howard, of Michigan, Free-soil; Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri, Pro-slavery Democrat.

The committee, accompanied by four clerks, one reporter and three sergeants at-arms, arrived at Lecompton April 18, and there commenced the work. The records were thoroughly examined, and copies of all papers taken having any bearing on the investigation. The committee adjourned from place to place for safety, and to facilitate the procuring of evidence and the examination of witnesses. In order, the places of session, as the investigation proceeded, were as follows: Lecompton, Lawrence, Tecumseh, Lawrence, Leavenworth, steamboat 'Polar Star,' Detroit, New York, Washington.

The labors of the committee were completed, and the majority report (signed by Sherman and Howard) submitted July 2. Subsequently a minority report was submitted by Mr. Oliver. Twenty thousand copies of the two reports, with copy of its journal and evidence taken, were printed. The volume comprised 1,206 octavo pages. It gave an exhaustive history of the political affairs and disorders of the Territory from the time of its organization to March 19, 1856. The testimony was conclusive as to the frauds and outrages perpetrated and confirmed the reports, which had before been distrusted as exaggerations, or believed to be entirely fictitious. Two hundred thousand additional copies of the two reports (without the journal and evidence) were printed and sent broadcast over the land by members of the House. Thus the truth was established, and thereafter the execrable motives of the Administration were fully understood by the whole American people. It tore the mask off completely, and the battle was waged openly on either side.

The reports were accompanied by most voluminous testimony. Much of the matter has been given in the preceding pages.

The summaries of the reports were as follows:


Your committee report the following facts and conclusions as established by the testimony:

First - That each election in the Territory, held under the organic or alleged Territorial law, has been carried by organized invasion from the State of Missouri, by which the people of the Territory have been prevented from exercising the right secured to them by the organic law.

Second - That the alleged Territorial legislature was an illegally constituted body, and had no power to pass valid laws, and their enactments are therefore null and void.

Third - That those alleged laws have not, as a general thing, been used to protect persons and property, and to punish wrong, but for unlawful purposes.

Fourth - That the election under which the sitting Delegate, John W. Whitfield, holds his seat, was not held in pursuance of any valid law, and that it should only be regarded as the expression of the choice of those residents who voted for him.

Fifth - That the election under which the contesting Delegate, Andrew H. Reeder, claims his seat, was not held in pursuance of law, and that it should he regarded only as the expression of the resident citizens who voted for him.

Sixth - That Andrew H. Reeder received a greater number of votes of resident citizens than John W. Whitfield for Delegate.

Seventh - That in the present condition of the Territory a fair election cannot he held without a new census, a stringent and well guarded election law, the selection of impartial Judges, and the presence of United States troops at every place of election.

Eighth - That the various elections held by the people of the Territory preliminary to the formation of the State Government, have been as regular as the disturbed condition of the Territory would allow; and that the constitution passed by the convention, held in pursuance of said elections, embodies the will of a majority of the people.

As it is not the province of your committee to suggest remedies for the existing troubles in the Territory of Kansas, they content themselves with the foregoing statement of facts.

All of which is respectfully submitted.




In conclusion the undersigned begs to report the following facts and conclusions, as he believes, established by the testimony, and sanctioned by law:

First - That the first election held in the Territory under the organic acts, for Delegate to Congress, Gen. John W. Whitfield received plurality of the legal votes cast, and was duly elected as such Delegate, as stated in the majority report.

Second - That the Territorial Legislature was a legally constituted body, and had power to pass valid laws, and their enactments were therefore valid.

Third - That these laws when appealed to, have been used for the protection of life, property, and for the maintenance of law and order in the Territory.

Fourth - That the election under which the sitting Delegate, John W. Whitfield, was held in pursuance of valid law, and should be regarded as a valid election.

Fifth - That as said Whitfield, at said election, received a large number of legal votes without opposition, he was duly elected as a Delegate to this body, and is entitled to a seat on this floor as such.

Sixth - That the election under which the contesting Delegate, Andrew H. Reeder, claims his seat, was not held under any law, but in contemptuous disregard of all law; and that it should only be regarded as the expression of a band of malcontents and revolutionists, and consequently should be wholly disregarded by the House.

Seventh - As to whether or not Andrew H. Reeder received a greater number of votes of resident citizens on the 9th than J. W. Whitfield did on the 1st of October, 1855, no testimony taken by the committee, so far as the undersigned knows, nor is it material to the issue.

All of which is respectfully submitted.


Pending the investigation and the subsequent discussions on the report, Whitfield held his seat until August 4, at which time he was declared disqualified and his seat vacant by a vote of 110 yeas to 92 nays. On the same day, the resolution admitting Mr. Reeder to the vacant seat was lost by a vote of 113 nays to 88 yeas. The vacancy thus established was made known to the Kansas authorities in due time and a new election ordered.


The Topeka constitution was presented to Congress with memorial, asking admission as a State under its provisions, early in March. On the 24th of that month it was presented in the Senate in due form by Hon. Lewis Cass, of Michigan, and referred to the proper committee. On April 7, it was presented to the House by Hon. Daniel Mace, of Indiana. Mr. Grow reported a bill from the committee to the House May 29, for the admission of Kansas under the Topeka State Constitution.

On July 3, the House passed Grow's bill by a vote of 99 to 97. It was, of course, defeated in the Senate, where Mr. Douglas, as the leader and Chairman of the Committee on Territories, reported a bill which provided for the taking of a new census in the Territory and for a convention for the framing of a State constitution, the said convention to be holden (sic) in December. It ignored entirely the Topeka constitution. The recalcitrant House treated this bill with the same contempt that its own bill, providing for the admission of Kansas under the Topeka constitution, had been treated by the Senate.

July 8, Douglas reported a bill as a substitute for the House bill admitting Kansas, authorizing the people of Kansas to frame a new constitution, etc., which was passed by a vote of 30 to 13 in the Senate. The House refused to recede from its previous action or to concur in the amendment, but passed a bill for the re-organization of the Territory of Kansas, which, on reaching the Senate, was promptly voted down, and the House and the Senate came to a deadlock on the Kansas question.

The army appropriation bill coming up for passage in the House, failed to pass, except with a proviso that the United States Army should not be used for the enforcement of the Territorial laws in Kansas.

Congress adjourned with the appropriation bill unpassed on July 18. It was convened by the President on the 21st, and on the 30th the army bill was passed without the proviso, by a vote of 101 yeas to 98 nays. The time of the entire session was taken up with the discussion of Kansas affairs, and with no practical results further than have been stated. The sentiments of the House were quite clearly set forth in regard to Kansas matters in the summary report of the investigating Committee, which has been before quoted; that of the Pro-slavery Senate and the Administration in the minority report of Mr. Oliver. The House was powerless to pass any acts for the relief of Kansas and could only show its sympathy in loud sounding resolutions, melting into nothing, instead of crystallizing into laws, as they passed through the crucible of the Senate.


During the debates, May 22, Charles Sumner, having delivered a most elaborate speech in the Senate on the 'Crime against Kansas,' was assaulted while quietly writing at his desk in the Senate chamber, by Preston S. Brooks, of South Carolina, and nearly beaten to death. This occurred May 22. On the next day, in the Senate, on motion of William H. Seward, a committee of five was chosen by the Senate (all Democrats) to report what, if any, action should be taken by the Senate on this assault upon one of its members. The committee reported 'want of jurisdiction.' The Senate took no further action. The House, through its committee, made two reports; the majority recommending the expulsion of Brooks; the minority, like the Senate, pleading 'want of jurisdiction.' The rules of the House required a two-thirds vote to expel a member. On the vote to expel Brooks 121 members voted aye and 95 nay. A vote of censure was, however, adopted by a large majority, whereupon he resigned, returned to South Carolina, was re-elected by nearly a unanimous vote, and re-appeared in the House in two weeks, boasting, arrogant and insolent, bringing his certificate of election as proof of the approval of his constituency.

The prolonged and bitter discussion of Kansas affairs in Congress; the report of the investigation committee confirming the worst that had been told; the assault on Sumner; gathering rumors of new outrages perpetrated and plots devised for the extermination of the Free-state settlers in Kansas; the continued rush of Free-state Kansas emigrants, now armed and going to fight; the counter-movement of bands of armed men from South Carolina, Georgia and other Southern States, to the scene of expected strife - all combined to make the Presidential campaign of 1856 memorable.

Kansas, as a Territory, had no vote, yet it was the point of interest to which all eyes were turned. In it seemed bound up all the issues of the strife; the destinies of the contending parties; the perpetuation or ultimate extinction of slavery, and, in the not far distant years, the issues of life or death to the nation itself.


The Democratic Convention was held at Cincinnati, June 2, 1856, and nominated: For President, James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania; for Vice President, John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky.

The platform declared:

(1) Against internal improvements by the General Government, the assumption of State debts, the establishment of a national hank, and all political secret societies, and in favor of religious and political freedom - naming especially the Catholics and the foreign-born residents of the country as entitled to protection under the laws.

(2) As to slavery, the convention resolved that Congress had no power to interfere with it in the States. That "all efforts to induce Congress to interfere with the question of slavery ought to be discountenanced, as they lead to dangerous consequences. That the Democratic party will abide by a faithful execution of the compromise measures of 1850, including the fugitive slave law, which act cannot, with fidelity to the Constitution, be repealed or so amended as to destroy its efficiency. That the Democratic party will resist all slavery agitation, in or out of Congress. That it will uphold the resolutions of 1798! That, repudiating all sectionalism, they adopt the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska bill - that is, the non-interference of the General Government with slavery, which was the basis of the compromise measures. That they recognize the right of new States to regulate their domestic institutions, with or without slavery as they please. That the party is in favor of State rights, and against monopolies and special legislation for sectional benefit."

The foreign policy enunciated declared for free seas and progressive free trade thoughout (sic) the world, sympathy with the Central Americans and a desire to insure 'our ascendancy' in the Gulf of Mexico (which meant the annexation of Cuba), and every other measure calculated to strengthen the Pro-slavery party in the United States.

It closed with an unqualified indorsement (sic) of the administration of Franklin Pierce.

It was an open declaration of war against all who opposed the further extension of slavery, and a bold championship of the slavery cause against all comers.

The National Republican Convention, held in Philadelphia, June 17, nominated: For President, John C. Fremont, of California; for Vice President, William L. Dayton, of New Jersey.

The platform declared:

(1) In favor of the preservation of the rights of the States and the Union of States under the constitution.

(2) It denied, alike, "the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislature, of any individual or association of individuals to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory in the United States, while the present constitution shall be maintained."

(3) It was "Resolved, That the constitution confers upon Congress sovereign power over the Territories of the United States for their government, and that, in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism - polygamy and slavery."

(4) On the Kansas question, the resolutions were as follows:

Resolved, That while the Constitution of the United States was ordained and established by the people in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty, and contains ample provisions for the protection of the life, liberty and property of every citizen, the dearest constitutional rights of the people of Kansas have been fraudulently taken from them - their territory has been invaded by an armed force - spurious and pretended legislative, judicial, and executive officers have been set over them, by whose usurped authority, sustained by the military power of the Government, tyrannical and unconstitutional laws have been enacted and enforced - the rights of the people to keep and hear arms have been infringed - test oaths, of an extraordinary and entangling nature, have been imposed, as a condition of exercising the right of suffrage and holding office - the right of an accused person to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury has been denied - the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures has been violated. They have been deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law - that the freedom of the press has been abridged. The right to choose their own representatives has been made of no effect - murders, robberies, and arsons have been instigated and encouraged, and the offenders have been allowed to go unpunished - that all these things have been done with the knowledge, sanction and procurement of the present Administration, and that for this high crime against the Constitution, the Union and Humanity, we arraign the Administration, the President, his advisers, agents, supporters, apologists and accessories, either before or after the facts, before the country and before the world, and that it is our fixed purpose to bring the actual perpetrators and their accomplices to assure and condign punishment hereafter.

Resolved, That Kansas should be immediately admitted as a state of the Union, with her present free constitution, as at once the most effectual way of securing to her citizens the enjoyment of the rights and privileges, to which they are entitled, and of ending the civil strife now raging in her territory.

(5) The foreign policy of the Government, as indorsed by the Democratic platform, and put forth by the Administration in the 'Ostend manifesto,' was condemned as the "highwayman's plea, that might makes right."

(6) The Pacific Railway, then projected, and internal improvement of rivers and harbors - condemned in the Democratic platform - were approved.

(7) The platform closed with the following:

Resolved, That we invite the affiliation and co-operation of freemen of all parties, however differing from us in other respects, in support of the principles herein declared; and, believing that the spirit of our institutions, as well as the Constitution of our country, guarantee liberty of conscience and equality of rights among citizens, we oppose all legislation impairing their security.

The reader will easily discern that the Republican party found its first life in its open opposition to slavery, in its frank declaration to defend Kansas in its rights, guaranteed by the constitution, and in its bold arraignment of the Administration for prostituting its power to the base uses of the slave oligarchy in its attempts to subjugate the Free-state settlers of that Territory. Without the spirit aroused in the defense of Republican rights trampled upon by the Democratic Administration of 1855, there would have been no Republican party in 1856. It is not strange that, since Kansas has become a State, she has, through evil and good repute, been true to the only party that openly espoused her cause in the days of her tribulation. The Republican party came into existence to defend and protect her, and, through the blood and carnage of many weary years, fought for the principles which made the existence of Free Kansas possible. The State will be the last to desert the party that gave it its existence.

Besides the two contending parties, whose Conventions have been recorded, there was a third, representing the remnants of the conservative wing of the effete Whig party, under the quite acceptable and inoffensive name of the 'American Party.' It met early - before either of the others - in convention at Philadelphia, February 22, 1856. It was too conservative for the times, and the Convention proved only a respectable funeral ceremony for one of the grand old parties of the past.

The nominees were: for President, Millard Fillmore, of New York; for Vice President, Andrew J. Donaldson, of Tennessee.

The platform was all that a people seeking quiet at any cost could ask. It embodied the following enunciation of principles:

(1) "It acknowledged the dependence on a Supreme Being; (2) the necessity of the perpetuation of the Union as the only bulwark of liberty; (3) 'Americans must rule America;' (4) (5) No persons who recognize allegiance of any sort to a foreign power ought to be put in office: (6) the reserved rights of the States are recognized, harmony inculcated, and non-interference with slavery expressly commended; (7) the people of the Territories, who are citizens, ought to regulate their own domestic institutions, with the right of admission as soon as population will warrant: (8) that no State or Territory can admit to suffrage any except native citizens, unless previously naturalized under United States laws; (9) twenty-one years indispensable to naturalization; but no interference with present rights; (10) no union of Church and State; no interference in religion; no test oaths, except to foreswear foreign allegiance; (11) free investigation and strict economy in expenses; (12) enforce all laws while they exist: (13) opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the removal of Americans from office, and the corruption of the Government; (14) members of the party to subscribe to this platform; (15) free and open discussion of political principles."

The platform was a model, and enunciated sound American principles, which, if accepted and practically carried out, would have proved a panacea for all national troubles. It lacked, however, the grand ingredient of courage; it took no specific or well-defined ground on the all-absorbing topic of the time; it enlisted the sympathies of no earnest men on either side, and, at that time, all men were earnest. So the grand contest was fought between the Democratic party, pledged to the Administration, plotting to make Kansas a Slave State, and to perpetuate its policy, if successful; and the Republican party, the avowed champion of Free Kansas, free speech and free men.

[TOC] [part 29] [part 27] [Cutler's History]