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


[TOC] [part 43] [part 41] [Cutler's History]



John W. Geary was born in Westmoreland County, Penn. He served throughout the Mexican war -- being in the advance army from Vera Cruz to City of Mexico. Under Gen. Scott, he participated in the battles of La Hoga, Chapultepec, and the capture of the City of Mexico, immediately after which latter event he was appointed Colonel of his regiment and assigned to the command of the citadel of the city. In 1848, he was appointed, by President Polk, Postmaster of San Francisco with large discretionary powers to establish mail-routes, offices, etc. Soon after being superseded in this station by the new administration, he was elected Alcalde, and first Judge of San Francisco; was afterward re-elected to the same office, and when the city was incorporated, was elected its first Mayor. In all these difficult stations he proved a wise, able and efficient officer. During his entire administration, no riot occurred, and no vigilance committee was organized. While in California, he was selected by the Legislature to aid in funding the public debt. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1853, and remained in private life until appointed Governor of Kansas. He remained and accepted the office of Governor of Kansas Territory late in the month of July. He spent the month of August in setting in order his private affairs, and in consulting with and receiving instructions from the President and Cabinet as to the policy and action to be pursued in Kansas on his arrival. Like his predecessors, his loyalty to the Democratic party, and to the doctrines of squatter sovereignty were unquestioned. His administrative ability was known to be of the highest order, and his nerve and courage had been proven beyond question. He was chosen as the fittest man to quell the disorders of the Territory, and thus rescue his party from national defeat in the pending Presidential election, which defeat seemed almost certain, unless the civil war and consequent outrages in Kansas -- accounts of which were daily increasing popular indignation throughout the North against the Democratic party, viewed as the source and head of all Kansas' woes -- could be brought to a sudden end. He came to Kansas less trammeled by specific instructions than his predecessors. His paramount duty was to bring order out of the confusion, and that, too, with such suddenness and by such means as should leave no cause for complaint from fair-minded men of either party, within or without the Territory. Thus it was hoped to quell the popular indignation, and so reinstate the doctrines of the party in popular favor as to give it a continued lease of power.

Gov. Geary set about this arduous task with all the ardor inspired by a high sense of justice, intense desire for party success, and personal ambition to succeed where his predecessors had failed of success. With courage unimpaired by a knowledge of the unscrupulous elements within the pale of his own party, which would meet him at every turn to thwart his every endeavor to administer justice or bring peace to the distracted country, he started for the field of his labors early in September, and reached Jefferson, Mo., on the 5th of that month. Here he remained for a day in consultation with Gov. Sterling Price. The result of the interview was the adoption of measures, to the carrying out of which both were pledge, which resulted in the immediate raising of the blockade of the Missouri River. In no instance thereafter were emigrants interfered with upon the steamboats on the river. Gov. Geary took passage on the night of September 6, on the steam packet Keystone, for Fort Leavenworth. At noon on the next day he arrived at Glasgow, Mo. Here the boat stopped for an hour to embark a company of Missouri volunteers for the Kansas militia, who, with a piece of artillery, were bound for the seat of war in Kansas. They were in command of one Jackson, and numbered sixty men. While the embarkation was going on, a downward bound steamer came alongside on which was ex-Governor Shannon fleeing from the Territory. He sought an interview with Gov. Geary, which is reported by Dr. John H. Gihon, who was present as the Governor's private secretary, as follows:

He (Shannon) had fled in haste and terror from the Territory, and seemed still to be laboring under an apprehension for his personal safety. His description of Kansas was suggestive of everything that is frightful and horrible. Its condition was deplorable in the extreme. The whole Territory was in a state of insurrection, and a destructive civil war was devastating the country. Murder ran rampant, and the roads were everywhere strewn with the bodies of slaughtered men. No language can exaggerate the awful picture that was drawn; and a man of less nerve than Gov. Geary, believing it not too highly colored, would instantly have taken the backward track, rather than rush upon dangers so eloquently and fearfully portrayed.

The Governor thus enlightened, if not encouraged, as to the state of affairs in his realm, proceeded up the river in company with this first company of "Kansas militia," whom he had encountered. They were not over obseqious (sic) to their Commander-in-chief, and plied him constantly with questions as to "what he was going to do when he got there?" and other questions calculated to enlighten them as to his "soundness on the goose." Their own ideas of their present mission to Kansas, as given in their conversation, were summed up by Dr. Gihon as follows:

The most they seemed to understand about the matter, was, that they were to receive so much per diem for going to Kansas to hunt and kill Abolitionists. They had been informed that Abolitionists were enemies to Missourians, some of whom had been killed, and they were hired to revenge their deaths. More than this they neither knew nor cared to know. A vague notion prevailed among them that, whatever and Abolitionist was, it was a virtue to kill him and take possession of his property. They seemed to apprehend no danger to themselves, as they had been told that Abolitionists would not fight, but being overawed by the numbers and warlike appearance of their adversaries, would escape as rapidly as possible out of the Territory, leaving behind them any quantity of land, horses, clothing, arms, goods, and chattels, all of which was to be divided among the victors.

At every landing were apparent more or less military preparations. At Kansas City, Jackson disembarked his command, and marched them to Westport, one of the border rendezvous for troops destined for Kansas. At Leavenworth, business was at a stand- still. Loungers were idling in knots about the landing, armed horsemen were dashing hither and thither, and armed companies were drilling and parading the streets. With ideas as to the difficulties and responsibilities of his position already enlarged and modified by his voyage up the Missouri, Gov. Geary landed on Kansas soil at Ft. Leavenworth, at 8 o'clock on the morning of September 9, and assumed the duties of his office as Governor of Kansas Territory.

Gov. Geary spent but a single day at Ft. Leavenworth before setting out for Lecompton, but during that day circumstances occurred to throw still further light upon the difficulties of his position, and to show the absolute contempt of all legal authority existing even among "Law and Order" men. On his arrival he found many Free-State refugees at the fort, who had fled thither for safety. They all had their tales of robbery, arson and murder to relate. He saw men ride by his quarters unmolested and unarrested, who openly boasted that the horses on which they rode had been stolen (pressed, they termed it) from the Free-State men, some of whom were at that time refugees at the fort, and pointed out the horses belonging to them. During the day a Sergeant of the United States troops came in with a complaint that while acting as an escort to Samuel Sutherland, E. B. Whitman and Abraham Wilder, from Lawrence to Leavenworth, who had come out under this protection to ascertain the whereabouts of some missing Free- State prisoners, he had been arrested on the public highway by some men belonging to Emery's gang of "regulators," his safeguard violated, and the men under his protection taken prisoners, and carried with their horses, wagons and other property into Leavenworth City. The commandant of the fort, Gen. Smith, affected indignation at the outrage, and granted, on Gov. Geary's requisition, a company of troops who were sent to Leavenworth with orders to arrest and bring to the fort, the marauders and the prisoners they had taken. They soon returned with them, accompanied by Emery, their leader, who although not present when the Lawrence men had been taken, approved the act and held himself responsible. Gen. Smith mildly reprimanded him, told him to consider himself under arrest, and permitted both him and his men to return to Leavenworth. The men taken remained at the fort, their property not having been yet returned. This bold robbery, the mild form of Gen. Smith's reprimand, his failure to restore to the robbed men their property, or to take any measures for the punishment of the robbers, or to resent the insult offered his own authority, plainly showed that the commander, if he did not connive at the robberies and murders perpetrated by these men, was but an indifferent spectator of the outrages. Gov. Geary himself wrote a severe letter of reprimand to Col. Clarkson, then in command of the Territorial militia at Leavenworth City, cautioning him against a repetition of such offenses and ordering him to at once see that the property taken was restored to its owners. On the evening of the first day, Gov. Geary made his first report in a letter to William L Marcy, Secretary of War. He did not pronounce it good. Below are extracts sufficient to show that the experiences of one day had wrought a change in his opinions as to the actual state of Kansas affairs:

It is no exaggeration to say that the existing difficulties are of a far more complicated character than I had anticipated. I find I have not simply to contend against bands of armed ruffians and brigands, whose sole aim and end is assassination and robbery -- infatuated adherents and advocates of conflicting political sentiments and local institutions -- and evil disposed persons, actuated by a desire to obtain elevated positions; but worst of all, against the influence of men who have been placed in authority, and have employed all the destructive agents around them to promote their own personal interests, at the sacrifice of every just and lawful consideration.

Here follows a statement of the lamentable state of affairs throughout the Territory; the atrocious outrages of the enrolled Territorial militia about Leavenworth, the robberies, the murders, the seizing of unoffending citizens and forcibly driving them from the Territory -- all these things were reported as though they were newly discovered facts hitherto unknown or doubted in Washington and by himself: He had seen sufficient in one short day to convince him that half the horrors had never been told, and that panic-stricken Shannon's account was no exaggeration. Would they believe him? Or believing, would they uphold his hands in the work he had been appointed to do? The sequel will show. Continuing, the Governor wrote:

It IS ALSO TRUE THAT AMONG THE Free-soil residents are many peaceable and useful citizens; and, if uninfluenced by aspiring demagogues, would commit no unlawful act. But many of these, too, have been rendered turbulent by officious meddlers from aboard. The chief of these is Lane, now encamped and fortified at Lawrence, with a force, it is said, of 1,500 men. They are suffering for provisions to cut off the supplies of which the opposing faction is extremely watchful and active.

In isolated country places no man's life is safe. The roads are filled with armed robbers, and murders, for mere plunder are of daily occurrence. Almost every farmhouse is deserted, and no traveler has the temerity to venture upon the highway without an escort. Such is the condition of Kansas, faintly pictured. It can be no worse. Yet I feel assured that I shall be able erelong to restore it to peace and quiet.

His plan, as briefly detailed in the remainder of the letter, was to disband as rapidly as possible the present militia, to make a fresh enrollment of as many of the bona fide settlers as might be required, and, meantime, to have the force of United States troops at his disposal in the Territory increased. At 10 o'clock A. M., August 11, the Governor left Fort Leavenworth on his journey to Lecompton. He was accompanied by his private Secretary, Dr. Gihon, and three other friends, their conveyance being an army ambulance drawn by four horses. Their escort consisted of a mounted Sergeant of dragoons, six infantry, who rode in a covered wagon, and Lieut. Drum, who had command of the escort. All along the route were melancholy evidences of the anarchy and desolation that prevailed. Houses deserted, the blackened chimneys of destroyed homes, the ruins of some still smoking; armed bands of horsemen fleeing, as if guilty, at their approach, were the scenes along their path that told unmistakable of the misrule and ruin that had fallen upon the land. They arrived at the ferry opposite Lecompton at nearly midnight, of the 10th, and after being challenged by a military patrol were permitted to cross and enter the city.

The first to give formal welcome to the newly arrived Governor was Secretary Woodson, followed by the other Territorial officers who made Lecompton their official place of abode, the soldiers encamped there, and the motley throng who had congregated there as the only safe retreat so far in the enemy's country. Here the Governor had no advisers except those of the extreme Pro-slavery type, who gave him such information only as suited their purposes, suppressing such as might interfere with their further designs. The present lamentable state of affairs they attributed entirely to the unprovoked aggressions of the Abolitionists, and urged with an earnestness that would take no denial the necessity of the continuance of the policy adopted under Woodson's short reign, until the Free-State element should be thoroughly subdued or exterminated within the Territory. It does not appear that he was influenced in any great degree by their statements, advice or importunities. The prompt issuance on the day succeeding his arrival of his address to the people of the Territory, in which his chosen course was plainly marked out, shows that he had decided upon his policy before reaching Lecompton, which, as will be seen, was unswervingly carried out except so far as the development of facts hitherto unknown demanded a change in order to bring about the object desired by him, to wit, the bringing of the whole people under the rule and protection of law, and the suppression of all attempts to subjugate any portion thereof by outside or foreign interference. He issued on the 11th his first address to the people, and, at the same time, proclamations disbanding the militia then under arms, and providing for the enrollment of the resident citizens capable of bearing arms. As foreshadowing the adopted policy of the new Governor, they are deemed of sufficient importance to be given entire:


Fellow Citizens - I appear among you a stranger to most of you, and for the first time have the honor to address you as the Governor of the Territory of Kansas. The position was not sought by me; but was voluntarily tendered by the present Chief Magistrate of the nation. As an American citizen deeply conscious of the blessings which ever flow from our beloved Union, I did not consider myself at liberty to shrink from any duties, however delicate and onerous, required of me by my country.

With a full knowledge of all the circumstances surrounding the executive office, I have deliberately accepted it, and as Good may give me strength and ability, I will endeavor to discharge its varied requirements. When I received my commission, I was solemnly sworn to support the Constitution of the United States, and to discharge my duties, as Governor of Kansas, with fidelity. By reference to the act for the organization of this Territory, passed by Congress on the 30th day of March, 1854, I find my duties more particularly defined. Among other things, I am "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The Constitution of the United States and the organic law of the Territory, will be the lights by which I will be guided in my executive career.

A careful and dispassionate examination of our organic act will satisfy any reasonable person that its provisions are eminently just and beneficial. If this act has been distorted it is not the fault of its provisions; the great leading feature of this act, is the right therein conferred upon the actual and bone fide inhabitants of this territory "in the exercise of self-government, to determine for themselves what shall be their own domestic institutions, subject only to the constitution and the laws duly enacted by Congress under it. The people, accustomed to self-government in the States from whence they came, and having removed to this Territory with the bona fide intention of making it their future residence, were supposed to be capable of creating their own municipal government, and to be the best judge of their own local necessities and institutions. This is what is termed popular sovereignty. By this phrase we simply mean the right of the majority of the people of the several States and Territories, being qualified electors, to regulate their own domestic concerns, and to make their own municipal laws. Thus understood, this doctrine underlies the whole system of Republican Government. It is the great right of self-government, for the establishment of which our ancestors, in the stormy days of the Revolution, pleaded "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." A doctrine so eminently just should receive the willing homage of every American citizen. When legitimately expressed, and duly ascertained, the will of the majority must be the imperative rule of civil action for every law-abiding citizen. This simple, just rule action, has brought order out of chaos, and by a progress unparalleled in the history of the world, has made a few feeble infant colonies, a giant Confederated Republic. No man conversant with the state of affairs now in Kansas, can close his eyes to the fact that much civil disturbance has, for a long time past, existed in this Territory. Various reasons have been assigned for his unfortunate condition of affairs, and numerous remedies have been proposed. The House of Representatives of the United States have ignored the claims of both gentlemen claiming the legal right to represent the people of this Territory in that body. The Topeka Constitution, recognized by the House, has been repudiated by the Senate; various measures, each in the opinion of its respective advocates, suggestive of peace to Kansas, have been alternately proposed and rejected. Men outside of the Territory, in various sections of the Union, influenced by reasons best known to themselves, have endeavored to stir up internal strife, and to array brother against brother.

In this conflict of opinion, and for the promotion of the most unworthy purposed, Kansas is left to suffer, her people to mourn, and her prosperity is endangered.

Is there no remedy for these evils? Cannot the wounds of Kansas be healed, and peace be restored to all her borders?

Men of the north -- men of the south -- of the east and of the west, in Kansas, you, and you alone, have the remedy in your own hands. Will you not suspend fratricidal strife? Will you not cease to regard one another as enemies, and look upon one another as the children of a common mother, and come and reason together?

Let us banish all outside influences from our deliberations, and assemble around our Council Board with the Constitution of our country, and the organic law of this Territory, as the great charts for our guidance and direction. The bona fide inhabitants of the Territory alone are charged with the solemn duty of enacting her laws, upholding her Government, maintaining peace, and laying the foundation for a future commonwealth.

On this point, let there be a perfect unity of sentiment; it is the first great step toward the attainment of peace; it will inspire confidence amongst ourselves, and insure the respect of the whole country. Let us show ourselves worthy and capable of self-government.

Do not the inhabitants of this Territory better understand what domestic institutions are suited to their condition -- what laws will be most conducive to their prosperity and happiness, than the citizens of distant, or even neighboring States? This great right of regulating our own affairs, and attending to our own business, without any interference from others, has been guaranteed to us by the law which Congress has made for the organization of this Territory. This right of self-government, this privilege guaranteed to us by the organic law of our Territory, I will uphold with all my might, and with the entire power committed to me.

In relation to any changes of the laws of the Territory, which I may deem desirable, I have no occasion now to speak; but these are subjects to which I shall direct public attention at the proper time.

The Territory of the United States is the common property of the several States, or of the people thereof; this being so, no obstacle should be interposed to the free settlement of this common property, while in a Territorial condition.

I cheerfully admit that the people of this Territory, under the organic act, have the absolute right of making their own municipal laws. And from citizens who deem themselves aggrieved by recent legislation, I would invoke the utmost forbearance, and point out to them a sure and peaceable remedy. You have the right to ask the next Legislature to revise any and all laws; and in the meantime, as you value the peace of the Territory and the maintenance of future laws, I would ask you to refrain from violations of the present statutes.

I am sure that there is patriotism sufficient in the people of Kansas to induce them to lend a willing obedience to law; all the provisions of the Constitution of the United States must be sacredly observed; all the acts of Congress, having reference to this Territory, must be unhesitatingly obeyed, and the decisions of our courts respected. It will be my imperative duty to see that these suggestions are carried into effect; in my official action here, I will do justice at all hazards. Influenced by no other considerations than the welfare of the whole people of this Territory, I desire to know no party, no section, no north, no south, no east, no west, nothing but Kansas and my country.

Fully conscious of my great responsibilities in the present condition of Kansas, I must invoke your aid, and solicit your generous forbearance, Your executive officer can do little without the aid of the people. With a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, to the best of my ability, I shall promote the interests of the citizens of this Territory, not merely collectively but individually, and I shall expect from them, in return, the cordial aid and support, without which the Government of no State or Territory can be administered with beneficent effect.

Let us all begin anew. Let the past be buried in oblivion. Let all strife and bitterness cease. Let us all honestly devote ourselves to the true interests of Kansas; develop her rich agricultural and mineral resources; build up manufacturing enterprises; make public roads and highways; prepare amply for the education of our children; devote ourselves to all the arts of peace; and make our Territory the sanctuary of those cherished principles which protect the inalienable rights of the individual, and elevate States in their sovereign capacities.

Then shall peaceful industry soon be restored; population and wealth will flow upon us; "the desert will blossom as the rose," and the State of Kansas will soon be admitted into the Union, the peer and pride of her elder sisters.


WHEREAS, a large number of volunteer militia have been called into the service of the Territory of Kansas, by authority of the late Acting Governor, for the maintenance of order, many of whom have been taken from occupations or business, and deprived of their ordinary means of support, and of their domestic enjoyments; and

WHEREAS, The employment of militia is not authorized by any instructions from the General Government, except upon requisition of the commander of the military department in which Kansas is embraced; and

WHEREAS, An authorized regular force has been placed at my disposal, sufficient to insure the execution of the laws that may be obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial procedings; now

THEREFORE, I John W. Geary, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, do issue this, my proclamation, declaring that the services of such volunteer militia are no longer required, and hereby order that they be immediately discharged.

The Secretary and the Adjutant General of the Territory will muster out of service each command at its place of rendezvous.

And I command all bodies of men, combined, armed and equipped with munitions of war, without authority of the Government, instantly to disband or quit the Territory, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of the Territory of Kansas.

Done at Lecompton, this eleventh day September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six.

JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas Territory.


WHEREAS, It is the true policy of every State or Territory to be prepared for any emergency that may arise from internal dissension or foreign invasion;

THEREFORE, I, John W. Geary, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, do issue this, my proclamation, ordering all free male citizens, qualified to bear arms, between the ages eighteen and forty-five years, to enroll themselves, in accordance with the act to organize the militia of the Territory, that they may be completely organized by companies, regiments, brigades or divisions, and hold themselves in readiness to be mustered, by my order, into the service of the United States, upon requisition of the commander of the military department in which Kansas is embraced, for the suppression of all combinations to resist the laws, and for the maintenance of public order and civil government.

In testimony whereof, I have set my hand, and the seal of the Territory of Kansas.

Done at Lecompton, this eleventh day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six.

JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas Territory.

[TOC] [part 43] [part 41] [Cutler's History]