KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


TERRITORIAL HISTORY, Part 48

[TOC] [part 49] [part 47] [Cutler's History]

RESIGNATION OF GOVERNOR GEARY.

It is not strange that Gov. Geary at length grew sick of the thankless task which devolved upon him in his conscientious efforts to perform his duties. He had done what he was sent to do. He had promptly quelled the disorders of the Territory, and brought a consequent abatement of the swelling indignation at the North which had threatened to sweep the Democracy from power. The danger had been averted, Buchanan was elected, four years more of rule was assured, and the further exercise of his administrative virtues was not in accord with the designs on Kansas still hopefully cherished by the re-assured Pro-slavery Democracy. He at length saw plainly his position, and without reluctance resigned an office which ceased to offer him opportunities to serve with honor to himself, either his party or the people of the Territory. His letter of resignation was as follows:

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, K. T., LECOMPTON, March 4, 1857.

HIS EXCELLENCY JAMES BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

Dear Sir - Please accept my resignation as Governor of Kansas Territory, to take effect on the 20th of the present month, by which time you will be enabled to select and appoint a proper successor.

With high respect, your friend and obedient servant,

JOHN W. GEARY

On March 10, Gov. Geary left Lecompton, writing Secretary Woodson at the time: "For several weeks my health has been gradually sinking, and I have had several hemorrhages of the lungs ; I am convinced my life will not be long, if not promptly cared for. I will be absent a few days from Lecompton." He did not return. He feared other dangers than those of impaired health. Sherrard was dead, but the men who set him on still lurked about the capital. He had been repeatedly warned and he heeded the warning. Like his predecessors, he fled from the Territory by night, to avoid assassination at the hands of members of his own party. He reached Washington on March 21, at which time his political and official connection with the affairs of Kansas was terminated. His subsequent brilliant career as a Union soldier, and as the Republican Governor of his native State, were consistent with the general uprightness of his rule in Kansas, and won for him a National renown. He died in Harrisburg, Penn., February 8, 1873.

Secretary Woodson again became Acting Governor, serving as such from April 16, when Geary's permanent departure became known, to May 27, when his successor arrived. His reign was too short to result in any serious disorder or change in affairs. He apparently did what he could to stir up fresh commotions, but had little support in his efforts. On March 26, he called on Gen. Smith for troops, for the purpose of suppressing "a predatory band, or bands of assassins and robbers," then infesting the counties of Franklin and Anderson. He was refused. On the 26th, he protested against the withdrawal of the troops from Lecompton, "as a number of writs for the arrest of notorious outlaws are now in the hands of United States Deputy Marshals," and the services of the troops would be necessary in effecting their arrest. Col. Sumner wrote him in reply, suggesting respectfully their arrest. Col. Sumner wrote him in reply, suggesting respectfully "whether it would not e safer to pause a little in military matters, until we know the policy of the new Administration." March 31, Woodson wrote to Lewis Cass, then Secretary of State, giving him information as to the "depredations of an organized banditti." His efforts to renew disorders in the Territory were ineffectual, and he was shortly after appointed receiver of the Delaware Land District, a lucrative and responsible position, which might well satisfy him that he had not lost favor at Washington, however desirable it might be to supersede him in the position he had so long held.

The successors of both Geary and Woodson were appointed by President Buchanan March 10, Hon. Robert J. Walker receiving the appointment of Governor, and Hon. Frederick P. Stanton as Secretary of the Territory.

Robert James Walker was born in Northumberland, Penn., July 19, 1801. He was the son of Judge Walker, of the Supreme Court of the United States, under whose guidance his early law studies were conducted. He graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1819, and was admitted to the bar at Pittsburgh in 1821, where he practiced his profession for several years, and where he was married to Miss Bache, of Philadelphia, a granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin.

In 1826, he removed to Natchez, Miss., and there joined the Democratic party. From 1837 to 1845, he was a member of the United States Senate, being first elected as opponent to George Poindexter, formerly Governor of Mississippi, and at this time a bitter disunionist. In 1845, Mr. Walker was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Polk; was the principal author of the revenue tariff of 1846, and remained a member of the Cabinet until 1849.

April 10, 1857, he was appointed Governor of Kansas Territory. The history of his administration in Kansas appears in its proper connection.

On the outbreak of the civil war in 1861, he declared himself strongly and unreservedly for the Union, and was a devoted and valuable friend of President Lincoln throughout the long struggle, being financial agent of the United States in Europe in 1863-64, where he effected the sale of $250,000,000 of United States bonds. He died in Washington, D. C., November 11, 1869.

Hon. Frederick P. Stanton, the new Secretary, and for a time Acting Governor of Kansas Territory, was born at Alexandria, D. C., on the 22d of December, 1814. He was a graduate of Columbia College, and had been teacher, lawyer and editor, while yet a very young man. In 1845, he was elected to Congress from the Memphis district, which he represented for ten consecutive years. In 1855, he voluntarily retired from Congress, and again commenced the practice of his profession at Washington, to which city he returned at the close of his residence in Kansas.

ACTING GOVERNOR STANTON.

Secretary Stanton arrived in Leavenworth on Monday, the 13th of April, and made his first address to the citizens of Kansas at the Planters' House in that city. He stated that, although a Southern man, he should be guided in his official career by a principle of strict impartiality, laboring for the benefit of the citizens of Kansas, and endeavoring to carry out the equitable policy laid down by the Administration. He believed that a constitution framed and referred to the people would serve to adjust the difficulties pending, and that the peaceable admission of Kansas into the Union depended more upon her course as a State than upon the institutions he might choose to adopt. He evidently pleased his hearers ; they being impressed, not only with his "prepossessing appearance and gentlemanly deportment," but with his "integrity and ability to perform the duties of his office."

Secretary Stanton arrived at Lecompton on the 15th, and on the 17th issued an address to the people of the Territory, stating that, in consequence of the unavoidable detention of Gov. Walker in Washington until the middle of May, the duties and responsibilities of the Executive devolved upon himself, by virtue of his commission as Secretary, and he therefore should indicate the course he should feel it his duty to pursue. The first point enunciated was the authority of the Territorial government. He says, "I hold that there can be no other rightful authority exercised within the limits of Kansas, and I shall proceed to the faithful and impartial execution of the laws of the Territory, by the use of all the means placed in my power, and which may be necessary to that end!

"The government especially recognizes the Territorial act which provides for assembling a convention to form a constitution with a view to making application to Congress for admission as a State into the Union. That act is regarded as presenting the only test of the qualification of voters for delegates to the convention, and all preceding repugnant, restrictions are thereby repealed. In this light the act must be allowed to have provided for a full and fair expression of the will of the people, through the delegates who may be chosen to represent them in the Constitutional Convention. I do not doubt, however, that in order to avoid all pretexts for resistance to the peaceful operation of this law, the Convention itself will, in some form, provide for submitting the great distracting question regarding their social institution, which has so long agitated the people of Kansas, to a fair vote of all the actual bona fide residents of the Territory, with every possible security against fraud and violence. If the constitution be thus framed, and the question of difference thus submitted to the decision of the people, I believe that Kansas will be admitted by Congress without delay, as one of the sovereign States of the American Union, and the Territorial authorities will be immediately withdrawn." Secretary Stanton further says: "All the power of the Territorial Executive will be exerted, with entire impartiality, to prevent fraud, to suppress violence, and to secure to every citizen a fair opportunity for the safe and peaceful exercise of his elective privilege." The address closes by suggesting a general amnesty in reference to all acts on both sides "which grew out of the political contest, and were not corruptly and feloniously committed for personal gain, and to gratify individual malignity."

Stanton, in his inaugural address, as well as by his acts during the few weeks of his administration, foreshadowed the policy to be carried out by the coming Governor. His prejudices and sympathies were known to be intensely enlisted with the Pro-slavery Democracy, but, as the plan of forcing slavery upon the Territory by violence, regardless of all forms of law, had been abandoned, there was increasing hope that the rights of the majority would at last prove triumphant. The dangers yet to be averted were those of subtle chicanery and trickery on the part of those still controlling the legislative and judicial power of the Territory, supported and advised as they would be by the National Administration, all still laboring unitedly to the single aim of enslaving the Territory. Little aid could be hoped from any officer appointed for this purpose, except so far as his moral sense might compel him to go counter to the known wishes of those he had been sent to serve. Hence, every new incumbent was viewed with a suspicion that words, however assuring, could not dispel. The intense excitement was not abated; its quality only was changed. It had been a struggle to establish free homes; henceforth, it was continued for the establishment of free laws.

The following diagram, taken from "Wilder's Annals," shows the part of the Territory under this incomplete census, which would be represented in the Lecompton Constitutional Convention:

(insert block diagram)

The census was completed during the month of April, and May 20, Acting Governor Stanton issued the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, The following returns of the census, taken under the act of the Legislative Assembly, entitled "An Act to provide for the taking of a Census, and election of Delegates to Convention," passed the 19th February, have been made to me, to wit:

-------------------------------------------
District COUNTIES Number of      Whole
                  Legal Voters   Population
-------------------------------------------
 1       Doniphan       1086      4120 
 2     ( Brown           206      No return
       ( Nemaha          140       512 
 3       Atchison        804      2807 
 4       Leavenworth    1837      5529 
 5       Jefferson       555      No return 
 6       Calhoun         291       885 
 7       Marshall        206       415 
 8     { Riley           853      No return 
       { Pottawatomie    205       641 
 9       Johnson         496       890 
10       Douglas        1318      3727 
11     { Shawnee         283          
       { Richardson                  
       [ Davis                    
12       Lykins          413      1352
13                   No return         
14                   No return
15                   No return
16       Linn            413      1821 
17                   No return
18      { Bourbon                   
        { McGee          645      2622 
        { Dorn                    
        { Allen                    
19                   No return
-------------------------------------------
          Total          9251        
-------------------------------------------

Now, therefore, I, Frederick P. Stanton, Secretary, and Acting Governor, do hereby proclaim, that according to the provisions of said act, and the census returns made in pursuance thereof, and upon a proper apportionment among the legal voters of the several districts aforesaid, they are respectively entitled to elect to the Convention, provided for in said law, the number of delegates severally herein assigned to them, that is to say, to the

------------------------------------
District Counties          Delegates 
------------------------------------
1st  Doniphan..............  7 
2d   Brown and Nemaha......  2
3d   Atchison..............  5 
4th  Leavenworth........... 12 
5th  Jefferson.............  4 
6th  Calhoun...............  2 
7th  Marshall..............  1 
8th  Riley and Pottawatomie  4 
9th  Johnson...............  3 
10th Douglas...............  8 
11th Shawnee, Richardson
     and Davis.............  2 
12th Lykins................  3 
16th Linn..................  3 
18th Bourbon, McGee,
     Dorn and Allen........  4 
------------------------------------

The proper officers will hold the election for delegates to said Convention, on the third Monday of June next, as directed by the law aforesaid and in accordance with the apportionment herein made and declared.

The census on which the above apportionment was made was taken in only fifteen out of thirty-four counties. The remaining nineteen, thereafter known as "disfranchised counties," were largely settled by Free-State men, and to remote from the border for convenient control of the ballot-boxes. In every county bordering on Missouri, and in every Pro-slavery county the census returns were made. By this unfair and partial apportionment the Free-State men never would not have had a shadow of a chance, even had they been assured of a fair election. They did not, as will be seen, enter the trap which had been so bunglingly set for them.

In justice to Secretary Stanton, it may be said that his own complicity with this new attempt at fraud, was largely due to his recent arrival in the Territory, his consequent lack of knowledge as to the population of that part of the Territory where no census was taken, and too sic great reliance on the representations of his immediate friends and advisers, all of whom were of the Pro-slavery type, and most of whom were shamelessly instrumental in the attempted fraud. His vindication of himself, as given in a speech made subsequently in New York, was as follows:

If I had then known what I have since ascertained, and what I now believe and know to be true, I should have hesitated before I made an apportionment which should bring about the state of things which now exists. I should have suffered the whole law to fail. But, under the circumstances, supposing as I did then, that the people who had refused to go into the election, or to go into the process of registration, were in a measure factious, and not justified in what they were doing, and not knowing the character of the population in the other counties, or whether they had any population at all, or any considerable population, and being under the necessity of acting by a particular time - for the returns were to be made in my office by the 1st of May, and the election to take place on the 15th of June - I say, under the pressure of these circumstances, I could do nothing but what I did.

On May 25, an open letter was addressed to Secretary Stanton, signed by Charles Robinson, William Hutchinson, Edward Clark, Ephraim Nute, Jr., John Hutchinson, G. C. Brackett, E. D. Ladd, C. W. Babcock, G. W. Smith, George F. Earle, Joseph Cracklin, Gaius Jenkins, G. Emory, John A. Wakefield and J. A. Finley, in which they averred their willingness, if concurred in by a convention of the people of Kansas, "to overlook the past," and take part in the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention, should a convention of the people of Kansas concur," under certain conditions - one of which was, that a new census should be taken, and the registry lists corrected by the Probate Judges, the appointment of delegates being made according to the returns thus made.

The second was the appointment of four judges of election for each voting precinct - two Pro-slavery, and two Free-State, the names of three being required to a certificate of election to entitle a person to a seat in the convention. Mr. Stanton's reply to this letter was decisive : "It will be impossible for me to consent to any new proceeding in opposition to that which has been sanctioned by the legislative authorities." Thereafter the majority of Free-State voters became nearly unanimous in their decision to take no part n the election.

[TOC] [part 49] [part 47] [Cutler's History]