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


[TOC] [part 53] [part 51] [Cutler's History]


A Free-State Delegate Convention was held in Lawrence, December 2, 1857. It was composed of delegates from all parts of the Territory, fairly elected by the people, and was the largest yet assembled in Kansas, representing fifteen thousand legal voters. Charles Robinson was President of the Convention; Secretaries, William A. Phillips, A. Wattles and E. G. Macy, committee on Resolutions, James H. Lane, Champion Vaughn, Wm. B. Barr, J. Rymal, Charles F. Kob, H. Evans, S. Westover, Charles A. Foster, T. Dwight Thacher, G. W. Gilmore, C. K. Holliday, J. K. Goodwin, P. B. Plumb, L. F. Carver, G. A. Cutler. Its resolutions denounced the Lecompton constitution as "a fraud upon the people, which it utterly repudiated," the so-called election of December 21 as a 'swindle,' and "the election of January 4, 1858, as a crime and a misdemeanor against the peace of this Territory, and the will of the majority."

It maintained that the Legislature elected on the 5th of October, 1857, was the only legitimate law-making body ever elected in the Territory, and that its functions should not be superseded by any Constitution or State government, without a fair and impartial vote of the people. It re-indorsed the Topeka Constitution, declaring it to represent the wishes of the majority of the people of Kansas, and asked the extra session of the Territorial Legislature, about to convene, to submit the two Constitutions-the People's Constitution framed at Topeka, and the Constitution framed at Lecompton-to a fair and impartial vote of the people, and to provide that the Constitution receiving a majority of legal votes should become the fundamental law of the State.


December 7, in compliance with the Governor's proclamation, a Free-State Territorial Legislature convened for the first time. The day will long be remembered as one of general rejoicing among the Free-State men. On that day there also came up to the capital a great multitude from all parts of the State. The people had become so accustomed to conventions, mass meetings, and other popular assemblages during the long period of trouble, that it seemed fitting they should now gather gregariously to bask in the gleam of sunshine that had at last broken, through the clouds. So they came with music and banners and shouts of joy up to the old stronghold of the Pro-slavery Democracy, partly to uphold the hands of their chosen rulers, but more to have for once a good time.

There was more than the usual amount of speaking and more unity of purpose shown than at any previous time since the Lecompton Constitution had been framed. Cheers for Stanton, the Legislature, Lane, Robinson, and nearly every other person or thing that had the Free-State mark upon it, made any report of the numerous speeches impossible. The resolutions were short, but showed reserved force and determination to fight longer if necessary to defeat the Lecompton Constitution. They were as follows:

Resolved, That we, the people of Kansas, in mass convention assembled at Lecompton, this seventh day of December, 1857, do fully and earnestly indorse the proceedings of the Delegate Convention held at Lawrence on the 2nd inst.

Resolved, That we do heartily enroll our names in the league and covenant formed by the convention, and pledge ourselves, individually and collectively, to oppose to the uttermost, the Constitution adopted at Lecompton, and will resist every attempt which may be made to put into operation a government under the same.

Resolved, That we reiterate our adherence and devotion to the Topeka Constitution and government, and express our unalterable determination, whenever the proper time shall have arrived, to give it force and effect in pursuance of the principles upon which it was originated.

In spite of the indorsement of the Lawrence Convention, the general tone of the speeches was averse to the submission of the Topeka Constitution, as had then been recommended. Lane argued strongly against it, stating that any legislation providing for such submission would involve a breach of faith with Secretary Stanton, as it would be in violation of the pledges made him by the petitioners that they would confine themselves to legislation on the submission of the Lecompton Constitution in case they were assembled. It was plain that it was no longer the prevailing desire that the Topeka Constitution should become a disturbing element in the decision of the all-important question as to whether the people would accept the Lecompton Constitution or not. The people having thus relieved themselves of all responsibility, returned to their homes, leaving the Legislature to do the important work for which it had been convened. The extracts from the minutes inserted below give all important proceedings.

December 7. The message of Acting Governor Stanton was read. It stated the emergency which had induced him to call the session, stated clearly the laws having a bearing on the election of delegates and on the Lecompton Convention, and recommended that such legislation should be had as should provide for a submission of the Constitution framed to a fair vote of the people for acceptance or rejection.

December 8, the following officers were chosen:

COUNCIL - President, C. W. Babcock; Secretary, Joel K. Goodin; Assistant Secretary, G. A. Colton; Sergeant-at-Arms, A. Cutler; Engrossing Clerk, D. H. Weir; Enrolling Clerk B. T. Hutchins; Chaplain, S. Y. Lum; President, pro tem., C. K. Holliday; House-Speaker, G. W. Deitzler; Clerk, C. F. Currier; Assistant Clerk, W. B. Parsons; Sergeant-at-Arms, G. F. Warren; Door-keeper, T. A. Blake; Enrolling Clerk, Henry C. Sargeant; Engrossing Clerk, Guilford Dudley; Messenger, Robert Speer; Chaplain, Rev. Charles H. Lovejoy.

December 10, the seats of the Pro-slavery Representatives from Leavenworth County being contested, and it appearing that they had been elected by fraudulent votes, the Free-State delegates from that county, eight in number, were declared duly elected, and admitted to seats.

December 11, in joint session, W. W. Ross was elected Public Printer, and R. G. Elliott Superintendent of printing. A joint resolution was adopted re- affirming the "People's Constitution," framed at Topeka, October 23, 1855. The Council admitted to seats three Free-State members from Leavenworth County, in place of three Pro-slavery claimants fraudulently elected.

December 17, an act was passed providing for the submission of the Lecompton Constitution to a vote of the people on January 4, 1858. The Legislature adjourned.


On the day preceding the adjournment, Secretary Stanton received notice of his removal from office, and the appointment of John W. Denver in his place. The sole cause of his removal was that he had called the extra session of the Legislature, contrary to the expectations of, and without consultation with, the Pro-slavery junta that still held supreme control of the national administration.

On December 17, Gov. Walker, still in Washington, finding it impossible to obtain such instructions as he could carry out consistently with his pledges to the people of Kansas, or in accordance with his own convictions of right and justice, resigned his office.

On December 21, John W. Denver, took the oath of office before Judge Cato, at Lecompton, and became Acting Governor of the Territory.

The following are the important facts of his biography:

James William Denver was born in Frederick County, Va., October 23, 1817. He lived at the home farm until he became of age, in the meantime acquiring a better than ordinary common school education, and a thorough knowledge of theoretical and practical civil engineering. In the spring of 1841, he went to Missouri to try and obtain a contract for surveying public lands; but not succeeding, he taught school for a time, and the following year went to Ohio and commenced the study of law, graduating at the Cincinnati Law School in the spring of 1844. In the spring of 1847, he was appointed Captain of the Twelfth Regiment U. S. Infantry, and served to the end of the Mexican war, under Gen. Scott. He then returned to Platte City, Mo., where he had previously practiced law, and in 1850 crossed the plain to California, and located in Trinity County in that State. He was elected to the Senate of California in 1851, appointed a State Commissioner in 1852, and Secretary of State in 1853. In 1854, he was elected Representative to the Thirty-fourth Congress, and took his seat December, 1855. In the spring of 1856, he was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and while occupying that position was sent to Kansas to make treaties with the Indians, and subsequently was appointed the successor of Gov. Walker. After serving a brief term as Governor of Kansas Territory, he resigned the office October, 1858, returned to Washington, and the following spring went again to California, where he was once more appointed a State Commissioner to adjust Indian claims. In August, 18612, he was appointed by President Lincoln, Brigadier General of Volunteers, and remained in active service about a year. He afterward engaged in the practice of law at Washington D. C.


Unmoved by any of the popular demonstrations or by the convening of the Legislature, the Pro-slavery leaders went steadily on with the work they had planned, by a strict observance of all the formalities prescribed in the Lecompton constitution. In accordance therewith, John Calhoun, President of the Constitutional Convention, issued his proclamations November 21, notifying the people of Kansas of the time of holding the required elections, viz.; The election to vote on the constitution, with or without the clause permitting slavery, on the 21st of December; that for the election of State officers, members of the State Legislature and a Member of Congress, on the first Monday on January, 1858.

The Democratic Territorial Convention met at Lecompton December 7, 1857, and nominated the following State ticket, to be voted for on the 4th of January, 1858; For Governor, Gen. F. J. Marshall; Lieutenant Governor, William G. Mathias; Secretary of State, W. T. Spicely; Auditor, Dr. Blake Little; Treasurer, T. J. B. Cramer; for Congress, Joseph P. Carr.

The party represented at this convention, deeming it "expedient to give some expression of opinion in regard to the duty and interest of the people in the present crisis," performed that duty through a set of resolutions, the first of which fully indorsed the Lecompton Constitution, as "adapted to the wants and securing the rights of the people of Kansas," and exhorted all "sound Democrats" to rally to the polls on the 21st inst. Resolution second rends as follows: "That though a Reeder, a Geary, and a Walker have sought to reduce and prostitute the Democracy to the unholy ends of the Abolitionists, yet, we rejoice that their careers have closed in Kansas in contempt and infamy to themselves, and without injury to the Democratic party."

After affirming the confidence of the party in the integrity of the administration of James Buchanan, it is resolved, "That, prior to the advent of Walker and Stanton into our midst, the Democracy of the Territory were united and harmonizing; that since their arrival, all their efforts have been directed to sowing disunion in our ranks, with a view to further their own ambitious schemes."

The conduct of Secretary Stanton, in calling the extra session of the Legislature on the 7th inst., "meets with the repudiation and reprobation" of the convention, and it looks upon the "whole movement as a highhanded outrage, deserving the execration of all honest men and true Democrats."

The Free-State party took no part in the election on the Lecompton Constitution, which occurred December 21, at which time another of the old time one-sided elections took place. C. W. Babcock and G. W. Deitzler were invited by John Calhoun to be present at the opening of the returns of the votes cast at both elections. They reported the vote cast on December 21 as follows: "For the constitution, with slavery, "6,143; "for the constitution, without slavery," 569. Of the Pro-slavery vote, the following were reported as fraudulent: At Oxford Precinct, Johnson County, 1,266; at Shawnee, Johnson County, 729; at Kickapoo, Leavenworth County, 1,017; total fraudulent vote, 3,012. The bona fide vote, given in favor of making Kansas a Slave State, was 3,121.

It now became a question of great importance, whether the Free-State voters should put in nomination a State ticket and contest the coming election at the polls under the provisions of the many times repudiated Lecompton Constitution. On the question the party was divided. Those opposed urged that it would be inconsistent with their every act and resolution heretofore; would be a practical abandonment of the Topeka government; and a recognition of the Lecompton Constitution itself, inasmuch as the election had been called by Calhoun under its provisions.

The force of these arguments was acknowledged by all, yet a large and influential portion favored participation, as they believed the ultimate safety of the Free-State cause could be assured only by keeping the legislative control, whether Territorial or State, in the hands of Free-State men. They had reason to fear the future action of Congress, which they believed, in case a Pro-slavery Legislature were elected, would, if possible, admit the State under the Lecompton Constitution, and thus not only secure Democratic control, but, at the same time, insure the State to slavery, or force it into a bloody revolution.

To decide the momentous question, the Free-State Delegate Convention, which had met at Lawrence on December 2, was re-assembled on the 23rd.

The convention remained in session two days, Thomas Ewing, Judge Conway, Gov. Robinson, and others advocating the expediency of voting, and T. D. Thacher, R. J. Hinton, J. F. Legate and others opposing the movement. On the afternoon of the second day, a vote was taken on the question of voting or not voting, when forty-five recorded their names in favor and forty-four against the issue. The vote was afterward counted by districts, by which arrangement one or more delegates cast the entire vote of his district. The result by this method, was sixty-four yeas to seventy-five nays, the convention by this result pledging itself not to engage in the election.

The result was not acquiesed in by the conservative members of the party. They felt that the more impetuous element had triumphed by unfair means, and did not feel bound by its action. Immediately after the adjournment of the delegate convention a mass convention was organized, at which the decisions were reversed, and it was decided to put in nomination a State ticket, and to vote at the coming election. The meeting was addressed by Gov. Robinson, Judge Conway, Thomas Ewing, Jr., Robert Morrow, P. C. Schuyler, S. C. Pomeroy, and many other stanch and tried Free-State men, all advocating the policy of voting. The result of the deliberations, which were continued on the 24th, was the nomination of a full State ticket, a general though not full participation in the election, at which the ticket was elected and revolution again averted. Following is a condensed report of the proceedings:

The committee on Resolutions, Thomas Ewing, P. C. Schuyler, E. S. Lowman, W. Y. Roberts, J. K. Goodin, reported in favor of voting at the 4th of January election, and nominated a State ticket as follows: For Governor-George W. Smith, of Lawrence; Lieutenant Governor, William Y. Roberts, of Wyandotte; Secretary of State-P. C. Schuyler, of Burlingame; Treasurer-Andrew J. Mead, of Manhattan; Auditor-Joel K. Goodin, of Centropolis; for Congress-Marcus J. Parrott.

The following was the platform adopted:

WHEREAS, The late Constitutional Convention assembled at Lecompton framed a Constitution and attempted to force it on the people unsubmitted, in violation of the rights and known wishes of an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Kansas; and,

WHEREAS, An election for State officers and members of the Legislature as provided for in the schedule of said constitution takes place on the 4th of January next; and,

WHEREAS, it is possible Congress may admit Kansas as a State under that constitution so unsubmitted for acceptance or rejection by the people; therefore,

Resolved, That we, the people of Kansas, in favor of voting for State officers and members of the Legislature on the 4th of January next, in convention assembled at Lawrence on this 24th of December, 1857, conceive it to be the duty of the residents of the Territory who are opposed to this attempted usurpation to throw aside for the present all party affiliations, and merge all party interests in the one absorbing issue, and to unite with us in the support of a State ticket to be nominated by this convention.

Resolved, That we call on the people of the several districts, as designated by that constitution, to nominate and vote for Senators and Representatives under it.

Resolved, That the candidates nominated by this convention, on accepting such nomination, will be considered as pledged, should the constitution be approved by Congress, to adopt and execute immediate measures for enabling the people, through a new constitutional convention, to obtain such a constitution as the majority shall approve.

Resolved, That should Congress admit Kansas as a State under that unsubmitted constitution, it will commit a gross infraction of the organic law, and of the rights of the people.*

The Central Committee appointed consisted of the following: S. N. Wood, G. W. Brown, E. S. Lowman, Robert Morrow, E. Heath, William Austin. O. F. Short, Judge Passmore, A. Danford, James Davis, C. F. Currier, Judge McKay, Dr. Gillpatrick, C. V. Eskridge, James Rodgers, S. D. Houston, D. H. Weir.

* Serious troubles arising largely from disputed land claims and the contiguity of Missouri occurred in the southeastern counties during December, 1856, and January, 1858. Gen. Lane visited the scene of disturbance, and small bodies of both Territorial and United States troops were brought into requisition at various times while the troubles continued. Having no immediate connection with the general history, they are detailed in the histories of the counties involved.


Two distinct elections occurred on January 4, 1858: The election of State officers, members of a State Legislature, and one member of Congress, under the provisions of the Lecompton Constitution; and the submission of the Constitution itself to the vote of the people for acceptance or rejection, in accordance with the act passed at the late special session of the Territorial Legislature. The State election was participated in by the entire Pro-slavery party of the Territory, and thousands of its allies from Missouri; and by such portion of the Free-State party as were in accord with the decisions of the Lawrence Mass meeting of December 23 and 24. A quite numerous minority of irreconcilable Free-State men took no part. The Pro-slavery party took no part in the voting for or against the Constitution, while the Free-State party threw a solid united vote against it. The returns were as follows:

OFFICE              Name of Candidate   No. of Votes   Free
                    Free      Demo-     Free   Demo-   State
                    State     cratic    State  cratic  Majority
Governor            Smith     Marshall  6875    6545      330
Lieutenant Governor Roberts   Mathias   6947    6446      501
Secretary of State  Schuyler  Spicely   6867    6566      301
Treasurer           Mead      Cramer    6885    6514      311
Auditor             Goodin    Little    6813    6509      304
Rep. in Congress    Parrott   Carr      7260    6574      696

A subsequent investigation by a Legislative Committee proved that, of the above Democratic vote returned, 2,458 votes were cast illegally. Deducting this from the vote for Governor would leave 4,097 as the total Pro-slavery vote of the Territory at the beginning of 1858.

C. W. Babcock, President of the Council, and G. W. Deitzler, Speaker of the House, who witnessed the counting of the votes, in reporting the result said: "This triumph was accomplished by a party greatly distracted on the subject of voting under a Constitution that they hate, and loathe, and abhor, to the centre of their hearts; with a short and imperfect notice that failed to reach many of the more distant districts."

By proclamation issued January 14, signed by J. W. Denver, Acting Governor, C. W. Babcock, President of the Council, and George W. Deitzler, Speaker of the House, the result of the election on the Lecompton Constitution was announced as follows:

Counties         Against      For Constitution  For Constitution
                 Constitution   with slavery     without slavery
Leavenworth.....   1997             10                  3
Atchison........    536              4                 --
Doniphan........    561              1                  2
Brown...........    187              2                 --
Nemaha..........    238              1                 --
Marshall........     66              -                 --
Pottawatomie....    207              2                 --
Riley...........    287              7                 --
Jefferson.......    377              1                 --
Calhoun.........    249              -                 --
Douglas.........   1647             21                  2
Franklin........    304              -                 --
Anderson........    177              -                 --
Allen...........    191              1                  4
Shawnee.........    832             28                  3
Coffey..........    463              -                  4
Johnson.........    292              2                 --
Lykins..........    358              1                  1
Woodson.........     50              -                 --
Linn............    510              1                  3
Bourbon.........    268             55                  -
Shawnee.........    832             28                  3
Richardson......    177              -                  1
Breckenridge....    191              -                 --
Madison.........     40              -                 --
Davis...........     21              -                 --
   TOTAL........  10226            138                 23

By comparison of the Free-State vote for Governor (6,875), with that cast against the Constitution, (10,226), it is apparent that 3, 351 Free-State men who visited the polls took no part in the State election; how many refrained from voting entirely is not capable of proof; the number was variously estimated at from 2,000 to 5,000.

It is probable that there were of resident voters in the Territory on January 1, 1858, not far from 17,000, of which number 4,000 were Pro-slavery and 13,000 Free-State. The population was not far from 55,000.

The Free-State officers elected immediately prepared a memorial to Congress, disavowing all intention or desire to serve under the Constitution through the provisions of which they had been chosen, and urging that body not to admit Kansas into the Union under it.

[TOC] [part 53] [part 51] [Cutler's History]