KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


TERRITORIAL HISTORY, Part 57

[TOC] [part 58] [part 56] [Cutler's History]

THE WYANDOTTE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.

The elections preliminary to the forming of a State Constitution were held at the dates and under the provisions of the act passed by the Legislature.

At the first, held March 28, 1859, the total vote was 6,731, of which number 5,306 were "For a Constitution," and 1,425 "against a Constitution." Majority in favor, 3,881; 502 votes from detached townships not counted by the Canvassing Board were 433 for, and 69 against a Constitution.

The election of delegates occurred Tuesday, June 7. It was the first contest at the polls between the recently organized Republican and Democratic parties in the Territory. Many of the old Free-State men refrained from voting and many who had been life-long Democrats until coming to Kansas, returned to their former party. The Kansas Democracy at that time proclaimed itself as an Anti-Lecompton Free-State party, and thus brought to its support the entire Democratic Free-State vote of the Territory. The result was the election of seventeen Democrats -- ten from Leavenworth County, four from Doniphan County, and one each from Jefferson, Jackson, and Johnson. The remaining thirty-five were elected by the Republicans.

The names of Delegates, with place of nativity, residence at the time of election, age, and vocation, appear in the following table, copied from Wilder's Annals of Kansas -- Democrats in bold:

MEMBERS OF THE WYANDOTTE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.

                                 PLACE OF
NAMES.              COUNTY.      NATIVITY.    AGE AVOCATION.
------------        -------      ---------    --- ----------
J. M. Arthur        Linn         Indiana       42 Farmer
Josiah Lamb         Linn         Indiana       42 Mechanic
Caleb May           Atchison     Kentucky      44 Farmer
S. A. Kingman       Brown        Massachusetts 38 Lawyer
J. J. Ingalls       Atchison     Massachusetts 34 Lawyer
John P. Greer       Shawnee      Ohio          38 Lawyer
R. L. Williams      Douglas      Kentucky      42 Merchant
J. A. Middleton     Marshall     Pennsylvania  25 Lawyer
F. Simpson          Lykins       Ohio          23 Lawyer
P. H. Townsend      Douglas      New Hampshire 33 Lawyer
H. D. Preston       Shawnee      New Hampshire 28 Farmer
J. C. Burnett       Bourbon      Vermont       34 Farmer
W. R. Griffith      Bourbon      Indiana       39 Farmer
N. C. Blood         Douglas      Vermont       42 Merchant
T. S. Wright        Nemaha       Pennsylvania  50 Lawyer
G. H. Lillie        Madison      Ohio          35 Lawyer
S. E. Hoffman       Woodson      Pennsylvania  25 Lawyer
A. Crocker          Coffey       Indiana       34 Farmer
L. R. Palmer        Pottawatomie New York      40 Physician
James G. Blunt      Anderson     Maine         33 Physician
James Hanway        Franklin     England       49 Farmer
W. Hutchinson       Douglas      Vermont       35 Farmer
James Blood         Douglas      Vermont       39 Merchant
S. O. Thacher       Douglas      New York      28 Lawyer
Ed. Stokes          Douglas      Pennsylvania  35 Manufacturer
S. D. Houston       Riley        Ohio          40 Farmer
J. P. Slough        Leavenworth  Ohio          30 Lawyer
A. W. McCulloch     Morris       Scotland      44 Farmer
C. B. McClelland    Jefferson    Ohio          30 Merchant
J. W. Forman        Doniphan     Kentucky      40 Merchant
J. Stairwalt        Doniphan     Ohio          45 Farmer
E. M. Hubbard       Doniphan     Kentucky      30 Merchant
P. S. Parks         Leavenworth  Indiana       26 Lawyer
Fred Brown          Leavenworth  Germany       33 Manufacturer
Samuel Hipple       Leavenworth  Pennsylvania  28 Land Agent
S. A. Stinson       Leavenworth  Maine         26 Lawyer
William C. McDowell Leavenworth  Ohio          31 Lawyer
A. D. McCune        Leavenworth  Ohio          31 Farmer
John Wright         Leavenworth  Indiana       33 Farmer
William Perry       Leavenworth  New York      28 Lawyer
R. C. Foster        Leavenworth  Kentucky      24 Lawyer
Robert Graham       Atchison     Ireland       55 Merchant
J. T. Barton        Johnson      Virginia      28 Physician
E. Moore            Jackson      Ohio          38 Manufacturer
B. Wrigley          Doniphan     Ohio          29 Lawyer
W. P. Dutton        Lykins       New Hampshire 42 Farmer
J. Ritchie          Shawnee      Ohio          41 Farmer
E. G. Rose          Wabaunsee    Ohio          32 Printer
J. H. Signor        Allen        New York      25 Surveyor
R. J. Porter        Doniphan     Pennsylvania  28 Merchant
J. M. Winchell      Osage        New York      35 Farmer
J. T. Burris        Johnson      Ohio          28 Lawyer

The convention met at Wyandotte, July 5 with the following temporary officers.: President, S. A. Kingman; Secretary, John A. Martin. The permanent officers subsequently elected, were: President, James M. Winchell; President pro tem., S. O. Thacher; Secretary, John A. Martin; Assistant Secretary, J. L. Blanchard; Sergeant-at-Arms, George F. Warren; Doorkeeper, J. M. Funk; Chaplain, Werter R. Davis.

The following personal sketches are from the Recollections of Hon. B. F. Simpson, a member of the convention:*

* For sketch entire, see Kansas Historical Collections, 1875-80, pp. 326-247.

Winchell came to the territory as the accredited correspondent of the New York Times; was about thirty-five years of age, rather under the medium height, of delicate frame and slight build, was an accomplished parliamentarian, of quick perception, great decision and remarkably clear statement, his manner ever genial, he was a fluent speaker, and possessed the average impartiality of a presiding officer. He had the first and most essential qualifications of a successful man, for he fully recognized the fact that absolute fidelity to friends was the basis of all political action, and he gave to those who had championed his cause for the Presidency the chairmanship of the most important committees.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

S. O. Thatcher, of Douglas County, was made President pro tem. with great unanimity, a large minority having favored his election as President instead of Winchell. The applicants for the position of Secretary of the convention were numerous and untiring in their solicitation of members for their votes and influence but no one of them seemed to be regarded with the degree of favor that created reasonable probabilities of success, and doubts were entertained of their fitness for the place.

John A. Martin, of Atchison, was there to witness the opening ceremonies, and to report them for his paper. He was a most devoted crusader in the cause of freedom; was young, enthusiastic, hopeful, and withal, of practical methods. Two years before he had invaded a strong Pro-slavery neighborhood, bought what had been their own newspaper, and thus employed one of their most formidable batteries against them, and had been largely instrumental in working up a Free-State sentiment that was then strong enough to control that locality. He had been one of the warmest advocates of the organization of the Republican party in the Territory, and was one of the secretaries of the Osawatomie Convention. His generous treatment of the public men of the Territory, his freedom from local or personal prejudice, was in such marked contrast to the action of many of his contemporaries as to create a most friendly feeling in his behalf, and the delegates generally had confidence in his judgment and discretion; so that the suggestion of his name as Secretary, at a consultation of delegates held to consider that and other questions, was accepted at once, and with great unanimity, as the proper solution of the difficulty of election. The first intimation he had of the action of that caucus was when its committee waited on him and urged him to accept the place. It is perhaps useless to add that he discharged the duties of Secretary to the entire satisfaction of the body, and his bearing and conduct were such that he endeared himself to the delegates; and, today, whenever you find a member of that body, you find a warm friend and ardent admirer of John A. Martin.

My record of him might stop here; but it is so pleasant to say kind words of a friend, with the consciousness that no one can truthfully say aught else, that I add his subsequent well-known history. He was one of the first State Senators from Atchison County, and then Postmaster of the city, led one of our best infantry regiments as a Colonel during most of its term of service -- a gallant soldier, without stain or blemish; has represented the Republicans in all but one National Convention since 1860; is now serving the fourth term as a member of the National Committee; and has fostered and improved his paper, until to-day it is the most influential of all our dailies.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Of Samuel A. Stinson, Mr. Simpson says:

He was born in the good old State of Maine, and, if I mistake not, was a graduate of Bowdoin, the oldest and best endowed college in the State. He was tall, well formed, with a bright fresh face -- indeed his complexion was delicate as that of a woman -- with hair struggling between shades of brown and light; a joyous disposition, pleasant smile and most affable manner. He devoured books, rather than read them, his tenacious memory enabling him to call up their contents at will. His voice was clear and flute like, with the most persuasive accents, and his wit sparkling and contagious. It was impossible to be in his presence and listen to his bright sallies without having all your brighter and better faculties started into action. He was a most graceful and fluent speaker, with a wealth of words and great power of oratorical amplification. His poise was perfect, and his gestures the most appropriate and graceful, with no "smell of the lamp," or strained effort about his productions, and yet they were exuberant, fervid and rich. He was the Rufus Choate of the Kansas bar. He was the Democratic candidate for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, under the Constitution, to the formation of which he contributed so much, but which he was finally prevailed on not to sign; was subsequently elected Attorney General of the State, and as such conducted the impeachment cases against Secretary of State Robinson, and Auditor of State Hillyer, being pitted against Governor Shannon and Hon. Fred P. Stanton, both eminent lawyers, with long years of experience to aid them, and established national reputations to sustain them; and whatever may be the opinion of the men of these days as to the motives, merits and results of the impeachment cases, all must admit that the professional triumph of the trial was with Stinson. He was only twenty-six years old when a member of the Convention. The gods loved him, and he died at his old home in Wiscasset Maine, on the 20th of February, 1866, aged thirty-three years.

An entirely different type of man was his colleague from Leavenworth County, William C. McDowell. He was the son of a prominent lawyer and politician of Ohio and was born at Hillsboro in that State, and educated to the bar. He was a strong, logical talker, trying always to submit every question to the purifying process of reason, but without the captivating graces of oratory that so distinguished Stinson. His speeches were studied effort, carefully arranged with copious citations and numerous authorities. He was convivial and very pleasant in social intercourse, and told stories and repeated witticisms with great effect. But the stories and wit were not of his own creation, for he was not an electric motor like Stinson, who generated the most sparkling gems of thought and expression by both repulsion and attraction.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Parrott was the most splendid declaimer in the Territory. He strung adjectives to adverbs and attached them to nouns with a fertility of arrangement, and a variety of meaning and expression that was wonderful.. He was to all intents and purposes a disciple of Buckle, and most of his public addresses were an amplification or a paraphrase of some texts of that most ingenious writer. Before an audience, he was bright, captivating, and earnest. He had been prominently associated with the Free-State cause, and had great personal popularity, but McDowell had an indescribable way of "putting things" to a crowd that was irresistible, and I thought his closing speech at that meeting was a most extraordinary effort, and I recollect well that he took the house by storm, although two-thirds of the audience were ardent supporters of Parrott. McDowell was elected Judge of the First District, at the election under the Constitution, and died in 1867.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thomas Ewing, Jr., did not possess the social qualities of either Stinson, McDowell or Parrott -- he was more reserved and dignified; neither had he the ever-bubbling wit and the ready learning of Stinson, nor the eloquent recitative powers of Parrott; but he did possess the most sturdy, massive and comprehensive mind of any man that ever lived in the Territory. But it required great occasions and intense excitement to develop his qualities.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The great speech of that Convention was delivered by Judge Solon O. Thacher, of Douglas, in opposition to a resolution offered by Mr. McCune of Leavenworth County, asking that "free negroes" be excluded from a residence in the State. From the circumstances attending the delivery, I do not believe that the effort was a premeditated one; for the cruel proposition was offered in the midst of the consideration of other questions, and without notice. After several others had spoken, and notably Gen. John Ritchie, who had made a most earnest protest against it, Judge Thacher took the floor and delivered the most scholastic, eloquent and unanswerable argument in opposition to it. That speech settled the question in favor of the absolute freedom of the Kansas soil to all colors and conditions in life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

John J. Ingalls of Atchison, is now the senior Senator from Kansas. He was the recognized scholar of the Convention, and authority on all questions connected with the arrangement and phraseology of the instrument. Whenever he suggested a verbal amendment, it was adopted by consent. He was then in his twenty-sixth year, and was a comely youth to look upon. But I will venture the assertion that he would not wear, at his daily attendance in the Senate, such a hat as he wore during the sittings of that Convention! It was a cheap, broad-brimmed chip, with the crown shoved up until it assumed the shape of a cone, and then straws were taken out until there were more holes in the top than plaits of straw; and while time has effaced the other peculiar features of that wonderful time, I do recollect that it was an ever-recurring subject of comment.

[TOC] [part 58] [part 56] [Cutler's History]