|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
THE FIRST POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
The interest in the coming election evinced by the actual settlers was of an exceedingly mild type. They were all pre-occupied in the, to them, more important business of building their cabins and otherwise providing themselves homes and shelter before the winter should set in. There was no party organization in the Territory. The slavery question was not generally understood to be an issue in the election of a Territorial Delegate, as it was disavowed or ignored in most of the speeches of the candidates, and it was well known that the Delegate elected could wield no influence and would have no vote that could influence the future destinies of the territory, either toward freedom or slavery.
The candidates were many of them self-announced or self-nominated. The first candidates were announced in the Kansas Herald of November 10, 1854, as follows:
We are authorized to announce James N. Burnes, Esq., as a Democratic candidate for Delegate to Congress for the Territory of Kansas.
In the same issue, a synopsis is given of J. B. Chapman's maiden speech to his desired constituents, at the Leavenworth House. When he came into the Territory he had no design of becoming a candidate; having had much experience in public affairs, and become interested in the welfare of the Territory, he had decided to submit his claims. He favored the Homestead Bill, and a liberal policy of internal improvements; believed in slack water navigation on the Kansas River, whereby it might be made navigable for several months in the year; thought railroads to be a great extent would supersede water navigation, and favored putting one across the Territory, first, north and south; afterward, east and west. He opposed the secret manner in which the late Indian treaties had been consummated, and was particularly severe and sarcastic in the modes and methods of the Indian Commissioner, Manypenny.
On the slavery question he said he felt no particular interest; that he was raised in a slave and had lived in a free State, and was satisfied with the institutions of either. He was in favor of letting the people control in this matter, and he should follow in carrying out their will. He was a Democrat, and advocated the principles of the Kansas Bill. He was for the constitution, and preserving the Union at all hazards and for maintaining inviolate the laws of the country, and protecting every man in his property, slaves as well as any other species.
James N. Burnes publicly withdrew from the canvass November 17, stating, in a card, that he could not make a canvass on the platform contemplated by his friends, but thanking them for their support, and withdrawing his name as a candidate, "deferentially yielding his own view to those of the squatters of Kansas."
The Kansas Herald of November 17 shows an accession of candidates and the campaign fairly begun. It reports the doings of the convention at Leavenworth, which has been before mentioned as presenting its memorial to Gov. Reeder. It appears therefrom (sic) that, in addition to attempting to dictate as to the gubernatorial management of affairs, it attempted the nomination of a Congressional Delegate. The report is as follows:
It is certainly not strange that Gov. Reeder, having read the above report of the convention in a pro-slavery paper, should have demanded of the committee who presented the memorial, the minutes of the proceedings of the convention, or that, being refused, he should have given them the reply he did. Notwithstanding the known irregularity of the convention, the candidate then named concluded to run, and defined his position to the citizens of Leavenworth of the day of this Missouri Convention. The Herald report of his speech is as follows:
Gen. Whitfield, candidate for delegate to Congress from Kansas Territory, addressed quite a large assemblage of the people from the stump, in this place on Wednesday last. He was listened to with marked attention by the great crowd who had been brought thither by the call for a convention to nominate a candidate.
The following also appears in the same issue from which the foregoing quotations were given:
We are authorized to announce Hon. Robert P. Flenneken, of the Sixteenth Election District (embracing Leavenworth and Salt Creek) as a candidate for Delegate to Congress for Kansas Territory, at the approaching election of the 29th inst.
Mr. Flenneken had come into the Territory with Gov. Reeder. He was attached to the Governor, if the Governor was not to him. It is stated on the authority of a witness before the investigating committee, that he admitted on his way to the Territory, in October, that he was, or was to be, a candidate for Congressional honors. Be that as it may, he appeared at this time as a candidate, and having been defeated, returned to his home in Pennsylvania, and ceased to be thereafter an elementary part of the Territory or its history. His antecedents, qualifications and mode of nomination are shown in the following, which appeared in the same paper and at the same date of the announcement of his candidacy:
To the Qualified Voters of Kansas Territory:
One week after the publication of the foregoing, a flaming manifesto appeared in the same paper from the followers of Gen. Whitfield, impugning the sincerity and questioning the soundness of both Mr. Flenneken and the committee who had placed him in nomination. It was addressed thus: "TO THE FREEMEN OF KANSAS. VOTERS, BE ON YOUR GUARD." As voters of the Territory against the insidious character of the circular putting Mr. Flenneken in nomination. They charged that his chief reliance for support was upon the "Abolition Vote" in the Wakarusa settlement, based on assurances that the inhabitants thereof would give him 1,000 votes; that his predilections were opposed to salve labor; that all of the men whose names were signed to the circular were opposed to slavery in Kansas, save one; and that he had "been in the Territory but a few weeks, and if not elected, may remain but a few weeks longer." It closed as follows:
Of Gen. J. W. Whitfield we feel that we need not speak. He has long been a resident of the Territory, and is known to be thoroughly identified in all his interest, feelings and sympathies with the squatters. Being emphatically a squatter himself, and intimately acquainted with the entire Territory, he is peculiarly fitted to represent this important interest in Congress. His strong practical sense, long legislative experience, extensive general information and favorable acquaintance with the Cabinet of President Pierce and the members of Congress generally, peculiarly qualify him to advance our interest at this particular junction.
To the document were appended the names of G. Gwinner, A. Russell, M. Pierce Rively, H. D. McMeekin, R. M. Deavenport, D. A. N. Grover, James N. Burnes, William F. Dyer, James Brooks, Robert C. Miller, M. Clark, George H. Perain, C. H. Grover, A. Payne, James W. Rich; Thomas S. Owens, E. G. Booth, A. H. Scott, N. T. Shaler and Thomas Johnson, all avowed pro-slavery Democrats, and some of them of the extreme Missouri border school.
Hon. John A. Wakefield also proclaimed himself an independent candidate, and canvassed the Territory. He was thus described by William Phillips (Conquest of Kansas):
"As a Free-state man, the Judge was unquestionably reliable. He was a Western man, and no Abolitionist;' but, as he explained in a speech we once heard him make, a Free-soiler up to the hub - hub and all.' The Judge is a character in his way. His public speeches and private conversation are characterized by a style and enunciation decidedly provincial and his grammar sets up a standard somewhat independent of Lindley Murray; but he is sound and shrewd in his opinions and convictions, and honest to the core. The old gentleman is somewhat portly. He is a man with a presence, and, had the choice been made, as Deidrich Knickerbocker tells us they elected magistrates in his time (by weight), the worthy Judge would have distanced both his competitors put together. Unfortunately, the Free-state men were divided, and had no great faith in either of their candidates. We honestly believe that the old Judge was the smartest' of the three, the standard in neither case being very high. The worthy Judge, moreover, was a specimen of that school, rapidly disappearing under the blows of Young America,' and fine old gentleman.' With him the amenities of life were facts, and worth considering."
The Judge, like his two chief competitors (Chapman fell out early) made a speech at Leavenworth, which the Herald (November 24) reported and commented on as follows:
Mr. Wakefield arrived in our town yesterday, and after a short notice, a respectable number of our citizens assembled to hear him speak. He addressed them in a few remarks, defining his position in favor of changing the Delaware treaty, so as to give every man a pre-emption, and dwelt upon its injustice. He was in favor of liberal appropriations for making roads, and for improving the navigation of the Kansas River, and for creating a liberal fund for education, and for granting a homestead to every settler. He was against agitating the slavery question at this time, as the Delegate could have no vote upon the question. He was born in South Carolina and raised in Kentucky; had lived in free States and been a pioneer all his life; had held many offices of public trust; was acquainted with many of the Western members of Congress, and believed he could exercise and influence with them; that he was in favor of this being a free State; was a free-soiler, and opposed to abolitionism and free negroes settling in this Territory. He said he was an actual resident of the Territory, with his wife and children around him, and doubted whether either Gen. Whitfield or Mr. Flenneken could claim a bona fide residence in Kansas. He said he had canvassed a large portion of the territory; was satisfied that the race was between him and Gen. Whitfield, and that one or the other of them must be elected; that no other person would be in the way, "Now," said he, "choose whom you will have."
The names of several other gentlemen were announced; but, on the day of election there were but three who had sufficient following to be recognized as candidates. They were:
(1) Gen. John W. Whitfield, who, though ignoring the slavery issue during the canvass, had been first named for the position by a revolutionary meeting of Missourians, and counted, with certainty, upon the full slavery vote of the Territory, and also that of his Missouri constituents to any number required to make his election sure.
(2) Robert P. Flenneken, a friend of Gov. Reeder, understood to be an administration Democrat, with Free-soil proclivities. He was a stranger - a mere sojourner in the land - and, had his talents far transcended those he possessed, would have only commanded the divided support of his friend's friends against the unanimous and bitter opposition of Gov. Reeder's political enemies.
(3) Judge John A. Wakefield, an honest, frank, outspoken Free-soiler, personally popular, could only expect to divide with Mr. Flenneken the Free-state vote of the bona fide settlers of the Territory.
With the prevailing apathy of the inhabitants, and the other apparent advantages of Gen. Whitfield over both his competitors, his election by an honest ballot of legal voters was assured. The short-sighted and suicidal policy of the slavery party, in vitiating their own assured success, and overwhelming it with a needless avalanche of fraud, seemed to violate, not only all principles of justice and right, but to set at nought the dictates of prudence, shrewdness and common sense. It was a vile blunder, and a needless crime.