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


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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.

We are authorized to announce J. B. Chapman as candidate for Delegate in Congress from Kansas Territory.

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:


The convention advertised to take place on Wednesday last, proved to be what we said last week, "love's labor lost" - an abortion - no one being willing to father the call, or acknowledge having anything to do with it. The meeting was prematurely called without the consultation or approbation of the settlers of the Territory, and it turned out just as we expected. If a convention of the people - inhabitants of the Territory - could have been had, and a fair expression of their will obtained, so as to concentrate our strength upon some one who would truly represent our interest, it would have been well.

A meeting was organized, however, and after some very appropriate remarks by Capt. Jesse Morin, in opposition to the convention, a resolution was adopted that the call for a convention was premature, when the meeting adjourned.

Mr. Grover then took the stand, and withdrew from the canvass in favor of Gen. Whitfield, and at his suggestion and perhaps some others, another meeting was organized by calling Maj. Doughearty, of Clay County, Mo., to the chair, and Robert C. Miller, of Kansas Territory, as Secretary. This meeting was addressed by various persons on various subjects. The discussion took a wide latitudinarian range, and though the avowed object of this second meeting was to make a nomination, it turned out as the first. We believe there was a resolution passed in reference to urging upon the Governor the propriety of convening the Legislature at the earliest practical period. But this resolution, like the call for a convention, was premature. Because it is reasonable to suppose the Governor will call the Legislature at the earliest practicable period; but of course he must be the judge when it is practicable. We cannot but believe that the Governor will act wisely and discreetly in this matter, and for the best interest of the Territory. He can have no ulterior object in view in not ordering an election forthwith, further than what he deems for the public good. That he desires to postpone an election that the abolition emigrating aid societies, may pour in their hired paupers upon us next spring, no reasonable man can seriously for a moment believe. The history of Gov. Reeder's whole life stamps such an idea, as base coin, as unworthy of credit. That the Governor will call the Legislature at as early day as the circumstances will admit, cannot admit of a reasonable doubt.

We think some of these gentlemen have been beaten at their won game - that they have found when they want to win they must play high, that the highest number will always beat the lowest - and that hereafter they will be content to let the actual settlers take the lead in all matters pertaining to the interests of the Territory.

The day of the convention was full of interest, and big with the fate of many an aspirant for Congressional honors - several of whom gave way for another. What the result will be no one now can tell. Gen. Whitfield, Judge Flenneken, and J. B. Chapman are the most prominent, one of whom will doubtless be elected.

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.

Gen. Whitfield said in becoming a candidate, he did so upon his own hook, without the urgent solicitation of friends, or the aid and authority of a convention. He was a candidate, and should remain so until the evening of the day of election, independent of a convention or nomination. He said he was a free man, and should submit only to the will of the majority of the people as expressed at the ballot box.

He declared himself the firm and unwavering friend of the squatter, and in favor of extending to every settler on the public lands a pre-emption. He was in favor of so modifying the Delaware Treaty as to secure a pre-emption to every settler of the Delaware lands.* He would use all the influence in his power to make said change in the treaty; and he thought his connection with the Indians and the Indian Department, together with the personal relations existing between himself and heads of Departments, the President, the editor of the Washington Union, and many members of Congress, would enable him to do as much as any man to effect this desirable object. He said the treaty could and would be changed that he had always opposed it, and had told Mr. Manypenny, when he was first informed the Delaware Treaty was made, it could never be carried into effect. He condemned it then, and his opinions were not now manufactured for this race. He said he had encouraged settlers to go upon the Delaware lands, and believed they would never be disturbed.

* At this time, the Missouri incursionists had already claimed all the valuable lands of the Delawares, contrary to the terms of the treaty with the tribe who were the occupants, and whose protests were already filed at Washington.

Among his other duties, if elected, he said, he should endeavor to have mail routes established wherever they were needed. He was a railroad man, but did not believe that anything in that line could be accomplished, for Kansas Territory, at this short session of Congress.

He advocated the principles of the Kansas bill, and believed that the people alone should settle the question of slavery for themselves. The bill gave them this power, and had taken the question from the halls of Congress, and placed it where it properly belongs.

Gen. W., in conclusion, said he had nothing to do with the convention, knew nothing of its origin, believed it did not come from the settlers, and he should not abide the action of the convention. He was before the sovereigns, and it was with them to do as they pleased with him on the 29th of November.

The above is about the substance of the remarks of Gen. W., as we remember them. We took no notes of his speech at the time. His remarks, we believe, were generally well received. It is said that he will be a formidable competitor in the race.

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:

In view of the election to be held in the Territory on the 29th instant, for delegates to the House of Representatives of the United States, the undersigned, a committee of the numerous friends of the Hon. Robert P. Flenneken, offer him as a candidate for the said office, and announce some of the reasons by, in their opinion he should be supported.

Mr. Flenneken has been, heretofore, a citizen of Fayette County, in the State of Pennsylvania, where he has been for many years a consistent, sound and National Democrat - a citizen of the highest moral and social standing, and a lawyer of distinguished reputation and successful practice. He was formerly a member of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and, under the appointment of President Polk, a Representative of the United States at the Court of Denmark, where he attained much reputation by the ability and fidelity with which he discharged his duties. He has settled in the Territory with the intention of making it his future permanent residence, and his family are preparing to follow him.

His general intelligence - his sound and reliable prudence and good-sense - his clear and comprehensive intellect - his legal knowledge - his general and favorable acquaintance with the members of Congress and the public men attached to the National Administration give us the surest guarantee that he will make a most useful, efficient and valuable Delegate, whom we may confidently look for procuring the appropriations for military roads and bridges, pubic buildings, geological survey, the modification of Indian treaties and for adjusting the many post routes and post offices throughout the Territory.

Some persons, we regret to say, are making an effort to introduce into this election the question of free and slave labor, and to array the advocates of each against the other, and in favor of different candidates. We cannot see the necessity or propriety of agitating this question at this time. A Delegate in Congress will have no duties to perform connected with it in any way, should be elected only with an eye to his value, efficiency and influence in procuring the legislation which we so much need to advance the prosperity and improvement of the Territory. The man who can best do this should be elected without reference to his views on other questions. Mr. F. does not run as a candidate upon this issue, and we do not place him before the people on that ground. The weakness of the Territory requires that all citizens upon both sides of that question should stand side by side and work in harmony, concert and good feeling, to advance the progress of our Territory, with the greatest possible rapidity. It will be time enough to make issue upon the question of slavery, when it shall come up for decision; and it would inflict a deep injury upon our interests to elect a Delegate to Congress upon this issue, no matter which party should succeed, as it would immediately array against them the members of Congress who should differ in opinion from the successful party - whereas if our Delegate is elected without raising the question, we shall not excite in Congress the opposition of the other party, and it will be comparatively easy to obtain what the wants of the Territory require.

We may add that the best evidence of our sincerity is, that we ourselves are divided in opinion upon the question - some of us being anti-slavery men and some pro-slavery men, whilst we are, nevertheless, united in the support of Mr. F. We believe him to be the man whom the Territory needs for the office - the man who can best advance its interest in Washington - and, from all the information we can receive, the man who will be strongest before the people at the polls, and whom the majority of them desire, and we therefore recommend him for your support.

November 18, 1854.

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."

This is the substance of the remarks. We have no room for comment. The people now have the opinions of the candidate; they can judge for themselves.

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.

[TOC] [part 8] [part 6] [Cutler's History]