The town of Lecompton.--Its location and moral character.--The accounts of their grievances by the pro-slavery party.--Policy indicated by that party for Governor Geary.--The Inaugural address.--Proclamations ordering the dispersion of armed bodies, and for organizing the militia of the territory.
LECOMPTON is situated on the south side of the Kansas River, about fifty miles from its junction with the Missouri, and forty miles in a south-westerly direction from Leavenworth City, upon as inconvenient and inappropriate a site for a town as any in the territory; it being on a bend of the river, difficult of access, and several miles beyond any of the principal thoroughfares. It was chosen simply for speculative purposes. An Indian 'floating claim' of a section of land was purchased by a company of prominent pro-slavery men, who found it easy to induce the legislative assembly to adopt it for the location of the capitol, by distributing among the members, supreme judges, the governor, secretary of the territory, and others in authority, a goodly number of town lots, upon the rapid sale of which each expected to realize a handsome income. It contained, at the time of Governor Geary's arrival, some twenty or more houses, the majority of which were employed as groggeries of the lowest description. In fact, its general moral condition was debased to a lamentable degree. It was the residence of the celebrated Sheriff Jones (who is one of the leading members of the town association), and the resort of horse-thieves and ruffians of the most desperate character. Its drinking saloons were infested by these characters, where drunkenness, gambling, fighting, and all sorts of crimes were indulged in with entire impunity. It was and is emphatically a border ruffian town, in which no man could utter opinions adverse to negro slavery without placing his life in jeopardy. The corporators, who are the contractors, have expended the $50,000 appropriated by Congress for the erection of the capitol building, for which sum they can now exhibit the foundations for a. house, come iron castings and tin cornices.
Upon the governor's arrival he was surrounded by the leading men of the place, who kindly volunteered their friendly advice and instructions in regard to the policy to be pursued. To insure his own comfort and safety, and accomplish any good whatever in the territory, he was given to understand that it was absolutely necessary to identify himself with the pro slavery party, and aid it with his influence and power to "wipe out the d---d abolitionists." These were represented as the most wicked wretches that ever disgraced the earth. Upon their shoulders were heaped all imaginable offences. There was no crime of which they had not been guilty. Every enormity committed in Kansas was charged to their account; whilst their accusers were and had ever been peace-loving and law and order citizens, who with Christian forbearance and Job-like patience had meekly submitted to outrages that no pencil could portray nor language properly depict. It was really painful to hear their plausible stories of the sufferings they had quietly and patiently endured at the hands of their northern oppressors and fiendish persecutors.
The governor was too perverse and obstinate to believe that the wrong was altogether on one side, or that the cause of humanity or the welfare of the country was to be promoted by the course of policy he was so eloquently and earnestly solicited to adopt and pursue. Hence he issued the following address, in which he expressed a determination to know no party, and to recognise no sectional prejudices, but in the exercise of his official functions to do equal and exact justice to all classes of the community--a resolution to which he rigidly adhered during his entire administration:--
"I appear among you a stranger to most of you, and for the first time have the honor to address you, as Governor of the Territory of Kansas. The position was not sought by me; but was voluntarily tendered by the present chief magistrate of the nation. As an American citizen, deeply conscious of the blessings which ever flow from our beloved Union, I did not consider myself at liberty to shrink from any duties, however delicate and onerous, required of me by my country.
"With a full knowledge of all the circumstances surrounding the executive office, I have deliberately accepted it, and as God may give me strength and ability, I will endeavor faithfully to discharge its varied requirements. When I received my commission I was solemnly sworn to support the Constitution of the United States, and to discharge my duties as Governor of Kansas with fidelity. By reference to the act for the organization of this territory, passed by Congress on the 30th day of March, 1854, I find my duties more particularly defined. Among other things, I am `to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'
"The Constitution of the United States and the organic law of the territory, will be the lights by which I will be guided in my executive career.
"A careful and dispassionate examination of our organic act will satisfy any reasonable person that its provisions are eminently just and beneficial. If this act has been distorted to unworthy purposes, it is not the fault of its provisions. The great leading feature of that act is the right therein conferred upon the actual and bona fide inhabitants of this territory `in the exercise of self-government, to determine for themselves what shall be their own domestic institutions, subject only to the constitution and the laws duly enacted by Congress under it.' The people, accustomed to self-government in the states from whence they came, and having removed to this territory with the bona fide intention of making it their future residence, were supposed to be capable of creating their own municipal government, and to be the best judges of their own local necessities and institutions. This is what is termed 'popular sovereignty.' By this phrase we simply mean the right of the majority of the people of the several states and territories, being qualified electors, to regulate their own domestic concerns, and to make their own municipal laws. Thus understood, this doctrine underlies the whole system of republican government. It is the great right of self-government, for the establishment of which our ancestors, in the stormy days of the revolution pledged `their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.'
"A doctrine so eminently just should receive the willing homage of every American citizen. When legitimately expressed, and duly ascertained, the will of the majority must be the imperative rule of civil action for every law-abiding citizen. This simple, just rule of action has brought order out of chaos, And by a progress unparalleled in the history of the world, has made a few feeble, infant colonies, a giant confederated republic.
"No man, conversant with the state of affairs, now in Kansas, can close his eyes to the fact that much civil disturbance has for a long time past existed in this territory. Various reasons have been assigned for this unfortunate condition of affairs, and numerous remedies have been proposed.
"The House of Representatives of the United States have ignored the claims of both gentlemen claiming the legal right to represent the people of this territory in that body. The Topeka Constitution, recognised by the House, has been repudiated by the Senate. Various measures, each in the opinion of its respective advocates, suggestive of peace to Kansas, have been alternately proposed and rejected. Men, outside of the territory, in various sections of the Union, influenced by reasons best known to themselves, have endeavored to stir up internal strife, and to array brother against brother.
"In this conflict of opinion, and for the promotion of the most unworthy purposes, Kansas is left to suffer, her people to mourn, and her prosperity is endangered.
"Is there no remedy for these evils? Cannot the wounds of Kansas be healed, and peace be restored to all her borders?
"Men of the north--men of the south--of the east, and of the west, in Kansas, you, and you alone, have the remedy in your own hands. Will you not suspend fratricidal strife? Will you not cease to regard each other as enemies, and look upon one another as the children of a common mother, and come and reason together?
"Let us banish all outside influences from our deliberations, and assemble around our council board with the constitution of our country and the organic law of this territory, as the great charts for our guidance and direction. The bona fide inhabitants of the territory alone are charged with the solemn duty of enacting her laws, upholding her government, maintaining peace, and laying the foundation for a future commonwealth.
"On this point let there be a perfect unity of sentiment. It is the first great step towards the attainment of peace. It will inspire confidence amongst ourselves and insure the respect of the whole country. Let us show ourselves worthy and capable of self-government.
"Do not the inhabitants of this territory better understand what domestic institutions are suited to their condition--what laws will be most conducive to their prosperity and happiness, than the citizens of distant, or even neighboring states? This great right of regulating our own affairs and attending to our own business, without any interference from others, has been guaranteed to us by the law which Congress has made for the organization of this territory. This right of self-government--this privilege guaranteed to us by the organic law of our territory, I will uphold with all my might, and with the entire power committed to me.
"In relation to any changes of the laws of the territory which I may deem desirable, I have no occasion now to speak; but these are subjects to which I shall direct public attention at the proper time.
"The territory of the United States is the common property of the several states, or of the people thereof. This being so, no obstacle should be interposed to the free settlement of this common property, while in a territorial condition.
"I cheerfully admit that the people of this territory, under the organic act, have the absolute right of making their own municipal laws. And from citizens who deem themselves aggrieved by recent legislation, I would invoke the utmost forbearance, and point out to them a sure and peaceable remedy. You have the right to ask the next legislature to revise any and all laws; and in the meantime, as you value the peace of the territory and the maintenance of future laws, I would earnestly ask you to refrain from all violations of the present statutes.
"I am sure that there is patriotism sufficient in the people of Kansas to induce them to lend a willing obedience to law. All the provisions of the Constitution of the United States must be sacredly observed--all the acts of Congress, having reference to this territory must be unhesitatingly obeyed, and the decisions of our courts respected. It will be my imperative duty to see that these suggestions are carried into effect. In my official action here, I will do justice at all hazards. Influenced by no other considerations than the welfare of the whole people of this territory, I desire to know no party, no section, no north, no south, no east, no west--nothing but Kansas and my country.
"Fully conscious of my great responsibilities in the present condition of Kansas, I must invoke your aid, and solicit your generous forbearance. Your executive officer can do little without the aid of the people. With a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, to the best of my ability, I shall promote the interests of the citizens of this territory, not merely collectively, but individually, and I shall expect from them, in return, that cordial aid and support, without which the government of no state or territory can be administered with beneficent effect.
"Let us all begin anew. Let the past be buried in oblivion. Let all strife and bitterness cease. Let us all honestly devote ourselves to the true interests of Kansas; develope her rich agricultural and mineral resources; build up manufacturing enterprises; make public roads and highways; prepare amply for the education of our children; devote ourselves to all the arts of peace; and make our territory the sanctuary of those cherished principles which protect the inalienable rights of the individual, and elevate states in their sovereign capacities.
"Then shall peaceful industry soon be restored; population and wealth will flow upon us; 'the desert will blossom as the rose,' and the State of Kansas will soon be admitted into the Union, the peer and pride of her elder sisters.
Simultaneously with this address, clearly developing the policy by which his official action was to be guided and controlled, the governor published the following proclamations:--
"WHEREAS, A large number of volunteer militia have been called into the service of the Territory of Kansas, by authority of the late acting governor, for the maintenance of order, many of whom have been taken from occupations or business, and deprived of their ordinary means of support and of their domestic enjoyments; and
"WHEREAS, The employment of militia is not authorized by my instructions from the general government, except upon requisition of the commander of the military department in which Kansas is embraced; and
"WHEREAS, An authorized regular force has been placed at my disposal, sufficient to insure the execution of the laws that may be obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings; now
"Therefore, I, JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, do issue this, my proclamation, declaring that the services of such volunteer militia are no longer required; and hereby order that they be immediately discharged. The secretary and the adjutant-general of the territory will muster out of service each command at its place of rendezvous.
"And I command all bodies of men, combined, armed and equipped with munitions of war, without authority of the government, instantly to disband or quit the territory, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of the Territory of Kansas.
"Done at Lecompton, this eleventh day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six.
"Governor of Kansas Territory."
"WHEREAS, It is the true policy of every state or territory to be prepared for any emergency that may arise from internal dissension or foreign invasion;
"Therefore, I, John W. Geary, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, do issue this, my proclamation, ordering all free male citizens, qualified to bear arms, between the ages eighteen and forty-five years, to enrol themselves, in accordance with the act to organize the militia of the territory, that they may be completely organized by companies, regiments, brigades, or divisions, and hold themselves in readiness, to be mustered, by my order, into the service of the United States, upon requisition of the commander of the military department in which Kansas is embraced, for the suppression of all combinations to resist the laws, and for the maintenance of public order and civil government.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of the Territory of Kansas.
"Done at Lecompton, this eleventh day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six.
"Governor of Kansas Territory."