Gloomy prospect for Governor Geary's administration.--Determination to make Kansas a slave state.--Opposition to the new governor.--Address to the people of the slave states.--Secretary Woodson's proclamation.
No man ever commenced the discharge of official duties under such discouraging auspices, or in the face of so many embarrassments, difficulties, and dangers, as did Governor Geary. The bitterness of party spirit had reached its acme. Every class of the community either was or pretended to be suffering grievances that cried aloud for vengeance. All means at pacification were regarded as fruitless, and the leaders of the conflicting parties neither saw nor recognised any hope of redress or peace except in the extermination of the other. The free-state people had no reason to expect even a show of justice from the administration at Washington. Every federal officer in the territory and every territorial officer, whether appointed or elected, from the supreme judges and secretary to the deputy marshals, sheriffs and clerks, were wedded to the slave power, and pledged at all hazards to its extension. And the free-state party, judging from the uniform policy of the general government, very naturally supposed that the new governor was but another instrument chosen for their oppression and persecution. It was by no means remarkable, therefore, that they should not only withhold from him everything like a cordial welcome, but regard him with distrust and suspicion, and determine to throw every possible obstacle in the way of his administration. Even President Pierce and his cabinet appear to have made a mistake in the appointment of Governor Geary; for subsequent events prove, that although he succeeded in restoring peace to the territory, he failed to accomplish the object of their desires; and when they discovered his unwavering determination to do equal justice to all the citizens, they withdrew from him, at the time it was most needed, their protecting care.
The pro-slavery party, on the other hand, had selected a governor for themselves, and were resolved not to receive with favor any other than the man they had chosen. This was John Calhoun, the surveyor-general of Kansas and Nebraska. He had been well tried, and found to be entirely "sound on the goose." Of his attachment to their interests there was no room to doubt. Like all others of their party born in free states, he was willing and ready to commit excesses at which even the most rabid of themselves would hesitate. He considered it no crime to murder northern men, and declared that he would kill an abolitionist with less compunction than he would a rat. He had the bestowment of an immense patronage, which he took great care to render subservient to the interests of his party. His clerks and other attachés, paid by the government to survey the lands, were enlisted in the Missouri army of invasion, and the horses and wagons belonging to his department were employed to transport provisions and ammunition for its use. He would have made just such a governor as his party needed, and great dissatisfaction was the result of his failure to receive the appointment.
The broad ground assumed by the rabid leaders of the pro-slavery party in Kansas was that an equilibrium of the slave power must be maintained at any sacrifice in the American Union, and this could only be effected by increasing the slave states in proportion with the free. As Nebraska will unquestionably enter the Union a free State, Kansas must be admitted with a constitution authorizing slavery. Whilst, therefore, the south was willing to give Nebraska to the north, they asked and demanded that Kansas should be ceded to the south. It was of little consequence what number of northern men located themselves in Kansas. It was assumed that they had no right to come there, unless with the intention of assisting to make it a slave state. If they would not pledge themselves to that object they were abolitionists, allies of disunionism, and deserving of death; and so far from being a crime, it was a virtue to kill them. This was the doctrine, openly and boldly advocated, that led to the commission of the most horrid atrocities that blackened the annals of the territory.
Hence, when Governor Geary's appointment was announced, and it was understood that he was determined not to affiliate with either of the opposing factions, but purposed to hold the scales of justice with an even hand, and to support and carry out the doctrine of popular sovereignty in the territory, not only much dissatisfaction but considerable consternation was the result. It was feared that every darling scheme and infamous attempt to force the institution of slavery into Kansas would be frustrated by his acknowledged integrity and well-known sagacity, industry and energy. Measures were immediately adopted to circumvent his plans, in anticipation of his coming. Active preparations were commenced, and carried forward with surprising energy, to gather an army in Missouri and other slave states with which to overrun the territory and drive out or annihilate all the free state people, before the new governor could be on hand to intervene his authority and prevent the execution of so diabolical a purpose. An inflammatory address was prepared and published, signed by Atchison, Stringfellow, Tebbs, Anderson, Reid, Doniphan, and a host of kindred spirits, most of them Missourians, accusing the free-state people of the very outrages which themselves were daily committing, and calling for assistance to punish the traitors, assassins, and robbers who had invaded the territory from the north. This address was exceedingly plausible, and deceived many an honest man into the espousal of a cause which he subsequently abandoned in horror and disgust. The following extracts will give a proper idea of the general tenor of this document:--
"We have asked the appointment of a successor, who was acquainted with our condition; who, a citizen of the territory, identified with its interests, familiar with its history, would not be prejudiced or misled by the falsehoods which have been so systematically fabricated against us--one who, heretofore a resident as he is a native of a non-slaveholding state, is yet not a slaveholder, but has the capacity to appreciate, and the boldness and integrity requisite faithfully to discharge his duty, regardless of the possible effect it might have upon the election of some petty politician in a distant state.
The Squatter Sovereign, an incendiary newspaper, published and edited by Messrs. Stringfellow and Kelly, at Atchison, in Doniphan county, also lent its aid to increase the excitement and embarrass the action of the governor, whose arrival was daily expected. Its articles were highly inflammatory, calling loudly for war and the extermination of the free-state people. Its complaints against the administration for the appointment of Geary, were uttered in no stinted terms. "No northern man," it alleged, "was fit to govern Kansas." John H. Stringfellow, one of the editors, is notorious for his violence. He has been arrested and indicted on sundry charges of horse-stealing and other crimes; whilst Robert S. Kelly, his associate, who was so conspicuous in the outrages upon Rev. Pardee Butler, declared that he could never die happy until he had killed an abolitionist. "If," said he, "I can't kill a man, I'll kill a woman; and if I can't kill a woman, I'll kill a child!" That such men should do all in their power to embarrass an impartial executive and prevent the restoration of peace, is no subject for astonishment.
But the most reprehensible character in the drama being enacted, all things considered, was the secretary of the territory, then acting-governor. Without a will of his own, he became the subtle tool of the designing men with whom he was surrounded, and was inveigled into the commission of an act which words can scarcely condemn with sufficient severity. More than three weeks after Governor Geary had received his commission, and Secretary Woodson had every reason to believe that he was on his way to the territory, that weak-minded, if not criminally defective officer, issued the following:--
"WHEREAS, satisfactory evidence exists that the territory of Kansas is infested with large bodies of armed men, many of whom have just arrived from the states, combined and confederated together, and amply supplied with all the munitions of war, under the direction of a common head, with a thorough military organization, who have been and are still engaged in murdering law-abiding citizens of the territory, driving others from their homes, and compelling them to flee to the states for protection, capturing and holding others as prisoners of war, plundering them of their property, and in some instances burning down their houses and robbing United States post offices, and the local militia of the arms furnished them by the government, in open defiance and contempt of the laws of the territory, and of the constitution and laws of the United States, and of civil and military authority thereof--all for the purpose of subverting by force and violence, the government established by law of Congress in this territory.
"Now, therefore, I, Daniel Woodson, acting governor of the territory of Kansas, do hereby issue my proclamation declaring the said territory to be in a state of open insurrection and rebellion, and I do hereby call upon all law-abiding citizens of the territory to rally to the support of their country and its laws, and require and command all officers, civil and military, and all other citizens of the territory to aid and assist by all means in their power, in putting down the insurrectionists, and bringing to condign punishment all persons engaged with them, to the end of assuring immunity from violence, and full protection to the persons, property, and civil rights to all peaceable and law-abiding inhabitants of the territory
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be attached the seal of the territory of Kansas.
"Acting Governor, K. T."
This proclamation, calling for volunteer militia from Missouri and elsewhere out of the territory, exhibits an utter lack of sound judgment, and came nigh proving more disastrous to the country than all the events combined that have yet transpired. Not satisfied, however, with the proclamation, which, of itself, was sufficiently mischievous, he wrote private letters to parties in Missouri, calling for men, money and munitions of war, to carry out his partisan purposes. This proclamation and these letters called together thousands of men, mostly from Missouri, with passions inflamed to the highest degree, and whose only thought and full determination, was wholesale slaughter and destruction. From the hour they entered the territory until they again passed its borders, their path was marked with bloodshed and ruin. There was scarcely a crime in the vast category of crimes that they did not commit with a brutality scarcely conceivable in beings bearing the human form. It would be disgusting and sickening to recapitulate the wanton atrocities, the hellish cruelties, perpetrated by these bands of volunteer militia. When Governor Geary appeared among them at their camp at Franklin, as will hereafter be related, and made known his purpose to disband them, it was with difficulty that their leaders could restrain their fiendish appetites and prevent the consummation of their shocking designs. The presence of the governor there was most opportune. An hour or two later, the town of Lawrence would have been in ashes; every man, woman and child in it, would have been ruthlessly slaughtered; and several thousands of human bloodhounds thirsting for vengeance, would have been let loose upon the territory with uncontrollable fury, to lay waste and desolate whatever came in their way. It is impossible to imagine the extent of the calamities and horrors that would have ensued. The alarm would have spread beyond the boundaries of Kansas to every state and territory of the Republic; the tocsin of war would have sounded from one extremity of the Union to the other; and as bloody a civil strife as the world has ever known must have been the result. For this act of the secretary, which, but for the timely interference of Governor Geary, would have been productive of unspeakable evils, President Buchanan, with characteristic generosity, has rewarded Mr. Woodson with the office of receiver for the Delaware Land District.