Meeting of a pro-slavery convention at Lecompton.--Discussion between Hampton and Maclean.--Sheriff Jones endorsed.--Organization of the national democratic party of Kansas.--A novel platform.--The national administration favors the pro-slavery movements in Kansas.--Analysis of the cabinet.--Governor Geary offered the United States senatorship.--Calhoun's address to the people of the United States.--Misrepresentations of its author exposed.
A CALL having appeared in the Squatter Sovereign for the meeting of a convention, a body, in answer thereto, assembled at Lecompton on the same day that the Legislature was organized. The objects of the convention had been left for the imagination of the delegates, for they had never been publicly stated or defined. They were not destined, however, to remain long in ignorance on that particular point; for when two free-state delegates presented credentials, they were given clearly to understand that their presence and services were not required. The first question discussed regarded the name by which the convention should be called. A proposition to denominate it the "Law and Order Convention" was overruled by the opposition of Doctor Stringfellow, who pronounced the assembly a pro-slavery convocation, and offered a resolution, which was almost unanimously carried, denying a seat in the meetings to any man who was not absolutely known to be in favor of making Kansas a slave state.
The passage of this resolution brought Maclean to his feet, who, in a speech of some length, delivered in a most excited manner, declared that Captain L. J. Hampton, who claimed to be a delegate from Jefferson county, had no business in that convention, as his kind treatment, in the capacity of master of convicts, to the free-state prisoners, was quite sufficient proof that he was not a sound pro-slavery man.
To this Hampton replied, with much earnestness and eloquence, declaring that he was a Kentuckian, and had always maintained the local institutions of his native state, and affirming that he was decidedly in favor of slavery extension.
Maclean retorted, and was even more violent than before: "I don't care what Captain Hampton says. His conduct to the prisoners has been such as no pro-slavery man can sanction; and my friend over there, Samuel J. Jones, the sheriff of Douglas county, the master spirit of our party, who has fought, suffered and bled for our cause, who is a living monument of the nobility of the human soul, and whose word is the soul of honor, says that Captain Hampton is not sound; and shall we take Captain Hampton's word in preference to that of Sheriff Jones? Have we not tried Samuel J. Jones? And who will say that he was ever found wanting? No! it is our duty, as pro-slavery men, to believe Sheriff Jones's word in preference to Captain Hampton's oath; to do, without hesitation, all that Sheriff Jones wishes us to do, no matter what that may be; and as Sheriff Jones desires the exclusion from this convention of Captain Hampton, I hope that no member here will be so vile a traitor to our cause as to hesitate one moment to vote for his expulsion!"
During these remarks, which were constantly interrupted with enthusiastic applause, the sheriff, it being late in the evening, was in no mood for speech-making; but sat near his friend Maclean, almost unconscious of the extravagant laudations of which he was the subject, and nodding over the pipe that he held in his mouth, from which an occasional puff of smoke would ascend. Hampton's case was finally referred to a committee, who reported him "sound on the goose," and he was admitted as a member of the convention. But here another difficulty arose. A vote had hastily been passed inviting all the members of the Legislature to participate in the business of the convention, and it was discovered that two of the members were free-state men. After a spirited debate on the question of their admission, it was decided that they were not included in the general invitation. Nothing more was done the first evening than organize the body, and appoint the proper committees.
On the following day, the convention met in committee of the whole, when, to the astonishment of many of the delegates, a proposition was made by Doctor Stringfellow, who had never pretended to be a Democrat, to call themselves "The National Democratic Party of Kansas Territory." There was some little squirming and twisting when this proposition was made; for it appeared that a majority of the delegates claimed to be old-line Whigs; but when the objects were explained, all scruples were removed, and the name was adopted. It was stated that Governor Geary must by some means be disposed of; his continuance in Kansas was an injury to the pro-slavery cause. An issue must be raised between him and Lecompte; one or the other must fall; and Lecompte could not, under any circumstances, be spared. The question was under consideration at Washington. A protest against Lecompte's removal, and in favor of Geary's, must be sent to the national democratic administration; that administration could not with propriety pay much attention to anything emanating from a body contending for no other principle than the introduction of slavery into the territory; but it would be compelled to regard with favor whatever came to them from the "National Democratic Party of Kansas." Besides, it was argued that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and by calling himself a Democrat, for the purpose of gaining an important point, no man was compelled to embrace democratic doctrines. He might still entertain whatever sentiments he thought proper. It was thought best, nevertheless, to secure the desired object, to adopt the Cincinnati platform--reserving to themselves the privilege of engrafting thereon their one idea of slavery in Kansas.
This was a strange procedure, and one which shows an utter disregard of moral principle, when it is understood that these very men, at the last session of the Legislature, as will be seen by reference to their published journal, passed the following:
"Mr. Speaker Stringfellow, Mr. Anderson in the chair, offered the following concurrent resolution:--
"WHEREAS, The signs of the times indicate that a measure is now on foot fraught with more danger to the interests of the pro-slavery party, and to the Union, than any which has yet been agitated, to wit: the proposition to organize a National democratic party; and
"WHEREAS, Some of our friends have already been misled by it; and
"WHEREAS, The result will be to divide pro-slavery Whigs from Democrats, thus weakening our party one-half; and
"WHEREAS, We believe that on the success of our party depends the perpetuity of the Union; Therefore,
"Be it resolved, By the House of Representatives, the Council concurring therein, that it is the duty of the pro-slavery party, the union-loving men of Kansas Territory, to know but one issue, SLAVERY, and that any party making or attempting to make any other, IS AND SHOULD BE HELD, AS AN ALLY OF ABOLITIONISM AND DISUNIONISM.
"Which was read a first time, and the rule suspended, and the resolution read a second time, and agreed to."
Such is the platform of the men, who at last, for sinister motives, styled themselves the "National Democracy of Kansas." They were to know but one issue--that issue, slavery! or else be held as "allies of abolitionism and disunionism." In carrying out this principle, all the free-state Democrats of Kansas were excluded from membership with the "National Democracy," not one of them being received into fellowship, or in any manner allowed to take part in its proceedings.
But, it may be asked, is this sort of Democracy acknowledged and endorsed by the administration at Washington? Yes! Mr. Buchanan has carried it out to the full measure of perfection. As far as he has had the power, he has ostracised all free-state Democrats, no matter how long or how faithfully they have served himself and their party. The most, if not all, of his appointments have been made with especial reference to the slavery question, and the pleasure of the southern wing of the Democracy. Without an exception, the Kansas appointments were well known pro-slavery men, and they of the fiercest character.
The same rule was rigidly observed in selecting the members of the cabinet. It would be an insult to the sagacity of the president to suppose that this was purely accidental, or that he had been blindfolded by his political advisers. The northern Democrats have been deluded with the pretence that a strict impartiality had been observed in this regard, and that an equal distribution of the cabinet offices had been made among parties favorable to northern and southern interests; than which nothing can be farther from the truth. So far as the settlement of the question of slavery in Kansas is concerned, the cabinet officers, who have any great influence in relation to it, are all on one side. True, there are three northern men in the cabinet, which, with Mr. Buchanan, comprise one-half the number. Two of these, however, are avowed pro-slavery men, and the other a large owner of property in a slave state. But even were this otherwise, neither of these gentlemen's positions give them any peculiar control over the affairs of Kansas Territory.
General Lewis Cass, of Michigan, the Secretary of State, has no appointments to make nor patronage to bestow, in the territory; and is very little else, so far as its interests are concerned than a medium of communication between the Governor of Kansas and the President of the United States. The Attorney General, Jeremiah S. Black, of Pennsylvania, simply occupies the position of legal adviser; whilst Mr. Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, the Secretary of the Navy, has nothing whatever to do with Kansas.
How is it with the other members of Mr. Buchanan's cabinet? These are all southern men, and have the entire management of Kansas affairs.
The Postmaster General, Mr. Aaron V. Brown, of Tennessee, has the appointment of all the postmasters, mail-agents, mail-carriers, etc., and can bestow his immense patronage upon whom he pleases; and so well has he begun, that the only free-state post master in the territory, Mr. C. W. Babcock, of Lawrence, who is a gentleman of unimpeachable integrity, and whose sound democracy has never been questioned, has been removed to make room for a member of the pro-slavery party.
Mr. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, the Secretary of the Treasury, has charge of the national purse, and can exercise considerable influence in supplying or withholding funds for territorial uses.
The Secretary of War, Mr. John B. Floyd, of Virginia, has the management of the army, and may send to Kansas officers to command the troops, of his own political complexion, and can, at his pleasure, deny or allow the governor the employment of the United States forces.
And last, though not the least, comes Mr. Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, the Secretary of the Interior. This is the most important of all the cabinet officers, as regards the interests of Kansas Territory. He can control the appointment of numerous Indian agents, surveyors, etc., amounting to some hundreds of persons, through whom about three millions of dollars are annually disbursed. His influence, therefore, for good or evil, in Kansas, is almost unbounded. That he intends to employ it in favor of the pro-slavery party, is evidenced in the fact, that one of the first acts of the new administration was the removal, at the instance of George W. Clarke, of Col. Winston, of Virginia, who had been appointed to succeed Clarke, as agent for the Potawattomie Indians, and against whom there could be no other charge than that, for a southerner, he was too conservative in his views to be of service to the pro-slavery cause. Winston was superseded by William E. Murphy, who had distinguished himself for his opposition to the free-state men of Leavenworth City, and who, after the latter had been driven away by violence, was fraudulently elected mayor of that city.
What will northern Democrats think of this analysis? Alas! what have northern free-state Democrats to do with the present national Democracy? That Democracy is emphatically the pro-slavery party of the country! Mr. Buchanan's administration has adopted the platform of that party, which is, to know but one issue--and that issue, SLAVERY!
The machinery set in motion by the leading actors of the "National Democratic Party of Kansas," did not work so well as was anticipated. The people understood the trickery, and would not come into the proposed measures. Hence there was considerable discouragement, and a new course of policy was attempted. It was suggested that it would be a capital idea to induce the governor to give his sanction to the movement. Accordingly, a meeting was called to ratify the proceedings of the convention, and Governor Geary was formally visited by J. D. Henderson, chairman of the central committee, with the assurance, that if he would attend the meeting and identify himself with the party, he should be one of the two United States senators soon to be elected, as the convention, in conjunction with the legislature, had plans on foot which could not fail of success in making Kansas a slave state. The governor reminded Henderson, that a certain tempter once took his master to the "top of a high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, All these will I give unto you, if you will fall down and worship me." "Now," said his excellency, "the devil had as many kingdoms to give as you have senatorial honors to bestow, or ever will have, by honest means. I despise your promises of reward as much as I did your infamous threats of injury. If you approach me again with such vile offers of bribery, I will be tempted to toss you through the window." The ratification meeting was held; about a dozen persons were present; A. W. Jones endeavored to make a speech; and after passing a resolution endorsing the abuses of the Union, of which he was editor, adjourned, the whole affair proving a most ridiculous failure.
Before its final adjournment, this "National Democratic convention" appointed a committee to prepare an "address to the people of the United States." This committee consisted of the following named persons, of whom, with few exceptions, the democrats of the United States have no great reason to be proud:
John Calhoun, chairman; George W. Clarke, John W. Foreman, J. Kuykendall, John H. Stringfellow, A. B. Hazzard, John R Boyd, E. Ranson, L. A. Maclean, H. B. Harris, A. Coffey, John Donaldson, B. J. Newsome, J. T. Hereford, J. C. Anderson, D. R. Atchison, Jeff. Buford, W. H. Tebbs, S. J. Jones, Hugh M. Moore, G. W. Perkins, A. J. Isacks.
These names are published more especially for future reference. The address was prepared by Surveyor Calhoun, and published in pamphlet form; and it would be a difficult matter to find any other publication, of an equal number of pages, containing as many gross misrepresentations. A single example of the author's veracity may here be given. Speaking of the contemplated attack upon Lawrence, he assumes that it was the desire of the free-state men to have the town destroyed (and of course themselves, women and children massacred) for political effect, and adds:--
"Lane, no doubt, abandoned the town for that purpose; but he did not comprehend that his opponents were incapable of attacking where there was no chance of defence."
The truth is, they were never known to attack where there was a chance for defence, or where the odds were not greatly in their favor. The address continues:--
"General Heiskell's forces had the town completely within their power for two days before they turned back; but the leaders of those forces saw the game as clearly as the Black Republicans themselves, and determined to prevent its destruction. To control the incensed mass of Heiskell's forces, who thought only of vengeance for outrages committed, the leaders sent to Lecompton for Governor Geary to come and disband their troops, so that they might be forced to return to their homes without entering Lawrence. This was done, and Lawrence saved by the sagacity of the leaders in Heiskell's camp."
There is not the slightest shadow of truth in this statement. The leaders of Heiskell's forces never sent to Governor Geary to come and disband their troops. On the contrary, Maclean, Heiskell's adjutant and Calhoun's chief clerk, most heartily cursed what he called the interference of Governor Geary. The governor was studiously kept in ignorance of the movement and intentions of these troops by Heiskell's leaders, and only discovered the facts through his own secret agents and the applications of the citizens of Lawrence for protection.
The official report of Adjutant-General Strickler, whom Governor Geary sent to disband Heiskell's forces, proves the falsity of General Calhoun's statement, made for the unworthy purpose of taking from Governor Geary the credit of a great and noble act. General Strickler's report to the governor is dated September 17, 1856, in which he says:--
"In reply to your note of this date, I have the honor to report, that in pursuance of your instructions, I proceeded to the camp at Franklin, commanded by Brigadier-General Heiskell, and made known to him your proclamation and orders for the disbandment of the Kansas militia, and requested him to publish such general orders as might be necessary to execute your commands.
"The excitement and confusion became so great in consequence of this intelligence that it was deemed advisable to request your presence; and I consider it fortunate for myself that you came to the camp; for you must be convinced from what you saw during your stay of the utter impossibility to execute your commands."
Thus it seems, by the official report, that instead of the leaders of Haskell's forces sending for the governor to disband their troops, the adjutant-general of the territory was incapable of effecting that object, and found it necessary to send for the governor himself; and it is well known that his presence alone saved the town of Lawrence from the rapine and destruction that had been contemplated. No wonder that General Calhoun and his party should now be ashamed of, and endeavor to deny, their complicity with this most dastardly and disgraceful intention.
General Reid did not attempt to take from Governor Geary the credit of defeating the murderous intentions of his army--of saving Lawrence from destruction, and the country from a civil war, but frankly acknowledged the fact. Upon Reid's return to Missouri, he was severely censured for not consummating the purpose of the invasion, when he found it necessary to defend his conduct through the medium of the press. In one of his lengthy communications published in the Occidental Messenger, Independence, Mo., of September 20th, 1856, he says:--
"I have no regret that Governor Geary arrived when he did, and interposed between us and our purpose, and relieved us from the necessity of doing extrajudicially, that which can be done so much more effectually and satisfactorily in the name and by the authority of the law--redressing the wrong of our fellow-citizens and restoring them to their rights in Kansas.
"I have no doubt, with the men we had, of the result. I have no doubt we should have driven Lane and his band, and all confederate bands, from the soil of Kansas, but I am not prepared to say I would have preferred it so. I think it better for the peace of the country and for the good of all, that it should be as it is, and hence I then thought, and now think, the arrival of the new governor most opportune for us, for Kansas, and for the whole country, in suspending the strife which had been forced upon us, in such a manner as regarding our honor and our rights we could not decline it, and which threatened to involve the whole country in a civil and sectional war."