A History of Lawrence, by Rev. Richard Cordley.



     Going back to the legislature we follow its history. After the special session the body adjourned, and met again in regular session at Lecompton January 4th, 1858. The council chose Carmi W. Babcook, of Lawrence, president, and the house of representatives chose George W. Deitzler, of Lawrence, as speaker. After the organization, the body adjourned to Lawrence, where they continued for the balance of the session. They occupied the second and third floors of the new brick building just south of the Eldridge House The free-state part of the legislature felt very much at home at Lawrence, as they had most of them been their often at free-state conventions, and for purposes of defense. It seemed very fitting, too, that the free-state legislature should sit at the capital of the free-state party, for the free-state party had become the commonwealth. As soon as the forms of law were taken from the pro-slavery party, every body was surprised to find how little there was of it. They never made another important demonstration, but seemed to drop entirely out. The free-state men did not know till now how strong they themselves were. It was very fitting, therefore, that the capital of the free-state party should become the capital of the commonwealth. The Lawrence people, therefore, enjoyed having the legislature with them as the legislature enjoyed being there. The session continued forty days. The amount of business done was not very large. The members were new to the work, and the situation was new. It was not strange that little was done in the way of practical legislation.

     A year later the fourth legislature assembled. As before, they met at Lecompton and organized, and adjourned at once to Lawrence. This legislature took hold of their work with more system and vigor. They appointed a codifying commission to arrange the laws of the territory. The first legislature, in 1855, had not taken the trouble to draw up a code of laws. Their own state of Missouri had a very excellent code all prepared, and they adopted that "in bulk," ordering the clerk to make the necessary verbal changes. The only original laws they drew up were those pertaining to slavery, in which the Missouri code was too mild. As the Shawnee legislature adopted the Missouri code "in bulk," this legislature of 1859 repealed it "in bulk." They would not so much as use it as a basis for the new code. It was the old bogus affair, and they would have none of it. They repealed it altogether from preface to conclusion. As soon as this was done the "boys" gathered up all the copies of the bogus laws they could find, and had a glorious bonfire on Massachusetts street. Some wag took a copy, carefully wrapped it, and sent it by express to the Missouri state officials at Jefferson City, with the inscription, "Returned with thanks." The place of meeting in 1859 was the old concrete building on Massachusetts street north of Winthrop. When it was built it was considered quite a magnificent affair, but the march of improvement has left it in the rear. It was a double store and answered very well for the purposes of the legislature.

     The session of 1860 repeated the history of its predecessors with variations. The course of true love did not run as smoothly as heretofore. Samuel Medary, of Ohio, was now governor and Hugh S. Walsh was secretary of the territory. Medary was a supporter of the administration at Washington, but he was a broad-minded, large-hearted man, and he and the free-state men got along very harmoniously. But now for some reason there came a change. The legislature met January 7th at Lecompton as usual. As usual also they organized and adjourned to Lawrence. The governor vetoed the resolution for adjournment. The resolution stated that the adjournment to Lawrence was made necessary by the lack of accommodations at Lecompton. The governor replied that while the accommodations at Lecompton were not palatial, they were ample. They were good enough for the territorial officials and he thought they were good enough for the legislature. He doubtless had the best of the argument. But the argument stated in the resolution was not the real reason for the adjournment. The answering of that argument did not change the minds of the members. They adjourned to Lawrence because they did not like Lecompton, and would not stay there if they could help it. In the bitter struggle that had passed Lecompton had become a hated name in free-state circles, and if they had offered palaces instead of hovels, the members would have left just the same. So they passed the resolution over the governorís veto, and went to Lawrence, the "governorís objections to the contrary notwithstanding." The governor and secretary, however, refused to go, and refused to send books and records needed for the transaction of business. One day when Secretary Walsh was in Lawrence it was determined to bring him before the bar of the house to answer for his refusal to honor the request for the needed books. A resolution was passed ordering the sergeant-at-arms to bring the secretary before the house. The sergeant-at-arms was George F. Warren, an officer who, like the poet, was "born, and not made." He was born a full-fledged sergeant-at-arms. He delighted, in the duties of his office, especially in some mission like this. He sallied forth with all the power of the legislature in his hands, and the dignity of a great commonwealth on his shoulders. While he was gone many of the members felt a little uncomfortable. What if Walsh should refuse to obey their summons? What should they do next to maintain their dignity? There was a wonderful relief felt when the sergeant-at-arms came back, bringing the secretary with him. The secretary was evidently annoyed, and looked pale about the mouth. He looked as if he would like to use some unparliamentary language. But he said nothing. He evidently thought it was not wise to come in conflict with the legislature. He walked up to the speakerís chair, and everybody waited in breathless anxiety. The speaker, in the kindliest and gentlest manner, asked him why he did not furnish the books they asked for containing the proceedings of the previous session. He answered promptly he "did not have the books; the edition was exhaused (sic) and there were none." Whether this was strictly true or not, was never known, but it avoided a direct conflict between the executive and the legislature, and relieved the situation. The legislature soon passed a resolution that whereas the secretary of the territory had obstinately refused to cooperate with them, and had refused to supply the necessary books, documents, stationery and printing, making it impossible to conduct the legitimate business, that we adjourn sine die. The governor at once issued a proclamation ordering them to meet in extra session the next day, January 19th, at Lecompton, "then and there to consider and perform such duties as are demanded by the necessities of the people." They met again the next day, therefore, at Lecompton, elected the same officers, and passed the same resolution adjourning to Lawrence. The governor again vetoed the resolution, and the legislature again passed it over his veto. Here it seems as if the struggle ended, for the legislature completed their session at Lawrence without any further interference. In these conflicts there was none of the bitterness of former times, but everything was good-natured, and all parties were on good terms. Governor Medary was universally esteemed, and won the respect of all parties by his urbanity and fairne

     This legislature provided for the Wyandotte convention which framed the constitution under which Kansas, a year later, entered the union as a state.

     The sessions of the legislature were a God-send to Lawence. After the constant excitement of the free-state struggle there was a great calm. There came a quietness, which like the darkness of Egypt, "could be felt." These meetings of the legislature were about the only diversion the people had. Even a session of the legislature, however, was a feeble substitute for one of the free-state conventions. In the exciting issues considered, in the ability of the members, and in the high tone of the debates, a Kansas legislature bore no comparison to a free-state convention.

     A writer who came to Lawrence late in 1857, thus gives his impressions of the town. "The town seemed smaller than we expected. There were no streets, and no sidewalks, and the roads ran helter skelter here and there, across lots, between houses, and everywhere as the convenience of drivers might dictate. This gave a scattered look to the town, and the houses seemed to straggle about on the prairie as if they had lost their way on a dark night. There was scarcely a fence or a dooryard, scarcely a garden or tree planted in the whole town. All this gave a lonesome feeling to the new comer."

     But the new comer did not have to remain long before the feeling passed away. He soon found that the external appearance did not fairly represent the town. He could not judge the town by the size or number of the houses. Every tenement and shanty, every sod cabin and tent fairly swarmed with people. And they were a lively lot and they made a lively place. There could not have been less than five thousand people in the town, though probably not more than half of them would call it their home, and people were coming and going all the time. They were a remarkably bright and intelligent lot of people who had gathered here, full of vigor and vim. Among the much smaller population of the first winter there were said to be two hundred college graduates. They had been so constantly in plans of self defense that they had no time to show what they could do in the way of developing a community, yet they gave some evidence of their ability in that line. They had maintained a free public school without any power to collect taxes or enforce order. They had maintained a vigorous and effective military organization without any power to enforce military regulations. They had an orderly community of various and diverse elements, and of all conceivable faiths and notions, without any laws or courts to which they could appeal. They had maintained all necessary municipal and sanitary regulations, without any authority to compel obedience to wholesome rules. There were no taxes and all public expenses were met by voluntary subscriptions. The schools were maintained and made free to all children. The voluntary city organization of 1857, for whose suppression Governor Walker ordered out the army of the United States, confined itself to suggestions without any pretense of power to enforce. Its suggestions, however, were quietly acquiesced in, the streets kept clean and the back ways clear. It effected all it was intended for, and yet did it so unobtrusively, that four hundred soldiers sent here for that purpose, could find nothing that indicated the setting up of an independent city government.

     When the free-state people gained control of the territorial legislature, one of the first things considered was a charter for Lawrence. February 11th, 1858, a bill was passed by both houses to that effect. February 20th, the charter was accepted. The following city officers were elected: Mayor, C. W. Babcock; councilmen, Robert Morrow, P. R. Brooks, E. S. Lowman, L. C. Tolles, John G. Haskell, M. Hartman, Henry Shanklin, A. J. Totten, S. W. Eldridge, A. H. Mallory, L Bullene, F. A. Bailey; city marshal, Joseph Cracklin; treasurer, Wesley H. Duncan, clerk, Caleb S. Pratt; school trustees, J. M. Coe, B. Johnson, T. Dwight Thacher, Albert Newman. Lawrence now had a city government, and regular courts and laws, and could do under legal sanctions and by legal constraints, what she had already been doing by voluntary concession.

Edmund A. Whitman

Franklin Haskell

Samuel Reynolds

John Ross


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