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


[TOC] [part 19] [part 17] [Cutler's History]


As early as April, a most remarkable man had, unheralded and comparatively unknown to his neighbors, come to Kansas and settled near Lawrence. He had been a brave soldier in Mexico, and won renown for bravery and rank for merit in the war with that country. He had been honored in his native State as Lieutenant Governor and as a Member of Congress, having served in the latter position during the Kansas-Nebraska struggle of 1852-54, where he was an ardent supporter of the Douglas bill and the doctrines of squatter sovereignty, and had voted for the bill as finally passed. The indignant Free-soil excitement in his district so put in jeopardy his chances of a re-election that he decided to leave his State and cast his lot with the new Territory he had helped to create. He left little behind that he valued or cared to remember. He came to Kansas untrammeled by the interests of property, reputation or family left behind. He brought with him an unbounded but as yet undefined personal ambition, and an unquestioned reputation for personal bravery. He left behind him a family which he did not love, and a Democratic constituency too weak to serve his purposes. He was poor in purse, lax in morals, but not uncontrollably demoralized in his habits, and was possessed of a genius that neither poverty nor moral defects could conquer. He had directed his steps to Kansas, and he came bearing quite lightly the burdens that, but for the overpowering force of his genius, would have crushed him before his remarkable Kansas career had begun. He did not come to till the soil. His purposes were known only to himself, and in his own wild dreams it did not appear to him that he was to become one of the leading forces in making Kansas a free State. He rather looked to the task of organizing the National Democratic party within the borders of the Territory, and there, as its leader, vindicator and champion, reaping his reward in the highest honors that the party could bestow. He reached the goal of his ambition, but by a path he would have scorned when he first set foot in Kansas.

James H. Lane, the subject of the foregoing sketch, together with a few National Democrats, met in Lawrence and made the first attempt to organize the National Democracy in Kansas on Wednesday, July 27, 1855, two days after the Free-state convention before reported.

The meting assembled in the office of Dr. J. N. O. P. Wood at 7 o'clock P. M., July 27. On motion of C. W. Babcock, the meeting was organized by the election of James H. Lane, President, and J. N. O. P. Wood, Secretary.

On motion of Hugh Cameron, a committee of five members was appointed to draft and present resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. The committee appointed by the Chair was E. Chapman, C. W. Babcock, Dr. James Garvin, J. S. Emory and High Cameron.

The resolutions reported and unanimously adopted were as follows:

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the best interests of Kansas required an early organization of the Democratic party upon truly national ground, and that we pledge ourselves to use all honorable exertions to secure such a result.

Resolved, That we fully indorse and reaffirm the Democratic platform as laid down at the National Democratic Convention held at Baltimore in 1852.

Resolved, That we indorse the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and claim the right, unmolested, of exercising all the powers granted to us under the provisions of that bill.

Resolved, That we cordially invite the citizens of all the States of this Union who desire to participate in the management of our affairs to come and settle among us.

Resolved, That as true American citizens, we can appreciate the rights of the citizens of the different States of this Union, both of the North and South, and that by no act of ours will we trample upon those rights or interfere in anywise with their domestic institutions.

Resolved, That, while we observe the rights of the citizens of the different States, we will expect them to reciprocate. That we feel we are fully capable of managing our own affairs, and kindly request the citizens of Northern, Southern, distant and adjoining States to let us alone.

Resolved, That while making this request, we wish it distinctly understood that we appreciate the right of suffrage as the most important privilege guaranteed to us by the founders of our institutions, and that we regard the ballot-box as the palladium of our liberty, and will not, if in our power to prevent, permit the privilege to be wrested from us, or permit the ballot-box to be polluted by outsiders or illegal voting from any quarter.

Resolved, That we will use our best exertions to procure the nomination of National Democrats to office, and will zealously support such candidates.

Resolved, That we cordially invite the co-operation of all National men of either party who prefer principle to faction and union to disunion.

The movement touched no responsive chord in the hearts of the people, and was strongly opposed by the Missouri Democrats who were seeking to fix the destinies of Kansas by means mildly condemned in the general terms of the resolutions. The whole movement fell still-born. With the failure of this effort to organize his party on a national basis, in the Territory, melted into thin air the last hope or expectation of James H. Lane for further honors from the party he had served so long, so faithfully and so well. Thenceforth he remembered only its iniquities, and its errors, and fought it with the untiring strength inspired by the hatred of an apostate, the zeal of a fanatic, and the ardor of lofty genius in a good cause.


July 11, a meeting of the lately expelled Free-state members of the Legislature and others, convened at Lawrence, not so much to vent indignation for the consummation of an outrage long expected as to consider what ought to be done next.

John A. Wakefield was Chairman, and E. D. Ladd, Secretary.

The objects of the meeting, as stated by Mr. Wakefield on taking the chair, were: "To consider the present exigency in our political and governmental affairs, and to take the necessary preliminary steps for the calling of a mass convention of the Free-state men of the Territory to deliberate in reference to our present condition and future action."

The meeting was addressed by Judge Wakefield, George W. Smith, John Hutchinson, J. N. O. P. Wood, Rev. Mr. Nute, Dr. Charles Robinson, C. Stearnes, William Jessee and others. The expression as to the illegality of the Legislature, and in favor of repudiating its enactments, was unanimous. On the proper means to be adopted to legally establish and protect the rights of the people, there was much earnest discussion, and not a little disagreement.

Robinson, Smith, Hutchinson and others, for the first time, at this meeting recommended and advocated earnestly the choosing of delegates for the forming of a State Constitution. Dr. Wood, although quite in accord with others as to the main issue, opposed, as such, any move looking to a State organization. He saw taxation which could not be borne by the incoming settlers and a consequent check of immigration. He advocated armed resistance at the polls, in case of a repetition of the outrages. It was urged, in reply to Dr. Wood, that the taxation would be cheerfully borne by the Free-state men, and that they might confidently count on extraneous help from the free states in the impending conflict. The deliberations of this convention resulted in the adoption of the following resolutions:

Resolved, That a mass meeting of the Free-state citizens of the Territory of Kansas be held in Lawrence on the second Tuesday of August next, to take into consideration the situation of the Territory in reference to its government, and for the transaction of such other business as may come before the meeting.

Resolved, That the Free-state papers of the Territory be requested to publish the proceedings of this meeting, and that the Secretary send notices of the same to the several districts of the Territory.


In accordance with the resolutions passed by the meeting at Lawrence held on July 11, a convention, representing nearly every district in the Territory, assembled in Lawrence on Tuesday, at 10 o'clock A. M., August 14, 1855.

The permanent officers of the convention chosen were: President, Philip C. Schuller, of Council City; Vice President, G. W. Smith, M. F. Conway, J. A. Wakefield, R. Mendenhall, A. F. Powell and others, whom the very inefficient reporter of the Herald of Freedom was too lazy to name; Secretaries, G. W. Brown, John Speer; Committee on Resolutions, C. Robinson, G. W. Deitzler, John Hutchinson, G. W. Smith, First District; William Jessee, S. Walker, Second District; F. W. Giles, C. K. Holliday, Third District; S. F. Shore, Fourth District; C. A. Foster, W. K. Vail, W. A. Ely, W. Partridge, Fifth District; I. T. Goodenough, Sixth District; M. F. Conway, Rev. --- Jones, Ninth District; George F. Warren, Fourteenth District; R. Mendenhall, Seventeenth District.

Mr. Samuel D. Houston, a Free-state member of the House, who resigned, sent in a letter which was read and entered on the record of the proceedings.

At the afternoon session, business was opened by an "address to the Throne of Grace," by Rev. Mr. Stewart. Waiting the report of the Committee on Resolutions, speeches were made by Mr. Emery, Rev. Mr. Lovejoy, a relative of the early abolition martyr who had been murdered at Alton, Mr. Patterson and others, all strong and uncompromising in their Free-state utterances.

Following them came Col. James H. Lane, who there first met in Council with the Free-state men, and made there the first free-state speech of his life. As reported in the Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, August 18, it was as follows:

Mr. President:

If I believed a prayer from me would do any good, it would be that you might be imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, the caution of Washington, and the justice of Franklin. I am glad to see so many here this inclement day. It requires wisdom, it requires manhood to restrain passion. I say it as a citizen of Kansas, I wish we had wisdom to-day. There is the existence of a union hanging upon the action of the citizens of Kansas. Moderation, moderation, moderation, gentlemen! I believe it is the duty of each of us to define our position. I am here as anxious as any of you to secure a free constitution for Kansas. A lesson I received from childhood was never to speak of man or woman unless I could speak well of them. It is represented that I came to Kansas to retrieve my political fortunes, but you, gentlemen, should know that I was urgently solicited to be a candidate for another term of Congress, but I positively declined. I would vote for the Kansas-Nebraska bill again. I desire Kansas to be a free State. I desire to act with my brethren, but not in a manner to arouse the passions of the people of the other States. I would not repudiate the Legislature, but the acts of that Legislature which contravene the rights of popular sovereignty.

The speech of Col. Lane was not received with full favor by the members of the convention, who, from his previous record, his late attempts to organize the Democratic party, and from the guarded, cautious and somewhat ambiguous terms of his speech, were inclined to distrust the sincerity of his motives. The report of the meeting, which has been preserved in the Herald of Freedom, says: "The President was loudly called for, and replied to the remarks of Col. Lane. The sheet containing his, and perhaps others remarks, was mislaid or lost." Following the remarks of President Schuller, Mr. Bronson, Rev. Mr. Lum; Rev. Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, and Dr. Webb made speeches until Dr. Robinson reported the preamble and resolutions, as follows:

WHEREAS, By act of Congress, approved May 30, 1854, organizing a government for the Territory of Kansas, a grant of legislative power was made to the lawful inhabitants of said Territory to enable them to make such laws and establish such institutions as would be most suitable to themselves; and, in order to accomplish this the said inhabitants were by said act empowered and directed to elect, according to a prescribed mode, a Territorial Legislature, with competent jurisdiction and capacity to act, under certain specific restrictions over all rightful subjects of legislation; and, whereas, while, exercising the authority thus conferred to elect members of a Territorial Legislature, the Territory was invaded and the inhabitants overwhelmed by large and numerous bands of armed men from a foreign State, who violently took possession of nearly all places through the Territory, at which said election was being held; who ruthlessly abolished the legally established mode of conducting the same, and who, according to their own mode, and by virtue of their own rights, in utter disregard of the act of Congress, organizing a government for the Territory, held an election for members of the Kansas Legislature, and elected certain persons as members of said Legislature, thus, to all intents and purposes, divesting the lawful inhabitants of the entire grant of legislative power which had been made to them by the Congressional charter; and, whereas, the Legislature thus elected is now in session on the borders of the State of Missouri, making laws for the governance of the inhabitants and citizens of Kansas; having re-composed its two bodies after its assemblage and organization, the majority expelling the minority, and authorizing and admitting other persons to fill the places of those expelled; having filled a vacancy, arising in consequence of a resignation (S. D. Houston) by their own self act, without regard to the rights of the people to elect; having fixed a temporary seat of government at the Shawnee Mission; and in pursuance of this, abandoned the place of meeting to which they had been convened by executive authority; having now before them a bill which they will probably enact into a law, making the right of suffrage in the Territory dependent upon the payment of the sum of $1, without reference to the matter of inhabitancy, thus attempting to give up the ballot-box by law for all future time to persons from foreign States; having now before them a bill which they will probably enact into a law for the election by themselves of a board of permanent overseers, to be sent out in all the districts of the Territory with power to levy taxes to any amount, and otherwise exact from, drive and oppress the people; all, over and above, and in direct and meditated violation and open defiance of the act of Congress organizing a government for the Territory of Kansas, and an act supplementary thereto; therefore,

Resolved, by those of the people of the Kansas Territory now here in mass meeting assembled:

(1). That we regard the invasion of our Territory on the 30th of March last, as one of the greatest outrages upon the laws of the land and the rights of free citizens, ever attempted in this country, and the Legislature now in session on the borders of Missouri, the offspring of that invasion, and the inheritor of all its qualities of insolence, violence and tyranny - as a living insult to the judgment and feelings of the American people, and derogatory to the integrity and respectability of the federal authority.

(2). That we indignantly repel the pretensions of that Legislature to make laws for the people of Kansas, that we regard it as acting entirely without the authority of law, not only in consideration of its having been elected against law, and in violation of the rights and will of the people, by armed men from a foreign State, but, because its course, since its meeting and organization, has been utterly regardless of those conditions and requirements of the organic act, essential to a valid discharge of legislative functions, and such as has effected a complete forfeiture of any technicality of law by which, at first, it may have been supported.

(3). That, as men, born in a land of liberty, trained to precepts of freedom, and alive to those inspiring sentiments which have prompted in all ages heroic resistance to tyrants; as descendants of those, who, in 1776 braved the power of the mightiest monarchy on earth, rather than submit to foreign thraldom, we repudiate this insolent attempt to impose upon us a government by foreign arms, and pledge to each other, as our fathers did of old, "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honors," to resistance of its authority.

(4). That we regard it, in this crisis, as incumbent upon the people of Kansas to set aside all differences of political opinion, to cultivate a comprehensive and intimate intercourse with each other, effect a thorough union, and otherwise prepare for the common defense.

(5). That we consider the attempts to establish a Territorial form of government in this Territory, as, thus far, an utter failure; and that the people of the Territory should, at some convenient period, assemble at the several places of holding elections in the various districts in the Territory, and elect delegates to a convention to form a State constitution for the State of Kansas, with the view to an immediate State organization and application, at the next session of Congress, for admission into the American Union, as one of the States of the American Confederacy.

(6). That the people of Kansas can never be unmindful of the deep debt of gratitude they owe to Andrew H. Reeder for the firmness, ability and integrity shown in the discharge of his duty as Executive officer of this Territory.

The above preamble and resolutions are given as finally adopted. As reported from the committee, they varied somewhat from the form above presented. The original report contained only the first five resolutions. The sixth was added on the day following on motion of Mr. Conway.

Mr. J. Hutchinson presented a minority report which, it is regretted, was not printed in any of the reports of the convention. It appears from the reported discussions pending the adoption of the resolutions that the minority indorsed the first four resolutions, but differed as to the calling of a Free-state convention - not as to the advisability of the movement so much as to the primary source from which the call should emanate. Some thought it should be called by the people in mass convention; others that it was competent for a convention of the Free-state party to take the initiative. The elements were diverse. There were Free-state Democrats, Free-state Whigs, straight Abolitionists, moderate Free-soilers, all determined to make Kansas a free State; there were also many Pro-slavery settlers who, in the interest of law and order, condemned the outrages and despised the assumed authority of the Legislature, but, nevertheless, could not conscientiously take an open, avowed stand on the single issue of a free State. All these conflicting elements were represented in the convention. The first resolution was unanimously adopted. Pending the adoption of the second resolution, an animated discussion ensued, interspersed with motions from Col. Lane and Mr. Holliday to refer back to the committee or a new committee. Without finishing the business, the meeting adjourned with such diverse and apparently irreconcilable views as to presage a failure.

During the night much efficient work was done, and on the reconvening of the convention Wednesday morning, it was found that the consultations of the night had brought harmony out of the conflicting elements of the previous day. Mr. Holliday, who opposed the resolutions when first presented on account of their inefficiency, intimated that a plan had been agreed upon which would remedy all defects. Mr. Hutchinson found himself in happy accord with his friend Holliday. Mr. Smith was in the same conciliatory frame of mind. Dr. Robinson saw in a "convention shortly to be held" that which had overcome his scruples. Col. Lane was still opposed to the resolutions; he desired to oppose the acts of the Legislature in a legal way. Foster, Jessee, Smith and Ladd, all were ready to adopt the resolutions. So they were adopted unanimously - the first five - Col. Lane moving the adoption of the fifth.

At the afternoon session, the unanimity was still further confirmed by the adoption of the sixth resolution, the approval of the organization of the free-state part of Kansas as effected by the convention of June 25, and by the passage of the following resolution offered by John Spear:

Resolved, That, in conformity to past recommendations, the Territorial Free State Executive Committee be requested to call a convention of five delegates to each representative to be appointed in the several districts of Kansas on the 25th day of August, to meet at Big Springs on the 5th day of September next, for the purposes recommended in a call previously issued, and to take such other action as the exigencies of the time may demand.

This convention, important as it was, made no definite proposition looking to the immediate framing of a constitution or the forming of a State government. The fifth resolution recommended it in strong terms, but made no provisions for bringing it about. It looked more to the elaborate enunciation of a platform of principles than efficient and immediate action. It was conservative in all things looking to action, although most radical in its utterances. It, however, was instrumental in concentrating the thoughts and efforts of all upon the grievances it so graphically portrayed and so boldly condemned, and left the way open for continued and more efficient work at the coming delegate convention at Big Springs.

Another convention at Lawrence was held on August 15, having a specific object in view. It had been called by "many citizens," and being appointed for the day succeeding that just reported, was in the minds of many in conflict with it. The wonderful harmony which characterized the closing hours of the mass convention on the second day is attributable to the fact that the Free-state men of the convention then in session, and those who had called the one to come, fixed a harmonious programme that should avoid any conflict of authority or diversity in final results. Many citizens participated in the proceedings of both conventions. The report of this last is copied from the Herald of Freedom, and reads as follows:

LAWRENCE, K. T., AUGUST 15, 1855.

Pursuant to a published call, signed "Many Citizens," "to take into consideration the propriety of calling a Territorial Convention, preliminary to the formation of a State Government, and other subjects of public interest," an convention of the citizens of Kansas Territory, irrespective of party, met, and, upon motion of C. K. Holliday, Dr. A. Hunting was called to the chair; G. W. Brown, E. D. Ladd, C. E. Blood, L. P. Lincoln, James Christian* and Dr. J. D. Barnes, elected Vice President, and J. K. Goodin and J. P. Fox, Secretaries. (*Mr. Christian declined to serve.)

On motion of J. Hutchinson, Esq., a committee of five were appointed to prepare business for the convention, and Messrs, G. W. Smith, C. K. Holliday, C. Robinson, John Brown, Jr., and A. F. Powell were chosen that committee.

During the absence of the committee the convention was addressed by Rev. Mr. Lovejoy, g. W. Brown, J. Hutchinson and M. F. Conway, after which Mr. G. W. Smith, Chairman, submitted the following as the report of the committee:

"WHEREAS, The people of Kansas Territory have been, since its settlement, and now are, without an law-making power; therefore, be it

"Resolved, That we, the people of Kansas Territory, in mass meeting assembled, irrespective of party distinctions, influenced by a common necessity, and greatly desirous of promoting the common good, do hereby call upon and request all bona fide citizens of Kansas Territory, of whatever political views or predilections, to consult together in their respective election districts, and, in mass convention or otherwise, elect three delegates for each representative to which such district is entitled in the House of Representatives of the Legislative Assembly, by proclamation of Gov. Reeder, of date 10th of March, 1855, said delegates to assemble in convention at the town of Topeka on the 19th day of September, 1855, then and there to consider and determine upon all subjects of public interest, and particularly upon that having reference to the speedy formation of a State Constitution, with an intention of an immediate application to be admitted as a State into the Union of the United States of American.'"

After the discussion of the resolution by Mr. Stearns and others, the report of the committee was adopted, with but one dissenting voice.

On motion, it was ordered that the proceedings of this convention be published in the newspapers of the Territory, and Messrs. J. Speer, R. G. Elliott and G. W. Brown were appointed a committee to publish and circulate the call for the convention to be holden at Topeka.

On motion the convention adjourned sine die.

A. HUNTING, President.
J. K. GOODIN, J. P. FOX, Secretaries.
L. P. LINCOLN, Vice Presidents.

Out of these two conventions, entirely distinct, yet most mysteriously one, came the inception of the movements which resulted in the organization of the Free-state party and the framing of a Free-state Constitution. The first looked to the Big Springs Convention, to be holden September 5, to consummate the work of organizing the Free-state party; the last, more aggressive and revolutionary, looked to the Topeka Convention of September 19 to take steps for the establishment of a government.

[TOC] [part 19] [part 17] [Cutler's History]