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


[TOC] [part 30] [part 28] [Cutler's History]


The election resulted in the last triumph of slavery in the United States, and the choice of James Buchanan as President. The popular vote was as follows:
  Buchanan. Fremont. Fillmore.
Free states 1,224,750 1,340,618 301,510
Slave states 665,187 1,194 479,465
  1,814,127 1,341,012 873,055

Total vote, 4,049,204. Buchanan over Fremont, 492,525.

Fremont received 30 per cent of the popular vote, and 39 percent of the electoral vote; Fillmore 25 percent of the popular vote and only 2 per cent of the electoral vote; Buchanan received 45 per cent of the popular vote, and 59 per cent of the electoral vote. The analysis of the vote shows that the party lines had been drawn geographically on the issue of slavery. Out of 1,090,246 votes cast in the Slave States, only 1,194 were given to Fremont, and in favor of Free Kansas. Of this small number, Delaware gave 308; Kentucky, 814; Maryland, 281; Virginia, 291. In the remaining Slave States, including Missouri, not a single vote for Fremont was reported. No clearer evidence of the terrorism established over half the Republic at that time by the slave power, can be adduced than appears in the election returns above given.


January 24, President Pierce, in a special message to Congress, declared his belief in the legality of the Territorial Legislature, and the validity and binding force of its enactments upon all residents of the Territory. He further denounced the Topeka constitutional movement and the provisional government established under it, as insurrectionary and revolutionary. Concerning it, he said:

No principle of public law, no practice or precedent under the Constitution of the United States, no rule of reason, right or common sense, confers any such power as that now claimed by a mere party in the Territory. In fact, what has been done has been of a revolutionary character. It is avowedly so in motive and in aim as respects the local law of the Territory. It will become treasonable insurrection if it reach the length of organized resistance by force to the fundamental, or any other, law, and to the authority of the General Government. * * *

Entertaining these views, it will be my imperative duty to support public order in the Territory; to vindicate its laws, whether federal or local, against all attempts of organized resistance; and to protect its people in the establishment of their own institutions, undisturbed by encroachments from without, and in the full enjoyment of the rights of self-government assured to them by the Constitution and the organic act of Congress.*

* J. W. Whitfield, writing to George W. Clark, who was of the party who murdered Barber, from Washington, March 1, said: "Mr. Pierce comes up to the scratch nobly. Your humble servant is charged with figuring in getting up the message."

January 21 1856 the following letter was dispatched to the President:

LAWRENCE, K. T., January 21, 1856.


Sir - We have authentic information that an overwhelming force of the citizens of Missouri are organized on the Border, amply supplied with artillery, for the avowed purpose of invading the Territory, demolishing our towns and butchering our unoffending Free-state citizens. We respectfully demand, on behalf of the citizens of Kansas, that the Commandant of the U. S. troops in this vicinity be instructed to interfere to prevent such an inhuman outrage.


J H. LANE, Chairman of Executive Committee of Kansas Territory.
C. ROBINSON, Chairman of Executive Committee of Safety.
J. K. GOODIN, Secretary of Executive Committee of Kansas Territory.
GEO. W. DEITZLER, Secretary of Executive Committee of Safety.

Two days after, the, same officers addressed to the President a supplementary letter asking him to issue a proclamation forbidding the anticipated invasion.

After due deliberation, and Consultation with Atchison and Whitfield, and full examination of the letters from Stringfellow, Lecompton, and others of his ilk, he put forth, in answer to the calls of the helpless people of Kansas, a heartless proclamation, which covertly approved the outrages already perpetrated by not condemning them, thus encouraging a repetition of the outrages. The proclamation was as follows:

Whereas, Indications exist that public tranquillity and the supremacy of law in the Territory of Kansas, are endangered by the reprehensible acts or purposes of persons, both within and without the same, who propose to control anal direct its political organizations by force; it appearing the combinations have been found therein to resist the execution of the Territorial laws, and thus, in effect subvert by violence all present constitutional and legal authority; it also appearing that persons residing without this Territory, but near its borders, contemplate armed intervention in the affairs thereof; it also appearing that other persons, inhabitants of remote States, are collecting money and providing arms for the same purpose; and it further appearing that combinations in the Territory are endeavoring, by the agencies of emissaries and otherwise, to induce individual States of the Union to interfere in the affairs thereof in violation of the Constitution of the United States;* and whereas, all such plans for the determination of the future institutions of the Territory, if carried into executing from or within the same, fact of insurrection, and from without that of invasive aggression, and will in either case justify and require the forcible interposition of the whole power of the General Government, as well to maintain the laws of the Territory as those of the Union.

* On January 16, the Executive Committee of the Territory appointed James H. Lane, Turner Sampson, M. C. Dickey, Morris Hunt, J. S. Emery, C. K. Holliday and J. K. Goodin, as agents "to visit the several States of the Union, to ask appropriations of munitions of war, and means for the defense of the citizens of Kansas." The Legislatures of several Southern States made appropriations for carrying the war into Kansas. Alabama appropriated $25,000 "to equip and transport emigrants to Kansas."

Now, therefore, I FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States, do issue this, my proclamation, to command all persons engaged in unlawful combinations against the constituted authority of the Terrritory of Kansas,** or of the United States, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, and to warn such persons that an attempted insurrection in said Territory, or aggressive intrusion into the same, will be resisted, not only by the employment of the local militia, but also by that of any available forces of the United States; to the end of assuring immunity from violence and full protection to the persons, property and civil rights of all peaceful and law-abiding inhabitants of the Territory.

** The "constituted authority of the Territory of Kansas," was that of the Territorial laws, and the officers appointed thereby. Sheriff Jones was the only "constituted authority" in Douglas County recognized by this proclamation.

If, in many part of the Union, the fury of faction or fanaticism, inflamed into disregard of the great principles of Popular Sovereignty, which, under the Constitution, are fundamental in the whole structure of our institution, is to bring on the country the dire calamity of an arbitrament of arms in that Territory, it shall be between lawless violence on one side and conservative force on the other, wielded by legal authority of the General Government.

I call on the citizens, both of adjoining and of distant States, to abstain from unauthorized intermeddling in the local concerns of the Territory, admonishing them that its organic law is to be executed with inpartial justice; that all individual acts of illegal interference, will incur condign punishment, and that any endeavor to interfere by organized force, will be firmly withstood.

I invoke all good citizens to promote order by rendering obedience to the law; to seek remedy for temporary evils by peaceful means; to discountenance and repulse the counsels and the instigations of agitators and disorganizers, and to testify their attachment to their pride in its greatness, their appreciation of the blessings they enjoy and their determination that republican institutions shall not fail in their hands, by co-operating to uphold the majesty of the laws and to vindicate the sanctity of the Constitution.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to he affixed to these presents.

Done at the city of Washington, eleventh day of February, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six and of the Independence of the United States, the eightieth.


By the President,

W. L. MARCY, Secretary of State

This proclamation was entirely acceptable, to the Missourians. At a meeting held in Independence, Mo., for the consideration of the proclamation, resolutions were passed, denying that Missourians had ever sought to obstruct the Territorial Laws, and pledging to the President, their aid in enforcing them.

On February 16, the proclamation was supplemented by a letter to Gov. Shannon from Secretary Marcy, authorizing him "to make requisitions upon the officers commanding the United States military forces at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley for such assistance as may be needed for the suppression of insurrectionary combinations, or armed resistance to the (Territorial) laws."

On the adjournment of Congress without passing the army appropriation bill, President Pierce reconvened that body by the following proclamation:

Whereas, Whilst hostilities exist with various Indian tribes on the remote frontiers of the United States, and whilst in other respects the public peace is seriously threatened, Congress has adjourned without granting necessary supplies for the army, depriving the Executive of the power to perform his duty in relation to the common defense and security, and an extraordinary occasion has thus arisen for assembling the two Houses of Congress, I do therefore by this, my proclamation, convene said Houses to meet at the Capitol, in the City of Washington, on Thursday, the 21st day of August, instant, hereby requiring the respective Senators and Representatives then and there to assemble, to consult and determine on such measures as the state of the Union may seem to require.

Done, etc., August 18, 1856.

With the foregoing imperfect sketch of the relations of Kansas to Congress, the administration and national politics, and of the absorbing popular interest taken in its impending, but yet contingent, destiny, the reader will read with increased interest the local history of the time.


The winter was colder than had been known in Kansas before. As early as December 22, the cold weather set in, and snow fell. It was terribly severe, and caused untold suffering among the pioneer settlers who were not generally prepared for the unexpected and sudden winter. It continued to snow on the 23d and 24th. On the latter day, the thermometer marked 17o below zero, and on the 25th it fell as low as 30o. With more or less severity the cold weather lasted until February 22, after which time genial spring weather set in find the winter was at an end.

The severity of the winter prevented an immediate renewal of field operations on the part of the Missourians, who, baffled by the elements and Gov. Shannon, had reluctantly retired at the close of the Wakarusa war. Sheriff Jones still had his writs in his possession, unserved, while his prisoners were at large. All through the cold days of January, he was working with his friends, in the Blue Lodges of Missouri, organizing and preparing for another invasion, so soon as the weather should be propitious for a new campaign. The preparations were openly made, and the object of the military organizations was openly avowed in the public meetings held along the border, and in the Pro-slavery papers of the day. It was neither more nor less than to wipe out Lawrence, and drive every Free-state man from the Territory, or force them to openly recognize the validity of the Territorial laws. The preparations were made in the sacred name of 'Law and Order,' and for the ostensible purpose of assisting the Governor and the legally constituted officers of the Territory in the performance of their duties, and for the suppression of insurrection and rebellion against the laws.

Information of formidable preparations for another invasion came to the people of Lawrence and vicinity daily. The time when it was to occur, and the exact pretext under which the raid would be made was unknown, the place of attack only seemed certain - Lawrence.

From the time of the treaty, the citizens had not for a moment felt secure against an attack. The fortifications had been strengthened and sentinels were constantly on duty to guard against sudden surprise.

The election of officers and members of the Free-state Legislature occurred January 15. The severe weather prevented any systematic raid on the Free-state ballot boxes remote from the border. At Leavenworth the Pro-slavery Mayor forbade the holding of the election, and the election was held clandestinely, and finally adjourned to the house of T. A. Minard, in Easton, where it was held January 17. There a serious row occurred in which the Free-state men were at first successful. The final and bloody outcome of the encounter was the inhuman butchery of Capt. R. P. Brown, he being overpowered by a company, and disarmed before the deed was accomplished.* The murderers were known, but no efforts were ever made by the Territorial authorities to bring them to account. There were 1,628 votes thrown at the election, and the entire ticket was elected, as nominated at the convention held at Lawrence, December 22.

* The full details of the bloody affair and other local disorders appear is the history of Leavenworth County.

The holding of this election was immediately charged by the Pro-slavery press as a direct violation of the Shannon treaty on the part of all those participating in it. Out of the whole number of votes cast, 865 - nearly one-fourth - were cast in Lawrence, which marked her as still the incorrigible and uncompromising foe of 'Law and Order.'

On the date of this election, Sheriff Jones addressed to Messrs. Robinson and Lane a letter of inquiry, as follows:

LAWRENCE, K. T., January 15, 1856.


Gentlemen - Did you or did you not pledge yourselves, at a council held in Franklin on the -- day of December, to assist me, as Sheriff, in the arrest of any person in Lawrence against whom I might have a writ, and to furnish me with a posse to enable me to do so?

SAMUEL J. JONES, Sheriff, Douglas County, K. T.

To which it would have seemed a sufficient answer to have referred him to the treaty signed by Shannon and themselves at that time. They, however, chose to give him the very answer he expected and desired. It read as follows:


Sir - In reference to your note of yesterday, we state that at the time and place mentioned, we may have said we would assist any proper officer in the service of any legal process in this city, and also no further resistance to the arrest by you of one of the rescuers of Branson would be made, as we desire to test the validity of the enactments of the body that met at the Mission, calling themselves the Kansas Legislature, by an appeal to the Supreme court of the United States.

Yours respectfully,


The treaty, by the exposition of its meaning given in the above letter, by the election held by the Free-state men, and by the stanch resistance made by them at Easton, was assumed to have been ruthlessly violated, and consequently no longer binding upon the men who had accepted it six weeks before as a pretext for extricating themselves from an unpleasant and dangerous position.

The truce was over, Jones, armed with the letter of Robinson and Lane and his yet unserved writs, called on the Blue Lodges to again rally to his standard. David Atchison, who, by the somewhat fussy and nervous manner in which he had sought to patch up a compromise during the late Wakarusa war, had laid himself liable to the imputation of cowardice among his followers, again grew valiant. His voice was again for war. He canvassed all Western Missouri, urging the people thereof in his peculiar style to join in the new invasion. At Platte City, Mo., February 4, he said:

I was a prominent agent in repealing the Missouri Compromise and opening the Territory for settlement. The Abolition traitors drummed up their forces and whistled them onto the cars and whistled them off again at Kansas City; some of them had 'Kansas and Liberty' on their hats. I saw this with my own eyes. These men came with the avowed purpose of driving or expelling you from the Territory. What did I advise you to do? Why, to meet them at their own game. When the first election came off, I told you to go over and vote. You did so, and beat them. Well, what next? Why, an election of members of the Legislature to organize the Territory must he held. What did I advise you to do then? Why, meet them on their own ground and at their own game again; and, cold and inclement as the weather was, I went over with a company of men. The Abolitionists of the North said, and published it abroad, that Atchison was there with bowie knives, and by ----, it was true. I never did go into that Territory - I never intend to go into that Territory without being prepared for all such kinds of cattle.

They held an election on the 15th of last month, and they intend to put the machinery of a State in motion on the 4th of March. Now, you are entitled to my advice, and you shall have it. I say, prepare yourselves. Go over there. Send your young men, and if they attempt to drive you out, then, d--- them, drive them out. Fifty of you, with your shotguns, are worth two hundred and fifty of them with their Sharpe's rifles. Get ready - arm yourselves; for, if they abolitionize Kansas, you lose $100,000,000 of your property. I am satisfied I can justify every act of yours before God and a jury.

The Pro-slavery papers were open advocates of an immediate war of extermination. The Squatter Sovereign, in its next issue succeeding the election of January 15, commenting on the disturbances at Easton and the consequent murder of Brown, had no word in condemnation of the outrages, nor of pity for the victim. On the contrary, it upheld the murderers, and gave them encouragement to go on in the laudable business of killing Abolitionists wherever they could he found. The editor, Stringfellow, gave vent to his sentiments in most extravagant and exciting rhetoric. The opening paragraph of his leader was as follows:


It seems now to be certain that we shall have to give the Abolitionists at least one good thrashing before political matters are settled in this Territory. To do so, we must have arms; we have the men. I propose to raise funds to furnish Colt's revolvers for those who are without them.

In another article he says:

We say if the Abolitionists are able to whip us, and overturn the Government that has been set up here, the sooner it is known the better; and we want to see it settled.

The Kansas Pioneer, Kickapoo, on the morning of the day Brown was murdered, gave the Kickapoo Rangers who murdered him the following encouraging send-off:

Rally! Rally! * * * * * * * Kansas must be immediately rescued from the tyrannical dogs. The Kickapoo Rangers are at this moment beating to arms. A large number of the Pro-slavery men will leave this place for Easton in twenty minutes. The war has again commenced, and the Abolitionists have again commenced it. Pro-slavery men, Law and Order men, strike for your altars! strike for your firesides! strike for your rights! Avenge the blood of your brethren who have been cowardly assailed, but who have bravely fallen in defense of Southern institutions.* Sound the bugle of war over the length and breadth of the land, and leave not an Abolitionist in the Territory to relate their treacherous and contaminating deeds. Strike your piercing rifle balls and your glittering steel to their black and poisonous hearts! Let the war cry never cease in Kansas again, until our Territory is wrested from the last vestige of abolitionism.

* In the first affray at Easton, a drunken Missourian was shot, but not killed. The news was carried to Kickapoo, the company mustered into service, and the above editorial was written under the inspiration occasioned by that event.

With preparations for attack and counter-preparation for defense, the winter passed. The heavy anxiety being only broken by rumors of companies organizing and drilling all along the border, and news of armed bands in the Southern States being equipped and prepared to go to Kansas to defend Southern rights. Contrary to expectation, the spring came without an outbreak.

[TOC] [part 30] [part 28] [Cutler's History]