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


[TOC] [part 50] [part 48] [Cutler's History]


Gov. Walker arrived in Kansas May 25, 1857. He came up the Missouri on the New Lucy, from which he disembarked at Leavenworth, accompanied by Mr. Patrick H. Carey (his stenographer and private secretary), Mr. Perrin and Mr. McClelland. He was courteously received by citizens of both parties, a large number gathering in front of the Planters' Hotel, in expectation of hearing the almost inevitable speech; but this time the sovereign people were disappointed, Gov. Walker excusing himself on the plea of fatigue. Not willing entirely to forego their pet privilege and pleasure, the citizens moved to the Shawnee House, and heard speeches from James Lane and Mr. Perrin. Gov. Walker, with his companions, left the following day for Lecompton, where he delivered his inaugural speech on the 27th. It was cautious and studied in its phraseology, and had been through the crucible of careful revision at Washington. It might therefore be taken as the full exposition of the proposed Kansas policy of new administration, as well as his own. Extracts are given below sufficient to show that the extremists of neither party could receive it with unalloyed satisfaction or confidence.

Ignoring the Topeka Free-State Constitution, Gov. Walker proceeded to the discussion of the law providing for the framing of a State Constitution, which had recently been passed by the Legislature, and under which the census and apportionment for delegates had been already made. He assumed that the authority of the Legislature to call such conventions was beyond question, as it had been called into being by the Congress of '54, was recognized by the very latest Congressional legislation, and by the present Chief Magistrate, just chosen by the American people, many of its acts being then in operation in the Territory by general consent. Opposition to it was resistance to the authority of the Federal Government.

He next urged the necessity of a free participation by all legal voters in the coming election of delegates. The law had performed its legitimate function by extending to the people the right of suffrage, but cannot compel them to vote. If they choose to abstain, they thereby authorize those who do vote to act for them, and, in the absence of fraud and violence, they are, under the constitution and laws, bound by their acts. "Otherwise, as voting must be voluntary, self-government would be impracticable, and monarchy or despotism would remain as the only alternative." He warned them against the uncertainty of relying on a subsequent opportunity to defeat the proposed constitution by refusing to ratify it. No provision now existed for such submission. He was anxious to secure to the people "that great constitutional right" - he believed the convention was "the servant of the people," but had no power to dictate the proceedings of that body.

He closed the discussion of the subject as follows:

I cannot doubt that the convention, after having framed a State constitution, will submit it for ratification or rejection, by a majority of the then actual bona-fide resident settlers of Kansas.

With these views well known to the President and cabinet, and approved by them, I accepted the appointment of Governor of Kansas. My instructions from the President, through the Secretary of State, under date of the 30th of March last, sustain "the regular legislature of the Territory," in assembling a convention to form a constitution," and they express the opinion of the President that " when such a constitution shall be submitted to the people of the Territory, they must be protected in the exercise of their right of voting for or against that instrument ; and the fair expression of the popular will must not be interrupted by fraud or violence."

Following are further verbatim extracts:

There is a law more powerful than the legislation of man - more potent than passion or prejudice - that must ultimately determine the location of slavery in this country ; it is the isothermal line; it is the law of the thermometer, of latitude or altitude, regulating climate labor and productions, and, as a consequence, profit and loss. Thus, even upon the mountain heights of the tropics, slavery can no more exist than in Northern latitudes, because it is unprofitable, being unsuited to the constitution of that sable race transplanted here from the equatorial heats of Africa. Why is it, that in the Union slavery recedes from the North and progresses South? It is this same great climatic law now operating for or against slavery in Kansas. * * * * If, from the operation of these causes, slavery should not exist here, I trust it by no means follows that Kansas should become a State controlled by the reason and fanaticism of abolition. She has, in any event, certain constitutional duties to perform to her sister States, and especially to her immediate neighbor - the slave holding State of Missouri. Through that great State, by rivers and railroads, must flow, to a great extent, our trade and intercourse, our imports and exports. Our entire Eastern front it upon her border; from Missouri come a great number of her citizens; even the farms of the two States are cut up by the line of State boundary, part in Kansas, part in Missouri; her citizens meet us in daily intercourse; and that Kansas should become hostile to Missouri, an asylum for her fugitive slaves, or a propagandist of abolition treason, would be alike in expedient and unjust, and fatal to the continuance of the Americana Union. In any event, then, I trust that the constitution of Kansas will contain such clauses as will forever secure to the State of Missouri the faithful performance of all constitutional guarantees, not only by Federal but by State authority, and the supremacy within our limits of the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States on all constitutional questions be firmly established.

* * * *

Our country and the world are regarding with profound interest, the struggle now impending in Kansas. Whether we are competent to self- government - whether we can decide this controversy peacefully for ourselves, by our own votes without fraud or violence - whether the great principles of self-government and State sovereignty can be carried here into successful operation--are the questions now to be determined, and upon the plains of Kansas may now be fought the last great and decisive battle, involving the fate of the Union, of State sovereignty, of self-government and the liberties of the world. If, my fellow-citizens, you could, even for a brief period, soften or extinguish sectional passions or prejudice, and lift yourselves to the full realization of the momentous issues intrusted to your decision, you would feel that no greater responsibility was ever devolved upon any people. It is not merely shall slavery exist in or disappear from Kansas; but shall the great principles of self-government and State sovereignty be maintained or subverted. State sovereignty is mainly a practical principle, in so far as it is illustrated by the great sovereign institutions; and this principle is disregarded whenever such decision is subverted by Congress, or overthrown by external intrusion, or by domestic fraud or violence. All those who oppose this principle are the enemies of State rights, of self-government, of the constitution and of the Union. Do you love slavery so much, or hate it so intensely, that you would endeavor to establish or exclude it by fraud or violence against the will of a majority of the people? What is Kansas, with or without slavery, if she should destroy the rights and union of the States? Where would be her schools, her free academies, her colleges and university, her towns and cities, her railroads, farms and villages, without the Union and the principles of self- government? Where would be her peace and prosperity, and what the value of her lands and property? Who can decide this question for Kansas, if not the people themselves? And if they cannot, nothing but the sword can become the arbiter.

* * * *

Is it not infinitely better that slavery should be abolished or established in Kansas, rather than that we should become slaves, and not permitted to govern ourselves? Is the absence or existence of slavery in Kansas paramount to the great question of State sovereignty, of self-government, and of the Union? Is the sable African alone entitled to your sympathy and consideration, even if he were happier as a freeman than as a slave, either here or in St. Domingo, or the British West Indies, or Spanish America, where the emancipated slave has receded to barbarism and approaches the lowest point in the descending scale of moral, physical and intellectual degradation? Have our white brethren of the great American and European race no claims upon our attention? Have they no rights or interests entitled to regard and protection? Shall the destiny of the African in Kansas exclude all considerations connected with our own happiness and prosperity? And is it for the handful of that race now in Kansas, or that may be hereafter introduced, that we should subvert the Union and the great principles of self-government and State sovereignty, and imbrue our hands in the blood of our countrymen? Important as this African question may be in Kansas, and which it is your solemn right to determine, it sinks into insignificance compared with the perpetuity of the Union, and the final successful establishment of the principles of free government and State sovereignty. If patriotism, if devotion to the constitution and love of the Union, should not induce the minority to yield to the majority on this question, let them reflect that in no event can the minority successfully determine the question permanently, and that in no contingency will Congress admit Kansas as a Slave or a Free State, unless a majority of the people of Kansas shall first have fairly and freely decided this question for themselves by a direct vote on the adoption of the constitution, excluding all fraud or violence. The minority, in resisting the will of the majority, may involve Kansas again in civil war; they may bring upon her approach and obloquy, and destroy her progress and prosperity; they may keep her for years out of the Union, and, in the whirlwind of agitation, sweep away the Government itself; but Kansas never can be brought into the Union with or without slavery, except by a previous solemn decision, fully, freely and fairly made by a majority of her people in voting for or against the adoption of her State constitution. Why, then should this just, peaceful and constitutional mode of settlement meet with opposition from any quarter? If Kansas willing to destroy her own hopes of prosperity, merely that she may afford political capital to any party, and perpetuate the agitation of slavery throughout the Union? Is she to become a mere theme for agitators in other States, the theater on which they shall perform the bloody drama of treason and dis-union? Does she want to see the solemn acts of Congress, the decision of the people of the Union in the recent election, the legislative, executive and judicial authorities of the country all overthrown, and revolution and civil war inaugurated throughout her limits? Does she want to be "bleeding Kansas" for the benefit of political agitators within or out of her limits; or does she prefer the peaceful and quiet arbitrament of this question for herself? What benefit will the great body of the people of Kansas derive from these agitations? They may, for a brief period, give consequence and power to political leaders and agitators, but it is at the expense of the happiness and welfare of the great body of the people of this Territory.

* * * *

I have endeavored, heretofore, faintly to foreshadow the wonderful prosperity which would follow at once in Kansas the peaceful and final settlement of this question. But, if it should be in the power of agitators to prevent such a result, nothing but ruin will pervade our Territory. Confidence will expire, and law and order will be subverted. Anarchy and civil war will be re-inaugurated among us. All property will greatly depreciate in value. Even the best farms will become almost worthless. Our towns and cities will sink into decay. Immigration into our Territory will cease. A mournful train of returning settlers, with ruined hopes and blasted fortunes, will leave our borders. All who have purchased property at present prices will be sacrificed, and Kansas will be marked by universal ruin and desolation.

Nor will the mischief be arrested here. It will extend into every other State. Despots will exult over the failure here of the great principles of self- government, and the approaching downfall of our confederacy. The pillars of the Union will rock upon their base, and we may close the next Presidential conflict amid the scattered fragments of the constitution of our once happy and united people. The banner of the stars and stripes, the emblem of our country's glory, will be rent by contending factions. We shall no longer have a country. The friends of human liberty in other realms will shrink despairing from the conflict. Despotic power will resume its sway throughout the world, and man will have tried in vain the last experiment of self-government. The architects of our country's ruin, the assassins of her peace and prosperity will share the same common ruin of all our race. They will meet whilst living the bitter curses of a ruined people, whilst history will record as their only epitaph: These were the destroyers of the American Union, of the liberties of their country and of the world.

As early as March 10, the Free-state men had held a convention at Topeka, at which it had been resolved "that the people of Kansas Territory cannot participate in any election under such regulation, without compromising their rights as American citizens, sacrificing the best interests of Kansas, and jeopardizing the public peace." Still later, as has been told, an ineffectual effort had been made to induce Secretary Stanton to modify the conditions under which the election was to be holden, so as to allow the Free-state men to participate. Nevertheless, after the new presentation of the case made by Gov. Walker i his inaugural address, opinions upon the question again became diverse, and to put the matter at rest a mass convention convened at Topeka, on June 9, the day also appointed for the meeting of the Topeka Legislature.


On Wednesday, June 9, at 10 o'clock in the forenoon, the convention assembled. Officers and committees chosen and appointed were: President, James H. Lane;* Vice Presidents, J. W. Morris, F. Johnson, W. C. Laribee, W. W. Ross, Lyman Allen ; Secretaries, W. F. M. Arny, T. Dwight Thacher ; Committee on Resolutions, Martin F. Conway, M. W. Delahay, Walter Oakley, Charles Robinson, Morris Hunt, G. W. Deitzler, Alexander A. Jamieson, Cyrus K. Holliday, J. P. Root, G. W. Smith.

* Lane returned to the Territory about April 1. He remained for several weeks incognito, except to his particular friends. This was his first public participation in affairs after his return.

While the Committee on Resolutions were preparing a report, Col. Lane indulged in one of his characteristic speeches. He was still uncompromising in his defiance of the Territorial laws, and the Territorial rule set up under them ; not more so, perhaps, than were other Free-state men, but more forcible in his expression. He asserted with great vehemence : "We will not obey the laws (territorial), we will not pay the axes." If the bogus authorities served an indictment against him, he would bear it patiently; after having had an indictment over his head for more than a year, he was not afraid. "Gov. Walker said, vote next week. What for ?: Have we not made our constitution? And do not the people of freedom like it? Is there any one of the Free-state party opposed to it? Can't we submit this to the people, and who wants another?"

The speech of Lane was not the unanimous reflex of the sentiments of the convention, although loudly applauded by that class of earnest, uncompromising and excitable men, who, impressed by his rough eloquence and inspired by a heartfelt and all-absorbing hatred of slavery and all its minions, were ever his enthusiastic admirers and willing followers.

The more moderate expressions of the resolutions passed by the convention expressed authoritatively its sentiments. They were reported by Judge Conway, signed by the entire committee. They were as follows:

Resolved, (1) That the people of Kansas, now as ever, disown as invalid and of no force-and effect, the authority of the Territorial government as embodied in the enactments of the so-called Legislature of Kansas.

(2) That it is made incumbent on the people of Kansas, by the highest considerations of justice and expediency, to look forward now as ever to their admission into the Union under the constitution which they have already formed, as the only method of adjusting existing difficulties to which they will assent.

(3) That the people of Kansas will pursue with unfaltering steadiness of purpose the application now pending before the Congress of the United States, for their admission into the Union under their own constitution, and with their own government, resting their hopes for the success thereof upon the profound confidence they feel that a measure so eminently just, and so accordant to the principles of past legislation in our country, will eventually be conceded, and sanctioned to them by the representatives of the American people.

(4) That the constitution framed and adopted at Topeka had its origin in a public necessity, was the offspring of the popular will, and experience has proved the wisdom of those who framed it, and it is the duty of the Legislature and officers elected under it, to complete the State organization, and keep its machinery in readiness for use so soon as the necessities of the people shall require.

The following preamble and resolutions were adopted:

WHEREAS, By unfair legislation by the Lecompton "Legislative Assembly," and the manner of registration under the act providing for the call of a convention to form a constitution, has excluded a large majority of the voters of Kansas from a participation in the election of delegates to said convention; therefore,

Resolved, That since the issues of the past have been sufficient to develop the sterling principles of every man in Kansas. Therefore we regard any man who sympathizes with our oppressors to the extent that he consents to become a delegate to the Lecompton Convention, or a candidate to the same, as unworthy the fellowship or confidence of Free-State men, and one to be regarded with suspicion everywhere.

Visible signs of smoldering dissensions in the Free-State ranks were evinced at this meeting. There was a growing disagreement between the more turbulent and less cautious element and the no less practical nor reliable conservatives, as the best means and methods of serving the highest interests of freedom. It developed ultimately into a bitter feud. Happily, the increasing aggregates preponderance of the Free-State population and defection in the ranks of the opposition prevented disastrous results therefrom, and thus detracted from it historic prominence. At the convention above reported, resolutions were offered harshly condemnatory of the course of the Herald of Freedom* in approving the administration of Geary. They were not received, but evinced the fact that the inner councils were not altogether harmonious. The Herald of Freedom summed up its satisfaction as to the result thus:

This convention, which has so long been talked of, has produced an effect which the more conservative men of Kansas want. It has proved that although there are, as there always have been , a few persons who delight to engage in war (but when the conflict comes they are among the missing), the majority want peace.

* The Herald, destroyed May 15, 1855, was re-issued November 1, 1856.


The legislature met, in pursuance to call, on the same day as the convention (June 9), and adjourned June 13. At no time during the session was there a quorum of members-elect present in both branches. On the 11th, a quorum was manufactured by declaring the seats of thirteen absent members vacant. Henry J. Adams was President of the Senate and John Hutchinson Speaker of the house. Gov. Robinson read his message on the 11th. It reviewed pointedly the late inaugural speech of Gov. Walker, and recommended such action as might be deemed necessary to preserve the State organization until such time as the people's voice could be heard.

The legislative acts passed were: For taking the census; for a State election, in August, to fill vacancies; for locating the capital at Topeka; for establishing a State University at Lawrence. A joint resolution was passed, asking Congress to admit Kansas under the Topeka constitution.

During the sessions, Gov. Walker was at Topeka, but no interference with that body was attempted. In response to the request of the citizens he addressed them at length on the issues of the day. His principal arguments were those embodied in his inaugural. As an additional argument to induce Free-state men to vote at the coming election he said: "October next, not under the act of the late Territorial Legislature, but under the laws of Congress, you, the whole people of Kansas, have the right to elect a delegate to Congress and to elect a Territorial Legislature." This statement on due consideration had no small influence on the minds of many Free-state men in deciding them to participate in the election. His whole speech was listened to with good natured civility, and the above utterance was greeted with considerable enthusiasm.


Whatever dissension had manifested itself among the Free-state men, the day of the election found them united in the policy of giving no possible countenance to the organized fraud by participating in it. Had they decided otherwise, it seems quite probable that they could have carried the election against the Pro-slavery vote cast, it aggregating only 2,200 votes. it is, however, quite likely that, had a contest been expected, the Territory would, as in former elections, have been subjected to another influx of illegal voters sufficient to overcome any free-state vote that might have been polled. It is, therefore, by no means certain that the Free-state voters declined a sure victory in declining to vote. The vote by districts was a follows:

                                 |  Voters | Highest
Districts                           by       number
                                    Census   votes cast
1   Doniphan. . . . . . . . . . .|   1086  |    234
2   Brown . . . . . . . . . . . .|    206  |     44
3   Atchison. . . . . . . . . . .|    804  |    190
4   Leavenworth . . . . . . . . .|   1837  |    461
5   Jefferson . . . . . . . . . .|    555  |    121
6   Calhoun . . . . . . . . . . .|    291  |     23
7   Marshall. . . . . . . . . . .|    206  |     57
      Riley . . . . . . . . . . .|    353  |
8     Pottawatomie. . . . . . . .|    205  |     59
9   Johnson . . . . . . . . . . .|    496  |    113
10  Douglas . . . . . . . . . . .|   1318  |    225
      Shawnee . . . . . . . . . .|    238  |
11    Richardson. . . . . . . . .|         |     58
      Davis . . . . . . . . . . .|         |
12  Lykins. . . . . . . . . . . .|    413  |     58
16  Linn  . . . . . . . . . . . .|    413  |    124
      Bourbon . . . . . . . . . .|         |
      Allen . . . . . . . . . . .|         |
      Mc Gee. . . . . . . . . . .|    645  |    204
      Dorn. . . . . . . . . . . .|         |
    Other Counties. . . . . . . .|    140  |    100
                                 |         |
10  Douglas . . . . . . . . . . .|   9251  |   2071

From the above it appears that the delegates to the Lecompton Constitutional Convention were elected by a vote comprising less than one-fourth those shown by the census.

B. Hollman and Gen. James H. Lane. Gen. Lane, in the course of his remarks, thanked his friends for the honor they proposed to confer upon him by tendering to him the nomination for Congress, but uttering refused the nomination, as he had determined never again to leave Kansas until her Missouri chains were broken and her people free under her own government.

The resolutions re-affirmed unwavering adherence to the Topeka Constitution, as embodying the basis of the State Government desired by the people; asked Congress to admit Kansas as a State under it; denied anew the validity of the Territorial Legislature and its laws; denounced it as the creature of fraud and violence; affirmed that the Free-State party was emphatically a peace party; urged the necessity of through organization for the August election, and recommended to the Governor the propriety of submitting the Topeka Constitution to a full vote of all the bona fide residents of the Territory. Concerning the question of participation in the coming Territorial election, it was recommended "to the people of Kansas that they assemble in mass convention at Grasshopper Falls, on the last Wednesday in August, to take such action as may be necessary in regard to that election." It was also recommended that a delegate convention be held on the same day and at the same place, to carry out the decisions of the mass convention, whatever they might be. It was further resolved that, having reliable information that in some parts of Missouri preparations were being made to control the Kansas elections by another raid upon the ballot boxes, Gen. James H. Land be appointed and authorized to organize the people in the several districts, to protect the ballot boxes at the approaching election.

The Free-State nominations made were as follows: For Representative to Congress, Marcus J. Parrott; Secretary of State, P. C. Schuyler; State Auditor, Dr. G. A. Cutler; Judges of the Supreme Court, M. F. Conway, S. N. Latta.

The following were selected by the delegates from the several districts as members of the State Central Committee: First District, J. Blood; Second District, A. Curtis; Third District, S. E. Martin; Fourth District, Ralph Mayfield; Fifth District, W. F. M. Arny; Sixth District, W. R. Griffins; Seventh District, Henry Harvey; Eighth district, Dr. J. P. Root; Ninth District, G. S. Hillyer; Tenth District, A. A. Griffin; Eleventh District, F. G. Adams; Twelfth District, H. Miles Moore; Fourteenth District, A. Larzelere; Seventeenth District, E. S. Nash.

[TOC] [part 50] [part 48] [Cutler's History]