Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

The Government of a Territory 

When a territory is organized it must be provided with a government. The people in a territory may not elect their officers as in a state; they may elect a legislature and a delegate to Congress, but the governor, secretary, judges, and certain other officers are appointed by the President.

 

The First Territorial Governor 

In October, 1854, there arrived in Kansas the first Territorial Governor, Andrew H. Reeder, who, although he was known to favor slavery, was heartily welcomed by all the people. That he might become familiar with conditions in the Territory, Governor Reeder made a tour of inspection shortly after his arrival. Although this was but little more than four months after the opening of the Territory, he found a number of settlements scattered over eastern Kansas. Towns were springing up, and the prairies were dotted with the tents and cabins of the pioneers. Several thousand people had arrived by this time, some of them free state and some pro-slavery. The pro-slavery settlers had brought a few slaves. There were also many Indians here, for only a part of the tribes had as yet been removed.

The First Election Called 

On his return from his tour of observation, which had included the most remote settlements, as far west as Council Grove and Fort Riley, Governor Reeder issued a proclamation for the first election to be held in Kansas. The date was set for November 29, at which time a delegate to Congress was to be chosen.

Interest in the Election 

The settlers were all busily engaged in building cabins and otherwise providing for the coming of winter, and since this election was not deemed of much importance they took little interest in it. This was not the case, however, with the Missourians, and at this first election, under the leadership of their Senator, D. R. Atchison, they gave an exhibition of the methods by which they expected to control Kansas.

Election Day, November 29, 1854 

On the day before election the Blue Lodge voters began to cross the border into Kansas, They came well armed, and organized into companies, each of which went to a polling place. They came to vote, and they voted. There were so many of them that they were able to outnumber the legal voters in many of the precincts where they took possession of the polls. Election judges who refused to accept their votes were removed and judges of their own installed.

The Result 

Of course the proslavery delegate was overwhelmingly elected. He would probably have been elected had the Missourians stayed at home, for up to this time a majority of the settlers outside of Lawrence favored slavery. The result of this unfair election was to renew the excitement in the North at such a working out of the principle of "popular sovereignty." But the free-state pioneers were not to be discouraged. They continued, during the winter, their home building, their preparations for the spring cultivation, and the securing of titles to their land.

The Second Election, March 30, 1855 

The first event of importance in the new year was the taking of the census of the Territory in the spring. It showed a total population of 8601, about 3000 of whom were voters. A little later a date was set for the election of a Territorial Legislature. Since this body of men would make the laws for the Territory, there was no lack of interest among the settlers in this election. It was well understood that the Missourians were expecting to vote again. Money was being raised and men hired to march into Kansas on election day. They came, fully five thousand of them, armed with pistols, guns, and bowie-knives, and marched to the different polling places. They did not pretend to be residents of Kansas, but boasted that they were from Missouri. They were disorderly and dangerous, and in many cases drove the legal voters from the polls. Not more than half of the 3000 rightful voters cast ballots in this election, but the count showed that more than 6000 ballots were cast.

The "Bogus Legislature" 

The whole thing had been so openly fraudulent that the free-state people demanded that the Governor set aside this election and call a new one. The Missourians threatened his life if this were done. When the day came for deciding the question, the men who had been fraudulently elected gathered in the Governor's office, armed and defiant. The Governor and a number of his friends who were there to protect him were also armed. Bitter discussion ensued, but there was no fighting. Contests had not been filed against all of the men elected. Governor Reeder decided to recognize the election except where sufficient proof of fraud was shown. In these cases he threw out the returns and ordered another election. The proslavery men took no part in the new election, and a number of free-state men were chosen to the Legislature. When the Legislature met, the proslavery majority promptly unseated these free-state members and recognized the men first elected. This gave the Territory an entirely pro-slavery legislature. It was called by the free-state people the "Bogus Legislature." The proslavery leaders were B. F. Stringfellow and D. R. Atchison, both of whom lived in Missouri but took an active part in Kansas affairs. Senator Atchison said, "We wish to make Kansas in all respects like Missouri." So they adopted the whole body of Missouri laws, and added a series of slave laws that were probably the most severe of any ever enacted in the United States.

The First Legislature, at Pawnee, July, 1855 

The Governor chose Pawnee as the place where the Legislature should meet. Pawnee was a new town on the Kansas River, within the present bounds of the Fort Riley military reservation. Since it was west of nearly all the settlements, the members had to make long journeys to reach it. Both because of the inconvenience of location and because the pro-slavery members desired to be nearer the Missouri border, the Legislature remained in session at Pawnee only five days, just long enough to unseat the free-state members and to pass an act removing the seat of government temporarily to Shawnee Mission. All that remains of Pawnee today is the old stone building that was erected for a capitol.

The Removal of Governor Reeder 

Governor Reeder had refused to accede to all the demands of the proslavery people, and had fallen into disfavor with them. When he refused to sign some of their measures they petitioned the President for his removal, which soon followed. Governor Reeder's administration had lasted through less than a year of these troublous times. In the summer of 1855, with the Territory little more than a year old, the people were divided into two bitter factions, proslavery and free-state, with the proslavery people congratulating themselves upon being rid of a Governor they could not control, upon having the support of the President, and upon having a Legislature unanimously proslavery. Daniel Woodson, the Territorial Secretary, who now became Acting Governor, approved the acts of the proslavery Legislature.

Gloomy Outlook for the Free-state People 

These were dark days for the free-state people; they had no hand in the Government and no recognition in the laws of the Territory. They were denounced, misrepresented, and ridiculed. To add to the gloom of the situation, the new Territorial Governor, Wilson Shannon, at first entirely ignored the existence of free-state citizens. No community could obey the slave laws passed by the "Bogus Legislature" without becoming proslavery. But the freestate people had no intention of becoming pro-slavery; they had no intention of giving up the struggle. They found themselves confronted with the question of what was to be done. It was a very grave situation.

Summary

The first Territorial Governor, Andrew H. Reeder, arrived in October, 1854. After a tour of inspection, he called an election to choose a Territorial delegate to Congress. Although there were probably enough proslavery settlers to carry the election, the Missourians, to make sure, came over in force, and elected their candidate with an overwhelming majority. Another election was called in March to choose members of a Territorial Legislature. The Missourians came again, and although the census had shown but 3000 voters in Kansas there were twice that number of ballots cast. On proof of fraud Governor Reeder threw out the contested returns and free-state men were elected, but when the Legislature met the proslavery majority unseated them and recognized those first elected. Pawnee was chosen by the Governor as the Territorial capital, but after five days the Legislature adjourned to Shawnee Mission. The measures passed were entirely in the interest of slavery. Although Governor Reeder came to Kansas favoring slavery, he did not approve of the methods of the proslavery people. He was removed in July, 1855. He was replaced by Wilson Shannon, who was in full sympathy with slavery interests. Every condition was unfavorable to the free-state people at this time.

References

Spring, Kansas, chap. iv.

Robinson, The Kansas Conflict, chaps, vi, vii.

Holloway, History of Kansas, chaps, xii, xiii, xvil.

Andreas, History of Kansas, pp. 87-101.

Connelley, Kansas Territorial Governors.

Historical Collections, vol. v, p. 163; vol. vii, p. 361; vol. viii,

p. 227.

Prentis, History of Kansas, pp. 79-87.

Hodder, Government of Kansas, pp. 5-13.

Questions

1. How is a Territory governed? 

2. Who was the first Territorial Governor of Kansas? How long did he serve? What was his attitude toward slavery? 

3. What were the conditions in Kansas when the first Governor arrived? How far west did settlements reach at that time? 

4. When was the first election held? What was its purpose? Give an account of it. 

5. When was the first census taken and what did it show? 

6. What was the purpose of the second election? Give an account of it. 

7. Why was the "Bogus Legislature" so called? Where did it meet? What did it do? 

8. Who were some of the proslavery leaders? 

9. Why were these "dark days" for the free-state people? 

10. Who was the new Territorial Governor? With which side did he sympathize?

Source: A History of Kansas / Anna E. Arnold. pp.72-77