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Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
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Gov. Geary, sick in body and sick at heart, had left the Territory in fear of private assassination, his best friends at Lecompton being the treason prisoners. These, with something of bitterness, remarked that the Governor went away in such haste that he had forgotten to pardon them as he had promised; and thus while he got had out of prison, they still stayed in.

 

The party in power at Lecompton had said to the President at Washington: "We are sick of Northern Governors. They won't do to tie to. For pity's sake give us a man from the South." And so a Southern Governor was given them in the person of Robert J. Walker. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, said to the Jews: "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins." So this Lecompton _party_ found the little finger of this Southern Governor to be thicker than the loins of Gov. Geary.

Mr. W. stood so high in public position that no man stood higher than himself, save alone the President. He had been a Senator from Mississippi, and had been Secretary of the Treasury in Mr. Pierce's Cabinet. The complications of this Kansas question had become such as to call for a man of the highest rank and ability. The main object of Mr. Walker's mission to Kansas was to induce the Free State people to vote at the Territorial elections, which alone were appointed by the government at Washington, and recognized by it. Until he could accomplish this, nothing was done toward the pacification of the Territory. To induce them to do this, he pledged to the Free State men a fair election. But he found that he was speaking to ears that could not hear. He had said in his inaugural address with all apparent fairness:

I can not doubt that the Convention, after having framed a State constitution, will submit it for ratification or rejection by a majority of the 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 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.

This seemed very fair, but what did it amount to? The people knew that the Governor must consent to be a mere cat's paw and convenience of these conspirators, or else be unceremoniously thrust aside; and that the authorities at Washington would sustain them and not him. This had been the fate of Reeder, of Shannon and of Geary, and this also would be the fate of the present Governor. Dr. Gihon, on behalf of Mr. Geary, had bitterly complained that there was not a single officer in the Territory responsible either to the people or to the Governor; that all were the appointees of the Legislature, and responsible to it alone. The Lecompton Legislature had passed a bill calling a convention to frame a State constitution; and Gov. Geary had vetoed the bill because it made no provision for submitting the constitution, when framed, to a vote of the people; and the Legislature had passed the bill over his veto, and now what power had Gov. Walker in the matter more that Gov. Geary?

An event happened at that time that was a nine days' wonder, and a nine days' talk among the people; and yet it does not seem to have been put on record in any extant history of the period. The Governor had sought the privilege of addressing the Free State people on this question of voting, which he made his hobby. It was at a meeting at Big Springs. Gen. Lane was present, as also were a large number of Free State men, and the Governor had pressed on them, as the only road out of their difficulties, the necessity of voting at those Territorial elections, which alone were recognized by the government at Washington.

Gen. Lane arose to reply, and in a speech of terrible energy and power he arraigned the Lecompton party for all their wrongs and outrages; then, when he had reached the climax of his argument, he leaned forward, and, looking at Mr. Walker from beneath his shaggy eyebrows with his deepset, piercing black eyes, and shaking at him his long bony finger, his whole frame quivering with passion, he said in his deep guttural tones, which seemed more like the growl of a savage wild beast than the voice of a human being: "_Gov-er-nor Wal-ker, y-o-u c-a-n-'t con-t-r-ol your allies!_"

The effect was prodigious; and the Free State men were swept away as with a whirlwind. Even Gov. Walker felt the force of the appeal. But he showed himself a brave man; and came back resolutely to the battle. He said: "_I am your Governor!_ You must admit that I have at least a _legal_ right to control my allies, so far as to give you a fair election; and I pledge you my word and honor that I will do it. Now try me! and see if I do not keep my word!"

The Free State men began to falter and to ask each other, "Is it not best to try the Governor, and see if he will be as good as his word?" And from this time forward there began to appear a division in the Free State ranks; which sometimes grew to be bitter and acrimonious. This division had indeed begun to appear one year before, when on the Fourth of July Col. Sumner had dispersed the Free State Legislature at Topeka. Gov. Robinson was at that time a prisoner, and was, therefore, not present; but he said in his next annual message as Free State Governor:

When your bodies met, pursuant to adjournment, in July last, your assembly was interfered with and broken up by a large force of United States troops in battle array, who drove you hence, in gross violation of those constitutional rights _which it was your duty to have protected_.

Wm. A. Phillips, correspondent of the _New York Tribune,_ and afterwards a member of Congress, was a man terribly in earnest, and he did, on the above-named Fourth of July, in a speech, take the position that we ought to fight for our rights and defy Col. Sumner and his dragoons. The men that demanded that we should fight said: "We can take possession of the houses and fire out of the windows, and thus avoid the onset of Col. Sumner's cavalry." But the majority said: "We are loyal to the old flag, and in no case, and under no circumstances will be found fighting against it." It was this more conservative majority that began to demand that the Free State men should listen to Gov. Walker's overtures and vote at the coming election.

Gen. Lane had been uncompromising in defying the Territorial laws. He had said: "Gov. Walker has said, 'Vote next week.' What for? Have we not made our constitution? And do not the people of freedom like it? Can't we submit this to the people, and who wants another?" But now he had become at the first reticent, and finally said: "Vote." This singular man that constantly kept on exhibiting his desperate determination to resist the bogus laws, really kept in his heart the one supreme purpose to make himself the oracle of the prevailing sentiment among the Free State men. When, therefore, Gen. Lane said, "Let us vote," it was good evidence that this had become the prevailing sentiment among the Free State party.

A convention was held at Grasshopper Falls, August 26, 1857, at which this was the main question, and it was decided in favor of voting at the coming election of Territorial officers. The Hon. Henry Wilson had recently visited Kansas from Massachusetts, and he had earnestly entreated the Free State men to vote. Phillips, Conway and Redpath still protested against it. Gov. Robinson, however, gave his voice in favor of voting.

An election had already been-held June 15th to elect delegates to the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, at which the Free State men had taken no part. Fifteen Free State counties had in this election been disfranchished, no election having been ordered in them.

At the election of Territorial officers, held October 6, 1857, both parties turned out The Free State men cast 7,887 votes for the Territorial Legislature. The Lecompton party was reported to have cast 6,466 votes. But though the Free State men had a numerical majority of votes, yet the districts had been so arranged that the above returns gave a majority in the Legislature to the Lecompton party. Johnson county, bordering on Missouri, had been united in one district with Douglas county, in which Lawrence is situated, and this district had been given eight members. Oxford precinct, in Johnson county, was a place of not over a dozen houses, and polled 124 votes for township officers, yet it reported 1,628 votes for the Lecompton party. When, however, Gov. Walker and Mr. Stanton came to canvass the votes they threw out this Oxford vote. They also set aside 1,200 fraudulent votes in McGee county. The vote at Kickapoo, equally fraudulent, was also set aside. This gave a majority to the Free State party in the Lecompton Territorial Legislature, and thus Gov. Walker redeemed his pledge that the people should have a fair election.

Judge Cato felt that it was time to come to the rescue of his friends, and issued a writ directed to "Robert J. Walker, Governor of Kansas Territory, and Frederick P. Stanton, secretary of the same," commanding these gentlemen to issue certificates of election to the men who appeared to be elected according to the original returns. Gov. Walker good-naturedly refused to obey the order of the court, offering to submit to arrest for contempt of court, and tendering the judge _a. posse_ of United States troops to aid in making the arrest. The judge began to see that he had been making a fool of himself, and dropped the subject. These Territorial judges had shown themselves capable of any excess of villainy, and had been a sure refuge in every time of trouble to this Lecompton party; but even the courts had now failed them, and these "border ruffian" judges were only laughed at by this Southern Governor. One year before, these conspirators had assembled an army to drive out the Free State settlers, and to give the Territory into the hands of the South; but Gov. Geary had interfered to thwart their purpose, and, what was worse, a majority of the leaders of that army, men of note along the Missouri border, had declared themselves in sympathy with Mr. Geary. Then they had asked for a Southern Governor, for would not he be true to the South? And now even this man had failed them, and had given the control of the Territorial Legislature into the hands of the Philistines! They were indeed in evil case. It seemed as if heaven and earth had combined against them, and that only hell was on their side. One last chance remained. If this was a desperate chance, it must be remembered they were playing a desperate game--they would make Kansas a slave State in spite of the Governor, in spite of the Territorial Legislature, and in spite of the people of Kansas.

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