intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any territory or
Governor Walkers Administration. 461
state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly
free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way."
Under it, Kansas, "when admitted as a state," was to "be received into the
union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the
time of their admission."
Did Congress mean by this language that the delegates elected to frame a
constitution should have authority finally to decide the question of slavery,
or did they intend, by leaving it to the people, that the people of Kansas them-
selves should decide this question by a direct vote? On this subject I confess
I had never entertained a serious doubt, and, therefore, in my instructions to
Governor Walker of the 28th March last, I merely said that, when "a con-
titution shall be submitted to the people of the territory, they must be pro-
tected 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
In expressing this opinion, it was far from my intention to interfere with
the decision of the people of Kansas, either for or against slavery. From this
I have always carefully abstained. Intrusted with the duty of taking "care
that the laws be faithfully executed," my only desire was that the people of
Kansas should furnish to Congress the evidence required by the organic act,
whether for or against slavery, and in this manner smooth their passage into
the union. In emerging from the condition of territorial dependence into
that of a sovereign state, it was their duty, in my opinion, to make known
their will by the votes of the majority, on the direct question whether this
important domestic institution should or should not continue to exist. In-
deed, this was the only possible mode in which their will could be authen-
The election of delegates to a convention must necessarily take place in
separate districts. From this cause it may readily happen, as has often been
the case, that a majority of the people of a state or territory are on one side
of a question, whilst a majority of the representatives from the several dis-
tricts into which it is divided may be upon the other side. This arises from
the fact that in some districts delegates may be elected by small majorities,
whilst in others those of different sentiments may receive majorities suffi-
ciently great not only to overcome the votes given for the former, but to leave
a large majority of the whole people in direct opposition to a majority of tjie
delegates. Besides our history proves that influences may be brought to bear
on the representative sufficiently powerful to induce him to disregard the
will of his constituents. The truth is, that no other authentic and satisfac-
tory mode exists of ascertaining the will of a majority of the people of any
state or territory, on an important and exciting question like that of slavery
in Kansas, except by leaving it to a direct vote. How wise, then, was it for
Congress to pass over all subordinate and intermediate agencies, and proceed
directly to the source of all legitimate power under our institutions!
How vain would any other principle prove in practice! This may be illus-
trated by the case of Kansas. Should she be admitted into the union, with
a constitution either maintaining or abolishing slavery, against the sentiment
of the people, this could have no other effect than to continue and to exasper-
ate the existing agitation during the brief period required to make the con-
stitution conform to the irresistible will of the majority.
The friends and supporters of the Nebraska and Kansas act, when strug-
gling on a recent occasion to sustain its wise provisions before the great
462 Kansas State Historical Society.
tribunal of the American people, never differed about its true meaning on
this subject. Everywhere throughout the union, they publicly pledged their
faith and their honor that they would cheerfully submit the question of
slavery to the decision of the bona fide people of Kansas, without any restric-
tion or qualification whatever. All were cordially united upon the great doc-
trine of popular sovereignty, which is the vital principle of our free Institu-
tions. Had it then been insinuated from any quarter that it would be a suffi-
cient compliance with the requisitions of the organic law for the members
of a convention, thereafter to be elected, to withhold the question of slavery
from the people, and to substitute their own will for that of a legally ascer-
tained majority of all their constituents, this would have been instantly re-
jected. Everywhere they remained true to the resolution adopted on a
celebrated occasion recognizing "the right of the people of all the territories
— including Kansas and Nebraska — acting through the legally and fairly ex-
pressed will of a majority of actual residents, and, whenever the number of
their inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution, with or without slavery,
and be admitted into the union upon terms of perfect equality with the other
The convention to frame a constitution for Kansas met on the first Mon-
day of September last. They were called together by virtue of an act of the
territorial legislature, whose lawful existence had been recognized by Con-
gress in different forms and by different enactments. A large proportion of
the citizens of Kansas did not think proper to register their names and to
vote at the election for delegates; but an opportunity to do this having been
fairly afforded, their refusal lo avail themselves of their right could in no
manner affect the legality of the convention.
This convention proceeded to frame a constitution for Kansas, and finally
adjourned on the 7th day of November. But little dilficulty occurred in the
convention, except on the subject of slavery. The truth is that the general
provisions of our recent state constitutions are so similar — and, I may add,
so excellent — that the difference between them is not essential. Under the
earlier practice of the government, no constitution framed by the convention
of a territory preparatory to its admission Into the union as a state had been
submitted to the people. I trust, however, the example set by the last Con-
gress, requiring that the constitution of Minnesota "should be subject to the
approval and ratification of the people of the proposed state," may be fol-
lowed on future occasions. I took it for granted that the convention of Kan-
sas would act in accordance with this example, founded, as it is, on correct
principles; and hence my instructions to Governor Walker, in favor of sub-
mitting the constitution to the people, were expressed in general and unquali-
In the Kansas-Nebraska act, however, this requirement, as applicable to
the whole constitution, had not been inserted, and the convention were not
bound by its terms to submit any other portion of the instrument to an elec-
tion, except that which relates to the "domestic institution" of slavery. This
will be rendered clear by a simple reference to its language. It was "not to
legislate slavery into any territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but
to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic
institutions in their own way." According to the plain construction of the
sentence, the words "domestic institutions" have a direct as they have an
appropriate reference to slavery. "Domestic institutions" are limited to the
family. The relation between master and slave and a few others are "domes-
Governor Walkcr^s Admwistration. 46H
tic institutions," and are entirely distinct from institutions of a political
character. Besides, there was no question then before Congress, nor indeed
has there since been any serious question before the people of Kansas or the
country, except that which relates to the "domestic institution" of slavery.
The convention, after an angry and excited debate, finally determined, by
a majority of only two, to submit the question of slavery to the people, though
at the last 43 of the 50 delegates present affixed their signatures to the con-
A large majority of the convention were in favor of establishing slavery in
Kansas. They accordingly inserted an article in the constitution for this pur-
pose similar in form to those which had been adopted by other territorial
conventions. In the schedule, however, providing for the transition from a
territorial to a state government, the question has been fairly and explicitly
referred to the people, whether they will have a constitution "with or with-
out slavery." It declares that, before the constitution adopted by the con-
vention "shall be sent to Congress for admission into the union as a state,"
an election shall be held to decide this question, at which all the white male
inhabitants of the territory above the age of 21 are entitled to vote. They
are to vote by ballot; and "the ballots cast at said election shall be indorsed
'Constitution with slavery,' and 'Constitution with no slavery.' " If there
be a majority In favor of the "constitution with slavery," then it is to be
transmitted to Congress by the President of the convention in its original
form. If, on the contrary, there shall be a majority in favor of the "consti-
tution with no slavery," "then the article providing for slavery shall be
stricken from the constitution by the president of this convention"; and it is
expressly declared that "no slavery shall exist in the state of Kansas, except
that the right of property in slaves now in the territory shall in no manner be
interfered with"; and in that event it is made his duty to have the constitu-
tion thus ratified transmitted to the Congress of the United States for the
admission of the state into the union.
At this election, every citizen will have an opportunity of expressing his
opinion by his vote "whether Kansas shall be received into the union with
or without slavery." and thus this exciting question may be peacefully settled
in the very mode required by the organic law. The election will be held
under legitimate authority, and if any portion of the inhabitants shall re-
fuse to vote, a fair opportunity to do so having been presented, this will be
their own voluntary act. and they alone will be responsible for the conse-
Whether Kansas shall be a free or a slave state must eventually, under
some authority, be decided by an election; and the question can never be
more clearly or distinctly presented to the people than it is at the present
moment. Should this opportunity be rejected, she may be involved for years
in domestic discord, and possibly in civil war, before she can again make up
the issue now so fortunately tendered, and again reach the point she has
Kansas has for some years occupied too much of the public attention. It
is high time this should be directed to far more important objects. When
once admitted into the union, whether with or without slavery, the excitement
beyond her ov/n limits will speedily pass away, and she will then for the first
time be left, as she ought to have been long since, to manage her own affairs
in her own way. If her constitution on the subject of slavery, or on any
other subject, be displeasing to a majority of the people, no human power
464 Kansas Slate Historical Society.
can prevent them from changing it within a brief period. Under these cir-
cumstances, it may well be questioned whether the peace and quiet of the
whole country are not of greater importance than the mere temporary triumph
of either of the political parties in Kansas.
Should the constitution without slavery be adopted by the votes of the
majority, the rights of property in slaves now in the territory are reserved.
The number of these is very small; but if it were greater the provision would
be equally just and reasonable. These slaves were brought into the terri-
tory under the constitution of the United States, and are now the property of
their masters. This point has at length been finally decided by the highest
judicial tribunal of the country — and this upon the plain principle that when
a confederacy of sovereign states acquire a new territory at their joint expense,
both equality and justice demand that the citizens of one and all of them shall
have the right to take into it whatsoever is recognized as property by the com-
mon constitution. To have summarily confiscated the property in slaves
already in the territory would have been an act of gross injustice, and con-
trary to the practice of the older states of the union which have abolished
GOVERNOR DEXA^ER'S ADMINISTRATION.
December 21, 1S57. — Gen. James W. Denver this morning presented his
credentials as secretary of Kansas territory, and took the oath of office, as
I, Jam_es W. Denver, having been appointed secretary of the territory of
Kansas, do solemnly swear that I will support the constitution of the United
States and well and truly discharge the duties of said office to the best of my
ability. (Signed) J. W. DENVER.
Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 21st December, A. D. 1857.
(Signed) STERLING G. CATC,
Judge of the Second Judicial District, K. T.
December 21. — Copy of letter from Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, to James
Deoartment of State. Washington, December 11, 1857.
Sir — the President having, by and with the advice and consent of senate,
appointed you secretary of the territory of Kansas, I herewith inclose your
You will please to inform the department of the receipt of it, and, should
it be accepted, of the name of the state or county in which you were born.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
To James W. Denver, Secretary of the Territory of Kansas.
[For letter from Lewis Cass to Acting Governor Denver, December 11,
1857, see page 419.]
Executive Office, Lecompton, K. T., December 21, 1857.
Hon. Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, Washington City, D. C:
Sir — Your com-munication dated December 11, 1857, inclosing my commis-
Governor Denver's Administration.
sion as secretary of the territory has been received. I accept the appoint-
ment, and will endeavor to discharge the duties imposed upon me to the best
of my abilities.
I was born in Frederick county, Virginia, in the year 1817.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. W. DENVER.
December 22. — Commission issued to-day to John W. Robinson, as clerk of
the board of county commissioners of Riley county, by virtue of his appoint-
ment by said board on the 12th December, 1857.
Executive Office, Lecompton, K. T., December 22, 1857.
Hon. Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, Washington, D. C:
Sir— You will please forward me $10,000 in checks of $2,000 each, to de-
fray the expense of the territorial legislature for this territory which by law
is to commence at this place on the first Monday in January next.
You will also send me $1,000 to defray the contingent expenses of the ter-
ritory. There is not a dollar now on hand here, and prompt action is re-
quested. I have th'3 honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. W. DENVER, Secretary and Acting Governor.
Lecompton, K. T., December 19, 1857.
Hon. J. W. Denver, Secretary and Acting Governor:
Sir— In order to insure the utmost certainty in the summing up of the re-
turns of the elections to be holdeu on the 21st, I beg you to be present with
mj'self and the committee of the convention to witness the returns of the
said election. I shall also invite the president of the council and the speaker
of the house of representatives of the present territorial legislature to be
present on that cceasion. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. CALHOUN, President of Constitutional Convention.
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OP KANSAS.
Having been appointed by the President of the United States to the office
of secretary, and, during the governor's absence, acting governor of this ter-
ritory, it is proper that I should make you a brief address, sufficient to indi-
cate what my future course of action will be. The troubles and difficulties
wdth which the people of the territory have been involved make this the
more necessary, for it would be unreasonable to expect any one occupying
this position to escape misrepresentation and abuse. The passions of many
have been so thoroughly aroused, and long-standing difficulties have so
embittered the feelings of one portion of the community against another, that
it has been represented as almost impossible to find any one willing to listen
to the voice of reason. This I am not prepared to believe. That there are
some violent men who have assumed to speak by authority for the people
at large, and counsel such measures as must necessarily, if followed, lead to
bloodshed, anarchy, and confusion, I have no doubt; but it will require more
than bare assertion to satisfy me that there is not enough of the conservative
element remaining to uphold and enforce the laws, by which alone the lives
and property of our citizens can be protected, and the honor of the country
466 Kansas State Historical Society.
It is the earnest desire of the President that a fair opportunity should be
afforded all the people of the territory at the approaching election, to give
a full and free expression of their opinion, and as an evidence of this I give
the following quotations from his instructions to me, through the secretary of
state, dated December 11, 1857:
"The convention w^hich met at Lecompton on the 1st of September had
framed a constitution, and had authorized its president to submit the ques-
tion to the people on the 21st of December, whether this constitution should
be adopted with or without slavery. The importance of this issue could not
well be overestimated. It involved the complete and authoritative settlement
of the only subject of difference which had seriously agitated Kansas or in^
terfered with its prosperity. The qualified electors, therefore, to whom the
settlement was referred, not only had an unquestionable right to attend at
the polls and give their votes, on the day appointed, but they were required
to do so by the highest considerations of public duty. In the exercise of this
right, moreover, they were entitled to adequate protection by the territorial
government, and the acting governor was bound to employ all the legal
means at his command to give security and fairness to the election."
"The conflicting opinions which prevail in the Territory," he says, "had
their appropriate issue at the ballot-box, and to that peaceful arbitrament
they might safely be referred. The great objects to be accomplished,' in the
opinion of the President, were to preserve the peace of the territory and
secure the freedom of the election. . . ."
"From these views you will readily understand what the President regards
as the chief duty which devolves upon you as Mr. Stanton's successor. This
duty is to preserve the peace in Kansas. Every person entitled to vote under
the constitution ought to have safe access to the polls, and to be free from
any restraint whatever in the exercise of the elective franchise. If the civil
power is found insuflBcient for this purpose, the troops of the United States
should be employed in aid of it; and it may be a wise precaution to have them
stationed in advance within reach of those places where, in your judgment,
tLeir services are likely to be required. . . ."
"They (the instructions heretofore given) refer prominently to the pres-
ei'vation of peace at certain important elections; but I need hardly inform
you that your duty is not intended to be confined to these special occasions.
It extends, of course, to the protection of all citizens in the exercise of their
just rights, and applies as well to one legal election as to another. The ter-
ritorial legislature, doubtless convened on the 7th instant, and while it re-
mains in session its members are entitled to be secure and free in their
deliberations. Its rightful action must also be respected. Should it authorize
an election by the people, for any purpose, this election should be held with-
out interruption, no less than those authorized by the convention. While the
peace of the territory is preserved and the freedom of elections is secure,
there need be no fear of disastrous consequences. The public journals con-
tain reports of an intended movement by a portion of the residents of Kansas
to organize a revolutionary government. It is hardly probably that this re-
port can be well founded. But should the attempt be made, and lead to prac-
tical collision with the territorial authorities, the authority of the govern-
ment must necessarily be maintained, and from whatever quarter it is at-
tempted to interfere, by violence, with the elections authorized by the con-
s?titut)onal convention, or which may be authorized by the legislature, the
attempt must be resisted and the security of the election maintained. The
Gorernor Doiirr's Administration. 467
peaceable progress of these elections can obviously occasion no injury to
any citizen, or any party, because their results can have only their due weight
under the constitution and laws. . . ."
"It is vitally important that the people of Kansas and no other than the
people of Kansas, should have the full determination of the question now be-
fore them for decision. . . ."
"It is proper to add that no action of the territorial legislature can inter-
fere with the elections of the 21st of December and the first Monday of Janu-
ary, in the mode and manner prescribed by the constitutional convention."
By these instructions, it will be seen that my duty is plainly marked out,
and as my own views on these subjects entirely accord with those of the
President, I shall find no difiiculty in obeying them; and I trust that all good
citizens will assist me in preserving the peace of the territory, and at the
Fame time settle the questions which now perplex them. It is far more easy
to do this through the ballot-box than by the sword, and in that way it can also
be done much more speedily. It is much to be regretted that one portion of
the people have resolved not to vote on the constitution as submitted to-day;
for had there been a general attendance at the polls, the question of slavery
would have been fully and definitely settled. The American people can never
determine the political question by absenting themselves from the polls.
Their absence is regarded as indifference, and the majority of votes actually
given determines the result, and not the majority that might have been given.
It is asserted by some that persons from other states have interfered in
the elections, and that frauds have been perpetrated by which they have been
overpowered, and deprived of their rights. These charges may be true, but if
so the evils they complain of will not be remedied by absenting themselves
from the polls. American citizens can never preserve their rights by aban-
doning the elective franchise, and punishment too severe cannot be inflicted
on the man who by violence, trickery or fraud would deprive them of it.
There is no question connected with our government which ought not and
which cannot be amicably settled by it. It is true that a question may be
presented in a manner objectionable to some, but that is not a good reason
for refusing to vote; for, if the majority wills it, the difficulty can soon be
remedied by presenting the question in the manner required.
This has been one of the reasons assigned why a portion of the people will
not vote to-day — that the question has not been fairly presented. Another
is, that they anticipate frauds. I have seen General Calhoun, the president of
the convention, to whom the returns are to be made, and besides assuring me
that he has done and will continue to do all he can to have the elections fairly
and properly conducted, has invited myself and the presiding officers of the
two houses of the territorial legislature to be present at the counting of the
vote. If a majority of the people are dissatisfied with the results of these
elections, they can soon change them in a peaceable manner by a resort to
A very stringent law was passed at the late session of the legislature pro-