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chess-board of national politics. The moving pieces stood in Missouri
and Kansas, but the players sat in Washington. In reality it was a
double game. There was plot and under-plot. Beneath the struggle
between the free-States and the slave-States were the intrigue and
deception carried on between Northern Democrats and Southern
Democrats. The Kansas-Nebraska act was a double-tongued statute, and
the Cincinnati platform a Janus-faced banner. Momentary victory was
with the Southern Democrats, for they had secured the nomination and
election of President Buchanan - "a Northern man with Southern

[Sidenote] Walker to Cass, July 15, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 8,
1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 32.

[Sidenote] Walker to Cass, Dec. 15, 1857. Ibid., p. 122.

Determined to secure whatever prestige could be derived from high
qualification and party influence, Buchanan tendered the vacant
governorship of Kansas to his intimate personal and political friend,
Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, a man of great ability and national
fame, who had been Senator and Secretary of the Treasury. Walker,
realizing fully the responsibility and danger of the trust, after
repeated refusals finally accepted upon two distinct conditions: first,
that General Harney should be "put in special command in Kansas with a
large body of troops, and especially of dragoons and a battery," and
retained there subject to his military directions until the danger
was over; and second, that he "should advocate the submission of the
constitution to the vote of the people for ratification or rejection."

[Sidenote] March 7, 1856. June 25, 1856.

This latter had now become a vital point in the political game. The
recent action of the Territorial Legislature and Geary's already
mentioned veto message were before the President and his Cabinet.[2]
But much more important than these moves in Kansas was the prior
determination of prominent Washington players. During the Kansas civil
war and the Presidential campaign of the previous year, by way of
offset to the Topeka Constitution, both Senator Douglas and Senator
Toombs wrote and introduced in the Senate bills to enable Kansas to
form a State constitution. The first by design, and the second by
accident, contained a clause to submit such constitution, when formed,
to a vote of the people. Both these bills were considered not only by
the Senate Committee on Territories, of which Douglas was chairman,
but also by a caucus of Democratic Senators. Said Senator Bigler: "It
was held, by those most intelligent on the subject, that in view of
all the difficulties surrounding that Territory, [and] the danger of
any experiment at that time of a popular vote, it would be better that
there should be no such provision in the Toombs bill; and it was my
understanding, in all the intercourse I had, that that convention
would make a constitution and send it here without submitting it to
the popular vote."[3]

[Sidenote] Douglas, Milwaukee Speech, October 13, 1860.

This Toombs bill was, after modification in other respects, adopted by
Douglas, and duly passed by the Senate; but the House with an
opposition majority refused its assent. All these preliminaries were
well known to the Buchanan Cabinet, and of course also to Douglas. It
is fair to assume that under such circumstances Walker's emphatic
stipulation was deliberately and thoroughly discussed. Indeed,
extraordinary urging had been necessary to induce him to reconsider
his early refusals. Douglas personally joined in the solicitation.
Because of the determined opposition of his own family, Walker had
promised his wife that he would not go to Kansas without her consent;
and President Buchanan was so anxious on the point that he personally
called on Mrs. Walker and persuaded her to waive her objections.[4]
Under influences like these Walker finally accepted the appointment,
and the President and Cabinet acquiesced in his conditions without
reserve. He wrote his inaugural address in Washington, using the
following language: "I repeat then as my clear conviction that unless
the convention submit the constitution to the vote of the actual
resident settlers, and the election be fairly and justly conducted,
the constitution will be and ought to be rejected by Congress."

[Sidenote] Douglas, Milwaukee Speech, October 13, 1860.

He submitted this draft of his inaugural to President Buchanan, who
read and approved the document and the promise. Secretary Cass wrote
his official instructions in accordance with it. On Walker's journey
West he stopped at Chicago and submitted his inaugural to Douglas, who
also indorsed his policy. The new Governor fondly believed he had
removed every obstacle to success, and every possibility of
misunderstanding or disapproval by the Administration, such as had
befallen his predecessors. But President Buchanan either deceived him
at the beginning, or betrayed him in the end.

[Sidenote] Walker, Testimony, Covode Committee Report, p. 109.

With Governor Walker there was sent a new Territorial secretary.
Woodson, who had so often abused his powers during his repeated
service as acting Governor, was promoted to a more lucrative post to
create the vacancy. Frederick P. Stanton, of Tennessee, formerly a
representative in Congress, a man of talent and, as the event proved,
also a man of courage, was made secretary. Both Walker and Stanton
being from slave-States, it may be presumed that the slavery question
was considered safe in their hands. Walker, indeed, entertained
sentiments more valuable to the South in this conjuncture. He believed
in the balance of power; he preferred that the people of Kansas should
make it a slave-State; he was "in favor of maintaining the equilibrium
of the Government by giving the South a majority in the Senate, while
the North would always necessarily have a majority in the House of
Representatives." Both also entered on their mission with the feelings
entertained by the President and Democratic party; namely, that the
free-State men were a mischievous insurrectionary faction, willfully
disturbing the peace and defying the laws. Gradually, however, their
personal observation convinced them that this view was a profound

[Sidenote] Walker to Buchanan, June 28, 1857. Ibid., p. 115.

[Sidenote] Walker, Testimony. Ibid., p. 107.

[Sidenote] Walker, Inaugural, May 27, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 8,
1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 11.

Governor Walker arrived in the Territory late in May, and it required
but short investigation to satisfy him that any idea of making Kansas
a slave-State was utterly preposterous. Had everything else been
propitious, climate alone seemed to render it impossible. But popular
sentiment was also overwhelmingly against it; he estimated that the
voters were for a free-State more than two to one. All the efforts of
the pro-slavery party to form a slave-State seemed to be finally
abandoned. If he could not make Kansas a slave-State, his next desire
was to make her a Democratic State. "And the only plan to accomplish
this was to unite the free-State Democrats with the pro-slavery party,
and all those whom I regarded as conservative men, against the more
violent portion of the Republicans." He, therefore, sought by fair
words to induce the free-State men to take part in the election of
delegates to the constitutional convention. His inaugural address,
quoting the President's instructions, promised that such election
should be free from fraud and violence; that the delegates should be
protected in their deliberations; and that if unsatisfactory, "you may
by a subsequent vote defeat the ratification of the constitution."

[Illustration: ROBERT J. WALKER.]

[Sidenote] Walker, Topeka Speech, June 6, 1857, in "Washington
Union" of June 27, 1857.

This same policy was a few weeks later urged at Topeka, where a mass
meeting of the free-State men was called to support and instruct
another sitting of the "insurrectionary" free-State Legislature
elected under the Topeka Constitution. The Governor found a large
assemblage, and a very earnest discussion in progress, whether the
"Legislature" should pursue only nominal action, such as would in
substance amount to a petition for redress of grievances, or whether
they should actually organize their State government, and pass a
complete code of laws. The moderate free-State men favored the former,
the violent and radical the latter, course. When their mass meeting
adjourned, they called on the Governor at his lodgings; he made a
speech, in which he renewed the counsels and promises of his inaugural
address. "The Legislature," said he, "has called a convention to
assemble in September next. That constitution they will or they will
not submit to the vote of a majority of the then actual resident
settlers of Kansas. If they do not submit it, I will join you,
fellow-citizens, in lawful opposition to their course. And I cannot
doubt, gentlemen, that one much higher than I, the Chief Magistrate
of the Union, will join you in that opposition." His invitation to
them to participate in the election of a convention produced no
effect; they still adhered to their resolve to have nothing to do
with any affirmative proceedings under the bogus laws or Territorial
Legislature. But the Governor's promise of a fair vote on the
constitution was received with favor. "Although this mass convention,"
reports the Governor, "did not adopt fully my advice to abandon the
whole Topeka movement, yet they did vote down by a large majority the
resolutions prepared by the more violent of their own party in favor
of a complete State organization and the adoption of a code of State

[Sidenote] Walker to Cass, July 15, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 8,
1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 27.

[Sidenote] Ibid., p. 29.

[Sidenote] Walker to Cass, July 15, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 8,
1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 30.

If the Governor was gratified at this result as indicative of probable
success in his official administration, he rejoiced yet more in its
significance as a favorable symptom of party politics. "The result of
the whole discussion at Topeka," he reported, "was regarded by the
friends of law and order as highly favorable to their cause, and as
the commencement of a great movement essential to success; viz., the
separation of the free-State Democrats from the Republicans, who had
to some extent heretofore cooperated under the name of the free-State
party." Another party symptom gave the Governor equal, if not greater,
encouragement. On the 2d and 3d of July the "National Democratic" or
pro-slavery party of the Territory met in convention at Lecompton. The
leaders were out in full force. The hopelessness of making Kansas a
slave-State was once more acknowledged, the Governor's policy
indorsed, and a resolution "against the submission of the constitution
to a vote of the people was laid on the table as a test vote by
forty-two to one." The Governor began already to look upon his
counsels and influence as a turning-point in national destiny.
"Indeed," he wrote, "it is universally admitted here that the only
real question is this: whether Kansas shall be a conservative,
constitutional, Democratic, and ultimately free-State, or whether it
shall be a Republican and abolition State; and that the course pursued
by me is the only one which will prevent the last most calamitous
result, which, in my opinion, would soon seal the fate of the

[Sidenote] F.P. Stanton's Speech, Philadelphia, February 8, 1858.

In his eagerness to reform the Democratic party of Kansas, and to
strengthen the Democratic party of the nation against the assaults and
dangers of "abolitionism," the Governor was not entirely frank; else
he would at the same time have reported, what he was obliged later to
explain, that the steps taken to form a constitution from which he
hoped so much were already vitiated by such defects or frauds as to
render them impossible of producing good fruit. The Territorial law
appointing the election of delegates provided for a census and a
registry of voters, to be made by county officers appointed by the
Territorial Legislature. These officers so neglected or failed to
discharge their duty, that in nearly half the organized counties of
the interior no attempt whatever was made to obtain the census or
registration; and in the counties lying on the Missouri border, where
the pro-slavery party was strong, the work of both was exceedingly
imperfect, and in many instances with notorious discrimination against
free-State voters. While the disfranchised counties had a comparatively
sparse population, the number of voters in them was too considerable
to be justly denied their due representation.[5] The apportionment of
delegates was based upon this defective registration and census, and
this alone would have given the pro-slavery party a disproportionate
power in the convention. But at the election of delegates on the 15th
of June, the free-State men, following their deliberate purpose and
hitherto unvarying practice of non-conformity to the bogus laws,
abstained entirely from voting. "The consequence was that out of the
9250 voters whose names had been registered ... there were in all
about 2200 votes cast, and of these the successful candidate received

[Sidenote] Walker to Buchanan, June 28, 1857. Report Covode
Committee, p. 118.

"The black Republicans," reported the Governor, "would not vote, and
the free-State Democrats were kept from voting by the fear that the
constitution would not be submitted by the convention, and that by
voting they committed themselves to the proceeding of the convention.
But for my inaugural, circulated by thousands, and various speeches
all urging the people to vote, there would not have been one thousand
votes polled in the Territory, and the convention would have been a
disastrous failure."

But this was not the only evil. The apportionment of the members of
the Territorial Legislature to be chosen the ensuing autumn was also
based upon this same defective registry and census. Here again
disproportionate power accrued to the pro-slavery party, and the
free-State men loudly charged that it was a new contrivance for the
convenience of Missouri voters. Governor Walker publicly deplored all
these complications and defects; but he counseled endurance, and
constantly urged in mitigation that in the end the people should have
the privilege of a fair and direct vote upon their constitution. That
promise he held aloft as a beacon-light of hope and redress. This
attitude and policy, frequently reported to Washington, was not
disavowed or discouraged by the President and Cabinet.

The Governor, however, soon found a storm brewing in another quarter.
When the newspapers brought copies of his inaugural address, his
Topeka speech, and the general report of his Kansas policy back to the
Southern States, there arose an ominous chorus of protest and
denunciation from the whole tribe of fire-eating editors and
politicians. What right had the Governor to intermeddle? they
indignantly demanded. What call to preach about climate, what business
to urge submission of the constitution to popular vote, or to promise
his own help to defeat it if it were not submitted; what authority to
pledge the President and Administration to such a course! The
convention was sovereign, they claimed, could do what it pleased, and
no thanks to the Governor for his impertinent advice. The Democratic
State Convention of Georgia took the matter in hand, and by resolution
denounced Walker's inaugural address, and asked his removal from
office. The Democratic State Convention of Mississippi followed suit,
and called the inaugural address an unjust discrimination against the
rights of the South, and a dictatorial intermeddling with the high
public duty intrusted to the convention.

Walker wrote a private letter to Buchanan, defending his course, and
adding: "Unless I am thoroughly and cordially sustained by the
Administration here, I cannot control the convention, and we shall
have anarchy and civil war. With that cordial support the convention
(a majority of whose delegates I have already seen) will do what is
right. I shall travel over the whole Territory, make speeches, rouse
the people in favor of my plan, and see all the delegates. But your
cordial support is indispensable, and I never would have come here,
unless assured by you of the cordial coöperation of all the Federal
officers.... The extremists are trying your nerves and mine, but what
can they say when the convention submits the constitution to the
people and the vote is given by them? But we must have a slave-State
out of the south-western Indian Territory, and then a calm will
follow; Cuba be acquired with the acquiescence of the North; and your
Administration, having in reality settled the slavery question, be
regarded in all time to come as a re-signing and re-sealing of the
constitution.... I shall be pleased soon to hear from you. Cuba! Cuba!
(and Porto Rico, if possible) should be the countersign of your
Administration, and it will close in a blaze of glory."[6]

The Governor had reason to be proud of the full and complete
reëndorsement which this appeal brought from his chief. Under date of
July 12, 1857, the President wrote in reply: "On the question of
submitting the constitution to the _bonâ fide_ resident settlers of
Kansas I am willing to stand or fall. In sustaining such a principle
we cannot fall. It is the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska bill; the
principle of popular sovereignty; and the principle at the foundation
of all popular government. The more it is discussed the stronger it
will become. Should the convention of Kansas adopt this principle, all
will be settled harmoniously, and with the blessing of Providence you
will return triumphantly from your arduous, important, and responsible
mission. The strictures of the Georgia and Mississippi Conventions
will then pass away and be speedily forgotten. In regard to Georgia,
our news from that State is becoming better every day; we have not yet
had time to hear much from Mississippi. Should you answer the
resolution of the latter, I would advise you to make the great
principle of the submission of the constitution to the _bonâ fide_
residents of Kansas conspicuously prominent. On this you will be

The delegates to the constitutional convention, chosen in June, met
according to law at Lecompton, September 7, and, having spent five
days in organization, adjourned their session to October 19. The
object of this recess was to await the issue of the general election
of October 5, at which a full Territorial Legislature, a delegate to
Congress, and various county officers were to be chosen.

[Sidenote] Wilder, p. 133.

By the action of the free-State men this election was now made a
turning-point in Kansas politics. Held together as a compact party
by their peaceful resistance to the bogus laws, emigration from the
North had so strengthened their numbers that they clearly formed a
majority of the people of the Territory. A self-constituted and
self-regulated election held by them for sundry officials under their
Topeka Constitution, revealed a numerical strength of more than seven
thousand voters. Feeling that this advantage justified them in
receding from their attitude of non-conformity, they met in convention
towards the end of August, and while protesting against the "wicked
apportionment," resolved that "whereas Governor Walker has repeatedly
pledged himself that the people of Kansas should have a full and fair
vote, before impartial judges, at the election to be held on the first
Monday in October, ... we the people of Kansas, in mass convention
assembled, agree to participate in said election."

[Sidenote] Oct. 5, 1857.

Governor Walker executed his public promises to the letter. A movement
of United States troops to Utah was in progress, and about two
thousand of these were detained by order until after election day.
Stationed at ten or twelve different points in the Territory, they
served by their mere presence to overawe disorder, and for the first
time in the history of Kansas the two opposing parties measured their
strength at the ballot-box. The result was an overwhelming triumph for
the free-State party. For delegate in Congress, Ransom, the Democratic
candidate, received 3799 votes; Parrott, the Republican candidate,
7888 - a free-State majority of 4089. For the Legislature, even under
the defective apportionment, the council stood 9 free-State members
to 4 Democrats, and the House 24 free-State members to 15 Democrats.

[Sidenote] Stanton, Speech at Philadelphia, February 8, 1858.

[Sidenote] Walker, Proclamation, October 19, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc.
No. 8, 1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 103.

[Sidenote] Walker, Proclamation, Oct. 22, 1857. Ibid., pp. 104-6.

[Sidenote] Walker, Proclamation, October 19, 1857. Senate Ex. Doc.
No. 8, 1st Sess. 35th Cong. Vol. I., p. 104.

That the pro-slavery cabal would permit power to slip from their grasp
without some extraordinary effort was scarcely to be expected. When
the official returns were brought from the various voting-places to
the Governor's office, there came from Oxford, a single precinct in
Johnson County, "a roll of paper, forty or fifty feet long, containing
names as thickly as they could be written," and a large part of which
were afterwards discovered to have been literally copied from an old
Cincinnati directory. This paper purported to be a return of 1628
votes for the eleven pro-slavery candidates for the Legislature in
that district, and if counted it would elect eight members of the
House and three of the council by a trifling majority, and thereby
change the political complexion and power of the Legislature.
Inspection showed the document to be an attempt to commit a stupendous
fraud; and after visiting the locality ("a village with six houses,
including stores, and without a tavern") and satisfying himself of the
impossibility of such a vote from such a place, Governor Walker
rejected the whole return from Oxford precinct for informality, and
gave certificates of election to the free-State candidates elected as
appeared by the other regular returns. A similar paper from McGee
County with more than 1200 names was treated in like manner. Judge
Cato issued his writ of mandamus to compel the Governor to give
certificates to the pro-slavery candidates, but without success. The
language of Governor Walker and Secretary Stanton in a proclamation
announcing their action deserves remembrance and imitation. "The
consideration that our own party by this decision will lose the
majority in the legislative assembly does not make our duty in the
premises less solemn and imperative. The elective franchise would be
utterly valueless, and free government itself would receive a deadly
blow, if so great an outrage as this could be shielded under the cover
of mere forms and technicalities. We cannot consent in any manner to
give the sanction of our respective official positions to such a
transaction. Nor can we feel justified to relieve ourselves of the
proper responsibility of our offices, in a case where there is no
valid return, by submitting the question to the legislative assembly,
and in that very act giving the parties that might claim to be chosen
by this spurious vote the power to decide upon their own election."

The decisive free-State victory, the Oxford and McGee frauds,[8] and
the Governor's fearless action in exposing and rejecting them, called
forth universal comment; and under the new political conditions which
they revealed, created intense interest in the further proceedings of
the Lecompton Constitutional Convention. That body reassembled
according to adjournment on the 19th of October. Elected in the
preceding June without any participation by free-State voters, the
members were all of the pro-slavery party, and were presided over by
John Calhoun, the same man who, as county surveyor of Sangamon County,
Illinois, employed Abraham Lincoln as his deputy in 1832.

At the June election, while he and his seven colleagues from Douglas
County were yet candidates for the convention, they had circulated a
written pledge that they would submit the constitution to the people
for ratification. This attitude was generally maintained by them till
the October election. But when by that vote they saw their faction
overwhelmed with defeat, they and others undertook to maintain

Online LibraryJohn HayAbraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 → online text (page 8 of 33)