Governor Shannon’s First Impression

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon arrived in Kansas to replace Andrew Reeder on the first of September, 1855. I went digging in the endnotes for a speech he gave that aroused some controversy and found myself with citations beginning in October. That seemed unlikely so I checked the Herald of Freedom issues for September. From the context and date, the paper reported first on Shannon’s arrival in the September 15 edition. Why so late? The Herald published on the first, but considering that they had to lay out the paper by hand and print it with a steam-driven press, work on that went on for some days before its release. George W. Brown, the editor, explained further that he got his news by letter dated the fifth, too late to make the September 8 printing.

Brown’s anonymous correspondent reported that

Mr. Shannon arrived here [Kansas City, MO] on the Martha Jewett, on Saturday. He was met and was introduced to both the Stringfellows, Rees, Waterson, Blair, Forman, Weddle, and other members; and saluted them, I am told, that he was a thorough doughface; or, as it is rendered in other language, “a Northern man with Southern principles.” He is apparently about fifty years old, a strong-framed, slow-moving, coarse featured person, of medium statue, ungraceful, ill at east, seemingly, among unfamiliar faces; and unendowed by Dame Nature as one of her gentlemen. He may be a true gentleman but he doesn’t look like it. Reeder and Woodson both do, on the contrary.

I know of two Woodsons involved in Kansas affairs at the time, both proslavery men. This sounds like the assessment of an objective witness, but I don’t know that many doughfaces enjoyed having the term applied to them. The author’s real opinions do not long remain hidden.

It would be vain, I think, for the free State men to attempt to reason with this man. Before he entered the Territory he unfolded his programme-but not before he entered the excited sections of Missouri.

Shannon, in a speech at Westport that went on for half an hour, declared:

1. That he believed it best for the interests of both Missouri and Kansas that their political institutions should harmonize. (That is to say because sister Missouri is afflicted with a disease it is nothing but right that Kansas, also, should be inoculated with it.)

2. That he recognized the Legislature recently adjourned, as a legal assembly; therefore,

3. That the Shawnee Manual Labor School Laws were binding on every citizen of Kansas.

4. That he would execute these laws-Lawrence nullifiers notwithstanding.

Reeder came to Kansas as an ambiguous, if leaning proslavery, blank slate. Shannon arrived clearly committed not just to slavery, but to the way in which the border ruffians had filibustered it into the territory.

Things could only go swimmingly from here on in.

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2 comments on “Governor Shannon’s First Impression

  1. hawker40 says:

    I presume that the final comment
    “Things could only go swimmingly from here on in.”
    was intended as sarcasm.

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