The Zollicoffer Solution

Felix Kirk Zollicoffer (KN-TN)

Felix Kirk Zollicoffer (KN-TN)

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Majority Report: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Reports with the Kansas petition here.

If you asked Tennessee’s most remarkably named representative, Felix Zollicoffer, the majority of the Committee on Territories had gone off the deep end. They wanted to make an illegal rebel government that represented the sore losers in a series of elections in a territory that hardly warranted statehood into coequals with the legitimate governments of all the other states in the Union. Never had the Congress done anything half so radical, yet Galusha Grow’s majority wanted it done and done quickly to remedy some imagined slights. He knew that the free state movement did this all as a scam because they picked no less a man to represent them in Congress than Andrew Reeder. The very same Andrew Reeder certified the elections that his supporters now declared the work of fraud. Kansas did not deserve statehood.

But Zollicoffer believed in America and self-government for native-born white Protestant men. He would not ask true Americans to live forever in a kind of colonial status, their every enactment subject to a veto in Washington and the high officers of their government serving at the pleasure of the president. Kansas did not deserve statehood right now but it surely would at some point in the future. Zollicoffer reported a bill for the House’s consideration in lieu of the majority’s statehood-at-once plan. His bill provided

That whenever it shall appear, by a census to be taken under the direction of the governor, by the authority of the legislature, that there shall be ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty inhabitants (that being the number required by the present ratio of representation for a member of Congress) […] the legislature of said Territory shall be, and is hereby, authorized to provide by law for the election of delegates by the people of said Territory, to assemble in convention and form a constitution and State government, preparatory to their admission into the Union

Galusha Grow

Galusha Grow

It might sound like Zollicoffer just kicked the can down the road, which he did, but he did more than that. He would have the House legislate an automatic approval for Kansas to write a state constitution as soon as the census odometer rolled over and the territorial legislature agreed. But for all his protests, Zollicoffer knew that election time meant violent shenanigans in Kansas. Though he probably intended more to steal the thunder of antislavery protests than to set down a requirement with real force behind it, his law also insisted that the men who voted on delegates to the state convention must

have been actual residents […] for a period of six months, and in the district for the period of three months next preceding the day of election

That looks fair on the surface, but tilts strongly proslavery in practice. Everybody knew just how well restricting the vote in Kansas to actual residents went. On top of that Zollicoffer would leave it up to the territorial legislature, comprised exclusively of proslavery men, to decide when to seek statehood. They would thus do so on their terms and could extend their rule indefinitely by either delaying a census or declining to act upon one completed. In that time, they and their Missourian friends could do as they liked with the free state party.

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