“No legal objection” The Committee on Territories Weights in, Part Two

Galusha Grow

Galusha Grow

Galusha Grow’s (R-PA) Committee on Territories reported that the territorial phase of government constituted a necessary evil. The white men of a newly colonized area simply could not afford a state government, nor could the poor state of infrastructure, communications, and the hazards of the frontier support one. Without federal largess, they would live long in anarchy. Thus Congress stepped in and established a government on the nation’s dime, filling the gap until the white colonists existed in sufficient number to pay for it themselves. In exchange, Congress took a supervisory role over the territory. That necessarily impinged on the self-government of the colonists, but since they hadn’t lost any of their natural capacity for self-rule the Congress had a responsibility to end the territorial stage and admit the territory as a state as soon as the circumstances justified it. Neither of these amounted to a Constitutional requirement, and Grow came armed with exceptions, but it did make for a kind of moral obligation to admit Kansas.

Provided, of course, Kansas had written a republican constitution and had the numbers. Grow turned first to the numbers. He cited an estimate that Daniel Woodson, Secretary of Kansas, had forwarded to Franklin Pierce and which Pierce duly transmitted over to Congress. Did twenty-five thousand suffice? If not, Woodson’s number had aged a six months. If the trends from then continued, then Grow expected “forty-five or fifth thousand” white people on the ground. “Each month,” he tactfully added

from excitement and stimulus given toe migration in all parts of the Union to this Territory, adds largely to its numbers.

Eli Thayer

Eli Thayer

Ely Thayer and Jefferson Buford don’t come up by name, but everybody knew exactly who and what Grow meant.

Grow stressed that, while the Congress might have certain conventions on the point, the Constitution laid out no hard number of white people that justified statehood. It, like the rest of the admission process, hung on Congress’ sovereign discretion. This “affords no uniform precedent.” For Tennessee, the Congress accepted a bit more than 32,013 (its population in the 1790 census). Louisiana came in with than 34,311 (1810 census). Indiana passed the finish line with less than 23,890 (1810 again). Mississippi shed its territorial status with less than 42,176 (1820). Missouri had 55,988 whites (1820), Arkansas 25,671 (1830). Florida finished up the list with 27,943 and change (1840 census). Nothing like a pattern emerges here, unless it sets a bar blurred across the low-to-mid tens of thousands. By Woodson’s estimate, Kansas had somewhere around as many people on hand as Indiana, Arkansas, and Florida did when Congress admitted them. Grow slid neatly into taking his projected growth as a given and pointed out that Kansas’ population exceeded that of “many of the States and the time of their admission into the Union.”

All of this makes Kansas petition for statehood, which it claimed to already half-possess by taking it on itself to write a constitution, sound very normal. Grow held that accepted conventions did not make for binding precedent, so the fact that Congress had not given leave for any such thing didn’t matter. His committee grappled with the issue all the same. “In a majority of cases” Congress gave advance permission for constitution writing, but not every one. Tennessee, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, and Iowa went on without an enabling act. The Constitution didn’t require one and its lack had produced no great evil. Congress retroactively endorsed them through the acts of admission. What it could do for five territories, it could do for a sixth.

Benjamin Franklin Butler of New York

Benjamin Franklin Butler of New York

Furthermore if one wanted a precedent, then Galusha Grow had one that neither ex-Democrats like himself nor present members of the Democracy could lightly set aside. Arkansas had a constitutional convention without the permission of Congress or their legislature. The governor wrote asking if he had a duty to put a stop to that. Andrew Jackson, through Attorney General Benjamin Franklin Butler (the New York lawyer, not the Massachusetts general), wrote back

They undoubtedly possess the ordinary privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. Among these is the right of the people peacably to assemble and to petition the government for the redress of grievances. In the exercise of this right, the inhabitants of Arkansas may peaceably meet together in primary assembly, or in convention chosen by such assemblies, for the purpose of petitioning Congress to abrogate the Territorial government, and to admit them into the Union as an independent State. The particular form which they may give to their petition cannot be material so long as they confine themselves to the mere right of petitioning, and conduct all their proceedings in a peaceable manner. And as the power of Congress over the whole subject is plenary and unlimited, they may accept any constitution framed, which in their judgment meets the sense of the people to be affected by it.

Twenty years back, Old Hickory’s administration practically looked into the future and blessed the free state movement. Even if the petition came with a constitution attached, as Kansas’ had, Butler said

I perceive no legal objection to their power to do so.

Familiar Faces at the Kansas Pioneer Association

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

The Missourians decided, belatedly, that they had best get into the Emigrant Aid Game. For more than a year, the Massachusetts, then New England, and other societies in the North had paid the travel costs of antislavery settlers bound for Kansas. They even ran a hotel or two to put a roof over the heads of new arrivals, albeit one with more sod than shingles. For the previous history of territorial Kansas, the Missourians took all that as cheating the system. Now they would cheat too. Moreover, the people of Jackson County specifically empowered their Kansas Pioneer Association to coordinate with other such groups for a wide-open slave power conspiracy. The same meeting that organized the association also called for a convention of similar associations from every county in Missouri to put their plan into operation.

As the names of the officers chairing the meeting at Lexington which set all this in motion appeared in the papers, the Herald of Freedom gave them a close look. George Brown spotted S. H. Woodson among them, who had telegraphed back to the east that proslavery men needed to come in a hurry to

aid in the subjugation of the ‘d—-d Yankees.’ His dispatches were mistaken in the East for those of the Secretary of our Territory, Daniel Woodson.

Daniel Woodson

Daniel Woodson

Two Williams Phillips before and two Woodsons now. I’ve featured a letter from a Woodson before, straight out of Charles Robinson’s The Kansas Conflict. The letter appears over Daniel Woodson’s name. The full text:

Westport, November 27th.

Hon. E. A. McClarey, Jefferson City:

Governor Shannon has ordered out the militia against Lawrence. They are now in open rebellion against the laws. Jones is in danger.

(Private.) DEAR GENERAL: The Governor has called out the militia, and you will hereby organize your division, and proceed forthwith to Lecompton. As the Governor has no power, you may call out the Platte Rifle Company. They are always ready to help us. Whatever you do, do not implicate the Governor.

Daniel Woodson

While broadly similar to the letter Brown refers to, this Woodson makes no reference to Yankees in any state of grace. Nor does it seem that he sent multiple letters, but rather one specific missive to a militia officer advising him to call out the Platte County men. I don’t think Robinson above slanting things in the slightest, but this doesn’t quite like quite the letter that Brown meant.

Brown recognized other names. N.R McMurry served as Secretary of the mass meeting. He thought that the same as the Dr. McMurry, who came out from Independence for the Wakarusa War. Colonel James Chiles presided:

Whether this man CHILES, who was President of the meeting, was the man (?) who brutally maltreated Rev. Wm. C. Clark on the Missouri river last autumn, or whether he was the person who joined with others in sending dispatches over the wires during our late war […] we are not informed

For the edification of his readers, Brown reprinted Chiles’ dispatch:

There is no doubt in regard to having a fight, and we all know that a great many have complained because they were disappointed heretofore in regard to a fight. Say to them now is the time to show game, and if we are defeated this time, the Territory is lost to the South.

That Missourians came into Kansas, first temporarily and now perhaps to stay, in order to thwart antislavery Kansans hardly made for breaking news. But by linking Chiles’ and the others’ previous hooliganism to their present enterprise in Emigrant Aid, Brown underlined that they served the same ends. And just what kind of Missourian would come over in such an operation? Would they come as ordinary settlers and then turn against proslavery impositions as others had? Maybe, but what if Chiles’ send his buddies from the Wakarusa War? They came set to kill abolitionists and hardly made for the best prospects at a change of heart.

Which leaves the matter of how Chiles’ maltreated William C. Clark. More on that tomorrow.

A Jackass Brays in Kansas

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon, Albert Boone, David Rice Atchison, James Lane, and Charles Robinson had their peace treaty. It took them five hours of wrangling on Saturday, December 8, 1855, but they reached an agreement that suited them all at least for the moment. It conceded much, or nothing, depending on who read it, but the had a paper with their signatures on it. Now the army of Missourians and others might go home and leave Lawrence without shot leaders, destroyed printing presses, and burned buildings.

Neither Shannon’s nor Robinson’s account mention it, but William Addison Phillips relates that Shannon came out of the Free State Hotel, stood at its door, and addressed the anxious people of Lawrence. Phillips came late by a few minutes, but got the rest of it down “in substance as follows:”

There was a part of the people of this territory who denied the validity of the laws of the territorial Legislature. He was not there to urge that validity, but these laws should be submitted to until a legal tribunal had set them aside. He did not see how there was any other course but such submission to them, and it certainly was not his part, as an executive officer, to set them aside or disregard them.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

To which Shannon’s audience could have said that they had noticed, he’d best not do any urging, and they didn’t expect much from him anyway. Fairness demands that we note Shannon inherited the mess, but likewise that had done little to remedy it until it seemed the proslavery party would add white lives to its harvest. Of course, nobody came to hear Shannon and expected him to pull an Andrew Reeder and switch sides. They had more weighty matters than the alignment of an Ohio politician in mind: their lives and property. On that count, Shannon had good news:

He was happy to announce that all difficulties were settled. (Faint cheers.) There was a prefect understanding between the executive and the committee. The difficulties had arisen from misunderstanding. He would go down and disband the sheriff’s posse. he would dismiss the officers of the territorial militia, Generals Richardson and Stricklar, but would order that their forces not be disbanded until they were taken to Leavenworth, or the neighborhood of Westport. All the difficulties were adjusted, and he was willing and anxious to do all in his power to prevent a collision and the shedding of blood. He hoped that the men now in the territory and in camp below would be got out of the territory without hostilities intervening. He would do all in his power to influence them. He would urge upon the people of Lawrence to be moderate, to pursue a wise course to avoid a collision.

William Phillips

William Phillips

The good governor then enjoined the people against belligerence, at which point Phillips notes that “a jackass across the street brayed vociferously.” Politically astute livestock generally occupy the fiction section of the library. Phillips could well have invented the business, which would fit with his hostility toward the governor. He might also have used it as cover for some less tactful expressions on the part of the crowd. We can only speculate given the lack of other accounts.

Shannon then appealed on the people of Lawrence to rely on sweet reason rather than fiery passion, wise counsel difficult to heed and difficult for posterity to take from the governor considering his own misjudgments. But if they had to fight, then Wilson Shannon stood with them rhetorically, at least. He affirmed that they would soon contend not with a legitimate arm of the territorial government, but rather “a mob”. When they acted in such self-defense

They were right, and he would do all in his power to sustain them; but he hoped the men encamped would now be induced to leave, and that there would be no effusion of blood.

All of this betrays a lack of confidence in the governor’s ability to disperse the mob, which the people of Lawrence surely shared. Paper pledges reach only so far. Shannon might have a treaty, but he could only hope that the proslavery men would agree. Further obscuring his posterior, Shannon

wanted it understood that he had called on no one but the people of the territory in his proclamations. If there were Missourians here, they were here of their own accord.

Peace on the Wakarusa, Part Three

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

The Peace Conference, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

The Wakarusa peace treaty commenced with some face-saving and proceeded into apparent concessions from the people of Lawrence, but concessions drafted in a decidedly ambiguous way. Proslavery and antislavery partisans could easily read promises not to impede legal process or as a victory for their side, depending on what they considered legal process. Lawrence’s leading men promised to use their influence to aid Wilson Shannon if called upon for legitimate purposes, but they sat in judgment of those purposes. If these concessions removed the stated reason for the proslavery army to come and invest the town, then they did not necessarily remove the substance of the complaint. Charles Robinson and James Lane left open the door for them to continue essentially as they had, whilst giving Shannon just enough of a fig leaf to try disbanding the besiegers, and extracted from him the promise that anybody the army had captured would see release into their hands.

Shannon might not have loved these dubious concessions, but he wanted the army gone and bloodshed averted above all else. If he had dreams of settling Kansas politics along proslavery lines once and for all, as others had, then they died with news that Missouri had once again come to Kansas. Prosecuting that case now would only prolong the crisis. Shannon also had to grant some concessions of his own.

James Henry Lane

James Henry Lane

Armies of all forms in all eras make poor guests. In investing Lawrence, the proslavery men had put themselves in close proximity to anybody who lived just a short ways outside of the town. My sources don’t go into this at length, but it seems that they did as most armies do in the presence of a hated foe and engaged in some destruction of property and souvenir hunting. Consequently, peace depended on Shannon’s pledge

to use his influence to secure to the citizens of Kansas Territory remuneration for any damages suffered, or unlawful depredations, if any have been committed by the Sheriff’s posse in Douglas County.

I doubt that anybody received a dime of that remuneration, but it made for a reasonable enough demand. It might also have saved some face for the free state leadership, who could say that they came away from the table with something aside bare peace itself. Thus they might look less like they had pleaded for the governor’s mercy and accepted his rescue, as Shannon would later paint them, and more like an honest belligerent party. The agreement that the free state men could keep their arms would go further to that end, however probably the typical free state militant understood his gun as his personal property. As such, it wouldn’t have constituted an acceptable concession at all but rather an egregious affront. What had they done, in bearing arms for their defense and harming none, to warrant confiscation?

Furthermore, Wilson Shannon had to give his word

that he has not called upon persons resident in any State to aid in the execution of the laws, and that such as are here in the Territory are here of their own choice, and that he does not consider that he has any authority or legal power to do so, nor will he exercise any such power.

Daniel Woodson

Daniel Woodson

Though they probably didn’t believe him, Wilson Shannon appears to have told the truth far better than the free state men had. They swore up and down that they had no paramilitary about with the design of resisting Kansas’ laws, whilst the men who signed the treaty both held high offices in the Kansas Legion that proposed to do just that. Neither the free state writers then or after, nor subsequent historians, have uncovered any evidence that Shannon himself sent a summons to Missouri. The territorial Secretary, Daniel Woodson, had done that but Shannon himself seems innocent. Thus Shannon took what everyone recognized as a lie in trade for his true word, though the free state men undoubtedly saw it otherwise at the time.

The treaty concluded with lines that highlighted, and significantly undermined, the ambiguity with which it had opened:

we wish it understood that we do not express any opinion as to the enactments of the Territorial Legislature.

Missourians needed to go home. In exchange for that, Lawrence promised that the dispute which brought them across the border and so fired their passions, would continue unabated.

 

 

The Territorial Government vs. Lawrence

Daniel Woodson

Daniel Woodson

We left G.P. Lowery and C.W. Babcock on their way to see Wilson Shannon about the ersatz army converging around Lawrence. They passed many sets of guards and Lowery flirted with spiking an unattended cannon. When passing proslavery men on the road, they first cracked jokes about how the Yankees aimed to attack soon and the Missourians had best hurry. This grew less funny as they passed more and larger bands of armed men. What they came to next warrants a digression:

Just before daylight we passed one encampment, in which everybody seemed to be astir, and they came out into the road a short distance to meet us, and we stopped to talk with them. I recognized John H. Brady, who was the public printer of the Shawnee Mission legislature. He recognised me, and when he heard me say that I did not consider it safe for him to come up here, he called me by name, and said they could not let me pass. He then recognized Babcock, and was more certain we could not pass.

It looks like Lowery mixed up his pronouns here, as Brady clearly did the stopping. Either way, Brady’s presence with the proslavery men deserves notice. Public printing involved receiving many lucrative contracts from the government. For Brady to have the job indicates he had the full confidence of the Kansas legislature. Furthermore, public printers frequently also published newspapers and other partisan material for their patrons. In Brady’s case, Douglas C. McMurtrie says he farmed most of his printing out to presses in Kickapoo and St. Louis. Regardless of his personal involvement in setting type and running presses, Lowery and Babcock would have understood themselves in the presence of a proslavery man with close ties to the territorial government.

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

They already had reason to suspect, and free state men would insist for years after, a large degree of official connivance in organizing the investment of Lawrence with an eye to the free state movement’s decapitation. They didn’t know or wouldn’t believe Shannon wanted anything less, as position he did much to aid by calling in first the militia and then the 1st Cavalry. They had Sheriff Jones and the militia generals clearly set on their ruin, which constituted proof enough on its own. With the legislature out of session, that body could not offer additional evidence against itself. Its members and associates could do so independently, of course. I haven’t seen reference to their presence in the camps yet, but remain on guard for it.

The free state men had, or would soon have, other evidence against the territorial government. In The Kansas Conflict, Charles Robinson reproduced a letter from Daniel Woodson, territorial secretary. Woodson, a federal appointee, served as acting governor when the proper territorial Governor left Kansas and between the dismissal of one and arrival of the next. On November 27, Woodson wrote to an E.A. McClarey, of Jefferson City. After a three sentence description of events concluding with “Jones is in danger,” Woodson continued:

(Private.) DEAR GENERAL: The Governor has called out the militia, and you will hereby organize your division, and proceed forthwith to Lecompton. As the Governor has no power, you may call out the Platte Rifle Company. They are always ready to help us. Whatever you do, do not implicate the Governor.

Richardson and Strickler served as commanders of the Kansas militia, so Woodson can’t mean to raise it in sending this. In as many words, the Secretary tells a Missourian to gather up his militia and come over for the job. Wilson Shannon might not have actively conspired to destroy the free state movement, using the rescue of Jacob Branson as a pretext, but his second in command clearly did.

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

Robinson also reprints selections of a letter John Calhoun, a relation of the Marx of the Master Class and Surveyor-General of Kansas, in the Missouri Republican. I haven’t found a copy of the full letter, but his excerpts contain the expected parade of horrors: arsons, driving women and children from their homes, and a recapitulation of the DowColemanBranson affair.

It is estimated that some sixteen dwelling houses have been burnt, all of them in the night time, with their contents, and their occupants, men, women, and children driven to the prairies without shelter or protect. The leading spirit of these lawless movements is C. Robinson, the leading spirit also of the Topeka Convention. […] It is said that he has at least five hundred men, armed with Sharp’s rifles and revolvers, determined to offer a forcible resistance to the execution of the laws. He has threatened to hang Sheriff Jones, Coleman, and others, as soon as he can get hold of them.

Calhoun thus not only states the threat to good order in Kansas, but points to its wellspring. He clearly understood that his letter would prompt Missourian intervention aimed not at Jacob Branson, Samuel Wood, or anyone else directly involved in Branson’s rescue. Rather they would come with their sights set on the free state leadership. They probably didn’t need the help, but the Surveyor-General could confirm for any wavering that they must not settle for so paltry a prize as the recapture of Branson and seizure of his rescuers. They had a larger task at hand.

Wilson Shannon Goes to Leavenworth, Part Two

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Part 1

We left Wilson Shannon at the Law and Order Convention in Leavenworth, on the fourteenth of November, 1855. At the time, I had only limited access to the Library of Congress historical newspaper database. This no longer holds and so I can check William Phillips’ assertion that the governor came at a delegate from Douglas County. The Squatter Sovereign printed a delegate list that agreed with him:

Delegates from Douglas and Doniphan Counties as listed in the Squatter Sovereign

Delegates from Douglas and Doniphan Counties as listed in the Squatter Sovereign

I don’t know the exact boundaries of Douglas County as of 1855, but I suspect that neither Shannon nor former and future Acting Governor Daniel Woodson lived within them. All of those delegates had to come from somewhere. Phillips suggests that maybe three men got together somewhere and named Shannon.. The convention would hardly have scrutinized the qualifications of a sitting governor they wanted as a patron.

From the Sovereign I also learn that while chosen to represent Doniphan, Patrick Laughlin did not appear. A separate piece informs the reader that Laughlin remained confined the bed and alleges some kind of free soil midnight raid on the place where he rested to finish him off. Given Laughlin didn’t sound well before, it seems Doniphan made him a delegate as a show of support rather than with the expectation that he would attend the convention.

The convention named Shannon its president and according to the Sovereign he made one of those long nineteenth century political speeches:

more than an hour in a very able and earnest manner, and to the entire satisfaction of all present. His address satisfied all that he was an able, liberal, devoted patriot; States Rights to the back-bone. We shall not do him the injustice of attempting even a synopsis of his admirable effort.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

We don’t have to entirely take the Sovereign’s word for it. A copy, or at least a good synopsis, probably went around. It might have gone into the Leavenworth Kansas Herald, but the Library of Congress scans for that paper run out before the convention. William Phillips denounced Shannon’s words as “indiscreet and partisan,” which suggests that the convention got exactly what it wanted. Shannon, per Phillips, committed himself to

enforce obedience to the laws enacted at the Shawnee Mission; and he called upon those by whom he was surrounded to aid him in enforcing those laws. He took occasion to denounce the constitutional movement at Topeka; declaring it treasonable, and expressed his determination that such a state of affairs must not be permitted. In this speech he also alluded, in disrespectful terms, to the majority in Congress, and said that, in the next presidential election, the party with which he then acted would carry everything before them.

Levrett Spring agrees that Shannon made quite the speech, adding that he pledged Franklin Pierce backed the proslavery party.

Wilson Shannon Goes to Leavenworth, Part One

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon, the second governor of Kansas, presented himself as a neutral man. New to the territory, he had no particular commitment to the proslavery or free state party. But he had yet to set foot on Kansan soil before declaring himself in favor of the legislature’s slave codes. Whatever defects they might possess, the legal legislature had passed them and acting governor Daniel Woodson, who replaced Andrew Reeder in the interim, had signed them into law. Irrespective of their content, the forms of law gave them a kind of legitimacy. Shannon’s scrupulously proslavery neutrality further drew him into the Leavenworth Law and Order Convention, where he would preside.

Leverett Spring generously calls this “unwise” and characterizes Shannon’s affiliation with the proslavery party as an error which he would later try to correct. I hoped to have proceedings from the convention today, but the Library of Congress historical newspapers database appears only intermittently accessible. In lieu of them, I have Spring’s account from Kansas: Prelude to the War for the Union and William Phillips’ from The Conquest of Kansas. Phillips informs us that though the Law and Order men issued their call all around Kansas and had the governor, Surveyor-General John Calhoun other territorial officials attend.

The John C. Calhoun of South Carolina died back in 1850. According to Nichole Etcheson’s Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era, John Calhoun of Kansas had lived in Illinois where he taught Abraham Lincoln to survey and befriended Stephen Douglas. I remember reading that this Calhoun had some relation to the famous one, but haven’t had luck turning up the reference.

William Phillips

William Phillips

Multiple Calhouns aside, Phillips reports that

Outside of the citizens of Leavenworth there were not more than eighty persons present, and by far the larger portion of these were from Missouri. The leading men on the Missouri border were there. The Stringfellows were officers of the convention, and several of the vice-presidents and secretaries were residents of Missouri.

The charge that Missourians dominated the proslavery movement in Kansas has some truth to it, even aside the obvious cases where Missourians intervened in numbers to decide Kansas issues. To my knowledge, Benjamin Stringfellow did not care to remove to Kansas. His brother John, however, had a medical practice in Atchison. Whether his personal habits left him more usually in Missouri or not, I can’t say. As a free state man writing while the struggle took place, Phillips had a strong interest in emphasizing the Missourian connections. However, Charles Clark’s listing of participants who held seats in the legislature at the time, thanks to Missouri votes, suggests Phillips at least correctly spotted a Missouri-minded majority in the convention’s leadership.

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

Phillips considered it “singular”

that Gov. Shannon should take an active part in an assemblage where the violent Missouri borderers had the sway, and where its character as a simple pro-slavery convention was so apparent. The governor, in doing this, conclusively showed that he was the tool of the Missouri borderers, and blindly obedient in their scheme of subduing Kansas to slavery.

However, Shannon wanted people to consider himself the tool of Douglas County, home of Lawrence. He claimed to sit as a delegate from the county. This seems improbable. Spring does not repeat the accusation and I lack the documents to check it at the moment. However, claiming that he sat as a delegate from somewhere unlikely to have sent one would let Shannon appear somewhat more disinterested and fit with the pose of neutrality that the Law and Order movement preferred. If he really made the claim, then he probably got a few appreciative laughs.