ch. xxiv. The staple argument against the Topeka free-State movement, that it was a rebellion against constitutional authority, though perhaps correct as a mere theory was utterly refuted by the practical facts of the case. The Big Springs resolutions, indeed, counseled resistance to a " bloody issue "; but this was only to be made after "peaceable remedies shall fail." The free-State leaders deserve credit for pursuing their peaceable remedies and forbearing to exercise their asserted right to resistance with a patience unexampled in American annals. The bogus territorial laws were defied by the newspapers and treated as a dead letter by the mass of the free-State men; as much as possible they stood aloof from the civil officers appointed by and through the bogus Legislature, recorded no title papers, began no lawsuits, abstained from elections, and denied themselves privileges which required any open recognition of the alien Missouri statutes. Lane and others refused the test oath, and were excluded from practice as attorneys in the courts; free-State newspapers were thrown out of the mails as incendiary publications; sundry petty persecutions were evaded or submitted to as special circumstances dictated. But throughout their long and persistent non-conformity, for more than two years, they constantly and cheerfully
Missouri, a mass of sworn testi-of the conspiracy which held
mony amounting to some 1200sway in Kansas.
JAMES H. LAKE.
THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION433
acknowledged the authority of the organic act, and ch. xxiv. of the laws of Congress, and even counseled and endured every forced submission to the bogus laws. Though they had defiant and turbulent spirits in their own ranks, who often accused them of imbecility and cowardice, they maintained a steady policy of non-resistance, and, under every show of Federal authority in support of the bogus laws, they submitted to obnoxious searches and seizures, to capricious arrest and painful imprisonment, rather than by resistance to place themselves in the attitude of deliberate outlaws.1
They were destined to have no lack of provocation. Since the removal of Reeder, all the Federal officials of the Territory were affiliated with the pro-slavery Missouri cabal. Both to secure the permanent establishment of slavery in Kansas, and to gratify the personal pride of their triumph, they were determined to make these recusant free-State voters "bow down to the cap of Q-essler." Despotism is never more arrogant than in resenting all slights to its personal vanity. As a first and necessary step, the cabal had procured, through its powerful influence at "Washington, a proclamation from the President commanding " all persons engaged in unlawful combinations against the con- February stituted authority of the Territory of Kansas or of the United States to disperse," etc. The language of the proclamation was sufficiently comprehensive to include Border Euffians and emigrant aid societies, as well as the Topeka movement, and thus presented a show of impartiality; but under
1 See Governor Robinson's message to the free-State Legislature, March 4, 1856. Mrs. S. T. L. Robinson, " Kansas," pp. 352, 364.
* vol. I.—28
oh. xxrv. dominant political influences the latter was its evident and certain object.
With this proclamation as a sort of official fulcrum, Chief-Justice Lecompte delivered at the May term of his court a most extraordinary charge to the grand jury. He instructed them that the bogus Legislature, being an instrument of Congress, and having passed laws, "these laws are of United States authority and making." Persons resisting these laws must be indicted for high treason. If no resistance has been made, but combinations formed for the purpose of resisting them, " then must you still find bills for constructive treason, as the courts have decided that the blow need not be struck, but only the intention be made evident."1 Indictments, writs, and the arrest of many prominent free-State leaders followed as a matter of course. All these proceedings, too, seemed to have been a part of the conspiracy. Before the indictments were found, and in anticipation of the writs, Bobin-son, the free-State Governor-elect, then on his way to the East, was arrested while traveling on a Missouri Eiver steamboat, at Lexington in that State, detained, and finally sent back to Kansas under the Governor's requisition. Upon this frivolous charge of constructive treason he and others were held in military custody nearly four months, and finally, at the end of that period, discharged upon bail, the farce of longer imprisonment having become useless through other events.
Apprehending fully that the Topeka movement
i J. H. Gihon, " Governor diotments, printed at full length Geary's Administration," p. 77; in Phillips, " Conquest of Kan-also compare two copies of in- sas," pp. 351-4.
THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION435
was the only really serious obstacle to their success, ch. xxiv, the pro-slavery cabal, watching its opportunity, matured a still more formidable demonstration to suppress and destroy it. The provisional free-State Legislature had, after organizing on the 4th of March, adjourned, to reassemble on the 4th of July, 1856, in order to await in the meantime the result of their application to Congress. As the national holiday approached, it was determined to call together a mass meeting at the same time and place, to give both moral support and personal protection to the members. Civil war, of which further mention will be made in the next chapter, had now been raging for months, and had in its general results gone against the free-State men. Their leaders were imprisoned or scattered, their presses destroyed, their adherents dispirited with defeat. Nevertheless, as the day of meeting approached, the remnant of the provisional Legislature and some six to eight hundred citizens gathered at Topeka, though without any definite purpose or pre-arranged plan.
Governor Shannon, the second of the Kansas executives, had by this time resigned his office, and Secretary Woodson was again acting Governor. Here was a chance to put the free-State movement pointedly under the ban^pf Federal authority which the cabal determined not to neglect. Ee-citing the President's proclamation of February, Secretary Woodson now issued his own proclamation forbidding all persons claiming legislative power and authority as aforesaid from assembling, organizing, or acting in any legislative capacity whatever. At the hour of noon on the 4th of
ch. xxiv. July several companies of United States dragoons, which were brought into camp near town in anticipation of the event, entered Topeka in military array, under command of Colonel E. V. Sumner. A line of battle was formed in the street, cannon were planted, and the machinery of war prepared for instant action. Colonel Sumner, a most careful and conscientious officer and a free-State man at heart, with due formality, with decision and firmness, but at the same time openly expressing the painful nature of his duty, commanded the provisional Legislature, then about to assemble, to disperse. The members, not yet organized, immediately obeyed the order, having neither the will nor the means to resist it. There was no tumult, no violence, but little protest even in words; but the despotic purpose, clothed in forms of law, made a none the less profound impression upon the assembled citizens, and later, when the newspapers spread the report of the act, upon the indignant public of the Northern States. From this time onward, other events of paramount historical importance supervene to crowd the Topeka Constitution out of view. In a feeble way-the organization still held together for a considerable length of time. About a year later the provisional Legislature again went through the forms of assembling, and although Governor Walker was present in Topeka, there were no proclamations, no dragoons, no cannon, because the cabal was for the moment defeated and disconcerted and bent upon other and still more desperate schemes. The Topeka Constitution was never received nor legalized ; its officers never became clothed with official
THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION437
authority; its scrip was never redeemed; yet in ch.xxiv. the fate of Kansas and in the annals of the Union at large it was a vital and pivotal transaction, without which the great conflict between freedom and slavery, though perhaps neither avoided nor delayed, might have assumed altogether different phases of development.
CIVIL WAR IN KANSAS
ch. xxv. /^~\UT of the antagonistic and contending factions \J mentioned in the last two chapters, the bogus Legislature and its Border-Ruffian adherents on the one hand, and the framers and supporters of the Topeka Constitution on the other, grew the civil war in Kansas. The bogus Legislature numbered thirty-six members. These had only received, all told, 619 legal bond fide Kansas votes; but, what answered their purposes just as well, 4408 Missou-rians had cast their ballots for them, making their total constituency (if by discarding the idea of a State line we use the word in a somewhat strained sense) 5427. This was at the March election, 1855. Of the remaining 2286 actual Kansas voters disclosed by Seeder's census, only 791 cast their ballots. That summer's emigration, however, being mainly from the free States, greatly changed the relative strength of the two parties. At the election of October 1, 1855, in which the free-State men took no part, Whitfield, for delegate, received 2721 votes, Border Euffians included. At the election for members of the Topeka Constitutional Convention, a week later, from which the pro-slavery men abstained, the free-State men cast
CIVIL WAR IN KANSAS439
2710 votes, while Reeder, their nominee for dele- oh. xxv. gate, received 2849. For general service, therefore, requiring no special effort, the numerical strength of the factions was about equal; while on extraordinary occasions the two thousand Border-Ruffian reserve lying a little farther back from the State line could at any time easily turn the scale. The free-State men had only their convictions, their intelligence, their courage, and the moral support of the North ; the conspiracy had its secret combination, the territorial officials, the Legislature, the bogus laws, the courts, the militia officers, the President, and the army. This was a formidable array of advantages; slavery was playing with loaded dice.
With such a radical opposition of sentiment, both factions were on the alert to seize every available vantage ground. The bogus laws having been enacted, and the free-State men having, at the Big Springs Convention, resolved on the failure of peaceable remedies to resist them to a " bloody issue," the conspiracy was not slow to cover itself and its projects with the sacred mantle of authority. Opportunely for them, about this time Governor Shannon, appointed to succeed Reeder, arrived in the Territory. Coming by way of the Missouri River towns, he fell first among Border-Ruffian companionship and influences; and perhaps having his inclinations already molded by his Washington instructions, his early impressions were decidedly adverse to the free-State cause. His reception speech at Westport, in which he maintained the legality of the Legislature, and his determination to enforce their laws, delighted his pro-slavery
ch.xxv. auditors. To further enlist his zeal in their behalf, a few weeks later they formally organized a "law--' and-order party" by a large public meeting held at Leavenworth. All the territorial dignitaries were present; Governor Shannon presided; John Cal-houn, the Surveyor-General, made the principal speech, a denunciation of the " abolitionists " supporting the Topeka movement; Chief-Justice Lecompte dignified the occasion with approving remarks. With public opinion propitiated in advance, and the Governor of the Territory thus publicly committed to their party, the conspirators felt themselves ready to enter upon the active campaign to crush out opposition, for which they had made such elaborate preparations.
Faithful to their legislative declaration they knew but one issue, slavery. All dissent, all non-compliance, all hesitation, all mere silence even, were in their stronghold towns, like Leavenworth, branded as " abolitionism," declared to be hostility to the public welfare, and punished with proscription, personal violence, expulsion, and frequently death. Of the lynchings, the mobs, and the murders, it would be impossible, except in a very extended work, to note the frequent and atrocious details. The present chapters can only touch upon the more salient movements of the civil war in Kansas, which happily were not sanguinary; if, however, the individual and more isolated cases of bloodshed could be described, they would show a startling aggregate of barbarity and loss of life for opinion's sake. Some of these revolting crimes, though comparatively few in number, were committed, generally in a spirit of lawless retaliation, by free-State men.