DOUGLAS COUNTY, KANSAS
A HISTORY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS
FROM THE FIRST SETTLEMENT TO THE CLOSE OF THE REBELLION
BY RICHARD CORDLEY, D.D.
Who came to Kansas in 1857; Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence from 1857 to 1875 and 1884 to Present Time an Eye Witness of the Quantrill Raid
Published by: E. F. CALDWELL
The Bogus Legislature Again - Governor Geary Comes into Collision with it - He is Bitterly Assailed by Pro Slavery Leaders - Resigns in March - Walker and Stanton - Peace and Progress and Prosperity - Lawrence and her Voluntary City Government - Martial Law Once More
After the "army of invasion" had left, September 15th, 1856, Governor Geary continued his effort at restoring peace and order. He commanded all bodies of armed men to disband, and promised protection to all alike. As soon as they were convinced that he meant what he said the free-state men acquiesced cheerfully in his policy. They only wanted quiet and fair play. In a few weeks order was restored, and everybody could go peaceably about his work. But the governor's attempts to administer equal justice and secure fair play for all were not well received by his own political associates. A man who insisted on fair play was not at all to their mind. They distrusted him from the first. They had not been consulted in his appointment, and their advice as to what kind of a governor was needed had been entirely disregarded. When they found him trying to give justice to free-state and pro-slavery men alike, they had no further use for him. They began at first to embarrass him, and then openly to antagonize him. During the session of the legislature the following winter he was in conflict with them continually. He sought to procure legislation that would promote peace and order, while they were aiming at legislation that would favor their own idea and desire. He vetoed several of their bills, but they passed them over his veto. The feeling ran so high that his life was several times threatened, and he began to be in constant fear of violence. To make matters worse, he began to discover that they had been working against him at Washington, and that the national administration had deserted him. When things seemed threatening and he asked for troops to maintain peace, he was coolly informed that "there were no troops available for that purpose." When he first came the administration answered all his requisitions promptly, and to the full extent. Now there "were no troops available." Of course lie knew what that meant. When he first came to Kansas a national election was impending, and he was urged to "quiet Kansas at any cost." Now the election had been held, the administration had been successful, and peace in Kansas was no longer essential to them.
As pro-slavery men deserted the governor free-state men rallied about him. They even offered to furnish a military guard when United States troops were refused him. But this he wisely declined. The free-state men had predicted what the outcome would be if he adhered to his policy of equal justice. One day in the previous autumn, when he was discoursing confidently as to what he was going to do, Captain Walker, who was present, said to him, "We like your talk first rate, but I predict that you will take the underground railroad out of Kansas in less than six months." His words were prophetic. The breach between him and the pro-slavery leaders grew wider and wider, and the conflict more and more bitter. He worried through the winter, and had a stormy time during the session of the legislature. They were many of them rough men, living in a rough time, and desperate. By spring the strain of the conflict had become unendurable, and March 4th he sent in his resignation. Before his resignation became known in Kansas, he had quietly left the territory, and never returned. Only a few trusted friends knew the purpose of his departure. He feared to have his resignation known until he himself was out of reach.
Governor Geary had proved himself the man for the time.
Personally he fared just as the free-state people
predicted, and just as his predecessors had fared. The moment it was discovered that he would not concede all the
pro-slavery leaders demanded, they forsook him; and when they forsook
After the resignation of Governor Geary, President Buchanan took a month to consider the question of a successor. April 10th he appointed Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, governor and Frederick P. Stanton, of Washington, secretary of the territory. Walker had been in the senate a number of years, and was secretary of the treasury under President Polk. He was a man of prominence and of high character. Stanton was younger but scholarly and forceful, an able lawyer, and in every way an admirable man. He was an eloquent speaker, with a rich voice, and a fine presence. He came out at once, while Walker did not come till May. Stanton arrived at Leavenworth April 13th and issued an address setting forth "his policy," as acting governor. He was particular to emphasize the idea that the laws of the territorial legislature would be enforced. This pleased the pro-slavery crowd, but set the teeth of the free-state men on edge. They feared a renewal of the scenes of the previous year. Soon after this he went to Lawrence and addressed the people. His speech very adroitly avoided the points at issue and dealt in eloquent generalities and classical allusions. Though there were a good many college graduates among his hearers, they were less interested in the Agrarian laws of Rome than in the bogus laws of Kansas. In the midst of one of his flights of oratory they interrupted him with the question: "How about the territorial laws, governor?" He did not seem to hear the question, but sailed on. The question was repeated " Nearer, clearer, louder than before."
"How about the territorial laws?" "The laws must be obeyed," he replied at last. "Never, never," replied a score of voices in unison. "Then there will be war between you and me-war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt." " Let it come; let it come; we are ready." The governor closed his speech more abruptly than the rules of rhetoric advise, and went away with a feeling that he had a problem to solve.
Governor Walker arrived May 25th, and he also issued an address in which he set forth the same policy as that foreshadowed by Acting Governor Stanton. They were both clear-headed, fair-minded men, and performed their duties in an impartial way, and thus soon won the confidence of the people, and preserved the peace of the country. As with their predecessors, so it fared with them. In less than six months their attempts at impartial management brought them into collision with their own party, and they were compelled to look for support and sympathy to the free-state men.
The year 1857 was in marked contrast with that of 1856. "Order reigned in Warsaw." There were no more armed invasions from Missouri, and no attempts to overthrow the free-state cause by violence. The contest was not over, but the pro-slavery party had changed their policy and were seeking their end through other lines. The embargo on the Missouri river was removed, and all ways to the territory were open. The disturbances of the year before had turned all eyes towards Kansas, and with the opening spring the tide of immigration began to flow in a larger volume than ever. They came from all quarters and by all roads and by all methods. Some came by steamer, some by wagons, and some on foot. It would hardly be overstating it to say that three-fourths of those who came were in favor of a free state.
Though a good proportion were from the south, very many even of these were not in favor of slavery. The pro-slavery cause suffered from the fact that slaveholders did not dare to bring their slaves, and consequently very few slave holders came. The territorial legislature had passed stringent laws protecting slave property, but the attitude of the free-state men practically nullified these laws. The free-state men felt, therefore, that they only needed to wait. If they could have quiet for a year or two, the preponderance of free-state immigration would settle the question beyond dispute.
The enormous rush of immigration made times lively. It was what they called a prosperous season. All these people brought money, and they had to spend money. They all wanted to invest in some of the sacred soil of which they had heard so much. To accommodate this army of would be investors, a good portion of the territory was laid out in town-sites, and in the words of a wag "several of these had buildings on them." But whether they had buildings on them, or were marked only by the corner stakes, they were all represented on beautifully lithographed maps, from which the eager immigrant selected his lot. There were not less than a score of such town-sites within fifteen miles of Lawrence.
The tide of immigration kept rolling in. It was popular to come to Kansas, and the trip could be very comfortably made. Not only immigrants came, but multitudes of others came to see the country and to see the fun. Everybody came to Kansas, for all sorts of reasons. Her highways were thronged, her stage coaches were packed, and her towns were crowded. Not a great deal was done to develop the country. There were a great many claims but not much farming, a great deal of consumption but not much production. All these people had to live, but not many of them were making a living. They all brought money and they all had to spend money. It was a time, therefore, of "unexampled prosperity." The merchant sold no end of goods at prices that made him happy. The land dealer sold lots without limit, and so long as the tide kept up, at constantly advancing prices. The purchaser of one day became the seller of the next, and all went on swimmingly until the last man should be left "holding the bag." It was not unusual for a man to double his money in a few weeks. Money loaned at unheard of rates, to be used in unheard of bargains. Everybody was getting rich trading back and forth in property that produced no income, and had no intrinsic value.
Lawrence was in the center of all this whirl. She was the center of free-state interest, and the "capital of the free-state party." Everybody that came to Kansas came to Lawrence. As all roads led to Rome, so all roads led to Lawrence. Here immigrants came to get their bearings and their supplies. Here visitors came to begin their tours of observation. Here politicians met to discuss the situation and lay their plans. The Leavenworth Herald, a year later, said of this same season: "Every newly arrived immigrant, as he stepped upon the levee, shouldered his carpet-bag, and stopping long enough to inquire the way to 'Lawrence,' set off towards the Mecca of his abolition pilgrimage." The contagion was universal, and no caution was proof against it. Conservative men would come from the east, shake their wise heads at the folly of these western investments, and in three weeks be as wild as the wildest. A very conservative business man of New York came out to warn his children against engaging in these reckless speculations. After remaining with them a few weeks, he was more eager to invest than they had ever been. The singular feature about this speculating mania is that those in the midst of it always think that this condition will continue. One of the most far-seeing of the promoters of Lawrence told the writer of this sketch afterwards, that at the time he had the most positive conviction that Lawrence would have twenty thousand people in two years.
As Lawrence grew she began to feel the need of
a municipal government. The territorial legislature incorporated the town in 1855, but the citizens never organized
under the act and were without municipal regulations or officers. In July 1857 they adopted a charter of their
own, and adopted a form of municipal government. Governor Walker pronounced this act treason, and sent Colonel
Cook with four hundred dragoons to suppress it. He came also himself to superintend the job. He placed the town
under martial law, and cut off connections with the surrounding country except under military inspection. The offending
government about which all this commotion was made remained invisible. They sought it but they could not find it.
Those who had it in charge, however, went on with their duties: looked after the sanitary condition of the town,
the cleaning of streets, the hauling off of dead horses, but did all this so quietly, and so entirely by common
consent, that it was not possible to make a case against them. The citizens and the soldiers were on the best of
terms, and exchanged jokes continually as to their rather unusual situation. The pro-slavery papers predicted trouble
as soon as any "overt act" was committed, but the people of Lawrence took good care that no "overt
act" should be committed, and that nothing should be done which should furnish an occasion for military interference.
After a few weeks this farce grew too broad to be continued, and the troops were removed.