I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly; that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence
The third Governor of Kansas Territory was John White Geary. He was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1819; died in the city of Harrisburg in the same State, February 8, 1873, in his fifty-fourth year. He was of Scotch-Irish extraction, and a man of great force of character, undoubted courage, and possessed of executive ability of high order.
The death of his father made it necessary for him to quit college and labor for the support of his widowed mother and family. For a time he engaged in teaching, and was afterwards a clerk in a store in Pittsburg. He studied law and civil engineering. The latter profession he practiced in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. He entered the military service in the Mexican War, and was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Second Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers. He fought under command of General Scott, and was made a Colonel for bravery. Upon the capture of the City of Mexico he was appointed its commandant. In 1848 he was appointed postmaster of San Francisco, with power to establish postoffices and postroads on the Pacific coast. He was the Alcalde of the city, and in 1850 he was elected the first Mayor of San Francisco. He bore a prominent part in the work of establishing the government of California. In 1852 he returned to Pennsylvania and retired to his farm.
The disorders which marked the closing weeks of Governor Shannon's administration of Kansas affairs aroused deep indignation in the North. This feeling was not confined to the opposition to the Democratic party. Many Democrats cried out against the evils of the course of the national Administration in relation to Kansas. In fact, it began to be feared that if these matters were riot mended they would mend themselves in the defeat of the Democratic party in the Presidential election in the following autumn. It became necessary to suppress the disorders in Kansas as a political measure. Colonel Geary was appointed Governor of Kansas Territory July 31, 1856. He was selected for the position because of his firmness and recognized executive ability. He was not an applicant for the office. He spent a month in arranging his private affairs, and in consultation with the President. He departed for his field of labor about September 1st. He came armed with greater discretionary powers than had been given to either of his predecessors.
The condition of Kansas was at this time truly deplorable. For a year last past the executive power and authority had been so weakly wielded that they were virtually a means for the oppression of a majority of the actual residents of Kansas, and often this oppression was better termed persecution. This was by design, and with the approval of the cabal of conspirators having in hand the Federal Administration. When Governor Shannon let the executive authority slip from his nerveless grasp and fled in terror of his life, it fell into the hands of the mob. Indeed, it was even worse. Had it been into the hands of the mob alone that the executive power of Kansas had fallen, the blindness of those exercising it would have rendered it a comparatively harmless weapon. But it had been seized by the cunning leaders of a gross and brutal mob in a foreign State. In addition to its incendiary inclinations and ferocious tendencies, this mob was skillfully played upon and manipulated against the representatives of freedom and free institutions in Kansas. The conditions producing this mob made it one of extermination, moved by a hatred stimulated to a thirst for blood by those now in possession of the executive power of the Territory, flung away by an agitated old man fleeing for his life.
The formative period was now past in Kansas Territory. Matters had drawn themselves to hard and inflexible issues. The energies of parties fixed by recent events exhausted themselves in fortifying positions already seized. With the Tree-State party this course was a matter of necessity, and its position was one of self-defense purely. This was forced upon it by the action of the bogus Legislature when it made the issue for itself and its ad-herents Slavery-Slavery alone. The test laws had so aroused the Free-State men that at the Big Springs convention they not only met the issue, Slavery, and set opposite that barbaric institution, Freedom, but they did more. Stung to indignation, they avowed resistance to all the bogus laws. This new issue was met by the advocates of slavery by the organization of the Law and Order party - a vigilance committee or assassination society as vicious and bloodthirsty as ever walked a Paris street or stole through the darkness of a Corsican waste. At the head of this party stood Governor Shannon, sustained by the President of the United States and his party. The attempts to enforce this issue drenched the land in blood and made lurid the sky blackened with the smoke of burning homes, and finally sent the Governor away in panic, horror and despair, and with assassins in close pursuit.
This was the condition awaiting Governor Geary. It is well that he was a soldier, and came determined to bravely do a soldier's duty. He interviewed Governor Price of Missouri while on the way to his hopeful government, and prevailed upon that functionary to take steps to reduce or terminate the piracy practiced by the border-ruffians on the vessels navigating the Missouri river.
The leaders of the Missouri mob were at this time hopeful that the Governor would delay his arrival. Their most willing and trusted tool was now the Acting Governor. No plan could be proposed for murder or rapine that he would not sanction, could he be brought to believe that the establishment of slavery in Kansas would be forwarded by it. Under a few days of his pernicious and mischievous direction of Kansas Territorial affairs anarchy sprang spontaneously from the disorders of the border and terror took hold upon the people. On the 25th of August he had issued a proclamation "declaring the said Territory to be m a state of open insurrection and rebellion," and calling upon all "law-abiding citizens of the Territory to rally to the support of the country and its laws." This procla-mation opened the gates of the border. Urged by their leaders under this sanction of authority, the hordes were hurrying from Missouri into Kansas Territory. At points too remote from the border for the inhabitants to feel interest enough to come over and help at their own expense, companies were solicited and raised at so much per diem, and whisky, per head. The incoming Governor's introduction to the "Kansas militia" was at Glasgow, Missouri, where a company of it embarked for Kansas. The incident is thus described by Dr. Gihon:
"On approaching this town a most stirring scene was presented. The entire population of the city and surrounding neighborhood was assembled upon the high bank overlooking the river, and all appeared to be laboring under a state of extraordinary excitement. Whites and blacks, men, women and children of all ages, were crowded together in one confused mass, or hurrying hither and yon, as though some terrible event was about to transpire. A large brass field-piece was mounted in a prominent position, and ever and anon belched forth a fiery flame and deafened the ear with its thundering war-like sounds. When the Keystone touched the landing a party of about sixty, comprising Captain Jackson's company of Missouri volunteers for the Kansas militia, descended the hill, dragging their cannon with them, and ranged themselves along the shore. The captain, after numerous attempts, failing to get them into what might properly be termed a line, got them into as good a military position as possible by backing them up against the foot of the hill. They were as raw and undisciplined a set of recruits as ever shouldered arms. Their ages varied, through every gradation, from the smooth-faced, half-grown boy to the gray-bearded old man; whilst their dresses, which differed as much as their ages, gave unmistakable evidence that they belonged to any class of society except that usually termed respectable. Each one carried some description of fire-arms, no two of which were alike. These were muskets, carbines, rifles, shotguns, and pistols of every size, quality, shape and style. Some of them were in good condition, but others were never intended for use, and still others unfit to shoot robins or tomtits. It would have been an afflictive sight to witness the numerous friends of this patriotic band, shaking them affectionately by the hand and pronouncing their blessings and benedictions, had they been enlisted in their country's cause, to repel invasion, or battle with a foreign foe; but knowing the character of their enterprise, the feeling inspired was anything but one of admiration or even sympathy.
"Captain Jackson embarked his company, cannon, wagons, arms and ammunition on board the Keystone, and soon after, she was on her way. Opportunities now occurred for conversation with the volunteers. Very few of them had any definite idea of the nature of the enterprise in which they had embarked. The most they seemed to understand about the matter was, that they were to receive so much per diem for going to Kansas to hunt and kill abolitionists. What this latter word meant they could not clearly define. They had been informed that abolitionists were enemies to Missourians, some of whom had been killed, and they were hired to avenge their deaths. More than this they neither knew nor cared to know. A vague notion prevailed among them "that whatever an abolitionist was, it was a virtue to kill him and take possession of his property. They seemed to apprehend no danger to themselves, as they had been told the abolitionists would not fight; but being overawed by the number and warlike appearance of their adversaries, would escape as rapidly as possible out of the Territory, leaving behind them any quantity of land, horses, clothing, arms, goods and chattels, all of which was to be divided among the victors. They crowded around Governor Geary, wher-ever he might chance to be, eager to ask questions, volunteer advice, and ascertain satisfactorily, whether, in their own chaste phrase, he was "sound on the goose." One, more importunate than the rest, and who was a sort of spokesman for his companions, having made sundry efforts to receive convincing proofs of the latter-named fact, very knowingly remarked, after putting an unusually large plug of tobacco into his mouth, and winking to those around him, as though he would say, "I'll catch him now; just listen!"
"Wal, Govner, as yer gwoin to Kanzies to be
govner, I hope ye'll not do what Reeder done.'
The following description of the border-ruffian is also by Dr. Gihon; it is the best I have been able to find:
"Imagine a man standing in a pair of long boots, covered with dust and mud, drawn over his trousers, the latter made of coarse, fancy-colored cloth, well soiled; the handle of a large bowie-knife projecting from one or both boot-tops; a leathern belt buckled around his waist, on each side of which is fastened a large revolver; a red or blue shirt, with a heart, anchor, eagle or some other favorite device braided on the breast and back, over which is swung a rifle or carbine; a sword dangling by his side; an old slouched hat, with a cockade or brass star on the front or side, and a chicken, goose or turkey feather sticking in the top; hair uncut and uncombed, covering his neck and shoulders; an unshaved face and unwashed hands. Imagine such a picture of humanity, who can swear any given number of oaths in any specified time, drink any quantity of bad whisky without getting drunk, and boast of having stolen half a dozen horses and killed one or more abolitionists, and you will have a pretty fair conception of a border-ruffian as he appears in Missouri and in Kansas."
While Captain Jackson's company was being embarked at Glasgow a boat came down the river bearing Governor Shannon. The boat stopped and the two Governors met. One was hurrying out of Kansas, pursued by avengers; the other hurrying in, to be pursued out in the same manner a little later. They had time for a short interview. It is described by Dr. Gihon:
"The ex-Governor was greatly agitated. He had fled in haste and terror from the Territory, and seemed still to be laboring under an apprehension for his personal safety. His description of Kansas was suggestive of everything that is frightful and horrible. Its condition was deplorable in the extreme. The whole Territory was in a state of insurrection, and a destructive civil war was devastating the country. Murder ran rampant, and the roads were everywhere strewn with the bodies of slaughtered men. No language can exaggerate the awful picture that was drawn; and a man of less nerve than Governor Geary, believing it not too highly colored, would instantly have taken the backward track, rather than rush upon the dangers so eloquently and fearfully portrayed.
Governor Geary arrived at Leavenworth on the morning of September 9th. He found the town under military control. At Fort Leavenworth he saw refugees seeking the protection of the military, and handbills warning them to depart on the following day. They were Free-State people fleeing from the mobs of ruffians pouring into Kansas from Missouri on the call of Acting-Governor Woodson. On the following day the Governor set out for Lecompton. On the road he detected one member of the bogus Legislature at the head of a band of robbers, coming upon them shortly after they had robbed the store and postoffice at the Stranger Crossing. He arrived at eleven o'clock.
This town of Lecompton he found "debased to a lamentable degree. It was the residence of Sheriff Jones (who was one of the leading members of the town association), and the resort of horse-thieves and ruffians of the most desperate character. Its drinking saloons were infested by these characters, where drunkenness, gambling, fighting, and all sorts of crimes were indulged in with entire impunity."
The inhabitants of the place immediately volunteered to give the Governor information. He was told that all the crimes committed in the Territory were rightly chargeable to the Free-State men. He was not convinced that that was true. He issued an address, in which he counseled reason, and asking that all bloodshed be stopped. He issued two proclamations, one disbanding the "Kansas militia" called out by Acting-Governor Woodson, and the other directing the enrollment of the lawful militia of the Territory. The Adjutant-General of the Territory was one H. J. Strickler. The Governor gave him strict orders on the 12th of September to disarm and disband the "Kansas militia." Notwithstanding these orders, the officials of the Territory, including Strickler, wholly disregarded them, and those who should have been in the field hung around Lecompton in open defiance of the Governor.
Woodson kept the Governor in ignorance of his "open insurrection and rebellion" proclamation, and proceeded about his duties of Secretary with such complacency, affability, suavity, and withal bore such an air of confident satisfaction, that the Governor was for the moment deceived as to the magnitude of the storm gathering along the borders of Missouri. The studied contempt and disobedience of the militia officers made it necessary for Governor Geary to take steps to ascertain for himself the true state of affairs in the part of the Territory bordering on Missouri. He now began to realize the significance of the warning he had received at the hands of the ruffians while in Jefferson City, to the effect that if he dared to interfere with the plans of the Law and Order party in its set plans to exterminate the Free-State party in Kansas he would be assassinated. He suspected treachery in the official circles at Lecompton, and not only did this develop, but contempt for the Governor and his orders manifested itself from the first. He reprimanded the militia officers for their disregard of his orders, and dispatched such messengers as he could repose confidence in with instructions to ascertain and report the condition of affairs along the border.
Before daylight on the morning of September 13th the true condition of affairs began to come to the Governor's knowledge. William A. Heiskell, commanding the First Brigade of the Southern Division, Kansas Militia, with the rank of Brigadier-General, reported by special courier that in pursuance of Acting-Governor Woodson's proclamation he had at the time of the writing of his message (September 11), at Mission Creek, eight hundred men, "who are "now in the field, ready for duty, and impatient to act." An hour later a second courier arrived, suffering from extreme exhaustion as the result of having ridden a horse almost to death in his haste to have the sanction of the Governor conveyed to the gallant commander of the ruffians, who were " inpatient to act." The second dispatch of the valiant Heiskell, who doubtless expected proper commendation for such manifest diligence, stated: "I now report one thousand men as Territorial militia, called into the field by the proclamation of Acting-Governor Woodson."
As the Adjutant-General of Territorial militia had failed to disband these troops, the Governor resolved to do so himself, and he accordingly wrote a dispatch stating to Heiskell that he would see him on the "following day," i. e., on the same day as soon as daylight would permit him to start, or, if he could not come, the Secretary of the Territory or the Adjutant-General would be sent This dispatch was not completed before the Governor received a communication from one of his confidential messengers conveying the intelligence that Lawrence was threatened by an armed force then marching against it from Missouri, three hundred of which had been seen. The Governor took three hundred United States troops under the command of Colonel P. St. George Cooke, together with four pieces of artillery, and with this force arrived in Lawrence at sunrise on the 13th. He found the city fortified and defended by three hundred men. He addressed the people at considerable length, and was cheered. He was the unexpected friend, the people of Lawrence having ceased to regard the Territorial officers as having any other desire than to "wipe them out" or at least as being entirely willing to permit it to be done. As the danger was not so imminent as had been supposed, the Governor and troops returned to Lecompton.
A crowd of fugitives greeted Governor Geary upon his return to the capital. These people were from the vicinity of Hickory Point, in Jefferson county, where the Free-State forces were operating under the command of Captain Harvey by orders of Lane, who, hearing of the arrival of Governor Geary, had retired to Nebraska. He had ordered Harvey to cease hostilities at the same time, but the order had not reached Harvey in time to prevent some operations by his forces after the arrival of the Governor.The Governor directed Colonel Cooke to capture or disperse this force. On the 15th the United States troops came upon Harvey's men and captured them; they numbered one hundred and one men, and were commanded by Captain Bickerton. Harvey was absent, and escaped capture. They were taken to Lecompton and by Judge Cato (a villain in ermine) committed on a charge of murder in the first degree. A murderer in cold blood if he belonged to the Law and Order party was always admitted to bail on bonds known to be absolutely worthless by this Jeffreys and his equally corrupt associate and superior, Lecompton. It could not but have been known that many of these prisoners were innocent of any crime, but bail was denied in each case. They were confined in a tumble-down house in the outskirts of Lecompton, and guarded by militia. Here they were starved, insulted, almost frozen in winter, and overrun with vermin. They fell into the hands of one man who did the best he could for them. He was a humane Kentuckian named Hampton. For his kindness to these prisoners his removal from office was demanded by the chief ruffians, Sheriff Jones, Surveyor Calhoun, and his chief clerk, one Maclean. The Governor commended him, but the ruffians found a way to deprive him of his office.
The prisoners were tried in October. Most of them
were acquitted, but others were convicted of various degrees of manslaughter. Those convicted were sentenced to
long terms of imprisonment, and to wear the "ball and chain." Sheriff Jones had hoped that he should
have the pleasure of hanging all of them, but not being gratified in this, made requisition upon the Governor for
the balls and chains with which to manacle them. The Governor did not furnish them; for this he was denounced by
Jones, Stringfellow, "Candle-box" Calhoun, and other bright and shining lights of the Law and Order party.
In the following March these prisoners were pardoned by Governor Geary, as was supposed, but the fury of the ruffians
and their expressed intention to assassinate him caused him to flee from the Territory in such haste that he did
not issue the pardon.
"About three hundred persons were found in arms, determined to sell their lives at the dearest price to their ruffian enemies. Among these were many women, and children of both sexes, armed with guns and otherwise accounted for battle. They had been goaded to this by the courage of despair. Lawrence was to have been their Thermopylae, and every other Free-State town would have proved a Saragossa. When men determine to die for the right, a hecatomb of victims grace their immolation; but when women and children betake themselves to the battlefield, ready to fight and die with their husbands and fathers, heroism becomes the animating principle of every heart, and a giant's strength invigorates every arm. Each drop of blood lost by such warriors becomes a dragon's tooth, which will spring from the earth, in all the armor of truth and justice, to exact a fearful retribution."
On the 15th, early in the morning, the Governor
having stationed the United States troops for the protection of Lawrence, sought the camp of the ruffians. He met
the advance guard out a distance from Franklin, "marching to 'wipe out' Lawrence and every abolitionist in
the country." These men were with difficulty turned back from their purpose. Arriving at the camp he found
twenty-seven hundred men under arms, animated with the senti-ments of the advance guard. They had artillery and
whisky, and black flags of extermination were flying from many places, indicating that neither age nor sex should
escape in the contemplated slaughter of the Lawrence people and those of other Free-State towns. The sight of the
Governor infuriated the ruffians, and he was treated to threats of assassination as he passed among them to the
quarters of the commanders.
"Maclean: I was lying in my tent, one night, on the broad of my back, smoking my pipe, and enjoying myself over a bottle of good whisky, when Generals Reid and Strickler, and several other officers, entered, apparently in great distress. They said they had over a thousand men to feed, and not a d-d ounce of rations for the next day. After much talk, I consented to act as commissary. They wanted me to get up and go to work, but I kept my place, as though utterly unconcerned, and continued to whiff away at my pipe; telling them that the rations would all be ready at an appointed hour in the morning. They didn't know what to make of my coolness-thought I was either drunk or crazy, and went off somewhat disappointed and evidently vexed.
"Gov. Geary: "Well, were the rations ready?" "Maclean: Yes [with an oath]! Ready that morning, and every other, so long as we were in camp, about two weeks.
"Governor: But how did you manage it? Maclean: That was d-d easy. I was up before daylight; got out a number of wagons, and started parties in every direction, with orders to go to stores and dwellings, get all the provisions they could find, and drive in all the cattle; and they returned with a pretty generous supply.
"Governor: How did you raise the funds to pay for all this?
"Maclean: Funds! [with a number of choice oaths] we didn't pay a cent. We 'pressed' it all. In these expeditions, which were continued every day, we got some useful information, too. We seized the mails going to and from Osawatomie, and more than a half-bushel of letters fell into my hands, in examining which, I found many of them directed to, and others written by, some of the most wealthy and influential citizens of Boston and other parts of the Northern and Eastern States."
The Governor convened this hopeful gang of cut-throats and addressed them on the subject of their infamous and atrocious conduct, reprehensible and diabolical from every point of view. He was particularly severe in his remarks to Atchison. He called attention to his proclamation ordering all armed bands to disperse. He ended by ordering them to disband and return home.
Here was a turn in affairs and a display of courage never contemplated by the Missourians. Twice before had Lawrence been snatched from the jaws of these same ravening ruffians by the Executive, but in each instance he had made his interposition effective more by wheedling and helpless pleading than by the assertion of authority. Here was an Executive of a different stamp. He assembled them, recounted their unlawful actions, and ended by ordering them to disband. They encountered here unexpectedly a man with firm convictions of right and duty, and the courage to stand for them in the face of threats of assassination which he had every reason to believe would be carried out. There was nothing to do but submit. But some excuse must be found for letting so favorable an opportunity to "wipe out" Lawrence slip through their fingers. They called a meeting of their chief ruffians to devise such an instrument. The Governor's assurance that all should be protected in their rights, whoever they were, was made the basis of their apology for disbanding. Some of the commanders had been misled, and were anxious to disband their men and send them home. But others were not of the same mood, and submitted with much smothered growling. Clarke was the most rabid; he was for fighting the United States troops if that were a necessary prelude to the gratification of their yearnings to "wipe out" Lawrence. Jones vapored about, and was for "wiping out" Lawrence first, and then all the other Free-State towns. These cursed the Governor deeply and loudly. But there was no other way than to obey, and return to Missouri and there scatter the copies of their apology, which, they had misgivings, would be poorly received. So they sullenly took their way out of the Territory, but as a terrible protest to being foiled of their prey, left murdered citizens, burning dwellings, plundered communities, the wailings of the widow and the cries of the orphan in the wake of their retreat to Missouri.
This was the last organized effort of the Missourians to subjugate Kansas by force of arms. The Law and Order party gradually abandoned this idea, and turned to the constitutional field as one affording facilities for their manner of waging warfare upon free institutions in the Territory. They formed their plans carefully, and worked them out under Governor Walker's administration, after taking the preliminary steps in the Legislature over Governor Geary's veto. As to the Governor, it was the intention to make his position intolerable. This began in an incident in the retreat of the ruffians from the Territory. The greater number of the "Kansas militia" returned to Missouri by the way of Westport. The band known as the "Kickapoo rangers" came to Lecompton and forded the Kansas river at that point. They still carried their black flags of extermination, and were as desperate and villainous a gang as ever congregated at the call of the leaders of the Law and Order party. When six miles west of Lawrence, on their road to Atchison, six of this band left the main body for the purposes of murder and robbery. They found a lame man named David C. Buffum plowing in a field. They robbed him of his horse, and when he protested, one of them, Charles Hays, shot him, inflicting a mortal wound. They then stole a pony belonging to a little girl and rejoined the main body of marauders. Governor Geary and Judge Cato soon passed by, and discovered Buffum weltering in his blood. At the direction of the Governor the Judge took the dying man's statement of the murder. The Governor caused a warrant to be issued for the arrest of the murderer, whose name was then unknown. Finding it impossible to get the officers to execute this warrant, or even to make an effort to do so, the Governor sent secret agents to Atchison to learn the murderer's identity, and at the same time offered a reward for his apprehension and conviction. This resulted in the disclosure of the dastard, and his arrest. A grand jury composed of his partisans found a true bill against him for murder in the first degree. Judge Lecompton immediately admitted him to bail, accepting as his bondsman the redoubtable Sheriff Jones, a man notoriously bankrupt. The Governor caused Hays to be re-arrested, but Lecompton immediately released him the second time! Harvey's command of one hundred and one men could not be admitted to bail when it was well known that almost all of them had not committed any crime beyond self-defense, but here was a man of the Judge's party with innocent blood on his hands and with the presumption of his guilt so great that even a jury of his partisans dare not ignore it, set at liberty in violation and defiance of all law and precedent, and this, too, by the Chief Justice of the Territory! The incident revealed to the Governor his true position. In the administration of justice in the Territory he stood alone. The condition was even worse: arrayed on the side of lawlessness, murder, robbery, anarchy, stood those entrusted with the construction and the administration of the laws!
Having cleared the Territory of armed bands, the Governor now turned his attention to the partisan, prejudiced, and inefficient judiciary. Judge Cato had been found by the Governor bearing arms in the noble army of invasion, and shortly afterwards, while engaged in the appropriation of the arms of the Free-State prisoners, was shot in the ankle by a revolver in the hands of a worthless, drunken fellow named Hull. The shooting was accidental, Hull being engaged in the same reprehensible appropriation as the Judge. Cato was the constant companion and associate of Clarke, Maclean and Jones, and was the mess-mate and bed-fellow of the latter and one Bennett, the editor of the Lecompton Union. He was accused of writing the scurrilous articles which appeared in that disreputable sheet. Of the law he had little knowledge; of the sense of justice he was entirely destitute.
Judge Burrell devoted no time at all to his duties beyond that required in the collection of his salary.
Chief Justice Lecompton was a political jackleg from Maryland, and spent his time in the accumulation of property, of which he possessed a goodly share at the time. He was a better lawyer than Cato, which is saying, little in his favor, but it is all that can be said. It was said that he adjourned the spring term of his court to plant his potatoes; the summer term had to stand adjourned to allow him to hoe his potatoes; the necessity for digging his potatoes disposed of the fall term; and in the winter he could not hold court because he had to remain at home to sell his potatoes. Crimes were constantly committed by members of the Law and Order party, but they were never, or were very seldom, made the subject of judicial inquiry. Burrell had recently died, and the other two judges spent much of their time attending the councils of the; Law and Order party, planning to force slavery on Kansas. Crowds of persons daily besieged the Governor crying for justice at the hands of the courts, while the judges were closeted with Calhoun, Jones, Maclean, and others, in the concoction of schemes for the oppression of the settlers of the Territory.
The Governor called the judges before him and reviewed the situation with them. He suggested that they devote some time to their duties, to which they consented; but no improvement being visible, the Governor addressed each of them a note, asking them to report to him what had been accomplished during the terms, respectively, of their offices. In any other condition of society than that which prevailed under the rule of ruffianism, this sharp reprimand would have produced beneficial results. But here it fell upon heedless cars. Beyond arousing the Chief Justice to some indignation and a wordy defense of his own course and the beauties of slavery, it accomplished nothing. Any semblance of justice in the courts of the Territory disappeared, and partisanship, prejudice and partiality were contemptuously flaunted in the faces of outraged citizens, and boasted of. The Governor himself did not escape from it, as he found to his sorrow in the case of the murderer of Buffum.
A committee of Free-State men called upon the Governor to protest against the prejudicial action of the courts towards them, and the utter neglect of their business. This was November 10th. The Governor cited the case of Hays as evidence of his good intentions towards all citizens of the Territory. But to his dismay, while still dwelling upon this matter a gentleman entered the room and made known that Judge Lecompton had just released Hays upon the surety of Jones. His argument was gone. He could only assure the committee of his good intentions towards them as towards all the inhabitants of the Territory, denounce the action of the Chief Justice, and dismiss his petitioners. They departed convinced of the Governor's just intentions, and also fully convinced that he was powerless to help them. They expressed the belief that their only recourse lay in the exercise of physical force in the defense of their rights.
Towards the close of September, rumors again troubled the Missourians. It was said that Lane had raised another Northern army, with which he was advancing through Nebraska to visit retribution upon the ruffians. Nothing more disquieting could have reached ruffian ears. Dr. Gihon says that "the very name of Lane was a terror, and it was only necessary to get up a rumor that he was within a hundred miles, to produce universal consternation. And when it was reported that he was actually approaching a pro-slavery town, a general panic and stampede was the result. Vaporing generals, colonels, captains and privates suddenly stopped in the midst of their stories of valiant deeds, and remembering that they had forgotten their needed arms or ammunition, or that the women and children must be carried to a place of safety, off they ran for shelter in the woods or elsewhere, creeks and rivers furnishing no obstacles to their flight. When the dreaded danger was over, or they had discovered the alarm to be unfounded, they would reassemble, each ready to boast over his bad whisky what terrible deeds he would have accomplished had the cowardly abolitionist dared to make his appearance."
Dr. Gihon relates another incident which a Pennsylvanian experienced while in command of a band of ruffians:
"Upon arriving in the Territory, I established my residence in Leavenworth City, where I was solicited to take command of a company of Territorial militia, or Law and Order party. The company consisted of twenty mounted border-ruffians. One dark night it became my duty to guard the main entrance to the city, and I took up my position in a prominent place on the road, at about one mile distant. It was a very dark night, and it was difficult to discern objects even close at hand; my men amused each other and myself, relating the daring deeds they had accomplished, and telling what great things they would do in case of an assault. About midnight we heard the distant sounds of horses' feet approaching at a rapid rate. A perfect stillness took possession of my men. Not a word was uttered. Nearer and nearer came the advancing party. At length, one of my men exclaimed, ' Lane is coming, by G-d! 'and instantly the whole company broke and ran for the town. In vain I ordered a halt. As well might I have attempted to turn back the current of the river, as to arrest their flight."
Governor Geary sent troops to the Nebraska line to prevent the entrance of armed bands. They arrested James Redpath, who had one hundred and thirty men under him, whom they found entering the Territory. They were taken to Lecompton, where they convinced the Governor that they were seeking homes, and bore arms only in self-defense and self-protection, and thereupon they were discharged.
But when Lane's name was associated with rumors of invasion the mind of the border-ruffian was not easily reassured. They besieged the Governor and clamored for further protection. They protested that Lane was about to enter the Territory with the main body of his army. The Governor again dispatched troops to intercept Lane's army. A large company of immigrants now approached the border under the leadership of Colonel Eldridge, General Pomeroy, and others. They were peaceable and law abiding citizens, coming to seek homes. They sent a committee to assure the Governor of their intentions, and to disclaim all intention of fighting except in self-defense. Notwithstanding this frank statement and avowal of their purposes the troops arrested the entire company, ransacked their baggage for concealed arms, destroyed some of it, and led the captives to Topeka. Here they were met by the Governor, who addressed them, and ordered them to disband. They willingly did this, and in all probability would have been disbanded and dispersed long before but for the detention under arrest.
This was the last interference with immigrants coming into Kansas.
On October 6, 1856, an election was held to select a Delegate to Congress, elect a Territorial Legislature, and vote upon the question of a convention to form a constitution. While the Free-State men refrained from voting on the ground that to do so would be a recognition of the bogus Legislature, the Missourians came over and voted as usual. The Law and Order party were thus enabled to elect everything; and the proposition to form a State constitution was carried.
Governor Geary set out upon a journey of observation on the 17th of October. He passed over the southern and western parts of the Territory. He was gone twenty days, and found the people hopeful and anxious to be allowed to proceed with the work of establishing homes. He addressed many assemblies of citizens, and was assured of their cooperation in his efforts to establish order. This journey was productive of much good.
The Topeka Legislature met on the 6th of January, 1857. Neither Governor Robinson nor Lieutenant-Governor Roberts was present. No quorum appearing, an informal meeting was held, and a recess taken to June 9th. Sheriff Jones had spent weeks in planning a course to be pursued in relation to this meeting, which he was confident would result in the renewal of the strife and bloodshed now much diminished and disappearing. He even hoped that an invasion from Missouri might arise from his deep-laid plans. His sturdy henchman, Judge Cato, was his assistant and abettor in this attempt to again deluge the land in blood. Jones had procured from the Judge warrants for the members of the Legislature. These were entrusted to a deputy marshal for execution, but Jones was present to see that no mistake was made. He had confidently expected that the writs would be resisted. In fact, all his hopes of trouble were based upon this expectation. When resistance was offered, then he could call for troops; the ruffians would rush to his assistance and he would be again in his glory. But the members quietly submitted, much to his disgust. He immediately left the town, drove home, and never mentioned his ignominious failure to stir up trouble at Topeka. The conclusion is reasonable that he received a blow here from which he never recovered. He saw no more opportunity for such trouble as he loved. Times were changed. He resigned his office in a few days.
The Territorial Legislature met on January 12th, 1857, at Lecompton. This proved one of the most debased bodies that ever assembled for any purpose at any time or place. It resolved to unanimously oppose anything and everything the Governor proposed; and this course was carried out. One of its first acts was to pass a bill admitting to bail any criminal, no matter how desperate. It read as follows : " The District Court, or any judge thereof in vacation, shall, have power and authority to admit to bail any prisoner on charge or under indictment for any crime or offense, of any character whatever, whether such crime or offense shall have heretofore been bailable or not." This was supposed to be a vindication of Lecompton's action in admitting Hays to bail. The Governor vetoed it, but it was passed over his veto.
The Law and Order party changed its name to the National Democratic party of Kansas on the same day that the Legislature met. It was now the purpose of the Slavery party to try to fasten the institution of slavery permanently on the Territory by a constitution upon which the Territory was to be admitted as a State. A census was provided for, and no one was to be allowed to vote unless he was a resident of the State prior to the 15th of March, 1857. The election was to be held in June to elect delegates to this constitutional convention. In taking the census the books were taken to Missouri and the ruffians registered, while in whole counties in the Territory a census-taker never appeared; this was true of those counties where Free-State people were in the majority. The bill was carefully prepared to allow just that thing to be done. The Governor vetoed it, but it was passed over his veto. There were a few good men in this Legislature, but so few that their influence counted for nothing, and the verdict that it was the most debased body of men that ever assembled in Kansas must stand.
We shall notice one more incident in the administration of Governor Geary. When the Legislature assembled it immediately placed itself in opposition to the Governor. It spent a great part of its time in abuse of him. The Board of Supervisors of Douglas county had accepted the resignation of Sheriff Jones, and appointed in his place a drunken, quarrelsome, worthless ruffian, named William T. Sherrard. The Governor did not at once issue a commission to him, on account of the absence of the Secretary. Sherrard undertook to force the Governor to commission him, visiting the Executive office and threatening violence. In the meantime the members of the board which had appointed him visited the Governor and requested that no commission be given him, and made known their intention to revoke his appointment. Other citizens called upon the Governor to protest against the issuance of a commission.
When the Legislature assembled, one of its first acts was to send a communication to the Governor demanding his reasons for withholding the commission of Sherrard. The Governor did not recognize the right of the Legislature to make such an inquiry, but replied to the note of inquiry by stating the facts. The Legislature exhausted the vocabulary of epithets in abusing the Governor. The House immediately appointed him Sheriff of Douglas county, but the Council refused to concur, and the appointment was not made. The incident was supposed to be a sufficient cause for the assassination of the Governor, and arrangements were made accordingly. The prime mover in the execution of this conclusion was Surveyor-General Calhoun. His office was the rendezvous from which the dastardly act was to be consummated. At the appointed time Sherrard waylaid the Governor at the appointed place and spat in his face, hoping to cause some indignation which the Governor would resent, and give him a pretext which Calhoun and his clerks, who were peeping from a door of the Surveyor's office, would immediately transform into an assault and ample cause for Sherrard's killing him in self-defense. But the Governor walked quietly away without saying or doing anything, and even Sherrard could not bring himself to kill him at that time without any cause.
The people of the Territory were aroused by the
actions of Sherrard. The House refused to censure him. A meeting was called to condemn his action, and Sherrard
and his friends attended for the purpose of causing a riot. In this they succeeded, and in it Sherrard lost his
Governor Geary returned to Pennsylvania. He was a brave and distinguished soldier in the War of the Rebellion. He raised the Twenty-eighth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was its commander. He was promoted for bravery to the rank of Major-General. In 1866 he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, and proved a wise, able, and devoted public servant. He died respected and sincerely mourned by the people of his State.
Governor .Geary's administration was the first
to make an impression in Kansas Territory in favor of justice to all. He accomplished little more in this field
than did Reeder, but his efforts were enabled by the increasing Free-State immigration to bear fruit at a later
day. The disorders never again assumed such proportions after his summary disbandment of the ruffians at Franklin.
Source: Kansas Territorial Governors by William Elsey Connelley, 1900, Pages 61-90
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