Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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KANSAS, a state of the American Union. Under its present (state) boundaries it is formed mainly from territory acquired by the Louisiana purchase (see ANNEXATIONS, I.); the southwest portion, lying south of the Arkansas river and west of longitude 23° west of Washington (100° west of Greenwich), was part of the territory ceded to the United States by Texas in 1850. (See COMPROMISES, V.) Under its territorial boundaries Kansas did not include this south west portion. but extended west to the Rocky mountains, thus taking in part of the modern state of Colorado.


—The greater part of Kansas was a part of the district and territory of Louisiana, and of the territory of Missouri, until 1821; after that time it remained for thirty-three years without an organized government. About 1843 the increase of overland travel to Oregon led S. A. Douglas to introduce a bill in the house of representatives to organize the territory of Nebraska, covering the modern state of Kansas and all the territory north of it, in order to prevent the alienation of this overland route by treaties for Indian reservations. This bill he unsuccessfully renewed at each session until 1854, when Kansas was at last organized as a separate territory. (See KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL)


—The Missouri compromise had forever prohibited slavery in this and all the other territory acquired from France north of 36° 30' north latitude; the passage of the Kansas- Nebraska bill, which provided that the territory, when admitted as a state, should be received by congress "with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission," began the "Kansas struggle" between free state and slave state immigrants for the settlement of the territory and the control of its conversion into a state. The latter were first in the field, owing to the proximity of the slave state of Missouri. They crossed the border into the new territory, pre-empted lands, and warned free state immigrants not to cross the state of Missouri, which barred the straight road to Kansas. They were thus able to control the first election for delegate to congress, Nov. 29, 1854. A. H. Reeder, the federal governor of the territory, arrived in Kansas Oct. 7, 1854, and ordered an election for a territorial legislature to be held March 30, 1855. Free state immigration had already begun, in July, 1854, under the auspices at first of a congressional association called the "Kansas Aid Society," and afterward of a corporation chartered by the Massachusetts legislature, Feb. 21, 1855, called the "New England Emigrant Aid Company," and other similar associations. Before this evident free state preparation could be effective the March election took place, and was carried by organized bands of Missourians, who moved into Kansas on election day, voted, and returned to Missouri at night. The territorial census of February. 1855, showed 2,905 legal voters in the territory; in the election of the next month 5,427 votes were cast for the pro slavery candidates and 791 for their opponents. These figures alone, leaving aside the testimony to the terrorizing of free state voters, will explain why the free state settlers always refused to recognize the pro-slavery legislature as representing anything beyond a Missouri constituency.


—By whatever means the election was carried, this initial success of the pro-slavery element gave it a tremendous advantage during the next two years. Its legislature, which met at Pawnee, July 2, 1855, proceeded to make Kansas a slave territory, adopted the slave laws of Missouri en bloc, with a series of original statutes denouncing the penalty of death for about fifty different offenses against the system of slavery, and provided that, for the next two years, every executive and judicial officer of the territory should be appointed by the legislature or its appointees, and that every candidate for the next legislature, every judge of election, and every voter, if challenged, should swear to support the fugitive slave law. The territorial legislature had thus, as far as it was able, made Kansas a slave territory, and guarded against any easy reversal of its action by subsequent legislatures. The free state settlers, therefore, ignoring the territorial legislature, took immediate steps to transform Kansas into a state. without waiting for any enabling act of congress. California and other states had previously formed governments in this manner (see TERRITORIES), but the parallelism was denied by the democratic administration at Washington on the ground that no territory had ever been, or could properly be, thus transformed into a state in direct opposition to the constituted authorities of the territory. The political history of Kansas, for the next few years, is therefore a series of attempts to inaugurate a state government, complicated by disobedience to territorial authorities, indictments of free state leaders for treason, and actual armed conflict between partisans of the territorial and state governments.


—In obedience to the call of a private free state committee, a convention met at Topeka, Sept. 19, 1855, and ordered an election for delegates to a constitutional convention. Only free state voters took part in the election. The convention met at Topeka, Oct. 23, and formed the "Topeka constitution." prohibiting slavery, which was submitted to popular vote and was adopted, Dec. 15, by a vote of 1,731 to 46, only free state settlers voting. An election for state officers was then held, Jan. 15, 1856, at which a governor (C. Robinson), a representative to congress, and a complete legislature and state government, were chosen. The bill to admit the state of Kansas, under the Topeka constitution. was passed by the house of representatives, July 3, 1836, by a vote of 107 to 106, but failed in the senate. Nevertheless, on the claim that the state was already in existence (see STATE SOVEREIGNTY), the free state legislature met at Topeka, July 4, 1856. It was dispersed by federal troops under Col. Sumner, by orders from Washington. This action had been foreshadowed by a proclamation of President Pierce, Feb. 11, in which he declared any such attempt to be an insurrection, which would "justify and require the forcible interposition of the whole power of the general government, as well to maintain the laws of the territory as those of the Union." It was the occasion of considerable excitement, in and out of congress, and a provision, or "rider," was added by the republican majority in the house to the army appropriation bill, forbidding the use of the army to enforce the acts of the territorial legislature of Kansas. The senate rejected the proviso, and during the debate the time fixed for adjournment arrived and the session of congress closed, Aug. 18, 1856, with the army bill unpassed. The president at once called an extra session, in which the army bill was passed without the "rider," and congress again adjourned, Aug. 30. (See also BROOKS, PRESTON.)


—Long before this time Kansas had become the principal topic of newspaper, political and private discussion. The territory itself had fairly relapsed into a state of nature, the free state settlers disobeying and resisting the territorial government, and the slave state settlers disobeying and resisting the state government. A desultory civil war, waged on public and private account, was marked by the murder of many individuals and by the sack of at least two cities in the free state section, Lawrence (May 21), and Osawatomie (June 5, 1856). All this would have been of no more permanent interest than the early lawlessness of California, but for the premonitions which "bleeding Kansas" afforded all thinking men of the infinitely more frightful convulsion to come. The predominance of a moral question in politics, always a portentous phenomenon under a constitutional government, was made unmistakable by the Kansas struggle, and its first perceptible result was the disappearance, in effect, of all the old forms of opposition to the democratic party, and the first national convention of the new republican party, June 17, 1856. (See REPUBLICAN PARTY.) Kansas, it might be said, cleared the stage for the last act of the drama, the rebellion.


—Reeder, the first territorial governor, had quarreled with his legislature soon after it first assembled in 1855. He had convened it at Pawnee city, for the purpose, as was alleged, of increasing the value of his own property in that place, and when the legislature passed an act, over his veto, to remove the capital to Shawnee Mission, he refused to recognize it as any longer a legal legislature, and became one of the free state leaders. At the request of the legislature the president removed him, July 31, 1855, and appointed Wilson Shannon, of Ohio. Shannon was incompetent, and fled from the territory in September, 1856. The next governor, John W. Geary, of Pennsylvania, arrived in Kansas Sept. 9, 1856, and by a skillful blending of temporizing and decided measures succeeded in a reasonable time in disbanding most of the armed and organized forces on both sides, and in bringing about a temporary full in the open conflict. Before the end of the year he even claimed to have reestablished order in the territory. Early in the next year he seems to have become distrustful of the sincerity of the federal administration in supporting him, and March 4, 1857, he resigned. Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi (a Pennsylvanian by birth). was appointed in his place. He reached Kansas May 25, 1857, and proved to be one of the most successful of the territorial governors. It must be noted, however, that his work had been much simplified by the enormous increase in the free state immigration, which had by this time almost entirely swamped open opposition.


—Nevertheless, Kansas was still governed by the nearly unanimously pro-slavery territorial legislature, backed by the power of the federal government. After a final attempt of the free state legislature to meet at Topeka, Jan. 6, 1857, which was prevented by the arrest of its members by the federal authorities, the free state party abandoned the Topeka constitution forever. Governor Walker was successful in gaining their confidence, and succeeded in inducing them, for the first time, to take part in the election for the territorial legislature, in October, 1857, which resulted in the choice of a free state legislature and delegate to congress. Before losing their hold of the legislature, however, the pro-slavery party had used it to call a constitutional convention, which met at Lecompton, Sept 5, 1857, and adopted the "Lecompton constitution," Nov. 7. It sanctioned slavery in the state, prohibited the passage of emancipation laws by the legislature, forbade amendments until after 1864, and provided that the constitution should not be submitted to popular vote, but should be finally established by the approval of congress and the admission of the state. Governor Walker had repeatedly promised the free state voters, to secure their participation in the October election, that the proposed constitution should be submitted to popular vote; the convention evaded the fulfillment of the pledge by submitting to a popular vote, Dec. 21, only the provision sanctioning slavery. The vote stood 6,266 "for the constitution with slavery," and 567 "for the constitution without slavery," the free state party generally declining to vote; but the new territorial legislature passed an act submitting the whole constitution to popular vote, Jan. 4, 1858, when the vote stood 10,226 against the constitution, 138 for it with slavery, 24 for it without slavery.


—The whole question then passed into national politics, and occupied most of the next session of congress, 1857-8. Both branches were democratic, but no complete party majority could be secured in the house for the approval of the Lecompton constitution. The president desired and urged it; the senate passed the necessary bill, March 23, 1858; but in the house 22 Douglas democrats and 6 Americans united with the 92 republicans. April 1, to pass a substitute requiring the resubmission of the constitution to the people of Kansas. As a compromise, both houses passed, April 30, the "English bill" (so called from its mover), according to which a substitute for the land ordinance of the Lecompton constitution was to be submitted to popular vote in Kansas; if it was accepted, the state was to be considered as admitted; if it was rejected, the Lecompton constitution was to be considered as rejected by the people, and no further constitutional convention was to be held until a census should have shown that the population of the territory equaled or exceeded that required for a representative. (See APPORTIONMENT.) Aug. 3, the people of Kansas voted down the land ordinance, 11,088 to 1,788, and thus finally disposed of the Lecompton constitution.


—Nevertheless, the territorial legislature called a state convention, which met at Leavenworth and adopted a constitution, April 8, 1858, prohibiting slavery. It was ratified by popular vote, but was refused consideration by the senate, on the ground that Kansas had not the requisite population.


—The territorial legislature directed the question of a new constitutional convention to be again submitted to popular vote in March, 1859. It was approved; the convention met at Wyandotte July 5, and adopted the "Wyandotte constitution" July 27, which was ratified, Oct. 4, by a vote of 10,421 to 5,530. The senate was still a barrier in the way of the admission of Kansas, and it was not until the withdrawal of southern senators (see SECESSION) had changed the party majority in that branch of congress that Kansas was at last admitted as a state, Jan. 29, 1861, under the Wyandotte constitution. Under this organic law slavery was prohibited; the governor was to hold office for two years; the suffrage was limited to whites, and Topeka was made the capital.


—From the beginning of the war of the rebellion, to which the Kansas struggle was the prelude, it was natural that Kansas should take the side of the Union with even more warmth than the other northern states. To her people it was rather the development of an old war than the beginning of a new one, and they sent a larger percentage of their number to the armies in the field than any other state. In state politics the republican party, whose name had from the first been associated with the efforts to make Kansas a free state, has always had a complete and overwhelming predominance. Every governor, congressman and United States senator has been a republican; almost all the local officers have been republican; and there have been very few legislatures in which the opposition to the dominant party has risen so high as 20 per cent. of the whole number of members. Indeed, it can hardly be said that there has been any opposition party in the state since 1857. In 1875 the democrats even dropped their party name, and the combined opposition, under the name of "independent reformers," polled 35,308 out of 84,132 votes, and elected 37 out of 136 members of the legislature. With the exception of this year the republican vote has always been from 60 to 80 per cent. of the whole, and party contest has been confined to struggles between factions of the dominant party. (See also PROHIBITION.)


—This constant and foregone control of the state by one party has operated to the disadvantage of the abler leaders of Kansas in national politics, since the two great parties have naturally reserved their favors for politicians of other and more doubtful states. After the conclusion of the Kansas struggle (see BROWN, JOHN), it would be difficult to name any leader of the state whose name has obtained a national reputation. Another ill consequence has been that politicians have aimed to influence conventions and legislatures, rather than the people, and have not forborne at times the use of the most questionable means of influence. The investigations of the charges of bribery and corruption, in 1872-3, at the elections of United States senators S. C. Pomeroy and Alexander Caldwell, led to the resignation of the latter, and the permanent retirement of the former from politics at the end of his senatorial term. Similar charges have been freely made in regard to other elections in which the people have not taken part, and, though not sustained by the evidence, have given Kansas politics an unpleasant notoriety which is utterly unmerited by the character of the people or by the general conduct of their political contests.


—The name of the state was given from that of its principal river, an Indian word, said to mean "the smoky water." but more probably derived from the name of the Kaws, or Konzas, an Indian tribe living on its banks.


—Among those who have been prominent in state politics, outside of the list of governors, given below, are the following all republicans: Alexander Caldwell, United States senator 1871-3; Sidney Clarke, representative in congress 1863-71; Martin F. Conway, one of the leaders of the free state party, and representative in congress 1861-3, John James Ingalls, United States senator 1873-85; James II. Lane, democratic lieutenant governor of Indiana 1849-53, representative in congress from Indiana 1853-5, the principal military leader of the free state immigrants in the Kansas struggle, and United States senator 1861-6; P. B. Plumb, United States senator 1877-83; S. C. Pomeroy, United States senator 1861-73; and E.g. Ross, United States senator 1866-71.


—GOVERNORS: Charles Robinson, 1861-3; Thomas Carney, 1863-5; S. J. Crawford. 1865-9; Jas. M. Harvey, 1869-73; Thomas A. Osborn, 1873-7; George T. Anthony, 1877-81; John P. St. John, 1881-3.


—See 1 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; Cutts' Treatise on Party Questions, 84; authorities under KANSAS NEBRASKA BILL; 1 Greeley's American Conflict, 235; Greeley's Political Text Book of 1860, 87; Report of the House Special Committee on the Troubles in Kansas (republican report, pp. 1-67, democratic report, pp 68-109): 1 Draper's History of the Civil War, 409; the particulars of the "Emigrant Aid Society" are in 2 Wilson's Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, 465; 3 Spencer's United States, 514; Harris' Political Conflict in America, 168; Buchanan's Administration, 28: Claskey's Political Text Book, 346; Gihon's Geary and Kansas (generally the fairest contemporary account); Robinson's Kansas; Gladstone's Englishman in Kansas; Holloway's History of Kansas (1868); Wilder's Annals of Kansas (1875); 4 Sumner's Works, 127; Porter's West in 1880, 323.


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