George M. Beebe was born on October 28, 1836, in New York. Like many politicians, he first chose to pursue the legal profession, being admitted to the bar in 1857. He began practicing in Monticello, New York, but later that year moved to Peoria, Illinois, where he briefly worked as the editor of the Central Illinois Democrat.
In 1858, Beebe moved to Troy, Kansas, and once again practiced law. That same year, he became a member of the Territorial Council, the upper house of the territorial legislature.
Beebe was appointed to the post of territorial secretary in 1859 to replace Secretary Hugh Sleight Walsh, who was resigning after exposing Governor Samuel Medary’s claim bond fraud. However, Beebe’s confirmation lingered in the U.S. Senate through the influence of Mississippi senators Jefferson Davis and A.G. Brown, evidently owing to some question of party loyalty. Secretary Walsh may have had a hand in the delay.
In any case, Beebe wrote to Senator Davis, pledging his loyalty to the Democratic Party and proclaiming himself a defender of slavery. Beebe was eventually confirmed as Kansas territorial secretary, and it was in this capacity that he had the duty of serving as acting governor.
Time in Office
Beebe acted as governor from September 11 to November 26, 1860. The main event of note during this period was a November visit to Fort Scott to visit Free State guerilla leader James Montgomery. Beebe informed Montgomery that he had heard strange rumors of the latter’s actions and had decided to investigate for himself. Beebe was speedily convinced, however, that border warfare was not imminent and decided to take Montgomery’s advice not to send out federal troops, the militant abolitionist having hinted that such a move would be considered an insult. When Governor Samuel Medary returned, however, he promptly requested the assistance of federal troops anyway.
But when Governor Medary realized that statehood was just around the corner, he resigned on December 17 that same year, leaving Beebe to serve as the final executive of Kansas Territory. There was little to do at that point but wait. As one of its final acts, the territorial legislature wrote a bill in early 1861 to repudiate Medary’s fraudulent bonds. Acting Governor Beebe vetoed this bill, but it was subsequently passed over his veto.
Kansas officially became a state on January 29, 1861. The new government was inaugurated on February 9 with Charles Robinson as the first state governor. His territorial duties at an end, Beebe moved to Missouri and later Nevada before finally returning to his native state of New York.
- Served as the last acting governor of Kansas Territory.
In His Own Words
- Delayed confirmation process: “I want the wish of the party here to be recognized. They ask Walsh’s removal. The dem members of the legislature & the Gov will resign if he be not removed, so for my own appointment I care nothing. Let some one else be appointed, but if I ever come before the senate for confirmation for another office (& I expect to) I hope you will be good enough to examine into the case before upsetting ‘my kettle of fish.’ This office holding is a humbug.”