Tag: History

Territorial Kansas Online
The Sunflower State

Territorial Kansas Online

Territorial Kansas OnlineLooking for an extensive depository of digitized primary source material related to the turbulent territorial days of Kansas? Try Territorial Kansas Online, a project developed by the Kansas State Historical Society and the University of Kansas.

Territorial Kansas Online displays a wide range of artifacts dating from 1854 to 1861, including:

  • Letters.
  • Speeches.
  • Articles.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Photographs.
  • Legislative acts.
  • Meeting minutes.
  • Sheet music.

There are several ways to browse the content of the site:

There is also a helpful timeline of major events in Kansas territorial history along with links to relevant materials.

Please note that this impressive collection of documents represents a wide range of perspectives, some of them unthinkable or offensive to the modern reader. However, studying primary source materials is essential for an accurate understanding of history and of the events that unfolded in Bleeding Kansas. Territorial Kansas Online is an excellent, easy-to-use way to experience these primary sources.

2018 Reading Challenge: Kansas
The Lifestyle

2018 Reading Challenge: Kansas

2018 Reading Challenge: KansasA new year—a new reading challenge!

This year, Kansas is the theme. To complete the challenge, you must read 12 Kansas-related books by the end of 2018:

  1. A book about Kansas prior to 1854.
  2. A book about Kansas flora.
  3. A fictional book written by a Kansas author.
  4. A book about territorial Kansas.
  5. A book about Kansas travel.
  6. A book about Kansas fauna.
  7. A book about Kansas in the late 1800s.
  8. A book of poetry written by a Kansas author.
  9. A book about a famous Kansan.
  10. A book about Kansas in the 1900s.
  11. A book of Kansas photography.
  12. A book about a current issue in Kansas.

Here are the rules:

  • Books in electronic formats count.
  • Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
  • You can read the books in any order.
  • Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.

If you can complete a book a month, you will be able to complete the challenge easily.

Stuck? Sign up for On the Range, our free weekly country living update (learn more). In the last issue of every month, we’ll suggest a book for one of the categories as a hint.

Let us know what you’re reading this year! We’d love to hear from you!


Helpful Resource

The Homestead Bookshelf
Looking for a good book? Start here.

George M. Beebe
The Sunflower State

George M. Beebe

George M. BeebeGeorge 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.”


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Samuel Medary
The Sunflower State

Samuel Medary

Samuel MedaryFrom an early age, Samuel Medary, native of Pennsylvania, was a influential Democrat, his foremost weapon being his formidable pen. He was born in 1801; 16 years later he was already contributing prose and poetry to the Norristown Herald. After a series of moves and some time spent as a rural schoolteacher, Medary established his own paper in Batavia, Ohio, in 1828—the Ohio Sun, dedicated to the cause of Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign.

Medary further bolstered his reputation as a Jacksonian Democrat with one term each in the Ohio House and in the Senate of that same state. But Medary could not keep away from the newspaper business for very long. On completing his time in the Ohio Senate, he purchased the Columbus Western Hemisphere, changed its name to the Ohio Statesman, and continued using his pen to shape the thought of the Democratic Party.

In addition to editing his newspaper, Medary played an important part as a delegate from Ohio to the National Democratic Conventions at Baltimore in 1844. Westward Expansion, slavery, and economic issues were hot topics that divided the party that year. Andrew Jackson’s support was considered a valuable asset to any candidate, so the former president entrusted a letter declaring his personal choice to Medary for safekeeping, to be presented only in the case of absolute gridlock. Gridlock ensued, so Medary displayed the letter and rallied the Jacksonian Democrats behind James K. Polk. Polk went on to become president, although, contrary to popular myth, he did not campaign with shouts of “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!” This “campaign promise” of a United States that extended to 54° 40′ north was actually a demand made by the Democratic Party and its associated newspapers. In fact, the slogan may have been coined by Medary himself.

At the Cincinnati National Democratic Conventions in 1856, Medary again came to the forefront, this time as a supporter of Stephen A. Douglas. Although James Buchanan won the nomination and became president, the new president won Medary’s respect for his support of the Lecompton Constitution. Medary must have gained favor from Buchanan, as well, because when a territorial governor was needed for Minnesota in April 1857, Medary was the president’s choice. Granted, the position was a rather awkward one, because Minnesota Territory had already set up a state government while Congress delayed on admitting it to the Union. Minnesotans debated whether Governor Medary could legally sign anything the “state” government passed. Medary mostly stayed out of the territory and allowed the secretary, Charles L. Chase, to handle affairs until Minnesota was finally admitted to the Union in May 1858.

After a brief spell as postmaster of Columbus, Ohio, Medary was selected to become a territorial governor again—this time in Kansas.


Time in Office

Samuel Medary arrived in Kansas Territory on December 18, 1858. One of the most important events of his time in office came almost two months later. On February 9, 1859, Medary signed a law requiring the citizens vote on whether or not to organize yet another constitutional convention. This vote was held on March 28 and demonstrated the eagerness of Kansas residents to put the matter to rest once and for all. Delegates were duly elected, the convention was held, and the result was the Wyandotte Constitution. This document was approved by a vote of the people on October 4, 1859, with 10,421 voting for it and 5,530 against it.

The next step on the path to statehood was to elect state officials so that a government could be set up quickly and smoothly once Kansas was admitted to the Union. The elections were held on December 6, 1859, the result being a landslide for the antislavery Republican Party across the future state. In the gubernatorial race, Medary ran against Republican Charles Robinson, who had illegally served as governor of the Free State government during the Bleeding Kansas era. Robinson won 7,908 to 5,395, earning the right to become the first governor of the state of Kansas, as soon as Kansas became a state.

Shortly after the elections, Medary found himself caught up in scandal. Provisions had previously been made by the territorial government to examine claims made by people who suffered damage during the period of guerilla warfare. Territorial officials expected that Congress would pay the claims, as the territory did not have the legal authority to issue bonds to pay them. However, in January 1860, it came to light that the territorial treasurer had issued bonds for the claims with the governor’s approval, and that these bonds were being used to establish a bank in Lawrence. The illegal bonds had been sold fraudulently in New York.

Medary’s relationship with the Republican territorial legislature, already strained by the bond scandal, did not improve when on February 20, 1860, he vetoed an act prohibiting slavery in Kansas Territory. This bill had caused great turmoil in the legislature and was only passed with a struggle. Medary observed that the move appeared to be “more political than practical,” but vetoed it primarily because he felt that the territorial legislature did not possess the sovereignty to ban the institution of slavery. By contrast, Medary observed, the Wyandotte Constitution was an act of the people (the true source of sovereignty) and therefore could legitimately ban slavery in the future state of Kansas.

But clearly the Republican Party was on the ascendancy in Kansas. By the time Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Medary was convinced that the best thing for him to do was to resign. He left office on December 17, 1860, and returned to Ohio, where he established a newspaper called The Crisis. His highly critical views of President Lincoln, the Republican Party, and the fighting of the Civil War led to the destruction of his newspaper office by an angry mob in 1863. The following year, Medary was arrested for conspiracy against the government. He died before he could stand trial.



  • Served as the last appointed territorial governor of Kansas.
  • Called the convention that drafted the Wyandotte Constitution, still in effect today.
  • Defeated in the first gubernatorial election in Kansas.
  • Perpetrator of the only bond scandal in territorial Kansas history.


In His Own Words

  • Bleeding Kansas: “Every thing seems to near a more hopeful and quiet appearance, all over the Territory, and with a year of prosperous emigration and full crops of the present settlers, Kansas by the opening of next Spring will scarcely be known from its appearance to its old acquaintance.”
  • 1859 election results: “…I have not a solitary doubt left about our having a democratic majority in Kansas. Yet we have to submit to the eternal disgrace of having it go forth as a Black Old John Brown state. It is our own faults in part—and we deserve it, but I do not feel comfortable under the additional disgrace of running behind the balance of the ticket, by being cut by pure unadulterated Democrats, as must have been the case.”
  • Veto of territorial abolition act: “Sovereignty does not reside in Legislatures; it resides in the people; and their sovereign acts must precede legislative bodies. And here, I presume, is the rock on which you have split. If sovereignty resided in Legislatures, then, indeed, no one would dare to dispute your sovereign acts. But in this great essential you are deficient, and hence the embarrassment under which you labor in completing your round of ‘all legislation.’ You can pass laws regulating the condition of master and slave, or you can repeal such laws, or refuse to pass them, but you lack the sovereignty necessary to create a slave, or wrest him from his owner. That is an exercise of power which clear, undisputed sovereignty alone can exercise; and it must be done by the sovereign himself, in convention assembled.”


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Hugh Sleight Walsh
The Sunflower State

Hugh Sleight Walsh

Hugh Sleight WalshHugh Sleight Walsh was born on November 10, 1810, in New Windsor, New York. He spent his entire childhood and much of his early adulthood in New York, but also lived for a time in Alabama before coming to Kansas Territory in 1857.

In Kansas, Walsh worked as a private secretary, first to Frederick P. Stanton and later to James W. Denver, with whom he appears to have cultivated a close political relationship. On May 12, 1858, Walsh became the territorial secretary, replacing Denver, who had vacated the position to become territorial governor.

As territorial secretary, Walsh had the job of serving as acting governor when necessary. This occurred four times total.


Time in Office

Walsh’s first stint as acting governor lasted from July 3 to July 30 in 1858 during the temporary absence of Governor Denver. Little of note occurred during this time.

He next became acting governor on October 10, 1858, upon the resignation of Governor Denver. Walsh remained in close contact with Denver, however. He confided to the outgoing governor that he entertained some hopes of securing an appointment to the office himself, although he was also amenable to the idea of having a Kentucky man as the next territorial governor. When word came that Samuel Medary was the president’s selection, Walsh was disappointed, but admitted to Denver that he respected the future governor’s tact. Meanwhile, Walsh occupied the rest of his time as acting governor petitioning for federal money to offer as a reward for the capture of John Brown and dispatching Missouri guerilla fighters to stamp out an opposing abolitionist band under James Montgomery known as the Jayhawkers.

Despite Walsh’s suspicions of the new governor, his relationship with Medary started off cordially enough. But when Walsh became acting governor again on August 1, 1859, a small matter arose that was to have a negative impact on his future career. Provisions had previously been made to examine the claims of those who had suffered property damage due to border conflict with the understanding that the United States Congress would pay the claims. Kansas Territory was prohibited by law from issuing bonds for the purpose. So when Territorial Treasurer Robert B. Mitchell came to the acting governor with a request to approve a bond issue, Walsh was duly suspicious. The treasurer hastened to assure him that the bonds were to cover territorial expenses, not to pay off private claims. Walsh refused, however, stating that he would not approve them without examining the matter thoroughly and that he did not have the time to do so just then. Medary returned on September 15 and subsequently approved and sold the bonds himself.

The bonds came to Secretary Walsh’s attention again during his fourth period as acting governor, which began on April 15, 1860. Based on the bonds and on an 1858 charter authorizing the establishment of banks in Lawrence, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte (now part of Kansas City, Kansas), a bank was established in Lawrence. Acting Governor Walsh protested on the grounds that the charter had expired, but the bank officials politely advised him not to interfere. That May, Walsh challenged Treasurer Mitchell for his reasoning on the subject and merely received a formal letter asking on what authority Walsh was questioning the treasurer. Walsh retorted that the territorial treasurer was required to submit his records for inspection at the request of the governor. But all his repeated demands for further information could only elicit the following reply from Mitchell:

…I have been, since the reception of your note of yesterday, wholly incapable to find the time to make a satisfactory reply to your inquiries, but will endeavor to do so at the earliest possible time convenient.

The treasurer subsequently left town.

According to Walsh, Governor Medary had already been treating him rather coldly, starting from January 1860 when the secretary had made a report to the territorial legislature on the fraudulent bonds. Subsequent events did not improve the relationship any. The governor eventually asked to have Walsh removed from office, claiming “incompatibility of temper” as a pretext. Walsh resigned that June and took up a much more congenial life of farming near Grantville in Jefferson County, Kansas.



  • Suppressed James Montgomery’s guerilla warfare efforts to some extent.
  • Exposed Governor Medary’s claim bond fraud.


In His Own Words

  • Gubernatorial ambitions: “If Mr. Medary should not accept I hope that the appointment may be held in abeyance until after the session and if I succeed well and the President chooses to honor me with the appointment I will esteem it a high honor—but it is almost as difficult to get a good secretary as a good Governor and I would rather be without one than not have a good one—I can find good clerks & make them do what perhaps I could not find a secretary willing to do….”
  • Beginning of the claim bond scandal: “In May or June, 1859, I was applied to by Mr. Mitchell, the Treasurer of the Territory, to approve, as Acting Governor, certain Territorial Bonds. I refused on the grounds that I did not believe any Bonds issued for Claims, under the Act to provide for the adjustment and payment of Claims, were valid. The Treasurer informed me that the Bonds were not for claims but Territorial expenses, and belonged to David Weir. I informed him that I would not sign any Territorial Bonds whatever without tracing them back to their original indebtedness, through all the parties’ hands through which they might have passed. As I was superintending the public printing at the time, I had not then leisure to do it.”
  • Relationship with Governor Medary: “Before the time of issuing the Bonds we were on friendly terms, and so continued for sometime afterwards. The Bonds were issued in the summer of 1859; we continued friendly up to January, 1860. I then for the first time, discovered that Gov. Medary was unfriendly to me, and I presumed his hostility arose out of a report which I made as Secretary, to 21 members of the Legislature who called upon me for information in regard to these claim Bonds. At least up to that time we were on speaking terms.”


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James W. Denver
The Sunflower State

James W. Denver

James W. DenverJames W. Denver was born in Winchester, Virginia, on October 23, 1817. He grew up on a farm in that state, but about the time he reached adulthood he went with his parents to Ohio, where he studied engineering.

Engineering was not Denver’s calling, however. In 1841, he moved to Missouri and spent some time teaching school, but within a year he was back in Ohio to study law. He entered the legal profession in 1844, practicing first in Ohio and then in Missouri.

After serving as a captain in the 12th U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican–American War, Denver decided to move to the promising young state of California in 1850. Here he made a living, not prospecting as so many tried to do, but trading. Like many lawyers, however, Denver was attracted to politics. He served in the California state senate, a term tainted by rumors of his profiteering from a relief expedition to aid destitute overland immigrants to the state. These charges terminated in a duel with newspaper editor Edward Gilbert, in which the latter was shot and killed, Denver being a superior marksman.

Denver’s political career continued, however. He subsequently served as California Secretary of State, Representative from California, and Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President James Buchanan. It was in this last role that he first came to Kansas on the official business of making treaties.

But the resignation of Governor Robert J. Walker and the impending resignation of Territorial Secretary Frederick P. Stanton left the president with the task of finding yet another appointee to take up the unenviable work of keeping peace in Kansas. Denver was his choice.


James W. DenverTime in Office

Denver arrived in Kansas on December 21, 1857, as territorial secretary. Because there was no governor, however, he immediately became acting governor—on the day of the vote on the Lecompton Constitution, no less. But Denver was prepared. He had already secured from John Calhoun, a Democratic leader in the territory not to be confused with the more famous South Carolina statesman of the same name, a promise that the election would be carried out fairly. Calhoun had gone a step farther and invited Denver to be personally present at the counting of the ballots.

It was Denver and his assistants who unmasked the widespread fraud that had taken place. The Lecompton Constitution had been approved with provisions for slavery by all appearances, but a variety of discrepancies were noted, such as disproportionately large numbers of ballots being cast in areas with small populations. President Buchanan persisted in claiming that the document was legitimate, but with Denver’s influence on the territorial scene and Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s influence on the national scene, a referendum was secured. Denver accomplished an even more amazing feat by coaxing the Free State Party to vote instead of boycott. The Lecompton Constitution as a whole was overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Kansas on January 4, 1858. A legitimate territorial legislature with Free State leanings was elected at the same time.

Denver’s personal correspondence from this time suggests that he may have felt that this should have been the end of the issue. However, neither faction was ready to yield. President Buchanan loudly denounced the referendum on the Lecompton Constitution, while the new legislature drafted a new and equally controversial constitution in Leavenworth without the acting governor’s approval.

Despite Denver’s strong desire to leave Kansas Territory and turn over his job to someone else, he was selected to be the official governor of the territory and accordingly took the oath of office on May 12. His private secretary, Hugh Sleight Walsh, filled his place as territorial secretary. Exactly one week later, the turbulent border erupted into violence again when a band of Missourians rounded up 11 unarmed Free State men and opened fire, killing five of them. This event became known as the Marais des Cygnes Massacre, the last major act of violence in Kansas territorial history.

The United States Congress paid little heed to the Leavenworth Constitution and instead sent the English Bill to the territory. This bill promised Kansas 3.5 million acres of public land if it would only ratify the Lecompton Constitution. If the citizens turned down this opportunity, however, Kansas would be denied statehood until the population substantially increased. On August 2, the English Bill and the Lecompton Constitution were overwhelmingly rejected. President Buchanan urged Governor Denver to stay in office until the next session of the territorial legislature ended, thereby preventing any further attempts to make Kansas a state. But all to no avail. The governor resigned on October 10.



Denver also served as a brigadier general in the Civil War from 1861 to 1863.

  • Instrumental in unmasking the fraud involved in first vote on the Lecompton Constitution.
  • Brought the Lecompton Constitution back to the people for a fair vote.
  • Became the namesake of Denver, Colorado, at that time part of Kansas Territory.


In His Own Words

  • Bleeding Kansas: “This country beats all creation for reports of every hue and description. A quarrel between two men is soon magnified into a battle in which a score or two are killed. Putting reports into circulation and exciting the public mind has become a business here, and people are beginning to understand them. Nothing can be believed until it is corroborated by well established facts.”
  • First vote on Lecompton Constitution: “It is asserted by some that persons from other States have interfered in the elections and that frauds have been perpetrated by which they have been over-powered, and deprived of their rights. These charges may be true, but if so the evils they complain of will not be remedied by absenting themselves from the polls.…It is true that a question may be presented in a manner objectionable to some but that is not a good reason for refusing to vote; for if the majority wills it, the difficulty can soon be remedied by presenting the question in the manner required.”
  • Role of the governor: “I began writing this before noon—it is now after dark and I have only got thus far—being interrupted every minute or two by persons on business or loafing. Many people here seem to think that the Governor is all powerful and if one man makes mouths at another he must run with a complaint to the Governor about it. If a desperado is to be taken it is expected that the Governor will do it.”
  • Desire to resign: “If they will only let me turn over the government to some of them in four or five weeks I will give them a pledge never to put my foot inside of their Territory again. Confound the place it seems to have been cursed of God and man. Providence gave them no crops last year scarcely and now it requires all the powers conferred on me by the President to prevent them from cutting each others throats. Were I not a very patient man they would almost tempt me to swear, but I endeavor to call philosophy to my aid to resist the temptation. Among them there is one continual struggle for the ascendancy, and all means are resorted to, fair or foul, to effect their object. They are ready to cheat, to swindle, to violate their word of honor given in the most solemn manner,—in fact they are in good part a most rascally set.”


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Robert J. Walker
The Sunflower State

Robert J. Walker

Robert J. WalkerRobert J. Walker was born on July 19, 1801, in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. His father was a district court judge, so perhaps he inspired young Walker to take interest in the law. Walker graduated at the top of his class at the University of Pennsylvania in 1819 and was admitted to the bar two years later, practicing law first in his native state and after 1826 in Mississippi.

While Walker became interested in politics during an 1832 controversy over the rights of states to declare federal laws null and void, what finally convinced him to pursue a political career came a year later. He had become involved in land speculation, accumulating much debt in the process. However, he found a way to earn a little extra cash by negotiating secret agreements between prospective buyers. The buyers promised not to compete against each other at auctions of public land, thus allowing parties to the agreement to purchase large acreages for considerably reduced prices. When Walker’s role in the negotiation process became known, a scandal erupted. It took some persuasive speaking on his part to put the matter to rest, but he did conclude that he was born for politics.

Walker served as a Democratic senator from Mississippi between 1835 and 1845, spending part of that time as Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands. Westward expansion was his favorite topic, and he became famous as one of the earliest advocates of a homestead act and as a senator who worked tirelessly to make Texas an American state. He also made a name for himself as a pro-Union Democrat of the antislavery stripe, preferring gradual emancipation of slaves.

Unfortunately, Walker’s time as Secretary of the Treasury under President James Knox Polk was considerably less illustrious. While he assisted in drafting legislation that lowered tariffs and established the Department of the Interior, Walker was frequently implicated in speculation and financial scandal. While serving as Secretary of the Treasury, he became a shareholder in a railroad company and tried to use his influence to secure a southern route for the proposed transcontinental railroad—a route that promised to bring him a handsome profit when he sold his stock. Also, money had a way of disappearing from the Treasury unaccounted for on Walker’s watch, a phenomenon that Walker never seemed to care to explain very clearly.

After leaving the Treasury, Walker resumed his legal practice. He refused an ambassadorship to China in 1853, but could not quite avoid public life altogether. After the controversial Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed, he became a proponent of the popular sovereignty doctrine—the concept that the people of a state should decide what institutions would be legal or illegal in that state. This and his past record as a moderate Democrat probably inspired President James Buchanan to select Walker as the next governor of Kansas Territory in 1857. Walker refused several times, but the president insisted. Walker finally consented to accept the post.


Robert J. WalkerTime in Office

When Walker arrived in Kansas in the spring of 1857, it was with the typical talk of impartiality and justice. But when he took office in Lecompton on May 27, his inaugural address created an uproar on both sides of the debate. Besides the usual promises to uphold the territorial government and its laws, Walker promised that the upcoming election to choose delegates for a constitutional convention would be held fairly this time. He urged Free Staters to make their voice heard by casting ballots. Perhaps what he said next was meant to placate them, but if so, it failed miserably. Walker went on to observe that popular sovereignty was the real issue at hand, not slavery. Kansas, he claimed, would never become a slave state, no matter what the people voted. That little matter had already been decided by the inexorable authority of isothermal lines (lines on a map displaying differences in temperature across the United States).

This did little to reassure Free Staters—abolition was too important of an issue to them to be treated so lightly. Furthermore, they saw no point in voting when all other territorial elections had been beset with widespread fraud and when the voter registration process under Frederick P. Stanton had already gone awry. Walker spoke to the Topeka legislature on June 9, attempting to make peace with its members and urge them to vote. However, he continued to insist that the existing territorial legislature was recognized by the federal government and therefore legitimate, election fraud or no. Walker’s attempts at reconciliation failed again, and the Free State Party boycotted the election for delegates.

In July, the town of Lawrence rejected its municipal charter, which had been issued by the “Bogus Legislature.” The townspeople applied to the Topeka legislature for a new charter, but when their request was denied they proceeded to craft their own charter independently. Governor Walker vigorously protested this defiance of territorial authority in an official proclamation and hurried to the scene with the United States infantry at his back. Newspapers North and South openly ridiculed his pomposity and self-importance. Walker’s reputation did not improve when he abruptly withdrew from Lawrence without accomplishing his purpose on the pretext of an Indian scare.

The Lecompton Constitution was drafted by early November. Unfortunately, its provisions for ratification were extremely controversial. Voters were to be handed two ballots—one marked “Constitution With Slavery” and one marked “Constitution With No Slavery.” The latter option allowed existing slaves to be kept as property, which did not appeal to those favoring emancipation. Furthermore, there was no provision made for voting against the constitution altogether.

Governor Walker strongly opposed this unfair ratification process, but with President Buchanan evidently bent on recognizing the legality of the proceedings, there was little that he could do. Walker left the territory and ultimately resigned to resume his legal practice.



  • Oversaw the formation of the Lecompton constitutional convention.


Robert J. WalkerIn His Own Words

  • The real issue in Kansas: “It is not merely shall slavery exist in or disappear from Kansas, but shall the great principles of self-government and state sovereignty be maintained or subverted?”
  • Climate and slavery: “I shall dissipate the delusion which has prevailed upon this subject, and show that, after three years’ experiment, when I arrived in Kansas there were less than 300 slaves there, and the number constantly diminishing; that, as proved by the official records of Congress, published and authenticated by those distinguished southern statesmen, John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis, the winter climate, even of eastern Kansas, is colder than that of New England, and that the pro-slavery territorial convention of Kansas consolidated with the pro-slavery territorial legislature on January 4, 1857, nearly five months before my arrival here, did distinctly abandon the slavery issue, the cause as set forth by one of their number, ‘the pro-slavery party was in a small and admitted minority,’ ‘and the cooperation of the free-state democrats was invited as the only hope of success, not to make Kansas a slave state, which was conceded to be impossible, but to make it a conservative democratic free state.'”
  • Authority of the territorial legislature: “You were distinctly informed in my inaugural address of May last, that the validity of the Territorial laws was acknowledged by the government of the United States, and that they must and would be carried into execution under my oath of office and the instructions of the President of the United States.…If laws have been enacted by the Territorial Legislature which are disapproved of by a majority of the people of the Territory, the mode in which they could elect a new Territorial Legislature and repeal those laws, was also designated.”
  • Lawrence municipal charter controversy: “As all arguments heretofore so often addressed by me to you, have failed as yet to produce any effect upon you, I have deemed it necessary for your own safety, and that of the Territory, and to save you from the perilous consequences of your own acts, under the authority vested in me by the President of the United States, to order an adequate force of the troops of the United States into your immediate vicinage, to perform the painful duty of arresting your revolutionary proceedings. Let me implore you not to compel me to appeal to that military power which is required in the last resort, to protect the government of your country.”
  • Lecompton Constitution: “By that inaugural and subsequent addresses I was pledged to the people of Kansas to oppose by all ‘lawful means’ the adoption of any constitution which was not fairly and fully submitted to their vote for ratification or rejection. These pledges I cannot recall or violate without personal dishonor and the abandonment of fundamental principles, and therefore it is impossible for me to support what is called the Lecompton constitution, because it is not submitted to a vote of the people for ratification or rejection.”
  • Resignation: “…[The president’s] message clearly indicates an approval of my course up to the present most unfortunate difference about the so-called Lecompton constitution. Inasmuch, however, as this difference is upon a vital question, involving practical results and new instructions, it is certainly much more respectful to the President, on my part, to resign the office of governor, and give him an opportunity of filling it, as his right under the constitution, with one who concurs with him in his present opinions, rather than go to Kansas and force him to remove me by disobedience to his instructions.”


Helpful Resource

“Proclamation, No. 2, To my rebellious subjects at Lawrence”
An example of the style of ridicule that Walker faced over his solution to the Lawrence charter controversy.


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