Geary and Kansas by John H. Gihon, M.D.



Resignation of Governor Geary.--His Farewell Address.

    GOVERNOR GEARY was not only deprived of the use of the sword at a time when he considered it needful to carry out his instructions, but the public purse-strings were also drawn against him. The following communication was received on the 13th of November:--

              "Department of State,
                  "Washington, October 30th, 1856.
        "Governor of the Territory of Kansas.
    "Sir:--I have received your letter of the 6th inst., in which you ask to be furnished with a draft for two thousand dollars for meeting the contingent expenses of the government of Kansas.
    The president does not doubt the necessity that you should be put in possession of the means you have asked for, and he has gone into a careful examination of the authority he has under the laws, to comply with your request. He regrets to be obliged to state that this examination has resulted in a conviction on his part, that he has no authority to advance for the contingent expenses of the government of Kansas territory, any amount whatever, beyond the sum appropriated by Congress for that purpose. The appropriation, which was an inconsiderable sum, has been exhausted and there is no power in the executive government of the United States to furnish you with any more. This state of things is most seriously regretted; for situated as you are, the sum provided by Congress for the contingent expenses of the territory must fall far short of that required for the public service. The subject, will, of course, occupy the attention of Congress at the approaching session; but what will be its decision on it cannot be foretold. I should think there could be no doubt, that the next Congress will provide the means for paying all the expenses which may be or have been properly incurred in administering the affairs of the territorial government.
              "I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                    "W. L. MARCY."

    Such was the encouragement received by Governor Geary from the government at Washington. It could have been nothing less than an enlarged patriotism that caused him to retain so long the most thankless and unprofitable office in the nation. For months he had labored for the public good with untiring energy, not even taking time for needed rest and sleep; deprived of all the usual comforts of life; occupying a log house, and very often unable to obtain wholesome food; vexed and harassed hourly with the complaints of an abused people; constant drafts being made by persons whom he was compelled to employ, upon his pecuniary resources; required to pay the militia called into the service by the president himself, from his own private funds; every federal officer in the territory conspiring to embarrass his administration; his mails overhauled and their contents examined by government officials; surrounded with organized bands of assassins; and without a word of comfort or a particle of aid from the general government, he still continued, with fidelity, zeal and unflagging energy, to discharge the arduous duties of his station.

    Under these discouraging circumstances, he addressed a lengthy letter to Secretary Marcy, on the 22d of November, from which the following is extracted:--

    "I herewith transmit you by the hands of Brevet Major H. H. Sibley, a copy of my executive minutes from the 17th day of October to the 21st day of November, inclusive. These minutes will furnish you a truthful history of Kansas affairs. They embrace a daily record of all my official transactions, and a full statement of any matters requiring explanation.

    "Fully appreciating the delicate and responsible mission confided to me by the generous partiality of the president, and knowing how liable, amid the strife and prejudice which seemed to hold undisturbed sway here, a person with the most patriotic intentions might be to misrepresentation and abuse, I adopted the custom of keeping an hourly record of all events, in any manner connected with my official action, which, from time to time, I might send to you, as my best vindication to the administration and the country.

    "Properly to keep my executive minutes--to answer the heavy correspondence with this department--to prepare official dispatches--to execute missions requiring secrecy and intelligence--and perform the multifarious duties devolving upon me, owing to the anomalous condition of affairs, has occupied my whole time, assisted by industrious and intelligent secretaries, whom the public exigencies required me to employ.

    "As occasions arose, I did not pause to enter into any refined analysis of the nature and extent of my authority, nor to inquire where the money would come from to reimburse necessary and imperative expenditures; but at once adopted the means best calculated to secure the desired end, and paid all expenses out of my own private resources, confiding in the justice of the administration and Congress for a reimbursement and support.

    "Your general instructions have been the lights by which my official action has been governed, and where the letter of instruction did not meet the crisis, I have based my action on that portion of your comprehensive dispatch of the 23d of September, in which you say:--

    "'Your prompt and vigorous attention will be directed towards those who meditate further mischief and are disposed to obstruct your efforts to restore the supremacy of the civil authority! The president relies upon your energy and discretion to overcome the difficulties which surround you, and to restore tranquillity to Kansas. The exigencies of affairs, as they shall be presented to you on the spot, will indicate the course of proceeding in particular cases, calculated to such results, better than any definite instructions emanating from this department.'

    "At so great a distance from the general government, and so inaccessible to speedy communications from Washington, it is absolutely indispensable for the preservation of order and the protection of life, liberty and property, that the governor of this territory should be clothed with large discretionary powers.

    "When I arrived here the entire territory was declared, by the acting-governor, to be in a state of insurrection; the civil authority was powerless, and so complicated by partisan affiliations as to be without capacity to vindicate the majesty of the law and restore the broken peace.

    "In this state of affairs the most vigorous and determined action on my part seemed the only remedy for the growing evils. Impartial justice will ever commend itself to every American citizen worthy to bear the name. To disband armed bodies of men assembled under color of law, and disperse others brought into antagonistic existence without authority; both inflamed by the most exciting of questions, and both committing outrages which all good men must deplore, required neither hesitation nor fear.

    "I am most happy to inform you that in order to calm these disturbing elements, and bring the people back to sober reason, I have not been obliged to resort to any measures unknown to the law, and not covered by the spirit and letter of my instructions. It is also a matter of special gratification to be able to say, that since my arrival here, peace has been restored and the fierce passions of men soothed, without the shedding of one drop of fratricidal blood.

    "The peace of the territory is now placed upon a permanent basis, all parties having at length relinquished the idea of a resort to arms, and agreeing to refer the adjustment of all political disputes to the ballot box or other lawful expedients."

    Such was the condition of things until the Sherrard disturbances, which were confined to the town of Lecompton. About the time of their occurrence, Calhoun, Clarke, Emory, and others went to Washington, with the avowed purpose of so prejudicing the government against Governor Geary, as to make certain his removal, and soon after, reports were returned from them to the effect that they had been entirely successful. These were circulated through all the public places, and were boldly published in the Lecompton Union, and very generally believed. Several persons had been named as the probable successor. During all this the governor's dispatches and letters to the outgoing and incoming administrations, defining the true condition of affairs, and asking for information and instruction, were unanswered and apparently unnoticed.

    A proper sense of honor could, therefore, dictate but one course, and that was to relinquish the difficult and thankless position which he had thus far filled with such signal success--with such immense benefit to the country and credit to himself. He, therefore, on the day of the inauguration of the new President, dispatched the following letter of resignation to Washington:--


                "Executive Department, K. T.,
                    "Lecompton, March 4, 1857.
        "President of the United States.
    "Dear Sir:--Please accept my resignation as Governor of Kansas territory, to take effect on the 20th of the present month, by which time you will be enabled to select and appoint a proper successor.
              "With high respect, your friend and obedient servant,
                    "JNO. W. GEARY."

    For prudential reasons the governor intended to keep the fact of his resignation a secret from the people of Kansas for some days, and hence made it known only to his private secretary, who deposited the letter in the post-office, late at night, and a few moments before the mail closed. The postmaster's son, and L. A. Maclean, the latter being always in the office at the opening and closing of the mails, were the only persons then present. Yet in the morning, before he had arisen from bed, the subject of the governor's letter to Washington was the theme of universal conversation through the town. It was freely discussed upon the streets and in all the grog-shops, and was a matter of no little interest and excitement. This fact furnished another conclusive proof, in addition to many that had been constantly occurring, of the propriety of a representation of the governor, contained in an official dispatch to Secretary Marcy, as far back as the 22d of September, but which, with many similar evils of which information had been given, remained unheeded. In the dispatch referred to, Governor Geary remarked:--

    "There is still another subject to which it is proper that I should call your attention. The postal arrangements of the territory are lamentably inefficient. Complaints on this subject are loud and universal, and my own experience has convinced me that these are not without sufficient cause. Every package addressed to me through the mail is broken and inspected before it reaches my hands. It is entirely unsafe to send information through the post-office, and more especially to use that medium to forward anything of pecuniary value. Postmasters are either ignorant of their duty and obligations, or being acquainted with them, act in violation of both. Indeed, I have been credibly informed that in some places, persons not connected with the offices, are permitted to enter and overhaul the mails previous to their distribution. This is a serious evil, upon which some prompt action is needed."

    Governor Geary left Lecompton on the 10th of March, and reached Washington City on the 21st. Here he had interviews with the president and members of the cabinet, to whom he personally communicated his views concerning the territory. He found Emory, Clarke, Calhoun, and others of his worst enemies, who had been instrumental in doing most of the mischief that had disturbed the territory, so deeply ingratiated into the confidence and good opinion of these gentlemen, that there was no room to doubt their having good authority for the information they were daily furnishing their friends and associates in Kansas, and that he had not resigned his office an hour too soon. Had any doubt remained of this fact, and of the policy intended to be pursued by the new administration, it would have been removed, by the appointments that were immediately made for the most important and lucrative offices in the territory. The only free-state democrat holding office was removed, though a man of unquestionable integrity--an Indian agent, though a Virginian, was suspected or accused of free-state proclivities, and shared the same fate--all the most objectionable of the incumbents were retained--and others even still more objectionable appointed,--men, in fact; who had no other recommendation than their complicity with the worst outrages that had disgraced the country!

    Governor Geary found Kansas involved in insurrection and civil war--he left it in the enjoyment of uninterrupted contentment, prosperity and peace. He asked to be reimbursed a portion of the money he had expended in the good work he had performed, and to be provided with a few soldiers to preserve the better state affairs he had effected; both of which were refused. Not a man was allowed to remain to protect even himself and household against the robber and assassin.

    Governor Geary left Lecompton on the 10th of March, and proceeded, via Lawrence and Westport, to Kansas City, where he took passage for St. Louis on the steam-packet A. B. Chambers, and reached Washington City on the 21st of the same month. Upon taking his leave of the territory, he issued the following.


"To the People of Kansas Territory:

    "Having determined to resign the executive office, and retire again to the quiet scenes of private life and the enjoyment of those domestic comforts of which I have so long been deprived, I deem it proper to address you on the occasion of my departure.

    "The office from which I now voluntarily withdraw, was unsought by me, and at the time of its acceptance, was by no means desirable. This was quite evident, from the deplorable moral, civil and political condition of the territory--the discord, contention and deadly strife, which then and there prevailed--and the painful anxiety with which it was regarded by patriotic citizens in every portion of the American Union. To attempt to govern Kansas at such a period and under such circumstances, was to assume no ordinary responsibilities. Few men could have desired to undertake the task, and none would have been so presumptuous, without serious forebodings as to the result. That I should have hesitated, is no matter of astonishment to those acquainted with the facts; but that I accepted the appointment, was a well-grounded source of regret to many of my well-tried friends, who looked upon the enterprise as one that could terminate in nothing but disaster to myself. It was not supposed possible that order could be brought, in any reasonable space of time, and with the means at my command, from the then existing chaos.

    "Without descanting upon the feelings, principles and motives which prompted me, suffice it to say, that I accepted the president's tender of the office of governor. In doing so, I sacrificed the comforts of a home, endeared by the strongest earthly ties and most sacred associations, to embark in an undertaking which presented at the best but a dark and unsatisfactory prospect. I reached Kansas and entered upon the discharge of my official duties in the most gloomy hour of her history. Desolation and ruin reigned on every hand. Homes and firesides were deserted. The smoke of burning dwellings darkened the atmosphere. Women and children, driven from their habitations, wandered over the prairies and through the woodlands, or sought refuge and protection even among the Indian tribes. The highways were infested with numerous predatory bands, and the towns were fortified and garrisoned by armies of conflicting partisans, each excited almost to frenzy, and determined upon mutual extermination. Such was, without exaggeration, the condition of the territory, at the period of my arrival. Her treasury was bankrupt. There were no pecuniary resources within herself to meet the exigencies of the time. The congressional appropriations, intended to defray the expenses of a year, were insufficient to meet the demands of a fortnight. The laws were null, the courts virtually suspended, and the civil arm of the government almost entirely powerless. Action--prompt, decisive, energetic action--was necessary. I at once saw what was needed, and without hesitation gave myself to the work. For six months I have labored with unceasing industry. The accustomed and needed hours for sleep have been employed in the public service. Night and day have official duties demanded unremitting attention. I have had no proper leisure moments for rest or recreation. My health has failed under the pressure. Nor is this all; to my own private purse, without assurance of reimbursement, have I resorted in every emergency, for the required funds. Whether these arduous services and willing sacrifices have been beneficial to Kansas and my country, you are abundantly qualified to determine.

    "That I have met with opposition, and even bitter vituperation and vindictive malice, is no matter for astonishment. No man has ever yet held an important or responsible post in our own or any other country and escaped censure. I should have been weak and foolish indeed, had I expected to pass through the fiery ordeal entirely unscathed, especially as I was required, if not to come in conflict with, at least to thwart evil machinations, and hold in restraint wicked passions, or rid the territory of many lawless, reckless and desperate men. Beside, it were impossible to come in contact with the conflicting interests which governed the conduct of many well-disposed persons, without becoming an object of mistrust and abuse. While from others, whose sole object was notoriously personal advancement at any sacrifice of the general good and at every hazard, it would have been ridiculous to anticipate the meed of praise for disinterested action; and hence, however palpable might have been my patriotism, however just my official conduct, or however beneficial its results, I do not marvel that my motives have been impugned and my integrity maligned. It is, however, so well known, that I need scarcely record the fact, that those who have attributed my labors to a desire for gubernatorial or senatorial honors, were and are themselves the aspirants for those high trusts and powers, and foolishly imagined that I stood between them and the consummation of their ambitious designs and high-towering hopes.

    "But whatever may be thought or said of my motives or desires, I have the proud consciousness of leaving this scene of my severe and anxious toil with clean hands and the satisfactory conviction that He who can penetrate the inmost recesses of the heart, and read its secret thoughts, will approve my purposes and acts. In the discharge of my executive functions, I have invariably sought to do equal and exact justice to all men, however humble or exalted. I have eschewed all sectional disputations, kept aloof from all party affiliations, and have alike scorned numerous threats of personal injury and violence, and the most flattering promises of advancement and reward. And I ask and claim nothing more for the part I have acted than the simple merit of having endeavored to perform my duty. This I have done, at all times, and upon every occasion, regardless of the opinions of men, and utterly fearless of consequences. Occasionally I have been forced to assume great responsibilities, and depend solely upon my own resources to accomplish important ends; but in all such instances, I have carefully examined surrounding circumstances, weighed well the probable results, and acted upon my own deliberate judgment; and in now reviewing them, I am so well satisfied with the policy uniformly pursued, that were it to be done over again, it should not be changed in the slightest particular.

    "In parting with you, I can do no less than give you a few words of kindly advice, and even of friendly warning. You are well aware that most of the troubles which lately agitated the territory, were occasioned by men who had no especial interest in its welfare. Many of them were not even residents; whilst it is quite evident that others were influenced altogether in the part they took in the disturbances by mercenary or other personal considerations. The great body of the actual citizens are conservative, law-abiding and peace-loving men, disposed rather to make sacrifices for conciliation and consequent peace, than to insist for their entire rights should the general good thereby be caused to suffer. Some of them, under the influence of the prevailing excitement and misguided opinions, were led to the commission of grievous mistakes, but not with the deliberate intention of doing wrong.

    "A very few men, resolved upon mischief, may keep in a state of unhealthy excitement and involve in fearful strife an entire community. This was demonstrated during the civil commotions with which the territory was convulsed. While the people generally were anxious to pursue their peaceful callings, small combinations of crafty, scheming and designing men succeeded, from purely selfish motives, in bringing upon them a series of most lamentable and destructive difficulties. Nor are they satisfied with the mischief already done. They never desired that the present peace should be effected; nor do they intend that it shall continue if they have the power to prevent it. In the constant croakings of disaffected individuals in various sections, you hear only the expressions of evil desires and intentions. Watch, then, with a special, jealous and suspicious eye those who are continually indulging surmises of renewed hostilities. They are not the friends of Kansas, and there is reason to fear that some of them are not only the enemies of this territory, but of the Union itself. Its dissolution is their ardent wish, and Kansas has been selected as a fit place to commence the accomplishment of a most nefarious design. The scheme has thus far been frustrated; but it has not been abandoned. You are intrusted, not only with the guardianship of this territory, but the peace of the Union, which depends upon you in a greater degree than you may at present suppose.

    "You should, therefore, frown down every effort to foment discord, and especially to array settlers from different sections of the Union in hostility against each other. All true patriots, whether from the north or south, the east or west, should unite together for that which is and must be regarded as a common cause, the preservation of the Union; and he who shall whisper a desire for its dissolution, no matter what may be his pretensions, or to what faction or party he claims to belong, is unworthy of your confidence, deserves your strongest reprobation, and should be branded as a traitor to his country. There is a voice crying from the grave of one whose memory is dearly cherished in every patriotic heart, and let it not cry in vain. It tells you that this attempt at dissolution is no new thing; but that, even as early as the days of our first president, it was agitated by ambitious aspirants for place and power. And if the appeal of a still more recent hero and patriot was needed in his time, how much more applicable is it now, and in this territory!

    "'The possible dissolution of the Union,' he says, 'has at length become an ordinary and familiar subject of discussion. Has the warning voice of Washington been forgotten? or have designs already been formed to sever the Union? Let it not be supposed that I impute to all of those who have taken an active part in these unwise and unprofitable discussions, a want of patriotism or of public virtue. The honorable feelings of state pride and local attachments find a place in the bosoms of the most enlightened and pure. But while such men are conscious of their own integrity and honesty of purpose, they ought never to forget that the citizens of other states are their political brethren; and that, however mistaken they may be in their views, the great body of them are equally honest and upright with themselves. Mutual suspicions and reproaches may, in time, create mutual hostility, and artful and designing men will always be found who are ready to foment these fatal divisions, and to inflame the natural jealousies of different sections of the country. The history of the world is full of such examples, and especially the history of republics.'

    "When I look upon the present condition of the territory, and contrast it with what it was when I first entered it, I feel satisfied that my administration has not been prejudicial to its interests. On every hand, I now perceive unmistakable indications of welfare and prosperity. The honest settler occupies his quiet dwelling, with his wife and children clustering around him, unmolested, and fearless of danger. The solitary traveller pursues his way unharmed over every public thoroughfare. The torch of the incendiary has been extinguished, and the cabins which were destroyed, have been replaced by more substantial buildings. Hordes of banditti no longer lie in wait in every ravine for plunder and assassination. Invasions of hostile armies have ceased, and infuriated partisans, living in our midst, have emphatically turned their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Laborers are everywhere at work--farms are undergoing rapid improvements--merchants are driving a thriving trade, and mechanics pursuing with profit their various occupations. Real estate, in town and country, has increased in value almost without precedent, until in some places it is commanding prices that never could have been anticipated. Whether this healthy and happy change is the result solely of my executive labors, or not, it certainly has occurred during my administration. Upon yourselves must mainly depend the preservation and perpetuity of the present prosperous condition of affairs. Guard it with unceasing vigilance, and protect it as you would your lives. Keep down that party spirit, which, if permitted to obtain the mastery, must lead to desolation. Watch closely, and condemn in its infancy, every insidious movement that can possibly tend to discord and disunion. Suffer no local prejudices to disturb the prevailing harmony. To every appeal to these, turn a deaf ear, as did the Saviour of men to the promptings of the deceiver. Act as a united band of brothers, bound together by one common tie. Your interests are the same, and by this course alone can they be maintained. Follow this, and your hearts and homes will be made light and happy by the richest blessings of a kind and munificent Providence.

    "To you, the peaceable citizens of Kansas, I owe my grateful acknowledgments for the aid and comfort your kind assurances and hearty co-operation have afforded in many dark and trying hours. You have my sincerest thanks, and my earnest prayers that you may be abundantly rewarded of Heaven.

    "To the ladies of the territory--the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the honest settlers--I am also under a weight of obligation. Their pious prayers have not been raised in vain, nor their numerous assurances of confidence in the policy of my administration failed to exert a salutary influence.

    "And last, though not the least, I must not be unmindful of the noble men who form the military department of the west. To General Persifer F. Smith and the officers acting under his command, I return my thanks for many valuable services. Although from different parts of the Union, and naturally imbued with sectional prejudices, I know of no instance in which such prejudices have been permitted to stand in the way of a faithful, ready, cheerful and energetic discharge of duty. Their conduct in this respect is worthy of universal commendation, and presents a bright example for those executing the civil power. The good behavior of all the soldiers who were called upon to assist me, is, in fact, deserving of especial notice. Many of these troops, officers and men, had served with me on the fields of Mexico against a foreign foe, and it is a source of no little satisfaction to know that the laurels there won have been further adorned by the praise-worthy alacrity with which they aided to allay a destructive fratricidal strife at home.

    "With a firm reliance in the protecting care and overruling providence of that Great Being who holds in his hand the destinies alike of men and of nations, I bid farewell to Kansas and her people, trusting that whatever events may hereafter befall them, they will, in the exercise of His wisdom, goodness and power, be so directed as to promote their own best interest and that of the beloved country of which they are destined to form a most important part.

                    "JNO. W. GEARY.
    "Lecompton, March 10, 1857."


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