Farewell Address of Governor Geary.
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. Besides, 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 traveler 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 [PERSHER?] 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.
JOHN W. GEARY.
LECOMPTON, March 10, 1857.