We published last week in a special dispatch from one of our Washington Correspondents, a statement that advices received in that city indicted the purpose of the Free-State Party in Kansas, with Dr. ROBINSON at their head, to cooperate with Governor WALKER and the Federal Administration in their endeavors to secure a fair expression of the will of the people in relation to the question of Slavery, and to abandon their previous policy of inactivity. We find this opinion substantially confirmed by the address just issued on behalf of the recount Free-State Convention, of which the only important portion will be found in another section of this morning’s TIMES. We do not mean that they will take any part in the Election for the members of the Constitutional Convention, for they are too far committed against such section to permit of their receding with any consistency. They will, therefore, allow the Election to take place and the Convention to be held without any participation on their own part in the proceedings of either.
But they declare very explicitly their assent to the fundamental position taken in the address of the acting Governor, Mr. STANTON, namely, that the question of admitting or excluding Slavery should be submitted to the direct vote of the people themselves. “We wish” say the signers of the Free-State Address, “but that the slavery or freedom of Kansas may be settled once and for all by an honest and legal vote of the actual residence, in accordance with the principles of the organic act.” In another part of the same document they express a desire that both the Topeka Convention, and the Constitution to be framed by the coming Convention, be together submitted to the people that they may take their choice. But this is merely a specification of the mode in which they would profer that the question of slavery should be submitted to the people; and it is so clearly and utterly inadmissible that the Free-State men themselves can scarcely regard it as anything more than a forlorn attempt to maintain a position to which they have committed themselves. Neither the Government at Washington, nor the Federal authority in Kansas, will or can recognize the Topeka Convention in any shape. That document never had, for a moment, any legal validity whatever. It was never anything but a party platform, and can never be recognized as anything more in any branch or department of the Government. The House of Representatives, it is true, gave it its sanction; but without the concurrence of the Senate and Executive the action of that body upon such a subject has no more validity or force, as establishing a principle, than the votes of a mass meeting in the Park. The Topeka Convention is a thing of the past, and it is scarcely worth while for the Free-State Party in Kansas to encumber its action by clinging to a corpse. Nor do we understand their address as indicating a purpose to makes its submission to the people a condition of their taking part in the vote. What they desire and demand is that the question of slavery shall be submitted to the popular vote-in some form so clear and distinct as to enable the will of the people to be expressed upon it.
This is not only a reasonable request, but it is one which cannot be denied. The Nebraska bill guarantees to the people the right of voting upon it. The Cincinnati platform repeated and endorsed the guarantee. President BUCHANAN, in his Inaugural Address, declared it to be his desire that “the people of the Territory should be left free from all foreign interference to decide their own destiny for themselves.” And the Acting-Governor Mr. STANTON, in his address, says more explicitly:
“I do not doubt, that, in order to avoid all pretext for resistance to the peaceful operation of this law, the Convention itself, will, in some form, provide for submitting the great distracting question regarding their social institutions, which has so long agitated the people Kansas, to a fair vote of all the actual bona fide residence of the Territory, with every possible security against fraud and violence.”
Stronger pledges, or pledges more completely covering the whole ground, could not well be given or desired than these, and there is no reason to suppose that the Administration will seek or desire to evade them. It must also be borne in mind that while the Convention may authorize the submission of this question of Slavery to the popular vote, that vote must be taken under the direct supervision and control of the Federal authorities themselves. The Convention is called for a specific purpose, and will have no legislative powers whatever. It can enact no laws of any kind upon any subject. It cannot prescribe qualifications for voters, nor rules for government of elections, nor can it designate the officers under whose direction the voting shall take place. These important duties will devolve properly upon the Legislature yet to be elected, and convened either in extra session or at the regular time next Winter, as prescribed by law. In either case the Free-State men can take part in the election of its members and thus influence the result. Or the Federal authorities in the Territory may, if they see fit, prescribe these regulations themselves, and thus take measures effectually to secure an absolutely free and fair expression of the popular will upon this great question.
We still think that it is a matter of regret that the Free-State Party in the Territory refuses to take part in the election for Delegates to the Convention. Their participation in it under any circumstances could not fail to exert a beneficial influence upon the result, while their abstaining only places them in a false position without being of the slightest possible service to their cause. But it is satisfactory to learn, as we do from their addresses, that this inactivity is not to be perpetual. They propose to take part in the vote upon the question of excluding or admitting Slavery. And it is the first and most imperative duty of the Administration to secure for them, as for all the inhabitants of the Territory, a perfectly fair and free expression of their will. It is true that the test-oaths imposed by the Territorial laws of 1855 have already been repealed, not simply by construction, as the Boston Daily Advertiser seems to understand Mr. STANTON’s address to imply, but by positive enactment of the last Legislature. But beyond this it is essential that the officers who have charge of the polls, of the voting lists, and of the returns, should be men of character and known justice, and that all who may be bona fide inhabitants of the Territory at the time the vote is to be taken, should have the right and the opportunity of taking part therein. If these rights are secured to them we have every reason to look for a peaceful and a final settlement of this great controversy.
Frederick Perry Stanton (1814–1894) – Stanton served as Acting Territorial Governors of Kansas in 1857. Stanton also served as a US Representative from Tennessee (1845-1855) and was a member of the Democratic party.