The Lecompton Convention

    Source citation
    "The Lecompton Convention," Memphis (TN) Appeal, December 16, 1857, p. 2.
    Original source
    Washington (DC) Union
    Newspaper: Publication
    Memphis (TN) Appeal
    Newspaper: Headline
    The Lecompton Convention
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Date Certainty
    Zak Rosenberg
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    The Lecompton Convention

    [From the Washington Union.]

    From the general and vague denunciations of the Black Republican press against the action of the Lecompton Convention, we appeal to one or two distinct propositions in its favor.

    1. The convention was legally authorized. On this point the testimony of Gov. Walker is concinsive. In his inaugural address he said:

    "Under our practice the preliminary act of framing a State Constitution is uniformly performed through the instrumentality of a convention of delegates chosen by the people themselves. That convention is now about to be elected by you under the call of the Territorial Legislature, created and still recognized by the authority of Congress, and clothed by it, in the comprehensive language of the organic law, with full power to make such an enactment. The Territorial Legislature, then, is assembling this convention, were fully sustained by the act of Congress, and the authority of the convention is distinctly recognized in my instructions form the President of the United States. Those who oppose this course cannot ever the alleged irregularity of the Territorial Legislature, whose laws in town and city elections, in corporate franchises, and on all other suhjects but slavery they acknowledge by their votes and acquiencence. If that Legislature was invalid, then are we without law or order in Kansas, without town, city or country organization; all legal and judicial transactions are void, all titles null, and anarchy reigns throughout our borders.

    "The people of Kansas, then, are invited by the highest authority known to the Constitution to participate freely and fairly in the election of delegates to frame a constitutional and State Government. the law has performed its entire and appropriate function when it extends to the people the right of suffrage, but it cannot compel the performance of that duty. Throughout our whole union, however, and wherever free government prevails, those who abstain from the exercise of the right of suffrage authorize those who do vote to act for him in that contingency, and the absentees are as much bound under the law and the Constitution, where there is no fraud or violence, by the act of the majority of those who do vote as although all had participated in the election. Otherwise, as voting must be voluntary, self-government would be inpracticable, and monarchy or despotism would remain as the only alternative.

    "You should not console yourselves, my fellow-citizens, with the reflection that you may, by a subsequent vote, defeat the ratification of the Constitution. Although most anxious to secure to you the exercise of that great constitutional right, and believing that the convention is the servant, and not the master of the people, yet I have no power, to dictate the proceedings of that body. I cannot doubt, however, the course they will adopt on this subject. But why incur the hazard of a perliminary formation of a Constitution by a minority, as alleged by you, when a majority, by their own voteds, could control the forming of that instrument."

    2. The convention was not bound, as a matter of legal obligation, and independent of all exercise of its own discretion, to submit its entire work to the decision of the people of Kansas. the earlier practice in this country was against such submission, and though there are recent precedents the other way, yet, in the absence of any restraining clause in the act constituting the convention, it has always felt free to submit the constitution or not, according to its own judgment. Whetehr the course of the convention in Kansas was wise or unwise on any particular suhject is one thing; but whether it has committed an outrageous violation of its legal obligation is another, and a very different thing. It was bound, undoubtedly, under the Kansas b ill, to submit the question of slavery, but the terms of the Kansas bill required nothing more. This was evidently the opinion of Secretary Stanton, when he went to Kansas as acting Governor. In his "Address to the people of the Territory," dated "Lecompton, April 17, 1857," he said:

    "The government especially recognizes the territorial act which provides for assembling a convention to form a constitution, with a view to making application to Congress for admission as a State into the union. that act is re g arded as presenting the only test of the qualification of voters for delegates to the convention, and all preceding repugnant restrictions are thereby repealed. In this light the act must be allowed to have provided for a full and fair expression of the will of the people through the delegates who may be chosen to represent them in this constitutional convention. i do not doub, however, that, in order to avoid all pretext for resistance to the peaceful operation of this alw, the convention itself will, in some form, provide for submitting the great distracting question regarding their social institutions, which has so long agitate the people of Kansas, to a fair vote of all the actual bona fide residents of the Territory, with every possible security against fraud and violence. If the constitution be thus framed, and the question of difference thus submitted to the decision of the people, I believe that Kansas will be admitted by congress without delay as one of the sovereign States of the American union and the territorial authorities will be immediately withdrawn.

    It was not, it will be seen the entire Constitution which Governor Stanton mentioned as likely to be submitted, but the "distracting question" and if this was submitted. "I believe" he said "that Kansas will be admitted without delay." The truth is, in all the discussions about submitting the Constitution nobody ever throught of any other question than that of slavery. This question has now been fairly submitted, and if any portion of the kansas people refuse to vote on it, it is their own fault. Why should they not vote? Why should not ever patriot in the Union demand of them to seize the opportunity offered them, and thus to end a useless and dangerous agitation? If the people vote and the election is fair, and the question of slavery is determined according to the will of the majority, and then the State is admitted into the Union, what wrong is done to anybody? We should like to have the fault-finding answer us.

    The Administration has repeatedly recognized the validity of the law of the Kansas Legislature which provided for calling a convention. every bona fide inhabitant of the Territory had the right secured him to participate in forming the Constitution by voting for such delegates as he might wish to represent him. the adminstration has again and again repudiated the absurd assumption of the Black Republicans, that because a portion of the inhabitants declined to exercise their right to vote for delegates, therefore the convention was not a legal and valid body authorized to make a Constitution. On the contrary, the adminstration has distinctly recognized the convention as valid, and has acknowledged its obligation under the laws to see that their deliberations should be unmolested by factionists of every kind.

    Because a portion of the Kansas people refused to vote, and because it was asserted that the convention represented only a minority of the inhabitants, the Administration was willing to see the convention provide for admitting the constitution made by them to the ratification or rejection of the whole people. The convention, however, for reasons satisfactory to themselves and in the exercise of a legal discretion saw proper to submit only one clause for the ratification or rejection of the people, but that clause embraced the only question involved in the controversy, out of which grew the refusal of a portion of the inhabitants to vote for delgates. As the main essential matter of controversy was submitted by the convention, the Administration could see no good reason why the failure to submit the matters not involved in the controversy, and not, therefore, essentials in the dispute, should induce them to reject the action of the convention.

    Governor Walker differs with the Administration on this point, and opposes the action of the convention. Is this such a disgracement as should or as will distract and destroy the harmony and integrity of the Democratic party? We think not. It is a disagreement as to a matter that was never really involved in the Kansas question, and is, therefore, a difference of opinion only between the President and Governor Walker, which does not in the least affect the policy of the Administration.

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