New York Times, "Kansas Affairs," January 27, 1857

    Source citation
    “Kansas Affairs—Message of Governor Geary,” New York Times, January 27, 1857, p. 4: 1.
    Newspaper: Publication
    New York Daily Times
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    Kansas Affairs—Message of Governor Geary
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    Meghan Allen, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    Kansas Affairs—Message of Governor Geary.

    We publish in full GOVERNOR GEARY’S Message to the Territorial Legislature of Kansas. It is long, but will repay perusal. That great portion of our population who are looking to Kansas as their future home, and that still larger portion who feel a deep interest in its good government, will find in its columns much valuable information. The Governor’s style is slightly magniloquent, and he does not in the least underrate the magnitude of the duties and responsibilities which belong to his office. This, however, if an error, is on the right side, and may well be overlooked. Too anxious and fastidious a desire to perform the duties of high office, is not a common failing with the class of officials to which GOV. GEARY belongs. In his case it exists in connection with an evident love of justice and a determination to do right, which are worth everything in the present crisis of affairs in Kansas.

    The Governor asserts that peace, which promises to be permanent, now prevails in the Territory. He rehearses at considerable length the steps by which, since his entrance upon office, this result has been secured, and presses upon the Legislature the supreme duty of redressing all wrongs, consulting strict and impartial justice and respecting the limits of the Constitution in all their acts.

    Upon the subject of Slavery the recommendations of the Governor are not likely to be applauded by either of the extreme parties into which the people of the Territory and of the country are divided; but they may be none the less judicious on that account. He advises that it be left untouched by the Territorial Legislature: that they pass no laws upon the subject, and leave all questions that may arise concerning it, while Kansas continues to be a Territory, to the decision of the Courts of law. This is substantially the construction of the Nebraska bill for which the South has always contended. It does not admit the right of the people of the Territory as such to exclude Slavery, or to take any action whatever upon the subject. If a slaveholder chooses to take his slaves into Kansas he can do so,--and his right to hold them there can only be contested in the Courts of Law. In those Courts it will be contended that the Constitution protects this kind of property just as it does any other;--and the probability is that this doctrine will be held by the Judicial tribunals of the Territory. When a State Constitution comes to be formed, it will be competent for the people to prohibit Slavery if they shall see fit: but prohibition will then mean abolition, and will be correspondingly obnoxious. The Governor says but little upon this subject, but indicates a desire that no steps for the formation of a State Government should be taken, until the population of the Territory shall have been largely augmented.

    Governor GEARY makes a detailed and rather striking exposition of the wrongs and violations of justice that have been incorporated into the code of Territorial laws. He shows to begin with, that in the official reprint of the Organic Act, changes have been made very seriously affecting the character of that fundamental law. They have omitted entirely the clause which gives the Governor power to pardon offences against the Territorial laws. The laws, themselves, are also full of provisions which the Governor denounces as at war with justice and sound policy. Those sections which vest the appointment of judges and county commissioners in the Legislative Assembly he considers in violation of popular rights and recommends their repeal. All the test oaths he says should be at once abolished. The habeas corpus is virtually suspended by the law which allows the Probate Judge to issue the writ, but gives him no authority to hear the case. The requisition that voting shall be viva voce, he pronounces wrong and mischievous, and recommends the ballot, as well as a registry of voters. The law which leaves the selection of jurors to the Marshal, Sheriff, or Constable, he condemns and calls for its repeal. The power given to commissioned officers to call out the militia is liable to great abuse, and holding a general training on the day of election he denounces as wrong, and calculated to excite terrorism. The law relating to slaves, he says, attacks the equality of citizens and destroys all freedom of speech and of the press. These and various other laws of the Kansas Code, are strongly and earnestly condemned by the Governor, who urges their repeal and the substitution of other enactments more in conformity with justice and the true interests of the Territory. He advises, also, a geological survey, attention to the interests of Education, the construction of Railroads, and an ardent attachment to the Federal Union.

    The Governor’s recommendations are evidently prompted by a desire to promote the peace and develop the resources of the Territory. That they will be acted on in the same spirit by the body to which they are addressed, is not to be expected. The Legislature is a legacy of the worst era of Border Ruffianism, and is not likely to take any steps or do any acts that tend towards defeating the ruthless and violent policy of that day. But with an honest Executive and an upright Judiciary, that branch of the Government is comparatively powerless for evil.

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