Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Letter from Gov. Grimes To President Pierce, N.Y. Times, Oct. 14, 1856

Executive Office, Iowa.
Burlington, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1856.
To His Excellency, Franklin Pierce, President of theUnited States:

SIR: During the last twelve months I have been constantly receiving letters, memorials and affidavits from former citizens of Iowa, now residents of the Territory of Kansas, alleging that they are not protected by the United States' officers in that Territory, in the enjoyment of their liberty and property.

They charge, and the evidence fully supports the charge, that at the first, and at each subsequent Territorial election, armed bodies of men from an adjacent State invaded the Territory, took possession of the polls, deprived the actual settlers of the right of sufferage, and perpetrated gross outrages upon such citizens as professed political sentiments disagreeable to the invaders. By threats and lawless violence, they secured the election of a majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly,--many of whom were then, and are now, citizens of another State. By this Assembly a code of laws was enacted, unparalleled in the history of legislation; laws plainly unconstitutional, and which no man with the spirit of a freeman could obey without personal dishonor and a violation of his conscience.

In this condition of things, and without any attempt tp repel violence by violence, the people of Kansas sought apeaceful remedy for the wrongs that had been perpetrated, by forming a State Constitution, electing State officers, and asking admission into the Union as a sovereign State.

Although the Constitution of the United States declares that treason "shall consist only in levying war," yet a man holding a commission under the seal of the United States, and exercising the office of Chief Justice in that Territory, has declared that the persons who accepted offices under the State Constitution, are guilty of treason.

Under his instructions the State officers have been indicted, arrested and bail denied them, under the pretence ofjudicial proceedings, but without a trial or hearing of any kind. An armed posse has invaded the town of Lawrence, and destroyed printing presses, private buildings, and a hotel. Human lives have been sacrificed, property, to a large amount, has been destroyed, citizens have been driven from the Territory by violence, and anarchy and disorder every-where prevail.

Among the sufferers have been former citizens of Iowa, who went to Kansas in no spirit of propgandism, but with the intention of becoming permanent residents of that Territory. Three of them have been slain by arms said to have been placed by a Federal officer in the hands of a band of outlaws from a remote State. Some have been compelled to flee from the Territory for no offense save that of having emigrated from a Free State; whilst others remain there, stripped of their property, and appeal to their fellow-citizens of Iowa for sympathy and protection.

In my conviction, their appeals should not be in vain. They went to Kansas, relying upon and has a right to expect the protection of the General Government. In this expectation they have been disappointed. Citizenship has been virtually denied them. Their right to defend themselves and "to keep and bear arms" has been infringed by the act of the Territorial officers, who have wrested from them the means of defense, while putting weapons of offence into the hands of their enemies. They have been oppressed by a code of laws unequaled in atrocity in modern times. The character and conduct of theTerritorial judges have shown that an appeal to the judicial tribunal is worse than useless.

The General Government having failed to perform its duty by protecting the people of Kansas in the enjoyment of their rights, it is manifestly the right of the States to adopt measures to protect its former citizens. If the people of Iowa are not permitted to enjoy the rights of citizenship in that Territory, they retain their former citizenship in this State, and are as much entitled to protection from the State while upon the public domain, as they would be if the General Government failed to protect them in a foreign country.

While I write, an army, raised in the State of Missouri, is marching into Kansas with the avowed purpose of driving out all those citizens of the Territory who emigrated from the Free States, and who express a preference for a Free State Constitution. Another armed body of men have placed themselves on the emigrant route from the State of Iowa to prevent, at the point of the bayonet, any further emigration from this State.

The State of Iowa cannot be an indifferent spectator of these acts of lawless violence. She demands that her citizens shallbe protected in Kansas, and stand upon on equality there with the citizens of other States. She will not submit to the closing of the immigrant route through her domain into that Territory.

As the Executive of Iowa, I demand for her citizens in Kansas protection in the enjoyment of their property, their liberty, and their political rights. I ask that the military forces on the line of emigration into the Territory be dispersed.

A compliance with these reasonable requests will tend to restore peace in Kansas and quiet the public mind of this State.In the event of a non-compliance in my view a case will have arisen clearly within the principle laid down by Mr. Madisonin the Virginia resolutions of 1798, when it will be the duty of the States "to interpose to arrest the progress of theevils" in that Territory. I am respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
James W. Grimes, Governor of Iowa.

Copyright The New York Times.
Published: October 14, 1856

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