Free State Members

The Bogus Legislators were intent upon carrying out their plan for Kansas Territory and were not interested in legislative compromise with free-state forces. Their decision to expel the free-state members at the initial Pawnee session led directly to organization of a Free State Party at the Big Springs and Topeka meetings and, later, to open rebellion against the one-sided Territorial government.

At the canvas of the March 30 voting held at the Shawnee Manual Labor School on April 6, 1855, Governor Reeder decided to set aside the election of six House and two Council members based on protests that election judges had not required proper residency oaths. Reeder let results stand in all other districts where complaints had been not been filed within the short five day period allowed. Neither free-state nor pro-slavery factions, both represented at the canvas by armed men, were satisfied with Reeder's compromise. Clearly, conditions at the polls had been everywhere the same-- either the entire March 30 election had been valid or it had been invalid. The pro-slavery side decided to boycott the second election the Governor ordered for May 22, 1855, so free-state candidates carried the day. [Cutler, History, Part 15]

Martin F. Conway

Elected to the Bogus Legislature and as the first Member of Congress from the new State of Kansas.

The May electees, Philip P. Fowler, John Hutchinson, Erastus D. Ladd, Augustus Wattles, William Jessee, Cyrus K. Holliday, John A. Wakefield and Jesse D. Wood, thus joined free-staters Samuel Houston and Martin Conway, elected in March, at the Pawnee gathering of the Legislature.

After electing officers, the first order of business for the Legislature was the appointment of committees to inquire into the credentials of sitting members. In the House, representatives Heiskell, Houston, Mathias, Watterson and Johnson were appointed and instructed to report by 8:00 AM the next morning. The Council also appointed a committee and on the second day, majorities in both houses overrode the May election and seated the March winners. [House Journal, 8 and Council Journal, 4] A lengthy report was issued by the House Committee arguing:

  1. That under the Kansas-Nebraska Act no particular form of the election oath nor any particular form of return was necessary.
  2. That the Act did not give the Governor power generally to set aside elections, except in the case of tie votes.
  3. That the certificates of election granted by the Governor to the May electees were only prima facie evidence of their right to a seat in the House, valid only until the House determined its membership, a traditional procedure in Anglo-American parliaments.

Samuel Dexter S. D. Houston, the only Free-state member of the committee, submitted a minority report:

"I cannot agree that this body has the right to go behind the decision of the Governor, who, by virtue of his office, is the organizing Federal arm of the General Government, to evolve and manage a new government for this Territory, for the obvious reason that Congress makes him the sole judge of qualifications of membership. It makes him the channel to, and the organized manes of, the existence of this body. To assume the contrary proposition, is to assert that this legislative body exists before it can have a legal existence." [Cutler, History, Part 16]

Houston was born in Ohio in 1818 and had lived in Illinois and Iowa. In December 1853, before the territory was open for settlement, he staked out a claim on the Blue River and planted a crop in the spring of 1854. In October 1854, he helped lay out the town of Manhattan on his claim. He was later a member of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention and a senator in the State Legislature in 1861. [Ballard, First State Legislature, 240] Houston decided not to attend the Shawnee Manual Labor School session of the Bogus Legislature. He resigned his seat on July 23, after a resolution passed in the House, noting his absence and asking:

"That the committee on elections be required to inquire of the Governor or Secretary of the Territory, whether Samuel D. Houston, a member of this House, has resigned his seat as a member of this House, and report the same to this House."

To be sure their point was made, the pro-slavery legislators passed a further resolution that "legislators not be paid for the days they were not present." [House Journal, 260ff.]

Martin F. Conway, like Houston, was elected from the Manhattan district, the only precinct where the Atchison forces had miscalculated the number of Missourians needed to outvote the free-state settlers. Conway resigned his Council seat in protest immediately after the expulsion of the May 22 free- state members.

Conway was born in South Carolina in 1827 and moved to Kansas in October 1854 from Baltimore, Maryland, a Douglas Democrat in politics. He had worked as a compositor at the Baltimore Sun and was an organizer of the International Typographical Union. In Kansas, he wrote for the Sun as a correspondent and became a convinced free-stater. [Hinton, Pens, 374] He was active at the Big Springs free-state meeting in September 1855 and was a delegate to the Topeka constitutional convention. In 1858, he served as President of the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention and, in 1859, was elected as to Congress under the Wyandotte Constitution. When Kansas entered the Union, he became the state's first congressman, serving until March 3, 1863. Denied renomination by Kansas Republicans, he stayed in Washington and remained active in politics. His life had a tragic end, when in 1873, he was arrested for firing three shots at and wounding Samuel Pomeroy, former United States Senator from Kansas. Conway claimed Pomeroy had "ruined myself and family." He died in 1882 at the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington. [Kansas State Historical Society,]

Charles Clark