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Andrew H. Reeder to Charles Robinson

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Washington Feb. 18. 1856
Dear Doctor
I had a conversation last night with the Chairman of the Comm. on Territories who came to tell me Shannons instructions & talk of your proceedings in reference to the Legislature. Those instructions although a secret I had learned on Saturday and had told them to Hutchinson & Latta. Mr. Grow (the chairman on Territories was afraid our people would come in collision with the authorities and get in a false position where our friends here could not justify them. I told him I did not think there was any danger - that you had acted with prudence and discretion so far and had always kept yourselves right and I had no doubt would continue to do so - that Hutchinson was going out and that I had written you
This conversation however induced me to write you again. I consider the meeting and action of the Legislature as the critical and turning point of our cause which must give a triumph to us or to Pierce. I would advise that your message be brief and directed almost entirely to the point of establishing that our State movement is only to prepare an organization as preparatory to ad-

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mission and yet complete in itself so that whenever Congress shall impart vitality to it by the act of admission it can at once go into action and move on in it’s proper path, but that until such admission it remains in abeyance waiting for Congressional sanction and authority to act.
I wish I could send you some authorities I have but time does not serve to copy them The Atty Generals opinion in the case of Arkansas says, that strictly the people cannot enter into the formation of a State Govt. without consent of Congress in a previous act. But that Congress may if they chose ratify a more popular movement. After stating that without a previous act of Congress there is no authority he goes on to say, “ But I am not prepared to say that all proceedings on this subject by the people of Arkansas will be illegal. They undoubtedly possess the right peacably to assemble and petition the Govt for a redress of grievances. In the [execute?] of this right they may peacably meet in primary assemblies or in conventions chosen by such assemblies for the purpose of petitioning Congress to abrogate the Territ Govt. and admit them into the union as an independent State. The particular form which they may give to their petition cannot be material so long as they confine themselves to the right of petition-

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ing and conduct all their proceedings in a peacable manner. If therefore they think proper to accompany their Petition by a written constitution framed and agreed on by their primary assemblies or by a committee of delegates chosen by such assemblies I perceive no legal objection to do so or to any measures which may be taken to collect the sense of the people in respect to it: Provided always that such proceedings are commenced and prosecuted in a peacable manner and in strict ordination to the existing federal Govt and in entire subserviency to the power of Congress to adopt reject or disregard them at pleasure! He also says that the constitution implies that a new State shall have been constituted by the settlement of a constitution and frame of Govt and by the appointment of those official agents which are indispensable to its action as a State and especially to its action as a member of the Union, prior to its admission.
This as you will see is the point which justifies the assembling of the Legislature and the election of Senators.
He further says, “It is however very obvious that all measures commenced and prosecuted with a design to subvert the Territorial Govt and to establish and put in its place a new Govt by force without the consent of congress would be illegal. The laws establishing a Territorial govt must continue in force until abrogated by Congress and

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in the meantime it will be the duty of the Gov. and all Territorial offices as well as the President to take care that they be faithfully executed.”
I could give more but this will enable you to take your bearings and see where you are
If you put yourself on this ground distinctly in your message and the Legislature pass Resolutions of approval of the message – also to elect Senators – and to prepare and sign a Petition for admission in which the necessity for having our State Govt put in motion can be assigned as a reason for early admission you will then be on firm ground. If the members are arrested whilst engaged in petitioning Congress we can make a noise about it as the right of petition is secured by the Constitution
As you had so small a vote on the Ratification how wd it do for the Legislature to provide for another ratification election and call on Shannon to see that the polls were protected. He is bound to do this under his instruction and the doctrines of the Atty Genl’s opinion I have quoted
Yours Truly A H Reeder

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