[Surveyor General of Kansas Mark W. Delahay Procures Labor to “Work in the Field.”]. Mark William Delahay.

[Surveyor General of Kansas Mark W. Delahay Procures Labor to “Work in the Field.”]

Leavenworth City, Kansas Territory, 13 April 1863. 10” x 7.75”, 2 pp. of manuscript. On letter-head of Surveyor General’s Office for Kansas and Nebraska.

An interesting letter by the Kansas Territory politician and abolitionist Mark W. Delahay, an old friend and political ally of Abe Lincoln who appointed him to a handful of high-ranking governmental positions in Kansas.

Born in Maryland, Mark William Delahay (1828–1879) was a fellow lawyer of Abe Lincoln during their time in Illinois, and his wife was Lincoln’s cousin. After entering politics in Kansas Territory upon its opening, Delahay supported Lincoln in his 1860 presidential bid, during which Lincoln stayed with Delahay for a week when he spoke in the Kansas towns of Elwood, Atchison and Leavenworth. Delahay would also assisted in founding the Kansas Republican Party. Newly elected President Lincoln rewarded Delahay in 1861 by appointing him Surveyor General of Kansas and then afterwards—in 1863—U.S. District Judge of Kansas following the death of his predecessor Archibald Williams. For the latter appointment, it was widely held that Delahay did not possess enough experience—and many of Lincoln’s friends were thus incensed. What’s more, Delahay was also a raging alcoholic. In time, allegations brought forth against Delahay of corruption, malfeasance and incompetence in office precipitated his downfall. Delahay was forced to resign during the same year his son-in-law Thomas Osborn began his four-year service as Governor of Kansas in 1873.

In the letter offered here, Delahay—at the time Surveyor General of both the Kansas and Nebraska Territories—addresses the application for “work in the field” of his correspondent H.H.W. Mullan:

I am without any official information or instructions for this years field work, then on the other hand, we have an army of old deputies in this district many of them competent and alike, worthy, as yourself. They are clamorous and their friends likewise for work in the field; for me to look outside and over their heads and import other deputies, would most likely raise a howl about my ears (to say the least) and would not be very pleasant, many will at any rate be disappointed in not getting work, when there is but little to do; I was in hope Congress would have given me the means to survey the land in Kansas, I hold it to be the duty of the Government to remove all, and speedily the obstacles in the way of settlement & development after a state is admitted into the union, but to this argument our lawmakers reply, we had better save the country before we survey it. I would like to provide work for you and will file your application, and when I receive my instructions will do so if I can possibly. I would certainly be grateful to render your Hon. Senators any such favors as your application could save them. But when the patronage is so small and sought after by so many upon the ground as I have before said you can imagine how embarrassing it is to decide between them all. I have no doubt as to your high qualifications for field work.

While coming from a slave-holding family, Delahay founded the outspoken anti-slavery newspaper Kansas Territorial Register and served as a member of the antislavery Topeka constitutional convention in 1855. While attending a free-state convention in 1855, the pro-slavery Kickapoo Rangers broke into his printing office and threw his press into the Missouri River. Delahay subsequently fled to Alton, Illinois for a time but would return to Kansas in 1857, establishing another newspaper, the Wyandotte Register.

CONDITION: Good, little wear, tiny separations along old folds.

REFERENCES: Kansas Historical Society. Delahay Portraits at kshs.org

Item #5502


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