Study Guide

William Walker, Jr. in Kansas-Nebraska Act

By U.S. Congress

William Walker, Jr.

William Walker was not your typical 1850s American statesman.

First of all, he was Native American, part of the Wyandot tribe that had been intimidated into relocating from Ohio to Kansas in the 1840s. His white father, William, Sr., had been captured by Delaware Indians and eventually sold to the Wyandot as a child; mom Catherine was one-fourth Wyandot and had been a teacher prior to marrying Bill Senior and giving birth to ten children.

Yes. Ten. Ten children.

Second, despite not having a formal college education, our boy William read books in Latin and Greek, loved to wax philosophical about literature and politics and history, and spoke like a bajillion languages.

Okay, maybe not a bajillion, but definitely more than your average Joe, including Wyandot, English, French, Shawnee, Miami, and several more.

He married Hannah, a student at a nearby Christian school, when he was twenty-five. And though he held a bunch of varied jobs throughout his professional life, his first position in politics came after the War of 1812 when he became the private secretary for his buddy, General Lewis Cass. He also served as an interpreter between government and tribal officials for many years, which put his name on the American political map even before he became Wyandot head chief in 1835.

This guy was going places.

In 1853, ten years after the Wyandot had relocated to Kansas, Walker was elected the first provisional governor of the soon-to-be Nebraska Territory. (At the time, everyone thought that land that ended up as the Kansas Territory would be part of Nebraska.) Walker's campaign platform was all about beating the federal government to the let's-organize-Nebraska punch, and about trying to get that super-sweet transcontinental railroad built through Kansas.

Of course, since Nebraska didn't officially exist yet, neither did the office of Nebraska Governor, so Walker was never officially recognized by the U.S. Government. But for the year he served before President Pierce appointed a "real" Governor, Walker did his part to protect Wyandot land, make Nebraska real in the eyes of the U.S. Government, and preserve the practice of slavery in the area.

See, Walker was a slave owner, and he didn't buy into that whole Free State mumbo-jumbo.

In fact, after his governorship was taken away as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Walker spent his time as an elected member of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, the group responsible for drafting a super-strong pro-slavery constitution for the state of Kansas.

That constitution was shot down big-time by the Kansas voters, and Walker was forced to spend the rest of his retirement years chilling on the farm and writing some Twitter-worthy entries about it in his diary.

Honestly, spending a summer afternoon with a bunch of muskmelons doesn't sound like too bad of a deal to us, either.