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Martin Franklin Conway

Portrait of Martin Franklin ConwayPolitician.  Republican. Born:  November 19, 1827, South Carolina.  Died: February 15, 1882, Washington, D.C. Served in U.S. House of Representatives: January 29, 1861, to March 3, 1863.

Martin Franklin Conway was the first U. S. Congressman to represent Kansas. Elected in 1859, Conway commenced his single term when the state was admitted to the Union in 1861.

Born in South Carolina on November 19, 1827, Conway lived in Maryland before moving to Kansas in 1854, as a Douglas Democrat and special correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. While living in Baltimore during the 1840s, Conway became a printer, founded the National Typographical Union, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1852.

Conway, at first a Kansas-Nebraska Act enthusiast, became disillusioned with the popular or squatter sovereignty solution to the slavery issue as a result of the territory's first, fraudulent election and was transformed, according to a friend, into "a convicted free-state man of the more radical Kansas stripe." He was remembered "as an earnest, devoted and very capable worker all through the territorial period, in the struggle fought out here to checkmate the aggression of the slave power, in its effort to extend its area over Kansas," reported The Commonwealth in 1879.

Conway held numerous positions while a member of the Free State Party (and later the Republican Party), including delegate to the Big Springs Convention and president of the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention. He was, according to a Kansas contemporary, "an active participant in all the proceedings of the convention" and "an excellent presiding officer." Conway's "speeches when he took the floor were earnest, impassioned and logical. . . . Coming from a slave State himself. . .he more thoroughly comprehended the nature, the designs and the ambitions of the slave power, and seemed to more intensely hate it, than any other man among us."

After the war, Conway was appointed consul to Marseille, France, but his short, eventful life had a tragic ending. While living in Washington, he was arrested for firing three shots at and slightly wounding a former Kansas senator, Samuel C. Pomeroy. (Conway claimed Pomeroy "ruined myself and family.") Conway subsequently was institutionalized. He died at age 52 while he was confined to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.

Entry: Conway, Martin Franklin

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 1969

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.