John A. Wakefield’s testimony gives a good idea of what went on in Kansas’ first election, but he could speak only to what he saw in his own district. The Howard Report includes witnesses and findings on the lot. In district after district, Missouri men came by horse, wagon, and foot to vote in large numbers. We can’t know exactly how thoroughly they swamped out the votes of actual Kansas residents in sending their man, John W. Whitfield, off to Washington as Kansas’ non-voting delegate. No census of the territory took place until February, 1855. But the Howard Report used a combination of witness testimony and comparison with that later census to arrive at rough figures.
I’ve taken some of their figures and reproduced them here with percent of legal and illegal voters added:
It doesn’t take much examination to note the impressive number of fraudulent voters. Across all Kansas, they come to 60.78% of the votes cast in the election. In the district where the Missourians least exerted themselves, they still constituted 32.68% of the vote. Nowhere else where they appeared did they come in at less than half. How does one call the sovereignty popular when the most popular part of it involved outsiders voting in the elections that the locals, so the doctrine dictated, out to decide for themselves?
Antislavery men insisted that popular sovereignty amounted to nothing more than a scam to smuggle slavery into the territories and keep white freeholders out. The Missouri men, with their Blue Lodges, Self-Defense Associations, and Sons of the South appeared committed to proving them right in district after district, without more than the most trifling efforts to legitimate their votes by writing their names on registers of claims invented on the moment or on stakes put into the ground as they passed by.
If taking Kansas for slavery, or keeping it depending on one’s particular interpretation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, meant violence then they threatened as much on the ground and promised it to the general public. The sons of Missouri would not shrink from a little fraud. They stood not just for their own immediate cause, but for the future of slavery in the Border South at large. That their actions might outrage abolitionists deterred few and may even have added to the appeal. They got to do right, in their own minds, defend their rights, and stick a needle in the eye of interloping, holier-than-thou outsiders who dared pass judgment upon them for their way of life.