Remarkable Fraud in the Seventh District

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Many of the districts where Missouri men crossed into Kansas to vote for John W. Whitfield and make him Kansas’ non-voting delegate to Congress exhibited remarkable amounts of fraud. The usual routine involved voters dramatically in excess of the entire voting population of the districts then and in the February census, just three months after the late November election, who arrived in armed parties and openly declared their proslavery purpose. They saw no reason to hide the obvious.

Even with the high bar set by the fraudulent votes elsewhere, Kansas’ seventh district stands out. It alone accounted for 584 non-resident votes, constituting 96.69% of votes cast in the district and 33.80% of the 1,728 non-resident votes cast in the whole of Kansas. The Howard Report called it

The most shameless fraud practised upon the rights of the settlers at this election

Matthias Reed, who had previously lived in Missouri but came to the seventh district to stay, attended the election and testified that he saw many men he did not know, and he knew most of the people then in the district. He did recognize some from his days in Missouri.

Samuel Ralston I saw there, and he showed me where he had staked off a claim, and said he had bought a large tree of Mr. McGee for timber. Some of them I saw there have claims in the Territory now, and are living here now. I do not know whether Mr. Ralston ever lived on his claim or not, though I understand he has blacks working on it; but I do not know whether he has any home on it or not.

John Wilkins Whitfield

John Wilkins Whitfield

At least Ralston bothered. Others couldn’t be troubled to even attempt the pretense of a claim, let alone a real one. Reed also testified in passing about some free soilers with claims just as absentee and notional as anybody who came from Missouri boasted, though they had nothing on the scale of Missouri’s Blue Lodges, Sons of the South, and Self-Defense Associations to move them into the territory in vast numbers.

Reed described the district that cast 604 votes in November, 1854 as

tolerably thinly settled at that time, but I could not tell how many actual settlers there were in the district. There were not many settlers at the polls. I think some twenty or forty there.

Few people, with fewer still coming to attend the polls on election day, and one has a perfect district for hijacking an election. For all that, Reed reported no difficulty casting his vote. The appearance of so many Missouri men, armed and belligerent, would naturally deter many despite that. Who wants to risk the mob? What man in his right mind would hazard it for the sake of a non-voting delegate?

Reed might not have seen it, or might have contrived not to see it, but some people did. The story of one of those will come tomorrow.

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