The Kansas Census, Part One

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

John W. Whitfield would have won the election for delegate to Congress with or without the help of the Missourians who crossed the border to vote fraudulently for him. Most actual Kansans didn’t care much either way, quite reasonably considering that Whitfield’s election would have very little to do with how the territory developed into a state. He would go to Congress and do little of import for a very short time. If men from Missouri wanted to raise a huge fuss and perpetrate a blindingly obvious fraud over that, more power to them.

When Andrew Reeder ordered up a census, that did matter to local Kansans. The census takers would come to them, going door to door. Their returns would help Reeder apportion seats for the first territorial legislative elections. Here one had a profound chance to influence the fate of the territory, but also one hard to hijack. Coming over the border to vote took a one-time engagement and a bit of daring. To make it on the census, one would have to stay in Kansas, possibly for weeks as the census takers made their rounds. Reeder sent out instructions and materials at the end of January, but did not get the last of the returns until the third of March. Nobody who didn’t already want to come to Kansas for good would likely bother staying so long. The Howard Report includes no mention of any such person.

Fraud or no, Reeder took the census very seriously. He sent instructions that remind us of how nineteenth century white Americans viewed the world:

You will not include army officers or soldiers of the army, or persons attached to troops in the service of the United States, unless they intend to remain and reside in the Territory when not on service, nor will you include any Indians or persons of Indian blood.

An Indian could not be a citizen. Nor could anybody who had Indian blood. If one had a child with an Indian, that child could not be a citizen. Like the full-blooded Indians, the child would literally not count. This stands out in part because so many Indians still lived in Kansas, according to contemporary accounts. The census counted 8,601 people, including men, women, and children. It counted slaves and free blacks. It counted the foreign-born. But it had no room whatsoever for Indians. A slave had some place in the white man’s world, if only as a piece of property.

But Reeder did not write out just military men, who did not really count as settlers since the War Department ordered them to go to their posts, and Indians:

As this is an enumeration of inhabitants and not property, you will enter the name of no man by reason of owning or claiming land here, or of his intention to remain here, but only those who actually dwell here at the time of taking the census.

We can understand that provision all too well, but should keep in mind that to Reeder and his census someone crossing from Missouri to vote and an Indian who lived on the land for generations equally ought have nothing to do with Kansas and its governance. Such matters did not concern them.

The census required a tally of qualified voters and here, as in the previous, Reeder must have had in mind some of the shenanigans of the November election:

In noting the qualified voters you must ascertain from your own observation, and the best information you can procure, who are entitled to be thus considered and designated. A qualified voter must be free, of white blood, twenty-one years of age, an actual resident of the Territory, welling here with the bona fide intention of making it his home, and a native or naturalized citizen of the United States, or a declarant who has sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and the act organizing the Territory.

Non-citizens who had taken such oaths could vote in many states at the time. They had a path into the political process. No such door opened for Indians, or women, or slaves.

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