The Kansas Census, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder ordered up his census of Kansas and, as one would have trouble fraudulently residing in Kansas for a few weeks and one could always come back over for the elections instead, we can consider it a fairly good picture of settlement at the time,. In doing so, we must keep in mind that the census deliberately excluded the Indians that still lived in the territory in considerable numbers. Nineteenth century Americans thought little about that, but we need share all their biases.

Incidentally, the New York Times Disunion blog had a good piece about American Indian soldiers from my neck of the woods yesterday. I particularly liked how it highlighted the Indians’ motives for signing on with the Union:

Raymond J. Herek, in his regimental history “These Men Have Seen Hard Service,” explained, “Many of the Indians joined because they believed the South was out to enslave all of them. The young warriors were going to fight for their own freedom, their homes, and their lands, where the graves of their families were located.”

Herek taught the one Civil War history class I’ve had back in 1999. His book seems to have gone out of print. I regret now that I didn’t get a copy back in the day. Anyway, the Indians’ motives sound extremely American. The white North held many convinced that the South aimed to enslave everybody, or do the next best thing to it. We can easily slip into imagining that white American and Native American lived in vastly different worlds and rarely interacted, but here we have a clear sign that they shared some of the same space mentally as well as physically.

But back to Kansas. In March of 1855, the territory had 8,601 inhabitants. That number included 192 slaves and 151 free blacks. The great majority claimed native birth, with only 408 registering themselves as foreign-born.

The Kansas census returns (click for a larger version)

The Kansas census returns (click for a larger version)

I apologize for the slightly grainy image. You can see the original here.

Slaves have come to Kansas, whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise permitted it or not. On the ground, the proslavery men had their way in more than just the election. Keeping slaves out would have required Reeder’s tiny territorial government to do something about it and any such act, as well as challenging its capabilities, would constitute a radical provocation. Voting with their feet, proslavery Missourians had done more than force their choice of delegate on Kansas. They had enacted their interpretation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Less than two hundred slaves might not make a permanent mark on the territory, but it gave them a far more consequential win in practical terms than their non-voting delegate John W. Whitfield did. They had made Kansas into a de facto slave territory.

In seeing the number of slaves broken down by district, I wondered how their concentrations compared with the vote fraud back in November. Intuitively, one would expect the less enslaved areas to have more fraud, since the Missouri men needn’t steal the election in districts they knew they had well in hand. The population grew, and very well could have moved around within Kansas, in the three months between November’s polls and February’s census, but we can use the census figures as at least an approximation. A district safe for slavery three months previous, and thus not requiring much fraud, would probably remain safe in February.

The November vote and February census returns

The November vote and February census returns (click for a larger version)

By percent illegal votes, the eleventh (97.14%), seventh (96.69%), second (86.21%), fourth (81.27%), and sixth (76.19%) lead the pack. We would expect to find few slaves in them come February. The seventh and fourth had just one each. The second district had seven. The sixth leads the pack with eleven. The eleventh had none. Together those twenty slaves made up 10.15% of the territory’s slaves.

That all sounds right. At least on the extreme end, the pattern matches expectations. But does the converse hold as well? Did the districts with the least fraud end up with the most slaves? The census found the most slaves, as a percent of the total population, in the seventeenth district (15.33%), followed by the eighth (11.36%), the ninth (9.30%), thirteenth (4.93%), and twelfth (4.86%). None of those districts had a single illegal vote cast in November.

What about the least enslaved districts? Those would likely hold the most voters that the Missouri filibusters would have had to worry about in November. Four districts had no slaves at all, but the eighteenth did not exist for the election and so we must set it aside. This leaves the first, tenth, and eleventh districts. The eleventh had the greatest percent of fraudulent votes cast. The first and tenth had no illegal votes. Widening the net to include districts with just one slave adds the fourth and seventh districts to the list. In the fourth district, 81.37% of the votes cast came from non-residents. In the seventh, 96.69% did. The pattern doesn’t match exactly, but a trend seems present. Unfortunately, I don’t have a map of Kansas’ districts at the time to compare and see if proximity to Missouri played a role.

I speculate that the filibusters might have conceded distant districts or districts where they knew a large majority of northerners lived. They voted for the delegate at large, so if the proslavery voters concentrated in a few places it didn’t harm their chances. One’s district just decided one’s polling place.

Without the map I can’t look at proximity. If anybody knows of one, I’d love to see it. I have the boundaries Reeder set for each district, but no cartographical skill with which to make my own. I can, however, delve into where the settlers hailed from originally. That will come tomorrow.

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