The Kansas Census, Part Three

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Looking into the origins of Kansas’ settlers, as reported in the first territorial census, turned into much more of an undertaking than I expected. From looking at national censuses, I expected a by-district tabulation of who came from where. The Howard Report does not appear to include any such thing. Instead the full lists of qualified voters, separated by district, appear with where each voter hailed from listed right after his name. Counting them all up takes quite a bit of time. To help preserve my sanity and eyesight, I’ve thus opted to make a smaller project of it using the breakpoints I sketched out yesterday.

Today then brings the censuses of the second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eleventh districts. Those five led the pack in level of vote fraud perpetuated at their polling places in the November election for delegate. By February, they had only twenty slaves between them as befitting districts where we would expect a majority of antislavery settlers.

Do the numbers back that up? No.

Overview of the place of origin of Kansas' voters

Overview of the place of origin of Kansas’ voters

One would expect a decisive northern inclination to match the presumed antislavery inclination in the districts that had the greatest number of fraudulent votes, but the top five give only two districts with such populations, the notorious seventh and the almost evenly split sixth. At least for these districts, if the Missouri filibusters moved in based on where the people who truly resided there hailed from, they did not operate with the best information. The second and fourth districts come up with a clear southern majority and the eleventh possessed voters entirely from the South.

Many of the Southerners in those numbers hail from Missouri, which accounts for 280 of the 573 voters (48.87%) all by itself. We know that Stringfellow and others feared for the future of slavery in the Show Me state. It had sent Thomas Hart Benton, famously silent on the subject, to the Senate for decades. Furthermore, much of Missouri looked demographically quite northern. Many of those Missourians probably did not care all that much about slavery one way or the other. They could accept it or do without, so long as they got to decide on the fact themselves. But some of them would have loathed the abolitionists as outside interlopers or out of old fashioned racism. Thus, especially in light of these figures, we shouldn’t presume that everybody from Missouri came over with South Carolinian or Mississippian ideas, or as a covert free soiler. The numbers just don’t give us enough information to make that call.

One could combine this with the numbers of slaves present in the same districts as a rough metric, but that too has problems. One need not own slaves to support slavery and making Kansas into a slave state. A settler could easily come to Kansas from a slave state with dreams of striking it big and then becoming a slaveholder. Likewise the filibuster votes could have come to these districts not because they housed free soilers in great numbers, but because they lay near the border and had few enough people to make stealing the election for delegate an easier matter. Outnumbering seven legal voters requires less effort than outnumbering hundreds. Of course those same small numbers also permit subsequent settlement to change the polity of a district with equal ease in the months between the election and the census.

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