More Elections and More Election Stealing

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder, proved his neutrality and impartiality by taking affirmative steps to safeguard Kansas’ second round of elections. Those elections, far more than the ill-attended, irrelevant election of an impotent delegate to Congress, would shape the territory’s future. But if proslavery Missourians could steal one, they could steal the other.

Or could they? The population had grown and Kansans had seen how their neighbors behaved last election. The Howard Report credits the intimidation, threats, and violent accosting with uniting real Kansans against their pretend counterparts. Furthermore, this time the election clearly concerned the future of the territory. Slavery assumed its usual prominence. They would elect men to govern them, not a man to dispatch to Washington to idly watch and, hopefully, lobby Congress on their behalf. Far from an exercise in republican theater, this election would be a true manifestation of the white man’s democracy. Even for the inconsequential election of John Whitfield as delegate, the Missourians hadn’t carried every district away. A united, roused Kansas might stop them.

The Howard Committee concluded for the November election that

In the first, third, eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, and seventeenth districts there appears to have been little if any fraudulent voting.

John Wilkins Whitfield

John Wilkins Whitfield

That seems like a good  base. Those districts could possibly take care of themselves. The Missouri men would go elsewhere to cause their problems and between Reeder’s precautions and the commitment of true Kansans to setting their own fates, they might find themselves hedged out and unable to dominate events. One of the untroubled districts from November remained so. The Howard Report says of the seventeenth:

The election in this district seems to have been fairly conducted and not contested at all. In this district the pro-slavery party had the majority.

Popular sovereignty meant that the proslavery men could win. If they won fairly, then they won fairly. But that left seventeen other districts in Kansas where the sort of events that interest future generations may transpire.

Before the election, false and inflammatory rumors were busily circulated among the people of western Missouri. The number and character of the emigration then passing into the Territory were grossly exaggerated and misrepresented. Through the active exertions of many of its leading citizens, aided by the secret society before referred to, the passions and prejudices of the people of that State were greatly excited. Several residents there have testified to the character of the reports circulated among and credited by the people. These efforts were successful. By an organized movement, which extended from Andrew county in the north, to Jasper county in the South, and as far eastward as Boone and Cole counties, Missouri, companies of men were arranged in irregular parties and sent into every council district in the Territory, and into every representative district but one.

That expanse covers almost the entire Kansas border from north to south and reaches as far into Missouri as Jefferson City, in the middle of the state. Boone and Cole counties sit on either side of the Missouri River there.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

This took planning and coordination. I expressed my skepticism before about the sort of unified command that the Howard Committee imagined stealing the election back in November. This effort appears more coordinated than independent groups working in parallel would allow. It had its desired result:

The numbers were so distributed as to control the election in each district. They went to vote, and with the avowed design to make Kansas a slave State. They were generally armed and equipped, carried with them their own provisions and tents, and so marched into the Territory.

I don’t know that all of this emanated from a single smoke-filled room where Missouri oligarchs had slaves serving up mint juleps and raised their glasses to toast vote fraud, but it does look very much like the groups involved did more than just know of one another’s presence and respond to the same events.

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