The First District, Part Seven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Andrew Reeder named three men judges of election for the First District. To them he gave the power to scrutinize voters and, if necessary, make them swear under oath that they did in fact live in Kansas and intended to remain there. Given how Missourians had stolen the last election, a far less consequential matter than the current one for territorial legislature, it would have required a fool or an accomplice not to take precautions. Reeder did his best, naming two men of free soil beliefs to the three person panel. They might not stand up to a mob armed with two cannons, but who could see cannons coming?

Two of Reeder’s judges gave testimony to the Howard Committee. N.B. Blanton, who lived in Missouri until September of 1854, fell ill in advance of the March 30 election. He convalesced in the more comfortable confines of Missouri for a few weeks, but returned to serve out his duties. That put him on the road at the same time as the border ruffians. On

the 29th of March, I met a party of men coming up here; I did not know any of them; they told me they were coming up to Lawrence to vote

They’re going to Lawrence to vote? Why, Blanton went to Lawrence to serve as judge of the election. Small world:

After I had travelled on about ten miles, and they had found out that I was one of the judges of the election, they wanted to know if I would let them vote without swearing. I came about fifteen miles with them; I do not know how many there were in the company, but I should suppose there were about one hundred; a good many asked me -first one, and then another- if I would let them vote without swearing.

But Blanton had sworn out an oath and considered himself bound by it. They did not qualify as citizens of Kansas Territory, end of story.

They argued that all the citizens of the United States had a right to come here and vote if they wanted to; they got to trying to persuade me to let them vote without swearing, saying the oath the governor had prescribed was not right and legal. After a while one of these men -an old man- said to me: “Go on, son, and act as judge, and let us vote, and we will pay you for it.”

If persuasion failed, then how about a nice bribe? Blanton rejected their blandishments. Time for Plan C:

Two or three more spoke up and said if I did not let them vote without swearing that their men would get enraged, and maybe hang me; and that I had better resign.

Blanton did not resign on the spot, but he took their threats seriously and did so on the morning of the election. He hung around Lawrence, close enough to see the polling and recognize men from the party he rode with going up to vote. Later on he recognized some of their names on the poll list.

Blanton allowed, however, that he did not speak to every last man.

I did not know that they were speaking for the company, except when they said their men would get enraged, and maybe hang me, if I would not let them vote without swearing. They said their object in coming here to vote was, in the first place, to get a legislature to suit them, and then make Kansas a slave State.

One can appreciate that offers of bribery and persuasion came through the vices of isolated individuals in the party. They need not all be soft-spoken palm greasers. But they did have unity of purpose and, apparently, at least a reasonable expectation that if they had to hang Blanton they would all come together. Say what you will about the border ruffians, but don’t say they lacked a strong community spirit to go with their cannons.

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