The First District, Part Eight

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

N.B. Blanton, after proving uninterested in persuasion and not amenable to bribery, yielded his post as judge of the election to the threat of lynching. The better part of valor might not win him any admirers, but traveling with the large party of armed men who threatened his life gave him a very good idea of how seriously they sized him up for a noose. That left James B. Abbott and Hugh Cameron to safeguard the election, along with whoever got elected to take Blanton’s place. Cameron did not testify before the Howard Committee, but Abbott did.

Abbott takes up the story where Blanton left off, beginning his testimony with the statement that he and Cameron received Blanton’s resignation. They chose another judge and opened the polls.

The first man who offered his vote was, I think, a man named Page, and took the oath that he was a resident of the Territory. I inquired of him if he had a home in any other place. He said he had; that he lived in Missouri. I inquired if he intended to make this Territory his home. He said he did not; that he expected to go back after the election.

Andrew Reeder gave clear instructions: If you wanted to vote you had to come to Kansas to stay. Abbott could not have stood on firmer ground in refusing to let Page vote, but he referred the matter to the whole panel:

Mr. Cameron noe [sic] of the other judges, had also stated that if he intended to go back to the State of Missouri after he had voted, he could not permit him to vote. He asked him one question further; if he was a bona fide settler of the territory. He said he was, and Mr. Cameron then said that if that was the case he did not think he could prevent his voting.

One wonders what went through Cameron’s mind when he made that call. Did he fold in the face of the mob, or did he set out from the start to construct a fig leaf to permit the border ruffians to have their way? I wish we had his testimony.

But before the panel concluded its examination of Page, Colonel Young came up and asked him to stand aside. Young has hovered around the edges of past posts about the First District. He appears to have had charge of the party that came to Lawrence from Missouri. Whether he had some kind of formal authority or just the power of his reputation, it sufficed to dispatch parties to other districts from Lawrence once they arrived.

Young told the crowd, and the judges, that he would show them how to vote. If he could vote, then they could all follow his example and likewise vote. Abbott put him under oath and

questioned him as to his residence. he stated that he was a bona fide resident of the Territory. I inquired if he had any home in any other State. He said it was none of my business or anybody’s else. he said that if men swore they were residents it was my business to receive their votes as legal voters of the Territory. I told him it was the business of the board, as I understood it, to inquire and satisfy themselves as to that, and not let the voters decide their own cases.

Young refused to answer any further questions, but finally gave up that by voting in Kansas he would disenfranchise himself in Missouri for a year. That had to count for something, right? Abbott asked further questions, which Young

said he considered them impertinent, and that he was incompetent of perjuring himself; and stated that if any one insinuated that he had perjured himself, or was competent to perjure himself, he would tear their heads from their shoulders.

Two of the judges of election found the argument from decapitation persuasive and ruled that Young should vote and they should keep their heads. Abbott disagreed on the former, if not the latter. He resigned in protest.

He might have known that trouble would come. The night before the election, he and Cameron met received word from a Missourian who came up from the camp that they should resign or there could be trouble. Presumably neither imagined threats of bare handed decapitation at the time.

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