The First District, Part Nine

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

I don’t think that the deceased equine requires additional pummeling on the fact that Missourians came into Lawrence. They had guns, including a pair of cannons, their threats of decapitation, and came on the dime of Missouri slaveholders who arranged their ferry passage and provisions in advance to save Kansas and Missouri for slavery. The border ruffians intimidated one judge of the election into resigning and prompted another to resign in protest when their appointed man and the lone proslavery judge Andrew Reeder named for the First District declared that a residence of an even an hour in Kansas Territory qualified one to vote in its elections. They would not even demand that voters swear they meant to stay in Kansas after voting, in complete defiance of Reeder’s instructions to them.

That brings us up to the voting itself. It took place in the other half of the building that held Carmie Babcock’s post office, in the very room where some of those advance provisions had waited for their arrival. George Dietzler, who told the Howard Committee that he saw a man put forward as a member of the Missouri legislature among the Missourians, went out to vote that day.

I came to town rather early, and found the place where the election was to be held surrounded by these strangers; I knew them to be strangers from the fact that they wore white ribbons in their button-holes. Very few citizens were about at that time; they did not seem to disguise their intentions, but spoke very freely about it all day. I talked familiarly with them about it; one of them, to show that he was a citizen, took off his boots to show that he had some Kansas dirt in it; he said that made him a citizen; they said they were citizens of Kansas, all of them, when asked the question.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The dirt in the boots argument came from a place of humor, but spoke to the real attitude. The Missourians had come to Kansas. They thus, at least to justify their voting, resided there at the time as much as anybody else. Did any of them come because they genuinely believed such a thing? Of course not, but having the argument on hand to justify what they already chose to do probably made it easier for them to face discontent from actual Kansans and the scrutiny, so far as it went, of the election judges.

Dietzler

returned to the polls about ten o’clock; found it very much crowded, so that it was almost impossible to get to the window. After much difficulty, I deposited my vote. They asked me to pass over the roof of the house; that I could not get back out of the crowd. I refused to do so, and then they asked me to get down and crawl through their legs to get out. I told them I should do no such thing;’ that I walked in, and should walk out. I fought my way out, I might say, and was a long while doing it. I had had equal difficulty to get in. I should suppose there were between seven and eight hundred at this point; most every one had a gun, and all had revolvers and bowie-knives, and took occasion to expose them, to let us see that they were armed.

The crowd came in so thick that other people really did crawl up on the roof and go over the house to get out after casting their vote. I imagine it took no small measure of courage to push and shove one’s way through a crowd of heavily armed men pledged to violence, then stand up to them and do it again to get back out. One can’t blame Dietzler for not trusting them to spare him some kicks and maybe a stab or two while he crawled down among their legs.

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