The First District, Part Four

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Parts: 1, 2, 3

The affair at Lawrence involving a Mr. Bond, an abolitionist to hear the Missourians tell it, has appeared in the testimony of F.P. Vaughn, Jordan Davidson, and Carmie Babcock. None of those men, however, saw the actual confrontation. Babcock, despite spending most of the day with just a wall separating him from the polling place and storehouse, did not see where most of those stores went either.

Doctor John Doy saw more on both counts. Doy had a friend from Missouri, Red Robinson, who took him off to the post office/polling place in Lawrence, on the other side of the partition that separated Carmie Babcock’s post office from Lykins’ storehouse. There he saw much of what Babcock saw:

He took me into where the post office was then held, in Lykin’s log house, on the other side of the ravine, and I saw a great quantity of provisions, bacon, flour, meal, corn, and oats, &c. He said that we were going to have a number of boys shortly to help us to vote and this was to provision them. In looking around I saw that the provisions seemed all arranged, the bacon in a pile; the flour in a pile; the corn mean in a pile, and the oats in bags in a pile, and the corn in bags in a pile. Before he had told me what the provisions were for I had bought some corn and meal from him. At the time of the election I saw Robinson and William Lykins deal out the provisions to the companies here encamped in the ravine.

The multiple spellings of William Lykins/Lykin come from the Howard Report, not my uncoordinated fingers.

Now we have an eyewitness affirming that the provisions went to the Missourians exactly as planned. A spontaneous or ill-coordinated movement would not have supply dumps in the field in advance. Whether every Missourian who came over had also joined a Blue Lodge or not, they benefited from and might not have made the trip at all without the Lodges’ preparations.

I was with Mr. Bond and Mr. Stearns when Mr. Bond was driven off the ground and shot at. Mr. Milt. McGee, a Missourian, came up and pointed at Mr. Bond, and said there was a Lawrence bully. Some four or five persons amde at him, as I was stnading close to him, and he ran round the end of the building down towards the river. I heard a shot, then Mr. Jackson Bush shoved aside a rifle that was levelled at Bond.

Maybe the men chasing Bond only called him an abolitionist because they imagined anybody in Kansas that they disliked harbored antislavery feeling. Maybe someone denounced Bond to settle a personal score. Either scenario could fit with past testimony declaring the Bond affair an apolitical dispute. Stranger things have happened.

Doy puts those notions to rest:

The same party came back, with an addition, with Colonel Young with them, to where Mr. Stearns and myself were still standing. Stearns was pointed out as an abolitionist, and Colonel Young took him up in his arms and asked them if they intended to injure such a little man as that, as he weighed but 125 pounds, balancing him in his arms at the same time. After some preliminaries, Colonel Young took Mr. Stearns away, off the ground.

Who would hurt a little guy? Especially when you could tote him around like a piece of luggage. He would get the idea either way. A group of hostile people demonstrating the ease with which they can manhandle you does that.

They then came back to me, headed by George Thornton, of Independence, who pointed me out as an abolitionist. He said he knew it by my discussion with him the night before in the streets, against their coming here to take away our political privileges, &c. I asked him if my time had come now, as they had driven off Mr. Bond and Mr. Stearns. His lips began to tremble, and he asked if I had intended to insult him by what I had said the evening before. I said he knew I did not by the way we discussed the subject. He turned round and said, “if you will say you did not intend to insult me by what you said, that is sufficient.” He then requested the men to leave me and walked off himself.

Doy got to cast his impotent vote against the Missourians’ fraud, but Bond and Stearns clearly did not. Even with that, the border ruffians made it very clear to him through the example of the two previous men just where they stood and what they could do to him. At that point, they hardly needed to manhandle or open fire on him as well. Provided he backed down, they could call their honor satisfied and move on.

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The First District, Part Three

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

F.P Vaughn told the Howard Committee about all the Missourians who came over to vote illegally in Kansas’ first elections for territorial legislature. Jordan Davidson, one of those Missourians, expanded on that by telling the committee about the arrangements made by Missouri slaveholders to meet the expenses of the border ruffians, and related a story about how the well-armed Missourians chased a free soil man into a river with gunfire. Davidson emphasized, however, that the aforementioned altercation involved a personal dispute. They shot at the free soil man for reasons unrelated to his politics. I have no doubt that greatly reassured everyone.

Carmie Babcock took the census of the Lawrence district and so had better reason than most to know just who did and did not live in the area, as well as a broad understanding of their activities.

It was currently reported here, for some weeks before the election, that the Missourians were preparing to come up here, and had organized what they called a Blue Lodge for that purpose. I was intimately acquainted with several pro-slavery men in this immediate vicinity, who were reported to belong to that lodge, and whom I had every reason to believe did belong to it, from conversations with them. The first thing I observed that made me think they were coming was this: I had just opened our post office here in a little log building with a partition in it; the building was owned by a young man named William Lykins, who was deputy postmaster; we occupied but one-half of the building. The rats and mice made considerable noise in the other part of the building, which was unoccupied, and I inquired of Mr. Lykins what they were up to. He took me in there and showed me a lot of provisions, consisting of a large quantity of bacon, some corn, and I think some flour and meal, though I will not be certain about that.

The Missouri men came:

Nearly all these men had guns of some description; shot-guns and muskets. Most of them had revolvers, and a great many had bowie-knives.

But men could not live on weapons alone:

When they arrived, the provisions in Mr. Lykins’s house were taken out and given to them. On once occasion a  young man came up to the house and asked for the provisions. I asked who they belonged to, and he said they belonged to the company, and he wanted some of them. He took off a sack of corn for the horses. i delivered but that one sack; Mr. Lykins delivered the rest. I do not know what became of the rest of the provisions. Mr. Lykins wanted to clear out that part of the house for the election to be held in, and he set out several sides of bacon and some corn, and I saw persons come up promiscuously from the camp and get them.

One can’t get much more blatant than storing provisions for the border ruffians in the very polling place where they will vote. When that time came, Babcock sat in his office with only a wooden wall between him and the voting. He had his windows open and heard a great deal. The group’s apparent leader, a Colonel Samuel Young, spoke to the men at the polls and told them to behave themselves while stealing the election: no noise, no destruction of property.

Before they put in their votes, I heard several of them take the oath. I was in the next room and heard Col. Young swear that he was a bona fide resident of Kansas Territory. He did not say he was a resident of his district, so far as I recollect, but that he was an actual and bona fide resident of Kansas Territory, and owed no allegiance to the State of Missouri. He told the judges that it was unnecessary to swear the rest of the men, as they would all swear the same thing. He was not a resident of this district when I took the census, and was not a resident at the time of the election. I should have known it if he had become a resident. I do not believe that he has ever become a resident of this district. I do not recollect that the judges asked him any questions about his residence here when he took the oath.

Babcock peered through cracks in the wall between his post office and the polls to watch as Andrew Reeder’s two free state election judges gave way to three proslavery judges, two appointed on the spot. One free stater did not appear. The other resigned. That left their replacement to the voters, and “voters” present. The two replacements naturally suited the politics of the Missourians.

And about that gunplay involving a free soiler by the name of Bond?

Some time before noon, as I was in the office, I heard a gun discharge. I came out and saw a crowd rushing towards the bank of the river. I went down with the rest of them, and saw Mr. Bond, a citizen of this place, come up from below the bank. They said they had shot at him, and he had jumped off the bank. They said there had been some conversation with him, and that some one called him a damned abolitionist, and then the mob pitched on him.

I know that convinces me that Bond’s treatment had nothing at all to do with his politics. Who could think such a thing?

The First District, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

F.P. Vaughn told the Howard Committee that he saw and traveled with Missourians who had come from as far as two hundred miles off to vote in Kansas’ first territorial elections. They spoke openly of having done the same in the delegate election back in November, 1854. Some bragged about voting four or five times. If Yankee interlopers could vote, they could vote too.

Vaughn traveled with a party of border ruffians for a while, but his testimony made it clear that he did not count himself in their number. Jordan Davidson did:

I came here with my neighbors to the election of the 30th of March, 1855, and voted here in this district. I should suppose there were nine hundred or one thousand, though I did not count them, in that company.

They came ready for trouble:

The companies generally had arms for that occasion. I had none myself. I think each individual bought or borrowed his own arms.

And they came because they

understood in Missouri that Governor Reeder had sent to the east and mustered up a large force to come here, and we came here to vote, too, though that was not all the inducement. We intended to vote first here, and after we had got through were willing to let anybody vote who wanted to.

When pressed by Andrew Reeder himself, Davidson changed his mind on the details:

We did not understand that Governor Reeder had brought on voters from the east, but that he made the day of election known there before it was known here, in order to induce voters to come on here.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Reeder testified that he did no such thing and, if anything, may have given that advantage to the men from Missouri. Given the slow speed of communication in the nineteenth century, even his impartiality would give Missourians an edge over those from farther afield. But even if Reeder had tipped his hand for freedom

The other inducement we had for coming here was to extend slavery into Kansas Territory. The general talk among our people who came here was that they had a right to vote here. I contented myself that I had a right to vote here.

Davidson testified that he came in a large mass of Missourians, even going so far as to point out apparent leaders among them, he didn’t know all the details or the organization and planning. What he saw, however, both reinforces what F.P. Vaughn told about ferry expenses paid in advance and expands upon it:

I do not know of money being raised. Men that had not means to come could come with the provision wagons, and were fed there.

Somebody had to pay for that food, whether the Blue Lodges pooled their cash to fund wagons or individual slaveholders did it on their own.

For all the organization and rhetoric, Davidson owned up to not seeing or hearing of any such person come from the east to vote and then going back, unlike the Missourians. Of course, Yankee interlopers only partly justified the invasion of Kansas and the theft of its election. Saving the territory for slavery remained sufficient to get boots on the ground and ballot boxes stuffed.

Davidson insisted that everyone who came, free state men included, got to vote in Lawrence that day. Well, almost everyone:

There were free State men vote, but I do not think any were hindered from voting except, perhaps, Mr. Bond, who got into a fuss and went off and did not come back again. He was run off the ground, but I do not think it was to prevent him from voting. He got into a personal difficulty, I understood, and they run him off to the river. Just as he jumped down the bank a pistol was fired at him, the contents going perhaps six feet over his head, though I do not think it was aimed at him. The cry was “kill him,” “kill him.”

How many of us, seeing a crowd capable of that, would proudly go up and vote contrary to their stated preferences? Even if Bond’s “fuss” boiled down to a personal dispute unrelated to slavery, it showed any watching what the Missouri men could do.

The First District, Part One

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder took reasonable precautions to safeguard the integrity of Kansas’ elections for the territorial legislature. He knew full well that Missouri men would come over, possibly with violence in mind, to vote and impose their verdict on Kansas. But the nineteenth century lacked the kind of intensive policing that might have ensured a free and fair election. The secret ballot had yet to come. Out on the frontier, law enforcement amounted to a smattering of local constables, federal marshals, and the generally reluctant help of the United States Army. No law yet forbade using the military for policing, that came at the end of Reconstruction, but many felt an understandable desire to avoid such roles on the grounds that they could compromise the military’s political neutrality and easily escalate into widespread declarations of martial law.

Those difficulties aside, Reeder knew very well that the proslavery party made the trouble to date. For judges of the coming election, he named free soilers over proslavery men two to one. He took special pains to do so in districts where Missourians would surely come. Would that suffice to keep back a network of border ruffians that extended across half the Show Me State? No.

The bulk of the Howard Report deals with this election. Most districts have at least a long paragraph of narrative, generously citing the relevant testimony. I don’t know how much I will delve into each one, but I feel at least one district deserves depth of coverage. One may as well begin at the beginning, a place which will have later notoriety as well. Kansas’ first district held its election at Lawrence, a name which bears some unpacking.

Amos Adams Lawrence

Amos Adams Lawrence

Lawrence takes its name from Amos Adams Lawrence, a Massachusetts abolitionist who declared in the wake of the Anthony Burns affair (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that

We went to bed one night old fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists.

Lawrence donated considerable sums to the Massachusetts and New England Emigrant Aid Societies. More of his money went to the University of Kansas, which he helped found, and to the American Colonization Society. Some of it also bought guns to send to Kansas later on. Those guns waited yet in the future. The people of Lawrence did not, by and large, come to the polls armed.

F.P. Vaughn, late of Macon County, Missouri but moved to Kansas to settle on March 26th, 1855, came over amid the preparations for stealing the election:

I saw some stir about something before I left home; saw some persons going round about the county seat, taking certain persons out and speaking privately to them.

On his way to Kansas, Vaughn saw “a good deal of excitement” about the upcoming election. He

came on to Clay county, Missouri, and saw a young gentleman who said he himself was coming up to Lawrence-that there were a company of three hundred others coming to vote; said they certainly would vote if the Yankees were allowed to vote, and that if any resistance were offered, there would be a fuss; that the slaveholders of that county had offered to pay the expenses of three hundred, and that he was one of those who had been engaged to come; and that this three hundred would be sufficient for fifteen hundred votes, if they did as they had done in former elections of the Territory; that he knew of several men who, at former elections, had voted fourteen or fifteen times apiece, by changing their hats and coats and voting in the name of their neighbors; that all of them had voted four or five times apiece.

Once one commits to vote fraud, I suppose it only makes sense to do it often. One vote turns few elections, but if you and your three hundred friends each vote four or five times each, it adds up.

Vaughn crossed the Missouri River with some of the party:

One of them seemed to be a leader; said my ferriage would be paid if I was coming to vote. From that time until I got up to this district there were crowds of persons coming up in carriages, wagons, and on horseback, and some walking. I passed some words with them. In coming out this side of Westport I was challenged to know where I was from. The person with whom I was speaking said that they were from Independence, Missouri, and we are going up to vote-we are.

The Missourians made a bit of a nuisance of themselves, “hallooing and keeping up a noise all night.” Vaughn spotted several men he knew from Missouri, a few all the way from his native Macon County, some two hundred miles away.

I heard some of the people of Missouri say that they were willing to leave the whole question to be settled by the bona fide settlers of the Territory; others expressed a different feeling. A great many persons in Missouri are opposed to the Missourians coming here and meddling with the elections of Kansas.

Perhaps a great many did. It bears remembering that Missouri’s own divisions over slavery inspired much of the filibustering. But that great many did not, and probably could not short of violence, have stopped the Missourians who did care enough to go and steal Kansas’ elections in the name of slavery.

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.

Electing a Territorial Legislature

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder, governor of Kansas, had his census returns on March 3, 1855. With them in hand, he could draw districts and call Kansans to elect their first territorial legislature. Though Reeder had no more expertise in organizing a territory than any of us did, he took pains to do it right. According to his testimony to the Howard Committee, Reeder

immediately proceeded to make the apportionment, designate such new election precincts as had become necessary, to appoint election officers, and to prepare necessary forms and instructions; and on the sixth or seventh of March my proclamation for the election on the thirtieth was completed, and despatched by express to the printing office, about forty miles distant; a large number of copies were received by me of the printer, and immediately distributed through the Territory, under arrangements previously matured for that purpose.

First timer or not, Reeder knew his duties and made preparation to carry them out in advance. Even before he set the official date, he told people who asked him that he expected the election in late March. Reeder named several proslavery men who he told, but he behaved impartially:

I did not hesitate at any time to state to person around me, of both parties, all that I could know myself in relation to the day of the election, and I did not communicate it to the Emigrant Aid Society or their agents, or any one else in the States, except, perhaps, to some persons in the State of Missouri.

Reeder testified to all of that after things had gone badly wrong, but he had his eyes open during the election for delegate back in November.

In the appointment of justices of the peace, constables, census takers, and officers of election, I was careful to select men indiscriminately from both parties, with a view to treat all persons fairly, and afford no cause of complaint. At the election of the twenty-ninth of November, a large majority of the officers of election were, as I believe, pro-slavery men. Of the twelve men appointed to take the census, six were pro-slavery men. A fair proportion of the justices and constables were also pro-slavery men.

That did not go swimmingly. Proslavery Missourians had set aside his election judges, when they did not prove reliably proslavery, and blocked, intimidated and violently accosted various voters along the way to stuffing the ballot boxes with their own fraudulent votes.

At the election of the thirtieth of March more than one-third of the election officers were, as I believe, pro-slavery men. Anticipating, however, an invasion of illegal voters from the State of Missouri, I was careful to appoint in most of the districts, especially in those contiguous to Missouri, two men of the free-State party and one of the pro-slavery party.

Reeder had a rough time of it from way back:

Notwithstanding all my efforts, however, at fair and impartial action, my person and my life were continuously threatened from the month of November, 1854, As early as the 15th day of November, 1854, a meeting was presided over by a citizen of Missouri, at which I was bitterly denounced, and a committee appointed, composed partly of citizens of Missouri, who waited upon me, and insisted upon an immediate election for the legislature.

He could have folded then. Reeder could very well have made a token effort and called it good, washing his hands of the Missouri-based election stealing. But the man who told people back East that he regretted not having the money to buy a slave to take himself to Kansas, sounding for all the world like a proslavery man himself, committed himself thoroughly to impartiality. When the proslavery party started breaking the rules, he identified them as the problem and took affirmative measures to curb their excesses. It seemed that for once the nation had a man in office who genuinely believed his professed impartiality and commitment to letting the ballot box rule the day on slavery questions.

What could go wrong?

The Fall of David Rice Atchison

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

George Goode (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Frank Blair, and the rest of the Missouri legislature had it out over the place of slavery in their state’s future. Would Missouri remain a southern state, not just tolerating but endorsing and trying to expand slavery? Would it turn its back on the South and become, as immigrants flooded in and slaves trickled away, a part of the North? Would Missouri send Thomas Hart Benton back to the Senate seat that it had before, displacing David Rice Atchison in the process? Goode stood for Atchison and slavery. Blair stood for Benton and non-agitation on slavery that bled over into free soil sentiment.

The Missouri legislature had its vote and came to some grief for it. Atchison had a rival for the proslavery vote, a Whig named Alexander William Doniphan who insisted that his party would best protect Missouri’s slavery. Because he believed in the power of Missouri Whiggery, Doniphan refused to throw his support to Atchison despite their strong agreement on slavery. As a result, they split the proslavery vote and each went home with roughly 37%. Benton came in at 25%. The Missouri legislature chose slavery, but could not agree on who ought to protect it. The deadlock denied Doniphan or Atchison the 50% of votes they needed to claim the Senate seat and so it would remain vacant at least until 1857 when a new Missouri legislature would take its seats.

Some people think that we ought to go back to having the state legislatures elect senators. Problems like this, and still more interesting times when multiple men claimed to have won the legislature’s vote and appeared in Washington, demonstrate why the states agreed to give up that power with the Seventeenth Amendment. However much they enjoyed choosing senators directly, split votes and deadlocks could mean losing the seat entirely for a time.

Alexander William Doniphan (Whig-MO)

Alexander William Doniphan (Whig-MO)

Did his initial loss mean Atchison packed up and went home, forgetting all about Kansas and retiring comfortably to steal the labor and lives of his slaves? Not at all. He still believed slavery right, still believed that it must spread to Kansas to ensure its security in Missouri, and still believed Missourians like himself and his Platte County friends had every right to go over and decided the future of Kansas for the Kansans. If he and his organization could triumph there, it could only improve his chances of convincing the next legislature that Davy Atchison protected slavery better than any Whig. Barring some radical transformation of Missouri politics in a free soil direction, or some staggering and conspicuous loss in Kansas, Atchison’s border ruffian activity could only help him.

Losses have a way of motivating some people. The Platte County men took new urgency from their failure to oust Frederick Starr. Spurred on by their embarrassment at home, they moved across the border and stole Kansas’ election for delegate. Now Andrew Reeder had taken his census and soon would come an election for territorial legislature. A non-voting delegate to Congress made for a paltry trophy, but the territorial legislature would have vast power to shape Kansas’ future. With a real prize on the line and all the more reason to fight for it, Atchison and his border ruffians would not dare think of sitting out the upcoming Kansas elections.

Goode for Atchison, Part Five

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

I intended to move on from Goode’s speech today. He mostly told the Missouri legislature things they could have heard anywhere. His arguments exist in probably thousands of other period documents. While the fate of Kansas more personally concerned the slaveholders of Missouri, similar rhetoric abounded elsewhere in the South. But at least for a bit Goode goes beyond reciting the proslavery orthodoxies in isolation to speak directly about the white North and its grievance over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Rather than constitutional musings, the outrage itself draws Goode’s attention:

My colleague, in an apologetic spirit, refers to the “exasperation, the heart-burnings, discord, and distress” of the people of the North, caused, as he tells us, by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; he feels, as we may judge, very deeply, the wrong that he assumes has been done the North by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. He is emphatically indignant in his denunciation of all those who in any way countenanced the repeal of that measure. In this he is consistent-it has long been his fixed purpose to excuse, apologize for, and defend whatever concerns the North. The North can do nothing wrong-the South nothing right.

Given that the practice of slavery and that alone separated North and South, one struggles now to argue with such a conclusion. Men like Goode and Atchison struggled too, but from the other end. Always conscious of their identities as slaveholding men of the South, they understood calling slavery evil as calling them evil. Who among us would argue against that obvious inference? But they knew in their hearts that the wrong lay in free labor, not in slavery, and so saw antislavery arguments as perverse on top of their danger of inflaming slave revolts and patent immorality.

He can feel for the North in this matter, but we hear nothing from him in regard to the outrage perpetrated by the North at the time of the adoption of the Missouri Compromise. That Compromise originated in a spirit of political jealousy-at first, it was nothing more. The North had begun to fear the political power of the South. That power could, as they then thought, be arrested or circumscribed only by restricting slavery. To prevent the increase of slave States was the great object to be achieved. The agitation of the questions showed them the full extent of their numerical strength; they became confident-nay, insolent in their tone, and menacing in their action. They resolved among themselves that there should be no more slave States.

Goode spoke in the winter of 1855 about events then a quarter century gone. He might have said much the same thing in the winter of 1860, six years thence, or the summer of 1850 just four years past. In any of those cases, he would have the facts on his side. Antislavery northerners really did want to cordon off slavery to where it already existed and did understand that as setting it on a path to destruction. They understood slavery as a threat to the white man’s democracy, an economic drag, and a great moral evil:

The arguments by which my colleague seeks to justify his position, as to making Kansas free, are such as we might have expected from a disciple of the Free-Soil school; all these arguments are based upon the conclusion that slavery is a curse, without mitigation or hope; and that its existence is a blight upon the earth-a deadly pestilence, infecting the atmosphere of social life, and retarding our advancement in all that makes a prosperous and happy people.

Goode for Atchison, Part Four

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

George Goode continued faithfully with his promise to comment only on the great issue of slavery in Missouri and not on the ongoing struggle between Thomas Hart Benton’s supporters of silence and non-agitation on slavery and David Rice Atchison’s proslavery, Kansas stealing radicals. He summarized the position of another of Atchison’s critics:

His objections to Senator Atchison are that he is too impulsive, and his “heated impulses might lead him astray;” but his chief objection seems to be that he (Atchison) sympathises with, and is greatly controlled by a Southern clique-men who are hostile to the best interests of this country, and who, if their counsels continue to prevail, will rend this Union asunder.

The non-partisan, taking no part in the anti-Benton/pro-Benton split, found himself tracing

the political proclivities, and identify of opinion and feeling of the gentleman from Boone with those of the Benton leader

That promise of non-partisanship held rock solid as Goode dissected what his opponent said

And here I would explain that I should not say one word in reference to what the gentleman from Boone asserted about Senator Atchison, but for his uncalled for allusion and reflection on the Southern gentleman whom he is pleased to designate as a clique-hostile to the best interests of the country. In this we see him exhibiting the same hostility to the Southern men as are habitually exhibited by teh Benton leader;-and who are these men with whom Senator Atchison associates, and whose influence, and whose alleged treasonable designs are so much to be deprecated? Mason, Hunter, Butler, and Dawson-in fine, all the Southern Senators, for all of these may be said to be the friends of Senator Atchison. And what have these men done to justify an allusion so invidious and disparaging? Nothing. The reason for their denunciation is that they are Southern gentlemen, and TRUE TO THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUTH.

The Missouri legislature’s debate over who would fill Atchison’s seat in the senate concerned the men in question, but clearly both Frank Blair and George Goode saw the issue as a debate over slavery by proxy. Would Missouri remain the northwest frontier of the South, subject to the paradoxical strains that produced extremists like Atchison in vulnerable constituencies, or would it slide away and become something more like Benton’s St. Louis, with few slaves and some day no slaves?

Remember Goode assails here a man who agrees with him on practical terms. Rollins, the gentleman from Boone, believed that Congress should not exercise the power he thought it had to make Kansas into a free territory. Goode differed only in believing that Congress had no such power. But that made Rollins a subversive.:

The gentleman from Boone, true to his proclivities, and yielding as it were unconsciously to the bias of his feelings, speaks of Senator Atchison as one unsuited to his place, attacks his opinions and acts, and seeks to depreciate his capacity, and discredit his pretensions,. The party, too, by whom he (Atchison) is supported, are likewise attacked, their actions assailed, and their motives questioned-and all this in a speech of great length and much compass of allusion-and yet, in that speech, we have nothing in condemnation of Col. Benton or his party,-that party which is led here by an avowed Free-Soiler,-whose views and opinions here boldly expressed are, as I honestly believe, subversive to the peace and prosperity of this State. The gentleman from Boone can see nothing to condemn in those views and opinions expressed by the champion of the Benton party on this floor. HE EITHER APPROVES THEM OR DARES NOT AVOW HIS ANSWER!

One struggles to read all of this and not catch Joe McCarthy’s stench rising off the words. Goode sounds like he sees a free soiler behind every bush. He spends pages attacking a man who agrees with his preferred outcome on the Kansas question over what looks like little more than a technicality.

But in all honesty, Blair’s position, and Benton’s, sound like something a free soiler in a slave state would say. That made neither foaming at the mouth abolitionists,  but they did see a future for Missouri with less slavery. Perhaps in time Missouri would have no slavery. The slave states of the North went free by such slow processes. Letting Kansas turn Missouri into an exposed salient of slavery jutting up into the North would surely leave the institution more exposed, especially as most of Missouri’s slavery took place dangerously near the border. If Kansas went free, and St. Louis continued to grow as a city just barely enslaved and filling with immigrants and northerners, Missouri’s slave power would have to take still more extreme and startling anti-democratic steps to save their property. With such a process underway, men like Rollins from Boone might easily turn free soil completely. Paranoia, and political theater, certainly informed Goode. So did genuine fears of a free future.

Once More with Mark DC (@FilmCriticOne on Twitter)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

I apologize once more for interrupting the narrative, Gentle Readers, but I do think the ability to engage with critics is important. I previously gave Mark DC this response. As you can see from his comments there, he found it insufficient and accused me of various colorful offenses. His chief complaint, leaving aside his speculation about my sex life, appears to derive from his understanding of Bleeding Kansas as something like this:

Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, funded an army of 1,700 Texans who David Rice Atchison took into Kansas on a campaign of murder and other terrorism to ensure the newly opened territory became a slave state.

I disagree with this thesis and thus must have some kind of personal interest in whitewashing Atchison for your benefit. Quite why I would do this puzzles him at least as much as it puzzles me.

Mark bases his argument on a speech of Atchison’s which I had yet to read when he presented it to me. I’ve done that now. It is an extraordinary document that I will have much to do with in the future. However, that speech and the deeds ensuing come yet some time ahead in the narrative from where I have yet reached. Atchison spoke on May 21, 1856. I don’t know that Mark could miss this since the page he linked to on his blog has the date clearly marked. So far my narrative on Kansas matters has yet to reach May of 1855. I have concerned myself almost entirely with the election of November of 1854 and the census of February, 1855. You may, Gentle Readers, judge for yourselves whether trying to stick to a chronological narrative constitutes whitewashing past events up until the point where they receive their due coverage in the timeline. For my part, I find the suggestion absurd.

The flag of Texas

The flag of Texas

Furthermore, Mark refers to 1,700 Texans. The standard number of Missourians who crossed to vote in the delegate election of November, 1854, stands at around 1,700. I presume from this that Mark refers to the delegate election. I find no mention of Texans in the eyewitness testimony I have read, but frequent reference to Missourians. Furthermore, the witnesses report that they recognized many by name and face from their own time living in Missouri. Nor have I encountered mention of any particular flags in the testimony related to the November election. Atchison’s speech has some, but that preceded the sack of Lawrence in 1856. He describes to a solid red flag with a single star in the middle. That does not describe the Texas flag, then or now. As you can see from the adjacent image or, I am told, from looking almost anywhere within the Lone Star state, the Texas flag has red and a star, but also blue and white just as set down in Texas law during its days as an independent nation.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

Mark’s reference to Atchison enjoying the support of the administration also fails for lack of context. The speech does have Atchison calling his mob the agents of the administration, but in this particular case they fancied themselves deputy US Marshals and used the pretense of serving a warrant on some men in Lawrence to cover their invasion. James McPherson explains it in Battle Cry of Freedom, in a chapter that takes its title from Charles Sumner’s famous speech, The Crime Against Kansas:

Proslavery Judge Samuel Lecompte instructed a grand jury to indict members of the free-state government for treason. Since many of these men lived in Lawrence, the attempt to arrest them provided another opportunity for Missourians, how deputized as a posse, to attack this bastion of Yankee abolitionists. Dragging along five cannon, they laid siege to the town on May 21. Not wishing to place themselves in further contempt of law, the free-state leaders decided against resistance. The “posse” of some 800 men thereupon poured into Lawrence, demolished its two newspaper offices, burned the hotel and home of the elected free-soil governor, and plundered shops and houses.

I will doubtless have more to say about the speech when I get up to the sacking of Lawrence, but I think this situation in itself adequately explains Atchison’s claims of official sanction, especially given how he cites the US Marshal specifically:

You have endured many hardships, have suffered many privations on your trips, but for this you will be more than compensated by the work laid out by the Marshal

Very few in number at the time, US Marshals had wide power to deputize people in the field. That this one deputized Atchison’s mob doesn’t mean that Washington signed off. Such a claim would require additional support.

Finally, one more matter. I have not previously found it necessary to set out any particular standard for comments on this blog. I do not think that Mark’s posts warrant one now. However, they are well below the caliber of discourse to which I aspire and their intensely insulting, belligerent attitude has continued without abatement even when met with courtesy and a sincere desire to learn more and understand his position. He fills his own blog with similar invective. I do feel obligated out of my desire to never cease learning, but my tolerance for the level of vitriol that Mark has lobbed my way is at its end. I do not care for it personally and I do not care to subject my readers to any more of it.

Provided Mark finds it in himself to behave in a more civilized manner, he is welcome to continue commenting. If he persists as he has, I will remove those comments as I see them.