The Further Testimony of John A. Wakefield, Part Three

John A Wakefield

John A Wakefield

Storming of the Second District Polls: parts 1, 2

The Testimony of John A. Wakefield: parts 1, 2

The Further Testimony of John A. Wakefield, parts 1, 2

We left John A. Wakefield, free state candidate for the territorial council and hostage to the proslavery Missourian border ruffians just taken from the house of Nathaniel Ramsay, one of the judges of the election, at gunpoint. He wanted to make a fight of it, but thought better of it when the unarmed bystanders reminded him that the numbers and guns favored the Missourians. He gave up his double-barrel shotgun on the Missourians’ pledge of his safety.

The Missourians demanded Wakefield come back to polls and tell the crowd that he had nothing to do with the judges obstructing their right to steal the election. He could do that easily enough, as that came down to Andrew Reeder’s instructions and the judges’ adherence to them. So Wakefield

went back with them, and got up in a wagon and made them a short speech, stating to them that I had been an old soldier, and had fought through two wars for the rights of my country; and I thought I ha da privilege there that day. I then went on to state that they were in the wrong; that we were not the abolitionists they represented us to be, but were free-State men, and that they were abusing us unjustly, and that their acts were contrary to the organic law of the constitution of the United States.

That took guts. Wakefield had already faced down an armed mob bent on violence, surrendered himself to them, and went back with them into a larger mob full of people who considered him the author of their particular woes. Arriving there, he got up on a wagon and told them off.

The Missourians did not all appreciate it:

A man cried out while I was speaking several times, “Shoot him! he is too saucy.” I then made an effort to those who gave their security that I should not be hurt. When I got done speaking and got off the wagon, a man came up to me and told me he wanted to tie a white ribbon in my button-hole, or the boys would kill me. I at first refused, but he insisted, and I let him do it; and then I turned round and cut it out with my knife.

The Missourians took up the white ribbons as a badge to identify themselves when it looked like things would get violent.

This all speaks to some Missourians quite ready to murder an old man for imagined slights and real, if somewhat remote, threats to slavery. Wakefield also found men among the border ruffians who would not go that far and took pains to protect him, not just during his speech but thereafter. That said, they protected him after they made off with the election and after they bested him in a standoff. The very same men appear quite ready to shoot Wakefield, and anybody else in Ramsay’s house that got in the way, not all that long before.

The matter finished, Wakefield made to leave. The Missourians asked him to stay and vote now that they had everything settled, but Wakefield demurred. By the time he left the polls, before noon and no more than three hours after the affray began, the actual Kansans had made themselves scarce.


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