The Fifth District, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The Fifth District, part 1

We left William Chesnut objecting to fradulent voters out of Missouri coming to the polls at Pottowatomie Creek. The two judges appointed by the mob of Missourian border ruffians promptly testified that they knew each voter had a right to vote, end of story. At the end of the polling that evening, the three judges counted those votes and passed around the list to sign off. Chesnut refused.

The house was immediately filled with as many armed men as could stand on the floor. Until then they had all kept outside. General Coffee, candidate for councilman, was among the crowd

Coffee took a moment to speak to the mob and

he admitted that it was very aggravating for a public officer to refuse to do his evident duty, but still hoped there would be no bloodshed, nor personal violence used, on that occasion.

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

Then he went over and told Chesnut he’d best just sign off. That might keep the crowd from getting ideas about, say, the bloodshed that Coffee just brought up. Chesnut refused, knowing full well that they could do whatever they wanted to him then and there, promising that he would not sign if they kept him all night. The other judges opted to send along the returns without his signature and called it good.


then got up and came out of the house. On my way home, when I had got about fifty or sixty rods from Mr. Sherman’s house, a party of armed strangers, who stood a distance of probably fifty rods from me, discharged a number of rifles. They called names, and hooted and yelled as long as we remained in sight or hearing.

A rod measures sixteen and a half feet, for a distance of between 825 to 990 feet. I have the impression that accuracy at that range asked more than guns of the time could offer. That said, your pacifist author knows slightly less about late antebellum rifles then he does about gun-type nuclear weapons. I thus leave it to the reader to let me know if the Missourians had a reasonable expectation of hitting Chesnut at that range or if they did it entirely to frighten him. They did not pursue Chesnut so it appears that if they did want to kill him, they didn’t want to do so very badly.

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Aside his inconvenient scruples, the Missourians may have had one more grip with Chesnut. They feared the pauper armies of the Emigrant Aid Societies, coming to take their Kansas out from under them. Chesnut testified that he didn’t

know positively of any who came out under the auspices of any aid society except myself; and I came out under the auspices of the New York society, called the Kansas League. I paid my own expenses, and derived no service from the society, except information about the best modes of getting here and the country here. They asked me no questions about my politics.

All of that made him a very far cry from the fevered imaginings of the Benjamin Franklin Stringfellows and David Rice Atchisons of the Missouri frontier, convinced that they must save Kansas for slavery or lose Missouri to freedom. Chesnut paid his own way, rather than coming as a pauper. The aid society didn’t ask him about slavery. He received from them only information. However much he failed to live up to expectations, Chesnut had the basic fact of his association with the Kansas League to cast him as the villain of the day. But all that said, they don’t seem to have treated him any worse than any other person who got in the way of stealing the election.

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