The Peaceful, Mostly Honest Sixth District

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Something odd happened in Kansas’ Sixth District. Witnesses all agree that no violence took place. They testify that at most, only a few fraudulent votes made their way into the ballot box. (The Howard Committee disagreed and counted no more than 100 of the 350 votes tabuleted as legal.) Missourians came, but most seemed to behave themselves. Nobody reported them deterring anybody from voting. All three of Andrew Reeder’s judges appeared and remained in place for the whole day. John Hamilton, who ran for the lower house as a free stater and lost, testified that

There was no disturbance at the polls.

and

I know of no double voting that day.

Hamilton almost reported something serious.

Mr. Loring and Mr. Richardson, when the polls were closed, came to me and said they came to me as friends, to know if I intended to contest the election. I stated that if I had a majority of the legal votes in the district I should certainly contest it. They said if I did it would certainly be detrimental to the interests of myself and family. They said nothing further.

Nothing came of the threat. Ultimately Hamilton said

I was not induced to any course of conduct by any threats made towards me. I had repeatedly stated I should contest that election if I thought I had a majority of the legal votes there then. I did not contest it at that time, because there was not time enough to contest it; and I believed at the time a majority of the votes were against me. […] I never have ascertained that I received a majority of the legal votes there

If anybody had reason to complain, Hamilton did. He clearly thought instead he lost fair and square. Other witnesses say that he told them on the day of the election that his own friends voted for other candidates.

Joseph C. Anderson, who ran for the House and won, disagreed with Hamilton on one small point. He knew that some voted fraudulently:

I heard one man I can name, who was from Missouri, say he had voted, but I did not see him vote. My present impression is that I heard another Missourian say so. Mr. Loring was one of them. I tried to keep him from voting. I remarked to him, “Mr. Loring, you are not going to vote?” The object of my inquiry was dissuasive. I told him I did not want him to vote; that I did not want men known to be citizens of Missouri to vote there, for the reason that everybody was voting for me, and I did not want to have my election contested, or have any trouble about it.

[…]

I used every argument to prevent him from voting that I could think of at the time.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

William Barbee goes some way toward explaining how things went so well at Fort Scott. He took the census of the area and

Governor Reeder took me to be a free-State man, and requested me to hunt up suitable free-State men for judges of election, when I took the census, and said that he aimed to appoint two free soilers and one pro-slavery man for judges of election. He did do that in our district, and in the districts in which I took the census, which was over half the Territory in extent, so far as he could.

Barbee’s words have a kind of studied ambiguity about them. Reeder took him for a free-state man. Later Barbee expands slightly, saying

I passed for a free-State man with him, and that was the way I got the appointment to take the census.

Barbee’s late residence in Illinois might have helped too, but notice that he never calls himself a free state man. He ran for the legislature as a proslavery candidate. He also says that Reeder’s safeguards fell into place only so far as Reeder could manage. That scans as an allowance for less than perfect success, but added together with Barbee’s admission that he only allowed Reeder to think him antislavery, at least suggests that Barbee may have passed off some proslavery judges to Reeder as antislavery men. That might have stolen the election before the polls ever opened.

But Anderson and Hamilton both agree that the district had a proslavery majority of legitimate voters. It hardly needed stealing, as Anderson admits. It appears to have come by that majority honestly, even if a few Missourians voted illegally. Samuel A. Williams tesitified:

From the time I went into the district the emigration was very heavy from Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas, up to the time of the election, and settled on the Neosho and the streams in that neighborhood, and the district.

That fits well with the geography of the district, which ran all the way to Kansas’ southern border. One would expect people coming from south and east of Kansas to concentrate in just that spot.

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