The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Districts

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

A programming note first, Gentle Readers:

I got myself thoroughly confused with the testimony on the Sixth District and previously claimed that only a few Missourians illegally voted, forgetting that the Howard Committee counted somewhere around 250 illegal votes, while simultaneously ruling that even had only legal voters gone to the polls the election would have come out the same. I’ve edited Friday’s post to reflect that.

Also the next few districts have uneventful summaries, so I shall move quickly through them.

The Howard Committee collected no testimony of violence in the Seventh District, but the Missourians came two to three hundred strong. Two of Andrew Reeder’s chosen judges declined to serve and the Missourians replaced them with more amenable men. They refused to take the oath Reeder set out, but instead made up their own. Likewise they declined to make any Missourian swear to his residency in Kansas. One man asked that they at least swear unknown voters to having a claim in Kansas, but the judges opted not to. Some genuine residents, seeing hundreds of Missourians lined up against them, did the math and realized voting would only waste their time.  Of those who did vote legally, a majority went for the free-state candidate. The other guy, Mobillon McGee, rode to victory on the back of illegal votes. He had an actual claim complete with saw mill and house in Kansas, but actually lived in Missouri “where he owns and conducts a valuable farm.”

The Eighth District earns itself no more than four lines in the Howard Report. Though legally distinct, Andrew Reeder joined it with the Seventh for purposes of the election.

its vote was controlled by the illegal votes cast there. [Tn the Seventh District] The census shows 39 votes in it;’ 37 votes were cast, of a whom a majority voted the free-State ticket.

The Ninth District held the seat of government at the time. Neither the committee’s summary nor the testimony report any violence or threats. However, all five witnesses called testified that a large number of Pennsylvanians, many hailing from Reeder’s home town of Easton, came into the district shortly before the election and left shortly thereafter. They appear to have had their expenses paid by Aid Societies. Two witnesses related to the committee claims that each Pennsylvanian had $25, possibly from Andrew Reeder’s wife, to cover their expenses out to Kansas.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Reeder may very well have brought them, the closest thing to pauper abolitionist mercenaries of Missourian nightmares that the Howard Report has yet offered up. He had the business of setting up facilities for the government, including a capitol and trying to arrange lodging for the legislature when they arrived. Nineteenth century crony capitalism could certainly include hiring people from way back east to come out to do the work. Reeder and some local Kansans around Pawnee appear to have thrown in on real estate speculation, which would do much to explain why Reeder wanted the seat of government out in the middle of nowhere at Pawnee instead of more centrally located. Fewer people meant less competition and cheaper land.

More of the testimony concerns this real estate deal than the election itself. Reeder or his confederates apparently induced the local military garrison to clear out a group of Irish settlers, tearing down their houses and then tearing the roofs off the sod huts they made to replace the structure. They took a strong interest in buying one man out and apparently tried to give shares in their enterprise to members of the legislature at a discount to induce them to vote for keeping the government at Pawnee. It didn’t work, though, and later on they found out that the whole area sat inside the military reservation and so nobody could stake claims there.

The men who came from Pennsylvania, whether they came at Reeder’s bidding or not, did largely go and vote. Does that make them just like the Missourians? Not necessarily. The Howard Committee satisfied itself that many of the Pennsylvanians came out with full intent to settle. The witnesses seem to agree, testifying that they came on Reeder’s word about the wonders of Kansas, including iron mountains, and discovered the hard way that he misled them. So they resolved to leave, but had motives that sanctioned their voting. If they made that decision before the election and still voted, then they had no right to do so. In the absence of statements on that count, we can’t say. One might argue that they came as government employees, and some did, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act specifically allowed even men at military posts to vote in Kansas’ elections provided they intended at the time to stay in the territory.

What does all of this boil down to? It seems that some Northern, free-state men might have cast illegal votes for a change but we don’t have any way to know for sure. They could have still intended to settle when they voted, only thereafter deciding that the land did not justify their remaining. Even without mountains of iron, the frontier had its attractions. Either way, the few people in the Ninth District seemed more concerned with their real estate speculation than with the politics of the day.

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