The Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Districts

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Much of this series has repeated the same story over again: Missourians flooded over the border into Kansas and stole its elections by casting illegal votes. When opposed, they escalated things to threats and pointed to the large stockpiles of weaponry they brought with them. If that didn’t work, and it appears that the threats of violence alone usually sufficed, they would escalate further to actual violence. At times they manhandled people. At times they opened fire. Once they even tried to bring a house down on top of recalcitrant judges of the election. The Howard Committee couldn’t tell what happened in the Eleventh District. Though common, Missourian electoral hooliganism did not extend everywhere. It did not reach the Twelfth District at all. The Howard Committee reported that

The election in this district was conducted fairly. No complaint was made that illegal votes were cast.

The Thirteenth District reverted to type. When the judges would not take dodgy votes, the Missourians threatened to tear down the house. The judges took the better part of valor and left, which freed the Missourians to set up their own judges. They did so and then all went smoothly. The free-state voters stayed away.

Which brings us to the Fourteenth District and its thirty-five witnesses. I have to slow down and take this one in more detail for reasons that shall soon become obvious. There the Missourians came, as usual, and Dr. G.A. Cutler testified that at the Wolf River Precinct

There was considerable whiskey demolished. They were all armed to the teeth.

Firearms and alcohol go together exceptionally well, if one’s goal is mayhem. Fairness, however, requires us to keep in mind that most nineteenth century gatherings of men involved quite a bit of alcohol. Cutler quickly moves beyond the tired old news and into something novel:

This crowd was under the command of General Atchison.

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

Atchison, as in David Rice Atchison Missouri’s very recently former Senator who helped make all of this possible and saw in Kansas a way to save his career as well as his slaves. Atchison and the Missourians would not leave Kansas to the Kansans. They wouldn’t even trust the territory to the proslavery Kansans:

The proslavery citizens there wished to have Mr. Thomas Vandersluyee and Joel Ryans; and Atchison’s company wanted Stringfellow and Kirk elected. They could not agree very well.

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

An Atchison wanted a Stringfellow for elected office? One might think he meant Benjamin Stringfellow of Negro-Slavery, No Evil (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) fame. Atchison instead preferred John H. Stringfellow, Benjamin’s brother. That Stringfellow then lived in Kansas, at the town of Atchison.

Both sides of the dispute, good proslavery men, knew they had a common interest. Why not come together?

A man got up and made a speech and as near as I can recollect his words, he said: “Gentlemen, we want to unite on one ticket. There are 1,100 coming over from Platte county, and if that ain’t enough we can send you 5,000 more. We came to vote, and we are going to vote, or kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district. I think he said “district” but it was “district” or “territory”. I asked a man nigh to me, a stranger, who that was, and he said it was old Davy Atchison.

Atchison and his people came here to save slavery? Can’t you good proslavery sorts see that? And if they can’t vote, they and their thousands will kill all the abolitionists. What more can they do? Why not vote for their candidates? This apparently convinced the proslavery Kansans, as Cutler tells us that they settled on Stringfellow and Kirk.

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