The Fourteenth District, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

David Rice Atchison and his personal army of Missourians succeeded in convincing the proslavery Kansans of the Wolf River precinct to support his candidates instead of their own, including the brother of his favorite lieutenant, John H. Stringfellow. The other Stringfellow, of course, helped Atchison establish the organization that facilitated the Missourian election stealing and other, not always successful, efforts to police white antislavery sentiment. That job done, most of them moved on to other districts. All of this took place on March 29, 1855, the day before the elections for territorial legislature.

Dr. G.A. Cutler continues the story:

The next day the election commenced at Wolf river in very good order, and everything went on right for about two hours. The ice was running in the Missouri river, and none could get across till ten or eleven o’clock.

The usual story began thereafter. A Missourian named Felix Blakely came up to vote and a judge refused him.

There was a great deal of disturbance; Mr. Richardson [the refusing judge] was threatened considerably; they threatened to whip him if he would come out of doors, and wanted to do it in where he was, and he finally resigned.

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

Applying the punishment of slaves to a white man communicates very well the depth of the Missourians’ loathing for anybody with a whiff of antislavery about them. Richardson took the hint and resigned. The Missourians put up the usual proslavery judge who took every vote without question. Cutler, who stood for election as a free state man, saw no sense in remaining at the polls and left. He even told friends not to bother, since the Missourians had the numbers to steal the election anyway.

What about contesting the election?

I heard a great many threats in regard to contesting that election. Major General Richardson said, in a crowd in Doniphan, that myself and office should be thrown into the Missouri river if I contested the election or sent a protest against it. We all believed that if a second election was held it would be a bloody one. I afterwards heard threats against the governor of the Territory-that if he failed to sign the certificates he should not live two hours. I heard these threats in Doniphan and in Missouri. I also received an anonymous letter, stating that if I contested the election I should be put out of my misery, or something to that effect. These threats were frequent.

But those threats did not see execution:

I saw no violence offered to any voter, except doubling up of fists, &c.; no blows struck.

Of course the proslavery men got their way. We know that in other districts they had it in them to do the violence they threatened, if not quite to the point of cleansing the territory of abolitionists. We can’t know if the Missourians at Wolf River would have gone the whole way if further frustrated, but Richardson took them seriously enough to resign and Cutler himself opted not to contest the election. In light of that, it makes more sense to take the threats as credible statements of intent.

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