The Fourteenth District, Part Four

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The Fourteenth District: parts 12, and 3

The remaining precinct of the Fourteenth District, Doniphan, brought no former senators pledging to kill every abolitionist in the territory. Nor did the Missourians who came there try to bring a house down on the election judges. It appears nobody even got shot at or beaten. Richard Tuck testified that

There were no political fights or disturbances that day.

The Missourians still came and still stole the election, of course. Both sides claimed that they had a majority of the genuine settlers in the precinct, suggesting a fairly even split. In such a situation, even a few fraudulent voters could change the outcome. Missouri provided two to three hundred reliable proslavery men.

They came, as elsewhere, in a group that told of considerable organization and investment:

They had tents, wagons, and plenty of arms. Their arms were double-barrelled shot-guns, pistols, bowie-knives, and rifles. Each man seemed well armed. They had plenty of provisions, and whiskey and brandy together. They had either three wagons of provisions, or drove up one wagon three times.

None of that sets them apart from other groups of border ruffians, but I’ve let the point pass for a while and thought it worth reemphasizing. An organized, planned campaign stole the election. The occasional references to military ranks among the leaders of the Missourians may have referred to past appointments, but also spoke to the fact that the rank and file constituted willing members of a paramilitary expedition. They deserve the name filibuster as much as anybody who went off to Cuba, Mexico, or Nicaragua.

With regard to those guns, Tuck told the Howard Committee

They did not tell me why they brought so many arms.

On arrival

They stacked their arms up under the house they voted in. They voted in Mr. Foreman’s store. It was a frame building, a foot and a half high from the ground. They staid [sic] there all day, until they got ready to go home in the evening. They commenced stacking their arms under the building, and filled the space so well, that if there was any more room there I did not see it.

And whilst voting

They had as many arms as they could well carry; some of them had their pockets full of pistols.

With regard to the presence of firearms, one must make allowances for the nineteenth century frontier. Those allowances can go too far, though. Tuck came from Missouri himself and he clearly thinks the Missourians unusually well-armed. When someone hailing from essentially the same gun culture declares the border ruffians armed to the teeth, we should take that seriously. They didn’t just come packing, they came loaded down even by contemporary standards of the state they hailed from.

In such a situation, one can well imagine that few people raised a stink about the occasional enthusiast who thought one vote did not suffice:

Sometimes a man would go up and vote, and then go back and change his hat or coat, and sometimes both, and then go up and vote again. They would halloo out a different name every time. I saw some of them vote as many as eight or nine times, and one man might have voted a dozen times. Some three or four men were pursuing this course of voting.

By Tuck’s estimate, only thirty to forty of the men at the polls had a legal right to vote in the territory. Three extra voters alone gave the proslavery side a minimum of twenty-four extra votes.

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