The Fifteenth District, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The Fifteenth District, part 1

One could leave the Fifteenth District right here, but the testimony includes some novelties worth noting. These come to us by way of Joseph Potter. E.R. Zimmerman told us how each group of Missourian filibusters who arrived received cheers and heard speeches. Zimmerman, however, remained inside the polling place all day and so didn’t catch the speeches himself. Potter did:

I saw Major Oliver there, from Ray county, and I think Laban Withers, from Platte County. […] Major Oliver made us a fine speech.

The Howard Report helpfully identifies Major Oliver:

Many of the Missourians were known and are named by the witnesses. Several speeches were made by them at the polls; and among those who spoke were Major Oliver, one of your committee

Awkward. Mordecai Oliver eventually authored the Howard Committee’s minority report. You can see him in the picture, sitting on the left.  His name appears several times posing questions to witnesses, so he must have sat in the room and heard Potter tell him to his face what he had done in Kansas the year before. The testimony does not include the questions he posed, but to judge from Potter’s answer in the following, he asked for a summary of his words that day:

The first position Major Oliver took on that occasion was, to guaranty peace to us all. He was called on to speak by a number. I think the Major urged upon all present to use no harsh words; expressed the hope that nothing would be said or done to wound the feelings of the most sensitive on the other side. I think the speech was a first-rate speech, and was a peace speech. […] I took no exception to anything the Major said in his speech. The Major made a very fine speech, and a peaceable speech; and said that he felt that all were brothers, whether free-State or pro-slavery men, and that all had an equal right to vote; and undertook to guaranty that if there were free-State men there, they would be protected in their rights, as would the others.

Big of Oliver, but in reading this we must remember that no free-State ticket existed to vote for in the district that day. You could come up and vote for the Missourians proslavery ticket or you could come up and vote for the Missourians’ proslavery ticket. Lest one think Oliver just trying to avert violence and make the best of a bad situation, Potter made clear Oliver’s politics:

Major Oliver gave us some grounds, I think based on the Missouri compromise, in regard to the right of voting. I was in no fix to listen to a speech as a man ought to, for I was somewhat sick and did not pay attention.

But even sick, Potter recalled enough:

I think Major Oliver excused the Missourians for voting, but I do not recollect upon what grounds.

In light of this, we clearly have Oliver getting up and cheerfully inviting everyone to come vote for the ticket he himself prefers. Though it may take us great struggle, I think we could all achieve such a heroic feat of magnanimity.

That said, Oliver got his way. Potter testified that he

saw no one prevented from voting. I heard no threats made in regard to voting.

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