The Sixteenth District, Part Five

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Parts 12, 3, 4

I think I’ve both spelled the title correctly and counted correctly this time, Gentle Readers.

A. Macauley and H. Miles Moore told us a great deal about how the Missourians prepared and organized to steal the territorial elections in Kansas, and Moore told us additionally what the proslavery forces could do a year thereafter, but neither testified a great deal about the election mechanics themselves.

David Brown, appointed one of the judges of the election by Andrew Reeder, had a different perspective:

Previous to the election, for some days, a good many had been running to me and soliciting me to resign; and one gentleman came to my house, who said he was from Missouri, and staid over night with me, and urged me strongly to resign, and said that if I did not, the consequences would be disagreeable. My family had heard the conversation, and as my wife was very much frightened, I concluded I would be better at home, after I had got through my business here, the day of the election.

Brown ultimately did resign, telling the other judges the day before and informing the crowd personally on the morning of the election.

I wish also here to state, that after I had been in here on the day before the election, and told the judges I would resign, and I had returned home about ten or eleven o’clock at night, Mr. Charles Dunn came to my house, and urged me to resign. He said that there was a company of some four hundred men below Scragg’s mill, at the mouth of “Three-mile” creek, and that they were twisting a rope, and making preparations to hang me if I did not resign, and he asked me to authorize him to say to these men that I would resign. I told him I had told the other two judges to fill my place. He afterwards told me that that communication quieted these men.

There went one of the two free-state judges Reeder chose. One can hardly blame him for concluding

that violence would come to my person if I served, and that I should not be able to carry out the election as my instructions required me to do.

He also

concluded that there was a portion of the people present who wanted to vote, who wanted judges who would not ask such questions as I would have asked

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Old news by this point. The lone proslavery judge Reeder appointed, a man named Rees, floated the suggestion that all three judges resign and wash their hands of the affair. The voters could pick a panel to their liking. Brown and the other free soil judge rejected the suggestion. But as they argued Brown thought over his situation. The people around town apparently did not much care for him. They had trouble finding a spot to conduct the election. Maybe he should just resign.

Rees suggested again that all three men call it quits. That would certainly make Brown’s resignation less conspicuous. It would also turn a panel two to one in favor of a free Kansas into a panel three to zero in favor of an enslaved Kansas. Brown must have caught the intention to use mass resignation as a form of public relations for the proslavery side, because

I then made the proposition that we should take our seats as judges, and I would sit unarmed there until the crowd should take me and sit me politely down in the street.

The next morning, after deciding to resign on his own and telling the judges to replace him, Brown

got up and cried out to the audience that I, David Brown, being appointed by Governor Reeder as one of the judges of the election, under existing circumstances could not and would not serve. I do not state the reasons. I will state, that when I proposed to Mr. Rees that I would take my seat as judge unarmed until they politely took me off it, Mr. Rees remarked, that would be carrying the joke too far; that neither he nor any other man could control the people.

Two Missourians offered to give Brown’s resignation for him, but he declined. After, he lingered through the morning but didn’t bother with voting:

The word seemed to be, “I am all right on the goose.” As I belonged to the ganders, I had but little chance.


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