Matt France, Andrew Reeder’s other free state judge of the election in the Sixteenth District, lasted a bit longer than David Brown. Like Brown, he had someone approach him and suggest he resign. In this case, France had a brother who stood for election and the conflict of interest raises obvious concerns. But to judge from his testimony, France’s brother seems peripheral. The real issue remained whether or not France would accept the fraudulent votes of Missourian border ruffians, though his brother’s involvement may have stiffened France’s resolve. The proslavery judge, Lewis N. Rees, also had a brother in the election.
The night before the election, Rees floated the idea that the whole panel should resign.
The idea he expressed was that we could have to let them vote or they would use violence. I concluded not to resign, and Rees said he would not resign unless I did.
So far, so good. Then the judges had to swear one another in. Rees, as other proslavery judges had in other districts, refused to take Andrew Reeder’s oath. Nor did David Brown’s replacement judge. They invented their own and the election proceeded:
I think I challenged the third vote offered that day, on the ground that I did not think him a resident. I asked him where he resided, he replied that his family resided in Saline county, Missouri, that he came into the Territory the day before, and intended to go back home immediately after the election.
France didn’t insist on refusing to let him vote, but did want that Missourian to swear an oath. The other judges overruled him.
The other judges decided that we had no right to swear any man, that every person on the ground was a legal voter. They would not administer the oath, and received the vote. I objected, and told them that I should insist upon every man being sworn whom we did not know. They objected to it, and continued to take votes over my head. Everybody who applied to vote that day voted, except some Delaware Indians. The Wyandotts voted.
Andrew Reeder’s instructions to the judges and qualifications for voters explicitly prohibited any Indian or mixed-blooded person from voting. I hope most of us find that disgusting, but to most nineteenth century Americans letting an Indian vote in an election made as much sense as letting a black man or a woman vote. To France, this clearly demonstrated just how the judges cast aside almost every standard he could think of to admit the Missourians to the polls.
I went into the index of Nichole Etcheson’s Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era hoping to find some clues as to why the judges let the Wyandotte vote. She doesn’t appear to address what set the Wyandotte apart from the Delaware directly, but offers a few interesting facts in discussing the origins of the Kansas–Nebraska Act:
Wyandot Indians took the first steps by repeatedly petitioning Congress to organize a territory. In October 1852, the Wyandot elected Abelard Guthire, a white man with a Wyandot wife, as territorial delegate. Guthrie lobbied congressmen on territorial status for the area west of Missouri.
The index includes no reference to the Delaware. From this I get the sense that the Wyandotte may have endeared themselves to the Missourians by their early pressing for territorial organization. But it also might come down to something as prosaic as the judges recognizing the particular Wyandotte men who came to vote as reliably proslavery.
Back at the election, Matt France sat there through the day, overruled two to one again and again:
I did not consider anything legal about it, but remained to see the thing through. I signed the return after scratching out the words “lawful resident voters.” After some discussion between the judges, we all signed the return in the same way.
That sent quite a message back to Andrew Reeder: They, the judges of the election charged with ensuring that only lawful voters voted, would not sign off on their polls accepting only lawful voters. When someone brave enough to risk it contested the election, Reeder ordered a new one for the district.