The Infamous Andrew Reeder, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

The proslavery party in Kansas wanted Andrew Reeder gone. They said as much in their main paper, the Atchison Squatter SovereignFranklin Pierce did too, even if the president appointed him in the first place. The governor’s commitment to the integrity of elections did not help him in the slightest. Nor did his plan to profit off making Pawnee, in all its splendor, the site of Kansas’ legislature. But they counted Reeder an enemy and threatened his life almost from his first day in Kansas. Forced to work with him or face his veto pen, would they decide that getting things done trumped holding a grudge? Reeder came into all of this avowing his neutrality and commitment to popular sovereignty, not doctrinaire abolitionism. He had not set aside all their stolen elections. They still had a majority when they met. Even if they hated the man personally, they had things they wanted to do and had their way almost all the time. Surely they could find some way to compromise?

They could sprout wings and fly away nearly as easily. Right after the stolen elections of March, the April 3 Squatter Sovereign declared victory over

The entire forces of Abolitionism, Reederism, Free-Soilism, and other isms combined, completely Routed. Kansas declared in favor of Slavery.

We have the satisfaction and pleasure of recording one of the most brilliant political victories ever accomplished by any party.

By this point, the Pennsylvania Democrat who started telling people that if not for the cost of slaves, he’d buy one and take it to Kansas himself had transformed, at least in the minds of many, into the personification of Abolition. Thus victory was not simply a defeat for Reeder, but for all he stood for. Why should they compromise? They won the elections. Nobody had elected Reeder, and probably no “true” Kansan cared for him. John Stringfellow, editor of the Sovereign and member-elect of the Kansas House, doesn’t sound like a man eager to cooperate.

JH Stringfellow

John H. Stringfellow

Under the heading Governor Reeder’s Popularity, the Sovereign continues:

We venture the assertion, that out of the three hundred and forty-six votes polled at the precinct in this District, not five out of the number could be induced to endorse Gov Reeder. We have never seen in any community, such a feeling against an executive officer. What is the hardest, we have have no means of redress. Unlike the citizens in our neighboring States, we have no say-so in the selection of our officers, and have to put up with any broken down politician the President may saddle upon us. We look upon Gov. Reeder as the tail end of a miserable broken down set of politicians, who have been boring the President for office since his inaugural, and who was sent here to Kansas, to be killed off, and his supplications for office put an end to. Pierce looks upon Kansas as a political slaughter Pen, and free soil candidates for office of long standing, are assigned the Governorship of this territory with the understanding that the Administration is not responsible for life or limb. If the feeling against the Governor is not soon lulled, the storm will raise to such a pitch, that a vacancy in the Gubernatorial chair of Kansas will result.

This from the proslavery men in the full glow of their March victories, before Reeder even set aside an election. The illusion of near unanimity about Atchison faded fast, though. The very next item proclaims that the district’s free soilers

as a general thing, acted wise and kept away from the polls.

Two items down

Free-soilers are getting too numerous in our neighborhood. They must be “smoked out.”

Another telling admission appears in the next column, under the heading Reeder Beat at his own Game:

Mister Governor Reeder, after gerrymandering, swindling, cutting out, taking off, putting on, throwing in, and taking out of this District, has succeeded in getting his forces handsomely whipped.

To beat Reeder at his own game, in their own words, the proslavery party would need to engage in gerrymandering, swindling, and all the rest. And just in case Reeder missed the direct death threat previous, the Sovereign emphasized that his presence alone made him so obnoxious that they could barely help themselves. If Pierce would not free them from Reeder, then

God only knows what the consequences will be. We hope; we pray that we may be spared the necessity of such desparate measures; but, if we are left with the alternative of living under a despotic government or choosing a more honorable mode of freeing ourselves, we are plain to admit that we shall choose the latter course. In the language of Patrick Henry-“Give us liberty, or give us death.”

Preferably the death of Andrew Reeder, of course. One can’t read things like this and not see the winter of 1860-1861, or April 14, 1865. On the second of July, the man who published these words would even find himself in the same room with Reeder. What could go wrong?

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