The proslavery majority of the Kansas Assembly purged itself of all its antislavery members save one, replacing them with men all right on the hemp and sound on the goose. Whatever faint hope Andrew Reeder had that they would set aside the vexing slavery question and instead join together with him to get rich off the lands around Pawnee came to nothing. They wanted to consolidate their victory and further secure Kansas for slavery, not waste it scheming with the governor over deeply questionable investments in a capital they didn’t want. Given how much they loathed him, Reeder can’t have felt much shock at the discovery.
In their own minds, the proslavery men had beaten Andrew Reeder in the March elections. They beat him again when they tossed out the results of the special elections he called in May. They could very well keep on beating him until he gave up or bled out. I planned to deal with these later, under the mistaken impression that a key incident took place after the legislature convened. Research today set me straight, so we must back up a few days and depart from the legislature’s dealings for the moment. I think it best to take these things in their chronological context, or as closely as reasonable.
Andrew Reeder came back to Kansas at the end of June, 1855. The June 30 Herald of Freedom reported that news of Reeder’s approach ran ahead of him and many crowds met his steamer as it went up the Missouri. Everybody wanted to catch a glimpse of the Pennsylvania lawyer. Some also wanted to have words:
He was several times rudely assailed by his enemies, but the Governor showed much coolness in warding off their wordy thrusts.
Or more than words:
On one occasion a gentleman approached Gov. R., and said he heard a friend at Weston, Mo., remark that if Gov. Reeder returned to the Territory he would gather up a company of men, ten thousand of necessary, and search every part of the Territory, if need be, to find and hang him.
Reeder thanked the man for his information and had kind words to say in return:
Tell your friend that whether he comes at the head of ten hundred or ten thousand men, it will make no difference; I shall never be mobbed; and your friend, if he makes a demonstration in that direction, may rest assured that his minutes are numbered, for I will put a ball through his head thought I know I shall be cut into inch pieces afterwards.
The Platte County Self-Defense Association based itself in Weston. The town hosted the lynching of William Phillips (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). None other than Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow himself lived there. A threat from that direction could mean very serious business, even if Reeder answered it with the customary bravado. He did not bring his family back to Kansas with him, which probably helped in mustering the expected courage of a nineteenth century man under threat.
All the same, the rhetorical violence aimed at the Governor by the proslavery party soon transformed itself into literal violence, just as it had for William Phillips.