Vetoes and Overrides

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

The purged legislature’s proslavery members did not care to remain in their tents and wagons in Pawnee. They had quite enough of camping in the middle of nowhere, working in a building open to the elements, and working with Andrew Reeder. They had no power to put Reeder out of their misery, but decided that they did have the power to relocate the legislature somewhere with more amenities and considerably closer to home. They chose the Shawnee Mission and passed a bill adjourning themselves to there. Reeder vetoed it on various constitutional grounds and because he stood to lose his investments in Pawnee real estate if they quit the town.

The legislature did not take that laying down. They had the power to override his veto and promptly did so. Whether Reeder liked it or not, they decamped from Pawnee and made their way to the Shawnee Mission on the Missouri border. His town remained Kansas’ capital for a mere four days. Once ensconced at the Shawnee Manual Labor School, the Assembly took up a pair of thoroughly ordinary bills. One would ban the sale of alcohol and gambling within a mile of their seat and the other establish a ferry over the Missouri River.

Reeder vetoed both bills:

I see nothing in the bills themselves to prevent my sanction of them, and my reasons for disapproval had been doubtless anticipated by you, as necessarily resulting from the opinions expressed in my message of the 6th instant.

Reeder referred to his veto of the bill to vacate Pawnee. The Kansas-Nebraska Act gave the governor the power to call the legislature and set its meeting place. For them to meet elsewhere contravened that provision. Thus, while the same men met for the same purpose and transacted the same business, they did not constitute the Legislative Assembly unless they met in Pawnee or some other place that Reeder designated.

Reeder’s argument had a few technicalities in its favor, but clearly much more went into all of this than those technicalities, or even his investments in Pawnee. The governor and Assembly came to loggerheads over who really called the shots in Kansas. The proslavery men loathed Reeder and the governor, while far from the abolitionist they imagined, probably did not lose much sleep over how he could win them over.

Which party had the power to dictate Kansas’ course? Reeder had his veto power, but the legislature had both the power to override it and a sufficient majority to do so. Just as it overrode Reeder’s veto if its move to Shawnee Mission, it overrode his vetoes of the alcohol and gambling and ferry bills.

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