The Governor’s Land Deals, Part Three

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

If Andrew Reeder did not dazzle or intimidate with his trash talk, or persuade with the striking whiteness of the men from whom he wanted to buy his land, then he still proposed to pay more for it than George Manypenny had for lands he bought on behalf of the United States. What would the Indian Commissioner say to that?

At the close of his letter, the Reeder finally came around to a difficult point. While he praised the men he dealt with as sharp businessmen, either white or close enough to it, he had still gotten a really good price on land that stood to increase in value. If not for that, he wouldn’t have bothered. The Governor had no intention of using all that land himself. He and his partners threw in to buy it so they could resell it at a profit. This did not make the deal inherently corrupt, but also did not help make it appear entirely fair.

Reeder had an answer for that:

That these lands could have been sold for a little more had they been hawked about in the market, efforts made to get purchases, and the sale delayed till the country filled up, is very probable; but that proves nothing, and is common to all contracts.

The prices were more than we intended to give-more than had ever been offered before, although it was generally known that the vendors were anxious to sell-were fixed by the owners themselves, after consultation with each other and their friends, and were all that nay man could afford to give at that time to make it a desirable investment. Three of the vendors, being white men, could have preempted quite as good land at $1.25 per acre, and intend, on consummation of those arguments to do so. No approach to fraud, deceit or misrepresentation was practiced upon them. The contracts were to have no effect, nor any possession taken, till ratified by the government, and the purchase-money was to be paid in cash when the deeds were made.

Caleb Cushing

Caleb Cushing

This all sounds just fine. Maybe Reeder stretched the truth, maybe he simply lied. But it seems hard to deny that the men he contracted with knew the facts as well as he did. Anybody in Kansas could anticipate the value of land increasing. It sounds like they intended to use the sale to finance new claims of their own, which they then might settle or resell themselves a few years down the road.

Washington did not find Reeder’s preliminary arguments entirely persuasive. As mentioned before, a letter came to him while still in Washington back in mid-June demanding a better explanation. The Attorney-General, Caleb Cushing sent a similar note to Reeder’s business partners a day later. On arrival in Kansas, Reeder would have to give a better account of himself.

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