The Governor’s Land Deals, Part Five

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

Writing to William Marcy, Andrew Reeder disposed of the accusations against him with regard to his purchase of Kaw lands. Whatever else might have held about those dealings, the brute fact remained that money and land had yet to change hands and could not change hands without Washington’s approval. The very people accusing him of impropriety and demanding explanations knew very well that he could have committed no actual wrong until they signed off. Reeder concluded his remarks on the Kaw issue with a general condemnation of the Indian agent who he considered the author of his sorrows:

I find that, in endeavoring to exculpate himself from charges of official delinquency, he indulges in much general vituperation, which I cannot for a moment suppose you wish me to notice.

Corrupt Indian agents feature heavily in the lore of the American west. G.W. Clarke may have fit the stereotype, using his license to trade with the Indians to enrich himself at their expense. Even nineteenth century Americans, even when dealing with Indians, had some scruples. Clarke could very easily have seen in Reeder’s business a way to deflect attention from his misdeeds by an act of conspicuous diligence: Look at him, taking on the governor himself. Surely so bold and principled a man, knowing full well how miserable Andrew Reeder could make his life, would not have put forward less than his best effort on other matters.

Failing that, Clarke may have simply had it in for Reeder. That might come down to personal pettiness, business rivalry, or seeing a brighter future for himself if Clarke could add deposing the hated governor to his resume.

All of this, however, left the second charge against Reeder unanswered. William Marcy wanted to know what Reeder had to say for himself on “other speculations by you in the lands of the territory”. On that matter, Reeder could only repeat what he said earlier in the letter:

In regard to the second charge, I would respectfully request some specification of what is alluded to, to enable me to reply satisfactorily to you, as well as myself. it is to be implied from the charge that some complaint has been made to the President, by some one, of some specific acts done by me, in violation of law or regulation, and I cannot suppose it would be received and acted on without being in writing. At least, it must have had form and shape; and even though I may not know my accuser, it is not too much to ask that I may be informed of the particular act which I am charged with having committed, and the particular law I am charged with having violated.

William L. Marcy

William L. Marcy

Reeder did not then, and never did, face any kind of trial on these charges. Even if he played a bit dumb in not presuming that Marcy referred to his Pawnee business, he could still fairly ask what exactly he had done wrong. What laws did the Governor break? When, where, and how did they suppose he had broken them? How could he defend himself without some details?

The Governor seems to have made a good faith effort to prove himself innocent on the Kaw charges. He went so far as to secure the statement of a third party on the matter, though he had to apologize for it not coming sworn under oath. Reeder apologized for that lack, explaining that the only magistrates on hand to swear him also had interests in the lands. If he had the requested details, he might very well have done the same with regard to Pawnee. The situation there involved a military reservation, recently expanded no less, but one could just as easily excuse it as the Kaw lands as a matter of honest error due to poor and no surveying. Considering the two matters together, it looks very much like Reeder believed his get-rich-quick schemes legal for more reason other than how he stood to benefit from them.

His letter finished, the governor set off soon thereafter for Pawnee to convene the Legislative Assembly.

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