The Assembly vs. Andrew Reeder, Part Four

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 12, 3

We left the Kansas Assembly’s memorial for the removal of Andrew Reeder with their grievances against the governor relating to his giving the proslavery party a cold shoulder, his tardiness in arriving and the anarchy it invited, and his daring to set aside some fraud-tainted elections when he finally decided to establish the Legislative Assembly itself.

Along the way, they also took a swipe at his land speculations, which set him

directly in opposition to the opinions of the general government, as expressed by the attorney-general, in relation to Delaware lands, by purchasing property on those lands, and stating that the opinions of the law officer of a general government were incorrect, and of no force if correct; thus setting an example of insubordination to those less informed

That appears to refer to the Kaw lands, which were roughly adjacent to the Delaware reservation. Reeder might have had additional dealings that involved the Delaware, but given the outline of the accusation and the general focus in the relevant correspondence (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) on the Kaw lands, I suspect the legislature meant the same thing that everyone else did and either got the name of the tribe wrong or called it close enough.

The petitioners only warmed up with the Kaw lands, though. They really wanted to talk about Pawnee. They opened with a complaint that the government had come to a standstill. Quitting Pawnee brought it to that point, so they could hardly have avoided the issue if they wanted to. Reeder dragged them across the length of settled Kansas against their informal protests and with full knowledge that they intended to adjourn from there at the earliest opportunity. They arrived to find

the requisite accommodations could not be had; where there were no facilities for communicating with their families or constituents; where they could not even find the common food to eat, except at an enormous expense, there being no gardens yet made by the squatters; where the house where we were expected to assemble had no roof or floor on the Saturday preceding the Monday of our assembling, and for the completion of which the entire Sabbath day and night was desecrated by the continued labor of the mechanics; where at least one-half the members, employees, and almost all others who had assembled there for business or otherwise had to camp out in wagons or tents during a rainy, hot season, and where cholera broke out as a consequence of the inadequate food and shelter

You really can’t blame them for wanting away from all that. They retold the story of their adjournment to Shawnee Mission, Reeder’s veto, and their override, enclosing the relevant documents. In stating their case, the petitioners began by noting that Reeder considered them not the House or Council of Kansas while meeting at a place not of his choosing, but that he addressed his messages to them by those names all the same.

They proceeded to further a contradiction, which revealed either Reeder’s “utter incompetency” or “sinister design of defeating the whole object for which we are assembled.” They argued that Reeder thought the sole seat of government that would make the proceedings of the Assembly legal remained at Fort Leavenworth. Yet he called them to Pawnee.

If he believes that Fort Leavenworth is the seat of government, and that laws passed anywhere else than at that point would be illegal and void, then to call us to Pawnee to legislate is a wilful, deliberate, and base attempt to render all our acts, of whatever character, wholly illegal and void; because, by his own showing, Pawnee is not the seat of government, and acts passed anywhere else than at the seat of government are of necessity void, and for which he should be removed.

I went and checked Reeder’s veto message. He does not mention Leavenworth by name. It does come up by implication, with him reading much into the distinction between a temporary seat of government established by Congress and a permanent seat not yet established. Reeder argues that the law gave him the right to call the Assembly where he wished, and even if he did not have that power, it would only mean that it must meet at Leavenworth until such time as it located a permanent seat.

Gentle Readers, if you struggle to follow the precise lines of this argument, we struggle together. The technicalities, including a few more to come, twist around the main points. Reeder’s position, as rendered by the proslavery party, contradicted itself. Furthermore, the real dispute had less to do with the location of the legislature than what it represented: Who really had the final say in the government of Kansas Territory? The territory could not continue with its government at war with itself. Someone had to give and the legislature volunteered Andrew Reeder.

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