The Assembly vs. Andrew Reeder, Part Six

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 12, 3, 4, 5

The Legislative Assembly’s petition to Franklin Pierce for the firing of Andrew Reeder proceeded from defending their relocation to the Shawnee Mission Manual Labor School to broader matters. Whatever Reeder had or had not done, and he had done all of it in some form, he remained one man. While he had veto power over the legislature’s acts, they could and had overrode him. One may not prefer to run a government that way. It makes every act an ordeal. But with such a healthy, cohesive majority ready to override vetoes at will things still get done. Demonstrating power over Reeder by having him removed would doubtless please the proslavery majority, but they sought more than that bauble. To them, Reeder stood at the heart of a larger problem:

We will and do further represent, that the position assumed by the governor is a despotic and tyrannical one, calculated to lead to the worst consequences, if he is not forthwith removed.

Already threats in advance have been made that no respect will be shown to any act passed by this legislative assembly, whensoever and wheresoever such act or acts may be passed. Several papers in the territory boldly advocate this position. A man professing to have been elected to the legislature (M.F. Conway), who afterwards tendered his resignation, advocates this doctrine of resistance. The governor is and has been on terms of intimacy with these very persons; and, with him as their leader, they may be led to the commission of acts which will inevitably result in widespread strife and bloodshed.

Here the proslavery men repeated one of their narratives about slaves: Every slave lived happily in bondage until the day that some vile abolitionist poisoned them against it. Too childlike and brutish to ever have such thoughts on their own, the slaves could likewise not tell the difference between the slaveholder’s truth that they loved their lot in life and the abolitionist’s lie that they did not. Now they would have Franklin Pierce believe that Kansans had no objections whatsoever to their course and policies, and certainly no such objection as the proslavery men had produced through their own actions. But through the example set by Reeder and his antislavery confederates, they would learn revolution and anarchy that would require violent suppression. Bleeding Kansas hasn’t had too much blood yet, but let Andrew Reeder stay and it must live up to its name.

The memorialists took a curious detour thereafter, insisting that even if Reeder, matters like their dispute over the seat of government belonged to the courts to decide. No one had the right to ignore laws, even if they failed constitutional scrutiny, until the courts decided on the matter. Reeder himself had to know that, but ignored such high principles out of

a wilful and base design to lead the less informed into the commission of treasonable acts

Who would do such a thing, except a bloodthirsty despot who intends to win Kansas by fraud and force when he could not win it at the ballot box? Anybody, or at least anybody named Andrew Reeder or insufficiently proslavery, who had such designs had to go. Proslavery men who did the same things and more, and on a far larger scale, could of course stay. It would not do to take these principles consistently. That would put virtually every signatory to the memorial in a far too awkward position to endure.

In conclusion, we charge the governor, A.H. Reeder, with wilful neglect of the interests of the territory; with endeavoring by all the means in his power to subvert the ends and objects intended to be accomplished by the “Kansas and Nebraska bill”; by neglecting the public interests and making them subservient to private speculation; by aiding and encouraging persons in factious and treasonable opposition to the wishes of the majority of the citizens of the territory, and the laws of the United States in force in said territory; by encouraging persons to violate the laws of the United States, and set at defiance the commands of the general government; by inciting persons to resist the laws which may be passed by the present legislative assembly of the territory; and, finally, by a virtual dissolution of all connection with the present legislative assembly of this territory.

For these and many other reasons, we respectfully pray your excellency to remove the said A.H. Reeder from the exercise of the functions now held by him in said territory

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