Acts of the Bogus Legislature, Part Six

Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Greeley’s pamphlet

Horace Greeley’s pamphlet of outrages finishes with the Act to Punish Offenses against Slave Property on the high note of explicitly outlawing any dissent from proslavery orthodoxy in Kansas. But the generous men of the Legislative Assembly gave him more to work with still. Greeley obliged.

In the Act to regulate Elections, the Assembly turned to that most sensitive of issues: who would henceforth legally vote in Kansas? Voters must of course come entirely from the male half of the species, twenty-one years and up. Every white man of age

who shall be an inhabitant of this Territory, and of the county or district in which he offers to vote, and shall have paid a territorial tax

The franchise did not extend to soldiers or sailors resident in Kansas by virtue of their service, no matter their age or whiteness. It did, however, extend to Indian men made citizens by treaty or by “adopt[ing] the customs of the white man”.

The act took the better part of valor on just what made a voter into an inhabitant of Kansas, as befitting the work of a legislature populated by men elected by voters Kansan for precisely a day. The Assembly thus retroactively legalized the Missouri-based election stealing that had ruled Kansan politics for all their short history and welcomed more to come. Why wouldn’t they? It got them elected, so it may as well also keep them in office next time around.

But the legislature did have some standards, beyond excluding women, children, and Indians who did not act sufficiently white,

[n]o person who shall have been convicted of any violation of any provision of an act of Congress, entitled “An act respecting fugitive from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters,” approved February 12, 1793, or of an act to amend and supplementary to said act, approved 18th September, 1850 […] or any offence deemed infamous, shall be entitled to vote in any election, or to hold any office in this Territory

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of Kansas

Nobody ever received a conviction under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, but they couldn’t know that at the time.

Furthermore, the legislature adopted just the measure that the proslavery men once considered entirely unacceptable. If anybody disputed a voter’s qualifications, they empowered the judges of election to swear them to an oath. The oath Andrew Reeder proscribed demanded voters testify to their actual residence in Kansas. The Assembly’s oath did not so transgress their rights as to insist on such testimony. Instead, challenged voters must swear to

sustain the provisions of the above recited acts of Congress, and of the act entitled “An act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas

While the Kansas-Nebraska Act did insist on actual residence on the land, it’s very clear from how they’ve structured their oath that the legislature did not consider that provision operative. Instead, anyone who voted must swear to uphold the Fugitive Slave Act. Thus any antislavery man asked to vote could be pressed on the question and forced to give up his vote or risk prosecution for perjury.

James Mason

James Mason, author of the Fugitive Slave Act

To make especially sure that this achieved the effect to which the Assembly aspired, they applied the same oath to

each member of the legislative assembly, and every officer elected or appointed to office under the laws of this Territory

The full oath ran thus:

I, ——, do solemnly swear upon the holy evangelists of Almighty God, that I will support  the Constitution of the United States, and that I will support and sustain the provisions of an act entitled ‘An act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas,’ and the provisions of the law of the United States, commonly known as the ‘Fugitive Slave Law,’ and faithfully and impartially, and to the best of my ability, demean myself in the discharge of my duties in the office of ——; so help me God.

Breaking that oath, in addition to likely putting one in violation of the laws protecting slavery property, would put one in peril of additional pleasure of trial for perjury.

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6 comments on “Acts of the Bogus Legislature, Part Six

  1. I like how the author trashes those against slavery, with pejorative tone, belittling the election laws passed by these men. they are supposed to be pure men, and be like the author. Just like the author, only the author lives here in 21st century, he nor his friends were arrested and tortured by Atchison’s men, nor was his house, city, state, territory invaded by killers hired from Texas and paid by Jefferson Davis.

    Oh, and the author fails to even mention that.

    I guess the author feels bad for saying anything whatsoever negative about the killing sprees by Atchison, the hired killers from Texas, the machinations and support of Jeff Davis. So to prove what a fine fellow he is, how he isn’t for one side or the other (heaven forbid you are against the killers and slavers).

    • Against my better judgment, I’ll give you another chance.

      The election laws which I discuss and quote here were not passed by antislavery men, Mark. They were passed by the men of the first Kansas Assembly, who had made themselves uniformly proslavery by means of election stealing. I have made this clear by repeated reference to them as proslavery and their object as oppressing antislavery men and excluding them from government. I can understand missing the sarcasm that frequently features into my writing, but this stuff is basic. It’s right in the first post of the series.

      If you’re eager to know my actual position on slavery, then you could read this. You might also want to read this, which applies equally well to both of us.

      Or you could keep posting the canned rant that you’ve done previously. If you do so insist, I consider myself neither obligated to answer again what I have before nor to provide you with a platform.

      • Im not eager to know your position on slavery, what a silly goofy response to you pissing on anti slavery folks,. But, how liberal of you to be against slavery. Wow. Since you are against slavery, every pissing you do on anti slavery folks must be right on the money.

        Is that your response? Im against slavery? Really? Are you serious.

        Uh –I bet you even have black friend.

        My point is — I will repeat it, cause you didn;’t grasp it the first time — is that you seem to piss on anti slavery folks, because you want to appear ” fair” or not slanted against anti slavery folks.

        Here is a clue. LIttle tiny clue. It’s FINE to be against the killers to tortured to spread slavery. You don’t have to piss on “both sides” to appear fair. State the facts is great Try it without editorial bullshit in every sentence.

        While I admire your fact finding ability, in fact it’s a marvel, you have done a great job, and you know your stuff, its clear you have some beef, you like to piss on, anti slavery folks. Nearly every sentence is laced with that pejorative tone, not quite as vile as Stringfellow, and I guess we should be happy you don’t hire a thousand texas men, or however many he hired, to torture invade and kill.

        • You still don’t appear to understand that these posts are exclusively critical of proslavery people for the things they proposed to do to antislavery people, the exact reverse of what you’re saying I’ve done.

          You used your second chance to continue the same fact-free ranting as before. Perhaps some other person will give you a platform for it, but I’m done.

  2. hawker40 says:

    I have been reading your articles for a few months now, and ‘enjoying’ them; while I knew the general pattern of what happened during this time I didn’t know the details you present. When I saw that there were comments to this article, my first thought was that you had attracted a Confederate apologist, but instead you seem to have found someone attacking you for not being sufficiently anti slave owner. How odd.

    • It’s strange to me too. I expected, and have gotten a few, Confederate boosters.

      I have the same problem you do when it comes to the right word to describe the experience of delving into these subjects. It’s obviously something I want to do, but to say that I enjoy it sounds a bit like taking pleasure in the suffering of others. I’m not sure there is a good word.

      But all the same, always glad to hear from someone who gets something out of the posts.

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