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
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.
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.