More Lawrence Resolutions, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Part One

The Lawrence Convention’s business committee submitted a set of resolutions for the approval of the general membership. These commenced with a reiteration of the free state party’s grievances over stolen elections and the draconian rule of the proslavery party. It transpires that people tend to object when one outlaws the expression of their ideas, excludes them from the political process, and requires them to swear oaths contrary to their conscience to as much as practice law or serve on a jury. Doing so on the back on an election one also stole by fraud and force, oddly enough, does not soften the blow.

In order to both accommodate more moderate members within the free state movement and make their cause appear less sectional and antislavery to the wider nation, which would have to approve of the free state constitution the convention proposed to write and submit to Congress, they situated themselves in the tradition of the American revolution and aligned themselves with just-former governor Andrew Reeder in his dispute with the Assembly of Kansas. While his enemies had painted him as a diehard abolitionist, to others the Pennsylvanian might still look sufficiently like his moderate self to defuse charges that a tiny band of fanatical abolitionists had once again disrupted the harmony of the nation.

The free state men though highly enough of Reeder and his freshly martyred career that they devoted a further resolution to him:

the people of Kansas can never be unmindful of the deep debt of gratitude we owe to Andrew H. Reeder for the firmness, ability, and integrity, shown in the discharge of his duty as Executive officer of this Territory.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

I don’t know about ability and firmness, at least until men started pointing guns at him, and one must wonder a bit at his land speculations even if inclined toward charity, but Reeder did have a shred or two of integrity. He had come to Kansas bent on putting popular sovereignty into practice. The white male people of Kansas would vote to have or exclude slavery. When he saw that the proslavery men would not settle for that, but would happily take the help of proslavery Missourians to work their will on Kansas, majorities or otherwise, he did what he could to stop them. This came at considerable personal risk, in addition to the political costs. Reeder might have lacked the experience to realize that Franklin Pierce had his back when he took those risks, but he took them all the same. The free state men had good reason to think well of their former governor.

Furthermore, his August 15 dismissal left Reeder without much to do in Kansas. Unlike the other free state men, events had made Andrew Reeder famous. By encouraging him to align with them, the antislavery party could win a high-profile spokesman.

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