Electing Andrew Reeder, Part One

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

The proslavery Kansans had their election on October 1, 1855, inviting along the now-customary bands of armed Missourians best kept away from open flames and primed for violence. They handily reelected John Whitfield. Antislavery Kansans stayed away and had their own election, called by the Free State Movement, on October 9. Andrew Reeder, late governor of Kansas, won as expected. The Executive Committee had taken many precautions against election tampering, but not everyone thanked them for it. Patrick Laughlin told the Howard Committee that

The public instructions to the executive committee, of which I have been speaking, are already published, but their private instructions were, in case pro-slavery men attempted to vote, and are likely to outnumber you, you can adjourn from day to day, and finally to any free-soil district in the Territory. These instructions were never given to the judges, but were given to me by Marcus J. Parrott.

The public instructions did permit judges of election to delay and/or relocate their work in the even of invasion. They might have said more in private, but given the state of things in Kansas the line between delaying and relocating an election to keep its integrity and doing so to ensure a free soil victory must have looked very thin. Some may have abused the ambiguity. Certainly the outcome of excluding illegal votes would very likely not differ much from that of excluding those votes of proslavery Kansans.

Parrott’s testimony appears immediately after Laughlin’s, but if the committee asked him about election instructions no testimony on the matter appears there. Parrot had reasons prior to the election to doubt Reeder. He had seen the governor apparently on his way out of Kansas, pledged to stay only if he received nomination for delegate to Congress. Parrott did not know that Reeder could call himself properly a Kansan in light of that. He, James Lane, and others, confronted the former governor on the question.

He stated, in reply to that, something about the reason he did not bring his family here, as that was the ground of the complaint generally there. He did not answer the question directly at all, but answered it argumentatively, by stating some things in connexion with his position in the Territory. I do not recollect that he satisfied the persons who had been called there to hear his answer to the question. I know that some of them were not satisfied that he was a resident of the Territory. Colonel Lane and myself afterwards spoke of it, and neither of us were satisfied with the answer he gave to the question. Since that time I have never known him to have any visible domicil [sic] or residence in the Territory,. In the conversation at Lawrence, he spoke of a claim that he thought he would buy, if his wife liked it

John Wilkins Whitfield

John Wilkins Whitfield

Parrott further voiced his objection to Reeder’s resolutions, as adopted at Big Springs.

The free state movement, which grounded itself in the injustice of a government dominated by the illegal votes of non-residents, now proposed to elect to represent them a man not resident in Kansas? Strictly speaking, one could object to all the border ruffians had done and still vote for a non-resident at the polls. The distinction came not in the person of the candidate, but that of the voter. However, proclaiming Kansas governed by Kansans and then nominating and electing a dubiously Kansan candidate had to seem odd to more people than just Marcus Parrott.

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