Electing Andrew Reeder, Part Two

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Reeder, that dubiously Kansan ex-governor of the Territory, stood for election as delegate to Congress on October 9, 1855. Even some antislavery Kansans thought him an odd choice for the office, but ultimately they elected him. Running unopposed in an election that the proslavery party did not recognize surely helped. But it seems that Reeder’s election might have had some irregularities all the same. In this case, a fairly novel one for Kansas, they would have come down to the attentions of actual Kansans of antislavery bent.

The free state leadership gave instructions to judges of election that they should postpone their duties or relocate elsewhere in the event of proslavery interference. Given Kansas’ history, this only made sense. However, Pat Laughlin claims that he had instructions to tell the judges privately that they could remove to elsewhere on the simple grounds that Andrew Reeder didn’t seem likely to win their precinct. This would amount to election stealing by the free state movement. Did it happen? Laughlin claims he had his instructions from Marcus Parrott. Parrott’s own testimony, taken the same day, make no reference to any such thing. However, another witness told the Howard Committee that something odd had transpired in Iowa Point, Doniphan county.

Charles Blakeley held that

there was no election held at that place on the 9th of October last, and no poll opened, and no vote cast for anybody, it being the day of election fixed by the Big Spring  […] Just after the election, I saw the “Herald of Freedom” newspaper, published at Lawrence, a publication purporting to give the returns of election in each precinct or place of voting in the Territory, and among others it was reported that seventy-two or seventy-three votes has been cast at the Iowa Point precinct, which was not true, as no vote was at that place

Did the election move elsewhere? Blakeley claimed that he paid no particular attention to free state elections, but he paid enough mind to notice no judges of election convene in his township. He insisted that they never had any election troubles and so even had they met, the judges would have found no reason to remove.

Blakeley also said he

understood that they held an election about seven miles from Iowa Point, the place fixed by the county commissioners. I as not present, and do not know what was done there. The place, I believe, was not in that township.

Wait, what? So an “Iowa Point” election did take place. It might, however, have taken place outside the township. This looks very suspect. Did the free state men pull a fast one to get good returns in proslavery Doniphan County? Possibly. The claim that they did not meet at all raises obvious questions. Shouldn’t the judges of election at least do a pro forma session before removing, even if they anticipated trouble? That sounds like best practice, but if they expected violence one could hardly blame them for relocating as a preventative measure.

What can we take from this? With no witness save Blakeley, and his own admission that his testimony amounts to not seeing anything, probably not much. Furthermore, Blakeley’s clarification that an election did take place in the area, if not necessarily in the bounds of the township proper, comes only in answer to follow up questions. It reads as though the committee had to drag it out of him and he intended to give the impression that free state men simply invented the votes out of thin air. His insistence that no election in the area had ever occasioned trouble also strains credulity. From the evidence available to me I can’t say with confidence that things went one way or the other, but Blakeley’s intention to mislead the committee seems more probable to me than a very obvious public fraud by the free state movement.

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