Friends of the Free State Militia, Part Four

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Free State Militias: parts 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7

Francis and the Regulators: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Friends of the Free State Militia: parts 1, 2, 3

My previous consideration of the free state militia in the fall of 1855 has focused on lesser known figures. However, Andrew Francis named a rather more famous man who signed up for the Kansas Regulators about the same time that he did. Francis’ testimony indicted another Andrew, Kansas’ first governor. Andrew Reeder saw fit to testify at length to the Howard Committee. He devoted most of his time to defending his conduct as governor, as one would expect, but after the recitations of threats against him for delaying elections, for setting aside elections, and the ever-fruitful subject of his land speculations, Reeder delved into his involvement with secret societies:

In the month of September, 1855, I was invited to become a member; assented, and proceeded to the place of meeting; found about 25 to 30 men assembled; was assured by the presiding officer that the objects were such as would not conflict with any of the obligations of an honorable man and a good citizen, and an assurance that if I so found them, i would not reveal the existence of the society, in case I desired to take the oath when I should hear it.

Reeder then heard the oath, declared it “unexceptionable,” and sore it. He affirmed, however, that he had never seen a written constitution for the Regulators. They must have learned from Patrick Laughlin’s exposure of the Legion not to put such things in writing. Reeder also told the committee that he only attended the meeting where he joined. By the time he testified, he had either forgotten or “forgotten” all the passwords save for the one that Andrew Francis testified to. All the same, he remembered enough of the oath to give an account quite similar to Martin Conway’s:

The principal points of the oath of initiation were-to labor by all honorable means to make Kansas a free State; mutually to protect and defend each other against violence; always to keep a firelock and ammunition in the house; to wear a weapon of defence, in the shape of a knife or revolver; to rush to the rescue of a brother who should be assailed by violence, whenever there was a greater probability of saving his life than of losing my own.

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Reeder read the oath Francis recited and declared, like Conway, that he recalled no promise to transact business as exclusively as possible with free State men, to obey orders to the point of death, to wear badges marking himself as a member, to take up arms against the government, and so forth. The governor admitted that badges existed, but added that as he received permission to wear one or not as he liked, he did not view their use as inherent or obligatory in membership.

For the rest, Reeder said

I have not the slightest recollection, and do not at all believe they constitute a part of the oath. I am very confident that I took no such pledges; and had they been proffered, I should have refused at once; and I could not have taken such an obligation, or had it offered to me, without recollecting it.

But had Reeder taken an oath against the laws of the Kansas legislature, he told a slightly different story:

it is possible that there may have been a pledge to oppose, disavow, or repudiate them as not binding, and not to avail myself of them, and such a promise I may have made and forgotten.

Even if he had, Reeder insisted, he did not intend or swear to pursue his opposition through force of arms. He would never have sworn that, and would have remembered if he did, because he deemed many of the legislature’s works “of so indifferent a character, and not peculiarly obnoxious in themselves” that he wouldn’t consider them worth fighting over. Reeder must here mean something like the ferry bill he vetoed and other workaday legislation. He certainly didn’t have in mind the more radical proslavery acts. If he had, then I doubt he would have long remained in the free soil party, even if he came initially out of spite against the legislature for his ouster.

 

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