Stealing the Leavenworth County Seat, Part Four

Lucien Eastin

Lucien Eastin

Parts 12, 3

The proslavery Missourians took from Leavenworth the county seat. Wilson Shannon’s government had just enough integrity to toss the returns from Delaware’s three day polling and award the title to Kickapoo. This outraged the people of Leavenworth, whether they had supported election day invasions and slavery or not in the past. H. Miles Moore broke with the movement over it. The proslavery editor of the Leavenworth Herald printed objections. The sudden change of sides did not go unmarked. William Phillips reports

The Kickapoo Pioneer, a fire-eating, pro-slavery paper, taunted Mr. Easton, of the Leavenworth Herald, about his sudden conversion to the purify-the-polls doctrine; and finished a somewhat sarcastic article by asking, “Who elected you to the Legislature?”

Border crossing, election-stealing Missourians elected Lucien Easton to the legislature, of course. If Missourians could decide one election, why not another? Why did their illegal votes sully the purity of the polls when making Kickapoo into a county seat but leave the ballot box’s virtue intact when they made Eastin (most sources I’ve seen use that spelling) into a Councilor? Feeling the pinch, Eastin responded in an article that Phillips quoted at some length:

Much has been said by the abolition presses throughout the country about ‘armed invasions of Kansas by the border ruffians of Missouri;’ but, as we then asserted, and still assert, they were acting solely in self-defence; and history will tell of the purity of their purposes, and of the justice of the cause they vindicated. They came here actuated by the noblest of human sentiments, determined to ward off a blow which was aimed against their institutions, and against their peace. As such, with open arms we welcome them; and, when victory crowned our common efforts, and the black flag of abolitionism was trailed in the dust, how grateful were the feelings which we experienced to those who had rallied with us to a hand-to-hand encounter with the aggressive foes!

Had the proslavery people of Kickapoo, and their friends across the river in Missouri, forgotten that Lucien Eastin had always stood sound on the goose? Douglas McMurtrie’s Pioneer Printing of Kansas, from the inaugural issue of the Kansas Historical Quarterly, informs me that Eastin’s Herald began publishing on September 15, 1854, at Leavenworth in the sense that it occupied space in the future town. William H. Adams, who ran the operation at the time, also published the Platte Argus. Adams

set the type for his first issue in the open air, under an elm tree. Some visitors to this interested scene described “four tents, all on one street, a barrel of water or whiskey under a tree, and a pot, on a pole over a fire. Under a tree a type-sticker had his case before him and was at work on the first number of the new paper, and within a frame, without a board on side or roof, was the editor’s desk and sanctum.

Williams later removed to a location that McMurtrie thought probably the only building for forty miles. The paper went way back, preceded in Kansas only by missionary papers. Its proslavery pedigree began with its connection to the Argus, David Rice Atchison’s paper of choice. Adams produced fairly unexciting proslavery prose. Then Lucien Eastin bought out Adams’ partner and turned up the rhetorical fire. Not only did he run the first proslavery paper in Kansas, Eastin had made it more vociferously proslavery than it had been in the past. Surely that should count for something.

H. Miles Moore

H. Miles Moore

His credentials established, Eastin turned to biting the hand that elected him. No proslavery man could have imagined that by assenting to Missourian invasion on the matter of the legislature they had in effect annexed themselves to Missouri and yielded all say in governance to the men of Platte County. They, firm proslavery men, did not consider themselves and their territory “for the sole use and benefit of Platte County” nor “to be made the plaything and puppet of a few demagogues and hucksters in Weston and Platte city.”

This does not make for a conversion like H. Miles Moore’s. Eastin defended his objections on the grounds of self-government, as Moore did, but if he had gone on to throw in with the free state movement William Phillips surely would have said as much after relating his position at some length. In Eastin’s case we see something on the same spectrum as Moore, if falling short of his reaction.

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