The free state party found themselves in a bind when the bogus legislature passed its slave code. They badly needed some kind of national spokesman to represent them, but Kansas did not come pre-stocked with nineteenth century celebrities. They settled on Andrew Reeder, to the point of endorsing his land deals and inflammatory resolutions. Probably no one else could both do the job and had credible experience on the ground in Kansas, but by adopting Reeder they also adopted his record as governor. Felix Zollicoffer would not let them forget it.
All the way back at Kansas first election, antislavery settlers cried foul at Missourian interference in making John Wilkins Whitfield delegate to Congress. Protests or no, Andrew Reeder certified Whitfield’s election. In March of 1855, where the free state men again protested that Missourians had taken their polls by threat and violence. Reeder had gotten out ahead of the danger
proscribing the time, place, and mode of election, had required an oath by the judges of election to permit no person to vote who was not a qualified voter and an actual resident of the Territory, and to make a true and faithful return of the votes to the governor; and notwithstanding it also expressly provided that if there should occur any fraudulent voting, or voting by non-residents, the persons so charging should make a sworn statement of the facts to the governor, and that the irregularities should be corrected.
According to Zollicoffer, nobody even tried to make such a statement or present evidence for the proposition. He doesn’t have that quite right, as he subsequently notes. Some did protest and Reeder ordered special elections. I suspect he aimed to conflate the delegate election, where Reeder let the verdict stand, and the legislative elections. But, Zollicoffer affirmed, if you did the math you would see that Reeder’s special elections didn’t matter as the Assembly could have just gone on with those few seats vacant.
The records show that there was no pretence set up of illegal voting in the election of eleven councilmen out of thirteen, and of seventeen representatives out of twenty-six. At the special elections, ordered by the governor, to fill vacancies where illegal voting was alleged, the same persons were again chosen by the people, except in the case of one councilman and one representative.
In reading this, we must keep in mind that Zollicoffer did not have the Howard Report on hand. He may genuinely not have known that the proslavery majority actually purged themselves of those who won the special elections and replaced them with the men who won back in March thanks to illegal voting. He might also have had the relevant records and just not cared. He leaves out the whole matter of legislators unseated and replaced, instead focusing on Reeder’s dispute with the legislature over whether they should meet at Pawnee or the Shawnee Mission. Only after Franklin Pierce fired him and he joined up with the free state party did Reeder decide that illegal voting had deprived the legislature of legitimacy.
We know it didn’t quite work like that, but the fact that Reeder had recognized the legislature as legitimate and had personally certified so many fraudulent elections could not simply pass unmarked. Kansas would-be government chose him as one of their spokesmen and his shifting positions made him look like a venal office-seeker who hitched his wagon to whoever could get him revenge and a cushy desk job. Considering that Reeder had meant to depart Kansas for good until the free state movement sought him out, and dictated terms for his joining up, Zollicoffer probably had Kansas first governor dead to rights.