William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]

THE ELECTION, MARCH 30, 1855 (Part 3).

Gov. Reeder, no less than others, was fully cognizant of the extent of the frauds committed, and it soon became rumored that he condemned the whole procedure, and intended to set aside the election wherever the prescribed steps were taken by the required number of citizens to contest it. Whereupon the members made hot haste to demand their certificates of election, before the protests and affidavits looking to a contest should be filed in due and prescribed form. The Governor hesitated, and, with a full personal knowledge of the outrageous frauds perpetrated, declined to render a prompt decision or sign the certificates of election, which would, in form, give to them the executive approval and seal of validity.

Pending this period of uncertainty, Gov. Reeder was in receipt of many letters threatening his life in case he should attempt to set aside the election. Further, the Pro-slavery papers were filled with articles assailing his official acts, and calculated to incite the mob to extreme acts of personal violence and indignity, in case he should, by his official acts, throw hindrances in the way of a full consummation of the conspiracy. He might, from his personal knowledge of the outrageous and general fraud, have set aside the whole election under the provisions of the Territorial act, had he been assured of support by the administration under whose appointment and instruction he was acting. He knew too well already that the central power at Washington was cognizant of the fraud from its inception; he knew that the Judges had been appointed in view of their peculiar fitness, by early training and personal prejudice, to carry out the great scheme of making Kansas a slave State, and that from them he could expect only adverse decisions in any questions in the remotest degree placing in jeopardy the establishment of slavery in the Territory. The administration, the courts, the majority of the people all along the border, were fixed and well-nigh unanimous in their designs to make Kansas a slave State. Reeder himself had been selected in the belief that he would carry out the programme, against which his manhood and his sense of justice now rebelled. He stood, however, at this juncture, alone among the officials appointed, with no support or countenance in the good work he desired to do, save that of a most pitiable and brow-beaten minority of Free-state settlers, themselves unorganized, divided, and so overwhelmed by numbers in the late election as to be the unresisting recipients of every indignity which their arrogant conquerors chose to put upon them, from a bawdy joke to nameless outrages on their homes and families. Former historians have discovered weakness and cowardice in Gov. Reeder's course at this time. Few men, under the circumstances, would have shown more strength or courage.

In the face of threats, and with no guarantee of support or individual protection against the mob that had overrun the Territory, he proceeded, April 6, to decide on the validity of the returns, and to grant certificates of election to such persons as were elected by the returns wherever these had not been formally contested. His own account of the affair, as detailed in the Investigating Committee, under oath was as follows:

About the time fixed as the return day for the election, a majority of the persons returned as elected assembled at Shawnee Mission and Westport, holding private caucuses at both places. I had frequent conversations with them, and they strenuously denied my right to go behind the returns made by the judges of the election, or investigate in any way the legality of the election. A committee called upon me and present me a paper, signed by twenty-three or twenty-four of them, to the same effect. Threats of violence against my person and life were freely afloat in the community; and the same threats were reported to me, as having been made by members elect, in their private caucuses. In consequence of it being reported to me that a number of the members, in their caucuses, in their speeches, had declared they would take my life if I persisted in taking cognizance of the complaints made against the legality of the elections, I made arrangements to assemble a small number of friends for defense, and, on the morning of the 6th of April I proceeded to announce my decision upon the returns. Upon the one side of the room were arrayed the members-elect, nearly, if not quite, all armed; and, on the other side, about fourteen of my friends, who, with myself, were also well armed. My official action upon those election returns was entered on the executive minutes, and is already in the possession of the committee. I was not then aware of the frauds, perpetrated in the other districts, which were not set aside, as no complaints had been filed, and the facts had not been communicated to me. Sufficient opportunity to contest the election had been given by the proclamation. The form of complaint was very simple, and full five days, exclusive of the day of election, were allowed for filing it. The most remote polls were within three days' journey, or less, of my office, which was kept open till midnight of the last day. The reasons why they were not contested have been stated already by other witnesses.

The reasons given by the witnesses above alluded to were that they were intimidated by threats from making protest against the frauds.

The Governor, under the circumstances and risks described by him, showed both valor and discretion. He ignored the great wholesale iniquity of fraud, which would have vitiated the entire election, but set aside such returns as, on their face, or by affidavit, were proven to be informal. Under his rulings, and confronting death at the time, he declared void the elections in precincts and districts below stated, and granted certificates of election to such only as were returned without formal protest. He took no note of apparent fraud in the returns, nor of information or knowledge concerning them, except it was embodied and presented in due form, as provided in his proclamation, for contesting the election.

The decision of the Governer (sic) was, as shown in the Executive Record, as follows:

First Council District - Besides the protest filed against the election at Lawrence for importation of voters, there is a defect in the return. The words, "lawful resident voters" are stricken out. The Lawrence election is therefore set aside, and a new election must be had for representatives.

Fourth Election District - Besides the protest filed in this, there are material omissions on oaths and returns, purposely made. This must also be set aside.

Seventeenth Election District. - The form of return is correct as prescribed, and no protest for illegal voting. The form of oath differs from that prescribed, but is a searching one, and nearly, if not quite, equivalent to that prescribed, and perhaps ought to be sanctioned. If so, this district will elect Thomas Johnson and Edward Chapman to the council, and A. S. Johnson Representative. Their election, however, is not declared at present, but held under advisements.

Second Council District. - The judges were sworn by G. W. Taylor, who had no authority to administer the oath. In addition, there is a protest complaining of importation of voters and violent expulsion of the original judges. For want of sufficient oath, the election is set aside, and a new election for council and representative ordered.

Third Council District - Besides the protest for violent expulsion of the judges at the Tecumseh polls, and for illegal votes, there are material erasures in the oaths purposely made; return in the form prescribed. This is held under advisement for the present, but will probably be set aside; and if so, a new election will be ordered by representative.

Seventh Election District. - Besides the protest complaining of a large number of illegal votes, the judges do not appear to have been sworn at all. This poll is therefore set aside.

Eighth Election District - No protest is filed, and the proceedings are in regular prescribed form. A majority of votes for members of the House of Representatives are case for A. J. Baker, Esq., and he is declared elected in the Fifth Representative District. For council the votes is a tie between H. J. Strickler and H. Rice, so that, as to council the result depends upon the Tecumseh poll.

Fourth Council District. - Of the four precincts, Bull Creek is the only one contested, that from Pottawatomie Creek being withdrawn. Suppose the complaint to be true, if successful it cannot alter the result. The remaining three precincts are uncontested, and in form, and gave a majority to A. M. Coffee and David Lykens for council; W. A. Heiskell, Allen Wilkinson, Henry Younger and Samuel Scott, for the House of Representatives, and they are declared elected.

Fifth Council District. - The returns are all in due form and no protest. William Barbee for Council, and Joseph C. Anderson and S. A. Williams for House of Representatives are declared elected.

Sixth Council District. - The Ninth and Tenth election Districts are in form as to their returns; no protest. S. D. Houston is declared elected in the Eighth Representative District.

In addition to the protest against the Eleventh Election District (being the poll at Marysville), the returns show a fatal defect. Instead of conducting the election by ballot, it must have been held viva voce, as the manner in which each person voted is recorded at once opposite his name. As the proclamation required the election to be by ballot, and the tickets to be counted after closing the polls, it is impossible to sustain this return. It is accordingly set aside. The residue of the district gives M. F. Conway a majority for Council, and he is declared elected.

In the Ninth Representative District, the Marysville poll being set aside, the returns of St. Mary's and Silver Lake give Solomon McCartney 19, F. J. Marshall 16, Palmer McCartney 1, and Solomon McCartney is declared to be elected. It is alleged there is no such man, and that the votes for him were cast under mistake of the name of Palmer McCartney. A slight difference in names should always be disregarded to carry out the will of the voter, but the difference here is too great to be reconciled. If these facts are shown as alleged, the vote for Solomon McCartney is a nullity, and the certificate will be granted to Francis J. Marshall.

Seventh Council District. - The returns in form, and no protest. John W. Foreman for Council, and J. H. Stringfellow and R. S. Kirk for House of Representatives, are declared elected.

Eighth Council District. - The returns in form and no protest. William P. Richardson for Council, and Joel P. Blair and Thomas W. Watterson for House of Representatives, are declared elected.

Ninth Council district. - Returns in form and no protest. D. A. N. Grover for the Council, and H. B. C. Harris and J. Weddel for the House of Representative, are declared elected.

Tenth Council District - Besides the protests filed against the Leavenworth poll for illegal voting, it appears that the judges purposely struck out a material part of the prescribed form of return, to wit, that the votes were polled "by lawful resident votes." This poll is set aside, and a new election for Representative becomes necessary.

In the Thirteenth Election District, the protest filed has been withdrawn, and the result stands upon the return of the judges who conducted the election, and a counter statement of the judges appointed by the proclamation, who after having taken the oath and entered upon the performance of their duties, abandoned the polls, and left the ground, because, as they say, a large number of non-residents were on the ground demanding to vote, and obstructing the polls, and because no lawful votes were presented. This is not a protest as provided for in the proclamation, and even if regarded as a report or return by them relative to the performance of their official duties, does not disclose sufficient reason for vacating their posts. They were not drawn away by force. If illegal votes were offered, it was their duty to remain and reject them. If the polls were obstructed, it was their business, at least, to endeavor to clear them, and, at all events to endeavor to remain at their posts, in performance of their duty, until the time for closing the polls, unless driven away by violence. The place they left was filled by other judges, appointed according to the proclamation, and their returns, which are in form and no protest before me, show a majority for L. J. Eastin and R. R. Rees for Council, and W. H. Tibbs for House of Representatives, who are accordingly declared elected.

In accordance with the foregoing decision, the Governor, without deciding upon his power to set aside elections for force and fraud, set aside the elections in the First, Second, Third, Seventh, Eighth and Sixteenth Districts, and, by proclamation, April 16, called an election in those districts to fill vacancies, to be holden (sic) May 22. At the same date, he also appointed the time and place for convening the Territorial Legislature - ordering it to meet at the town of Pawnee, in the Ninth Election District, on the first Monday in July, "in the building which will be provided for it."

Notwithstanding the very conservative and considerate manner in which Gov. Reeder disposed of the contested election cases, he failed thereby to conciliate the Pro-slavery party; on the contrary, their rage knew no bounds at the presumption shown by him in setting aside the returns for any cause whatever. The feeling is fairly evinced in the following excerpts from the Pro-slavery newspapers along each side of the border.

The Brunswicker (Missouri), said:

We learn just as we go to press, that Reeder has refused to give certificates to four Councilmen and thirteen members of the House. He has ordered an election to fill their places on the 22d of May. This infernal scoundrel will have to be hemped yet.

L. J. Eastin, one of the Councilmen elected from the Tenth District, was the editor-in-chief of the Kansas (Leavenworth) Herald. The following excerpts from his paper show not only the prevailing sentiment in Pro-slavery circles against Gov. Reeder, but something of the spirit of the legislators who were to assist him in the arduous work of framing the law for the new Territory.

Under the caption, "Kansas as a Slave State," Mr. Eastin writes, April 20:

The brilliant and glorious triumph achieved by the noble and unaided efforts of the gallant and chivalrous sons of the South, over the combined forces of the abolitionists, free-soilers and Emigrant Aid societies in our late Territorial election, furnishes a suitable occasion to invite migration from the South to our fair and fertile Territory. It is well known that the seeming uncertainty of Kansas becoming a slave State, and the stupendous efforts of the so-called Emigrant Aid societies to abolitionize our Territory by the importation of hordes of paupers, hirelings and convicts, have served in a great measure to discourage and impede emigration from the South. We have been assured, time and again, nor do we doubt, that there are thousands of families in many of the old Southern States, who have been contemplating, for months past, a removal to Kansas, but have been deterred from doing so through fear of slavery not becoming one of her institutions.

This obstruction is now obliterated, for the infernal machinations of the Emigrant Aid societies have been defeated. Abolitionism has been rebuked and discomforted. Free-soilism has been crippled and overthrown. The Free White State party has been annihilated, and Kansas has declared loudly and decisively in favor of slavery. That Kansas is to become a slave State will admit of no doubt. The question has been decided. Her fate is sealed, and what has long since been the hope and prediction of the pro-slavery party will soon be history.

Everybody must admit that the popular vote at our late election is the most infallible exponent of the squatters' view in regard to the future introduction of slavery into Kansas. If this be so, we ask, does the vox popli oppose or favor the introduction of slavery? We pause for a reply.

* * * * * * * * * * *

By reference to our issue which contains the returns of the election, we learn that the total number of votes polled in the territory, is no less than 5,961, out of which 5,226 were cast for the Pro-slavery party - in favor of making Kansas a slave State, against, 1,068 for the Free-soil party - in favor of making Kansas a free State. But why this great disparity? Of what is it indicative? It shows conclusively that seven-eighths of our population are in favor of making Kansas a slave State.

After reviewing the returns in the different districts, the article closes with the following dogmatic statement:

We hope we will never again hear the oft-repeated question, "Will Kansas be a slave State?" reiterated, for it would be idle, absurd and ridiculous for any one to entertain the least doubt of Kansas becoming a slave State when the returns of the election present such indisputable, incontestable evidence of slavery becoming one of her domestic institutions.

In the same paper appears the follows:

We were not in the least surprised to see that the Squatter Sovereign, an able and zealous Pro-slavery paper, should become exasperated at the Governor's having granted a certificate of election to the infamous penny-a-liner Conway, when the returns of the election clearly indicate a large majority of votes for Mr. Donaldson, but we are astonished that the intelligent editor of the Sovereign should have made use of the low and debasing word "d--d" in speaking in defense of Mr. Donaldson's rights.

He says" "Gov. Reeder has given that contemptible puppy, M. F. Conway, a certificate of election as Councilman of the Pawnee District, when it is well known that Mr. Donaldson received a majority of at least 250 votes. We can't stand that, certainly; d--d if we do! If the Legislature don't reconsider the action of the Governor and give Mr. Donaldson a certificate, the Squatter Sovereign will take the matter in hand."

We most cordially indorse the sentiments of the Squatter Sovereign; but we deprecate the profanity of its language. Such words as "d--d" do not give that force to language which many persons suppose. We trust that the Atchison press will henceforth refrain from the repetition of a word so offensive to good breeding. It is exceedingly unbecoming for the editorials of a Pro-slavery paper to be interlarded with such low and vulgar language.

"Maintain your rank; vulgarity despise;
To swear is neither brave, polite, nor wise."

[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]