Being thus be-netted round with villainies- Ere I could make a prologue to my brains, They had begun the play.-Hamlet.
When the Kansas-Nebraska bill became a law there was not a city - not even a town - in the whole Territory of Kansas. There were two military posts of importance - Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. Clustered about some of the older missions were Indian settlements. If an Indian trader had been long at any one point, half a dozen buildings might be seen about the trading-post. The total number of white persons in the Territory on that date was perhaps below eight hundred. The first steps looking to the establishment of a town in the Territory were taken in the organization of the Leavenworth Town Company, at Weston, Mo., June 13, 1854. The Wyandots, at the mouth of the Kansas river, had previously platted a town-site on the present site of Kansas City, Kansas, but nothing worthy the name of a town existed there.
This condition was not caused by want of interest
in Kansas. Its fertile soil and fine landscapes were well known and keenly appreciated by many white men. Thousands
of the "argonauts" of 1849-50 passed through it. Some of them resolved to return and settle on its gentle
slopes if Congress should ever give permission. Many of them did afterwards return and lay here their hearthstones.
But until the Kansas-Nebraska bill became a law the country was forbidden ground to white men. They might come
into it only by permission obtained from the Government.
Kansas did not long remain without citizens. The interest aroused by the Congressional debates turned many people to Kansas. The circumstances attending her birth made her a prize to be contended for. The result of this contention was to indicate the step in advance or the step in retrogression in the life of the Republic. If the South could plant slavery firmly in Kansas, it could fix that barbaric institution upon other unsettled Territories. If the North could defeat slavery in Kansas, then it would still be confined to its old latitudes, in practice if not in law. When the Territory was established it seemed that the contest was to be a fair one. Here was a tract of country reaching from the Missouri river to the summit of the Rocky Mountains, two hundred miles in width, in the heart of the Republic, absolutely virgin as to government and white population. The North won, and in the conflict the advance in humanity made the slave system obsolete. With the recklessness of despair its advocates determined to add to its ruins the wreck of the Republic. In the greater undertaking they failed in the nation as they had failed in the lesser in the local field of Kansas Territory.
It was expected that the excitement engendered in the popular mind by the Kansas-Nebraska bill in Congress would subside as had that of 1820-21, and that of 1850; but not so. The principles discussed and the possibilities developed by the debates had taken deep hold on the minds of all people. Many Northern men voted for the measure. They expected nothing more serious in the way of censure at the hands of their constituents than reduced majorities at the elections to return them to Congress. This was as nothing when their course enabled them to bask in the smiles of the cabal of the slave-power then ruling the nation. They read blindly the signs of the times. They were consigned to oblivion. But two of them were returned to Congress. The wrath of the North found expression in the pulpit, the public meeting, and the dem-onstrations of parading throngs. In a public address delivered in 1858, Senator Douglas said, "I could then travel from Boston to Chicago by the light of my own effigies."
For the purpose of settling Kansas Territory the people of Missouri possessed a vast advantage over the residents of other States. Many of them had been for years engaged in the Santa Fe trade and in freighting over the California Trail, and were familiar with all portions of the Territory. Thousands of them lived within one day's journey of its richest lands. They were apprised in advance of the conclusion of the secret treaties with the Indian tribes, by which they ceded almost all the lands within two hundred miles of the eastern line to the United States for appropriation and settlement. Before the bill became a law the choice lands had been seized by Missourians. When its passage became known, thousands of them rushed in. They came more in the interest of slavery than in individual capacity. Few of them relinquished their homes in Missouri. The most prom-inent citizens of the border counties selected claims in the Territory. Ownership was indicated by cards or boards nailed to trees or poles. Upon these were scrawled their names, together with warnings to trespassers as rude and primitive as Pip's letter to Joe Gargery in "Great Expectations." The cacographic scrawls published the intelligence that the claimants stood ready to shed their own blood and anxious to shed that of others in defense of this fraudulent dulce domum. Upon this slender transfer of allegiance they hung a claim to citizenship in Kansas Territory. A few slaveholders made permanent residences in Kansas,-though very few. Slaves were held in some of the Indian tribes; one missionary was a slave-owner. The first census, taken in February, 1855, showed but one hundred and ninety-two slaves in the Territory. For the opportunity given them and from their favorable position the people of Missouri made but a weak effort to people Kansas with bona fide slaveholding settlers. If the slave-owners of Missouri had prudently taken the legitimate action which lay in their power, the death of their favorite institution might have been postponed to a later day.
As there were no offices yet established for the sale of Government lands, and no surveys, those claiming lands could obtain no shadow of legal title, and were called "squatters." Squatters' claim associations were organized in sundry places. These organizations kept some sort of rude register or record of the claims of each member. At Salt Creek Valley, "near Fort Leavenworth, they adopted a preamble and resolutions. These proclaimed, among other things, that, " Whereas, We the citizens of Kansas Territory, and many other citizens of the adjoining State of Missouri, contemplating a squatter's home on the plains of said Territory," etc.; and "Resolved," among other things, " That we recognize the institution of slavery as always existing in this Territory, and recommend slaveholders to introduce their property as early as possible." And, "That we will afford protection to no Abolitionists as settlers of Kansas Territory."
The Salt Creek Valley resolutions were adopted as early as June 10, 1854. They were in accord with the feeling then rife along the border. The press abounded with such sentiments as follow:
"We are in favor of making Kansas a 'Slave State' if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even sacrifice their lives in accomplishing so desirable an end."-Democratic Platform, Liberty, Mo., June 8, 1854.
"Shall we allow such cut-throats and murderers, as the people of Massachusetts are, to settle in the Territory adjoining our own State? No! If popular opinion will not keep them back, we should see what virtue there is in the force of arms." Liberty Platform.
"Citizens of the West, of the South and Illinois! stake out your claims, and woe be to the Abolitionist or Mormon who shall intrude upon it, or come within reach of your long and true rifles, or within point-blank shot of your revolvers" Platte Argus.
"The Abolitionists will probably not be interrupted if they settle north of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, but south of that line, and within Kansas Territory, they need not set foot. It is decreed by the people who live adjacent that their institutions are to be established, and candor compels us to advise accordingly."-Platte Argus.
"Resolved, That we, without distinction of
party, desire to act in accordance with what is right and due, not only to interests of the South but likewise
to interests of the North, and though knowing that the North, through certain fanatics, has endeavored to dictate
to the South, we yet wish to meet them as brothers and friends, and only ask our rights as compromise, viz.:
"Abolitionists or Free-Soilers would do well not to stop in Kansas Territory, but keep on up the Missouri river until they reach Nebraska Territory, where they can peacefully make claims and establish their abolition and free-soil notions; for if they do, they will be respectfully notified that but one day's grace will be allowed for them to take up their bed and baggage and walk." Baltimore Sun.
These expressions all ante-date July 1st, 1854. As early as June 20th of the same year Samuel N. Wood wrote from Independence, Mo., to an Eastern newspaper that a dozen Free-Soil families had formed a settlement on the Kansas river, and that a meeting of those friendly to making Kansas a free State had been called for July 8th. The outlines of the impending conflict in Kansas were thus dimly defined as early as June, 1854.
The first New England party left Boston for Kansas July 17th, and arrived on the border July 30th. Two weeks later a larger party arrived. They founded Lawrence, which they named the day previous to that upon which the first Governor arrived.
The Administration of President Pierce (as was
that, also, of his successor, President Buchanan) was dominated by the cabal maintained in Washington by the slave-power
of the South. Of this body of intriguers Jefferson Davis was the principal man. It was not questioned that the
President would aid in every way in his power the establishment of slavery in Kansas Territory. He may have been
kept in ignorance of the manner in which the South intended to proceed until his Administration was fully committed
to the support of that course through the powers controlling him. It is scarcely probable that he would have approved
in the beginning the course which he afterwards upheld and sustained. But anyone accepting the appointment of Governor
of Kansas Territory was certainly well aware of the intentions of the President in this matter.
Andrew H. Reeder, the first Territorial Governor of Kansas, was born in Eastern, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, July 12, 1807. He died there July 5, 1864, in his fifty-seventh year.
He attended an academy in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and afterwards studied law. He was admitted to practice in his native town, and he achieved distinction in his profession. In 1831 he was married to Miss Amelia Hutter, also of Easton; they had eight children.
At the time of his appointment Governor Reeder was in the prime of life. He was & man of good appearance, inclined to obesity, and of a ruddy complexion. His hair was iron-gray, his eyes full and dark-blue, his mustache was carefully trimmed and twisted. In carriage he was very erect. In speech and manner he was deliberate. He was a man of good sense, fair attainments, correct principles, and moderate ability. Had the government of the Territory been already established firmly and burdened with no extraordinary questions and conditions, he would have proved an excellent Governor. He had neither the tact nor temperament, the executive ability nor judgment, the knowledge of human nature nor decision of character, to fit him for the position of establishing an orderly government where opposing forces had been working without restraint for four months without government of any kind.
Governor Reeder's commission was dated June 29, 1854. He took the oath of office in Washington July 7 th, and arrived in the Territory on the 7th of the following October.
Governor Reeder had always been an enthusiastic admirer of the theories of Democracy, but having never held office, he possessed no practical knowledge of the application of the principles of government. He was in sympathy with the South in its efforts to maintain the institution of slavery and carry it into new Territories. As a theory and an abstraction he favored slavery, and was an advocate of the Kansas-Nebraska bill and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. His appointment was well re-ceived in both the North and the South. He spent some time in Washington prior to his journey to Kansas, and was more than once in consultation with the President. He possessed only a theoretical knowledge of slavery, and some writers attribute to him a conversation in one of his interviews with the President in which he expressed regret that he was unable to buy a number of slaves and carry them with him to Kansas Territory.
On the border of Missouri, where at first the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill was taken to mean the settlement of the controversy in favor of slavery and the handing over of Kansas to Senator Atchison and his associates, it was supposed that Governor Reeder would com4 as the agent of the slave-power. It was not considered possible that any Governor appointed by the consent of the powers at Washington could come in any other capacity. To study to obey every behest of the slave-power was presupposed by the Missourians to be the chief function of any Executive provided for Kansas Territory.
Upon the arrival of Governor Reeder at Fort Leaven-worth he was greeted with a military salute. A large concourse of citizens met him, and one of their number delivered an address of welcome. To this address the Governor replied in a speech of general principles to which none could object. Law must be supreme, assassination must not become a practice, all questions must be settled at the ballot-box, and the defeated party must acquiesce in the decision. All very good. But there was a barrenness of intimation of the policy to be pursued in furthering the interests of slavery. A more explicit avowal was considered desirable, and realizing that it could scarcely be expected in an address to a general gathering, the people of Weston, Mo., prepared a public dinner at the leading hotel of their town, to which the Governor was bidden. The invitation was published in the newspaper of the town, to make it the more difficult of declination. But the Governor declined to go to Mis-souri as a guest of slave-owners, and his courteous note respectfully declining the proffered honor was published, also. The Missourians were angered. They construed the action of the Governor to indicate that he was unfriendly to them and their cause. "From this day forth Gov. Reeder was branded as an Abolitionist, and said to be in league with the Emigrant Aid Society."
The Governor and the people of Missouri, thus early set at cross-purposes, still further disagreed as to the first and most important step to be taken in the establishment of a Territorial Government. The Missourians were in haste to have the Legislature elected to conserve the institution of slavery. That done, their first, and as they believed, the greatest battle in its practical establishment was won. The Governor saw no necessity for such haste. He believed that it was more important that a Delegate to Congress be elected first. The Missourians charged that this position was in the interest of Governor Reeder's friend Flenniken, who accompanied him to Kansas avowedly on purpose to be returned to Congress at the first Con-gressional election. Whatever the merits of the controversy, the Governor had his way. He went on a tour of the Territory to become in some degree acquainted with his country. Upon his return to Fort Leavenworth at the end of two weeks he set about the formation of election districts for the Congressional election. This done, he issued, on November 10th, his proclamation for said election, to be held on the 29th day of November.
This action of the Governor was a keen disappointment to the Missourians. The continuous arrival of Free-State immigrants and the unpropitious course of the Governor were symptoms of trouble, in their opinion. They concluded to try the effect of a public meeting upon the refractory Executive, and by the exhibition of a single claw of the tiger, try to engender in him some awe of that formidable animal. On November 15th a meeting was held in Leavenworth. Some two or three hundred Missourians crossed over the river to attend it. Governor 'Reeder was censured for failing to call first the election for the Territorial Legislature. A committee was ap-pointed to press this matter on his attention. A sharp correspondence passed between the Governor and this committee, in which the Governor said:
"It was a meeting composed mainly of citizens of Missouri. Your own body, whom I am now addressing, contains two undoubted residents of Missouri, one of whom is your chairman, who resides with his family in the town of Liberty, Mo., as he has done for years, and whose only attempt at a residence in Kansas consists of a card nailed to a tree, upon ground long since occupied by other settlers, who have built and lived upon the claim. The president of your meeting was Major John Dougherty, a resident and large landholder in Clay county, Missouri, as he has stated to me since the meeting. The gentlemen principally composing your meeting came from across the river, thronging the road from the ferry to the town, on horseback and in wagons, in numbers variously estimated by different persons at from 200 to 300; and after the meeting was over they returned to their homes in the State of Missouri."
Slavery in theory in Pennsylvania and in practice in Missouri were two very different institutions. The Governor was astounded at the rabid arrogance of its advocates on the border. He was not averse to seeing the slave-owner carry his human chattels to a permanent home in Kansas. He expected to see that and was prepared to aid and encourage it. The Missourian had in mind a different method; its execution shocked the mild-mannered Pennsylvania and made him an uncompromising enemy of the institution.
At the meeting in Leavenworth, above referred to, the Missourians selected a candidate for Delegate to Congress. This was a J. W. Whitfield, a tall and stuttering Tennesseean who lived in Jackson county, Mo. The Governor's friend, the Hon. Robert P. Flenniken, was not so fortunate as to secure a nomination, and was under the necessity of being called to the contest by a few personal friends. The election eliminated him, and he returned to Pennsylvania, never to return to Kansas-a righteous fate. Hon. John A. Wakefield was the candidate of the Free-State men. He was a bluff and hearty old Virginian, and opposed to slavery. In point of ability he was superior to the Pro-Slavery candidate, and in point of honesty and practical common-sense he was the superior of both his opponents. He seems to have had little expectation of an election.
The election was held November 29th, 1854. If the Governor had been surprised before, the Missourians upon this day gave a practical demonstration of the methods determined upon by them which created in him genuine astonishment. They came over, "thronging the road" to the extent of many times the number at the Leavenworth meeting. Seventeen hundred and twenty-nine illegal votes were cast. Guns, revolvers, bowie-knives, and whisky were paraded as ample qualifications for suffrage. Whitfield was elected, and would have been had the Missourians remained at home. He was awarded a certificate and allowed his seat.
Whitfield had refrained from making slavery an
issue in the campaign, but his election was cried abroad as a victory for that institution. The Free-State men
were divided in their support of a candidate, and voted for Wakefield and the extraneous office-seeker from Pennsylvania.
They saw that it was little in the province of a Delegate to Congress to help or hinder the issue in Kansas. The
action of the Missourians in the Congressional election was not of that kind to give any reassurance for orderly
conduct in the future. Governor Eeeder realized that they -considered the Territorial Legislature of much more
importance to them than the position of Congres-sional Delegate, and that a much more serious effort would be made
to gain control of it, if the effort were necessary. He thought to thwart them in the manner of enumerating the
inhabitants of the Territory. He supposed that if they could ascertain when the census was to be taken they would
come over and be numbered with the people of the Territory. He set his enumerators quietly at work in the month
of February, and completed the census in two weeks. The Missourians complained loudly of this action, and insisted
to the President as one of the reasons for the Governor's removal that the snow was two feet-deep at the time.
Mr. Phillips, in his "Conquest of Kansas^" relates an incident which illustrates the attitude of the
The Missourians became thoroughly aroused as the work approached completion, and made some organized effort to debauch the census. Long lists of residents of that State were prepared and presented to the census-takers to incorporate in their returns of inhabitants of Kansas. If the enumerator demurred he was plied with threats, and if he refused he was denounced, and wrath laid against him for a future day.
Five days after the completion of the census the Governor issued a proclamation calling the election for members of the Legislature for the 30th of March, 1855. The election was of much importance to all the real inhabitants of the Territory, for the interest of slavery was at stake as well as that of freedom. That the Missourians would exert themselves was well known. It was believed that the destiny of the Territory would be fixed by the result of this election. The Missourians in the Territory resented the active participation of the Free-State men in the campaign. They now boldly called for the residents of their State to come and vote, whether they had any intention of remaining in the Territory as citizens or not. The Pro-Slavery papers said in justification of this appeal that hordes of paupers, hirelings and abolitionists were being helped to Kansas to carry the election by the Emigrant Aid Societies. This pretext was insisted upon, although it was known that no settlers could arrive from' the East until the navigation of the Missouri river was resumed, which would be sometime in April.
The "Blue Lodge" and other kindred orders
were active in the border counties of Missouri. Every preparation for the second invasion was made which it was
supposed would add to its effectiveness. General Atchison had outlined the policy of the slave-power toward Kansas
in the Congressional campaign. He now actively engaged in the preliminary work of the second invasion. Money was
raised and arms and whisky purchased. Men were enlisted and paid to march into the Territory on the day of the
election. Violence was openly threatened, and vile, inflammatory and incendiary language only was employed in discussing
the course to be taken against the uAbolitionists" of the Territory.
The frauds were so open and notorious that the Governor was disposed to withhold election certificates. He was advised by the Free-State men to do so, and promised protection and support. The perpetrators of the frauds were advised of the contemplated action of the Governor. Their wrath against him rose anew. He was threatened with assassination. Upon the day fixed for deciding the matter the fraudulent members-elect gathered in the Executive office, armed and defiant. The Governor was armed, and some friends surrounded him for protection; they were also armed. But it was seen that resistance arose out of the question. A sufficient number of contests to make the Legislature legal had not been filed. Where no contest for the seat was filed and no protest against the conduct of the Missourians at the election was made, the Governor decided to recognize the returns as regular, and to issue certificates to the persons shown thereby to have been elected. Where sufficient proof was lodged with him to justify it, he set aside the election; this he did in relation to the seats of thirteen members of the House and four members of the Council. The Missourians were left in a majority in the Legislature, and should have been satisfied. They were not, however, and were more deeply moved against the Governor with each successive action.
On April 16th the Governor issued his proclamation calling an election to fill the vacancies in the Legislature for the 22d of May. At the same time he issued a proclamation convening the Legislature at Pawnee on the 2d of July,
As early as December, 1854, when Governor Reeder had been in the Territory but sixty days, his removal was urged by Senator Atchison in more than one interview with the President. Dissatisfaction of the people of Missouri with the action of Governor Reeder was kept before the President continuously from that time. After the election of the Legislature the Governor was convinced that his removal would be urged anew and more strongly than ever. On the 17th of April he left the Territory for Washington, to justify his course to the President.
He found in Washington that not only his official action and policy had been attacked, but that his private transactions were also a matter of complaint, and that, too, with some sufficient cause. Governor Reeder had evidently made the opportunity for accumulating property in a new country one of the "reasons for accepting the position of Governor of Kansas Territory. His course in acquiring lots in prospective towns by leading the town companies to believe that he favored them as sites for the future capital of the Territory was dishonorable and justly censurable. It is incapable of any explanation or justification. The location of the capital at Pawnee was an outrage. The explanation that it was to remove the Legislature from the influence of the Missourians on the border is insufficient. There could have been selected in the Territory no more unsuitable location for the capital. Even the Governor's proclamation did not fix a single voting-precinct so far west as Pawnee, and the census showed but one hundred and sixty-nine inhabitants in the two districts covering the western portion of the Territory from a line east of Pawnee. There were at best but poor accommodations for the members of the Legislature, and the roof of the hall erected for their use was completed on the Sunday preceding their assembling on Monday. The Governor's location of the capital at Pawnee can only be explained on the one ground that his largest landed interests- in the Territory were in the vicinity.
The members of the Legislature asked him to make the Shawnee Mission the temporary capital. The Governor was fully justified in not doing that, but he should have selected some suitable location. It was understood that the Legislature would change the location of the temporary capital to the Shawnee Mission immediately upon assembling at Pawnee. Reverend Thomas Johnson, the missionary in charge, had been instructed to provide accommodations.
Governor Reeder found this issue fully made to
the President. The charges lodged against him were dissatisfaction with his course toward slavery and Territorial
capital jobbery and illegal Indian-land speculation. The latter was of little or no consequence. The transactions
in relation to the capital were serious. It is a matter of great regret that he was compelled to meet and explain
them. It divested his indictments of the border-ruffians of their force and rendered them nugatory. He was placed
on his defense, and could make no strong appeal to the President.
The first work of the Legislature at Pawnee after its organization was to unseat all Free-Soil members. This accomplished, a bill for the removal of the temporary capital to the "Shawnee Manual Labor School" was passed, but vetoed by the Governor. It was quickly passed over his veto, and the Legislature adjourned to that place, to meet on the 16th of July. The Governor could do nothing but follow the refractory solons to their new location.
Governor Reeder was now entirely without power
of any kind. He was ignored and openly defied by the Legislature; its members held him in the deepest contempt
and regarded him with implacable hatred. On the 21st of July he vetoed a bill, unimportant in itself, upon the
ground that the Legislature was. in session where it had no right to sit and could make no valid legislation. He
said, also: Entertaining these views, I can give no sanction to any bill that is passed; and if my views are not
satisfactory, it follows that we must act independently of each other."
On August 14th and 15th the Free-State meetings held in Lawrence had called the delegate convention which afterwards met at Big Springs, on the 5th of September. On the 30th of August the Legislature adjourned. Its last act contained the following: "Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Council concurring therein, That it is the duty of the Pro-Slavery party, the Union-loving men of Kansas Territory, to know but one issue, Slavery; and that any party making or attempting to make any other, is, and should be held, as an ally of Abolitionism and disunionism."
The laws passed by the Legislature were so framed that only Pro-Slavery men could hold office. Every officer was compelled to take an oath to support the Fugitive Slave Law. No person opposed to the holding of slave property could be a juror in any cause where the right to hold such property was an issue, nor where slavery was in any way concerned. They seemed to have framed the laws expressly to exclude Free-Soil men from any participation in public affairs. The great body of the laws were the Missouri statutes, word for word, except that "Territory of Kansas" was used for "State of Missouri," and were not objectionable. The oppressive laws were enacted wholly in the interest of slavery, and were more strict and unreasonable than Missouri or any other slave State had ever enacted.
To meet the issues made by this bogus Legislature
was the work proposed for the Big Springs convention. The work was nobly done. The acts of the Legislature were
denounced, and it was resolved that not only should they not be obeyed, but that they should be resisted "to
a bloody issue." The Legislature had made the issue- Slavery. Nothing was to be known or considered in their
party affiliations but Slavery. The Free-State men set opposite this issue-Freedom. Their first resolution recited
" That, setting aside all minor issues of partisan politics, it is incumbent upon us to proffer an organization
calculated to recover our dearest rights, and into which Democrats and Whigs, native and naturalized citizens,
may freely enter without any sacrifice of their respective political creeds, but without forcing them as a test
Upon this issue-Freedom or Slavery-Governor Reeder was nominated as the candidate of the Tree-State party for Congress, Whitfield was re-nominated by the Missourians. The two parties voted upon separate days, and both Whitfield and Reeder claimed the election. Whitfield was admitted to his seat, but Reeder contested it. Upon the charges contained in his petition of contest the House appointed a committee to investigate Kansas affairs so far as they related to elections. The committee and the contestants proceeded to Kansas. After much work was done the committee was virtually driven from the Territory by the Missourians. Governor Reeder was indicted with other Free-State men by the grand jury of Douglas county for treason. He appealed to the committee for protection from a writ of attachment issued in consequence of his having failed to appear before the grand jury. The committee decided that it could not protect him. He retired to the house of a friend, where he remained a few days. There was little more he could accomplish in Kansas. His life was threatened by the ruffians. The powers of the Government were arrayed against him. He determined to leave the Territory. Friends assisted him to Kansas City. Here he was concealed for several days. In the disguise of a wood-chopper he escaped down the Missouri river. He delivered addresses in the North upon the conditions prevailing in the Territory. The report of the committee was of great benefit to the Free-State settlers of Kansas, as it was an authoritative statement of the wrongs they had been obliged to submit to; but it did not procure the seat for Governor Reeder. However, it had the effect of ousting Whitfield.
The services rendered in Kansas to the cause of freedom by Governor Reeder were of substantial value. The border-ruffians were never able to bend him to their outrageous policy. That he should resist them when sent here to aid them, was scarcely to be expected. To do it required great moral courage. He must have been aware that to do so would alienate the political powers at Washington. Those unacquainted with the issues as construed on the border would question his motives. In the face of fearful odds he contended for the rightful exercise of the prerogatives of his high office. Under threats of assassination he maintained these until he compelled the President to remove him for an alleged irregularity in private transactions.
The errors committed by the Governor were his actions in relation to the location of the capital of the Territory. He is open to the charge of having used his official position to further his private interests. There is no way in which his course in that matter can be justified, though he was fully justified in not locating the capital at Shawnee. This was the one mistake of his official course in Kansas Territory. It is doubtful if there was sufficient knowledge of his holdings of real estate at Pawnee in possession of the Missourians to enable them to lay all the facts before the President. Had all the facts been known at the time, his removal would have been for that cause instead of the al-leged illegal speculations in Kaw Indian lands-transactions which were perfectly legitimate and honorable.
Had Governor Reeder become the agent of the slave-power instead of insisting upon the right of exercising his own judgment and persisting in that course, the Missourians might have been able to so have taken possession of Kansas Territory that the uprooting of slavery in America would have been postponed to a future generation. His alliance and cooperation with the movement for a Free-State party was a service of the highest value to Kansas. The Congressional Committee of Investigation was the direct result of his candidacy for Delegate to Congress on the Free-State ticket in 1855. The report of this committee gave official expression to the claims of the Free-State men in Kansas. It officially stated the diabolical outrages to which they were subjected by the border-ruffians. It proclaimed their helplessness, and aroused for them interest and sympathy in the North. This report enabled the friends of freedom in Kansas to speak with force and effect in their behalf in the halls of Congress. It exhibited the Democratic party in its true light, showing that it had fallen from the high rank of a national party, advocating great principles of government, to the low rank of a sectional party with but a single issue that of Slavery.
In his work for the Free-State party Governor Reeder's
whole force was aroused to aggressive action. It bore immediate fruit. His action merits the unqualified approval
of every lover of liberty. His courage, his manly bearing, his kindly nature, his firmness in adversity, his devotion
to right and duty, and his persistency in opposition to the aggressions of the border-ruffians upon a peaceful
and helpless people, endeared him to the Free-State settlers of Kansas Territory. He has grown in the affections
of their descendants. In a high place in Kansas history must we place Andrew H. Reeder, the first Territorial Governor.
He lives in the hearts of the grateful people who enjoy the liberty he helped to establish.
Source: Kansas Territorial Governors by William Elsey Connelley, 1900, Pages 11-33
back to Index Page
Copyright © 2010 to Kansas Genealogy Trails' host & all Contributors
All rights reserved