Reeder's AdministrationOn May 30, 1854, President Pierce signed the bill for the organization of Kansas Territory, and before the adjournment of the Congress then in session he announced the appointment of the following territorial officers: Governor, Andrew H. Reeder, of Pennsylvania; secretary, Daniel Woodson, of Virginia; chief justice, Madison Brown, of Maryland; associate justices, Saunders W. Johnston, of Ohio, and Rush Elmore, of Alabama; marshal, Israel B. Donalson, of Illinois; district attorney, Andrew J. Isaacs, of Louisiana; surveyor-general, John Calhoun, of Illinois. Madison Brown declined the appointment as chief justice and the president appointed Samuel D. Lecompte, of the same state. Thomas J. B. Cramer was appointed treasurer, and John Donaldson, auditor of accounts.
As stated in the preceding article, Gov. Reeder arrived on Oct. 7, 1854, at Fort Leavenworth, where he was greeted by the officers of the fort with the national salute, and at 3 p. m. a large number of citizens assembled to welcome him to the territory. Dr. Charles Leib, in an appropriate address, extended to the new executive the hospitality and support of the people of Kansas. In his reply Gov. Reeder dealt chiefly with generalities, and gave no intimation of the policy he intended to pursue with regard to the question of slavery, which was just then uppermost in the public mind. This was a disappointment to the slaveholders and their friends, who confidently expected Gov. Reeder to become an active supporter of the slave power, not dreaming that any appointee of the national administration could be otherwise. This disappointment was heightened when a few days later the governor declined to be a guest at a public dinner given by certain slave owners at a hotel in Weston, Mo. The pro-slavery men construed the governor's action in this instance as hostile, and branded him at once as an Abolitionist."
The situation became more strained when the pro-slavery men urged an election for members of a territorial legislature and the governor reminded them that the organic act required a census of the territory to be taken before members of a legislature could be chosen, and announced his determination to carry out the provisions of the law. Free-state immigrants were constantly coming into Kansas, which was the cause of the anxiety on the part of the pro-slavery men, who wanted to get control of the legislative department of the territorial government before they should be outnumbered by this tide of immigration from the free states.
Secretary Woodson arrived at Leavenworth on Oct. 18, and the same day Gov. Reeder, Marshal Donalson, and Judges Johnston and Elmore started on a tour through the territory "to examine the same." Upon their return to Leavenworth on Nov. 7, the territory was divided into sixteen election districts, and on the 10th Gov. Reeder issued his proclamation ordering an election for delegate to Congress on the 29th of the same month. As designated in the proclamation, the voting places in the several districts were as follows: 1stDr. Robinson's office, Lawrence; 2dParis Ellison's house, Douglas City; 3dThomas Stinson's house, Tecumseh; 4thDr. Chapman's house; 5thHy Sherman's house on Pottawatomie creek; 6thH. T. Wilson's house, Fort Scott; 7thFry McGee's house on 110 mile creek and the Santa Fe trail; 8thIngraham Baker's house; 9thReynolds' house at the crossing of Seven-mile creek; 10thS. D. Dyer's house at the crossing of Big Blue river; 11ththe trading house of Marshall & Woodward, Marysville; 12thR. C. Miller's residence; 13thG. M. Dyer's house, Ozawkee; 14thHarding's house (not given in the proclamation, but fixed later) 15thPaschal Pensineau's house on the Fort Leavenworth and Oregon road; 16thKeller & Kyle's place in the city of Leavenworth. Subsequently the 17th district was created with the voting place at the Shawnee agency.
In his proclamation the governor gave the oath of the judges of election, in which was the following: "We will poll no ticket from any person who is not an actual bona fide resident and inhabitant of said territory on the day of the election, and whom we shall not honestly believe to be a qualified voter according to the provisions of the act of Congress organizing said territory, that we will reject the votes of all and every non-resident who we believe has come into the territory for the mere purpose of voting."
This did not please the pro-slavery men, whose policy had been outlined by Gen. David R. Atchison, in a speech early in November in Platte county, Mo., in which he said: "The people of Kansas, in their first elections, will decide the question whether or not the slaveholder is to be excluded, and it depends upon a majority of the votes cast at the polls. Now, if a set of fanatics and demagogues a thousand miles off can afford to advance money and exert every nerve to abolitionize the territory and exclude the slaveholder, when they have not the least personal interest, what is your duty? When you reside in one day's journey of the territory, and when your peace, your quiet, and your property depend on your action, you can, without an exertion, send five hundred of your young men who will vote in favor of your institutions. Should each county in the State of Missouri only do its duty, the question will be decided quietly and peaceably at the ballot-box."
Here was a plain statement of the methods to be pursued by the slave power. The purity of the ballot and observance of the laws were not to be permitted to stand in the way of making Kansas a slave state. On Nov. 15, some 300 Missourians crossed over to Leavenworth, where they held a convention, denounced Gov. Reeder for not ordering an election for members of the legislature, and appointed a committee to call upon him and urge him to do so. The governor refused to reply to the committee until they showed him the proceedings of the convention. "The meeting," said he, "was not of the 'citizens of Kansas,' as your proceedings will show, if you will produce them. It was a meeting composed mainly of citizens of Missouri, and a few citizens of Kansas. . . . The gentlemen principally composing your meeting came from across the river, thronging the road from the ferry to town, on horseback, and in wagons, in numbers variously estimated at from 200 to 300; and after the meeting was over they returned to their homes in the State of Missouri."
Finding that the governor could not be coerced into ordering an election for members of the legislature, the pro-slavery men accepted the situation and made preparations to carry the election for delegate. There were three candidates for that office. John A. Wakefield, the free-state candidate, was a native of Virginia, not highly educated, but possessed of a good supply of common sense; John W. Whitfield, the pro-slavery candidate, was a native of Tennessee, and at the time of the election was a resident of Jackson county, Mo.; Robert P. Flenniken, who ran as an independent candidate, had come out from Pennsylvania with governor Reeder for that purpose, and left the territory immediately after the election. At the election on Nov. 29, Whitfield received 2,258 votes; Wakefield, 248; Flenniken, 305; scattering, 22. A Congressional committee afterward reported that 1,729 of the votes cast for Whitfield were illegal, but as the free-state vote had been divided between Wakefield and Flenniken, he still had a plurality of the legal votes and was allowed to take his seat as a delegate. Thus the first victory at the polls was won by the slave power.
In January and February, 1855, Gov. Reeder caused a census to be taken. The total population of the territory was found to be 8,501, of whom 2,905 were voters, On March 8 he issued a proclamation calling an election on Friday, March 30, for members of the first territorial legislature. The election districts remained the same as in the election for delegate to Congress, but were divided into ten districts for members of the council and fourteen districts for members of the house. In the campaign for members of the legislature, the same tactics were practiced by the pro-slavery men in the election of delegate. Atchison's speech again became the slogan, and Connelley, in his Territorial Governors, says: "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 'Abolitionists' of the territory. . . . The invasion was on a grand scale. Fully 5,000 residents of Missouri came into Kansas to vote. They flourished pistols, guns and bowie-knives. They marched to the polling places and routed the legal judges and installed in their places members of their own body. After the votes were polled, some leader of the mob would call out, 'All aboard for Missouri!' With noise, curses, yells and drunken screeches of exultation they fell into a motley and disordered throng and marched away with the poll-books and election records."
Although the census showed but 2,905 voters, there were cast at this election 5,427 pro-slavery, 791 free-state, and 89 scattering votes, a total of 6,307, of which only 1,410 were legal, as many of the free-state men refrained from going to the polls. And it was in this manner that the first legislature of the Territory of Kansas was chosen. What wonder is it that the assembly thus elected is known in Kansas history as the "Bogus Legislature?"
In many instances the frauds were so glaring that the governor was inclined to issue no certificates of election to any of the successful pro-slavery candidates. Holloway says: "The members of the legislature thus elected immediately demanded of Mr. Reeder certificates of election, as required by the organic act, threatening him with assassination in case of refusal. With pistols cocked and pointed at his breast, he examined the election returns, and painfully witnessed the evidences of fraud."
According to the Herald of Freedom, "A committee from Missouri waited upon the governor and told him he had choice of one of three things: 'To sign the certificates of election in fifteen minutes, to resign, or hang.' To this the governor immediately replied: 'Gentlemen, my mind is made up without further advisement; I shall hang.'"
This was not the answer expected by the committee, the members of which retired crestfallen, and Gov. Reeder proceeded in his own way to "uphold the majesty of the law." In his testimony before the Congressional investigating committee, the governor stated that "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 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 one side of the room were arranged 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."
In the districts where no dispute developed the governor signed the certificate of election, but in all districts where there was sufficient proof of fraud, he set aside the election. The districts in which the election was thus annulled by the governor's action were the 1st, 2nd, 3d, 7th, 8th and 16th, and included four members of the council and nine members of the house. On April 16 he issued his proclamation ordering a special election on May 22 to fill the vacancies in these districts, and in the same proclamation called the legislature to meet at Pawnee on "the first Monday in July."
It is worth while to note the spirit in which the opposing parties accepted the result of the election of March 30. The Leavenworth Herald, a pro-slavery paper, with the characteristic bluster of that party, on April 6, the very day the governor announced his decision on the election returns, said under display headlines: "Come on, Southern men; bring your slaves and fill up the territory. Kansas is saved! Abolitionism is rebuked, her fortress stormed, her flag is draggling in the dust. The tri-colored platform has fallen with a crash, the rotten timbers of its structure were not sufficient to sustain the small fragments of the party. Kansas has proved herself to be S. G. Q."
The next day the Herald of Freedom, the free-state paper published at Lawrence, said: "We asserted some time ago that Kansas would be a free state, let the Missourians bluster as much as they would, and we renew that assertion with more confidence than ever. At the taking of the census in February last, every election district in the territory was found to have a respectable majority of voters from the free states. Had it been otherwise, does anybody suppose our pro-slavery neighbors on the other side of the line would have deemed it necessary to have incurred so great an expense to import voters by the thousand to gain a political ascendency? Another election will be held in due time, and those who purpose settling here permanently, and desire to contribute their share toward making Kansas a free state, should hurry forward as soon as possible."
These two quotations, from representative newspapers of the period, are indicative of the policy of each of the contending factions. On the one hand the pro-slavery party seemed to depend chiefly upon bravado, using "noise for argument," while on the other the free-state men believed in that quiet, persistent work which would ultimately result in giving the territory a permanent population of immigrants from the northern and eastern states, thereby assuring the admission of Kansas as a free state. They argued that in time the slaveholders would grow tired of importing voters to carry the elections, and subsequent events have proved that their theory was correct.
At the election of May 22 the pro-slavery men stayed away from the polls, except in the Leavenworth district (the 16th), where a sufficient number came over from Missouri to insure the election of their candidates. In all the other districts the vacancies were filled by the election of the free-state candidates.
On April 17, 1855, the day following the proclamation ordering the special election and calling the legislature to meet in July, Gov. Reeder started for his old home in Pennsylvania, leaving Secretary Woodson as acting governor. The reasons for this course, as stated by Gov. Reeder himself, were "For the purpose of bringing out my family, and attending to private business, as well as for the purpose of consulting with the president in regard to the state of things in the territory." He returned to Kansas, however, in time to be present at the opening of the legislative session, reassuming his executive duties on June 23.
The legislature assembled at the appointed time and place, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the members against meeting at Pawnee. A temporary organization was effected in the council by the election of Richard R. Rees president pro tem, and John A. Halderman chief clerk. In the permanent organization Rev. Thomas Johnson was chosen president, Mr. Rees continuing as president pro tem, and Mr. Halderman as chief clerk. In the house Joseph C. Anderson was chosen temporary speaker, John H. Stringfellow later being elected permanently to that office, and J. M. Lyle was chief clerk under both the temporary and permanent organizations.
The house consisted of 26 and the council of 13 members. Gov. Reeder had issued certificates of election to the following members chosen at the special election of May 22: In the 1st representative districtPhilip P. Fowler, John Hutchinson and Erastus D. Ladd; 2nd districtAugustus Wattles and William Jessee; 3d districtCyrus K. Holliday; 14th districtWilliam G. Mathias, Archy Payne and H. D. McMeekin; 2nd council districtJohn A. Wakefield; 3d districtJesse D. Wood; 8th districtC. H. Washington. The first act of each branch was to unseat the free-state men and recognize in their places those elected on March 30.
After this was done the membership of the council was as follows: 1st districtThomas Johnson and Edward Chapman; 2ndAndrew McDonald; 3dHiram J. Strickler; 4thA. N. Coffey and David Lykins; 5thWilliam Barbee; 6thJohn Donaldson; 7thJohn W. Forman; 8thWilliam P. Richardson; 9thD. A. N. Grover; 10thLucien J. Eastin and Richard R. Rees. In the sixth district John Donaldson was given the seat of Martin F. Conway, who resigned a few days before the legislature was convened.
Following is a list of the members of the house by districts: 1stAlexander S. Johnson; 2ndJohn M. Banks, A. B. Wade and James Whitlock; 3dG. W. Ward and O. H. Browne; 4thD. L. Croysdale; 5thM. W. McGee; 6thJoseph C. Anderson and Samuel A. Williams; 7thW. A. Heiskell, Allen Wilkinson, Henry Younger and Samuel Scott; 8thS. D. Houston; 9thFranklin J. Marshall; 10thWilliam H. Tebbs; 11thR. L. Kirk and John H. Stringfellow; 12th Joel P. Blair and Thomas W. Waterson; 13thH. B. C. Harris and Josiah Weddle; 14thWilliam G. Mathias, Archy Payne and H. D. McMeekin.
The unseating of the free-state members, which was done on the second day of the session, left S. D. Houston as the only representative of the free-state party, and he soon resigned on account of the flagrant acts of the majority. About the only satisfaction the free-state men derived from the whole proceeding was the protest which Wakefield and Wood succeeded in having spread upon the journal of the council, and a similar protest made by Fowler, Hutchinson, Ladd, Wattles and Jessee in the house.
A building had been erected at Pawnee expressly for the accommodation of the legislature (See Capitol), but the members were not satisfied with the location. They remained in session there, however, until Gov. Reeder had submitted his message, which was done as soon as the two houses were permanently organized and the contests over seats were settled. In his message, which bears the date of July 3, the first official communication ever submitted to a legislative body in Kansas, the governor reviewed the history of Kansas while subject to the laws of France and Spain as a part of the province of Louisiana, and her career as part of the Territory of Indiana and the Territory of Missouri. On the subject of slavery he said:
"There are many specific subjects of legislation, some of which are expressly referred to you by the bill organizing the territory, and others spring from the necessity of our community. Prominent among them is the question whether we shall build our government upon the basis of free or of slave labor. . . . The provisions of our territorial organic act secure us this right, and is founded in the true doctrines of republicanism. . . . The permanent character and high authority of a state constitution, and the fact of its submission to a direct vote of the people of the territory indicate that as a signal occasion for the decision of that peculiar question. In the meantime, however, a teritorial legislature may, undoubtedly, act upon the question to a limited and partial extent, and may temporarily prohibit, tolerate or regulate slavery in the territory, and in an absolute or modified form, with all the force and effect of any other legislative act, binding until repealed by the same power that enacted it."
He then called the attention of the legislature to the fact that some of the questions which would come up for settlement were the creation of counties, the establishment of county and probate courts, the location of a permanent seat of government, the organization of the militia, some measure to prohibit the sale of intoxicants among the Indians, and legislation for the promotion of education.
On July 4 the legislature passed a bill fixing the seat of government temporarily at the Shawnee Mission manual labor school and requiring the governor and secretary to maintain their offices there "until the seat of government is located by law." This measure was vetoed on the 6th by the governor, who said:
"When the actual seat of government is fixed by competent authority it would certainly become the duty of the executive to locate his office there, and this brings us to the inquiry, whether the bill which I now return is within the original powers of the legislature as conferred by Congress.
"It professes to locate the seat of government temporarily, as contradistinguished from a permanent location. This distinction is well founded and well understood, and is recognized as well in the organic law as in the act of Congress of March 3, 1855, and a temporary seat of government is recognized as one upon which none of the public money appropriated by Congress shall be expended in the erection of public buildings.
"By the organic law the governor was vested with the power to fix the place for the meeting of the first legislative assembly. By the same law Congress themselves fixed the temporary seat of government, and by the act of March 3, 1855, they conferred upon the legislature the right to fix a permanent seat of government. The power of the legislature is thus clearly defined. Congress has chosen to confine one branch of this subject to the governor, to retain another for themselves, and to commit the third to the legislature. . . . The only effect of the bill which I now return to you would be to repeal the 31st section of the Kansas bill, which involves the exercise of a power far beyond the functions of the legislature."
No sooner was the bill received from the hands of the governor than it was passed over his veto by the required two-thirds vote, and the legislature then adjourned to meet at the Shawnee Mission on the 16th. The next step was to make a request, through District Attorney Isaacs, for a decision by the United States court as to the legality of the proceedings in thus establishing a temporary seat of government in the face of the governor's objections. An opinion, signed by Chief Justice Lecompte and Judge Elmore, and concurred in by Mr. Isaacs, was promptly handed down, holding that the legislature had not exceeded its authority, and that "The want of concurrence of the governor presents no objection to the efficiency of the acts of the legislative assembly, two-thirds of the members of each of its constituent bodies concurring therein."
Fortified with this decision of the court the legislature met pursuant to adjournment at the Shawnee Mission manual labor school on the 16th without a head, having already by its acts deposed, or at least estranged, the governor so that anything like coöperation with the executive was not probable. To test the situation the first bill passedone incorporating a ferry company at the town of Kickapoowas submitted to Gov. Reeder on the 21st, and was quickly returned with a veto message, in which he said:
"I see nothing in the bill itself to prevent my sanction of it, and my reasons for disapproval have been doubtless anticipated by you as necessarily resulting from the opinions expressed in my message of the 6th instant. . . . It seems to be plain, that the legislature now in session, so far as the place is concerned, is in contravention of the act of Congress, and where they have no right to sit, and can make no valid legislation. 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.
"If I am right in these opinions, and our territory shall derive no fruits from the meeting of the present legislative assembly, I shall, at least, have the satisfaction of recollecting that I called the attention of the assembly to the point before they moved, and that the responsibility, therefore, rests not on the executive."
This brought matters to a crisis. The legislature could not unseat the governor, as it had the free-state members, so all that was left for it to do was to appeal to the power that appointed him, asking for his removal. Accordingly, a memorial to President Pierce was adopted on the 27th, six days after the veto of the ferry bill by the governor. This memorial criticised the governor for his delay in ordering an election for members of the legislature, "the people knowing of no laws in force, and the governor, having no settled opinion upon the subject, appointing justices of the peace in various sections of the territory, some of whom enforced the Pennslyvania, some the Ohio and some the Missouri code, acting, as a matter of course, under his instructions."
The memorial then goes on to recite that the governor turned coolly from the persons who had welcomed him cordially and frankly to the territory, and formed intimate associations with "those only from one particular section of the Union," which association caused him to persist in not applying the only course calculated to produce order from chaos.
"The governor then commences his course of speculation," says the memorial, "beginning by arraying himself directly in opposition to the opinions of the general government, as expressed by the attorney-general in relation to Delaware lands, by purchasing property on those lands, and stating that the opinions of the law officer of the general government were incorrect, and of no force if correct, thus setting an example of insubordination to those less informed, and which may end in a conflict between the people of this territory and the general government, unless the rights of the squatters on those lands are recognized in conducting the sales of them."
This touched the most vulnerable point in Gov. Reeder's official careerthe one weak joint in his armor. Without impugning his motives, or attempting to cast any aspersion on his character, the historian can not ignore the fact that the governor took advantage of his position to purchase at less than usual rates lots in various towns, among them Leavenworth, Lawrence, Tecumseh, Topeka and Pawnee. His calling the legislature to meet at Pawnee was looked upon by some as an effort to enhance the value of his real estate in that embryo city, where he held a number of lots. It is said that when the governor visited Washington in the spring of 1855, to consult with President Pierce regarding territorial affairs, the question of Gov. Reeder's removal was discussed, and that in parting the president said: "Well, I shall not remove you on account of your political action; if I remove you at all, it will be on account of your speculation in the lands of the territory."
Cutler says: "Although there is no proof that he did anything which would have been deemed out of the ordinary business course of an honest private citizen, yet, as a governor, subject to removal, he should have been more careful if he cared to retain his official position. The fact that his largest landed interests were at Pawnee, and that there they were erecting buildings for a legislature to be convened by him, contrary to the protests of the members-elect, gave his enemies the long sought for pretext for pressing his removal without reference to the true reason, found in his determined opposition to the lawless outrages that they had perpetrated, and to which they had tried in vain to obtain his official sanction. The scheme was to remove Andrew H. Reeder, the official land speculator, and thus be rid of an honest governor, whom neither threats could intimidate nor bribes induce to countenance the outrages on law and decency which they had committed."
After the adoption of the memorial the legislature decided to forward it to Washington by special messenger, and Speaker Stringfellow was selected for that purpose. He declined the honor, however, and the choice fell on Andrew McDonald, who left immediately for the national capital to present the document to the president. Before McDonald reached Washington the president had issued the order for Gov. Reeder's removal. In fact the order was issued on July 28, the day following the adoption of the memorial, though the fact was not learned until later. The reasons for the removal, as stated, were "that his explanation of his connection with the purchase of the Kansas half-breed lands, and other grave matters of the same class, were not such as to remove the impressions which the president had previously entertained of the character of those transactions."
On Aug. 16, 1855, Gov. Reeder sent his last communication to the territorial legislature, which was still in session. It was the following notice of his removal from office "Although in my message to your bodies, under date of the 21st ult., I stated that I was unable to convince myself of the legality of your session at this place, for reasons then given, and although that opinion still remains unchanged, yet, inasmuch as my reasons were not satisfactory to you, and the bills passed by your houses have been, up to this time, sent to me for approval, it is proper that I should inform you that after your adjournment of yesterday, I received official notification that my functions as governor of the Territory of Kansas were terminated. No successor having arrived, Secretary Woodson will of course perform the duties of the office of acting governor."
Thus ended the administation of the first governor of Kansas after its organization as a territory of the United States. And, while his conduct may not have been absolutely faultless, after a lapse of more than half a century, when partisan feeling is no longer rife and sectional passion has disappeared, he who reads history with an unbiased mind must conclude that Gov. Reeder's removal was due more to his refusal to bow to the will of the slave power than to his speculation in lands.
(Works consulted: Holloway's, Cutler's and Prentis' Histories of Kansas; Reeder's Diary; Executive Minutes; Connelley's Territorial Governors; Wilder's Annals of Kansas; Kansas Historical Collections; Legislative Journals; Newspaper Files, and Manuscript correspondence.)Pages 556-566 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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