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404

ABRAHAM LINCOLN


ch. xxii.

pp. 933-935.

designs of the Missourians. He was urged to order the immediate election of a territorial legis-lature. The conspirators had already spent some months in organizing their "Blue Lodges," and now desired at once to control the political power of the Territory. But the Governor had too much manliness to become the mere pliant tool they wished to make him. He resented their dictation ; he made a tour of inspection through the new settlements; and, acting on his own judgment, on his return issued a proclamation for a simple election of a delegate to Congress. At the appear­ance of this proclamation Platte County took alarm, and held a meeting on the Kansas side of the river, to intimidate him with violent speeches and a significant memorial. The Governor retorted in a letter that the meeting was composed of Mis­sourians, and that he should resist outside inter­ference from friend, foe, or faction.1 Pocketing this rebuff as best they might, Senator Atchison and his " Blue Lodges " nevertheless held fast to their purpose. Paper proclamations and lectures on abstract rights counted little against the prac­tical measures they had matured. November 29th, the day of election for delegate, finally arrived, and with it a formidable invasion of Missouri voters at more than half the polling places appointed in the Governor's proclamation.

In frontier life it was an every-day experience to make excursions for business or pleasure, singly or in parties, requiring two or three consecutive days, perhaps a night or two of camping out, for which

i Governor Eeeder to Gwiner and others, Nov. 21, 1854; copied into " National Bra," Jan. 4, 1855.

THE BORDER RUFFIANS 405

saddle-horses and farm-wagons furnished ready ch. xxn. transportation; and nothing was more common than concerted neighborhood efforts for improve­ment, protection, or amusement. On such occa­sions neighborly sentiment and comity required every man to drop his axe, or unhitch from the plow in the furrow, to further the real or imagi­nary weal of the community. In urgent instances non-compliance was fatal to the peace and com­fort and sometimes to the personal safety of the settler. The movement described above had been in active preparation for weeks, controlled by strong and secret combinations, and many unwilling par­ticipants were doubtless swept into it by an excited public opinion they dared not resist.

A day or two before the election the whole Mis­souri border was astir. Horses were saddled, teams harnessed, wagons loaded with tents, forage, and provisions, bowie-knives buckled on, revolvers and rifles loaded, and flags and inscriptions flung to the breeze by the more demonstrative and daring. Crossing the river-ferries from the upper counties, and passing unobstructed over the State line by the prairie-roads and trails from the lower, many of them camped that night at the nearest polls, while others pushed on fifty or a hundred miles to the sparsely settled election districts of the inte­rior. As they passed along, the more scrupulous went through the empty form of an imaginary settlement, by nailing a card to a tree, driving a stake into the ground, or inscribing their names in a claim register, prepared in haste by the invading party. The indifferent satisfied themselves with mere mental resolves to become settlers. The

406 ABBAHAM LINCOLN

ch. xxii. utterly reckless silenced all scruples in profanity and drunkenness.

nov. 29, On election morning the few real squatters of Kansas, endowed with Douglas's delusive boon of "popular sovereignty," witnessed with mixed indig­nation and terror acts of summary usurpation. Judges of election were dispossessed and set aside by intimidation or stratagem, and pro-slavery judges substituted without the slightest regard to regularity or law ; judges7 and voters' oaths were declared unnecessary, or explained away upon newly-invented phrases and absurd subtleties. " Where there 's a will, there 's a way," in wrong and crime, as well as in honest purpose and deed; and by more dishonest devices than we can stop fully to record the ballot-boxes were filled, through invasion, false swearing, riot, and usurpation, with ballots for Whitfield, the pro-slavery candidate for delegate to Congress, at nine out of the seventeen polling places — showing, upon a careful scrutiny afterwards made by a committee of Congress, an aggregate of 1729 illegal votes, and only 1114 legal ones.

This mockery of an election completed, the val­iant Knights of the Blue Lodge, the fraternal mem­bers of the Social Band, the philanthropic groups of the Friends' Society, and the chivalric Sons of the South returned to their axe and plow, society lodge and bar-room haunt, to exult in a victory for Missouri and slavery over the "Abolition hordes and nigger thieves of the Emigrant Aid Society." The " Border Euffians " of Missouri had written their preliminary chapter in the annals of Kansas. The published statements of the Emigrant Aid

THE BORDER RUFFIANS 407

Society show that up to the date of election it had ch.xxii. sent only a few hundred men, women, and chil­dren to the Territory. Why such a prodigious effort was deemed necessary to overcome the votes and influence of this paltry handful of "paupers who had sold themselves to Eli Thayer and Co." was never explained.

CHAPTER XXIII

THE BOGUS LAWS

ch.xxiii. AS the event proved, the invasion of border XlL ruffians to decide the first election in Kan­sas had been entirely unnecessary. Even without counting the illegal votes, the pro-slavery candi­date for delegate was chosen by a plurality. He had held the office of Indian Agent, and his acquaintance, experience, and the principal fact that he was the favorite of the conspirators gave him an easy victory. G-overnor Eeeder issued his certificate of election without delay, and Whitfield hurried away to Washington to enjoy his new honors, taking his seat in the House of Repre­sentatives within three weeks after his election. Atchison, however, did not follow his example. Congress met o"n the first Monday of December, and the services of the Acting Vice-President were needed in the Senate Chamber. But of such im­portance did he deem the success of the conspiracy in which he was the leader, that a few weeks before the session he wrote a short letter to the Senate, giving notice of his probable absence and advising the appointment of a new presiding officer, As a necessary preliminary to organizing the

THE BOGUS LAWS

409


government of tlie Territory, Governor Boeder, tinder the authority of the organic act, proceeded to take a census of its inhabitants. This work, carried on and completed in the months of Janu­ary and February, 1855, disclosed a total popula­tion of 8601 souls, of whom 2905 were voters. "With this enumeration as a definite guide, the Governor made an apportionment, established elec­tion districts, and, appointing the necessary officers to conduct it, fixed upon the 30th of March, 1855, as the day for electing the territorial legislature. Governor Reeder had come to Kansas an ardent Democrat, a firm friend of the Pierce Administra­tion, and an enthusiastic disciple of the new Demo­cratic dogma of " Popular Sovereignty." But his short experience with Atchison's Border Ruffians had already rudely shaken his partisanship. The events of the November election exposed the de­signs of the pro-slavery conspiracy, and no course was left him but to become either its ally or its enemy.

In behalf of justice, as well as to preserve what he still fondly cherished as a vital party principle, he determined by every means in his power to secure a fair election. In his appointment of elec­tion officers, census-takers, justices of the peace, and constables, he was careful to make his selections from both factions as fairly as possible, excepting that, as a greater and necessary safeguard against another invasion, he designated in the several elec­tion districts along the Missouri border two " free-State" men and one pro-slavery man to act as judges at each poll. He prescribed distinct and rigid rules for the conduct of the election; order-

ch. XXTIT.

Reeder

Testimony,

Howard

Report,

p. 934.

Howard Report, p.s

Reeder In­structions, Howard Report, pp. 107, 935.

410 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

ch. xxiii. ing among other things that the judges should be sworn, that constables should attend and preserve order, and that voters must be actual residents to the exclusion of any other home.

All his precautions came to nought. This elec­tion of a territorial legislature, which, as then popularly believed, might determine by the enact­ment of laws whether Kansas should become a free or a slave State, was precisely the coveted oppor­tunity for which the Border Ruffian conspiracy had been organized. Its interference in the No­vember election served as a practical experiment to demonstrate its efficiency and to perfect its plans. The alleged doings of the Emigrant Aid Societies furnished a convenient and plausible pre­text; extravagant rumors were now circulated as to the plans and numbers of the Eastern emigrants; it was industriously reported that they were coming twenty thousand strong to control the election; and by these misrepresentations the whole border was wrought up into the fervor of a pro-slavery crusade.

1855. When the 30th of March, election day, finally

arrived, the conspiracy had once more mustered its organized army of invasion, and five thousand Missouri Border Euffians, in different camps, bands, Howard an(i squads, held practical possession of nearly every election district in the Territory. Riot, vio­lence, intimidation, destruction of ballot-boxes, expulsion and substitution of judges, neglect or refusal to administer the prescribed oaths, viva voce voting, repeated voting on one side, and obstruc­tion and dispersion of voters on the other, were common incidents; no one dared to resist the

THE BOGUS LAWS

411

Howard

Keport,

p. 30.

acts of the invader's, since they were armed and ch.xxiil commanded in frontier if not in military fashion, in many cases by men whose names then or after­wards were prominent or notorious. Of the votes cast, 1410 were upon a subsequent examination found to have been legal, while 4908 were illegal. Of the total number, 542? votes were given to the pro-slavery and only 791 to the free-State candi­dates. Upon a careful collation of evidence the investigating committee of Congress was of the opinion that the vote would have returned a free-State legislature if the election had been confined to the actual settlers ; as conducted, however, it showed a nominal majority for every pro-slavery ma., p.m. candidate but one.

Governor Reeder had feared a repetition of the November frauds; but it is evident that he had no conception of so extensive an invasion. It is prob­able, too, that information of its full enormity did not immediately reach him. Meanwhile the five days prescribed in his proclamation for receiving notices of contest elapsed. The Governor had removed his executive office to Shawnee Mission. At this place, and at the neighboring town of Westport, Missouri, only four miles distant, a majority of the persons claiming to have been elected now assembled and became clamorous for their certificates.1 A committee of their number presented a formal written demand for the same; they strenuously denied his right to question the legality of the election, and threats against the Governor's life in case of his refusal to issue them

Testimony of Ex-Grovernor Reeder, Howard Eeport, pp. 935-9; also Stringfellow's testimony, p. 355,

412 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

ch. xxiii. became alarmingly frequent. Their regular con­sultations, their open denunciations, and their hints at violence, while they did not entirely over­awe the Governor, so far produced their intended effect upon him that he assembled a band of his personal friends for his own protection. On the 6th of April, one week after election, the Governor announced his decision upon the returns. On one side of the room were himself and his armed adher­ents ; on the other side the would-be members in superior numbers, with their pistols and bowie-knives. Under this virtual duress the Governor issued certificates of election to all but about one-third of the claimants; and the returns in these cases he rejected, not because of alleged force or fraud, but on account of palpable defects in the papers.1

The issue of certificates was a fatal error in Gov­ernor Beeder's action. It endowed the notoriously illegal Legislature with a technical authority, and a few weeks later, when he went to Washington city

1 Namely, "because of a vwd and the same candidates voted
voce vote certified instead of a for.— Howard Report, pp. 35-
ballot, and because the prescribed 36. Indeed, the Border Ruffian
oath and the words " lawful resi-
habit of voting in Kansas had
dent voters" had been openly become chronic, and did not
erased from the printed forms, cease for some years, and some-
In six districts the Governor times developed the grimmest
ordered a supplementary election, humors. In the autumn of that
which was duly held on the 22d same year an election for county-
of May following. When that day
seat took place in Leavenworth
arrived, the Border Ruffians, pro- County by the accidental failure
claiming the election to be illegal, of the Legislature to designate
by their default allowed free- one. Leavenworth city aspired
State men to be chosen in all the to this honor and polled six hun-
districts except that of Leaven- dred votes; but it had an enter-
worth, where the invasion and prising rival in Kickapoo city,
tactics of the March election were ten miles up the river, and an-
repeated now for the third time other, Delaware city, eight miles

THE BOGUS LAWS

413

to invoke the help of the Pierce Administration ch. xxm. against the usurpation, it enabled Attorney-General Gushing (if current report was true) to taunt him with the reply: " You state that this Legislature is the creature of force and fraud; which shall we believe—your official certificate under seal, or your subsequent declarations to us in private conversa­tion!"

The question of the certificates disposed of, the next point of interest was to determine at what place the Legislature should assemble. Under the organic act the Grovernor had authority to appoint the first meeting, and it soon became known that his mind was fixed upon the embryo town of Pawnee, adjoining the military post of Fort Riley, situated on the Kansas River, 110 miles from the Missouri line. Against this exile, how­ever, Stringfellow and his Border Ruffian law­makers protested in an energetic memorial, asking to be called together at the Shawnee Mission, sup­plemented by the private threat that even if they

down stream. Both, were paper towns — " cottonwood towns," in border slang — of great expec­tations ; and both having more unscrupulous enterprise than voters, appealed to Platte County to " come over." This was an appeal Platte County could never resist., and accordingly a char­tered ferry-boat brought voters all election day from the Missouri side, until the Kickapoo tally-lists scored 850. Delaware city, how­ever, was not to be thus easily crushed. She, too, not only had her chartered ferry-boat, but kept her polls open for three days in succession, and not until her

boxes contained nine hundred ballots (of which probably only fifty were legal) did the steam whistle scream victory! When the " returning board " had suffi­ciently weighed this complicated electoral contest, it gravely decided that keeping the polls open for three days was "an unheard of irregularity." (J. N. Holloway, " History of Kansas," pp. 192-4.) This was exquisite irony; but a local court on appeal seriously giving a final verdict for Delaware, the trans­action became a perennial bur­lesque on ft Squatter Sover­eignty."

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