Study Guide

Andrew Horatio Reeder in Kansas-Nebraska Act

By U.S. Congress

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Andrew Horatio Reeder

If we had to sum up Andrew H. Reeder's gubernatorial legacy using three key phrases, they would be: voter fraud, shattered expectations, and wood chopper disguises.

Interest piqued yet? Yeah, we thought so.

Andrew Reeder was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but was a known supporter of the South's position on slavery. When POTUS Pierce appointed him as the first Governor of the new Kansas Territory, he was under the impression that Reeder's pro-slavery leanings would help secure Kansas as a slave state, thus maintaining that all-important balance in the Union of free and slave states.

Boy, did that plan backfire.

Turns out Reeder actually bought into the premise of that whole "popular sovereignty" thing, feeling like the people of Kansas should vote on whether or not they wanted slavery in their Territory. When a bunch of people from Missouri flooded Kansas and cast pro-slavery votes, skewing election results and seriously chapping the hides of Free Staters everywhere, Governor Reeder deemed several elections fraudulent and called for new ones.

This didn't go over well with the pro-slavery folks, who thought voter fraud was a perfectly acceptable way to make sure things happened according to plan.

It also didn't go over well with the POTUS, who, as we learned in Section 19 of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, reserves the right to appoint—and remove—the Governor of the Kansas Territory. This was the beginning of the end of the warm fuzzies between Reeder and Pierce.

But iffy elections weren't the only thing plaguing Governor Reeder's administration.

His first Legislative Assembly was the product of those fraudulent elections and their mulligans. People on each side of the slavery question felt slighted, either by the voter fraud itself, or the fact that someone had tried to rectify the voter fraud. A heady mix of indignation, threats and intimidation, resignations, and general feelings of badwill (that's the opposite of goodwill, right?) dominated the frazzled Assembly, and they affectionately came to be known as the Bogus Legislature.

They didn't get a whole lot done at first. They met for only four days, and despite Governor Reeder's ambitious agenda that included such scintillating goals as tax levies and the organization of a militia, their most major accomplishment was ousting every anti-slavery officeholder in the joint.

Of course, part of that lack of motivation might have been exhaustion: In an effort to move the group to a less politically hostile location, Governor Reeder declared Pawnee, Kansas the temporary territorial capitol. That decision probably would have been better received if Pawnee wasn't in the remote, underdeveloped western side of the territory, and hadn't required Assembly members to camp out in tents and hold their meetings outdoors.

Anyway, over the next few months, the Legislative Assembly moved its HQ back to the Shawnee Methodist Mission near the Missouri border, passed legislation adopting Missouri's pro-slavery laws, and asked President Pierce to pretty please remove Andrew Reeder from office. As mentioned previously, President Pierce was already kind of annoyed with Reeder, so he agreed and fired the guy, using Reeder's questionable land speculation tactics as an excuse.

To his credit, Reeder tried to stick it out in Kansas for a while after that. He really got into the whole Free State movement and was even slotted to be a U.S. Senator for the Free Staters if Kansas got its (free) statehood on, but those dreams were shattered when a pro-slavery grand jury indicted him for high treason.

At this point, feeling like maybe Kansas wasn't the place for him after all, he did what any other person in his shoes would do: he disguised himself as a wood chopper and fled back to Pennsylvania, where he practiced law until he died.

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