Andrew Horatio Reeder
Politician. Democrat. Born: July 12, 1807. Died: July 5, 1864. Served as first Governor of Kansas Territory: July 7, 1854, to August 16, 1855.
Shortly after Kansas opened for settlement in 1854, President Franklin Pierce appointed Andrew Horatio Reeder as governor of Kansas Territory. Reeder took the oath of office in Washington on July 7, 1854, and arrived here on October 7.
Governor Reeder was a Democrat who was in full sympathy with the South in supporting the institution of slavery. An advocate for the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which gave residents the choice whether or not to allow slavery, Reeder's attitude changed after the March election when thousands of Missourians overran the polls in Kansas. The governor was appalled at the extent of the fraud and when the Free Soil partisans protested the election results, Reeder agreed to discard the results from the districts where protests had been filed. He called for a new election in the disputed districts in May that was boycotted by the proslavery partisans. The governor felt the legislature should convene at a point remote from the influences of the slave state of Missouri. He exercised his power by calling the legislature to the new town of Pawnee. Hence, the stage was set for conflict when the legislature convened on July 2, 1855.
Reeder was one of the most active land speculators in the territory. Pawnee City was one of his investments, which proved to be a conflict of interest so well known that traveler William Anderson Thornton mentioned it in his diary the morning that the Kansas Territorial Legislature opened July 2, 1855. "The prairie on [the] valley of the Kansas River [is] about three miles wide. Beautiful locations. The ridges rise about 50 feet. It is here that Governor Reeder is said to own 1200 acres purchased at 90 cents the acre."
The session, which would be called the Bogus Legislature, opened July 2, 1855. In this brief session, nearly all the members who were opponents of slavery were ousted. It was later recalled that one ousted member, John A. Wakefield, rose to leave the capitol and gave vent to his indignation with this prophetic speech, "Gentlemen, this is a memorable day, and may become more so. Your acts will be the means of lighting the watch-fires of war in our land." Thus the Civil War had its beginnings and there was no compromise on slavery in the territory or the nation.
A bill passed on July 4, 1855 transferring the seat of government back to the Shawnee Methodist Mission near the Missouri border. Although Governor Reeder promptly vetoed this bill, it passed over his veto and the legislature adjourned to reconvene on July 16, , where they adopted Missouri's harsh slave code as their own and petitioned President Franklin Pierce for Reeder's removal. The president was already moving in this direction, and he fired the Kansas governor for furthering his "private speculative interests."
Reeder remained in Kansas for a time, supporting the free-state movement. This extra-legal junta elected Reeder and Jim Lane to the U.S. Senate, positions they were to assume as soon as Kansas was admitted to the Union under the Topeka Constitution-something that never occurred. Facing an indictment for high treason issued by a proslave grand jury, Reeder fled the territory disguised as a woodchopper in May 1856. Soon, he returned to Pennsylvania, where he practiced law and was active in Republican Party politics until his death in 1864.
Entry: Reeder, Andrew Horatio
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2009
Date Modified: January 2016
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