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Prelude to Bleeding Kansas -- Governor Andrew H. Reeder

In the late 1850s, Kansas underwent a civil war to establish its laws on slavery. “Bleeding Kansas,” to many historians of the subject, was a “dress rehearsal” for the American Civil War less than a decade later. The conflict itself is well studied, but the political maneuvering leading up to Bleeding Kansas itself is often overlooked. In the years prior, Kansas Governor Andrew Reeder worked to establish an antislavery stronghold and territorial capital on the frontier: a town called Pawnee. Mass electoral fraud in the first legislatorial election led to an overwhelmingly proslavery legislature that assembled in Pawnee for less than a week, clashed with the citizens there, and overrode the Governor’s veto to relocate the capital much closer to the border with proslavery Missouri, setting the stage for the war that followed. To Reeder’s dismay, Pawnee was soon demolished and the inhabitants forcibly relocated by Secretary of War and future president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. This project documents Reeder’s motives in creating Pawnee and the backroom struggle that followed, ending with Reeder’s removal from the governorship and flight from Kansas in disguise in 1856. Focus here is on Reeder’s fascinating ideological transition from Stephen Douglas Democrat to forceful abolitionist.