Reeder was a loyal Democrat and supported the idea of popular sovereignty which dealt with territories decisions on the issue of slavery. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce appointed Reeder to the office of the governor of the territory of Kansas.
As governor of the Territory of Kansas, Reeder was a proponent of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act. In March 30, 1855, one of the biggest voting frauds in the nation took place, when neighboring Missourians came into the Kansas Territory to vote illegally on the issue of Kansas being admitted into the U.S. as a free state or a slave state. The incident caused border violence between Kansas and Missouri, referred to as Bleeding Kansas.
A Contemporary History of Andrew Reeder
by Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
Reeder, Andrew Horatio, the first governor of the Territory of Kansas, was born at Easton, Pa., July 12, 1807. He received an academic education at Lawrenceville, N. J., after which he studied law and began practice in his native town. He quickly won distinction as a lawyer, in a district noted for its eminent members of the bar, and at an early age became an active participant in political affairs. His first presidential vote was cast for Gen. Andrew Jackson in 1824, and from that time until his death he affiliated with the Democratic party, though not always in harmony with its leaders.
Mr. Reeder was never an office seeker, and when appointed governor of Kansas by President Pierce, in June, 1854, was not an applicant for the position. His appointment was confirmed by the United States senate on June 30, 1854; he took the oath of office before Justice Daniel of the United States supreme court on July 7; arrived at Leavenworth on Oct. 7, and there established temporarily the executive office. A week later, in company with two of the territorial Judges—Johnston and Elmore—he started on a tour through the territory, which occupied his time until Nov. 7.
Upon the slavery question, Gov. Reeder was in sympathy with Stephen A. Douglas, United States senator from Illinois. No doubt he would have been willing to see slavery legally introduced into Kansas, even though his private opinion might have made him favorable to the admission of Kansas as a free state. Holloway, in his History of Kansas. (p. 144), says: "Gov. Reeder came into the territory, a lifelong Democrat, and it appears to have been assumed that he would allow himself to be manipulated by the slaveowners and their tools. It is not certain that President Pierce entertained such an idea, but it is known that when complaints were made by the slaveowners and their friends against Gov. Reeder, the chief executive made very little delay in decapitating the offender."
The order removing Gov. Reeder from office was issued in the latter part of July, 1855, but he did not receive official notice of his removal until the 15th of August. He remained in the territory, however, and took an active part in shaping the destinies of the new commonwealth. In Oct., 1855, he was the free-state candidate for delegate to Congress, and received 2,849 votes, to 2,721 cast for John W. Whitfield, the pro-slavery candidate.
When Congress assembled in December, Mr. Reeder went to Washington and began a contest for the seat. The matter was referred to a special committee, consisting of William A. Howard, of Michigan; John Sherman, of Ohio, and Mordecai Oliver, of Missouri, which finally decided that neither Whitfield nor Reeder was entitled to recognition as delegate, and on Aug. 1, 1856, the seat was declared vacant. While this committee was hearing witnesses at Tecumseh, Kan., in the spring of 1856, a pro-slavery grand jury summoned Mr. Reeder to appear as a witness, the subpoena being served in the presence of the Congressional committee.
He ignored the summons, and the grand jury then found indictments for treason against Mr. Reeder, Dr. Charles Robinson, and others who had aided in the organization of the free-state government. Again he disregarded the action of the grand jury and defied the officers when they came to place him under arrest. According to a diary kept by Mr. Reeder, he remained concealed with a friend near Lawrence until the evening of May 11, 1856, when he started for Kansas City, where he arrived about two o'clock the next morning.
He then remained in hiding at Kansas City until the 23d, when he embarked in small skiff with D. E. Adams and was rowed down the river to be taken on board the steamer Converse. Disguised as a woodchopper, with a bundle of clothing and an ax, he caught the steamer at Randolph landing on the 24th, and three days later reached the State of Illinois. As he continued his journey eastward he was given an ovation in each of the principal towns through which he passed, the people assembling in large numbers to welcome him and assure him protection in case an attempt was made to arrest him.
At the outbreak of the Civil war he was appointed a brigadier-general by President Lincoln, but owing to his advanced age he did not enter the army. Three of his sons, however, took up arms in defense of the Union. In 1831 Mr. Reeder was united in marriage with Miss Amelia Hutter, of Easton, Pa., and to this marriage were born eight children, five of whom, with the mother, survived Gov. Reeder, who died at Easton on July 5, 1864. Connelley says: "In a high place in Kansas history must we place Andrew H. Reeder, the first territorial governor, he lives in the hearts of the grateful people who enjoy the liberty he helped to establish."