MISCELLANEOUS HISTORICAL MATTERS.
THE LOCUST OR GRASSHOPPERS.
In the early history of Nebraska nothing excited more general interest than the locust question. Early in the decade between 1860 and 1870 these insects invaded portions of the state and wrought great havoc and damage, but the greatest damage was done during the latter part of the following decade - the damage they accomplished being particularly great in 1874, 1876 and 1877. In those days there were generally a number of years between great locust invasions. It never occurred that the whole state suffered at one time, but in those years small visitations were more frequent and over comparatively small areas. This is now all a thing of the past, but as it forms one of the most interesting features of the natural history of Nebraska, we present the following article on this subject written by Prof. Samuel Aughey, Ph. D., in 1880, when the locust question was one of vast importance to the settlers of the western states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The settlers had then only recently suffered severely from the locust visitations and were constantly in fear of their reappearance.
"The permanent habitat of the migrating locust is the region between latitude 43 degrees and 53 degrees north, and 103 degrees and 114 degrees west of Greenwich. From their native habitat may move mainly in an easterly, southeasterly and southern direction. Moving in this direction those that commence migrating from northern Montana by the middle of July reach southern Dakota territory, and in some cases probably Nebraska and even Kansas, sometime in August or September. Generally, however, those that come into Nebraska and Kansas were hatched and matured south of Montana. It takes generally from two to three seasons for them to reach these latitudes. Often the numbers that alight are amazing. During July, in 1866, in Cedar county, their numbers were so great that the sun was darkened. Many of the tree limbs were broken under their weight. This was an exceptional case. However, they often completely covered the ground. Generally, the cereal grains are already harvested when the migrating locusts reach Nebraska. Wheat, oats and barley are safe. Corn and the gardens are the victims if they come before the former is sufficiently ripened to resist their attacks. A swarm of locusts in July and August can ruin a field of corn in a few days and sometimes a few hours. Often the fields are only partially destroyed. Some times the silk and foliage are partially eaten off and the ends of the ears bared, so that the crops cannot mature. If they leave at this stage of their proceedings, all is well, and if not their eggs are deposited and the wheat crop endangered during the coining spring. The countless numbers that are hatched out, if the spring happens to be favorable to them, become exceedingly voracious. As they soon commence to move by jumping in one direction, when abundant they are apt to devour everything in their path. This continues until they are old enough to fly, when they depart for other regions. Generally some corn can be saved and late planting may entirely escape. Often the third planting of corn during locust years yielded a fair crop. The cereal grains have, however, in some places and during a few years, been largely destroyed during the time between the hatching out and flying of the locusts. As yet no successful method has been devised to destroy the locusts on their first appearance in migrating swarms from the northwest. The eggs, however, which are laid in autumn, have been frequently destroyed by repeatedly harrowing the ground, breaking up the nests and exposing them to the action of rain and cold and birds. Plowing them under very deep also destroys great numbers. When they hatch out in the spring in destructive numbers, the most vigorous methods need to be employed. One of the most successful ways of destroying them is the digging of ditches around the fields, across the path on which they are moving. If the trenches are made from twelve to fourteen inches deep, and still deeper holes dug every few rods
in the trenches, the young locusts first get into the trenches, then into the holes, where unable get out, they can be destroyed by piling ground on them. Some farmers have saved their entire crops in this way in the midst of the most infested districts. However, nature has its own method of destroying locusts. The locust's natural habitat is a high, dry region where the rainfall is from ten to twenty inches a year. They cannot long endure a combination of low altitudes and moisture, combined with extreme and sudden changes of temperature. Hence, the locust can come localized in Nebraska. From the time they leave their native habitat, constiutional [sic] impairment sets in, and a few years in lower regions exterminates them, unless they return to their upland dry home. Generally there are many years between great locust invasions. It never occurs that the whole state suffers at once, while the small visitations have been more frequent, the destructive ones occur at very long intervals and over comparatively small areas. The small area under cultivation even in the thickest settlements has been heretofore reason for the destructiveness of locusts. The locusts seemed to select the corn fields and gardens for their feeding grounds. When the area under cultivation is trebled, the amount of damage they can do will be more than one-half less. Another more potent agency against their increase and destructiveness is the increasing rainfall of the state. The presence of the locust is by no means the pest that it sometimes has been represented to be." (1880).
The following very interesting article on the grasshopper raids was written by Harrison Johnson, in 1879, viz: "During the growing seasons of 1874 and '75 the Rocky Mountain locust, or grasshopper, visited Nebraska and, did incalculable damage by devouring the crops in a large portion of the state. In many sections, more particularly in the western and middle counties, the destruction of crops by these insects was almost complete, not a vestige of anything green being left untouched by them; and as many of the farmers living in the sections so afflicted were new settlers, the total loss of their crops upon which they were dependent for the support of their families, was a great calamity and caused much distress and suffering. The destitution was so widespread and so great in some localities, that public aid was asked, for the relief of the sufferers. The prompt and generous responses to the call by the people of the east and other localities not so afflicted, in forwarding provisions, clothing and money, saved many a poor family from actual want if not starvation.
"While it is true that the damage done by the grasshoppers was very great, and caused much genuine distress among the people in several of the counties yet the whole matter was grossly exaggerated and enlarged upon by a certain busy class of persons who somehow always come to the front on such occasions, actuated, generally, more by a desire to further their own selfish ends than by any kindly, true feeling for the distressed. This blatant, noisy class, with their loud demonstrations and universal begging, not only disgusted the more sensible people, but did the state an injury next to that of the grasshoppers themselves.
"Yet it is a stubborn fact that the timely succor sent to the settlers in the devastated districts saved much suffering among the poorer portion; and the people of Nebraska owe a lasting debt of gratitude to the noble men and women of the east, who contributed so willingly and bountifully to their aid in time of need. By an act of the legislature of Nebraska, fifty thousand dollars were donated as a relief to the grasshopper sufferers, which amount was judiciously expended and distributed for that purpose, but the grasshopper scares have passed away, we hope, forever; the seasons have come and gone, leaving us with bountiful crops of all kinds to enrich and supply the wants of all, and prosperity reigns supreme throughout the length and breath of the state." (1879).
In early days the public lands in Nebraska were given with a lavish hand to aid in the settlement, growth and development of the country, as well as for internal improvements, railway grants, and school purposes. The state received from the general government millions of acres for various purposes. The records show that during the first ten years of statehood the state received grants of land aggregating nearly three and a half million acres, as follows: For internal improvement 500,000 acres; for agricultural college, 90,000 acres; for university, 46,080 acres; for public buildings, 12,800 acres; for penitentiary, 32,000 acres; for saline purposes, 46,080 acres; for common school purposes two sections in every township, aggregating about 2,650,000 acres. The 500,000 acres for internal improvement purposes were granted to the state upon its admission to the union, under the provisions of an act of congress, approved September 4, 1841. These lands were selected through agents appointed for that purpose, and disposed of in pursuance to the provisions of an act of the legislature, approved February 15, 1869. Up to February 24, 1874, the general government had turned over 504,131 acres of land to Nebraska for internal improvement purposes. These lands were disposed of by the state in the following manner. Deeded to Saline county for bridges, 1,000 acres; Gage county for bridges, 1,000 acres; Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R., 100,030 acres; Midland Pacific R. R., 100,384 acres; Brownville & Ft. Kearney R. R., 19,989 acres; Burlington & Missouri River R. R., 50,104 acres; Sioux City & Pacific R. R., 47,327 acres; Omaha
& Southweestern [sic] R. R. 100,010 acres; Omaha & Northwestern R. R., 80,416 acres; Burlington & Southwestern R. R., 20,000 acres; Atchison & Nebraska R. R., 12,841 acres.
The railroads received from the government an immense amount of land in the way of land grants. The aggregate amount of lands in Nebraska received by the Union Pacific Railway from the govenment [sic] was about 5,926,400 acres, all contiguous to their line of road, and about half of these lands were in the Platte Valley. The Burlington & Missouri River Railway received from the government a land grant in Nebraska amounting to 2,382,208 acres; they received from the state of Nebraska 50,104 acres, and when they took possession of the Omaha & Southwestern Road, they acquired the land grant made to that line by the state, of 100,010 acres. These lands were situated chiefly in the north-central and south-central portions of the state, and were designated as "North Platte" and "South Platte" lands. The railroad lands were placed on the market at extremely low prices and on very reasonable terms, a very small cash payment being required and long time being given for payment of the balance at low rates of interest. These conditions greatly stimulated the settlement of the state.
On the first of January, 1863, the homestead law went into effect, and thereby public lands were subject to entry by those who acknowledged their intention to settle permanently, for a merely nominal fee. Congress, in order that the benefits of the law might be justly distributed, from time to time amended its provisions and enlarged its scope. Liberal provisions were made by which the soldier, his widow and his orphans were permitted to receive enlarged privileges in securing homesteads, thus adding to the national recognition of the principle that every citizen of the republic was entitled to the rights to make himself a home upon the public domain, the still nobler and higher doctrine that it was the nation's duty to reward the defenders of the country and provide homes for the families of those who gave up their lives in its defense.
The preemption law also helped materially the early settlement and development of Nebraska. Under this law, with certain restrictions, every person who was the head of a family or over twenty-one years of age and a citizen of the United States, was entitled in early days to enter a quarter section of land under the preemption act. The rules of the general land office in those days repuired [sic] a person to build a house and break at least ten acres of land before he could make final proof and perfect his title to the land, and in order to take a preemption a settlement on the land was required to be made within sixty days from the date of filing the claim. A patent could be secured at the expiration of thirty months from the time of filing on payment of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre where the land was located outside the limits of a railroad land grant and two dollars and fifty cents per acre if within such limits.
Another important method of securing title to public lands was by means of the "timber culture entry," or "tree-claim act," and this act left its impress throughout all the prairie regions of the west. Only one timber culture entry was permitted on each section, and this class of entries could only be taken upon "prairie land," or land naturally devoid of timber. No residence on the land was required. The law required that for a timber culture entry of one hundred and sixty acres, five acres be broken within the first year; that it be cultivated the second year, and planted to forest trees four feet apart each way within the third year, and that a second five acres be broken the second year, cultivated the third year, and planted as in the first instance the fourth year, and that if the ten acres be kept in a growing condition, a patent was issued for the tract at the expiration of eight years, provided that not less than six hundred and seventy-five trees be found in a growing condition at the expiration of that time. The law also provided that in case the trees, seeds or cuttings should be destroyed by grasshoppers, or by extreme and unusual draught, for any year or term of years, the time for planting such trees, seed or cuttings should be extended one year for every such year that they were so destroyed.
In educational matters Nebraska has kept pace with any of the other states in the union. Profiting by the experience of the older states, Nebraska at its organization incorporated into her common school system all that had been proven by experiment to be the best and most advantageous methods. To show the growth and development along educational lines, we will state that in the year 1870 there were in the state only seven hundred and ninety-seven districts, employing five hundred and thirty-six teachers, and serving thirty-two thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine children. The value of school property at that time was approximately $178,604. For the purpose of comparison we give the following statistics for the school year - twenty-six years later - in 1906, viz: In 1906 there were in the ninety counties a total of 6,671 districts, employing 9,639 teachers, occupying 6,780 school houses, and serving 373,829 children of school age. The total value of school. district property at this time was $12,076,569. The number of graded schools in the state in 1906 was 492, giving employment to 3,570 teachers. These figures speak well for the intelligence of the people of any state.
There are a great many institutions of higher learning scattered throughout the state. The State University, located at Lincoln, was established by act of the legislature in 1869, and opened in 1871. It is mentioned at length else
where in this volume. The following is a list of the most important colleges, academies, business and normal schools in the state, giving the location of each, viz: Aurora Normal and Business college at Aurora, Bellevue College at Bellevue, Brownell Hall at Omaha, Brown's Business College at Lincoln, Central College at Central City, Chadron Academy at Chadron, Convent of the Holy Child Jesus at Lincoln, Cotner University at Bethany, Creighton University at Omaha, Custer College at Broken Bow, Dana College at Blair, Doane College at Crete, Franciscan Monastery at Humphrey, Franklin Academy at Franklin, Fremont College and School of Pharmacy at Fremont, Gates Academy at Neligh, Grand Island Business and Normal College at Grand Island, Grand Island College at Grand Island, Hastings Business College at Hastings, Hastings College at Hastings, Military Academy at Kearney, Lincoln Business College at Lincoln, Lincoln Syllabic College at Lincoln, Luther Academy at Wahoo, Lutheran Seminary at Seward, Nebraska Normal College at Wayne, Nebraska Wesleyan University at University Place, Northwestern Business College at Beatrice, Omaha Commercial College at Omaha, Orleans Seminary at Orleans, Pawnee City Academy at Pawnee City, St. Catherine Academy at Jackson, St. Francis Academy at Columbus, St. Mary's Academy at O'Neill, St. Paul Normal and Business College at St. Paul, St. Theresa Parochial High School at Lincoln, Union College at College View, Ursuline Convent at Falls City, Weeping Water Academy at Weeping Water, York Business College and Normal School at York, York College at York.
POPULATION OF NEBRASKA.
The first census of the territory now comprising Nebraska was taken in the fall of 1854, being completed on the 20th of November of that year. It gave the territory a total of 2,732 white population. The first United States census was taken in 1860, and this may be said to have been the first enumeration taken with any reasonable degree of accuracy. This gave the territory a population of 28,841. Taking the United States census taken every ten years, as a basis, the following table shows the growth of the population of Nebraska:In 1860 its population was....... 28,841
In 1870 its population was..... 122,993
In 1880 its population was..... 452,402
In 1890 its population was... 1,058,910
In 1900 its population was... 1,068,539
In 1910 its population was... 1,192,214
DID SLAVERY EXIST IN NEBRASKA?
To the average reader of today it will be interesting to know that at one time in the history of Nebraska the existence of slavery within its borders furnished the most important topic for discussion and legislation at several sessions of the territorial legislature. On November 1, 1858, a bill was introduced in the territorial legislature "to abolish slavery in the Territory of Nebraska." The bill was referred to a committee of five, three of whom recommended the passage of the bill, but two of the committee presented a minority report in which they "regretted the introduction of the bill, fearing it was done at the promptings of political ambition, and that the discussion of an abstract question having no bearing on the practical affairs of the territory could but sow the seeds of dissension." The bill was laid on the table and the matter went over to the next session. On December 7, 1859, a bill was introduced "to abolish and prohibit slavery or involuntary servitude," by William H. Taylor, and was referred to a committee consisting of William H. Taylor, George W. Doane and George L. Miller. The report of Mr. Taylor, of this committee, contains so many interesting facts bearing on the subject that we quote from it the following:
"The ostensible objections urged against the passage of the bill are two-fold in their character. First, it is said by the opponents of free states and free territories that "slavery does not practically exist in Nebraska territory." In reply I affirm the converse of the proposition to be true, and will give the facts to show that slavery does practically exist in Nebraska. There has never been to my knowledge a federal officer appointed to any office in this territory from any slave state of this union who has not brought with him into the territory a negro or negroes who have been and are now held in slavery. E. A. Deslonde, receiver of public moneys at Nebraska City, has one or two slaves. Now if slavery does not exist here, then the slave is free the instant he sets foot on Nebraska soil, provided he came with his master for the purpose of residing in Nebraska. I know of my own knowledge that Hon. S. F. Nuckolls, a democratic member of the territorial legislature, had three colored persons whom he claimed as slaves up to a very late period. Two of these persons escaped from Mr. Nuckolls in the winter of 1858-59, and the other, a colored man of twenty-five years of age, was sold by him, if I am correctly informed, and carried to some of the southern slave-holding states as a slave in the spring of 1859. This man has been a resident of Nebraska for about three years. Mr. A. Majors, one of the government contractors, has a number of colored persons in Nebraska City whom he claims as slaves now in the territory of Nebraska. Judge C. F. Holly has two colored persons whom he claims as slaves. How many more there are in the territory at the present time I am not advised, but the fact is indisputable. African slavery does practically exist in Nebraska. Our eyes cannot deceive us, and if slavery is wrong - morally, socially or politically - it is wrong to hold one slave. There is no distinction in principle between holding one human being in bondage and ten thousand.
"Again as evidence that slavery does exist and is considered to be a legal institution here, I have only to cite the fact that Hon. S. F. Nuckolls, before alluded to, has instituted suit in the second judicial court of this territory against certain parties residing in the state of Iowa for the value of two colored persons, his slaves, whom he alleges were abducted from him in the spring of 1858-59, which is now pending in said court and undecided.
"Second. It is said by those who oppose the passage of this bill that the 'let-alone policy is the most commendable? Why curse our virgin soil in favor of freedom, a free territory and a free state, why recommend the 'let-alone policy' as most commendable? Why curse our virgin soil with the foot-print of African slavery? * * * I would ask of the opposers of this bill, when is the proper time to pass an act like the one under consideration? Shall we wait until slavery has acquired a permanency? * * * It is said that 'naught but mischief can arise from the ill-timed and injudicious agitation of the question.' * * * If a constitutional convention was now in session, it would be said by those who oppose the bill, 'Don't agitate the question.' * * * Gentlemen of the council, if you are honestly in favor of Nebraska being a free territory and ultimately a free state, how can the passage of this bill generate an injurious agitation? Men holding a common sentiment and desiring a common object do not get up an ill-timed and injudicious agitation. Nothing short of a sincere opposition to free white labor and a free territory can produce agitation or excitement. Remember it is the clashing of public sentiment upon the same subject matter, and not its argument, that produces the results contemplated by you. Vote for this bill that makes Nebraska free and prevents persons being held in slavery, and there will be no agitation. We will have then done all in our power and our whole duty to rid ourselves of the cursed institution of slavery. But, it is objected, the bill presupposes the existence of slavery by virtue of the constitution of the United States. It pre-supposes no such thing, but simply admits the fact that persons are today held in slavery by usage or custom or somehow, and that it ought not to be permitted. However, we all do know that this administration and a majority of the American senate and ninety-three democrats in congress of the United States contend that slavery exists in all the territories of the United States by virtue of the constitution as much and as certainly as in Georgia or South Carolina.
"Attorney General Black has recently written several pamphlets to demonstrate this proposition. It cannot be denied, it is contended by a large party in this country, that the people of the territories in their territorial capacity have no power to legislate upon the subject of slavery until they become sufficiently numerous to form a state constitution and ask admission into the union, and this same party maintains that congress has power to legislate upon the subject, thus leaving the people of the territories to be cursed with slavery without the ability on their part or on behalf of congress to get rid of it so long as the territorial existence continues, while on the other hand it is contended that the people of the territories in their territorial capacity have the right and power to prohibit and abolish slavery. This position is contended for and sustained by arguments of great force. How the friends of Senator Douglas can oppose this bill if they are really in favor of making Nebraska a free state is astounding to me. We can account for the opposition of the administration democracy. The territory of Kansas has prohibited slavery after an unprecedented struggle against the policy of the two last administrations, and why should not Nebraska act? Believing that the power exists in the territorial legislature under and by virtue of the organic act, and every community has the inherent right to regulate its own affairs and institutions free from foreign or federal intervention, and that Nebraska should be a free territory and forever dedicated to free white labor, and knowing that slavery does practically exist here, I earnestly recommend the passage of the bill.
"All of which is respectfully submitted to the consideration of the council.
"William H. Taylor, Chairman."
This report was, under the rules, laid over for future action, whereupon Hon. George L. Miller submitted the following minority report:
"The first question suggested by the examination of this measure refers to the necessity, if any, which exists for the enactment of such a law in this territory. It is understood that our power to pass such a law and to impart to it validity is extensively desired, and as there is known to be in the territory as well as throughout the union great diversity of opinion both as to the power of the territorial legislature over the question of slavery and the expediency of attempting its exercise, your committee deem it extremely injudicious for the legislature to lend itself to the agitation of a subject which to the people of Nebraska is conceded to be really of no practical importance. As to the necessity which exists at present or is likely to exist in the future for such a law in this territory there can be no two intelligent opinions. No sane person for a moment supposes that Nebraska is in the slightest possible danger of being either a slave territory or a slave state. Popular sentiment in Nebraska is universally against the institution of slavery, and even if it were not and the public voice were to pronounce today in favor of its establishment here, the controlling laws of nature peculiar to this latitude would utterly preclude the possibility of its obtaining a permanent place among us. Suppose it true, which it is not, that the territory does furnish a profitable field for slave labor, who is there so infatuated as to believe for an instant that this territory, peopled almost entirely by men
whose associations from infancy and whose education in the midst of free institutions have conducted them into manhood not only with all their prejudices but with all the convictions of their judgement against the institution - who so foolish as to say that legislation is required or ought to be granted upon this subject? Your committee have felt it to be their duty to inquire into the cause which induced the introduction of the bill under consideration. Having made diligent search with the view to ascertaining whether any slaves exist in Nebraska, to their utter surprise, after four days' anxious inquiry and labor, they are prepared to report to the council that south of the Platte river, owned and held as such by highly respectable gentlemen, there are six and a half slaves, fractional portion referring to a small negro boy who is in excellent and humane keeping, in that section of the territory. Now instead of becoming alarmed at this information, your committee are rather disposed to congratulate the council and the country upon the fortunate condition in which these slaves are found. We are happy to add on the best of authority their servitude is entirely voluntary, and that they are perfectly contented with their lot. It be observed that these slaves were originally from Missouri and Louisiana. One of them, we learned, proves a great burden to his owner being subject to fits. What can be done to lighten the burden of the master or remedy the terrible malady of the slave we leave to your careful and candid consideration. At all events it is very clear that in removing to this territory these slaves have been changed from a worse to a better condition, and surrounded as they are by increased comforts and having before them the almost certain prospect of ultimately gaining their freedom, it would seem to be absolute cruelty in the legislature, even if it had the power and the purpose to do it, to enact a law here which would compel their owners to sell them into a worse bondage where these prospects would be forever blasted. A noticeable fact is to be found by reference to the census record of 1855. At that time thirteen slaves existed in Nebraska. Under the operation of incidental causes, aided by the stealing propensities of an unprincipled set of abolitionists inhabiting a place called Civil Bend, Iowa, the number has been reduced to the insignificant figure of six and a half slaves, all told. * * *
"Your committee respectfully recommend that the bill be referred to the committee of the whole, and that it be made the special order for some future day of the session."
A second report was submitted by Hon. George W. Doane, the third member. This gentleman reported after the two preceding reports had been read and concurred "in the main with the views expressed in the report submitted by Mr. Miller." He did not admit that practically slavery had any existence in the territory. "To agree that because a single instance may be found of a returning emigrant from Utah who has pitched his tent in some remote part of the territory and is cohabiting with two women claiming to be his wives, therefore polygamy exists as an institution in the territory, would be quite as conclusive and sensible as the attempt made by the chairman of this committee to fasten upon our fair territory the stigma of slavery by the very slender data upon which his conclusion is based. * * * But if slavery does legally exist in the territory, as the bill reported by the chairman would advertise to the world that it does, is it proposed to confiscate the property of such as are interested in that description of property by an unconditional abolition of the tenure by which it is held? And if it does not legally exist, what is the necessity of legislating for its abolition? The evil must be corrected by the judicial and not by the legislative branch of the government." Mr. Doane waived discussion of the principle involved in the abstract question of the right or wrong of slavery, and merely on the ground of inexpediency at that moment reported adversely to the bill.
Still another bill "to abolish and prohibit slavery in Nebraska" was presented to the legislature December 7, 1859, by T. M. Marquette of Cass county, which was passed on the 17th of December by a vote of twenty-one to seventeen. This bill, however, when it reached the council, was "indefinitely postponed." At this time it was proposed as a substitute that a resolution be passed by both branches of the legislature, making the following declarations: "That slavery does not exist in the territory, and there is no danger of its introduction; that it is unnecessary to waste the time of the legislature in enacting any legislation relating thereto; that being opposed to slavery and asserting its right to the full control of such matters within the territory, the legislature declares itself prepared to take whatever action may be necessary to prohibit or exclude slavery at any time it may become necessary, but that the agitation of this question at that time was believed to be ill-timed, unnecessary, pernicious and damaging to the fair name of the territory." This resolution was not acted upon.
On the 29th of December, 1859, a bill for the prohibition of slavery in Nebraska was introduced by Mr. Little, which passed both houses of the legislature. The report of the committee to which this bill was referred is interesting at this day, as it shows the intense feeling that the question had wrought. We quote from the report the following: "The question, disguise it as you will, which is involved in this bill is the great question of the age. Our entire union is divided into two great parties on this question. One party struggles ever to uphold the principles of this bill, the other labors as earnestly for its overthrow, and we are now called to take one side or the other. The power to prohibit, in the opinion of the majority of your committee, is conferred on us by our or-
ganic act, and by this measure the opportunity is given us to test our fidelity to freedom and our opposition to the extension of slavery. The opponents of this measure have not a single reason to advance why this bill should not pass. They put forth, however, some excuses for opposing it. They come forth with the miserable plea that they are opposed to blotting our statute books with useless legislation. Sir, this is not so much a plea against this law as it is in favor of blotting our territory with slavery. They say that slavery does not exist here, and that this measure is useless. This excuse will not now hold good, for a president's message has just reached us, in which it is declared, and in this opinion he is backed by a powerful party, that men have the right to bring slaves here, and to hold them as such, and that this is slave territory. We, it is true, may not be of opinion that this doctrine is true, but, sir, if men declare that they have the right to make this a slave territory, shall we not prohibit them in this act and prevent the wrong they would do us? If the friends of slavery insist that they have the right to hold slaves here, shall we tamely submit to it? If they insist on making this a slave territory, which they do, shall we not insist that it shall be forever free?"
This bill was passed by both houses of the legislature January 3, 1860, and placed in the hands of Governor Black for approval. On the 9th of January he returned it with his veto. The most important objections noted in the veto message were the following:
"This act necessarily involves the whole question of power or jurisdiction over the subject matter. If slavery exists here in law or in fact, to prohibit it is to abolish it. If it does not exist, where is the need for legislation? This bill is intended to interdict slavery or involuntary servitude within the territory, and raises the question whether the territorial legislature can do it. For the purpose of considering the question with distinctness, I will first examine it, as it may or may not be affected by the treaty with France. This territory was a part of Louisiana, and all agree that when we acquired Louisiana in 1803 it was slave territory, and slaves were property. The third article of the treaty by which Louisiana was acquired by the United States is important at this point. It provides 'that the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the United States and admitted as soon as possible, according to the provisions of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and in the meantime they shall be protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and religion which they profess. * * * Nebraska was acquired to become a state, and for no other purpose. For this purpose, and this alone, is there any power under the constitution to acquire foreign territory? * * * It is a stipulation in the treaty 'that the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the union of the United States,' and it is every whit as strong a stipulation as that 'in the meantime they shall be protected in the free enjoyment of liberty, property and religion.' The faith of the country is pledged to it, and it is just as good to the inhabitants of Nebraska territory today or any day as it was to the first inhabitants in 1803. Mr. John Quincy Adams understood this perfectly, and disposed of the question very briefly and conclusively when Arkansas was before congress for admission in 1836. 'She is entitled to admission as a slave state as Louisiana and Missouri have been admitted' by virtue of 'that article in the treaty for the purchase of Louisiana which secures to the people of the ceded territories all the rights, privileges and immunities of the original citizens of the United States, and stipulates for their admission, conformably to that principle, into the union.' "
The argument contained that "if a party is a citizen of some one of the United States, he has the right to enter into the territory clothed with all his rights. He takes his property with him from his own state, and if he may not do so, then the territory is not acquired for the common and equal benefit of the several states. The territorial legislature was deemed but a temporary department, having no right or power to pass a law which was regarded as conflicting with the individual rights of citizens." This veto prevailed, and the matter was again indefinitely postponed. When the seventh session of the legislature convened December 3, 1860, the question of slavery again came to the surface. On the 6th of December Mr. Mathias introduced in the house a bill "to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude in the territory," and on the following day Mr. Thayer introduced the bill in the council. The bill was ratified by both houses, and was presented to Governor Black for approval, but on the 1st of January, 1861, it was returned to the legislature unsigned with a lengthy message, giving the grounds on which the veto rested, they being mainly a duplicate of the reasons assigned for the former veto. The bill, however, was promptly passed over the veto, and became a law. Thus after a long and intensely heated contest, the subject was disposed of to the permanent honor of Nebraska.
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