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W. A. Richardson



in the common schools of his county, spent three years in preparatory study, entered Center college at Danville, Kentucky, from which he later entered Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky. At the end of his junior year he left college to teach school, and then began the study of law, which he practiced in Illinois for some time. He was state's attorney for his district, but resigned upon his election to the state legislature. He served four months in the Black Hawk war as a volunteer. He served a term in the state senate. In 1844 he was unanimously nominated and elected to the house of representatives and was chosen speaker. He served in the Mexican war with the rank of captain. In 1847 he was elected to Congress, and reelected to the same position upon the expiration of his term. In 1856 he resigned his seat in Congress to accept the nomination for the office of governor on the democratic ticket and was defeated. The next year President Buchanan tendered him the appointment as governor of the territory of Nebraska, which appointment he declined; but in December of 1857 the office was again offered him and accepted. He was inaugurated January 12, 1858, at Omaha. He resigned his office within a year and returned to Illinois where he was again elected to Congress; he resigned his seat in the house to enter upon his duties as United States senator to fill out the unexpired term of Stephen A. Douglas.
   J. Sterling Morton and Andrew J. Poppleton were again returned to the house, and among other members who afterward became prominent in the state were J. W. Paddock and T. M. Marquett. The contest for the office of speaker was between J. H. Decker and J. Sterling Morton -- both of Otoe county -- the former receiving 20, and the latter 12 votes. Mr. Morton's attitude toward the capital question had been completely reversed, and at a public meeting held at Nebraska City, after the adjournment of the legislature, where the members from Otoe county were called upon to explain their action in the Florence affair, Morton boldly stated that two years before in the capital contest he had struggled to the end for removal; a year later when he became a candidate for reëlection he was defeated on this record (by 20 votes), and he came to the conclusion that his constituents cared but little about the removal, and he himself believed that it was impolitic and inexpedient to raise the question at the late session. It is quite likely that Mr. Morton had other reasons also for this change of attitude -- and not unlikely some scores to settle -- but this one was sufficient, and justified itself.

    THE FOURTH LEGISLATURE. The message of Acting Governor Cuming, delivered at the opening of the fourth session of the general assembly, was his last important official communication. Few public men of Nebraska have written so forcibly as Cuming wrote; but the youthful glow and the rhetorical flavor of this message are in decided contrast with the mature, matter-of-fact expression of Governor Richardson's communications. These opening paragraphs of Governor Cuming's message illustrate the rhetorical quality of his writing:

    We are assembled to-day under the most favorable auspices. The territory of Nebraska has, thus far, achieved all that her friends could ask. Her early organization and rapid progress have signally illustrated the safety and expansive force of the principles of the federal compact, from which naturally sprang her organic act.
   The imprint of her "Great Seal" has been genuine. "Popular Sovereignty" has been vindicated; "Progress" verified. Peace and good order, practical vigor and manly observance of constitutional obligation have characterized the conduct of our people. No dangerous agitation or political heresies have been permitted to take root; but the seeds of industry, education and law, planted at the commencement by enterprising and practical men, have yielded the legitimate fruit of a safe and efficient self-government.
   Under such circumstances, and inhabiting a country of such vast extent, natural beauty, and productive wealth -- although lamentable dissensions have given to our sister territory a wider notoriety -- we may well congratulate each other, upon our verification of the political truth, "Happy is that people whose annals are tranquil."
   We have, assuredly, no ordinary cause of gratitude to Him who rules, over all things for the opportunities vouchsafed us -- the as-



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[NOTE -- Wm. McLennon was a member of an early Nebraska legislature]



vantages of geographical position on the great natural line of commerce, a foremost place in the race of territories, and the facilities of modern improvements and great enterprises to promote our advancement in every department of history and art. By continued adherence to wise and moderate councils, by earnest and real public spirit and internal harmony, immigration will be rapidly increased, our new counties speedily populated, the great cities of the seaboard will identify with ours their commercial interests, and capital, once more libated (sic) from financial paralysis, will find its safe and more profitable investment in the fee-simple of our fertile woodlands, prairies, and valleys.
   The legislature is advised that the capitol, a "spacious and imposing edifice, now nearly completed under the appropriation by the general government and through the public spirit of the city of Omaha," has cost fifty thousand dollars more than Congress had provided, and the governor recommended an appeal to that body for the amount of the deficit. He advises another memorial to Congress for the proper distribution of troops along the emigrant line in connection with an application for grants of land for building a Pacific railroad along the valley of the Platte; he states that arrangements for the completion of the Atlantic and Pacific telegraph from the Missouri river to the Pacific have been perfected; advises a memorial to Congress for an appropriation to build a military bridge across the Platte river; avers that the code of practice "is universally regarded by the bar as meager and defective" and that "the statutes are limited, confused, and contradictory."
   He complains that the school law, though adequate, has been almost unheeded.

   Many county superintendents have failed to qualify as prescribed in sections 19 and 20, chapter 18, 2d statutes; and the county clerks have provided no substitutes; nor has the forfeit been collected by the prosecuting attorney as provided in section 23. Others have neglected to report to the superintendent of public instruction on the 1st of November, as ordered in section 32. Thus the law has been rendered virtually a dead letter. In many, if not all the counties, no districts have been formed; no taxes levied; no teachers employed and no steps taken in respect to school laws. The act of Congress of 1857, providing for the selection of other sections in lieu of the 16th and 22d, when occupied and improved prior to the surveys, has temporarily abridged the land fund, but it is the duty of the county superintendent (chap. 18, sec. 9) to examine, allot in parcels, and value the sections not thus occupied, as well as others after they shall have been selected.
   It appears that the law of 1856 providing for a general military organization had not been carried out; for, the message informs us, while "companies exist in nearly every county their organization is very imperfect or suffered to decline." The governor favors the then undemocratic expedient of "a small appropriation" to each county from the territorial revenue "to encourage the development of our agricultural and productive resources."
   Governor Cuming's limited and faulty understanding of the principles of banking, as also his clear foresight and positive opinion as to the vexed subject of the territorial banks, were expressed as follows:

   It may be urged that specie is again returning to its former channels, and that public trust will soon revive. Yet what amount of coin will repair the injury already wrought, or afford a basis of security against human avarice, stimulated to extravagant speculations and unscrupulous excesses by the facilities afforded by an insecure banking system? The history of "profitable" banking is inevitably the history of alternate depression, overaction, and ruinous expansion. May we not hope that the events of the year will lead to a general reform, and to the restriction of paper to the uses of commercial men? Believing as I do, that the whole system of banking is insecure, even when based on state stocks and securities, where one promise to pay is made the basis of another, both perhaps equally fallacious, and being especially convinced that the institution of banks in this territory was impolitic, and that there are imperfections in the charters, I respectfully urge that some adequate means be taken to remedy the evil and protect our citizens in future. Many persons who have realized from such systems advantage to themselves may have heretofore seen no danger to others. But the experiment has now, at least, been fully tried, and none can be so far deluded by the transient stimulus and temporary vigor imparted to business transactions by traffic in expanded credit as to fail to see the necessity of additional protection of labor and of the



great agricultural and other producing interests, upon which our true prosperity depends. The action of the first few years is apt to fix the character of the future state; and in the important respect of the financial policy to be pursued, no timidity, or indifference, or interested motives should be permitted to prevent or postpone a determined effort to avert, in future, calamities such as those from which the country is just emerging. The banks now in existence in the territory are perhaps as safe as most of such institutions. Prudently managed in their infancy, but few of the community have suffered loss. Yet it is equally true that their profits are to be made hereafter. In the meantime gold and silver, withdrawn from eastern adventures and depositaries (sic), may be expected in sufficient quantities for the ordinary purposes of trade. Although, therefore, paper money is now so identified with the business habits of the community that the prospect of its abolishment, perhaps for a long time to come, seems impracticable and to many absurd, yet, within our own jurisdiction, by proper safeguards and restrictions, we may approximate such a result; and may now provide that the full specie equivalent of all circulated batik paper shall be at all times within the reach of every citizen.

   The message shows from the records of the land office at Omaha that during the ten months, from February to November, 462,349 acres of land had been entered by preëmption. The governor felicitates the territory on its isolation from the embroilments growing out of the imminent questions of national politics:

    Safe thus far from the interference of reckless agitators and the mad efforts of intolerant fanatics, we can furnish to the world an enviable proof of the legitimate effect of the genius and spirit of our republican institutions. No retribution can be too severe if through casuistry or local strifes or political infidelity, we prove recreant to that beautiful federative system to which we owe our existence, and under which alone we can achieve true and permanent greatness.

   The foreboding thus expressed by this bright man was no doubt representative of the sentiment of northern democrats of that time as to the source of the impending danger.
   The report of the superintendent of public instruction, Mr. J. H. Kellom, sets out that the public school lands are not yet available for the purpose intended, and that "The title to them not having passed from the general government, a special act of Congress is thought by some to be necessary in order to make them ours." What follows is prophetic, as well as wholesome admonition.

   If the school lands are held intact; sold too early, nor exchanged for others less value, the time is not far future when this territory will possess a school fund equal in value to that of New York or Connecticut, and which will give to every son and daughter within her borders a good, practical, common school education. As the school lands are the basis of this prospective fund, every citizen in the territory should be deeply interested in their preservation; and you, in the capacity of legislators, will not hesitate to throw around them that protection which shall preserve them for all time to come.

   The territorial treasurer again makes a dismal report showing that "only two counties, Douglas and Otoe, have paid any territorial revenue into the treasury for the year 1857." The Napoleonic scheme of doing things affecting the public at large is pretty sure to be equally as short-lived as it is at first efficient and irresistible.
   The capital question had logically run its course, and it was puerile politics to revive it at this time. The present location was as available as any that could be found, a large sum of money for those times had been spent upon the building, Congress would be in no mood, especially in the prevailing financial distress, to provide for a new building, and the territory itself was so desperately poor that it could not or would not meet its trifling incidental expenses. The legislature proceeded in about the usual way, the usual bills had been introduced, and Bradford, inexplicable though it seems, was placed at the head of a committee of the council to report a criminal code, and also continued as chairman of the judiciary committee. Now that Hargus was out of limbo through his effective mediatorship, and the wildcat banking field had been worked to sterility, he doubtless felt free and had the face to promulgate a bill for restoring the criminal law.
   At the outset the capital trouble began in the council with the introduction by Bowen of Sarpy county of a resolution providing for



the appointment of a committee of two to investigate the condition of the capital building, its cost, in whom the title rested, and what legislative action was necessary. The resolution passed with only one adverse vote, that of Dr. Miller; and Bowen and Rogers of Douglas were appointed on the committee. On the 17th of December a resolution declaratory of Judge Ferguson's right to a seat as delegate in Congress, and incidentally reflecting severely on Chapman's action in contesting it, and which passed by a vote of 8 to 5, further inflamed factional hatred.
   On the 6th of January Mr. Abbe of Otoe county introduced the inevitable bill to relocate the capital. Councilman Furnas made a statement in the Advertiser in palliation of this annual South Platte sin.
   While Governor Cuming stated as a legal proposition that the city of Omaha had a lien on the capitol for the amount the city had expended in its construction, yet Mr. Rogers, the Omaha member of the committee, and the city council as early as January 4th were ready to eat humble pie by giving the territory full title to the property, making no claim on account of the city's large expenditure. On the 7th of January Governor Cuming sent the following message to each house:

   I have to inform your honorable body that I have received from Jesse Lowe, mayor of Omaha, a deed of trust to all that portion of land known and designated on the old plat of Omaha City as "Capitol Square" for the use and purposes of the capitol of the territory, and the state of Nebraska when it may become such.
SpacerT. B. CUMING,
SpacerActing Governor of Nebraska.

    But the day after this question of title to the capitol had been set at rest by the liberal action of Omaha, a majority of both houses voted to withdraw from the seat of government and go on with the legislative session at Florence, where a relocation bill was passed. This revolutionary break-up was the outcome of years of greed, violence, and sectional folly.
   A committee of nine members of the minority rump which remained in Omaha -- four from the council and five from the house -- took a large amount of ex parte testimony, as laborious as it was inconsequential, on which they based a report. Their proceedings are printed in the journals of the session in question. The majority members made counter-statements in the newspapers. Though the anti-Omaha faction was guilty of the first overt act of violence, this priority was accidental, for the Omaha minority had undoubtedly determined at the outset to obstruct, by force if necessary, the clear moral and legal right of the majority to pass a removal bill. The unbridled spirit of violence which possessed the minority is shown by a sample of the affidavits of the majority faction, which also shows that old age secured neither respect nor immunity from assault by young and vigorous men:

    S. A. Chambers, being duly sworn, testified as follows:

    "My name is Samuel A. Chambers; am fifty-nine years of age; was a member of the House of Representatives at the last session; was in the House on the 7th while the House was in committee of the whole on the subject of the election of public printer; I heard Mr. Poppleton and Mr. Steinberger, members from Douglas county, and Mr. Minick, from Nemaha, say that unless the capital bill was withdrawn no further business should be transacted during the session; was out of the hall when the difficulty between the speaker and others commenced; heard that there was a call for members; started to go in; found the crowd at the door so intense that it was with difficulty I made my way within the door, and was utterly unable to get to my seat within the bar; when I got within the door I saw a number of persons having hold of Mr. Speaker Decker, among whom I recognized Mr. Murphy, member of the House from Douglas county, and a Mr. Kimball, resident of Omaha, and who was not a member of the legislature. During the scuffle I saw Mr. Hanscom, a prominent citizen of Omaha and not a member of the legislature, rush toward the parties and seize the Speaker who was then torn from the stand to the floor where I could no longer see because of the crowd.
   Was in the House on the morning of the 8th when a motion was made to adjourn to Florence; did not vote on the motion; after the motion carried the majority retired, and the minority immediately reorganized by electing Mr. Poppleton of Douglas, speaker, and also electing other subordinate officers. I still remained in my seat directing some documents to my friends, after completing which I called

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