Letter/IconNTIL 1858 there was no political party organization in Nebraska, and political contests were all between democratic factions. Agitation in Omaha in favor of organization in the latter part of 1857 was met by Morton with the contention that the time was not yet ripe for that project. Ferguson, a sound democrat, was elected without regard to party lines. Irretrievable ruin, disgrace, and defeat would follow organization under such leaders as Chapman & Co. -- "Chapman, Cuming, and Rankin" being particularly designated and each distinguished by an explosive adjective. The Advertiser was of a like opinion. The interpretation whereof is that voting in sectional opposition the South Platte was pretty sure to win, while under the organization régime the manipulation of the Omaha politicians might prevail. But a correspondent of the Advertiser insisted that organization was necessary "to purge the party of black republicanism, abolitionism, and whiggism"; whose mien, so hideous to democrats of that day, was now visible in the territory. Nevertheless, a mass meeting was held in Omaha on the 8th of January, 1858. A very long platform was adopted, the first resolution declaring that "It is expedient to organize the democratic party in the territory and the same is hereby organized." The resolutions further insisted that the constitution did not confer authority upon the federal government, directly or indirectly, to assume the debts of the several states contracted for local and internal improvements or other state purposes, and that such assumption would be unjust and inexpedient; that justice and sound policy forbade the federal government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of any other, or to cherish the interests of one portion to the injury of another portion of our common country. The convention also declared that the principles established by the national democratic convention at Cincinnati were the only authoritative exposition of democratic doctrine.
   The first attempt to hold a convention of the republican party in Nebraska illustrates the fact that the cause of republicanism in 1858 was neither strong nor of first-rate repute. The account of this convention, given in the Brownville Advertiser, published and edited by Robert W. Furnas, shows that the party, so soon to become almost permanently dominant in the territory and state, did not then deem it expedient to hang its banner on the outer walls:

   It is presumed by close observers of the movement of that party during that day (May 27) that the delegate convention proved to be a failure, at least a public one at which all parties had the privilege of attending. But one regular delegation has been in from other counties so far as outsiders have been able to learn, although more might have been present. The convention, or caucus more properly, was held in secret, refusing to admit democrats to witness the proceedings, and therefore, a limited opportunity was offered to ascertain the exact number of delegates forming the convention. Large posters were placed in public places all over the city notifying delegates to meet at Visscher's hall, and in accordance with said notices, several democrats endeavored to gain admission but were confronted with the news that the meeting of delegates would be held at a small office in the east part of town, to which some democrats repaired for the purpose of witnessing the proceedings, supposing the meeting, like all such, would be public, but in attempting to enter were informed that it was entirely private. An individual opinion



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[NOTE -- A. H. Gilmore was a philanthropist and builder of Auburn, Nebraska]



is that the cause of republicanism is imbecile and powerless in this territory, and cannot accomplish many decided victories or build up much strength in party organization except they can be permitted to steal the popular sovereignty plank of the democratic platform, which they appear determined to accomplish, if possible for the reason that they find the great majority of their party strenuously advocating the doctrine of people's rights. There are a few of the leaders here who are anxious for an organization, whilst the masses of the republicans care but little about it, for the reason that they are mostly popular sovereignty men and can very easily slide over into the democratic ranks and be on the popular and winning side of politics.

   While this Omaha correspondent of the Advertiser must be credited with a considerable insight, his foresight was exceedingly limited, for he does not seem to have perceived at all the then plainly rising tide of anti-slavery sentiment, which, within two years., was to sweep over the entire Northwest.
   The first Nebraska platform of the party, which for forty years has been the most imperious organization of its kind, perhaps, in the world, was not much more than a half timid protest.
   The democratic convention at Plattsmouth, June 3, 1858, was the first delegate political convention held in the territory. 0. D. Richardson of Douglas county was its temporary and permanent presiding officer.
   The convention resolved to adopt the doctrine of popular sovereignty as enacted in the Kansas and Nebraska act to its fullest extent; "that the incorporation of banks by the legislature, whether under the present insecure system, or by any other, is unwise, impolitic, and anti-democratic"; and in favor of a homestead exemption law. There was only one territorial officer to be elected in 1858 -- an auditor to fill a vacancy -- and so no nominating convention was held. Democratic tickets were nominated in Douglas and Otoe counties, and in both cases they were opposed by independent tickets. A part of each ticket was successful in Douglas county, but the first distinctly party ticket nominated in Otoe county a, defeated by the "peoples ticket," which, however, the News averred stripped of its false tinsel, "is nothing more or less than a black republican ticket. There is nigger in it. The long heels, thick lips, and black hide are plainly discernible. It smells bad this warm weather. While the republicans at this time felt too weak to stand alone in an election contest, they were growing strong enough to make a formidable showing under cover in the two leading counties.

    POSTPONEMENT OF LAND SALES. As excitement over the action -- or inaction -- of the legislature was gradually dying a natural death, growing opposition to proposed public land sales in September took its place. The solicitude of the squatters was increased by a decision of the land commissioner, Thomas A. Hendricks, on August 2d, that failure to make payment before the day of public sale would, under the law, forfeit all rights. The press of the territory, which represented the popular sentiment, led by the Advertiser and the News, made a stout campaign against the sales. Public meetings, which passed strong protesting resolutions, were held in many of the towns and settlements, and the settlers of the Nemaha land district, at a meeting held in Brownville, August 15th, requested J. D. N. Thompson and Richard Brown, of that district, and J. Sterling Morton and Judge Charles F. Holly, of the South Platte land district, to proceed to Washington with Hon. James Craig (member of Congress from the adjoining district of Missouri) to procure, if possible, the postponement of the approaching sales. The Advertiser announced that judge Charles F. Holly, Colonel H. L. Martin, and Richard Brown started from Brownville for Washington on their mission.
   These delegates presented a pathetic and dismal address to the President -- dated August 23, 1858, and endorsed by Mr. Craig -- which set forth that "owing to excessive rains during the summer, not only was there an entire failure of the wheat and oats crop, but as a consequence an accumulation of sickness heretofore unknown in that region." Therefore scarcely a dollar could be obtained from the proposed sales, and after such sales, the land being subject to private entry, all preëmption rights having expired, the claims, settle-



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Nancy Peckham
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Perry M. Peckham

[NOTE -- Henry A. Kosters was a pioneer of Omaha, and Perry M. Peckham a pioneer of Sarpy county. He was an early and successful orchardist.]



ment, and improvements of bona fide settlers would be "at the mercy of the land jobbers who are now hovering around the land offices and who will speedily monopolize all the desired unsold lands with military land warrants, by entire sections and townships."
   It took a full week for the momentous news of the postponement to reach Nebraska; and it is worth while, as an illustration of the status of means of communication at that time, to state that this news came at once to St. Louis by telegraph, then, in four days, evidently "on foot," to St. Joseph, and thence by the same means to Brownville in three days. The excitement over the postponement was great. The Advertiser proclaimed it under the heaviest display of headline at its command: "Glorious News" - "Let the Settlers Rejoice" -- "Nebraska Saved" -- "Hendricks' Decision Spoiled," etc. A great demonstration took place at Brownville.
   The whole city was brilliantly iluminated (sic); nearly every window was filled with burning candles; bonfires were kindled in the streets, and on top of the surrounding hills; fire balls flew in every direction, minute guns were fired from early in the evening until about 8 o'clock. Honorary guns were fired for the president of the United States, Hon. Jacob Thompson, Brown, Craig, Holly, Martin; and we hereby acknowledge the compliment paid our humble self, by honoring us with "three guns and three cheers." After which the crowd repaired to the Brownville House where they were entertained for a couple of hours by speeches from Messrs. [Thomas W.] Tipton, [Richard] Brown, [Daniel L.] McGary, [Robert W.] Furnas, [Andrew S.] Holladay, [Richard J.] Whitney, [James W.] Coleman, and [David] Siegel.
   At Nebraska City there was rejoicing in the same strain, and in the expression of public feeling is found, also, illustration of the timeliness of the relief:

    This will be joyful intelligence to many squatters, and will inure, it is believed, greatly to the benefit and prosperity of the territory. Cartloads of land warrants have been hauled into this city, and we presume have also been at Omaha and Brownville, for the purpose of locating them -- securing for non-resident speculators land worth from ten to twelve dollars per acre at from ninety cents to one dollar per acre.SpacerThe large amount of land which would have passed into the hands of land sharks will be reserved, for one year at least, for the settler. Both the newspapers named give credit to the ambassadors from the land district for the result, and the News turns a political and also an immigration penny by observing: "Such is the judicious care of the administration for the people now in Nebraska and who may hereafter settle here."
   Reanimated by the postponement of the land sales the people see other rays of hope, and the press begins to find and inspire encouragement in the growth of population, shown by comparison of the vote of 1857 and 1858, as follows: Dakota county, 470-440, loss 30; Douglas, 1,536-1,059, loss 477; Nemaha, 448-664, gain 216; Otoe, 876-1,090, gain 214; Richardson, 252-524, gain 272; Sarpy, 513-401, loss 112. The News exultantly exclaims that "there was a falling off in Douglas county in 1858 of 477 votes. There was a gain in Otoe county of 214 votes. So much for the old rivals -- rivals no more." It appears from the controversy that Nebraska City cast 865 votes, while Omaha cast but 675.

   FIFTH LEGISLATURE. Following soon after the elections, which were held on the first Monday of August, Governor Richardson issued the following call for a special session of the legislature to convene September 21, 1858:

SpacerExecutive Department, Neb. Ter.
SpacerAugust 14th, 1858.
   Whereas, great confusion and uncertainty characterize the existing laws of this territory, and whereas they are so conflicting with each other that reasonable fears are entertained that there is not that ample security to life and property that should be guaranteed to every citizen of the territory; and whereas, under this conflict of laws much unnecessary litigation must transpire; and whereas, nothing but speedy, judicious and efficient legislative action can remove these evils, it is thus rendered necessary to convene the legislature in advance of the time fixed by law. Now, therefore, I, William A. Richardson, Governor of the territory of Nebraska, by virtue of the power vested in me by law, issue this my proclamation convening the legislative assembly on Tuesday, the twenty-first day of September next, at the seat of government of the said territory.

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