Letter/IconT the statehood election of March 5th, 2,372 votes were cast against, and 2,094 for a state government. The main issue was so complicated with cliques and prejudices that the vote was scarcely a true expression of public sentiment in relation thereto; "not one-half the democratic voters participated in the election, treating the whole thing as a farce." The statehood scheme was put forward, and in the main supported by the old South Platte element, and particularly by Otoe county. Thus the heavy majority for state government came from the following counties: Cass, 303; Otoe, 249; Washington, 202; and Nemaha, 96; while against the proposition Douglas gave 456; Dakota, 174; and Sarpy, 226. Sarpy had by this time accepted the inevitable, given up capital hopes, and was adjusting herself to her local interest, while the considerable influence of Daily doubtless had something to do with throwing Richardson, which gave 154 against the state proposition, out of gear with her South Platte traditions and locality.
   The Omaha Republican contented itself with insisting on the choice of free state -- that is, republican -- delegates to the constitutional convention; while the Nebraskian, the democratic organ at the. capital, stoutly asserted that democrats would put an antislavery provision in the constitution. Douglas, or popular sovereignty, democrats were undoubtedly in the majority in the territory, and they resented the insistence of Governor Black, in his recent veto of the anti-slavery bill, that the people of the territory, through the legislature, did not possess the power under the organic act to deal with the slavery question. It was charged also that the administration, or Buchanan faction, kept Douglas democrats off the delegate ticket in Douglas county. Of the fifty-two delegates to the constitutional convention the republicans chose about forty, and while, because the state proposition was defeated at the same election, there was no constitutional convention held, the democrats were left in a bad plight. Among the well-known names of the delegates were Alfred Conkling, Gilbert C. Monell, grandfather of Gilbert M. Hitchcock, John M. Thayer, John Taffe, Thomas L. Griffey, Oliver P. Mason, Thomas W. Tipton, Thomas P. Kennard, judge Augustus Hall, Isaac Pollard, Dr. Jetus R. Conkling, and William Cleburne.
   The republican territorial convention for 1860 was held at Plattsmouth on the 1st of August. Daniel L. Collier of Burt county was temporary chairman and T. W. Tipton of Nemaha, temporary secretary. W. F. Lockwood of Dakota county was president of the regular organization. Samuel G. Daily was a candidate for renomination for delegate to Congress, and J. M. Thayer of Douglas, W. H. Taylor of Otoe, T. M. Marquett of Cass, and John Taffe of Dakota county were his principal opponents. At the first Thayer ran even with Daily, but the latter was nominated on the tenth ballot. The resolutions reported by G. C. Monell of Douglas county endorsed the nomination of Lincoln and Hamlin for president and vice president; declared in favor of a homestead bill, and of a bill giving the school commissioner of the territory the right to lease the school lands; favored appropriations by Congress for completing the capitol, for building a penitentiary



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[NOTE -- Victor Vifquain was a pioneer of Saline county, Nebraska. He was a general in the army during the Civil War and prominent in Nebraska politics.]



at Bellevue, for building a government road from Nebraska City to Fort Kearney, for bridging the Platte at a point on the direct line of communication between Nebraska City and Omaha; declared that increased population in the mining regions and the resulting immense travel along the Platte valley demanded a Pacific railway; denounced the appointment of non-residents to fill the federal offices; and declared that the anti-slavery bill passed by the last legislature "was demanded by the continued attempt of slavery propagandists to establish the institution in this free territory." The demand of the address of Alfred Conkling, chairman of the republican committee, for sober men in office, was not uncalled for, and is suggestive of a marked phase of social conditions of that time.
   The democratic convention was held at Omaha on the 15th of August. A. J. Hanscom of Douglas county was temporary chairman and Mills S. Reeves of Otoe county was permanent president. J. M. Woolworth, chairman of the committee on credentials, incorporated in his report this interesting statement: "Your committee find that Victor Vifquain holds a certificate of election as a delegate to this convention from said county [Saline] and report the matter to the convention without recommendation." This was the first introduction of General Vifquain into the politics of the commonwealth, in which for more than forty years he was an important and interesting figure. On his admission as a delegate Mr. Vifquain made a speech whose brevity was equaled only by its patriotism, quite characteristic of the speaker.

    Gentlemen of the convention, and fellow democrats:

    I thank you in the name of the democrats in my own county for the resolution taken in reference to Saline county.*
   It is not necessary for a Frenchman to promise fidelity to the stars and stripes -- Lafayette's memory and the French blood spilled for the independence of this beautiful country is a guarantee of it. I swear to the democrats fidelity and devotion until death.

   On the 11th of August the News acknowledges a call from "Victor Vifquain, Esq., an enterprising and intelligent Frenchman who resides at Beranger on the Blue, seventy-five miles west of this city. Last fall his county polled sixteen votes, every one of which was for the entire democratic ticket." General Vifquain's oath of fidelity to his party was kept during the intervening forty years "until death," without swerving so much as a hair's breadth. J. Sterling Morton was nominated for delegate to Congress on the fourth formal ballot. The other principal competitors for the nomination were A. J. Poppleton, S. A. Strickland, Stephen Decatur, and J. V. Kinney. Judge Eleazer Wakeley received fifteen votes on the informal ballot, but he then immediately withdrew his name from further consideration. Judge Kinney also notified the convention that, owing to the fact that he had recently been appointed chief justice of the supreme court of Utah, he could not become a candidate; but he received fifteen votes on the last ballot.
   Mr. Poppleton evidently transferred his strength to Morton on the decisive ballot, and it is interesting to observe this evidence of the early friendship of these two eminent citizens of Nebraska, which lasted to the end of Poppleton's life. At the ratification meeting at Nebraska City, says the chronicler of the event, "Mr. Poppleton commenced with a most feeling and eloquent eulogy of the many traits of character developed in Mr. Morton -- that he had known Morton from the time they were school boys together; and he was proud to follow so gallant and noble a leader in the present canvass." But ruinous factional strife was not wanting. "The little squad of Douglasites of this city" dominated the convention, and Morton was thrust down the throat of Governor Black as the bitterest pill for him to be found, and then, to meet this inconsistency, they wanted to lay Morton, also an administration office-holder, up to dry, too. In the hearing of the Morton-Daily contest Morton threw a ray of light on this subject:

   I will state in reply to the statement that Colonel Black awarded a certificate to a political opponent, that in that election Colonel Black and every appointee of that administration, with one exception, sustained Daily,



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[NOTE -- Jonas Welch was a pioneer of Columbus, Nebraska, and prominent in local politics. He was a delegate to the national democratic convention.]



either by voting for him or by working for him, or by refraining from working for me . . . Governor Black did make two speeches for me in this way: In endorsing the Buchanan platform and the veto message prohibiting slavery in the territory, which was the burden of his speech; at the end he also said: "I endorse Mr. Morton as the candidate of the party, although he is not such a democrat as I can heartily support."
   It was charged against Black that he did everything in his power to defeat Morton -- worked, spent money, and voted against him. On the other hand it was insisted that the Douglas democrats were slighted in the convention and that the Buchanan-Breckenridge faction dictated its proceedings; but the skill with which Morton steered between the factional rocks and over the factional rapids was conceded. Dr. B. P. Rankin, in a speech at Nebraska City, refused to support Morton for Congress, and asserted that in the legislature, in 1857, Morton did all he could to kill his resolution eulogizing Douglas as the champion of popular sovereignty and called him a Douglas democrat as an epithet. Rankin also complained that Morton kept on drawing his salary of $2,000 under Buchanan while he pretended to support Douglas.
   Resolutions of both party conventions favored internal improvements in substantially similar terms, but the democratic resolution specifically asked for a grant of land to build a Pacific railroad, having its eastern terminus at or near Fort Kearney with four branches from that point to the Missouri river, the territorial legislature to select the routes. The convention also pledged itself to demand "a grant of land to establish a university in Nebraska, and that said university should be established in Cass county, as the most central point in the territory."
   The attitude of the convention toward national questions was both discreet and wise. After the preamble, which vainly recited that the people of Nebraska had no voice in the election of a president and that their own interests demanded their energies, the convention pointed to "the unprecedented degree of prosperity" to which the party of Thomas Jefferson had carried the country, and then frankly and unequivocally pledged the party to make Nebraska a free state. The political attitude of the two parties is now reversed, the republicans for the first time acknowledging and marching aggressively under their national standard, the democrats somewhat evasive of national, and emphasizing local issues. The Omaha Nebraskian, one of the two leading democratic organs of the territory, had insisted, as early as January 14th of this year, that, "until an all-wise Providence shall remove Nebraska four or five degrees further south slave labor cannot be profitably employed in this territory. We venture to predict that when a convention shall assemble

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Engraving from an old daguerreotype
taken in the early '50s and now owned by Charles L. Saunders of Omaha.


War Governor of Nebraska territory May 15, 1861, to February 21, 1867

to frame a constitution for this state of Nebraska not a delegate will vote for a slavery constitution." As we have seen, this assertion was vindicated by the declaration in the party platform in the fall of this year; and it is significant as showing the determination of the democrats -- even though it may not have reflected their independent anti-slavery feeling -- to acquiesce in the prevailing sentiment of the Northwest, before the country had

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