Letter/IconHE ninth session of the legislative assembly began January 7, 1864. The apportionment remained unchanged, and it had grown outrageously inequitable and at the expense of the South Platte. The Advertiser had groaned under the inequality in 1863, and the News insisted that Governor Saunders possessed and should exercise the authority to reapportion the legislative districts. Notwithstanding that irregularity of procedure was still common, the governor, whose capital residence was in the North Platte country, would have no mind to attempt to override the apportionment made by the legislature, clearly under the exclusive power conferred by the organic act, even in so clear a case of misrepresentation.
   Allen of Washington county was elected president of the council, receiving nine votes against two for Marquett of Cass county; and the disposition of the legislature to avoid drawing party lines was shown in the unanimous election of George B. Lake of Douglas county for speaker of the house.
   After a tribute to the soldiers, who were now first in the thought of the politician as well as the patriot, the governor's message hastens to get out of tune with the non-partisan votes of the territorial press and platforms by taking partisan credit for the passage of the homestead law:

    You had repeatedly memorialized congress on this subject without avail. In fact, its success, though so just to the settler and so wise as a measure of national policy, seemed hopeless while the reins of government were held by such men as controlled the administration, preceding the inauguration of our present chief magistrate. The honor of the prompt passage of this great measure is due to President Lincoln and his political friends in congress. I deem it but just that we who are so deeply interested in, and so largely benefited by the success of this measure, should obey the injunction of the sacred writer by rendering "honor to those to whom honor is due."1

   It is true that there had been opposition to homestead bills under democratic administration on the part of slaveholders, jealous of the growth of the unfriendly Northwest; but others, on conservative grounds, had hesitated to at once espouse this new and radical measure, and the sentiment in its favor had been of gradual growth. Today the wisdom of the law, as it has been administered, is questioned by many wise men, just as the unguarded land subsidies to railway companies have been condemned. Even the governor's high imaginings are inspired to an unwonted loftiness of flight in contemplation of this gift of empire without money and without price. "What a blessing this wise and humane legislation will bring to many a poor but honest and industrious family!" And there is a realism, too, in the executive sentimentality which Zola himself might have emulated. "The very thought to such people that they can now have a tract of land that they can call their own has a soul-inspiring effect upon them and makes them feel thankful that their lots [sicl have been cast under a government that is so liberal to its people."
   The message takes credit and foresees great gain and glory for Nebraska on account of the passage of the Pacific railway bill.
   In accordance with your memorial on the

   1 House Journal, 9th ter. sess., p. 12.



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 [NOTE -- N. S. Harding was an early merchant at Nebraska City and a member of the state legislature]



subject, congress also passed a bill, at the first regular session after the inauguration of the present administration, providing for the construction of the great Pacific railway, commencing on the 100th meridian, within the territory of Nebraska, thence westwardly to the pacific coast, with three branches from the place of beginning eastward to the Missouri river. One of these branch roads diverges southeasterly to the mouth of the Kansas river, in the state of Kansas, and also forming a connection with the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad at Atchison; and the other two branches, so called, stretch across our territory -- one terminating at the capital of your territory, and the other opposite Sioux City -- thus forming a connection at all three points with some of the best roads of the northwest. With these magnificent works successfully prosecuted, connecting directly with the great cities of the Atlantic and Pacific, with the advantages of the homestead, of a virgin and fertile soil, of exhaustless salt springs, with a climate as salubrious as exists in the world -- none can hesitate to predict for Nebraska gigantic strides in the attainment of wealth and power .2

   The message discloses that the indebtedness of the territory has now reached $59,893, and the auditor's report shows that it is chiefly represented by bonds to the amount of $31,225, and warrants, $17,869.54. The message calculates that the debt of the territory is less by $18,162.82 than it was two years before, but the result is reached by rather optimistic and original figuring. The resources counted to offset the debt consist of the uncollected levy of 1863, $17,330.23, of $4,407.76 in the hands of the treasurer -- by the auditor's account -- and the eternal bugbear of delinquent taxes, making a total of $41,829.59, which, deducted from the debt of $59,893, leaves, by the governor's optimistic arithmetic, an indebtedness of only $18,063.41 -- or a decrease since the end of 1861 of $18,162.82, as above. Stating the problem another way, it appears that the indebtedness two years ago was $50,399.24, whereas now it is $59,893, an increase Of $9,493.76; but as the amount of taxes not collected by the territorial treasurer two years before was $13,173.01 against $37,421.83 at this time, there is at least a nominal reduction as stated above. Moreover, there is a comparatively large balance of $5,375.48 in the hands of the territorial treasurer, and, the message tells us, warrants have risen to eighty or ninety cents on the dollar, from thirty-three to forty cents two years before.
   Notwithstanding that there had been a ruling by the federal authorities that school lands might be leased, but not sold, for the benefit of the school fund, the message complains that still "we must rely entirely on taxation or voluntary subscription for the education of our youths." In brief, the most palpable fact in the reports of the officers is that

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One time mayor of Omaha

poverty is still prevalent in the territory, and that partially on this account, and for the rest on account of inefficient organization, taxes cannot be collected with reasonable certainty or dispatch. The much used arguments in favor of statehood are repeated in the message, and the annual appeal for a penitentiary memorial to Congress shows its familiar face. The condition of the laws of the territory is set forth as follows:

    There seems to be a very general desire on the part of the citizens of the territory to have a general revision and codification of our laws, and to have all the laws that are now in force in the territory, together with all that may be passed at your session, bound in one volume. The present laws are made up from acts that extend through the whole of the eight sessions that have been held in the ter-

   2 House Journal, 9th. ter. sess., p. 13.



ritory, and so many amendments and alterations to our laws have been made during that time that it is with difficulty that persons who are not professionally engaged in the business can find out what the existing laws are.3

   There was another attempt at this session to devise a practicable revenue law, and again an improvement of the election laws was attempted. General incorporation acts were passed, but they were not exclusive. Benjamin E. B. Kennedy of Douglas county chairman of the judiciary committee of the house, reported "as to the propriety of passing an act prohibiting the legislative assembly from passing any local or special laws therein enumerated," that the organic act, "which is our constitution," recognized the right to pass special acts, and it would be impracticable to prohibit it; and while it would be commendable to discourage useless and unnecessary legislation, "yet it can scarcely be conceived that meritorious cases may not claim our serious consideration." So it was left to the state constitution to close the gates against this vicious flood of special legislation. The judiciary committee reported also that while they conceded "that great convenience would result from an adequate revision of our laws," yet, "with the debt-doomed treasury, and no guaranty that the federal government would meet the necessary expenses, your committee do not feet justified to recommend it."
   By the apportionment law of this session representation from the North Platte section was reduced from seven to six members in the council, and from nineteen to sixteen in the house. This arrangement did not allow all the South Platte was entitled to but, though in adjusting it the old sectional interests again came into collision, the contest was less bitter and the sectional lines less sharply drawn than usual. On a full vote the North Platte had at this time a majority of one in the council and the South Platte a like majority in the house. The council forced its amendment of the apportionment of the members of the house on that body, while the house accepted from the council its apportionment bill without attempting to change it; and yet the South Platte members of the council indicated their satisfaction with the apportionment for that body by voting against the amendment proposed and carried by the North Platte to limit the application of the bill to the next legislature. The laws for the encouragement of the growth of fruit, forest, and ornamental trees and grapes were changed so as to provide that their cultivation should not be held to increase the value of land for revenue purposes; and the unsuccessful attempt to pass an act for the encouragement of sheep-raising at the last session was carried out. Clay county was disposed of by attaching its north half to Lancaster and its South half to Gage. The organization of Lancaster was legalized and the officers chosen at the last election declared to be the legal officers; the county was detached from Cass, as to judicial purposes; and "the county of Seward and the counties westward" were attached to Lancaster for judicial purposes.
   In 1860 an act was passed authorizing the auditor of the territory to sell, for the benefit of the school fund, a large amount of cast iron which composed columns intended for the capitol, but which could not be used on account of the lack of money to carry out the original plans for the building. The sum of $971.78 was realized from the sale, but the secretary of the territory made demand on the auditor for the money, on the ground that was part of the funds of the general government for the completion of the capitol. This legislature accordingly authorized the auditor to turn the money over to the secretary. In view of the fact that the city of Omaha had invested more in the capitol than the amount of the federal appropriation, this action was rubbing in the close dealing of the federal father with his impecunious territorial wards.
   There was little manifestation of partisanship in this legislature, though the ambitious leaders on the republican side were apt in pushing resolutions in approval of the national administration. A joint resolution by Marquett extending thanks to the Nebraska soldiers in the field passed without opposition, and the measure enabling them to vote, also introduced by Marquett, met with general

   3 House Journal, 9th ter. sess., p. 20.



support; Marquett and Little -- republican and democrat -- agreed in reporting it from their committee, and the vote of only one councilman -- Campbell of Otoe county -- was recorded against it. Marquett also pressed a joint resolution favoring Lincoln and Andrew Johnson for nomination as president and vice president, which Mason unsuccessfully tried to sidetrack by a motion to refer to the committee on agriculture; but it was passed by a party vote. A joint resolution approving the Emancipation Proclamation and the general policy of President Lincoln's administration, including especially the arming of negroes and the amnesty proclamation, passed the council by a vote of 8 to 3, and the house by 29 to 5.
   The memorial to Congress praying for appropriate legislation for the admission of the territory as a state passed the council promptly and without division, but in the thirty-five votes recorded in the house the opposition counted eleven, and they were about evenly divided between republicans and democrats. The attitude of the democrats toward the war, at this time was indicated by a substitute offered by Kennedy of Omaha for resolutions "on the state of the Union." Mr. Kennedy's resolutions declared in favor of the vigorous prosecution of the war, but also that its "only object should be to put down the wicked rebellion," and that, "in the patriotic language of the immortal Crittenden, the war ought not to be waged on our part for any purposes of conquest or subjugation, or purposes of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and the rights of the several states unimpaired; and as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease." This substitute was of course defeated, but it received nine democratic votes out of the total vote of thirty-seven on the question. The extreme bitterness of feeling of certain prominent republicans of the South Platte toward the dominant D's -- Daily and Dundy -- was indicated by the following resolution introduced in the council by Oliver P. Mason of Otoe county:

    Whereas, A petition has been circulated for the signatures of members of the council and house of representatives requesting the Senate of the United States to confirm Elmer S. Dundy as associate justice of the supreme court of the territory of Nebraska; therefore,
   Resolved By the council of the territory of Nebraska, that E. S. Dundy ought not to be confirmed as associate justice of the supreme court of the territory of Nebraska.

   The resolution was called up the day after its introduction and laid over under the rules, but it was never pressed to a vote.

   In quick response to the memorial of the legislature an enabling act was passed by Congress and approved April 19, 1864. This act authorized the governor of the territory to order an election of members of a constitutional convention, the election to be held on the 6th of the following June and the convention on the 4th of July. The number of members of the convention was to be "the same as now constitute both branches of the legislature."
   Pro-state sentiment was strong enough in Omaha to defeat the regular ticket for delegates to the constitutional convention headed by Dr. Miller, and to elect a set of pro-state delegates headed by Hadley D. Johnson. But Omaha interests preferred the territorial status rather than to run risks of capital removal which any change would involve; and at the election, while all the rest of the North Platte counties voted for statehood, Douglas gave eighty majority against it. All the South Platte counties voted against statehood, except Richardson, which gave 140 majority in its favor.
   The convention met, organized, and then, by a vote of 35 to 7, adjourned sine die. This was a remarkable reversal of the action of the legislature in adopting the joint resolutions in favor of statehood. It is to be accounted for by the fact that the real leaders of the democratic party were not in the legislature, and that republicans, ambitious for the offices that might accrue to them through admission, and trusting to popular acquiescence in the desire of the national administration to profit by the

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