state document of gravest importance was clandestinely and arbitrarily framed it was carried through the legislature in an indefensibly bold and arbitrary manner. The constitution did not even enter the legislature through the natural channels of the judiciary, or any other committee, but was injected by Porter of Douglas, that task being assigned to him, doubtless, because he was the only democrat of his delegation or of prominence who favored its submission at all. It was then referred to a special committee consisting of Bennett, Porter, and Chapman, who recommended it for passage, the same day, when it was at once passed, the council refusing, by a vote of 6 to 7, to hear it read the third time. The house even refused to let the important document go to a committee at all, the motion of Robertson to refer it to the committee on federal relations being defeated by 14 to 24, and two attempts to amend, made in the regular session, were frustrated by Lake's insistent motions to table. This fundamental law of a commonwealth was not even considered in committee of the whole in either house. It was cut by outside hands, and without time for drying was railroaded on its legislative passage. Even the republican Nebraska City Press was moved to say that "a few broken down political hacks about Omaha seem determined upon their mad scheme of forcing a constitution before the people through the legislature." The records of the procedure in the legislature fall little if at all short of bearing out the strictures of the strenuously partisan Herald:

    The constitution . . . was rushed through the legislature in such haste that not one man in six had a moment allowed to examine the instrument . . . Democrats who favored the measure and democrats and republicans who opposed were denied the privilege of either amending or examining the constitution. Not one man in twenty in the legislature has ever read the constitution. This constitution was never printed. It was not even referred to a committee of either House. Even discussion of the stray paragraphs which members caught the sense of from the hurried reading of the clerk was denied to members under the resistless pressure brought to bear by the majority to rush it through.

   Mr. James M. Woolworth said in an address before the territorial educational association that the minimum price of five dollars an acre at which public school lands might be sold under the constitution was not an adequate protection, as he knew of several quarter-sections worth from fifty dollars to three hundred dollars per acre; and he complained that under the provision lands might be sold, not to the highest but to the lowest bidder. In the same address Mr. Woolworth called attention to the fact that the proposed constitution made no proper provision for a system of public instruction or for safeguards to the public school lands and funds. He urged that it should be amended in these particulars. In a letter to the Herald, Mr. Woolworth stated that he had said in the address, in question that on the question of suffrage he would vote with Dr. Monell and General Bowen, and that he was in favor of sending a proposition to amend the constitution on the suffrage question to the people, if the state should be admitted; and also that he was in favor of providing means of education for blacks as well as whites, but particularly wanted the constitution amended in respect to its educational provisions. "If it is not attended to now," he said, "the school lands will in a very few years be swept away. Some men will get rich and the schools will be forever poor."
   By the beginning of 1866 the vigorous patriotism or perversity of Andrew Johnson was fast stirring national politics into a condition which resembled potpourri, and the grotesque political antics of the federal office-holders it, particular revealed their agony of suspense though uncertain toward which course prudence pointed, yet most of them yielded to present pressure, and unconditionally "Johnsonized." On the whole their attitude chiefly, illustrated the overpowering influence of temporary advantage in determining men's allegiance and the choice, or even the creation, of their principles. Edward B. Taylor, editor of the Omaha Republican, and also superintendent of Indian affairs, rising -- or sinking -- to a sense of his duty to do something for the. administration, commensurate with the honors



and emoluments of this sonorously entitled office, denounced the Morrill bill, or force law, as an attempt to force negro suffrage on the territory, as a distinct outrage on our rights as American citizens, and as being against the sentiment of nineteen-twentieths of the people. The Sumner amendment to the Colorado enabling act requiring, as a condition precedent to admission, acceptance by the legislature of negro suffrage was denounced as "an outrage upon the independence and rights of the people of Colorado." This was the same condition which was afterward imposed upon and accepted by the Nebraska legislature, on the approval of the Republican -- the constitution placed before the people in 1866 not having provided for negro suffrage. Even the Advertiser, which, since Furnas quit it, had been phenomenally radical and regular, was now standing out against negro suffrage and for Johnson's policy.
   But while the republicans, distracted in the doubt on which side the spoils lay, were divided as to the question of Johnson's policy, the democrats were so seriously divided on the question of statehood as to be unable to take advantage of the weakness of the majority party. The circulation of petitions for signature, asking the legislature to frame a constitution and submit it to the people, had drawn from Morton denunciation of the proposed statehood as "a scheme of office-aspiring politicians." Dr. Miller's attitude at this time was not so much that of opposition to statehood as it was to acquiring it through republican means and on republican conditions. He insisted that the people did not wish the legislature to form a constitution, but that they wanted a chance for a direct vote for or against state government. He argued against the statehood proposition on account of the manner in which it had been thrust upon the people, but wanted the policy of the party settled by a state convention; and he charged that Chief Justice Kellogg and Governor Saunders were the managers of the statehood scheme. The Republican, eager in its own misery to discover as much company of a like sort as possible, declared that at first a caucus of democratic members of the legislature did not oppose the state movement, but Morton cracked his whip and changed it all, and Dr. Miller had to fall in.
   From the circumscribed local point of view the aggressive and bitter opposition to negro suffrage by the democratic leaders -- by this time most of the leading strings could be traced into the hands of Morton and Miller, to be held there for some thirty years to come

Franklin Sweet


Last territorial auditor and first state auditor of Nebraska, October 10, 1865, to January 10, 1873

-- was inexplicable, since it had been the argument of Douglas, subscribed by his followers, that nature had fortified Nebraska against any considerable influx of negroes; and while this policy was hurtful to the party, as offending a growing popular anti-slavery sentiment, it was wholly unnecessary "to legislate against the law of God," as Daniel Web-



ster had unanswerably stated the case. But, on the other hand, the prevailing public sentiment at the North just at that time, following Lincoln's expression of caution and deprecation, was against negro suffrage. We find the Herald, quoting a letter written by ex-Governor William A. Richardson, taking strong ground against negro suffrage, and showing that Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin had voted against it at the last elections, while "at least thirty other states are in rebellion according to this test, and five or six are 'loyal.'" While the mainspring of the

Franklin Sweet


Fourth chief justice, Nebraska territory

action of the republican leaders in pressing to adoption the fifteenth amendment to the constitution, some time after, may have been the selfish motive of gaining political control of the southern states, yet its success was based upon a strong and genuine sentiment in its favor in the North, and particularly in the Northwest. So, while it may be conceded that the democratic leaders of Nebraska, in pressing anti-suffrage as an issue, were in line with general democratic judgment and with national democratic policy, as keeping in touch with the inevitably dominant race of the South, yet it is plain that they pressed it with gratuitous ardor and unwise bitterness as affecting local politics. But whatever the reader may think as to the wisdom or unwisdom of Dr. Miller's anti-suffrage fulminations he feels that they are couched in rhetoric of extraordinary freshness and force. Thus, an observation by the Nebraska City News that the Morrill bill "provided that niggers shall vote in all the territories," and that by Sumner's amendment to the act for the admission of Colorado it will be imposed also upon the states, touches off this broadside from the Herald:

    Thus negro suffrage is inevitable . . . It will be more manly to accept negro suffrage from congress by legal enforcement than to humiliate ourselves by its voluntary adoption as the price of admission to the union. That territory upon which congress imposes nigger voting because it has -- under radical ruling -- the power to do so, will become strongly democratic, but that community that voluntarily adopts it as the price of statehood will be very wofully radical ever after. We prefer living in a democratic territory where niggers vote to a residence in a radical state where they also vote. We could perhaps put up with niggers voting if at the same time their less white friends, the radicals were defeated in the territory. But it would be almost unendurable to live in the state of Nebraska and have niggers and radicals vote themselves victory . . . Gentlemen can take their choice . . . We take nigger only when forced to it by congress and therefore are for remaining as at present a territory.

   The Nebraska City Press, which, through the least among the leading republican organs of the territory, merited the distinction of having been the only clear-sighted or disinterested one among them, in that it had not Johnsonized, added to the discord by attacking the Republican for its strictures on Sumner's amendment, and clinched its denunciation with the prevalent argumentum ad hominem, to the effect that the editor of the Republican was an unregenerate Breckenridge democrat of 1860. At the close of the legislature, the democratic organ congratulated the territory on the failure of "the radicals to make the election laws even more offensive than they were then," and gave two of the republican



members of the house the following parting attention.
   The bloody orator of Otoe (Mason) goes back to his radical brethren howling his own discomfiture, and utterly disgusted with the vain exhibition he has made in the legislature of mingled malice and vanity, while Crounse of Richardson, after his performance in the investigating committee and getting behind his privilege as a member of the House to assail Mr. Morton, has demonstrated the breadth of his estimate of what constitutes a gentleman.

   The character of the investigation referred to is disclosed in the report of the minority of the committee made by Mr. Crounse and adopted by the house, in part as follows:

    Mr. Speaker: The undersigned, a minority of the committee appointed by the chair to investigate charges of bribery and corruption made in relation to the passage of the joint resolution submitting a state constitution to the people of Nebraska, in submitting their report, would premise that, in their opinion, this investigation was instituted by that branch of this House opposed to state organization urged on by outside politicians, with a view to damage personal reputation and by such unfair means defeat the success of state organization if possible. As proof of this we refer to the following facts which appear in the testimony: One J. Sterling Morton, editor of the "Nebraska City News," a would-be leader of the democracy of the territory, and active anti-state man, before, during and since the submission and passage of the joint resolution, has spent most of his time on the floor of this House caucusing with members, drafting buncombe political resolutions for members to introduce in the House, by which its time was occupied to the exclusion of more legitimate and profitable business. The appointment of this committee would seem to have been directed with a view to this end; the very chairman, the Hon. Mr. Thorne, appears, by the evidence, to have been an instrument used by said J. Sterling Morton to introduce a resolution "blocked out" by him, and directed against state. The Hon. Mr. Brown, as appears by the House journal, was the introducer, if not the framer, of another preamble and resolution against state of a most insulting character, and which was most summarily disposed of by this House . . .
   The Hon. Mr. Robertson, of Sarpy county, it appears, was one of the instigators of this investigation. Too ambitious to put some capital into this enterprise, he came before the committee, and by his first testimony seemed willing to attach the motive of bribery and corruption to a transaction which appears, by the concurrent testimony of several other witnesses, to be a simple business matter. By further examination, when placed by his own testimony in the peculiar position of allowing himself to be approached two or more distinct times, with what he was pleased to term an improper offer without showing any resentment, he chose, on discovery, to state it in its true light, and by his own testimony, corroborated by that of all the other witnesses called to the same subject, it is shown that what occurred between himself and the Hon. Messrs. Mason and Bennett, of Otoe county, was purely a business transaction, and that it was not calculated to influence him in his vote, nor so understood by any of the parties,
   The last testimony taken was that of Mr. Bennett, of the Council, who states that Mr. Morton, aforesaid, during the pendency of the question of submitting the question of the constitution to the people, approached him with a proposition signed by fifteen anti-state men, including Messrs. Tuxbury, Gilmore, Paddock, and others of the House, proposing that if state men would separate the question of state from that of election of state officers, the fifteen would go for the suspension of the rules and pledge themselves that the bill should not be defeated. At the same time Mr. Morton promised to secure a like pledge from the anti-state members of the Council. Whether Mr. Morton had at the time a fee-simple in and full control over the anti-state members of both branches of the legislature, we leave for the members of this body to conclude. But it is but justice to Mr. Bennett to say that he did not entertain these propositions, but has at all times advocated state organization on principle and not a subject to be trafficked away . . .
   But the minority, in their haste to submit this report in the very short time allowed by order of this House, cannot undertake to review the testimony further. But enough is shown, we think, to convince this body that great effort has been made to defeat the wish of the majority in the submission of the constitution to the people; and while we can discern much connected with the passage of the bill that is not strictly proper, yet we have failed to discover anything of the character of the direct bribe or so intended.
   Mr. Robertson we consider a gentleman beyond the suspicion of accepting a bribe, or being improperly influenced in his action as a legislator. The other gentlemen designed to



Franklin Sweet


Governor and United States senator



be affected by this inquiry are possessed of too much good sense and discretion to undertake to bribe Mr. Robertson.4
   The Herald undertook to place various politicians as follows: "Estabrook (now a republican) is for nigger and against Johnson, and so is Alvin Saunders. Our amiable constitution-maker, Mr. William Kellogg (chief justice) is for Johnson, and so will be Paddock, Dundy, Hitchcock, Taylor, 'for the present,' as Gen. Heath was against negro suffrage when he spoke his first piece in Omaha in front of the postoffice." The same aggressive organ at this time rejoices over Johnson's defeat of the freedman's bureau bill; and gives account of a meeting at the court house in Omaha to indorse the veto, which was addressed by Hadley D. Johnson, Charles H. Brown, Isaac S. Hascall, George W. Doane, and William A. Little. The instrument provided that it should be submitted to the people for their approval or rejection, June 2, 1866, and that state officers, judges of the supreme court, a member of the federal House of Representatives, and members of a legislature, to be convened on the fourth day of July following, should be elected on the same day. The constitution was by its own acknowledgment submitted in accordance with the enabling act of 1864. At the convention of the "Union" party, held at Plattsmouth, April 12, 1866, David Butler was nominated for governor of the prospective state; Thomas P. Kennard for secretary of state; John Gillespie for auditor; Augustus Kountze for treasurer; Oliver P. Mason for chief justice; and Lorenzo Crounse and Geo. B. Lake for associate justices of the supreme court. Turner M. Marquett was nominated for member of Congress, receiving 32 votes against 15 for John I. Redick. In the contest for the nomination for governor, Butler received 27 votes and Algernon S. Paddock 26. The platform was chiefly confined to a statement of the advantages of state government as follows: First, it would promote the settlement of the territory; second, it would bring the school lands under control of the people; third, it would enable Nebraska to select lands for the various public institutions before they should be absorbed by foreign speculators and by the location of agricultural college scrip issued to other states. It was contended, also, that the question was not a party issue. The growing difficulty with Andrew Johnson had now reached the non-committal stage, and on that subject the resolutions were silent. To the politicians the question whether or not the president would continue to control the official patronage was paramount, and they waited the issue.

   4 House Journal, 11th ter. sess., pp. 203-205.



Franklin Sweet

Franklin Sweet

Franklin Sweet


[NOTE -- Mr. and Mrs. Charles Isaac Brown were early residents of Harlan county, Nebraska. Warren Saunders was an early settler of Cedar county, Nebraska.]

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