Franklin Sweet


Governor and United States senator



mode prescribed by the constitution itself, nevertheless, as the congress of the United States have desired this general assembly to declare the assent of this state to said fundamental condition, and forasmuch as such declaration will neither restrain nor enlarge, limit nor extend the operation of the constitution of the United States or of this state, but the said constitutions will remain in all respects as if the said resolution had never passed, and the desired declaration was never made, and because such declaration will not divest any power or change the duties of any of the constituted authorities of this state, or of the United States, nor impair the rights of the people of this state, or impose any additional obligation upon them, but may promote an earlier enjoyment of their vested federal rights. Therefore, be it resolved that this state has assented, etc.
   There was no important reason for the legislature of Nebraska to undertake to annul by resolution a practically negative provision of the state constitution. Its haste to do so, and unqualifiedly, showed a lack of dignity and an unworthy subserviency to partisanship -- if not a selfish greed -- in strong contrast to the assertion of constitutional rights and principles by the legislature of our adjoining state, and remains an unique incident in such procedure.
   A bill passed by Congress prohibiting the denial of the elective franchise to negroes became a law January 25, 1867, without the signature of the president, and it was stated that Mr. James M. Woolworth had given a written opinion to an Omaha democratic caucus to the effect that by the territorial law negroes were entitled to vote. But after March 1st, these provisions had been superseded by the state constitution. Since the adoption of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States so soon settled this vexed question, the suffrage status of the few negroes in Nebraska in the meantime is not of practical importance. After every practicable measure to enforce negro suffrage, in those states where these unfortunate people of an inferior race are numerous enough to invest the question with importance, has been exhausted and proved futile, it is, it seems, by common consent of the people of all sections recognized as impracticable, and the formidable guaranties of the constitution and the laws remain only a dead letter.
   Striking evidence is not wanting of the change in public sentiment wrought by experience whose outcome ought more generally to have been foreseen. In the spring of the year 1903, Mr. Root, secretary of war in President Roosevelt's administration, in an address before the Union League club of New York city, pronounced the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution a failure. Soon after this Mr. Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the leading journalist of the South, was invited by the Hamilton club of Chicago, the conservative republican organization of that metropolis, to deliver an address. Mr. Watterson not only spoke thus plainly and boldly, but his remarks were vigorously applauded by his northern hearers:

    After thirty years of observation, experience and reflection -- always directed from a sympathetic point of view -- I am forced to agree with the secretary of war that negro suffrage is a failure. It is a failure because the southern blacks are not equal to it. It is a failure because the southern whites will not have it.
   The negro can never become in a beneficent or genuine sense an integral and recognized part of the body politic except through the forces of evolution, which are undoubtedly at work, but which, in the nature of the case, must needs go exceedingly slow. Where there is one negro fit for citizenship there are myriads of negroes wholly unfit. The hothouse process has been tried and it has failed. If, invested with every right enjoyed by the whites, the blacks, gaining in all things else, have brought corruption into the suffrage and discredit upon themselves, is it not a kind of madness further to press artificial methods, which however justified, theoretically, from educational look-outs in Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin, fall helpless to the ground in their practical application to the semi-barbarous toilers in the cotton fields and corn lands of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina?3
   Other speakers of national note have recently expressed opinions similar to those of Mr. Watterson's, and typical parts of these addresses and of those made in the debate on the admission of Nebraska are in striking con-

   3 Copied from Chicago papers.



Franklin Sweet


President Trans-Mississippi exposition



trast as opinions held in two different periods but only a single generation in time apart.
   In a lecture at Yale university, April 22, 1903, President Hadley said that the North had made a great mistake in giving the ballot to the negro before he was fitted for it. "It was not the fault of the negro; it was the fault of those who gave him the ballot without previous preparation. The North did not recognize this at the close of the war. It had recognized the dictum that all men are born free and equal. When the North recognized the conditions which prevailed in the South it acquiesced in the suppression of the negro vote." And yet, to the mind and conscience of the intelligent and candid, this is a distressing condition and a humiliating confession. Without the ballot these millions of negroes thus thrust upon a superior race and under institutions in advance of their capacity to appreciate or support, can not avert or escape grievous oppression. This discordant anomaly, this flat contradiction of our political principles, which jeers at our bills of rights and sets aside our constitutional covenants, and from which we see as yet no escape, is the inevitable and inexorable penalty visited upon the children of those who were guilty of the original sin of African slavery. And it is not inexplicable that, just as our eyes were opening to full recognition of this predicament, we should have entangled ourselves voluntarily in a worse one of the same sort in the Philippine islands?

   The state legislature which had been elected in the fall of 1866 convened in special session, February 20, 1867, in response to the proclamation of Governor Saunders issued on the 14th of that month, for the purpose of complying with the conditions imposed by the act of Congress. The senate was composed of eight republicans and five democrats, and the house of representatives of thirty republicans and nine democrats.4 Each of the houses at once introduced a bill accepting the conditions for admission prescribed by the act of Congress. In the senate the bill was referred after the second reading to a special committee consisting of Doom of Cass county, Hascall of Douglas, and Reeves of Otoe. Doom and Hascall reported, after a recess of ten minutes, in favor of the passage of the bill. Reeves moved to adjourn for a day so that he might have time to make a minority report; but the motion was defeated by a vote of 3 to 7. The bill then passed by a like vote, Freeman of Kearney county and Reeves and Wardell of Otoe county voting in the negative. When the senate bill was sent to the house it was at once read the requisite three times under suspension of the rules and passed by a vote of 20 to 6. Those voting in the negative were Crawford and Trumble of Sarpy county, Dunham of Douglas, and Graves, Harvey, and Rolfe of Otoe. On the 21st the houses agreed on a joint resolution to send a copy of the act to the president and also one to John M. Thayer, who had been elected United States senator, and then adjourned.
   J. Sterling Morton gave Mr. Hascall the credit for his vote as follows:

    Isaac S. Hascall, the only representative of the Douglas county democracy in the state senate, stood solitary and alone among democrats in the legislature in advocating and voting for the admission of state under the African conditions. We understand Mr. Hascall made a long speech in support of his position, which receives unusual favor with Mr. Presson, Mr. Doom, Mr. Rogers and other radicals. They ordered Mr. Hascall's speech published, wanted it spread on the journals immediately, and testified their approbation of it in every way possible. This is rather an ignoble distinction for Mr. Hascall as a democrat, and we are of the opinion that, however he himself may feel, the democracy of Douglas, who placed him in the senate, will not be very particularly flattered by it.

   Undue distinction was given to this speech of Hascall's by the pro-state party because he was an acquisition from the enemy, just as there is always more joy, temporarily, in a political party, as there is said to be in heaven, over the one proselyte and deserter than over the ninety-and-nine well-tried regulars or saints. The speaker undertook to give his cause character by ascribing respectability to its origin. The constitution, he said, was framed by nine members of the legislature -- of 1866 -- five of whom were democrats, and,

   4 Nebraska Advertiser, Nov. 8, 1866.



in addition, William A. Little, who had been elected chief justice of the state supreme court, Judge William Kellogg, chief justice of the territorial supreme court, Hadley D. Johnson, Governor Alvin Saunders, General Experience Estabrook, and others, of Omaha, assisted by able men, without regard to party, from other parts of the territory. The democrats had not made statehood a party issue at their convention, and the republicans had declared in favor of it at their convention, and it had been ratified by voters of both parties. Leading republicans, including John M. Thayer and Governor Saunders, did not insist on impartial suffrage. After the first veto by the President, and before the passage of the conditional act, Congress provided for impartial suffrage in all the territories. Negro suffrage therefore already existed by positive law, and if the President had not vetoed the bill for admission under the white constitution, Nebraska would not have negro suffrage now.
   On the first of March, 1867, President Johnson issued a proclamation declaring that "the admission of the state into the Union is now complete." This proclamation, forced from the unwilling chief executive, was therefore an appropriate death warrant for territorial Nebraska. For, conceived in storm and born of strife, it has now died a violent death.
   The original Nebraska territory was bounded on the north by the 49th parallel of latitude -- the south boundary of the British possessions; on the east by the White river, from the 49th parallel south to the mouth of the river -- and thence southward by the Missouri river; on the south by the territory of Kansas, or the 40th parallel of latitude; on the west by "the summit of the Rocky mountains." The territory of Oregon (organized August 14, 1848), extending from the British line down to the 46th parallel of latitude; the territory of Washington (organized March 2, 1853), extending from the southern line of Oregon down to the 42nd parallel of latitude; and the territory of Utah (organized September 9, 1850), extending southward from the south boundary of Washington, came up to the Nebraska boundary on the west. The state of Iowa (organized December 28, 1846) and the territory of Minnesota (organized March 3, 1849) lay adjacent to the entire eastern boundary of Nebraska territory. After the admission of Minnesota as a state, May 11, 1858, the territory between its western boudary (sic) and the eastern boundary of Nebraska remained unorganized until the formation of Dakota, March 2, 1861.
   The first change in the original territory of Nebraska was made by the organization of the territory of Colorado, February 21, 1861, which cut off all that part of the present state of Colorado north of the Kansas line and east of the Rocky mountains, and established longitude 25 degrees as the line betwen (sic) Nebraska and Colorado, from the 40th to the 41st parallel of latitude. The organic act of Dakota made the second change in the territory of Nebraska by cutting off all that part of it north of the Niobrara river, from its mouth to the point where it meets the 43rd paralled (sic) of latitude, and north of that parallel of latitude to the western boundary. The same act added to Nebraska territory that part of Washington and Utah lying between the 41st and 43d parallels of latitude, and east of the 33d degree of longitude, that is, a strip extending from this degree of longitude east to the original boundary of Nebraska at the summit of the Rocky mountains. The third change took place when the territory of Idaho was organized March 3, 1863. This territory came up to the 27th degree of longitude as its eastern boundary, which extended from the British line on the north to the Colorado line, or the 41st parallel of latitude, on the south; and it extended west to Oregon and Washington. Idaho took away the southwest corner of the original territory of Nebraska to the width of three degrees and cut off the west end of Nebraska as it had been extended when Dakota was organized, to the width of three degrees more, that is, the part between the 27th and the 33d degrees of longitude, The territory of Montana, coming south to the 46th parallel, was formed out of Idaho, May 26, 1864, and the, territory of Wyoming extending south from the Montana line to the 43d parallel, the present north boundary of Nebraska., was also formed out of Idaho, July 25, 1868. Idaho, as



it was then left, was entirely west of the Rocky mountains and outside of the Louisiana Purchase, and Montana and Wyoming came into the Union as states in their original territorial form. The 27th degree of longitude -- 104th from Greenwich -- has remained the extreme western boundary line of Nebraska ever since it was established by the organic act of Idaho in 1863, and Nebraska came into the Union as a state in the form in which it was left by that act. By act of Congress March 28, 1882, the territory lying between the Missouri river and the Niobrara river, as far west as the mouth of the Keya Paha river, and as far north as the 43d parallel of latitude, was taken away from Dakota and added to Nebraska, thus constituting the 43rd parallel its continuous northern boundary. On the 23d of October, 1890, the President of the United States declared by proclamation that the title or claim of the Ponca Indians to this strip of territory had been extinguished, and thereby jurisdiction over it was vested in the state of Nebraska.

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