Letter/IconHE populist revolution broke out with great force in 1890. The Alliance, a weekly paper published in Lincoln and the organ of the new movement, printed a manifesto signed by J. M. Thompson, secretary of the State Alliance, and also signed by the secretary of the State Assembly of the Knights of Labor, urging preliminary arrangements for the calling of a convention and for fixing the ratio of representation.
   On the 28th of June, 1890, John H. Powers, president, and J. M. Thompson, secretary, and Jay Burrows, chairman of the state executive committee, issued a statement that "originally a call was issued by the Alliance men of several counties for a distinctively Alliance convention. This not being thought in accordance with the constitution and it being feared that such a convention might disrupt the Alliance, its promoters thought it best to withdraw their call, and a declaration of principles and petition for the People's Independent convention was sent out." The new manifesto stated that "while the state Alliance is not a political party, its objects are political reform." It stated that the Alliance had 70,000 members in Nebraska, and that 20,000 men had pledged themselves to support the ticket.
   The Alliance of July 12th pointed out that the Omaha Republican had suddenly flopped to prohibition; so that between that organ and the Bee, which was violently opposed to prohibition, voters might be caught coming and going. The railroads were straining every nerve to make prohibition the main issue to divert attention from themselves. In the same issue was published a set of typical resolutions adopted by the South Platte Alliance They demanded the immediate restoration of silver to its legal tender function and its free and unlimited coinage; government ownership of railroads to be operated at actual cost for the benefit of the people; endorsed the proposal of Senator Stanford to loan money on real estate at one per cent or two per cent per annum; declared that the government should issue paper money direct to the people; pledged themselves to support for any legislative or congressional office only members of their order and whose record showed them faithful to the cause of labor; demanded that transportation rates be immediately reduced to correspond with Iowa rates; favored the adoption of the Australian ballot and the prohibition amendment; and declared that under the existing license system farmers were taxed to support the cities. This last complaint was loudly repeated in the county option campaign of 1910; but it could not bear logical analysis.

   The people's independent congressional convention for the third district was made up of one delegate for every twenty members or major fraction of the Alliance, Knights of Labor assemblies, trades unions, and labor clubs, every organization or sub-organization of such classes being entitled to at least one delegate. The call for the Lancaster county convention specified the representation from



every precinct, but it had been calculated on the strength of the farmers', trades, and labor organizations. The president and secretary of the Beulah Alliance stated that J. F. Dietz, an extensive dealer in lumber, had tried to stop Alliance agents at Clarks from buying it at wholesale rates and he appealed to the Nebraska Lumber Dealers' Association for protection. The independent convention of Fillmore county declared that license moneys should go to counties instead of cities or towns; that all property should be assessed at its full value and that the mortgage or note indebtedness should be subtracted from the assessed value. The Alliance of July 26th advised, as a matter of policy, against inserting a prohibition plank in the state platform; and thus early the imperious and doughty, but faithful editor -- Burrows -- was obliged to castigate Craddock for recreancy in making a row about unfair apportionment in the call for the convention, though he had joined Burrows in signing it.
   The people's independent state convention met at Lincoln July 29, 1890. It was called to order by John H. Powers of Hitchcock county, president of the State Farmers' Alliance. Allen Root of Douglas county was temporary and permanent chairman, and Charles M. Mayberry of Pawnee was temporary and permanent secretary of the convention. John H. Powers was nominated for governor; William H. Dech of Saunders, lieutenant-governor; Charles M. Mayberry, Pawnee, secretary of state; Jacob V. Wolfe, Lancaster, treasurer; Joseph W. Edgerton, Douglas, attorney-general; John Batie, Wheeler, auditor; W. F. Wright, Nemaha, commissioner of public lands and buildings; A. D'Allemand, Furnas, superintendent of public instruction. Charles H. Van Wyck was the principal competitor of Powers for the governorship, receiving 390 votes to 474 for Powers. At the close of the state convention Van Wyck was nominated unanimously for candidate for Congress in the first district, but he declined the secondary honor.
   The platform declared that our financial system should be reformed by the restoration of silver to its old time place in our currency and its free and unlimited coinage on an equality with gold, and by increasing money circulation until it reaches the sum of $50 per capita. All paper issues necessary to secure that amount should be made by the government alone and be full legal tender. Land monopolies should be stopped either by limitation of ownership or graduated taxation. Public ownership and operation of railroads and telegraphs and the reduction of freight rates in Nebraska to the Iowa level; reform of the tariff; eight hours a day for labor except in agriculture, and the Australian ballot were demanded. The temperance question was judiciously dodged in accordance with the admonition of the party organ, which held that it was not a practicable issue at that time.
   Prompted partly by fear of the populist uprising and partly by an independent reform spirit, a group of republicans assembled at the Capital Hotel in Lincoln on the 27th of March to consider ways and means of action. A committee, consisting of Daniel M. Nettleton of Clay county, Charles K. Keckley of York, William Leese (attorney-general) of Lancaster, J. R. Sutherland of Burt, and J. R. Ballard of Fillmore, reported an address which asseverated that "the time has come when an earnest protest should be made against the domination of corporate power in the republican party" and, in support of this bold avowal, that in the convention of 1889 "the railroad managers, by the aid of 286 proxies, made good their threat and defeated Judge Reese for renomination as a judge of the supreme court, and the treasurer of the Burlington & Missouri railroad company and the railroad attorneys, division superintendents, roadmasters and section bosses, by passes and other means, induced many county delegations to violate the instructions of their county conventions in favor of Judge Reese"; that "a part of the earnings of the railroads are being used to subsidize the public press"; and that there were many more outrages of the sort well known to the people of the state. The address called a mass convention to meet in Lincoln on the 20th of May. The convention duly assembled and seventy republicans signed a test of good faith.



   The resolutions adopted by the convention viewed "with alarm the intense discontent among republican voters of the state, chiefly due to the mischievous and demoralizing interference of corporations," and demanded that they should go out of politics; denounced railroad passes distributed for political purposes as a species of bribery and demanded their prohibition under severe penalties; demanded the enactment of a maximum railroad rate bill, inasmuch as the state board of transportation had failed to exercise the authority vested in it; the national convention of 1888 having pledged the republican party to a reduction of import duties, "as republicans we request our delegates in congress to oppose the McKinley bill in its present form." The last resolution provided for a committee of fifteen to draft an address and to urge the republican state committee to fix the date of the state convention not later than July 8th and from which proxies should be excluded. The call for the convention yielded to the anti-proxy demand, but conserved its dignity by fixing the date of the convention at July 23d, thus disregarding the letter but yielding to the spirit of the specific demand for an early convention. Mr. Richards, chairman of the state committee, was also to be the convention's nominee for governor. In the meantime the insurgent committee of fifteen had attended a meeting of the regular state committee where differences were formally adjusted.
   On the 24th of May Governor Thayer created great consternation in the republican party and general disapproval by issuing a call for an extra session of the legislature to convene on the 5th of June. The objects of the session were to pass a maximum railroad rate law and abolish the board of transportation, to adopt the Australian ballot, and to consider and give expression in favor of an increase in the volume of currency and of the free coinage of silver. It was rather vociferously alleged in some quarters that this surprising coup was due to Church Howe's cunning and his influence over the governor exercised with some ulterior personal motive. But the blame -- for the move was generally condemned -- was probably placed at Howe's door because, on general principles, that was at least an appropriate or natural place for it. The governor had shown symptoms of senility before he was fixed upon for his office, and it is not improbable that this condition was an important, if not the governing test of eligibility applied by the astute party managers. The prevalent political disquietude excited in him a childlike desire to make a master stroke; and it would be a natural impulse or part of the game to keep his project a secret until it was suddenly sprung. As a sensation-monger the call must have fully met the governor's fondest expectations; but a prompt and positive outburst of public disapproval, and especially from men and interests whom he could not disregard, obscured his brilliant rocket in its upward flight and forced from him a recall before the end of a week which brought it down truly like a stick. The miscarriage did not, however, change the governor's status; for the public saw that he had merely slipped his leading strings. The question was derisively asked by the opposition why the legislature, which so lately had conspicuously refused to enact the proposed laws in a regular session, could be expected to pass them in a special session. The governor chose to assign as reasons for his act of revocation, which was issued May 31st, that many members had become disqualified and that several vacancies had actually occurred which, according to the statute, would have to be filled by special elections before a special session could be lawfully held. The Omaha Republican insisted that the party could not properly be blamed for the governor's "exhibition of puerility," and more than hinted that he had not given the real reasons for the recall which ought not to have been issued. The Bee feared that the governor had made a very serious mistake; but it commended his wisdom in rectifying the mistake, alleging that public sentiment was "overwhelmingly opposed to an extra session." It declared that "the jubilation exhibited by the leading democratic organ over the prospect of a costly legislative fizzle and its frantic effort to counteract the sentiment in favor of revocation was in itself a very tangible reason for the governor's action." This journal did



not oppose the proposal of the call that the legislature should urge Congress to provide more money and for free coinage of silver or for the enactment of a maximum freight rate law, but it contended that, confronted with full local and national tickets and three amendments to the constitution, voters ought not to be further puzzled by a new imported ballot.

   The republican state convention was held at Lincoln July 23d. Lucius D. Richards of Dodge county was nominated for governor on the third formal ballot, receiving 447 votes against 219 for John H. MacColl of Dawson county, and 143 for Dr. Samuel D. Mercer of Douglas. On the informal ballot John M. Thayer received 139 votes; Manoah B. Reese, 29; Thomas J. Majors, 41; Samuel D. Mercer, 47. Charles E. Magoon of Lancaster county was chairman of the committee on resolutions. The railroad plank in demanding a reduction of freight and passenger rates to correspond with rates now prevailing in adjacent states in the Mississippi valley, thereby virtually repudiating its innocuous commission policy, indicated an awakening to real conditions in the old party. But it preserved its fatuous bourbonism in the tabling, by a vote of 486 to 330, of a resolution declaring that the state board of transportation had ignored the just demands of the people for relief from extortion and demanding their censure. The old party did step forward to demand the Australian ballot and the abolition of free passes by proper legislation. On the money question it inclined its ear to a rapidly growing popular sentiment in the state rather than to sound, long-run financial principles by demanding that efforts to fully remonetize silver should be continued until it was put upon a perfect equality with gold as a money metal. The tariff plank was inane. A vitalized offering by Edward Rosewater, which demanded a free list, including lumber, sugar, wool, woolen goods in common use, salt, coal, and iron was, according to the report of the State Journal, "overwhelmingly rejected." A resolution favoring the prohibition amendment, the submission of which the preceding convention had favored, was sidetracked in the committee. In the complication of issues it may not be dogmatically asserted that this timid hesitancy was fatal to the fortunes of Mr. Richards in the election; but it is probably true. Though, according to opposing newspapers, including the Bee, he was "a railroad man," he was of larger parts than the average governor of Nebraska.
   The democratic convention was held at Omaha August 14th, and William G. Hastings of Saline county was its temporary and permanent chairman. James E. Boyd was nominated for governor on the first ballot, receiving 440 votes to 109 for John E. Shervin of Dodge county, a strong "Morton man." The platform was mainly devoted to national questions. It declared for free coinage of silver on its former footing with gold; against sumptuary legislation -- but inconsistently approved high license; taunted the republicans for dodging the prohibition issue in its late convention after having brought about its submission; declared for the election of United States senators by the people and for the Australian ballot; and denounced the maintenance of a state militia and demanded its abolition.
   The campaign was signalized and, needless to say, enlivened by the nomination of William J. Bryan for member of Congress in the first district. The congressional convention was held at Lincoln July 30th and Mr. Bryan was nominated on the first formal ballot, receiving 137 votes to 21 for M. V. Gannon of Douglas county. Mr. Bryan's platform declared for the "free coinage of silver on equal terms with gold," and for the election of United States senators by the people. Gilbert L. Laws was elbowed out of the nomination for the long term in the second district, owing largely if not mainly to the persistent opposition of the Omaha Bee, which was an ardent supporter of Harlan of York. The Bee strenuously appealed to Nebraska farmers to keep out of the independent movement, which it declared was only a conspiracy of ambitious politicians against the old party. In its issue of October 20, 1890, it published an impassioned letter from General Van Wyck, addressed to George W. Blake, chairman, and C. H. Pirtle, secretary of the people's independent state commit-



tee. They had sent out a letter saying that "it having been evident that Mr. Van Wyck has turned squarely against the independent movement, we recommend that he be not invited to address independent meetings nor given any opportunity to use his unfriendly influence." In his reply, General Van Wyck attacked Burrows as a malicious dictator and charged that a shameful gerrymander had been made in the southwest counties in the interest of Powers and the rest of the cabal. He also pointed out that he himself was the first to declare for independent action by the Alliance and that Burrows was driven into it only after the people had held county and congressional conventions. In its next issue the Bee defends and applauds Van Wyck. Owing to the "state of his health, the demands of official duties and the condition of his private affairs" Senator Paddock was unable to personally participate in the campaign, but confined his activities to correspondence. His pronunciamento was especially untimely -- characteristically slipshod and evasive.
   The virgin campaign of the populists disclosed a fresh phase of American political temperament. It was a composite of Hugo's pictures of the French Revolution and a western religious revival. The popular emotion more nearly approached obsession than it had theretofore seemed possible for the American temperament to permit it to do. The public meetings, while less sanguinary, were in temper reminders of those of the great Revolution. "These unequal events, seriously threatening all benefits at once, outburst of mad progress, boundless and unintelligible improvement." There was among them a French, rather than an American comradery. "They no longer said gentleman and lady, but citizen and citizeness." The sudden attitude of scornful irreverence toward the old "God and Morality" party, till then held sacred, was startling. "They danced in ruined cloisters with church lamps on the altar . . . ; they tilled the public gardens; they ploughed up the gardens of the Tuileries . . . Playing cards too were in a state of revolution. Kings were replaced by genii; Queens by the Goddess of Liberty; Knaves by Equality personified; and aces by characters representing law." To express and stimulate their spirit the French populists had "liberty caps"; the American, a "liberty building." Their great political gatherings had the air and ardor of old-time camp meetings. Their favorite orators spoke with religious unction, sometimes supplemented by the laying on of hands. At a Wymore mass meeting in September there were ten hundred and fifteen teams in line "by actual count," and nine thousand people; at Hastings the same week, sixteen hundred teams and twelve thousand people. A demonstration in Lincoln, the enemy's country, in crowds and pageantry rivaled a circus parade and in enthusiasm a Bryan homecoming. Though the temper of the movement was overheated and the public speeches were more or less irrational and visionary, yet, as a whole and in general, it was not ill-tempered; it knew what it wanted and went to the mark; and within twenty years its demands -- except as to the money policy -- were substantially complied with so far as the forms of law could grant them. Relative to conditions, the populist revolution was as fruitful as its French prototype.
   The Bee's efforts in the campaign were devoted more to defeating the prohibition amendment than to any other question. The elections were all but a clean sweep against the republicans, democrats and populists dividing the results of the victory. Boyd, democratic candidate for governor, received 71,331 votes; Powers, people's independent, 70,187; Richards, republican, 68,878; B. L. Paine, prohibitionist, 3,676. The rest of the republican state ticket was successful by small majorities, ranging from 3,000 to 4,000. The republican candidates were defeated in every congressional district. The vote in the first district was, Bryan, democrat, 32,376; William J. Connell, republican, 25,663; Allen Root, people's independent, 13,066; E. H. Chapman, prohibitionist, 1,670. In the second district William A. McKeighan, democrat and independent, 36,104; N. V. Harlan, republican, 21,776; and L. B. Palmer, prohibitionist, 1,220. In the third district, Omer M. Kem, 31,831; George W. E. Dorsey, republican, 25,440; William H.



Thompson, democrat, 22,353; W. L. Pierce, prohibitionist, 961.

   It was generally charged and believed that the vote of Douglas county was corruptly swollen to insure the defeat of the prohibition amendment. Comparison of votes cast at the election of 1890 with those for two years preceding and two years following seems to sustain the belief. In 1888 the total vote cast for state officers was 202,855, of which Douglas county cast 10.6 per cent. In 1889 the total vote was 169,733, Douglas county casting 7.5 per cent. In 1890 the total vote was 214,072, of which Douglas cast 12.2 per cent. In 1891 the total vote was 156,080; Douglas county, 11.8 per cent. In 1892 the total vote was 197,473; Douglas county, 11.2 per cent. The total vote cast in 1890 was 8.4 per cent in excess of the total vote in 1892. The vote cast in Douglas county in 1890 was 17.5 per cent in excess of the vote of the county in 1892. The vote on the prohibition amendment for the whole state was 82,292 for and 111,728 against. The vote of Douglas county was 1,555 for and 23,918 against.

   The fourteenth legislature convened in the twelfth regular session on the 6th of January, 1891, and finally adjourned April 4th, the seventy-first day. The senate comprised eighteen independents, eight democrats, and seven republicans, the independents having a majority of three. In the house there were fifty-four independents, twenty-five democrats, and twenty-one republicans, yielding the independents a clear majority of eight. Samuel M. Elder, independent, of Clay county, was elected speaker, receiving 54 votes to 25 cast for Frank E. White, democrat, of Cass county, and 20 for J. O. Cramb, republican, of Jefferson county. The independents took all the offices of both houses for themselves.
   On the request of the joint convention for the opinion of the attorney-general as to the legal power of the convention to proceed to open, publish, and canvass the election returns, that officer expressed the belief that it would be better for the legislature to submit to the order of the supreme court until a better remedy could be obtained; that the court has stated as law that the first duty of the legislature is to open, publish, and canvass the returns; and that the speaker is the presiding officer. To the query of Senator Stevens as to whether the supreme court had decided that the speaker of the house is the presiding officer at this time, the attorney general replied: "I understand that it is the judgment of the Supreme Court that no other officer is recognized -- that the speaker of the House is the presiding officer." Whereupon the convention took a recess until half past two o'clock in the afternoon. On reassembling the secretary of the senate read a communication from the attorney-general in which he said that his former statement that the supreme court had decided that the speaker of the house should preside at the joint session was based upon misinformation and that the court had not passed upon that question. Whereupon the returns of the election were brought by the secretary of state and delivered to the speaker. The lieutenant-governor insisting upon presiding over the proceedings, Senator Stevens offered a formal protest declaring that the assumption of the lieutenant-governor was in violation of section 67, chapter 26, of the compiled statutes of Nebraska for 1887. The speaker then canvassed the returns from the several counties and after delivering them to the secretary, declared as follows: :
   By virtue of my position as speaker of the House of Representatives of the state of Nebraska and in accordance with a resolution of this joint convention I have opened the returns of the general election held on the 4th day of November, 1890, within and for the state of Nebraska and to me directed and now publish and declare that James E. Boyd for governor; T. J. Majors for lieutenant governor; John C. Allen, for secretary of state; T. H. Benton for auditor of public accounts; J. E. Hill for treasurer; G. H. Hastings for attorney general; A. R. Humphrey for commissioner of public lands and buildings; A. K. Goudy for superintendent of public instruction; W. J. Bryan for congressman from the first district; W. A. McKeighan for congressman from the second district; O. M. Kerri for congressman from the third district, all having received the highest number of votes cast were duly elected.
   On the 26th of January the senate passed a resolution, by a vote of 23 to 8, recognizing



James E. Boyd as governor and asking for the appointment of a committee of two to wait upon him and ascertain whether he had a message to deliver and to appoint a time to hear it and asking that the house appoint a similar committee.
   On the 28th the house, by a vote of 52 to 42, tabled a resolution to appoint a committee to act with the senate committee, on the ground that Boyd was not rightfully governor; but, after further consideration, on the 4th of February it agreed to such an arrangement by a vote of 55 to 42, and February 6th was fixed upon for the function. An arrangement to hear the outgoing governor's customary farewell message was easily made, because, at the time, he was content to be called ex-governor, while there was stout rebellion against recognizing Boyd.
   The attempt of the supreme court to coerce or interfere with the action of a coördinate body in commanding the legislature to canvass the votes was probably usurpation, as Shrader's resolution characterized it. The persistent attempt of Meiklejohn to preside over the joint convention united specious bravado, with usurpation which due courage and ability on the part of the speaker might have prevented and properly rebuked. The result of this unwarrantable interference on the part of the court and president of the senate did a great injustice to the independent contestants, as there was certainly good ground for a very general belief that an investigation of the election in Douglas county would have seated them.
   It is at least doubtful that the decision that a resolution fixing a day for hearing the contest required executive signature was sound; and the consideration that an affirmative interpretation handed over to a party to the contest power to block it by refusing to sign the resolution it seems should have constrained the court to give the reasonable side, in effect, the benefit of the doubt. But courts elected on partisan tickets naturally respond to party exigencies. In the first instance, the feeling of the court, for obvious reasons, preferred the democratic Boyd to the populist Powers; and so it had the courage of its feelings and Boyd went up. In the second instance, the court preferred the republican Thayer to the democratic Boyd and again it had the courage of its feelings and Boyd was down -- until the federal Supreme Court, too remote for small partisanship, picked him up again. The plain moral is that in pure political procedure like this the court should be kept out altogether, as in all states with modern constitutions.
   While the independents were disconcerted, they were not deterred by the interference of the court; and so on the 30th of January the house, by a vote of 74 to 18, passed a concurrent resolution designating February 17th as the day for hearing the contest; but the fine and final work was done in the senate when, on the 11th of February, it was rejected, 11 to 14, three independent senators -- Collins of Gage, Turner of Saline, and Thayer of Loup -- being the recreants. Even though in partisan war it was fair for democratic and republican members to deny the contestants a hearing of their cause, which it might be difficult to maintain, yet the independents who voted to deny that constitutional right clearly deserved the accusations of treachery and corruption which their fellow partisans heaped upon them. The testimony taken had at least colorably sustained the independent charges of fraud at the elections. Mr. Powers issued a dignified remonstrance against the denial of the forms of justice. "Every citizen has a sacred right to be heard before the judicial tribunal provided for his relief . . . The secretary of state said that James E. Boyd received 1,114 more votes than I did. I have proved that over 2,000 persons were bribed in Douglas county to vote for Boyd, and that over 1,300 of them voted in Omaha." Whether a trial of the cause would have sustained this contention or changed the practical result may always remain an open question, but that there was a scandalous miscarriage of justice in denying the trial there can be no doubt. The Farmers' Alliance naturally emptied most of its vials of wrath on the three recreant independents:

   Rarely does it happen when the interests of the corporations and the money power are

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