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Johnson, while the democrats wanted to gain time and take advantage of the split in the republican party. The campaign was fierce and every settlement in the territory was thoroughly canvassed. The election took place June 2, 1866 and the result was a vote of 3,938 in favor of the constitution and 3,838 opposed. The republican state ticket was elected by a majority of about 100 with exception of one candidate or judge who was beaten by his democratic opponent.

     There was another and fiercer fight when the legislature met. The republican county clerk of Cass county had thrown out Rock Bluff precinct, which gave a democratic majority of fifty-eight, in canvassing the vote. There was no charge of fraudulent voting in the precinct, but it appeared that the election board had adjourned to eat dinner, locking the ballot box and taking it with them. It did not even appear that anyone was deprived of opportunity to vote, but the technical violation of the law was made the ground for rejecting the precinct's vote. It happened that with Rock Bluff precinct the democratic candidates for the legislature were elected in Cass county; without it the republican candidates were elected. It happened farther that with democratic members from Cass the democrats had a majority in the legislature, and conversely with republican members from Cass the republicans had a majority. So the whole question whether two democrats or two republicans should represent Nebraska in the senate at Washington was, in final analysis, whether having the Rock Bluff ballot box at the dinner

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City of Omaha in 1861. Copyrighted by A. Hospe, Omaha



table vitiated the votes in it. The fight was hot and bitter, but the republican members from Cass had certificates of election; their votes gave the republicans the organization of the legislature; the legislature elected General Thayer and Chaplain Tipton to the United States senate instead of J. Sterling Morton and A. J. Poppleton, the democratic nominees. The report of Representative C. H. Gere, of Pawnee county, who was chairman of the house committee to which the Cass county contest was referred, makes the foregoing facts clear and is one of the rarely interesting documents on a turning point in Nebraska history. The "election dinner in Rock Bluff precinct,--"insignificant in itself,--becomes in its result one of the most important events in the record of our state.

      The battle for statehood was only begun. Just as Nebraska territory was a storm center in congress so was the state destined to be. The newly elected senators hurried to Washington. It was near the close of the long session of congress. A bill was passed admitting the new state and sent to President Johnson. The president put the bill in his pocket where it died and Nebraska was left out on the doorstep. When congress met again the next winter a new cloud had arisen. The Nebraska constitution had restricted suffrage to "white males" as did many of the northern states before the war. The question of how to protect the newly freed slaves was one of the uppermost ones before the nation. Here was a new state fresh from the soil which had been consecrated to freedom by the contest over the Nebraska-Kansas bill proposing to exclude free negroes from the polls. The radical republican members and especially the great leader, Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, would not listen to the admission of another state which did not grant the same political equality which they were trying to secure in the older states. Besides this there was already in the east a revival of jealous sentiment against the rapidly growing political power of the west. A prolonged debate was precipitated on the question whether congress could impose any conditions on the admission of a state. The republican party itself was divided. The fate of Nebraska was again in doubt when Congressman Shellabarger, of Ohio, one of the most eloquent and convincing speakers in the house, took up the championship of our cause and won the day. The bill which passed provided that Nebraska should become a state on the fundamental condition that its legislature should agree by solemn public act that "within the state of Nebraska there shall be no denial of the elective franchise, or of any other right to any other person, by reason of race or color (excepting Indians not taxed)." President Johnson at once vetoed the bill. Congress passed it over the veto.

     The battle ground now shifted from Washington back to Omaha. Governor Saunders convened the legislature in special session on February 20, 1867, to act upon the condition which congress had annexed to admission.

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@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller