NEGenWeb Project



Morris, standing as he did in the convention which framed the constitution, in the very morning of the republic, in the dim twilight which hung over that early hour in its history, should have supposed then that a necessary rivalry might exist between the East and the West, and that he, as an eastern representative, should have thought it incumbent upon him to put something into the constitution to protect the East against the day when that rivalry might spring up; but I think it very extraordinary that any statesman standing in the light of today should find any wisdom in the suggestions of Mr. Gouverneur Morris, should think the lessons of that hour were worth repeating in the light of to-day.

   Senator Howe then appealed to the patriotic sentiment in answer to Reverdy Johnson and gave a vivid description of the armies that were made up of the volunteer soldiers that came from these new western states is well worth repeating:

   When the battalions of the West moved down the valley of the Mississippi, through Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and sent the commerce of that great stream tumbling on its way to the gulf, I do not think that that was felt to be an injury to the Atlantic states or to any portion of the country; and when those same battalions took up their march to the East and struck the Atlantic coast at Savannah, I do not think that that march to the sea was felt to be any serious detriment to the Atlantic States; and when those victorious battalions turned their faces to the North and swept through the Carolinas, clearing out every one of those forts on the seaboard held still under the rebel flag, I do not believe that the growth of the West was felt in any portion of the country to be detrimental or prejudicial to the whole.

   That outburst of inspiring and patriotic oratory was enough to stir the hearts of all the old soldiers, the veterans of the civil war just closed. Reverdy Johnson did not attempt to answer it. Indeed no man could answer it. It was a climax suitable to the occasion.
   But Senator Howe was not yet through with his answer to the senator from Maryland, and having in mind the appeal which had been made for the protection of the



commerce of the east, as a justification for what Gouverneur Morris said in the federal convention of 1787, gave a vivid picture of the disappearance of that commerce which originally existed in the eastern states, and to the well known fact that commerce had passed away from them and had been supplanted by manufacturing industries, and that the great commerce of the country which Gouverneur Morris had in mind now came from the states which had been created out of the great middle west. After giving in detail a long series of statistics, Senator Howe said in broad and glowing terms:

   And where does this commerce come from? it is not produced in the States which framed the constitution. It is not brought to the seaboard with ox teams nor with horse teams. There are long lines of canal and railway reaching far beyond what were the frontiers of the Union at the time Mr. Gouverneur Morris gave his advice to the country.

   Senator Howe recalled to mind the expedition of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri river and across to the Pacific coast and the wonderful changes which had taken place since then, and said:

   Some thirteen or fourteen years after Mr. Gouverneur Morris made this suggestion a party of exploration started from the Missouri river to cross the continent to the Pacific. They were some two years in making that journey. During the last season a railroad construction train has traveled almost as far between the Missouri and the Pacific as that party of exploration traveled in 18046... I am perfectly satisfied
   6 The Lewis and Clark expedition started from its rendezvous at the mouth of the Missouri May 14, 1804--about seventeen years after Gouverneur Morris' speech was delivered, on July 5, 1787. (journal of the Federal Convention, page 295.) The expedition sojourned at the Mandan villages from October 26, 1804, to April 7, 1805, and reached the Pacific coast November 10, about seven months from the Missouri River and about a year in actual travel from the starting point, which it reached on the return trip after an absence of two years, four months and nine days. The total distance traveled from the starting point to the Pacific is 4,135 miles; from the Missouri at the Mandans



with the disposition entertained by the people of Nebraska toward the government of the United States, and am willing to admit her as she stands to participation in this government.

   If Timothy O. Howe were living in this year when we are about to celebrate the admission of Nebraska into the Union and see the great strides the West has made since 1866, he could have presented in much more glowing language the development of the New West.
   Senator Cowan of Pennsylvania also joined in this branch of the discussion and perceived no reason why Nebraska should come into the Union having the same weight as original states, and said:

   And it seems this is an exceeding stretch of equality upon the part of this government to allow a few people in Nebraska territory to have the same weight upon. this floor that New York has and that Massachusetts has, and which may be wielded to the detriment of New York and Massachusetts, and wielded without any detriment to the people of Nebraska.

   Notwithstanding Senator Kirkwood, of Iowa, was in favor of the unconditional admission of the state of Nebraska, his colleague, Senator Grimes of our neighboring state over the river, still having in memory his ancestry and old associations in New Hampshire, did not recognize that there was any public necessity for admitting Nebraska into the Union, nor that the votes of her senators and congressmen were needed in the existing national crisis:

   Is there any such great pressing public necessity, any such great exigency resting upon us today that Nebraska should be admitted into the Union, as will justify us in giving a vote here which will be in future like Banquo's ghost, that 'will not down' . . . Do we need the votes of the men from
to the Pacific, 2,535. (The Trail of Lewis and Clark, volume I, page 50.) "During the last season"-- 1866--The Union Pacific construction train traveled 246.48 miles "between the Missouri River and the Pacific." Senator Howe's error is so great that it is inexplicable.--ED.



Nebraska in the Senate and in the House sufficiently to justify us to sustain our principles and to strain the precedents that have been set heretofore in regard to this question? For my own part, having as a matter of principle voted the other day for the right of free suffrage in the District of Columbia, and having voted for it again over the presidential veto yesterday, I am not to-day to be hurried by a consideration of expediency to ignore and turn my back upon that vote and to say that I was wrong then.

   After Senator Grimes had so expressed himself, Senator Kirkwood, from the good state of Iowa, recognizing that there were some good qualities in the people of the state of Nebraska, again expressed his friendly disposition in strong and decided language:

   I am in favor of the admission of Nebraska, pure and simple, without conditions or qualifications. . . I believe that the admission of the State will be a benefit to the people of that territory and thus to the people of the whole country. . . It adds to my pleasure in doing this, that by doing it I can do two other good things, as I believe them to be: I can add to the strength of what I believe to be sound public sentiment in this chamber, legitimately and fairly, and I can add also legitimately and fairly, as I believe, to the strength and influence in this chamber and elsewhere of that part of the country in which I live. . . We must see to it that men who have been on our side through this war are protected there in person, in property, in life, in liberty. That we must do. . . Does the same condition of things obtain in Nebraska I should like to know? Is there any danger that the State will pass into the hands of rebels and traitors? Her sons fought side by side with the sons of Iowa all through the rebellion, for our flag, and not for the rebel flag. The men of Iowa went to Nebraska, and the men of Nebraska came to Iowa, and they fought side by side through this war, with equal bravery, and equally well.

   Senator Wade again comes to the front in the senatorial battle in support of Senator Kirkwood, and against the arguments of Senators Grimes and Cowan, and said:

   Now, Mr. President, why is it that I stand here the advocate for the admission of this State into the Union when I



have, as the senator says, been generally the advocate of equal rights, and have insisted very much on justice? I will tell the senator that it is because, when I consider the condition in which the country is, and when I look to the terrible conflict that lies right ahead of us, I feel disposed to arm myself and be equipped with all the forces that are legitimately within my power. The senator from Wisconsin said yesterday that he once voted for the admission of this State, because he thought we wanted to be reënforced by the principles that these men knocking at your doors are actuated by, as helpmates to carry out the great doctrines that we are endeavoring to establish. Sir, it was a good idea. . . I want to bring you soldiers that will not shrink from any responsibility; and such are knocking at your doors to-day. They are not the limping sort that will leave your friends in peril. If Congress is delinquent, it is because you have not these reënforcements that I want to bring here. . . They fought the common enemy side by side with us, and, according to their numbers, I am told and believe that no state in this Union furnished a larger proportion of efficient soldiery for the great cause of the war than did the Nebraskans, who some seemed to suppose are going to act the tyrant if you give them the power of a State.

   This appeal from Senator Wade opened the way for further discussion on the subject of national welfare and presented an additional and persuasive reason why Nebraska should be admitted into the Union.


   At the time this great debate was going on in the Senate the reconstruction measures were opposed by President Andrew Johnson. Civil rights measures were opposed by Andrew Johnson. There were constitutional amendments to be considered. The president had made that memorable and historic "swing around the circle" and in his speeches made in Philadelphia and St. Louis had said that congress was usurping power and was a body of tyrants and that the senate was "a body of men hanging on the verge of the government." Senator



Howard, of Michigan, acting under the impulse of these pressing and stirring conditions, said:

   I have no hesitation in saying plainly to the opponents of this bill that I do desire the admission of Colorado and Nebraska because their senators here and their representatives in the other House would greatly increase the Republican loyal strength in Congress. The interests of the country itself require this additional strength. I feel that I am actuated by the most patriotic motives when I say that in my judgment the interests of the United States of America, the interests of the whole loyal people who have borne the burden of this war, and especially the true interests of the insurgent population at the South, require this increase of strength in Congress.
   Sir, what, during the last eighteen months, have we witnessed? We have witnessed one of the most dangerous and gigantic strides of executive ambition and executive power that has ever been exhibited in this country or in any other free country on the globe.

   Senator Wade accepted the new issue made by Senator Howard of Michigan in favor of the admission of the state of Nebraska and supported it with the following strong language against some criticisms of Senator Sumner:

   You say I am going against human rights. No, sir; in my judgment I am going in favor of human rights, to strengthen our arm, so that we may resist, if it becomes necessary, any and all departments of this government that may seek to trample down human rights. Your view of the subject is an exceedingly narrow one. I am anxious to reënforce this body with elements that go for liberty and right, while you seek to exclude them and thrust them out on a mere technicality. I know, sir, that the cause we have in view will be greatly promoted by carrying out this measure to admit these states and the worthy men whom they have sent to represent them here; and I think it is very ungracious now as an afterthought to bring up objections to their admission that were never dreamed of till lately . . . The people have complied with every demand you have made; and now all at once it is proposed to treat them as though they were rebels seeking to destroy this Union, instead of forming a most loyal and worthy part of it. I am not standing here to contend against human rights. . . I want these loyal states in the Union. I am more anxious that



they should come in than I am that the southern states should be reconstructed. They can well wait and undergo a probation until we are satisfied that they have reformed, repented, and become loyal.

   Senator Timothy O. Howe also had a conception of the importance of the great political questions with which the senate and the country were then confronted and appreciated the necessity of having representation from additional northern states, and addressing himself to these conditions as a reason why Nebraska should be admitted into the Union, said:

   So it happened to me, as I dare say it happened to others, that I began to look about for reinforcements. I did not see exactly where they were to come from unless we drew on the West, on which we had been in the habit of drawing very freely during the late struggle. . . Here was one loyal constituency, with loyal representatives standing at our doors, willing to come to our aid and help us to carry on the great work which we had taken upon our shoulders, but under which for a little while we did stagger a little, and you know it. I thought, stricken as we were, we had better seize the greater good even at the sacrifice of a temporary evil; and I reconsidered the vote which I first gave on the question of admitting Colorado and voted finally for her admission . . . You remember of old, when Judea was looking in all directions for a Saviour, He at last appeared to them very unexpectedly from Nazareth. While we were looking about our frontiers for reinforcements to the legislatures of the country, lo, our saviour came from New Jersey. I scarcely looked for a saviour from that quarter any more than Judea for hers from Nazareth; but then we recognized ours when they came, which was more than Judea did of hers. They are here; the necessity has passed by; and now I think justice remains to be done.7
   7 This speech was made January 7, 1867. John P. Stockton, Democrat, who had been elected senator from New Jersey and took his seat at the beginning of the first session of the thirty-ninth Congress, December 4, 1865, was opposed to the civil rights bill. He was ejected March 27, 1866, ostensibly on account of a technical irregularity in the election proceedings. The Senate passed the civil rights bill over the veto of President Johnson on the sixth of the following April, by a vote of thirty-three to fifteen, and on April 9 the House of Rep-




   After the discussion in the senate, which had occupied a great part of the months of December and January, Senators Wade and Sherman, who were the chief and original champions for the admission of Nebraska, expressed a willingness to accept an amendment tendered by Senator Edmunds of Vermont to the effect that the state of Nebraska should not deny the exercise of the elective franchise on account of race or color.

resentatives also passed it by the requisite two-thirds majority. (The Congressional Globe, first session thirty-ninth Congress, pages 1809, 1861.) Rhodes, the historian, comments on this incident thus:

   "With questionable justice and propriety . . . the majority had unseated Stockton a democratic senator from New Jersey who had voted against the bill .... had Stockton not been unseated the veto would have been sustained.... The passage of this bill over the president's veto was indeed a momentous event, not only because, in view of Johnson's character, it rendered the breach between him and Congress complete but also for the reason that it opened a new chapter in constitutional practice. Since Washington there had been many vetoes but never until now had Congress passed over the president's veto a measure of importance; and this measure was one over which feeling in Congress and the country had been wrought up to the highest tension." (History of the United States, volume V, pages 585, 586.)

   James G. Blaine said of the Stockton incident: "The haste with which the question was brought to a decision can hardly be justified, and is a striking illustration of the intense party-feeling which had been engendered by the war." Senator William Wright, Stockton's colleague, who was absent at home on account of illness, and Stockton's friends in the senate urged postponement of the decision of his case for three days until Wright would be able to be present, but the party whips were inexorable. "His vote would have changed the result," said Mr. Blaine. (Twenty Years of Congress, volume II, page 159.) Senator Wright died November 1, 1866. Stockton was elected senator for the term beginning March 4, 1869, which was the beginning of the forty-first Congress. He displaced Frelinghuysen who had taken his seat when he was ejected.
   Senator Howe made the speech quoted from above after the ejection of Stockton and the providential death of Wright, and just after their two Republican successors had been safely seated--at the beginning of the session, December 3, 1866.--ED.



   Senator Wade said that he hoped the amendment would be adopted if it would tend to unite the Republican senators.
   Senator John Sherman took the same view in favor of harmony and said:

    I am in favor of admitting Nebraska without any amendment, without any qualifications, without any condition, and I think it is an unwise policy to impose conditions on the admission of Nebraska; but still, as the, friends of the measure think that the declaration drafted by the senator from Vermont will strengthen the bill, I am rather disposed to vote for it... I vote for it simply because I believe its adoption will strengthen the main measure and enable us to admit the state of Nebraska into the Union with her senators and representatives.

    The result was that the amendment of the senator from Vermont was adopted with an affirmative vote of twenty yeas as against eighteen nays, fourteen senators being absent. On the passage of the bill as amended, there were twenty-four senators voting yes and but fifteen voting no, and thirteen absent.
   The president's veto added friends to the cause of Nebraska, and the veto was overthrown by thirty-one votes in the affirmative and nine in the negative, twelve senators absent.
   The House of Representatives immediately took the same action, overturning the veto of the president by a similar proportion of votes.


   We now come to the final parchment sheets that gave Nebraska its birthright into the Union. The act of Congress was signed by Schuyler Colfax as speaker of the House of Representatives and by Lafayette Foster who was the president of the Senate. On the first of



March, 1867, the proclamation was signed by Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, and by William H. Seward as secretary of state. These two documents authorized the placing of the star of Nebraska in the flag of the American Union.
   The men who fought the senatorial battle for the admission of our state into the Union are almost forgotten by the present generation. It might be well said of these great men and of that stirring debate, as has been said by another speaking on a different occasion:

    And the policies which today seem the last thought of wisdom and beneficence, go out forgotten into the night. The constitutions designed to bring perpetual prosperity upon suffering states, survive only as curiosities in a text book. The eloquence which hushed the senate is lost like the rustling of leaves in the tree tops. A word, a color, a melody, as they bring a purer delight, so they live longer than the tangled policies of tyranny or revolution.

   But in the celebration which is near at hand, let us give some expression of our remembrance of the great men who gave statehood to Nebraska.

Prior page
Gen. Index
Next page
© 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by T&C Miller