again introduced an enabling bill (H. R. 14 1/2) for Nebraska. On March 17, 1864, Samuel S. Cox, of Ohio, a noted Democratic leader, moved the following amendment:
Provided, That the said Territory shall not be admitted as a State until Congress shall be satisfied by a census taken under authority of law that the population of said Territory shall be equal to that required as the ratio for one member of Congress under the present apportionment.
The amendment was rejected--ayes 43, nays 72. All of those voting aye were Democrats, and all voting no, except Joseph Baily, Democrat, of Newport, Pennsylvania, were Republicans. The bill was then rushed through under the previous question and without a roll call, no record of the vote thereon being given.
Benjamin F. Wade, chairman of the committee on territories, and the most aggressive Republican partisan in the Senate, had charge of the bill in that house when it was passed, without roll call, on April 12, after a brief debate, in which, besides Wade, James Harlan, of Iowa, Lyman Trumbull, of Illinois, and La Fayette S. Foster, of Connecticut, all Republicans, took part. Mr. Harlan said:
There is an unusual provision in the twelfth section of the bill to which I desire to call attention. It is as follows:
That five per cent. of the proceeds of the sales of all public lands lying within said State, which have been or shall be sold by the United States prior or subsequent to the admission of said State into the Union, after deducting all the expenses incident to the same, shall be paid to the said State for the support of common schools.
It is not usual to grant the five per cent. on the sale of lands preceding the admission of the State. I call the attention of the chairman of the committee and the Senate to it. The usual provision is to give five per cent. of the proceeds of the sale of all public lands after the admission of the State.
Mr. Wade made this unconvincing reply:
This provision was in the bill as it came to us from the House of Representatives, and as those sales do not amount to much anyhow, we thought we might be generous to this State, and that it was not of sufficient importance to strike it out and make an amendment. There has not been a vast deal of land sold there; but the gentleman knows more than I do about the quantity. I suppose it will be somewhat expensive to erect a State government there, and I should be willing to extend this privilege to them, though I am not strenuous about it. If the Senate think it would be generous now to strike it out, they can do so. I prefer the bill as it is, but I shall not resist such an amendment.
Mr. Trumbull wanted to know what the population of the territory was by the last census. He thought there were "some twenty or thirty thousand people there," and then added:
If Congress think it proper to admit every twenty or thirty thousand people they can find anywhere as a State, they will multiply States very rapidly. The number of inhabitants necessary to send a Representative to the Congress of the United States in the old States is about one hundred and twenty-five thousand, I think.
Here Senator Garrett Davis, of Kentucky, interjected the information that the number was one hundred and twenty-seven thousand.
Mr. Foster inquired whether this small population of twenty-five thousand had asked to be admitted as a state; and he thought it very strange if they had.
If twenty-five thousand people in that far-off region are desirous of paying the expenses and bearing the burdens of a State government it seems to me wonderful. I should like very much to know how many of the population of that Territory have asked to be made a State. For one, I should not wish to impose upon them the burdens of a State government without their asking for it. It will make taxation very heavy to sustain a State government there.
And then he probed into the kernel of the scheme:
Some half dozen influential and ambitious men who aspire
to be Senators and members of the House of Representatives and district judges may very easily get up an apparent desire in the population of a Territory to be made into a State. But how far, outside of the people? Who is it living in a Territory that would not prefer to have it continue a Territory until it had assumed the size and proportions of a State than to have it made prematurely into a State. Who, except the men who expect to hold these important offices?
The senator insisted that though the population seemed to him altogether too small to be made into a state, yet, if the people of the territory desired admission, he would not oppose it, though he should want, first, to be satisfied beyond a peradventure that the great majority of the people themselves desired the change.
Wade answered the main objection by confession and avoidance.
I believe this Territory has as many inhabitants as the other Territories that we have already authorized to form a State government.
He was, singularly, unaware that the enabling act had been asked for through a memorial by the territorial legislature, and, in reply to Foster's doubts that the people wanted state government, he could only say that
They have a Delegate in the other House, who, I suppose, fairly represents their will and their wishes. He was there advising the passage of this bill.
Senator Foster again pressed his objection that there was no evidence that the people of the territory wanted state government, and that therefore it was, apparently, being pressed upon them.
It seems to me officious, to say the least, for us to pass a bill inviting them to come together and express their views on this question.13
13 The record of the proceedings on the bill In the House of Rep-
The half-hearted opposition to the measure by the Democrats of the House was probably inspired by the Democrats of the territory, who felt that they had nothing to gain, though perhaps something to lose, by the admission measure--because the offices and other emoluments appertaining to statehood would be likely to fall to their party opponents. The Democrats of the Senate seemed to be indifferent to this rather trivial consideration; but a positive spirit was engendered through the struggle over the method of restoring the rebel states to their proper places in the Union, which culminated in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Democrats quite naturally took sides with the president; for they believed in his policy, and the division of the Republican party over it promised to be very advantageous to their own party.
President Lincoln signed the bill on April 19.
Governor Alvin Saunders rather mildly presented the familiar arguments for a state government in his message to the ninth general assembly, on January 8, 1864; but he added the suggestion that if Colorado and Nevada, which had asked for state governments, should be admitted and Nebraska left out, "the question would naturally arise in the minds of persons contemplating emigration to any one of the Territories named, why was not Nebraska admitted also?" On January 13, A. H. Jackson, of Dakota county, but editor of The Omaha Nebraskian, a Democratic newspaper, introduced Council bill number 13, "a joint resolution and memorial to Con-
resentatives appears on page 1167 of the Congressional Globe, first session thirty-eighth Congress, part 2. For proceedings in the Senate, see the same volume, pages 1310, 1558, 1607.
gress, praying for an act enabling Nebraska Territory to become a state," which was read a second time under suspension of the rules and referred to the committee on federal relations--David Butler, of Pawnee county; William A. Little, of Douglas county; Turner M. Marquett, of Cass county. The committee reported back a substitute the next day which was passed without roll call. It was a curious coincidence that Butler was elected the first governor of the state, Little the first chief justice of the supreme court and Marquett the first member of the federal House of Representatives. Little was the only Democrat chosen at the first election for prospective state officers, but he died before assuming the office, and Oliver P. Mason, his Republican opponent, was appointed to fill the vacancy thus created. The committee's pro-state seed did not fall in stony places, but brought forth fruit precisely a hundred fold.
On the sixteenth the bill passed the House by a vote of twenty-four to eleven. Only eight of the twenty-four ayes were from the North Platte, and nine of the eleven nays were from that dissenting section.
The enabling act authorized the governor of the territory to order an election of members of a convention on June 6, which should assemble on July 4, to frame a constitution, the number of members of the convention to be "the same as now constitute both branches of the legislature"--fifty-two. Accordingly, on May 2, Governor Saunders issued a proclamation ordering the election.
The question of adopting state organization was not specifically submitted at the election, as it was in 1860, and the canvass turned on the election of members of the convention who were pledged to adjournment without forming a constitution, or the contrary. The division was generally along regular party lines, the Republicans,
then rather thinly disguised under the name, "Union party," contending for state organization, and the Democrats against. The anti-state party succeeded at the outset in putting their opponents on the defensive, and easily kept them in that attitude. The acrimony of the discussion of the issue was fully up to the standard of political debates of that period. The prematurity of the proposed change, predicated chiefly upon the inabilty of the people to sustain the increased cost of state government, was the main objection urged against it, and this potent appeal was artfully aided by the charge that covetousness of the tempting official perquisites of statehood was the main motive of the pro-state leaders. The Douglas county Democratic convention, held May 28, adopted the following resolutions which were presented by Andrew J. Poppleton.
Whereas, the Pro-State party in this County, backed by official patronage, and stimulated by unscrupulous, greedy seekers after office, are using every endeavor, by false representations, &c, to secure the election of their ticket, and thus aid in saddling upon the five thousand taxpayers of this Territory (scarcely enough to make a respectable county) scattered over an area of 113,000 square miles, the burden of supporting a State Government, therefore,
Resolved, That mass meetings be held in every precinct of this county, prior to the day of election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention for the purpose of bringing the issue fairly before the people, and that a committee be appointed by this convention, whose duty it shall be to provide speakers for the occasions, and to give due notice of the times of meeting.
Resolved, That the delegates to the constitutional convention, just nominated, be instructed to oppose the formation of a State constitution and government, and to favor and make the utmost effort to procure an ajournment sine die, immediately on the assembling of the convention and without any action towards the formation of a state constitution.
Andrew J. Poppleton, Charles H. Brown, and Clinton Briggs were appointed the committee on speakers.
"Three times three hearty good cheers were given for the anti-state ticket" at the close of the convention.14
The Nebraskian of June 17 resents the pretensions of the Nebraska City News that it deserved the entire credit of defeating state organization; and in support of its dissent the Omaha organ alleges that the first anti-state meeting was held by the Democrats of Douglas county on the seventh of May, at which James M. Woolworth, James G. Megeath, Origen D. Richardson, Andrew J. Poppleton and S. J. Goodrich reported a resolution requesting the Democratic central committee, which had been called to meet at Plattsmouth on the twelfth, to advise Democrats to support only such candidates for membership in the convention as would be pledged to adjourn without proceeding to business, and that the central committee acted accordingly. The Nebraskian declared further, that "there was not one State man elected in our beat, north of the Platte. How is it, in yours, Mr. News? You have a few State delegates in your diggins have you not?" On the tenth of June the Nebraskian said that "The entire North Platte are with us"; and that Sarpy, Cass and Otoe were largely anti-state. In the same paper it appears that the vote for Democratic delegates from Douglas county was: William A. Little, 366; Charles H. Brown, 365; John A. Hall, 365; Alfred H. Jackson, 366; Ferdinand Bunn, 366; Frederick Drexel, 550; John Patrick 337. The Union or pro-state delegates had scanty support: John H. Kellom, 68; Experience Estabrook, 47; Alex McAusland, 48; Louis A. Walker, 47; O. P. Hurford, 46; Joel T. Griffin, 63; S. C. Brewster, 47.
The Nebraskian of June 3 contends that though the
14 The Omaha Nebraskian, June 3. 1864.
United States pays two-thirds of the expense of the territorial government the territory can't pay the rest and is now in debt for it over fifty-four thousand dollars. How, then, could it support state government? Bankruptcy would be inevitable under it. On the other hand, the Nebraska Republican--of the same date--argues that the cost of state government, consisting of the expense of the legislature and salaries of the officers now paid by the federal government, would be only $12,180, and it exclaims, "Let it be remembered that the General government has generously proposed to defray the expenses of our Constitutional Convention . . ." The Republican of May 27 said that at a "Union" mass meeting for Douglas county, held at Omaha, May 21, for the purpose of choosing delegates to the territorial convention to be held at Plattsmouth, General Experience Estabrook spoke in favor of state organization, and "his remarks were forcible and pertinent, and were received with general applause."
The expectant politicians neglected no plausible argument for state organization. In the light of our present knowledge, there is irony in the Republican's faith in the salt basin as a source of state revenue:
The salt springs of Nebraska, which will come into possession of the new State, would if properly managed, yield a revenue to the State Treasury more than sufficient to meet all the increased expenditures incident to a State government.
Subsequent experiments with the salt springs cost private citizens and the state itself large sums of money, and they yielded great disappointment and a merely nominal revenue. This prolific issue of the Republican, forgetful of the adage that consistency is the stumbling block of fools, appealed to it to rebuke a man eminently resourceful in expedients:
Sterling Morton & Co., who were a few years ago clamoring for State organization now oppose it, because they fear that Nebraska may aid in the adoption of the slavery prohibition amendment to the federal constitution. How many Republicans and Union Democrats will aid them to uphold the "divine institution" we shall see.
The Nebraskian (June 24, 1864), in an incisive anti-state summing-up, throws light on the partisan side of the question and exhibits the pugilistic punch of pioneer journalism in Nebraska:
The plan was laid at Washington by Abe, [Lincoln] Seward & Co., and the details and execution of the plan were left to Sam Daily, Webster [Edward D.] and others there and the officials of a lower grade here at home. The first step was to pass the enabling act. That feat was done with great unanimity. Abe took snuff and all the clan at Washington sneezed and as soon as the news came here all the dogs of low degree, "Tray, Blanch and Sweetheart" all sneezed. In the county of Douglas forty-six sneezed. On the hypothesis that the people were nobody, they were not consulted nor their rights and best interests at all regarded. The law was passed.--Did Daly do his duty? Did he faithfully represent the people of Nebraska on the floor of Congress when that bill was on its transit? Did he like an honest man present the memorial asking congress to give us the privilege of voting yea or nay on the question of having a State Government? Not a bit of it. On the contrary he basely betrayed his trust and like an unprincipled and faithless demagogue as he is, he suppressed the memorial and lisped not a word in favor of submitting the question referred to to the people. . . So the law was passed. It was the first act in the drama. In due time it made its appearance here and the second act, the making of the constitution was to be accomplished, and here the people paused. They were now for the first time noticed. They with "loud acclaim" condemned the entire plan. An overwhelming majority instructed their delegates to vote an immediate adjournment sine die without further action. And now what? This loud, this "deep damnation" by the popular voice is to be ignored and we are to be cheated, swindled into a State after all! And this fraud is to be effected by the shallow quibble that the law binds the convention to make a constitution.
No doubt that was intended by the wire-pullers and political jugglers at Washington. But how foolish to suppose they have succeeded. The act "enables" the people of Ne-
braska through a convention to form a constitution. It does not say they shall do it, but may. They have said they will do no such thing. Congress, the present one, has in its folly and fanaticism done many silly, absurd, wicked and unconditional acts--and under this despotic administration the attempt has been made in some instances to coerce the political action of the people. We would have no objection to see the experiment tried here if such be the design of the wire-pullers. If they suppose they can force the intelligent and plucky voters of Nebraska to make a constitution against their better judgment, we say let them try it. . .
The territorial convention of the Union party, held May 26, inexplicably dodged the issue which the party leaders sought to make paramount, while the Democratic convention, held June 22, exulted in the rebuke of the "iniquity" with painful prolixity:
Resolved, That we congratulate the Democracy of Nebraska upon the result of the recent election of members of the Constitutional Convention by which an overwhelming majority stand pledged to adjourn, sine die on the first day of the session without proceeding to business. The people are thus saved the expenses of a session of the convention which would have added at least $25,000 to our public debt. An election has been forestalled at which the money of the Adminstration poured out like water would have been employed upon the corruptable; a State government has been declined whose sole benefit of multiplying officers and facilitating public plunder would be dearly purchased by ruinous taxation, which must have eaten out the subsistence of our people, and drafts for the army which would have consumed a [our] population.
An iniquity has been emphatically rebuked which would have constituted 30,000 people the sovereign equals of New York, or Ohio, or Illinois in order that three electoral votes might be added to the purchase by which a corrupt Administration is seeking to perpetuate its power, and while we yield all commendation to the independent and truly patriotic members of the Republican and other parties, who lent us their aid to thwart these purposes of unqualified infamy, it must be remembered that the plan by which these inestimable benefits are assured to us was conceived, carried forward and accomplished by the Democracy of Nebraska.
2d, That we have heard with astonishment that certain federal office holders in this territory propose, in utter disregard,
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