to the popular sentiment expressed with great unanimity at the late election, to persist in their scheme of forcing the burden of a state government upon this people by cunningly devised oaths to be administered to the members of that convention and by an organization of the minority of that body, notwithstanding its adjournment by the majority, and that such a project, and the first suggestion of such a project, by repudiated and debauched politicians, deserves, and will receive the opprobrium, and its authors will meet the fate of revolutionary fanatics, faithless to public duty and defeated in treasonable measures.15 . . .
The committee which presented the resolutions consisted of J. Sterling Morton, chairman, James M. Woolworth, John Finney, William H. Spratlin, Dr. George B. Graff.
But this invective is quite inconsistent with the admonition of the principal pro-state organ:
Indeed, there is no occasion for the delegates to meet to gether at the capital at all. If it is clear that there is a majority elected, who will oppose the making of a constitution, why not remain at home and let the whole thing go by default? Such a course will save the members the amount of their traveling expenses, and no time will be lost. If no quorum appear, the matter is settled, and the enabling act goes for naught. We therefore suggest, in all good faith, that the members agree among themselves that they will remain at home. All expenses can thus be saved. Why spend two thousand dollars in coming to the Capitol to adjourn? If the members have to divide the expense among themselves, it will work unnecessary hardship. If they should decide to saddle it upon the tax-payers of Nebraska, for whom they have recently evinced such 'tender emotions,' it would be cruel, and besides it would have an ugly look. There isn't the slightest show that Uncle Sam will 'foot the bill.' The only safe course, therefore, is to stay at home.16
This advice, though prudent, was disingenuous if not contradictory; for it turned out that the paternal federal government recognized this expenditure as a just liability
15 Ibid., July 1, 1864.
16 The Nebraska Republican (Omaha), June 10, 1864.
--perhaps because, as we have seen, its own representatives had prompted its incurrence. The Republican of July 15, contains a letter from Samuel Maxwell to Algernon S. Paddock, secretary of the territory, authorizing him to donate the mileage and per diem due the writer of the letter as a delegate to the convention, to the United States Sanitary Commission, and a reply from Paddock, in appropriately "patriotic" phrase, informed the devotee delegate that the sum of $10.50 had been sent to relieve the needs and sufferings of the soldiers.
Forty-three delegates appeared at the convention. Whether or not nine others, making the full complement, were elected, does not appear from the newspapers, the only known source of information. At any rate, the advice of the Republican to the delegates to stay at home was not much heeded. The annals of the convention are short and simple. It met at the capitol, and was called to order by John Patrick, of Omaha. The committee on credentials consisted of Alfred H. Jackson, of Douglas county; Cornelius O'Connor, of Dakota; Charles F. Walther, of Richardson; Jefferson B. Weston, of Gage. Sterling P. Majors (father of Thomas J. Majors), of Nemaha, was temporary president, and Edwin A. Allen, of Washington, temporary secretary. On the informal ballot for permanent president, John Patrick received twenty votes; Sterling P. Majors, ten; John W. Chapman, nine; John Finney, one. Majors was elected on the first formal ballot, receiving twenty-three votes against twenty cast for Patrick. Algernon S. Paddock, secretary of the territory, administered the oath of office to the members. Immediately after organization was completed Jackson, of Douglas, offered the following resolution:
Resolved, That this convention adjourn, sine die, without forming a constitution.
Thirty-seven votes were cast for the resolution and seven against it, whereupon the convention adjourned."
Notwithstanding the rude repulse of
1864, Governor Saunders continued rather timidly to coy with
and coddle the elusive object of ambitious political desire
in his message to the legislative assembly of 1865; and he
worked into this wooing an altruistic patriotic plea that
the people of the territory ought to relieve the mother
government from her great financial burden, due to the war,
to the extent of establishing a self-supporting state
17 Following are the names of the delegates: Richardson county, Charles F. Walther, James Holcomb, James W. Leverett, Eugene H. Johnson, Oliver P. Bayne; Pawnee, Charles W. Giddings; Pawnee, Gage, Johnson, Clay and Jones, Jefferson B. Weston, Dr. Herman M. Reynolds; Nemaha, Daniel C. Sanders, Charles G. Dorsey, Rev. William, S. Horn, Sterling P. Majors; Otoe, Frederick Beyschlag, William McLennan, Dr. Frederick Renner, Lewis D. Laune, Robert Campbell, T. James Fitchie, James Sweet; Cass, John W. Chapman, Samuel Maxwell, Lawson Sheldon, Robert D. Hoback, Dr. Henry Bradford; Sarpy, John Q. Goss; Sarpy and Dodge, John Finney; Douglas, William A. Little, John Patrick, Alfred H. Jackson, Frederick Drexel, Frederick Bunn, Charles H. Brown, John A. Hall; Platte, Guy C. Barnum; Platte, Hall, Buffalo and Merrick, Isaac Albertson; Washington, Abraham Castetter, Elias H. Clark; Washington, Burt and Cuming, William Kline; Dakota, Dr. George B. Graff; Dakota, Cedar, Dixon and L'Eau Qui Court, Cornelius O'Connor, Leander Davis; Dixon, Cedar and L'Eau Qui Court, Walter P. Heydon; Platte, Monroe, Merrick, Hall, Buffalo, Kearney, Jason Parker.
The nine lacking members were due from the following districts: Johnson county, 1; Lancaster, 1; Clay, Lancaster, Seward and Saunders, 1; Saline, Butler, Lincoln and Kearney, 1; Sarpy, 1; Dodge, 1; Burt and Cuming, 1; Cass, Lancaster, Saline and Seward, 1; Nemaha, 1.
was scarcely time enough allowed, between the date of the reception of the bill in the Territory and the election of the members of the Convention, for the people to learn of its passage--certainly not enough to enable them to consider, thoroughly and dispassionately, the principles of the bill or the terms on which it was proposed to admit the Territory into the family of States. Under these circumstances, a large majority of the people decided that the members of the Convention should adjourn without forming or submitting any Constitution whatever. This decision of the people, under the circumstances, was just what might have been anticipated. It, however, is no proof that when convinced that liberal terms are proposed by the General Government they would not readily consent to take their place in the great family of States. One of the great and leading objects of forming Territorial Governments is to take the first step towards making a State. This is undoubtedly the object and aim of all Territories.
The strongest argument used against the admission into the Union, by those who opposed it, is perhaps the last one that should be resorted to by friends of our Government. I allude to the argument that we ought not to tax ourselves for anything which the General Government is willing, or is bound to pay. In other words that, so long as the General Government is willing to pay the expenses of the Territory, so long the people should refuse to change their form of Government. All parties are, I presume, ready to admit that our Government has quite as much as it can well do to maintain itself against its wicked enemies, who are trying to overthrow it; and it seems to me that all loyal and Union-loving people would be willing to assist in bearing their proper burdens; at least, that they should not longer insist on drawing from the General Government that which we might provide for ourselves. Your own knowledge of the wishes of the people--being fresh from their midst--will enable you to decide whether or not the people would desire any further action at present on this subject. I shall therefore leave the whole subject with you, believing that you will decide the matter in accordance with their wishes.18
These renewed but timid advances were not reciprocated, and no measure for reviving the issue was introduced in either House. By the next year, however, the statehood desire had revived in Republican, and found lodgment in some Democratic breasts.
18 House Journal of the Legislative Assembly, tenth session, page 18.
On February 5, John R. Porter, of Douglas county, introduced Council file number 22, "A joint resolution submitting a constitution for a State government to the people for their approval or rejection," the election to be held on the second day of June, 1866, and conducted in the same manner as elections for territorial officers.
After the second reading the resolution was referred to a special committee consisting of John B. Bennet, of Otoe county; John R. Porter, of Douglas; John W. Chapman, of Cass; and, on the same day, the committee recommended the passage of the measure. After some filibustering and an attempt to amend the judiciary article of the constitution, the resolution was read a third time, under suspension of the rules, and passed by a vote of seven to six. Those voting aye were Bennet, of Otoe county; Chapman, of Cass; Thomas L. Griffey, of Dakota; Andrew S. Holladay, of Nemaha; J. G. Miller, of Cass; Oliver P. Mason, of Otoe; John R. Porter, of Douglas. Those voting nay were Isaac Albertson, of Platte; Edwin A. Allen, of Washington; Corrington Blanchard, of Sarpy; George Faulkner, of Richardson; Benjamin E. B. Kennedy, of Douglas; Jeremiah McCasland, of Pawnee.
In the House there were unsucessful (sic) attempts to obstruct the passage of the resolution, but it was passed on February 8, by a vote of 22 to 16. The assumption of statehood was again opposed on the ground that the additional expense of a state government was unnecessary and would be oppressive. On the other hand the section south of the Platte favored state government on the ground that under territorial government the north of the Platte section, and especially Omaha, because it contained the capital, was able to procure undue governmental favors, while, under a purely local state government, the south Platte section, having a preponderance
of the population, would come into control. And so, of the twenty-two affirmative votes, only seven were cast by North Platte members while, of the sixteen negative votes, nine were by North Platte members.
On January 26, Charles H. Brown, a Democratic leader, of Douglas county, introduced into the House the following fiery preamble and resolution:
WHEREAS, Certain official politicians have assiduously sought, through specious arguments, to create a sentiment in favor of, and induce the people to change their simple and economical form of government, which heretofore has been and now is a blessing, for one which will have many new, useless and burdensome offices, to be filled by persons ambitious to occupy places of profit and trust, even at the expense of the taxpayers, and which will in its organization and operation necessarily be burdensome and ruinous to an extent which none can foresee, and consequently involving a taxation which will eat out the substance of the people;
AND WHEREAS, we believe that all political power, and the right to retain or lay aside forms of government, reside in and naturally pertain to the people, and that in all cases where a radical change in form of government and laws is intended to be effected, involving personal rights or great expenditure of treasure, the same should be accomplished only after the people have expressed their desire for such a result, by choosing, through the ballot box, their representatives, with express reference thereto;
AND WHEREAS, the people of this territory but a short time ago, with almost entire unanimity, expressed their unqualified disapproval and condemnation of any attempt to force on them the grinding taxation incident to, and schemes of politicians for, state government, and have not since then, by ballot or otherwise, expressed a wish for increased and increasing burdens and taxation;
AND WHEREAS, personal interest and selfish considerations are strong inducements and powerful incentives for individual or combined action, and certain politicians have industriously sought again to force state government upon the people, and compel them again at great expense and trouble, whether they wish or not, to consider that question, and through fraud and chicanery fasten this incubus upon them;
AND WHEREAS, his excellency, Alvin Saunders, the chief executive federal officer of this territory has, with great consider-
ation, after the rebuke given but a brief period ago by the people to political schemers for state organization, again, by plausible arguments, thrust, in his annual message at this session, this repudiated question upon the Legislative Assembly for its action, and has sought, in an unusual manner, to force a constitution 'by whatever body or by whomsoever made,' upon the people of this Territory, without giving them even the small privilege, to say nothing of their absolute and almost unqualified right, to select whomsoever they might see fit to comprise that body, through whose actions they might entrust so grave and vital a question as making a constitution;
Therefore, be it resolved, as the sense of this House, that it is unwise to take any steps which will throw this question upon the people without their first having asked for its submission to them.
On motion of Lorenzo Crounse, then of Richardson county, consideration of the resolution was postponed until July 1, 1866--beyond the limits of the session. The vote on the resolution was 20 to 14, nearly a party division.19
On February 9, a resolution offered by James A. Gilmore, of Otoe county, that a committee of five be appointed by the speaker, "to investigate charges of bribery and corruption which have been made in relation to the passage of the joint resolution submitting a constitution to the people," was passed unanimously. This committee, at first, comprised Joseph Arnold, of Cass County; Lorenzo Crounse, Richardson; James A. Gilmore, Otoe; Joseph W. Paddock, Douglas; James Thorn, chairman, Otoe. On February 10, Guy C. Barnum, of Platte, and Charles H. Brown, of Douglas, were substituted for Gilmore and Paddock, who were excused from further service.
On February 12, a majority report and a minority report were submitted, the first signed by Thorn, Barnum and Brown, the second by Crounse and Arnold. On
19 Ibid., eleventh session, pages 91-92.
motion of Samuel Maxwell, of Cass, the minority report was adopted without roll call.
The following account of the proceedings, by the Omaha Republican (weekly) of February 16, 1866, though colored by partisanship, throws an interesting light on the episode.
Mr. Thorn, from the select committee to investigate alleged bribery and corruption in the passage of the joint resolution submitting a constitution to the people for ratification or rejection, proposed to submit the pencilled notes of the testimony taken by a majority of the committee as the report of the majority. Mr. Lake objected, and desired that the majority should, in accordance with the purposes expressed in the resolution of Mr. Gilmore, report some conclusion arrived at by them from the testimony, with a recommendation of the committee for the action of the House. He further contended that the testimony had either inculpated some person or persons, or that there was no sufficient foundation for the investigation. All that he desired was that the committee should discharge its duty by reporting something for the definite action of the House. Mr. Brown, a member of the committee, contended that the house was bound to receive the voluminous pencilled, blurred, erased and interlined notes of the testimony made by the majority of the committee, and have it spread upon the journals as the report of the committee, and that the House must draw their own conclusions therefrom without any further aid from the committee. That for his part he was unwilling to say that the committee would not take the responsibility of preferring a charge.
The testimony was recommitted to the committee, on motion of Mr. Lake, with instructions to report some conclusion, if any, the committee had arrived at, or that there was no sufficient testimony to justify one.
Mr. Thorn, from the select committee above noticed, presented again the report of the majority with the testimony. Mr. Crounse, from the minority of the committee presented a report. The majority and minority reports, and the testimony accompanying them, was now read. Mr. Maxon moved that the minority report be adopted, and upon this motion there was a protracted debate, in which Mr. Lake, Crounse, Brown and Barnum participated. Mr. Lake and Mr. Crounse contending that the majority of the committee had failed to fulfil the requirements of the house, as they still refused to report anything for the definite action of the house.
Mr. Crounse said that the majority of the sessions of the committee had manifested the utmost partiality and unfairness, calling witnesses without consultation with the minority, and examining them with no reference to the exposition of the alleged bribery and corruption, but clearly and manifestly with the intent of manufacturing capital against the constitution and its friends. That the majority of the committee had, in charity, he must believe, been prompted by unscrupulous partisans, who were hanging around the House and endeavoring to defeat and unpopularize the State movement by the most debasing arts of desperate demagogues, manifesting thereby a consciousness of their inability to meet the friends of State in an open and fair field fight; that this mode of warfare was in character with the man who led the opposition. He also said that the investigation had proven that offers were made to State men that if they would vote to divide the election of the officers and the submission of the Constitution, that the opponents would vote for a bill of considerable importance, in which some of the State men were interested--a bill for the incorporation of the Missouri Colonization Society. Mr. Crounse further said that the testimony when fairly reviewed established the fact that no means, even of the most desperate resort, were to be spared in the contest against State; that it was only for the purpose of blinding and misleading the people that the investigation had been concocted; that they hoped to unpopularize the State movement by diverting the minds of the people from the matchless fundamental law presented for their consideration with its economical provisions for the administration of the State government, and the development of the resources of the country, and the advancement of all the material interests of the people, for whom it was framed and from whom it must receive its vitality, by dastardly attacks upon the character of some of its friends.
Mr. Brown replied by denying that such was the purpose of its opponents. The house then adopted the minority report made by Mr. Crounse.
The minority report, signed by Lorenzo Crounse, then of Richardson county, and Joseph Arnold, of Cass, was very partisan in spirit and language and J. Sterling Morton was, of course, the object of its most animated aspersions, a deserved tribute to his ability, boldness and superiority to consistency. The accusers contended that the investigation was instituted by that
branch of the House which was opposed to statehood and urged on by outside politicians to defeat it, by such unfair means as damaging personal reputations.
As a proof of this we might refer to the following facts which appear in the testimony: one J. Sterling Morton, editor of "Nebraska City News," a would-be leader of the democracy of the territory, and active anti-state man before, during and since the submission and passage of [the] joint resolution, has spent most of his time on the floor of this House caucusing with members, drafting buncombe political resolutions for members to introduce in the House, by which its time was occupied to the exclusion of more legitimate and profitable business. The appointment of this committee would seem to have been directed with a view to this end; the very chairman, the Hon. Mr. Thorn, appears, by the evidence, to have been an instrument used by said J. Sterling Morton to introduce a resolution "blocked out" by him, and directed against state. The Hon. Mr. Brown, as appears by the House Journal, was the introducer, if not the framer, of another preamble and resolution against state, of a most insulting character, and which was most summarily disposed of by this House.
The investigation adduced testimony to show that Morton had approached John B. Bennet, member of the Council from his owm county of Otoe, with a proposition, signed by fifteen anti-state members of the general assembly, that if pro-state members would separate the question of state from that of the election of state officers, the fifteen would go for the suspension of the rules, and pledge themselves that the bill for submitting the constitution to the people should not be defeated. With the exception of the charge that pro-state partisans had attempted to bribe Theodore H. Robertson, member of the House from Sarpy county, the offenses considered in the report were of no greater turpitude than those immemorially and commonly ascribed to legislative bodies. But this accusation, of gravest import and commonly counted too important to be ignored, was dismissed on the bland presumption that the alleged offenders, both of the first
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