Nebraska as a State | First State Officers|
Legislative | Political | Removal of the Capital
Impeachment of Gov. Butler: Article I | Article II | Article III|
Article IV | Article V | Article VI | Article VII | Article VIII | Article IX
Article X | Article XI
Impeachment of Gov. Butler (cont.): Answer|
Constitution of 1871 | The James Regime | Proclamation|
The James Regime(cont.) | Supplementary Resolutions|
Constitution of 1875: |
Preamble | Article I--Bill of Rights | Article II--Distribution of Powers
Article III--Legislative | Article IV--Legislative Apportionment
Constitution of 1875 (cont.): |
Article V--Executive Department | Article VI--The Judicial Department
Article VII--Rights of Suffrage | Article VIII--Education
Article IX--Revenue and Finance | Article X--Counties
Article XI--Corporations: Railroad Corporations
Municipal Corporations | Miscellaneous Corporations
Article XII--State, County and Municipal Indebtedness
Article XIII--Militia | Article XIV--Miscellaneous Provisions
Constitution of 1875 (cont.): |
Article XV--Amendments | Article XVI--Schedule
Propositions Separately Submitted | Legislative and Political
Legislative and Political (cont.) | Popular Votes | State Roster|
Senatorial Succession | The Political Status of Nebraska|
The Population of Counties | Omaha in 1858|
Per Cent of Increase in Population | Prof. Wilber's Address
Hon. J. M. Woolworth's Address | Public Lands|
Educational Lands in Nebraska | Educational|
Slavery in Nebraska|
The Woman Suffrage Question|
During the year 1871, the sentiment favoring the adoption of sundry marked changes in the State constitution was so pronounced that a revision of that fundamental law was made. Not only did the body of the proposed constitution contain radical variations from the one than in force, but added thereto, as separate clauses, to be severally passed upon by the people, were certain amendments which, if adopted, would have worked adversely to the established order of things. Among the most noticeable of the changes in the text of the document was a section permitting the imposing of taxes on all church, cemetery and so-called religious and benevolent society property above the value of $5,000. As this limit was exceeded by many of the older bodies in the larger towns, and would soon be, in all probability, by a large majority of societies throughout the State, the clause aroused strong opposition from churchmen and became a power in the final defeat of the constitution. It may be regarded with reason, however, that the weights which dragged the constitution of 1871 down were the separate amendments attached thereto. One was a provision making individual stockholders in incorporated associations and banks liable to double the amount of their stock; another prohibited county and municipal aid to corporations; another provided for compulsory education and reformatory schools; another related to inhibition and license, while still another was a diluted clause touching upon the extension of the right of suffrage, permitting the question to be submitted to the people if the Legislature should so ordain. The clause fixing liability of stockholders touched the interest of all corporations, and was defeated by a vote of 8,580 to 7,286. The welfare of railroads was endangered by the clause prohibiting municipal aid to corporations, and was defeated by a vote of 9,549 to 6,690. Compulsory education was disposed of by a negative vote of 9,958 to 6,286. The inhibition and license clause fell beneath a burden of 10,160 to 6,071. But it was reserved to the suffrage attachment to reach its end smothered by the overwhelming majority of 12,676 to 8,502.
The popular vote on the adoption or rejection of the constitution of 1871, by counties, was as follows:
The fight over this question was an intensely bitter one, and measures were resorted to which were not legal to effect the adoption of the constitution. As a matter of record, it appears that the policy of the man whose son was about to start out for himself was the animating spirit of the canvass, in certain quarters. "Get wealth, my son; honestly, if you can; but--get wealth." We do not mean that all were thus disposed who favored the measure; but enough of this element existed in certain quarters to leave a very malodorous evidence of a zeal which surpassed either honesty or the limits of reason. Vaunting ambition fell so hard upon the other side as to leave but a badly shattered corpse where a living power was hoped to survive.
Among the newer counties of the State were Nuckolls and Webster. The former had been in existence but a few months, and returns were then on file in the Secretary of State's office, the ink wherewith they were penned being scarcely dry, so to speak, showing a detailed vote of thirty-two, each individual's name being appended to the returns in the form of a poll-list. This election was held June 27, 1871, and at that time D. W. Montgomery was chosen County Surveyor. The Clerk was Eldridge Downing, named at the same election. These facts should be borne in mind by the reader.
An election had been held in Webster County on the 19th of April, 1871, at which forty-five votes were cast by persons duly recorded in the poll-list accompanying the returns to the Secretary of State. F. B. Williams was chosen County Clerk.
The vote on the proposed constitution was duly taken, as already stated, September 19. The measure provided for a canvass of the returns, October 4, 1871. The board of canvassers consisted of Hons. Silas A. Strickland, President of the Senate; John Gillespie, State Auditor, and Acting Gov. William H. James. The board met at the time appointed and the canvass proceeded amidst the greatest excitement in and about the capitol building. The halls and adjoining rooms were densely thronged with men, but few could, of course, lawfully gain admittance to the room in which the court was carried on. When the period allowed by law for the canvass had expired the public feeling became intense. It was evident that the constitution had been defeated. The canvass closed at noon. That afternoon two letters reached the post office in Lincoln, purporting to contain returns of a vote on the question of adoption or rejection, cast by the lawfully qualified electors of Nuckolls and Webster Counties respectively. These documents were received too late to be incorporated in the official count, had no valid cause existed for their rejection. The alleged returns contained such rank and stupid evidences of fraud, that they soon became the jest and by-word of all. The "returns" were made out on the usual printed forms. No seals were attached to them, and, in lieu thereof, attached, inclosed in a rude scrawl, were the words "No seal"--an unnecessary announcement of a self-evident fact, but one intended to convey the impression that no adhesive substance was extant at that moment in the new counties.
The Nuckolls County document showed a most phenomenal increase in the voting population of that region, for, in three months the vote had grown from thirty-two to nearly five hundred! The affirmative ballot was 440 and the amendments were treated in a slightly varying manner. To this marvelous evidence of material prosperity was appended the signature of W. D. Montgomery, County Clerk, who attested to the fact of the report being a "true and correct canvass." The names of Messrs. John L. Stevens and William Helfer were subscribed as Judges. The facts that D. W. Montgomery was Surveyor and Eldridge Downing, Clerk, and that no prior knowledge of such a remarkable influx of male citizens had reached the ears of the people at Lincoln, as well as that a residence of less than three months by " citizens " was not likely to create so profound an interest in a measure with which they were previously unacquainted--to say nothing of the fear which naturally arose that some of the new-comers were, possibly, not legal voters, all conspired to increase the impression that this document was a fraudulent one. The "returns " from Webster were not so full of "errors," but the vote was almost as strong. From 45, in June, to 146, in September, is an increase denoting a keen appreciation of the agricultural possibilities and progressive qualities of the county. The signatures of "Silas Gooman" and George W. Berkshire," alleged Judges, were not on the poll-list of the June election, but the Clerk's name, F. B. Williams, chanced to be right. Subsequent unofficial research established the fact that these papers were written not very far from Lincoln, dispatched to the now historic but defunct village of Swan City, Saline County, and there posted. As the result of the election was not altered by the attempted frauds, no investigation was instituted, and the authorship of the brilliant scheme remains--to the public--a mystery. Before dismissing the subject, we can but comment on the " irony of fate." Had those "returns " been counted, the constitution would still have failed of adoption; for the originators of the plan gave but 586 votes from Webster and Nuckolls, whereas 841 were needed.
On the 9th of January, 1872, in accordance with the order of adjournment, the Legislature re-assembled in what was known as the eighth adjourned session. Owing to occurrences hereinafter related, the journals of this session were never officially published, and are to be found to-day only in the files of cotemporaneous newspapers. From such sources of information, the following paragraphs relating thereto are compiled.
The question of Auditor Gillespie's impeachment was still before the Senate, but on the 11th inst., two days after the Assembly met, notice was served on that higher body that the House had withdrawn the charges. The court was then adjourned, sine die.
The leading issues were, as appears from such means of knowledge as exist, the reconsideration of the question of a new constitution and the adoption of a measure looking to the improvement of the saline advantages of the State. Other matters were, of course, in mind, and acrimonious debate frequently stirred the deep, but by no means sluggish waters of the legislative pool. Even at the best, a political life is not conducive to brotherly kindness, and when there exist, as in Nebraska during 1871 and 1872, extraordinary motives for rancor, whether real or fancied, the utmost placidity of intercourse is not to be anticipated. The removal of Gov. Butler had augmented this bitterness. Many of his friends openly pronounced his trial a persecution in fact, and his conviction a rank disgrace to the intelligence of the people; and some were even ready to affirm that the Senate felt bound to remove him at all hazards, and so found him guilty on a charge he would be held technically innocent on in a court of legal jurisdiction. Others declared him guilty of bribe-taking, though they winked at the accusations of charge 1; and in Lincoln, where his work of building up the city by almost superhuman effort was still remembered gratefully, the greater number of adult citizens were outspoken in his defense. They esteemed these charges the work of foes to the continuance of the capital at Lincoln. The triumvirate of Butler, Kennedy and Gillespie were regarded as shrewd but beneficial guardians of the chief end and aim of the "Magic City."
When Acting Gov. James, by the operations of constitutional law, became Chief Executive in power, he naturally attached to himself a strong force of men; but he was not invincible. He had, like many who have held high stations before and since, elements of weakness, where, in both political and moral sense, he might have fortified his cause by different courses. Those were days of intensity. Men entertained opinions and were not slow to maintain them, by vigorous means, if necessity demanded such enforcement. They did not always ponder over abstract right and wrong, nor even over policies in some cases. But, at all events, when the eighth adjourned session attempted to transact business for the people, it was patent that harmony had for the time being taken its white-winged flight.
The 18th of January witnessed a dead-lock in the Senate over the saline bills, and Executive wrath was muttered forth against the constitutional bill. The House, on the 19th, reconsidered the question of passing the latter--which was, in effect, to purge the revision of the proposed organic law of 1871 of its objectionable features and re-submit the matter to the people--and, by a vote of 20 to 12, defeated the bill altogether.
Matters continued to grow more threatening. Under a call of the House, the Senate was held in session all night. From the Daily State Journal is quoted the following editorial apropos to this phase of the proceedings:
"That body [the Senate] remained in session all night, still under a call; when, about 8 o'clock, the President declared a motion for recess for breakfast. When the Senate reconvened, the six members, consisting of President Hascall and Messrs. Abbott, Cropsey, Metz, Sheldon and Thomas, had evidently prepared their programme. Mr. Sheldon introduced a motion to adjourn until the 31st day of December next. He was called to order by Mr. Scofield, the point of order being that, under a call of the House, no business was in order. The President overruled the point of order, and his decision was appealed from. The question being, 'Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgment of the House?' the ayes and noes were demanded. Those voting aye were Messrs. Abbott, Cropsey, Metz, Sheldon, Thomas and President Hascall. Noes--Messrs. Hilton, Lynch, Larsh, Scofield, Tucker and Tennant. This, of course, defeated the affirmative side of the question, according to the rules of the Senate and all other legislative bodies. But the President declared the affirmative carried; put the question, brought down the gavel, and immediately declared the Senate adjourned until December 31. Of course, Mr. Hascall knew that the motion was not carried. Mr. Hascall also knew that his adjournment was null and void according to the standing rule of the Senate (Jefferson's Manual), which says that neither House can adjourn for more than three days except by consent of the other; i. e., by concurrent resolution. This rule has always been held the law by all legislators, and especially by the present Legislature of Nebraska. So that, taking any aspect of the case we may, Mr. Hascall's adjournment is no adjournment, and the Senate is now in legal session.
"At the other end of the capitol, a no less extraordinary, and arbitrary course was attempted by the Acting Governor. That body [the House] passed a concurrent resolution of adjournment on Wednesday next, at 11 o'clock P. M. The House adopted the report of the committee, and the Senate received the report, which laid over one day, under the rules. Hence there was no disagreement as to the time of adjournment, according to the records of the two Houses. There can be no disagreement until the Senate has acted in the matter. But the Acting Governor sent in a message to the House, which arrived just as the Speaker was putting a motion to adjourn until Monday at 2 o'clock, which motion was carried, and the message was, of course, sent back to the Executive."
It appears, from newspaper records, that Acting Gov. James had sent to the House a certain message, which, under the rules, could not then be entertained. But upon receiving this intimation, he issued the following proclamation, dismissing the Legislature, without date:
STATE OF NEBRASKA,
To the Hon. the Speaker of the House of Representatives:
AND, WHEREAS, no reasonable hope is entertained that the longer continuance in session of this Legislature will result in the adoption of any measures which have for their object the public good,
Now, therefore, I, William H. James, Acting Governor of the State of Nebraska, under and by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution, do hereby declare this Legislature adjourned without day.
WILLIAM H. JAMES.
The Executive clearly exceeded his powers in doing this act, and so the Legislature considered; for it did not adjourn. The Senate assembled on the next day, took up the concurrent resolution of the House on adjournment, agreed thereto, and placed the time on the following Wednesday. Senator Scofield introduced a joint resolution, declaring the office of Governor vacant, and calling for a joint convention of both Houses to fiil the vacancy. Of course, nothing of the kind was effected.
In the House, upon re-assembling, the records were missing, but were subsequently recovered. It was asserted that the entries had been tampered with, to make a showing favorable to Acting Governor James. Chief Clerk Cropsey was succeeded in his office by Mr. Wheeler.
The Legislature adjourned Wednesday, January 24, and so ended a chapter of bitterness.
But the volume was by no means exhausted. Scarcely had the retiring footsteps of the statesmen of Nebraska ceased to echo through the corridors of the capitol--and long before their acts in the eighth adjourned session had grown fragrant by the disinfectant processes of charitable time--rumors of war were flying through the smoke-be-dimmed atmosphere. Omaha, still gossiping over the events of a certain memorable "Black Friday," turned to listen.
Important business, it is said, called the Acting Governor to Washington, but his intended departure was not made widely public. Mr. James stopped en route at Omaha, and there fell in with those who were not slow or dull of comprehension. In those days, it is alleged, men did not regard convivial habits with the grim loathing which now prevails among all public officials, and Omaha was not, as now, sternly opposed to the liquor traffic. It will be remembered that the Porter in the tragedy of "MacBeth" wisely declares that alcoholic stimulants are provocative of sundry mental and physical conditions. Going no further in search of authorities or facts, we state what has been told, on hearsay evidence purely, and remark that, either by one means or another, the secret of the Executive's contemplated absence from the State did not remain jealously locked up in his own bosom. The fact of his departure, under the constitution--which guarantees to all the right of pursuing happiness, even if the delusive creature should, like flying Venus, lure us on; and even though, contrary to our sense of propriety, the capture of the coveted prize could be effected only in the shades of classic Tivoli or Washington--placed the executive prerogative in the hands of the President of the Senate. "A crown! thou bright reward of ever-daring minds! Oh, how thy awful glory thrills my soul! Nor can the means that got thee dim thy luster!"
Acting Gov. James absent from the State, and Acting Gov. Hascall enters the sacred precincts of official honor. No sooner was the farewell said by an accompanying friend than telegrams transmitted the joyous news to anxious minds. What if James were to be impeached? What if the power of a day were extended to longer limit?
In the hands of some men, enterprises of great pith and moment do not lose the name of action through delay. To think is to act. At once a paper was drawn up, which read as follows:
In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, and by virtue of the authority vested in the Governor to convene the Legislature by proclamation on extraordinary occasions, and as the occasion contemplated by the Constitution now exists, it being necessary to have immediate legislation to encourage and promote emigration, to improve the finances of the State, and for other purposes that more fully appear in the subjects of legislation hereinafter contained, I, Isaac C. Hascall, President of the Senate and Acting Governor of the State of Nebraska (a vacancy existing in the office of Governor and the Secretary of State being absent from the State), do hereby convene the Legislature, and call upon the members thereof to meet at the Capitol, in the city of Lincoln, on Tuesday, the 15th day of February, A. D. 1872, at 3 o'clock P. M., for the purpose of taking action upon the following subjects of legislation:
1st. The encouragement of immigration and the appropriation of money for that purpose.
From the attestation of the foregoing, it would appear that Mr. Hascall was in full possession of the official equipments of the Governor's station, and that he held in his hand that potent instrument, "the great seal" of the State.
But the path to success is usually a rugged one, and this proved no exception to the rule. It was an easy task to write those words, but, under conditions then existing, it was far less easy to "affix" that seal aforesaid in reality. When Acting Gov. James started toward Washington, on grave State matters intent, he did not retire his assistants from duty, lock up his office and hang on the office door a sign, "Out; will be back soon." He left in charge of what constituted the material insignia of his rank, at Lincoln, certain faithful and devoted friends. Among other trusts imposed on them was the safe-keeping of that very seal, mentioned so confidently as having been "affixed" by Senator Hascall to his proclamation. That confidence being fully appreciated by the custodian, the perplexities surrounding the labor of procuring the stamp all-powerful, without which no gubernatorial act of proclamation was valid, amounted to nothing less than a serious hindrance. Had Mr. Hascall demanded the seal, by force of arms, probably the man in whose care it was would have sacrificed his life sooner than give it up; and had the new Acting Governor pleaded coaxingly for the boon, his voice would have been drowned amid satirical laughter. The strongest element in diplomatic, as in military, skill, is strategy, and to strategy, it is alleged, these gentlemen now resorted. The Supreme Court, in its review of the case (which will be reached by us farther on), stated that Mr. Hascall "went to Lincoln, the capital, and, under pretense that the document was one certifying that some person was a Notary Public, obtained from James's Private secretary the great seal long enough to get its impress to a paper," which was none other than the proclamation. Far be it from us to arrogate powers superior to those possessed by the Supreme Tribunal of the State to find out a point in fact; and surely the evidence before the court must have been as stated. But there is a version--be it true or false we know not, and give it only as alleged statement--that runs thus: Instead of obtaining the seal-impress directly from the Private Secretary of Mr. James, some one, while others in the room were, either purposely or by favoring accident, engrossing the Secretary's attention, quietly stepped to the window ledge, or other place where the seal stood, and surreptitiously stamped the important paper with the sign manual, "Equality Before the Law." Be the truth what it may, the seal was obtained, and that without the fall understanding or consent of the custodian, as is stoutly alleged.
The proclamation became valid in the minds of many men. Certain journals at once published it, and the deed was done. But scarcely had the great seal resumed its normal aspect of open-mouthed ferocity on the window sill before the wires flashed the news of the rising of the clans; and when Mr. James, weighted down with a prospect of arduous duties in Washington, stopped from the coach in the depot in that city, he was handed a message recalling him. Abandoning all further thought of participating in affairs incident to the lives of statesmen in the capital of the nation, and hastily intrusting the welfare of the country to the keeping of those whom he saw--perhaps with envious eyes--were called to the exalted destiny of conserving national prosperity and indulging in refreshments at the bar of the capital, Acting Gov. James plunged homeward with all the speed attainable by processes then in vogue.
He came; he saw. The State which he had left but a few days before glowing with the smiles of peace was now leaden with the gloom of discord. The slogan had been sounded. The local leaders who had struggled ineffectually with many of the questions incorporated in the alleged usurper's proclamation had hastily rallied to the favorite stamping-ground. They had, as it were, let go of these problems in order that they might get a better hold.
But to the startled vision of the Acting Executive there was a dark and partly hidden meaning in that proclamation. What was the secret purpose of Specifications 3 and 4? What, indeed, if not that this effort meant removal of the Secretary of State? Were not the numerous causes of the necessity for an extraordinary session but subterfuges to cover up the deep designs on him? Thus, it is to be presumed, the bewildered traveler argued in his own mind, as he carefully reviewed his career and took mental inventory of the stock which his opponents might turn against his political account. Had he done anything culpable in an official or moral sense? His tedious journey gave him time to consider these subjects and prepare a plan of defensive warfare.
Five days after the issuance of the proclamation of Acting Gov. Hascall, Acting Gov. James sent forth a proclamation of revocation, which read:
WHEREAS, On the 8th day of February, 1872, Isaac S. Hascall, President of the Senate, did issue a call convening the Legislature of the State of Nebraska, at Lincoln, on the 15th day of February, 1872; and,
WHEREAS, Such action on the part of said President of the Senate was and is null and void, no extraordinary occasion having arisen for the assembling of the said Legislature, the State not being threatened with foreign aggressions, depredations, nor direct hostilities; nor has occasion arisen rendering adequate provisions necessary to overcome unexpected calamities, nor to suppress insurrection, nor other important exigencies arising out of the internal intercourse between the States; and,
WHEREAS, The people have been burdened with the accumulated cost of long and repeated sittings of this Legislature, the said Legislature having recently been in session, and having had all and the several subjects mentioned in said call, under consideration, and having refused to legislate upon the several matters and subjects.
Now, therefore, I, William H. James, Secretary of State, and Acting Governor of the State of Nebraska, do hereby revoke, rescind and annul the said proclamation of the said President of the Senate, and do hereby request and enjoin the members of the Legislature that they do not meet at the capitol, in pursuance of said call on the 15th day of February, A. D. 1872.
Done at the city of Lincoln, this 13th day of February, A. D. 1872, in the fifth year of the State of Nebraska, and of the independence of the United States the ninety-sixth. In testimony, whereof, I have hereunto signed my name, and caused to be affixed the rent seal of the State of Nebraska.
Mr. James found the sanctum of the Executive badly demoralized; because his friends, to resist the peaceful possession of that abode of dignity by Mr. Hascall, had removed such of the room furniture as could be easily transferred to other quarters. Carpets, tables, chairs and smaller articles regarded as necessary conveniences were taken from the executive chamber. And it is said that when the Omaha branch of the Government requested the Private Secretary to transcribe his proclamation in the great volume containing the emanations of gubernatorial minds, the Secretary curtly responded that he had other work of pressing nature on hand. In the absence of an established clerical force, the new Acting Governor penned his own proclamation in the book of record; but from the blurred condition of those pages, one is forced to accept as truth the assertion that he was misled in the matter of ink, and used a fluid designed by the inventor for other purposes.
When the momentous day arrived, it saw a quorum of the Senate in Lincoln; but the members of the House were more divided as to duty and expediency. And when orders were given to prepare the Assembly chambers for the opening, of the session, word was returned that the doors were not only locked, but were also barricaded on the inner side. As when the banderillero waves the crimson scarf in the eyes of the enraged bull, so now the powers that would be massed themselves for desperate deeds. Here we must accept the muttered words of rumor, and on its authority state that entrance to the inner sanctuary--made sacred in the past by eloquence, by temperate acts and deeds of classic dignity--was gained by a follower of Acting Gov. James, by means of a scuttle-hole, who thence shinned down the gallery pillars. Many narrow escapes from what might have been bloody death are related; but, as words wound, though seldom slay, the rampant rage of the contending forces ended in no fatal affrays.