One of America's most gifted orators, Col. Robert Ingersoll, standing beside the bier of his dead brother, delivering a funeral oration over the deceased, said, "There never was a manlier man." These inspiring words could never have had a more perfect application than to be applied to Charles N. Herreid ex-governor of South Dakota. How passionately fond we all are of him, not merely for the unexcelled record which he made as governor, but for his manly virtues.


As governor of the state, Mr. Herreid made an enviable record. Undoubtedly his greatest service to the state was in the unusually large number of legislative enactments which he vetoed. True: the legislators who served during this time were equally intelligent with those that have served under other governors; but many of them, as will always be the case, had never been trained in the interpretation of law.

During Governor Herreid's predecessor's administration, that of Governor Lee, the Initiative and Referendum had been enacted. Nobody paid much attention to them during Governor Herreid's two terms. Why? Well, simply because everybody was contented; and, above all, they had confidence in Herreid. He scrutinized every act of his two legislatures with the eye of an eagle. Every law enacted, that conflicted with the constitution, virtually repealed some other law, or within itself bore obnoxious features, was promptly vetoed by the Governor. He didn't wait for the referendum nor for the supreme court. He was a court unto himself. Let it be said for Governor Herreid that he vetoed more bills than all of the other governors of the state put together.

Charles N. Herreid

On the other hand this may be accounted for from another standpoint. In his three messages to the legislature he recommended far more legislation than any other governor. His last message, delivered as he turned the reins over to Governor Elrod, is the finest state document on record. It will remain for the future historian to bring out and properly classify this able state paper.


More or less trouble has arisen during the several administrations of our various governors since statehood, with the state appointees. Governors Sheldon and Lee each one asked the state legislature to enact a law authorizing the governor to remove any one or all of his own appointees at will, but they refused. Charles N. Herreid renewed this recommendation; it was done. The wisdom of it became apparent more quickly than its legislators anticipated. President McKinley was assassinated shortly thereafter. A notary public at Sturgis, —an appointee of Governor Herreid's—upon hearing the sad news of the president's assassination, exclaimed, "It served him right!" No sooner had the news of the fellow's reprehensible conduct reached Governor Herreid, than he issued an executive order revoking the fellow's commission and removed him from office; at the same time notifying him by wire of what he had done, in advance of the mails. This one instance justified the enactment of the law.


Just before the legislature of 1901 adjourned, the commitee on education, thought to slip one over on the governor and get through a sweeping change in our educational laws, that would make our school children assets to local politicians; but, O! no, not while the scrutinizing Herreid was governor. Here is what the records in the Secretary of State's office reveal:

"Having received said bill and having only a few moments in which to return it to the house of Representatives, in which it originated, before its adjornment, sine die, I can only very briefly mention a few of the many serious objections to the bill. This bill provides that educational institutions 'may receive, free of tuition, ten students appointed by each State Senator and ten students appointed by each Representative of the State Legislature,' *** 'not more than three of whom shall be students of the same institution.' ****

"Our educational institutions are supported by the people and for the people of our state. That tuition should either be free to all or all should pay tuition equally. This bill discriminates and the discrimination will almost invariably be against those who are poor and without friends of prominence and influence; in other words, against those who are specially entitled to sympathy and assistance. Why should those only having a political 'pull' receive free education at the expense of the state? Why should the young men and women of our state, who seek an education at our institutions, become the political trading stock of politicians?"

* * * * * *

"The iniquity of this bill is indeed complete. Those who desire to pay must be excluded for those receiving free tuition! A senior who has paid his tuition may be forced to leave to make room for some one on the 'free list' and graduate from some institution in another state where the Legislative 'pass' system does not exist.

Respectfully submitted,                              
CHARLES N. HERREID,                    

Pierre, March 8, 1901."          

Again in order to show the extremely careful analysis which he gave to all bills coming up to him for his signature, we have only to cite the following:
"To the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:
"I am unable to approve House Bill No. 90, which is herewith returned to the House of Representatives, although the record does not show a vote against said bill in either branch of the Legislature."

Think of it! Every vote in both branches of the legislature cast in favor of a bill concerning taxation, etc., and not one of them saw a flaw in it. Back it goes to the House, vetoed, with a 1,000-word opinion from Governor Herreid attached to it— shooting it so full of holes that it looked like an old fish net which had been caught in the snags at the bottom of some limpid stream, and then torn to shreds in trying to pull it out, so as to save the floaters. Here is an exposure of only one of its 'dodgers':

"This bill aims to give peculiar meaning to certain letters and characters but specifically states that it shall apply only to tax proceedings.

* * * * * *

The concluding portion of said bill reads as follows:

Whenever the abbreviation "do" or the character ",," or other similar abbreviations or characters shall be used in any such proceedings, they shall be respectively construed and held as meaning and being the same name, word, initial, or letter or letters, abbreviations, figure or figures as the last proceeding such "do" or ",," or other similar character.

"Here again we have a remarkable perversion of well-known marks and abbreviations. 'Do.' is an abbreviation for 'ditto,' but 'do' is a syllable attached to the first tone of the major diatonic scale for the purpose of solmization, or solfeggio,' and the marks ",,", doubtless intended for 'turned commas' are, as found in this remarkable bill, the last half of quotation marks!"


In his inaugural address to the Seventh Biennial Legislature, in 1901, touching upon 'The Pardoning Power" of the executive, Governor Herreid said:

"The pardoning power is a consequence of 'the imperfection of law and human nature.' A person may be convicted of a crime on false testimony. After sentence by the Court, the falsehood may be discovered, but the Court cannot reverse its decree. Reprieves may become necessary or expedient on account of doubt of guilt, arising from the discovery of new testimony after sentence and before execution, or considerations of public policy may demand an exemption from punishment. The pardoning power exists, and was conferred by the constitution upon the Governor, not for exercising his tenderness of heart but to further the ends of justice. Of late years there has been an increasing tendency towards executive clemency, resulting in gross abuse of this important prerogative. A convict with numerous friends and abundant means promptly begins preparations for securing a pardon after he has had a fair trial, and his gulit has been legally established. The Governor's office becomes an appellate court, where the case is re-tried, largely in the nature of an ex parte proceeding. The victim may be slumbering in a forgotten grave. Human sympathy is apt to be with the living rather than the dead. Or the injured party is persuaded to join the forces appealing for sympathy, ignoring the no less sacred rights of society.

"These observations are for the purpose of announcing to the people of this state that it is not the purpose of the Executive to usurp the functions of courts and juries; that the pardoning power will be exercised strictly according to the theory of our system of jurisprudence and the spirit of our constitution."

In keeping with these sentiments, Governor Herreid was firm in his dealings with offenders. He granted fewer pardons than any other governor we have ever had. In fact the pardons granted by other executives stand about "16 to 1" as compared with those extended by him. His refusal to "pardon," and his readiness to "veto," kept his two administrations consistent through out, and left behind him an unsullied record of administrative justice.


But Herreid had had great training for his work as governor. He had previously been elected lieutenant-governor for two consecutive terms. In this capacity, he had been schooled in handling legislation.

"As president of the state senate in 1893 and 1895 he displayed in a marked manner his fitness and capacity to deal with public affairs. His failures and candor as well as his evident comprehension of purpose to decide all questions without bias or prejudice in conformity with the rules of the senate, were recognized by men of all political parties, and so well did he succeed in the task that no appeal was ever taken from any of his rulings at either session of the legislature. It is said that no other president of a state senate in the United States has ever made a similar record."

Ordinarily, any man who accepts the second place on the state or on a national ticket, digs his own political grave, and the bells which peal forth his success at the polls, at the same time tingle out his political death knell. But Herreid was born to be an exception. The ability and fairness which he displayed as president of the senate commended him to the people of the state as the logical man for the higher field of responsibilities. Think on it! Lieutenant-Governor for two terms, Governor for two terms. No doubt many decades will have passed into state history before his record will have been duplicated.


Each of Governor Herreid's public documents is a literary gem. He stands in a class by himself as a classical writer. No other public official in the state has ever equalled him as a man of letters.

The most perfect style of diction is demanded of the state supreme court, so that no possible misinterpretation can be placed upon any of their opinions. Yet Judge Fuller, (deceased, whom we all now mourn) said to us one day in his official chamber: "This man Herreid beats anybody I ever knew in his diction. Frequently he comes to me and asks about a certain point, yet it is never for information direct that will enable him to reach a conclusion, but merely to see if my judgment re-inforces his own."

His public letters and addresses are so evenly balanced throughout that it is hard for any man to select from the many passages more choice than the rest, any which might tend to emphasize his style. We think a couple extracts taken from the Address of Welcome in behalf of the state which he delivered to the American Mining Congress which convened at Deadwood during his governorship, will suffice:

"We all rejoice over the prevailing universal prosperity. I am proud of the fact that I can welcome you to a state where the people are superlatively prosperous, contented and happy; where the spirit of success dominates the commercial and industrial atmosphere; where everybody has surrendered to the magnificent energy which is building a new and splendid empire. I welcome you to the people who for six years have produced more wealth per capita than any other state in the Union; to a state famous for the large number, according to population, of newspapers, churches, colleges and school houses; to a state absolutely free from conflict between labor and capital; to a state settled largely by the children of the pioneers who were the empire builders of the great west—children who from infancy were taught the lesson of vigorous manhood; a people who adopted as the state motto: 'Under God the People Rule,' and who, as individuals and communities, with reverence for all law, human and divine, are living up to their high standards of right.

* * * * * *

"Ten years ago the real value of all property within the state was less than one hundred million dollars; to-day it is one thousand millions!

"To-day every South Dakotan is proud of his state and with joy and devotion ready to join the grand chorus of thanksgiving and praise:

'I love every inch of our prairie land.
     Each stone on her mountain side, I love ev'ry drop of her water clear
     That flows in her rivers wide.
I love ev'ry tree, ev'ry blade of grass
     Within Columbia's gates,
The queen of the earth is the land of my birth
     My own United States.' "


Governor Herreid is a Wisconsinite by birth and a South Dakotan by adoption. Again, the old Badger state has shown her marked influence over the new territories that one after another were gradually carved out of the great domain to her westward. A proud father and mother, calmly viewing their baby boy on October 20, 1857, evidently little dreamed that they were the parents of a future South Dakota governor.

His boyhood was spent knocking around on the farm, developing a good healthy physique. Later, he spent three years at Galesville University. Then he read law for one year in a law office. Afterwards, he graduated in 1882 from the law department of the Wisconsin University.

The same year that he graduated he was married to a Wisconsin lady who has since blessed Dakota with her happy traits, noble womanhood, and her charming example, Miss Jeanette Slye. The next year the young couple decided to cast their fortune in the "golden west," and so they packed up and went to Dakota, settling in McPherson county, where they became a part of our sturdy pioneers.

Mr. and Mrs. Herreid's neighbors soon learned to esteem them. Then their neighbors' neighbors found out about them, and so on until like a pebble dropped in the center of a still pool, their influence radiated itself in a succession of wavelets until it had reached the far distant shoals of the state.

As a result, here is what happened: Charles N. Herreid elected States Attorney of McPherson county, then county judge; next a member of the Board of Trustees of our State University, and later a Regent of Education; elected and re-elected Lieutenant governor, member of the Republican State Central Committee; member National Republican Committee; elected and re-elected Governor. He has also been Grand Chancellor K. of P., of the domain of South Dakota. He is a member of the A. O. U. W. and was chairman of the committee to revise the constitutional statutes of the grand lodge, and has held various important positions in this organization. He is also a member of the Eastern Star and a thirty-third degree Mason. He and his family are members of the Presbyterian church.

Governor and Mrs. Herreid are the proud parents of two children—a daughter, Miss Grace, and her loving and affectionate brother whom the state will recall as having died during Mr. Herreid's incumbency of the governor's office, as the result of an operation for appendicitis. He was a charming lad, universally beloved and a general favorite among the South Dakota National Guard, in which he held the rank of Captain.

After retiring from the governor's chair in 1904, Mr. Herreid removed to Aberdeen and took up again the practice of his chosen profession which he followed for three years. During this time he gradually and rapidly became so interwoven in the business affairs of Aberdeen that he has been obliged to drop his law practice for other enterprises. He is secretary of the corporation that recently built at Aberdeen the beautiful Citizens's Bank Building, which, including the basement and roof garden, is eight stories high. Governor Herreid is also president of the Aberdeen Railway Company which has built five miles of street railway in that city and which contemplates the construction of three or four miles in the early spring. In addition to these responsibilities, he is a director and Vice-President of the Dakota Central Telephone Co., and the Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, and he is, in other ways, not herein enumerated, identified with the business interests of Aberdeen.

Such has been the phenominal career of a young man who was not afraid to break away from "dad" and to strike out into the world for himself. It has been repeatedly asserted by careful political students throughout the state, and it is now quite generally admitted by both factions of the Republican party, that had the city of Aberdeen forced him into the race for the governorship nonination at the June primaries in 1908, he would have swept the state and easily have become governor for at least a third term—simply on the strength of his past record as a public servant, which is untarnished by a single blot, and which will stand for years hence among the most illustrious pages of our state's history.

"There never was a manlier man!"


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved