History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/3/5
|←Chapter IV||History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/Volume 3 by
THE Fifteenth General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 12th of January, 1874. In the House there was a long contest over the election of Speaker, as no party had a clear majority. After one hundred thirty-two ballots, on the 23d of January, John H. Gear, Republican, was chosen over J. W. Dixon, the candidate of the opposition. In the House there were fifty Republicans and fifty opposition. As the General Assembly could not be organized until a Speaker was elected, no business was transacted until the 23d when the Governor sent in his message. On the following day the two houses met in joint convention and canvassed the vote for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor. On the 27th Governor Carpenter was inaugurated for the second time and Joseph Dysart became Lieutenant-Governor.
In his message the Governor called attention to reports of great destitution existing among the homestead settlers in the northwestern counties of the state. On motion of Senator Perkins a joint committee of five members, two from the senate and three from the House, was appointed to inquire into the situation and report to the General Assembly.
On motion of Senator Kephart a joint committee consisting of three members of the Senate and five members of the House was appointed to investigate charges made against the management of the State Agricultural College by its trustees, president and other officials. The committee consisted of Senators Kephart of Linn County, Merrill of Clinton, Cooley of Dubuque, and Representatives Goodrich of Howard, Newbold of Henry, Peet of Delaware, Mitchell of Jackson, and Brown of Washington. The committee had authority to send for persons andpapers, administer oaths to witnesses and make a thorough investigation. The investigation began on the 3d of February and was continued until the 11th of March. It was developed in the course of the investigation that the charges against the management were made by three members of the college faculty whose connection with the college as professors was, by action of the trustees, terminated. These gentlemen employed ex-Governor W. M. Stone, who was the son-in-law of one of the dismissed professors, to prosecute the charges made against the management of the college. Forty-three witnesses were called before the committee and testified, among whom were all of the officials who had financial and administrative management of the business of the college from the opening of the institution up to that time.
The charges made against the management were numerous, but the following were the principal allegations: First. The funds of the college have been mismanaged and misappropriated in the erection of buildings, purchase of lands and other purposes not contemplated in the laws. Second. Losses sustained by the defalcation of S. E. Rankin late treasurer, are not likely to be made good out of his property surrendered. Third. The college is drifting away from its original intent as a school of agriculture and mechanical arts and students are unjustly treated by officers of the college.
After a thorough and rigid investigation the committee made a report to the General Assembly, of which the following is a summary.
As to the improper use of the funds belonging to the college the committee reported that all moneys of every description and from whatever source, had been accounted for by the trustees and officers controlling the same, except the loss by the late treasurer, Samuel E. Rankin, and all appropriations and receipts from whatever source had been honestly used for the benefit of the college; though in some cases money received for the rent of lands, calledthe interest fund, had been used in erecting buildings and in the purchase of land deemed necessary by the trustees for the interest of the college and farm, without the authority of any existing legislative enactment. All of these irregularities had been reported to previous General Assemblies. In relation to the loss by defalcation of S. E. Rankin the committee found that the real estate deeded to the college to secure loss, was estimated to be worth $29,000 in addition to $2,000 paid by said Rankin heretofore. Of the amount of the defalcation, $11,400.70 was from the interest fund and a portion of this sum must be lost unless the lands turned over by Rankin be held for a better price than could then be obtained for them. As to similar sums charged to have been improperly paid out of the interest fund, for locating and looking after lands, the committee found that the items had been approved by the trustees, reported to the General Assembly and were correct. The committee was of the opinion that the endowment fund had been wisely, judiciously and honestly managed, so far as any evidence accessible showed and that the leasing of the lands was the best policy that could have been pursued to make them available and remunerative to the college. In conclusion, on this branch of the subject, the committee found no evidence tending to show that any officer or trustee of the college had speculated in or appropriated to his own use any of the funds of the college or acted in bad faith in the management of the same. The committee found no evidence to sustain the charge that the college was drifting away from its original intent, or that students had been unjustly treated.
The report of the committee was unanimous and as both political parties were represented the conclusions were accepted by the General Assembly. The dismissed professors were not reinstated, their assaults upon the college management utterly failed and were dismissed by the public as malicious and false.
The advocates of woman suffrage made an earnest effort to secure the passage of a joint resolution at this session for the amendment of the Constitution, granting suffrage to women. They were successful and the joint resolution was adopted by both branches of the General Assembly.
By far the most absorbing subject considered by this General Assembly was the growing demand of the people for an act regulating the freight charges of the railroads. Frank T. Campbell, an able young journalist of Jasper County, was serving his second term in the Senate. During the preceding session in 1872 he had given the subject of the regulation of railroad charges careful study. He had procured copies of a carefully prepared table of rates from the Illinois Railroad Commission, which had been made by experts at heavy expense. Taking these tables as a basis, Senator Campbell made a thorough study of the intricate problems involved and became well informed on the subject. With the assistance of Judge George R. Willett, Senator from Winneshiek County, on the legal questions involved, he prepared the bill which became the famous “Grange Law.” So general had been the feeling of opposition to the exorbitant rates fixed by the railroads, that delegations of business men came to Des Moines urging the enactment of laws regulating the charges of these common carriers.
Early in the session Senator Shane of Benton County offered a series of resolutions declaring that, “In the sense of the Senate this General Assembly should not adjourn until laws shall have been passed upon the following subjects:
First. Regulating and providing for a reasonable maximum rate of freight and passenger fares on and over the railroads of this Senate.
Second. Prohibiting railroad companies doing business in this State, from hereafter buying or holding more real estate than is necessary to carry on the legitimate business of railroading therein, also prohibiting the consolidation of parallel or competing lines of railway, or the issue of any stock or bonds by any railway company, except the same is in good faith paid for in money or other valuable consideration.
Third. Prohibiting railroad companies from issuing free passes, or passes at a discount from the uniform rate to any person residing in this State and holding any office of trust, honor or profit under or by virtue of any of the laws of the State.
Fourth. Prohibiting railroad companies from granting or giving to any of its officers any special privileges in carrying passengers or freight by express or otherwise, over their respective lines of roads.
Fifth. Regulating and taxing railroads and railroad property as the property of others.”
These resolutions which were sent to the committee on railroads represented the growing radical sentiment of the people who demanded the right to control these corporations; and they brought up for discussion and action the whole subject of legislative regulation of railroads. It became the absorbing topic before this General Assembly as it had for several years been before the Granges. The representatives of the corporations came to the Capital in force and used all of their persuasive and argumentative skill to defeat radical legislation and were partially successful; but, after a long and stubbornly contested struggle, the advocates of legislative control won a substantial victory. With the powerful aid of the Granges, long working for the education of the farmers on these lines, and a declaration of both political parties for legislative control of railroads, a majority of both branches was able to agree upon the Campbell bill which was passed, accomplishing one of the reforms, in many respects the most important.
Much time and work had been devoted to the framing of this bill to make it effective and to keep its requirements in harmony with well defined constitutional limits.
The principal features of the law were as follows: the fixing of reasonable maximum rates for the transportation of freight and passengers on the different railroads of the State; the provisions of the act to fix the maximum rate for passenger fare at from three to four cents permile, regulated by the class under which the road is placed by the Executive Council; roads to be classified on the basis of their earnings; a schedule fixed giving the maximum rate to be charged for freight by each of the four classes of roads; reports of railroad officers required to be made during the month of January of each year showing the earnings of the different roads which shall govern the classification; a penalty of one hundred dollars per day for failure of any road to make such report; no railroad company to be permitted to charge any person or company for transportation of any property a greater than it shall at the same time charge any other person or company for like services and upon like conditions.
A number of railroad companies notified Governor Carpenter that, while the companies denied the justice and constitutionality of this act, they were disposed to subject it to the test of actual experiment, before assailing it in the courts. If an actual experiment should demonstrate that the continual observance of these schedules would not result in total or partial confiscation, it might not be necessary to raise any question as to the validity of the act. If such observance were found to involve the permanent surrender of the revenues to which the company was entitled from the operation of its lines, a different policy would be adopted, with a view of securing such revenue; and any attempt to enforce the act, as a valid law, would be resisted in the proper tribunal.
Lafayette Young, Senator from the Cass District, was chairman of the Senate railroad committee and an influential friend of railroad control. Senators Shane and John P. West of Henry County did good service in support of the “Grange” legislation. In the House, John Q. Tufts of Cedar County led the friends of the bill, assisted by Lemuel R. Bolter of Harrison and John G. Newbold of Henry County.
The Legislature made an appropriation of $50,000 to aid the destitute people of the northwestern countieswhose crops were destroyed the past year by grasshoppers. Joint resolutions were passed instructing our members of Congress to support an amendment to the Constitution providing for the election of United States Senators by vote of the people; to support an amendment prohibiting Congress from increasing the compensation of its members; to request Congress to prohibit the granting of public lands to railroad companies and memorializing Congress for an increase of currency.
The opposition to the Republican party, under the name of the Antimonopoly party, held a State Convention at Des Moines on the 23d of June, 1874, and placed in nomination the following candidates: Secretary of State, David Morgan; Auditor, J. M. King; Treasurer, H. G. Hargis; Attorney-General, J. H. Keatley; Clerk of Supreme Court, G. W. Ball; Reporter, J. M. Weart; Register Land Office, R. H. Rodermel. The resolutions were lengthy but raised no issues differing from the platform of the year before.
The Republican State Convention assembled at Des Moines on the 1st of July and placed in nomination the following ticket: Secretary of State, Josiah T. Young; Auditor, B. R. Sherman; Treasurer, Wm. Christy; Attorney-General, M. E. Cutts; Clerk of Supreme Court, E. J. Holmes; Reporter, J. S. Runnells; Register Land Office, David Secor. The platform made but two new declarations; the first, favoring the election of President and Vice-President by a direct vote of the people and the submission to the people of an amendment of the State Constitution admitting women to the right of suffrage.
At the election in October the Republican candidates were chosen by an average majority of about 28,000. The vote for Secretary of State was as follows:
The Republican candidates for Representatives in Congress were elected in eight of the nine districts, as follows: George W. McCrary in the First; J. Q. Tufts in the Second; L. L. Ainsworth, Democrat, in the Third; H. O. Pratt in the Fourth; James Wilson in the Fifth; E. S. Sampson in the Sixth; John A. Kasson in the Seventh; J. W. McDill in the Eighth; and Addison Oliver in the Ninth.
The act of the Legislature of 1874, known as the “Grange Law”, fixing the schedule of rates to be charged by railroads for transporting freight and passengers, went into effect in July of that year. Most of the railroads complied with the provisions, reluctantly however, some making vigorous protest. The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, determined to test the validity of the law in the courts and obtained a temporary injunction restraining the Attorney-General of Iowa from prosecuting the company, and the State Treasurer from paying out money for the expense of such prosecution. The case was brought before John F. Dillon, Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Iowa, to have the injunction made perpetual. The position taken by the railroad company in the case was that the company had the exclusive power to fix the measure of its own compensation and that the act of 1874 was in violation of its chartered rights. After a full hearing Judge Dillon denied the injunction and in rendering his decision said:
“Without further enlarging upon the public nature and uses of railroads or undertaking to review the authorities cited or examine the positions assumed by counsel, which would necessarily lead through a broad field of discussion, I content myself on this branch of the subject with stating as my conclusion that the Legislature has not expressly conferred on railway corporations in this State the exclusive power to fix their own charges, and such a power cannot be deduced by implication from the constitutional act of the corporations and that whatever powers are conferred in this respect are subject to an implied condition that they shall not be oppressively or unreasonably exercised and also subject to the future exercise of the police regulations of the State, properly legislative in its nature, which includes the power to regulate, consistently with the charter, all of the franchises granted and to prescribe and limit the amount of toll or charges.”
The case was appealed by the railroad company to the Supreme Court of the United States which confirmed the decision of Judge Dillon. M. E. Cutts, who was the Attorney-General for Iowa, argued the case before the two courts and was assisted in the preparation of the case by Senator Campbell who was familiar with every section of the act. Mr. Cutts met the ablest attorneys in the country, who had been employed by the combined railroad interests, and won a victory of great magnitude in its far reaching effects. It was regarded as one of the most important decisions ever rendered by a court in which the interests of the people came in conflict with those of corporations. It was hailed by the people of Iowa and the country in general with great satisfaction. The issues involved reached deeply the material prosperity of every farmer in the State for all time to come. Under this decision corporations could be restrained from practicing extortion in conveying the products of the farms to distant markets and returning the supplies that every farm must have from the eastern cities and factories. Without this restraining power unlimited extortion could be enforced upon the people for an indefinite period of time, for which no remedy would exist. This decision added much to the value of Iowa farms and insured to the tillers of the soil a fair compensation for the capital and labor invested in their pursuit. The untiring effort of the farmers in the Granges of the State was the most potent influence brought to bear upon the legislators to secure the enactment of the law fixing and limiting railroad charges. It was their united effort that compelled the two strong political parties to incorporate the demand into their platforms, thus committing these powerful organizations to the advocacy of the reform.
A State Convention of the Democrats and Antimonopolists was held at Des Moines on the 24th day of June, 1875, at which the following candidates were nominated: Shepherd Leffler for Governor; E. B. Woodward, Lieutenant-Governor; W. J. Knight, Judge of the Supreme Court, and Isaac Doan, Superintendent of Public Instruction. The platform was substantially in accord with the former declarations of the two parties since the formation of their alliance against the Republicans.
The Republican State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 30th of June and was composed of six hundred and forty delegates. There was an animated contest between those who were in favor of a positive indorsement of the prohibitory liquor law and those who were opposed to such a declaration, The prominent candidates for Governor were Hon. John Russell of Jones County, late Auditor of Stare, and General James B. Weaver of Davis County, a distinguished officer in the Civil War and a radical advocate of the prohibitory liquor law. The radical prohibitionists united in the support of General Weaver while those who opposed making prohibition a part of the platform for the most part supported Mr. Russell. John H. Gear, Robert Smyth and W. B. Fairfield were also candidates and each had warm supporters. But before the roll was called it became evident that the contest was narrowing down to a choice between Russell and Weaver. The names of the candidates had been presented and a ballot about to be taken when, by preconcerted agreement among some of the leaders, Dr. S. M. Ballard, a veteran white haired Republican of imposing form arose, and, in a powerful voice that penetrated every part of the assembly, nominated Samuel J. Kirkwood, the “Old War Governor.” The vast audience responded with wild applause. General Trumbull of Dubuque arose and inquired by what authority Governor Kirkwood was nominated. Dr. Ballard responded in stentorian voice: “By authority of the great Republican Party of Iowa.” John Russell arose and declined to be a candidate against Governor Kirkwood. John H. Gear followed, also declining to be a candidate against the “Old War Governor.” It was known to some delegates that Governor Kirkwood had sent word to a friend in the convention that he would not be a candidate. But it was to no avail, the leaders were determined that he should be nominated. In the midst of intense excitement the roll was called with the following result: Kirkwood, two hundred thirty-eight; Weaver, two hundred; Smyth, one hundred eleven; Fairfield, thirty-three. Before another ballot was completed so many votes were changed to Kirkwood that his nomination was made unanimous. Joshua G. Newbold of Henry County was nominated for Lieutenant-Governor; Austin Adams of Dubuque for Supreme Judge, and Alonzo Abernethy was renominated for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The resolutions presented no new issues; the convention defeated an attempt to commit the party to prohibition.
The State Convention of the temperance organizations of Iowa was in session at the time the Republican Convention assembled and earnest efforts were made by its delegates to secure from the Republicans an indorsement of the prohibitory liquor law but without success. The Temperance Convention thereupon adopted the following platform:
“Whereas existing political parties have ignored prohibition:
“Resolved, That the temperance people of Iowa are forced to seek promotion of their cause in such a way as will be most effective without regard to parties; that the law of the State relating to the desecration of the Sabbath should be rigidly enforced; that there shall be no diversion of the school fund for sectarian purposes; that political organizations shall not control men in their action on moral questions; that county organizations be formed to elect temperance men to the Legislature.”
Rev. John H. Lozier was nominated for Governor by the State Central Committee consisting of one member from each Congressional District.
After a spirited campaign the election resulted in thesuccess of the Republican candidates by a plurality of over 30,000. J. H. Lozier, the Temperance candidate for Governor, received 1,397 votes.
In September, 1875, the reunion of the Army of the Tennessee was held in Des Moines. It drew together at the Capital of Iowa the greatest military commanders of modern times. General Grant, who was President of the United States, Generals Wm. T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George H. Thomas, Oliver O. Howard, John A. Logan, W. W. Belknap, Secretary of War, and Grenville M. Dodge were all present and participated in the meetings which continued several days. Immense crowds of people from every part of Iowa gathered at the Capital to meet and greet these veteran commanders of the late Civil War. A reception was held at the Government building where the famous generals, with President Grant at the head, stood in the main hall, between the United States Pension Office and the Post Office, where more than 10,000 citizens passed taking by the hand these world famous military chieftains. Nearly every building in the city was decorated with the National flag. At the public meeting, held at Moore’s Opera House on September 28th, General Grant made a speech which attracted wider notice and interest than any before delivered by him. It was the subject of public discussion for more than thirty years. The school children of the city had been given a holiday to meet the President, and in their presence General Grant spoke of the common schools in the following sentence:
“Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of money appropriated to their support, no matter how raised, shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that either the State or Nation or both combined shall support institutions of learning sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family circle, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contribution. Keep the church and State forever separate.”
A report of this speech was sent by a reporter of the press which totally misrepresented the statement of the President in relation to the common schools. He was made to say—“support common schools and none above common schools.” The journals of the country and college presidents took up the subject, believing in the truth of the report sent out by the press and a long and bitter controversy arose. Professor Leonard F. Parker of Iowa College did not believe that the President’s Des Moines speech had been correctly reported and in order to settle the matter he prepared a letter of inquiry to General Grant and procured the signature of Governor Kirkwood to the inquiry in order to make sure of a reply. The following was received by Governor Kirkwood:
Hon. S. J. Kirkwood,
Dear Sir: What I said in Des Moines was hastily noted down in pencil and may have expressed my views imperfectly. I have not the manuscript before me as I gave it to the Secretary of the Society. My idea of what I said is this: “Resolve that the State or Nation or both combined, shall furnish to every child growing up in the land the means of acquiring a good common school education,” etc. Such is my idea and such I intended to have said. I feel no hostility to free education going as high as the State or National Government feels able to provide—protecting, however, every child in the privilege of a common school education before public means are appropriated to a higher education for the few.
This letter was published by all of the principal journals of the country, but the misrepresentation continued to be spread by a class of persons and journals hostile to the President. Finally to set the matter at rest with all honest people, General L. M. Dayton, Secretary of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee who received the manuscript directly from the hand of General Grant, as he finished his Des Moines address, called attention to theprinted copy of the proceedings which gave the correct version of the speech. General Belknap further had the original manuscript of the address photographed and a facsimile was published which set the libel forever at rest. Professor Hammond a few years ago pronounced this persistent misrepresentation among the “frauds of the most surprising character.”
The State Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry held its annual session in Des Moines beginning on the 14th of December and continuing five days. The report of the treasurer showed the receipts of the year to be $22,000, property on hand including cash $13,761. Arrangements were made to procure crop reports through the local Granges to be published in the agricultural papers. A resolution was adopted asking the General Assembly to enact a law requiring all banks of deposit to give security in real estate first mortgages to be held by the Auditor of State, for the benefit of depositors in case of failure of said banks.
The Sixteenth General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 10th of January, 1876. The House was organized by the election of John H. Gear, Speaker. After the inauguration of Governor Kirkwood and Lieutenant-Governor Newbold the latter entered upon the discharge of his duties as President of the Senate.
A United States Senator was to be chosen for six years by this General Assembly and, as the Republicans had a large majority on joint ballot, the warm contest that ensued was entirely within the ranks of that party. The candidates were Governor Kirkwood, Ex-Senator James Harlan, General W. W. Belknap, Hiram Price and George W. McCrary, all able and well known men who had served the State in various public positions. The contest was earnest but friendly and free from the bitterness that often attends similar campaigns. Mr. Harlan was Governor Kirkwood’s strongest competitor and, up to the time of the assembling of the joint caucus of the Republican members, the result was in doubt. But just before the session began Harlan’s name was withdrawn and upon the first ballot Governor Kirkwood received the nomination by a majority of two over all of his competitors. He was elected, by the joint convention of the General Assembly five days after his third inauguration as Governor, for a term of six years from the 4th of March, 1877.
There was little legislation of importance although there were warm discussions on subjects of deep interest. Among the measures defeated were bills to restore capital punishment; to repeal the act of 1874 fixing rates for railroad passengers and freights; to modify the liquor law by establishing local option. The amendment to the Constitution, granting suffrage to women, proposed by the previous Legislature, was again approved by the House for submission to the people but failed in the Senate by a close vote.
The attempt to repeal the railroad “Grange law” was vigorously pressed by the opponents with a large lobby representing the railroad companies. It was claimed that it was crippling the roads, putting a stop to railroad building and driving some of the companies into bankruptcy. The Senate railroad committee, to which the bills for repeal were referred made a careful investigation on the subject and a majority made a report from which the following statements are taken:
“We have examined the workings of the law and find that the people have been benefitted by it, the interests of the State advanced and there are many reasons why the law should be retained. We find the law has reduced rates largely, has wiped out unjust discrimination and extortions that existed throughout the State prior to its passage, has opened up markets within our State for its products, facilitated the interchange of commodities at home, fostered our manufactures, aided in the development of agriculture and is operating largely in favor of Iowa and Iowa people. No petition for its repeal has come from our constituents and we believe our people are content with the law and desire to have it thoroughly tested.”
The first State Convention of the year was held by the Temperance Associations at Des Moines on the 20th of January, while the Legislature was in session. It adopted a series of resolutions, among which were the following declarations:
“We regard drunkenness as a crime and the vendors of intoxicating liquor should be held accessory to and responsible for injury and crime committed by inebriates.
We favor the absolute prohibition of the sale and manufacture of all intoxicating liquors as beverages and the importation of the same.
We ask the General Assembly to urge the appointment of a National Commission to investigate the legislative criminal, scientific, economic and other aspects of the liquor traffic as relates to the public welfare.
One-half of all fines imposed for the violation of the prohibitory liquor law should be paid to the prosecuting witness.
The owner of the property where liquor is sold should be made criminally liable to the same extent as the vendor.”
A State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 10th of May, 1876, to organize a Greenback party in Iowa. It adopted a platform, of which the following is a summary:
“Labor is the basis of all wealth and capital cannot be accumulated except as the product of industry.
It is the duty of the government to establish a monetary system based on the faith and resources of the nation and adapted to the demands of legitimate business.
We demand the immediate repeal of the resumption act of January, 1875, and that the circulating notes of the State and National banks, as well as all local currency, be withdrawn from circulation and their place supplied by a uniform currency, the same to be a legal tender for all purposes and interchangeable for bonds.
We demand the present bonded debt of the country be refunded as speedily as possible into registered interchangeable bonds that shall bear interest at a low rate, not exceeding 3.65 per cent. per annum.
We are in favor of the repeal of the act of March 18, 1869, making greenbacks payable in coin and making 5-20 bonds perpetual or payable only in coin and thus unjustly discriminating in favor of the money interest.”
On the 20th of September the Greenback party held a convention at Des Moines to nominate candidates forState officers and adopted additional resolutions as follows:
“We recognize the rights of capital and its just protection; we condemn all special legislation in its favor.
We demand a reduction of official salaries proportionate to the reduction of the profits on labor.
We demand the remonetization of silver.
We demand the equality of soldiers’ bounties and favor Peter Cooper for President.”
The following candidates were nominated: for Secretary of State, A. Macready; Auditor, Leonard Brown; Treasurer, George C. Fry; Register Land Office, G. M. Walker; Superintendent of Public Instruction, J. A. Nash; Judges Supreme Court, Charles Negus and Oliver Jones.
The Republican State Convention met at Des Moines on the 31st of May, 1876, and nominated the following ticket for State officers: Secretary of State, J. T. Young; Auditor, B. R. Sherman; Treasurer, G. W. Bemis; Register Land Office, David Secor; Supreme Judges, W. H. Seevers and J. H. Rothrock; Superintendent of Public Instruction, C. W. Van Coelln; Attorney-General, J. F. McJunkin. The resolutions made new declarations on the following subjects:
“We are in favor of a currency convertible with coin and therefore advocate the gradual resumption of specie payment by continuous and speedy steps in that direction.
We cordially invite immigration from all civilized countries, guaranteeing to emigrants the same political privileges and all social and religious freedom we ourselves enjoy, and favor a free and unsectarian system of common schools for their children with ours.
“We favor James G. Blaine for President.”
The Democratic State Convention was held on the 30th of August, and placed the following candidates in nomination; Secretary of State, J. H. Stubenbraugh; Treasurer, Wesley Jones; Auditor, Wm. Groneweg; Register Land Office, H. C. Ridenour; Attorney-General, J. C. Cook; Supreme Judges, W. I. Hayes and Wm. Graham. The resolutions indorsed the platform of the Democratic National Convention and its candidate for President.
The political campaign was warmly contested by the Republicans and Democrats on the National tickets; the Republicans having nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio for President, and William A. Wheeler of New York for Vice-President. The Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden of New York for President, and Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana for Vice-President. The National Greenback party placed in nomination Peter Cooper of New York for President, and Samuel F. Cary for Vice-President.
The State election resulted in the choice of the Republican candidates by an average majority, over the Democratic and Greenback candidates, of about 50,000.
The first reports of the Presidential election in the country at large announced the choice of Samuel J. Tilden, by a large majority. Later returns indicated that doubts existed as to the result. Intense excitement prevailed over the entire country as contradictory returns were received from the States of Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida. It would require every electoral vote of these three States to elect Hayes. One vote from any of the three States would insure the election of Tilden. There was a bitter dispute between the representatives of the two political parties in the three States as to the result, which could not be settled by any ordinary means. At the request of President Grant, John Sherman, John A. Kasson, James A. Garfield and other prominent Republicans went to New Orleans to see that an honest count was made and returned. The Democratic National Committee sent eminent men, among whom were Samuel J. Randall, Lyman Trumbull and Henry Watterson to look after the interests of Mr. Tilden. Committees from each party of “visiting statesmen” were invited by the canvassing board to be present and witness the canvass. Butthe board completed the canvass in secret session declaring all of the Republican candidates elected including the Presidential electors. The Governor, Attorney-General and a District Judge examined the duplicate returns of the vote cast in the State and made a certificate declaring the Democratic candidates for Presidential electors were elected. A contest of a somewhat similar nature took place in South Carolina where the Republican canvassers declared that the Republican electors were chosen. In Florida a similar disagreement resulted in the Republican candidates for Presidential electors being declared elected. That there were gross frauds perpetrated by both parties in each of these States in making returns there is little doubt. If these returns were accepted and held to be legal by Congress, Hayes would be elected by one majority of the electoral vote. Intense interest now centered in the action of Congress and the state of public feeling was such that serious apprehension prevailed that a resort to arms might follow the decision of Congress. There was no dispute that Tilden had received a majority of the popular vote amounting to 157,394 over the combined vote of all other candidates. His majority over Hayes was 250,950.
Immediately after the assembling of Congress, Hon. George W. McCrary of Iowa offered the following resolution.
“Whereas there are differences of opinion as to the proper mode of counting the electoral votes for President and Vice-President and as to the manner of determining questions which may arise as to the legality and validity of returns of such votes by the several States;
And whereas, it is of the utmost importance that all differences of opinion and all doubt and uncertainty upon those questions should be removed, to the end that the votes may be counted and the result declared by a tribunal whose authority none can question and whose decision all will accept as final;
Therefore be it resolved, that a committee of five members of this House be appointed by the Speaker to act in conjunction with any similar committee that may be appointed by the Senate to prepare and report without delay such a measure, either legislative or constitutional, as may in their judgment be best calculated to accomplish the desired end and that said committee have leave to report at any time.”
The resolution was referred to the judiciary committee, which, after consideration, reported it back with the following additional resolution, all of which were adopted:
“Resolved, That a committee of seven members be appointed by the Speaker of this House to ascertain and report what are the privileges powers and duties of the House of Representatives in counting the votes for President and Vice-President of the United Stares and that said committee have leave to report at any time.”
The Senate agreed to the McCrary plan and appointed a committee of seven to coöperate with the House committee in devising a plan for settling the question involved in counting the electoral vote. McCrary was made a member of the House committee which also consisted of seven members. Each of the political parties was represented by trusted and prominent members on this most important joint committee. The feeling of intense anxiety and serious apprehension which pervaded the entire country was somewhat allayed when it was seen that Congress was proceeding to act with fairness and freedom from partisan considerations. This joint committee reported the following plan to decide on the conflicting returns from the disputed States:
“They shall be referred to a commission composed of an equal number of members from the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court of the United States. This commission shall decide what is the constitutional vote of each State in question, and that decision shall govern, unless both houses shall determine otherwise.”
The committee composed of an equal number of members of each political party agreed upon this plan of settlement, all but one of the members signing the report. Senator Morton of Indiana did not agree to the plan. The plan reported by the committee was enacted into law, receiving the votes of a large majority of the members of both the House and Senate and was approved by President Grant. When the two houses of Congress met to receive the returns of the States, and Florida was reached, there were conflicting returns, one declaring that the vote had been given to Hayes for President and another declaring that it had been given to Tilden. The conflict was then referred to the Electoral Commission for a decision. It decided in favor of the Hayes electors by a strictly partisan vote, all of the Republican members, (eight,) voting to report the Hayes electors legally chosen, and the Democratic members, (seven,) voting that the Tilden electors were legally elected. All of the contested returns submitted to the Commission were decided by a similar partisan vote in favor of the Hayes electors. As the Republicans had a majority on the Commission and as each member voted to recognize the electors from each contested State who belonged to the political party of which he was a member, Hayes, the Republican candidate, was given one majority of the electoral votes and was declared elected President.
The Senate having a Republican majority, by a strict party vote accepted the decision of the Electoral Commission and the House having a Democratic majority, by a strictly partisan vote refused to accept the decision. As it required the concurrence of both houses to reject the decision of the Electoral Commission and as only the House of Representatives rejected the decision, it stood and made Hayes President.
The contest had lasted from the day of the Presidential election up to the last day of February, and during all of this time intense excitement and gloomy apprehension of serious trouble prevailed over the entire country. No one could foretell the probable decision of the new tribunal created to make a peaceful solution of the conflict and public confidence and business were seriously depressed by the long strain. When the decision came, althougharrived at by a strictly partisan vote, such is the loyalty of the American people that it was accepted as a legal and equitable settlement. But the strictly partisan votes in every case, of the judges of the Supreme Court, was no small shock to that class of people who had heretofore believed that the members of that high judicial tribunal would put aside partisan considerations, in such a momentous case, and render a purely equitable decision. The country could not escape the conviction that had a majority of the Supreme Judges, acting on the Commission, been Democrats instead of Republicans, Samuel J. Tilden would have been declared elected President.