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History of Iowa

Volume III


A picture of Frederick E. Bissell is included with this chapter.


The Republican State Convention assembled at Des Moines on the 14th of June, 1865, nominating Governor Stone for reelection by acclamation.  Benjamin F. Gue was nominated for Lieutenant-Governor, George G. Wright for Judge of the Supreme Court and Oran Faville for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Upon the reading of the report of the committee on resolutions, Edward Russell of Scott County moved to amend the fourth resolution which read as follows:

"Resolved, that, with proper safeguards to the purity of the ballot box, the elective franchise should be based upon loyalty to the Constitution and the Union recognizing and affirming the equality of all men before the law."

Mr. Russell moved to amend this resolution by adding the following:

"Therefore we are in favor of amending the Constitution of our State by striking out the word WHITE in the article on Suffrage."

This precipitated a warm discussion in which the amendment was earnestly supported by Hiram Price, Edward Russell, Henry O'Connor and E. W. Eastman, while it was as warmly opposed by J. B. Grinnell, J. F. Tracy, W. S. Sample and others.  The amendment was a bold and unmistakable declaration for negro suffrage in Iowa and was opposed as injudicious and likely to endanger the election of the Republican ticket.  The position of its supporters cannot be better stated than by an extract from the speech of Hiram Price, who said:

"The Republican party is strong enough to dare to do right and cannot afford to shirk a duty.  The colored men North and South were loyal to the Government in the days of its greatest peril.  There was not a rebel or a traitor to be found among them.  They ask the privilege of citizenship now that slavery has been forever banished from our country.  Why should the great freedom-loving State of Iowa longer deny them this right?  No one reason can be given that has not been used to bolster up slavery for the last hundred years.  The war that has just closed has swept that relic of barbarism from our land; let the Republican party have the courage to do justice.

"I have no fear of the result in a contest of this kind.  We shall carry the election and have the satisfaction of wiping out the last vestige of the black code that has long been a disgrace to our State."

It is notable fact that Price and Eastman, who now so warmly advocated negro suffrage, were Democrats in early years, and that this party had placed on the statute books all of the laws hostile to the colored race; while Grinnell, who now opposed the enfranchisement of negroes, was a radical Abolitionist at that period.  Slavery and Rebellion had driven Price and Eastman into the Republican party and they now represented the fearless and uncompromising element of that organization which was striking deadly blows at oppression and race prejudice.  Grinnell and many who opposed the Russell amendment were in favor of the principle for which it stood, but opposed a bold declaration for the reform as impolitic and liable to bring party defeat.  There were also a number of Republicans who were opposed to negro suffrage while they were in favor of emancipation of the race and it was urged that they held the balance of power in Iowa politics and that this amendment would drive them from the party.  Finally the roll of delegates was called and the vote stood five hundred and thirteen for the amendment to two hundred and forty-two against it, whereupon it was incorporated into the platform.

The Democratic State Convention was called to meet at Des Moines on the 23d of August and on the same day at Soldiers' Convention was called to meet at the same place.  Conferences had been held by the leaders of the Democratic party with prominent Republicans who were opposed to negro suffrage and who had been gallant officers in the Union army.  It was believed that if a Union ticket could be agreed upon by these elements and the entire Democratic vote given to it, that the defection of the Republicans would insure its election.  The Soldiers' Convention, with the approval of the Democratic leaders, organized the "Union Anti-Negro Suffrage party," and placed in nomination the following ticket:  for Governor General Thomas H. Benton; Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel S. G. Van Anda; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Captain J. W. Sennett.

The third resolution of their platform read as follows:  "We are opposed to negro suffrage and to striking the word white out of the article on suffrage in our State Constitution, and will support no candidate for office, either State or National, who is in favor of negro suffrage or of the equality of the white and black races."

The Democrats made no nominations, but decided by a unanimous vote to support he "Soldiers' Ticket."  They passed the following resolution on the absorbing issue:  "We are radically opposed to negro equality in all of its phases and accept the issue tendered by the late Republican Convention on the 14th of June in making that doctrine the chief plank in its platform by proposing to strike the word "white' out of the article on suffrage in the Constitution of Iowa."

Other resolutions were adopted by each of the conventions but the campaign of 1865 was fought on the one issue of negro suffrage.

The candidates nominated by the Soldiers' Convention who were also supported by the solid Democratic party, were excellent men, all of whom had served with distinction in the Union army in the late war.  General Benton was originally a Democrat who had been twice elected Superintendent of Public Instruction and had served three times as Secretary of the State Board of Education.  Colonel Van Anda was a Republican who had been a member of the Legislature.  Colonel Trimble was a prominent Democrat who had served in the State Senate and was a District Judge, Captain J. W. Sennett was a well-known Republican.

Of the Republican candidates, Governor Stone had formerly been a Democrat, B. F. Gue an Abolitionist, while Judge Wright and Oran Faville had been Whigs.  The Republican candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor made a general canvass of the State and in all of their speeches advocated and defended the proposed amendment to the Constitution to grant suffrage to the colored race, while their competitors as strongly opposed and denounced the measure.  The result of the election was a heavy loss to the Republicans from the year before, equal to about 16,500 votes.  The candidates however were elected by the following majorities:  Wm. M. Stone, 16,375; B. F. Gue, 19,370; G. G, Wright, 19, 076; Oran Faville, 19,280.  As the previous election had been for President, when usually a much larger vote is polled than at an ordinary State election, it is difficult to estimate how many Republicans voted the "Anti-Negro Suffrage" ticket and how many refrained from voting to show their disapproval of negro suffrage.  The opposition ticket received an average vote of about 54,100, while at the previous election the Democratic vote was about 49,500.

It was during this year that the Directors of the State Bank of Iowa determined to discontinue business and retire from the field.  The new National Banking Act, by requiring the purchase and deposit of Government bonds to secure the circulation of the banks established under its provisions, was powerful aid to the Government in establishing a home market for bonds at a period when there was most vital need of such a market.  During the war foreign capitalists held aloof from purchase of our bonds at fair prices, cautiously waiting to see how the Civil War would terminate.  The Government was obliged to raise immense amounts of money by the sale of bonds to meet the enormous expenses of the war.  Patriotism demanded that our own people sustain their Government by purchasing these bonds.  National banks were being organized in various parts of our State and the directors of our State bank system wisely determined to leave the entire field to the National banks and thus throw the weight of their influence in strengthening the credit of the National Government.  The final act in terminating the existence of the State Bank of Iowa was taken on the 22d of November 1865 when, the safety fund having been returned to the various branches, the outstanding currency to the amount of $35,460 was burned in the presence of the directors.  The system had been in existence seven years and twenty-five days, furnishing the people of Iowa with a safe and sound currency, which was never discredited and could at any time be redeemed upon demand, in lawful money of the United States.  No safer or more popular paper money was ever issued by any institution, State or country.

The Eleventh General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 8th of January.  In the Senate B. F. Gue became president.  The House was organized by the election of Ed. Wright Speaker.  The message of Governor Stone stated that the total expenditures for military purposes by the State during the war, from May, 1861, to January 1, 1966, amounted to $1,046,735.99.  The amount due this State from the United States for all purposes arising from the war was estimated at $300,000.  The total indebtedness of the State was $622,295.75.  The Governor recommended an appropriation sufficient to complete the building for the State Agricultural College.  He also called the attention of the General Assembly to a serious misapplication of Swamp Land Indemnity Funds, which had been recently discovered, in the following language:

"A large number of warrants for the indemnity money have been issued by the United States Treasury and forwarded to this office.  Some of these warrants, without coming into my possession, have been improperly and illegally applied by parties through whose hands they have passed and the counties to which the warrants belong have, up to this time, failed to receive the money.  This matter is of so grave a character that I deem it incumbent on me to call the early attention of the General Assembly to it, and I therefore ask the immediate appointment of a joint committee to investigate the facts."

The General Assembly appointed a joint committee, in accordance with the Governor's request to make an investigation of the alleged diversion of the Swamp Land Indemnity Funds, consisting of Senators Stiles, Richards and Udell and Representatives Hale, Barker, Clark, Russell and Martin.  This committee made a thorough investigation and toward the close of the session made a majority and minority report.  The majority report was signed by E. H. Stiles, Nathan Udell, Wm. Hale, John Russell and L. Clark, the Republican members of the committee.  The following is a brief summary of their findings:

"During the month of December, 1864, and the year 1865, there was awarded to the State of Iowa by the General Government Swamp Indemnity Warrants amounting to the sum of $151,254.19.  These warrants were sent by the Treasury Department at Washington to the Governor of Iowa by mail.  In the Governor's absence these warrants were delivered to R. G. Orwig, the private secretary of the Governor.  Of these warrants thus received by Mr. Orwig $33,994.36 were missing and not accounted for.  We find that all of these unaccounted for warrants or drafts came into the hands of R. G. Orwig soon after their arrival by mail endorsed by his writing the name of the Governor on them, and most if not all of them were cashed by him or deposited in the two National Banks at Des Moines.  The committee unanimously find that said $33,994.36 came into the hands of R. G. Orwig and that he has not accounted for this amount and that said deficit is with and in the hands of R. G. Orwig.  The committee further finds that on the 16th of December the said R. G. Orwig, for the purpose of securing all parties interested against loss, executed to B. F. Allen, as trustee, a deed of trust on property estimated to be worth from $30,000 to $40,000.

The minority of the joint committee, B. B Richards, W. T. Baker and W. C. Martin, Democrats, made a report in which they say:

"While we concur in much of the reasoning and many of the conclusions of the other members of the committee as to the serious dereliction of duty and the corrupt practice of an obscure agent of a high official of the State, and believe that he has appropriated an amount of the public funds nearly or quite equal to the Swamp Land deficit, we yet must dissent from the main position of the other members of the committee, that this humble secretary-this obscure agent-is the chief or only wrong doer: ...

That there is a serious deficit in the public treasury no one will find it difficult to conclude.  That the amanuensis of the Governor has been the wicked and willing agent to help to cause that deficit, all will admit.  But painful as the duty may be (and it is one of the most painful we have ever performed), we deem it our duty nevertheless, to declare our conviction that the gross negligence of one high State official and the malpractice of another, are among the fruitful sources of all the loss, derangement and shame under which the State now labors, and which is partially exposed by this investigation.  We cannot too strongly condemn the negligence in the Executive Department and the malpractice in the financial department of the State as revealed by the testimony submitted herewith."

Both reports recommended that the Attorney-General be instructed to institute legal proceedings against the persons and securities involved for the purpose of recovering the missing funds.  The General Assembly passed joint resolutions giving such instructions to the Attorney-General and further providing that all money thus recovered should be paid pro rata to the counties affected by the defalcation.

Among the important acts of the General Assembly was one to ratify the amendment to the Constitution of the United States, forever prohibiting slavery.  An act proposing to amend the Constitution of the State of Iowa granting suffrage to negro citizens; also to amend the Constitution to disfranchise all citizens who might be guilty of treason or who have absconded for the purpose of avoiding any military conscription or draft and also prohibiting such persons from holding any office in the State; acts making appropriations for the completion of buildings for the State University and State Agricultural College.

A joint resolution was passed expressing the profound satisfaction by the people of Iowa that the unjust order dismissing Colonel Wm. T. Shaw from the service had been revoked and urging his promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General.

Hon. James Harlan, who had entered President Johnson's Cabinet in May, 1865, resigned his position as Secretary of the Interior when it became evident that the President had become hostile to the Republican party and adopted a policy that was obnoxious to the party which had elected him Vice-President.  Mr. Harlan became a candidate for a seat in the United States Senate which he resigned when he entered the Cabinet.  Ex-Governor Kirkwood had in the mean time, been announced as a candidate for the Senate and was warmly supported by a large number of the prominent men of the party.  When the Legislature assembled an animated contest was inaugurated by the supporters of these two eminent men which resulted in the nomination of Governor Kirkwood for the short term to fill the vacancy, ending March 3d, 1867, while Mr. Harlan was nominated for the full term ending six years from that time.  The Democrats of the General Assembly nominated Wm. Stoneman for the short term and Colonel H. H. Trimble for the full term.  In the joint convention held for the election of Senators, Governor Kirkwood was elected, having received one hundred and eighteen votes to twenty for Mr. Stoneman.  Mr. Harlan was chosen for the full term, having received one hundred and eighteen votes to twenty for Colonel Trimble.

The Soldiers' Orphans' Home, which was established by a private corporation and successfully carried on as a benevolent enterprise, was at this session officially recognized and an act passed by which it came under the control and support of the State.  A board of trustees was chosen by the Legislature consisting of one member from the State at large and one from each Congressional District.  Twenty-five thousand dollars was appropriated for its support and the Census Board was authorized to levy a tax each year thereafter for its maintenance.  The main buildings of the institution were at Davenport with branches at Cedar Falls and Glenwood.  The number of children cared for at these three homes was at this time eight hundred and sixty-four.  The Legislature passed acts at this session making the Clerk and Reporter of the Supreme Court elective by the people for terms of two years.

The Eleventh General Assembly in March, 1866, passed an act to resume the Geological Survey making an appropriation of $6,500 annually for two years for carrying on the work and electing Dr. Charles A. White of Iowa, State Geologist.  Dr. White appointed O. St. John, assistant and Rush Emery, chemist.  Under this act and one of the Twelfth General Assembly the work was carried on for four years.  As no appropriation was made by the next Legislature, the work ceased.  The act of 1866 required the State Geologist to prepare reports of the progress of his work from time to time to be given to the newspapers of the State for publication, giving information as to the character of the soils, deposits of coal and other minerals, which might be of general interest to the public.  It also provided that the various specimens found should be divided among the collections at the State University, the State Agricultural College and other educational institutions.  The Thirteenth General Assembly authorized the publication of 3,000 copies of White's report in two volumes and appropriated $18,000 for that purpose.  The report was printed in two royal octavo volumes illustrated with maps, diagrams, engravings and views of geological formations in various parts of the State.  When the act of 1855 was passed providing for a Geological Survey it was doubtless the intention of the promoters of the law that the work should be carried on until a thorough survey and geological examination of the entire State had been made.  But the extent of the work was dependent upon biennial appropriations, and when such appropriations failed, the work was necessarily suspended.  Halls' survey was confined largely to the east half of the State.  Dr. White therefore began his work in the western half and, during the years 1866-1867, the work was largely carried on in the southern and middle portions of western Iowa.  At the close of 1867 a preliminary report was made to the legislature together with articles prepared and given to the newspapers during the period, all of which were published in pamphlet form.  The field work for 1868-1869 was principally carried on in northwestern Iowa.

During the year 1866 there was growing up a serious estrangement between president Johnson and a large majority of the Republican members of Congress.  The President was strongly urging Congress to admit Senators and Representatives from the States lately in rebellion to seats in that body so that the citizens of those States might be again represented.  He urged in his message to Congress that, as these States had adopted the amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the existence of slavery, had repealed the ordinances of secession and repudiated all debts created for revolutionary purposes, that they should be restored to their places in the Union by the admission of their duly elected members of Congress.  A majority of the Republican members of Congress were unwilling to restore these States to their former relations until further legislation was enacted for the protection of the colored race lately held in slavery.  Congress framed and passed an act to establish a "Bureau for the Relief of the Freedom" in the late slave States.  The President vetoed the bill and returned it with his objections.  The bill was passed over the President's veto, in the Senate, by a vote of thirty-three yeas to nine nays.  All voting yea were Republicans and three Republicans voted nay.  In the House the vote stood yeas, one hundred and four, all Republicans; thirty-three voted nay, six of whom were Republicans and twenty-seven Democrats.  In February, 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill which was vetoed by the President.  The Senate passed the bill over the veto by a vote of thirty-three yeas, all Republicans, to fifteen nays, five of whom were Republicans and ten Democrats.  In the House the bill was passed over the veto by a vote of one hundred and twenty-two yeas, all Republicans, to forty-one nays, seven of whom were Republicans and thirty-four Democrats.  By these acts the antagonism between the President and the Republican party was greatly intensified and grew more bitter from month to month.  A joint committee of the House and Senate reported a plan of reconstruction for the States lately in rebellion which did not meet the approval of the President, this further alienating the President and Congress until the feeling became intense and bitter.  All of the members of Congress from Iowa sustained the measures of that body, while the Democratic party of the State favored the President's policy.  In 1866 Johnson began the removal of Federal officers, in Iowa, who sided with Congress in the controversy, including a great number of postmasters.  A large majority of the Republican papers and people of the State warmly supported the policy of Congress on reconstruction, yet it made a division in the party throughout the Union.  William H. Seward, one of the founders of the party and now Secretary of State in president Johnson's Cabinet, as well as many other prominent Republicans, with a number of the leading Republican newspapers of the country, warmly supported the President in his controversy with Congress and the entire Democratic party sustained the President in his plan of reconstruction.

In the midst of this division of the people on new issues the Republican State Convention assembled at Des Moines on the 20th of June, 1866.  The following resolutions were unanimously adopted as expressing the opinion of the Republicans of Iowa on the controversy between Congress and the President:

"Resolved, That the reconstruction of the States lately in rebellion belongs, through their representatives in Congress, to the people who have subdued the Rebellion and preserved the nation and not to the Executive alone.

"Resolved, That we heartily approve the joint resolution lately passed by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled, proposing to the legislatures of the several States an additional article by way of amendment to the Federal Constitution, and we pledge the ratification of that amendment by the Legislature of Iowa.

"Resolved, That in the firm and manly adherence of the Union party in Congress to the above principles, we recognize new guarantees to the safety of the Nation, and we pledge to Congress our continued and earnest support."

The following resolution was adopted in relation to the affairs of the State:

"Resolved, That we are in favor of the nomination and election to office of such persons as are known to be possessed of honesty and capacity, and we unqualifiedly condemn dishonesty and carelessness in every department of the public service."

The candidates nominated for State offices were Colonel Ed. Wright, Secretary of State; Major S. E. Rankin, Treasurer; John A. Elliott, Auditor; Colonel C. C. Carpenter, Register of Land Office; F. E. Bissell, Attorney-General; E. H. Stiles, Supreme Court Reporter; Charles Linderman, Clerk of Supreme Court.

The Republicans of Iowa who approved of the policy of the President, determined to hold a State convention and put a ticket in the field which they were assured would receive the support of the Democrats.  A call was therefore issued for the Conservative Republican Convention which assembled at Des Moines on the 27th of June. General Thomas H. Benton was one of the most prominent movers for this convention, his name was at the head of the call and when it assembled he called it to order, was chairman of the committee on resolutions and was the author of the platform adopted by the convention.  The platform was of great length indorsing the plan of reconstruction proposed by the President and condemning the measures and general plan enacted by Congress which came in conflict with the policy of the President.  The principal resolution on this subject was as follows:

"Resolved, That we endorse the restoration policy of President Johnson as wise, patriotic, constitutional and in harmony with the loyal sentiment and purpose of the people in the suppression of the Rebellion and the platform upon which he was elected, with the declared policy of the late President Lincoln, the action of Congress and the pledges given during the war.

"That we are opposed to any further amendments to the Constitution of the United States until all the States are represented in Congress and have a vote in making the same."

On State affairs the following declaration was made:

"All officers intrusted with the management of funds should be held to a strict accountability for the faithful application of same and in case of the defalcation or misuse of such funds they should not be permitted to evade responsibility by implicating irresponsible agents selected by themselves.  Any party that countenances such evasion becomes accessory to the crime."

The following nominations were made:  Secretary of State, Colonel S. G. VanAnda; Treasurer, General George A. Stone; Auditor, Captain R. W. Cross; Register Land Office, S. P. McKennie; Attorney-General, Captain W. Ballinger; Reporter Supreme Court, Captain J. W. Sennett; Clerk, Lewis Kimsey.

The Democratic State Convention met at Des Moines on the 11th of July and on the issue of reconstruction adopted the following resolutions:

"Resolved, That one great question of the day is the immediate and unconditional restoration of all of the States to the exercise of their rights within the Federal Union under the Constitution and that we will cordially support Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, in all necessary and proper means to carry out his policy as directed to that end, and especially in securing immediate representation in the Senate and House of Representatives to the eleven States from which it is now unconstitutionally and arbitrarily withheld.

"Resolved, That for the purpose above set forth, we will cooperate in public meetings, conventions and at the polls with all men without reference to past party positions and who honestly and by their acts and votes, as well as by their professions, support the President in his policy of restoration as declared."

In relation to State affairs the following resolution was adopted:

"Resolved, That the plunder of the State Treasury by Governor Stone and accomplices calls for the condemnation of every honest man in the State, and if the radicals of the last Legislature had been true to the interests of the people, they would not have labored to save the criminals, but would have prosecuted them to a speedy and condign punishment."

The convention made no nominations for State officers but passed a resolution "to cooperate with the conservative element of the Republican party in their efforts to restore the Union and defeat radical disunionism and for that purpose we hereby agree to support their candidates."

The election resulted in the success of the Republican candidates by the following vote:  Ed. Wright, Republican, 91,227; S. G. VanAnda, Conservative Republican and Democrat, 55,815; Republican majority, 35,412.  The votes of the other candidates varied but little from the above.  The vote at this election was far in excess of any heretofore given in the State, being 147,124; exceeding the vote of 1865 by 19,734.  While many conservative Republicans and all of the Democrats who went to the polls voted the conservative ticket, it is a singular fact that Van Anda's vote was but 1,805 larger than that which he received the year before for Lieutenant-Governor; while the vote for Wright was 17,847 larger than the highest Republican candidate received in 1865 and was about the average vote received for the other Republican candidates.  This would indicate that the great increase in population and votes for the year past was almost entirely Republican.  This election clearly demonstrated the fact that the people of Iowa, by a large majority, were determined to remove from the organic laws of the State, as well as from its statutes, all race discriminations which in earlier years were enacted against persons of African descent.  One by one these acts had been repealed and in the recent election the majority in favor of protecting the late slaves in the Southern States in all civil rights by amendments to the National Constitution, was very large, that being one of the principal issues involved in the late campaign.  The policy of the State was thus permanently reversed from that of the first twenty years of Territorial and State existence.  The election for members of the House of Congress resulted in the choice of the Republican candidates in all of the six districts.


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