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History of Iowa

Volume III



When Hayes became President, George W. McCrary of Iowa, who was the author of the plan adopted by Congress for the peaceful settlement of the contested election for President, was invited into the Cabinet and became Secretary of War.  John A. Kasson of Iowa, was appointed Minister to Austria-Hungary.

The financial conditions of the State of Iowa at the end of the year 1877 was not satisfactory.  The appropriations of the Sixteenth General Assembly had been so large that there were outstanding warrants to the amount of $267,776. 31, making a floating debt of $340,826 or $90,000 in excess of the constitutional limit.  Besides, there was a funded debt of $543,065.15.  The total amount of taxes was $10,699,762.39.  The amount of interest collected and apportioned among the schools for the two years was $559,981.59.

The Home for Soldiers' Orphans at Cedar Falls was closed in June, 1876, and the children transferred to the home at Davenport where there were now one hundred thirty-nine inmates.

The canal which had been in course of construction by the General Government around the rapids of the Mississippi above Keokuk was formally opened in August, 1877.  It was seven and a half miles in length, three hundred feet wide and had three locks each three hundred fifty feet long.  It cost $4,281,000 and it was estimated that $100,000 additional would be required to complete it.

During Governor Kirkwood's third term an important decision was rendered upon an act of his, by the State Supreme Court.  A convict in the penitentiary by the name of R. D. Arthur was serving a sentence of ten years for larceny.  His mother and sister living in Fayette County, prevailed upon the Governor to grant him a conditional pardon after three years of his term had expired.  The conditions upon which the Governor consented to release him were as follows:  first, abstinence from the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage; second, the use of all proper exertions for the support of his mother and sister; third, that he should not violate any of the criminal laws of the State.  By the terms of the pardon the Governor was to be the judge of the violation of these conditions.  The stipulations which were signed by Arthur accepted all of the conditions with the agreement that if he violated any one of them he was liable to be arrested and re-imprisoned for the full unexpired term of his sentence.  The conditions were violated, the Governor caused a warrant to be issued for Arthur's arrest and he was recommitted to the penitentiary.  The prisoner sued out a writ of habeas corpus and was brought before the District Court of Lee County to test the legality of his re-imprisonment.  Two points were raised on demurrer to the writ.  First, that the Governor could not grant a conditional pardon.  Second, that the violation of the conditions could only be determined by judicial investigation and not by the Governor.  The District Court held that the points were well taken and the prisoner was discharged.  An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court and the decision of the District Court was reversed.  The course taken by the Governor was sustained and a precedent established which has been followed by Governors since, conditional pardons being not uncommon.  In many cases the offender becomes thus thoroughly  reformed and continues to remain a law abiding citizen.

Governor Kirkwood resigned the executive office on the 1st of February, 1877, to take his seat in the United States Senate and was succeeded by Lieutenant-Governor Joshua G. Newhold who entered upon the discharge of the duties on the 1st of February.

The Republican State Convention met at Des Moines on the 28th of June, 1877, and nominated John H. Gear for Governor; Frank T. Campbell for Lieutenant-Governor; James G. Day for Judge of the Supreme Court, and C. W. Van Coelln for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Among the declarations of special interest made in the platform were the following:

"We declare it to be the solemn obligation of the legislative and executive departments of the Government to put into immediate and vigorous exercise all of their constitutional powers for the removal of any just cause of discontent on part of any class and for securing to every American citizen complete liberty and exact equality in the exercise of all civil, political and public rights.  To this end we imperatively demand of Congress and the Chief Executive a courage and fidelity to these duties which shall not falter until their results are placed beyond dispute or recall.

The silver dollar having been the legal unit of value from the foundation of the Government until 1873, the law under which its coinage was suspended should be repealed at the earliest possible day and silver made with gold a legal tender for the payment of all debts, both public and private.  We also believe that the present volume of the legal tender currency should be maintained until the wants of trade and commerce demand its further contraction.

We favor a wisely adjusted tariff for revenue.

We are in favor of the rigid enforcement of our present prohibitory liquor law and any amendment thereto that shall render its provisions more effective in the suppression of intemperance."

A  resolution expressing confidence in the ability and integrity of President hayes and approving of his southern policy, was defeated.

The noticeable action of this convention was strong opposition to the President's conciliatory policy in dealing with the late Confederate States, especially Louisiana.  The election for Governor in that State at the time of the Presidential election had resulted in the choice of the Hayes electors by a majority of 2,931, Stephen B. Packard the Republican candidate for Governor received a majority of 3,426 at the same election.  The Democrats claimed that the State had given a majority of 7,876 for the Tilden electors and a majority of 8,010 for Nichols, the Democratic candidate for Governor.  There were two Legislatures also claiming to be elected.  The Republican Legislature had met and declared Packard elected Governor and the Democratic Legislature had met and recognized Nichols as the legally elected Governor.  A consional committee, which had been sent to Louisiana to investigate, had reported on a strictly partisan basis; the Republican members reporting that Packard had been legally elected and the Democrats reporting in favor of Nichols.  After Hayes was inaugurated he also sent a commission to investigate the situation.  It appeared that during the conflict over the decision of Congress, as to who was the legal President, two influential friends of Hayes and also two friends of Tilden had come to a secret agreement, apparently by authority of Hayes, that if the Democratic House of Representatives would make no determined opposition to the seating of Hayes as President, his administration would in return acknowledge the legality of the election of Nichols the Democratic claimant for Governor and his Legislature, which would elect a Democrat to the United Stares Senate from Louisiana.  In compliance with this understanding President Hayes sent a commission to Louisiana which so manipulated the affair that a sufficient number of the members of the Packard Legislature were persuaded to go over to the Nichols Legislature to give it a quorum.  The commission then reported in favor of the Nichols government, President Hayes recognized it and ordered the withdrawal of the United States troops leaving everything in the control of the Nichols party.  Great indignation was felt by a vast majority of Republicans throughout the country at this surrender by the Hayes Administration of the rights of his own party in Louisiana through whom he was made President.  A member of Grant's cabinet expressed the prevailing opinion of the mass of the Republican party when it was first rumored that such a compromise was contemplated by Hayes, saying:  "President Hayes would impeach his own title were he to refuse Governor Packard recognition."  The Iowa Republicans were indignant over this surrender and the compromise which brought it about and so expressed themselves in this first State Convention held after its accomplishment.

The declaration of the State Convention in favor of the prohibitory law and its rigid enforcement was a radical departure from the position of neutrality which the Republican party had up to this time maintained.  Its emphatic declaration in favor of the restoration of the coinage of silver as legal tender for payment of all debts was undoubtedly in accord with the prevailing sentiment of a large majority of the Republicans of Iowa at this time, as was its endorsement of a tariff for revenue.

On the 12the of July the Stare Convention of the Greenback party was held at Des Moines, nominating the following ticket:  for Governor, D. P. Stubbs; Lieutenant-Governor, A. Macredy; Supreme Judge, John Porter; Superintendent of Public Instruction, S. T. Ballard.  Its platform reaffirmed previous positions on all of the issues before the country and in favor of the prohibitory liquor law.

The Democratic party held its State Convention at Marshalltown on the 20th of August, and place in nomination the following candidates:  for Governor, John P. Irish; Lieutenant-Governor, W. C. James; Superintendent of Public Instruction, G. D. Cullison; Supreme Judge, H. E. J. Boardman.

The new declarations were in favor of greenbacks in place of National Bank bills, endorsement of the policy of the President in the Southern States, the equal taxation of every species of property according to its value and equal protection of labor and capital.

The  State Temperance Convention met at Oskaloosa on the 30th of August and nominated Elias Jessup for Governor, making no other nominations.  It passed a large number of resolutions in favor of promoting temperance by State and National legislation and indorsed woman suffrage.

The election resulted in the choice of the entire Republican ticket, by a plurality of about 42,000.

Almost the entire vote for Jessup seems to have come from Republicans who supported the remainder of the Republican candidates.

The Annual Convention of the Woman's Suffrage Society was held in Des Moines on the 24th of October, Among the resolutions adopted were the following:

"Whereas the ballot is necessary to uproot many evils which affect society and, Whereas, Women are deprived of this potent, silent power, therefore Resolved, That it is not the duty of women to contribute to the support of the clergy who oppose their enfranchisement.

Whereas, Congress had enfranchised the negro, alien and ex-reble, and Whereas, Women are as intelligent as the aforesaid classes, therefore, Resolved, That the citizens of the State unite in a petition to Congress for a sixteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United Stares, giving women also the ballot upon equal terms with men."

The annual session of the State Grange, was held at Des Moines, beginning on the 11th of October, and continuing four days.  Among the resolutions passed were the following:

Resolved.  That the State Grange favors the repeal of the resumption act and the remonetization of silver and the repeal of the National Bank act, and asks the General Assembly to memorialize Congress to shape the financial policy of the country in accordance with this resolution.  We are in favor of the following changes in our laws; to abolish the grand jury, to compel litigants to give security for cost, to tax the whole cost of jury to the losing party, to fix by law the fee of attorneys appointed by the court to defend criminals, to regulate the compensation of shorthand reporters, to abolish the office of county superintendent, to compel sheriffs to report their fees as other county officers.

On the 28th of August, 1877, the country in the vicinity of Des Moines was visited by one of the heaviest rainfalls ever experienced in any portion of the State.  It began about three o'clock in the morning.  The darkness was intense and the rain came down in blinding torrents.  Nine miles east of Des Moines the Rock Island Railroad crosses Little Four Mile Creek, ordinarily a small stream.  At the railroad bridge the banks are some thirty feet above the bed of the creek.  In this vicinity there seemed to have been a fall of rain similar to a cloud burst.  The entire surface of the prairie was covered by the flood.  Every ravine was filled with a torrent.  The continuous roar of thunder, blinding flashes of lightning, the intense darkness and the rush of water combined to make a fearful night.  The mail and passenger train from Chicago which was due at Des Moines at half past three in the morning was coming at a speed of thirty miles an hour.  It consisted of a baggage car, a mail car, one of Barnum's advertising cars, a smoker, two passenger coaches and a sleeper.  The engineer, John Rakestraw, was veteran in the service familiar with the route, but evidently had no thought of danger on this part of the line.  Suddenly the headlight flashed upon a wild roaring torrent carrying trees and flood wood on its angry current.  There was not a moment for thought as the train was on the very brink of the flood and instantly took a leap into the chasm.  The engineer was crushed beneath the locomotive as it struck the opposite shore and turned over sinking deep into the mud and water. Abram Trucks, the fireman was thrown into the flood on the west shore.  When he recovered consciousness he saw the train crushed and piled in an awful wreck, telescoped and shivered, while the angry torrent was rushing wildly through the ruins.  Bruised, dazed and helpless the fireman stood for a moment, then realizing that he was alone on the west shore and could not cross to help the wounded and drowning, or to give the alarm to any inhabitants in the vicinity, he started in the darkness and through the flooded country for Des Moines, to procure help.  In the meantime the passengers in the sleeper had been rudely thrown from their berths by the shock of the wreck, and happily found their car standing safely on the track, on the very brink of the chasm.  Some ran back to Altoona, about two miles distant, while others made desperate and heroic efforts to drag the crushed and drowning passengers from the wreck.  For hours men worked with the energy of despair to extricate groaning and shrieking women, children and men from where they were held in the vice-like grip of broken, twisted iron and timbers of the piled up and telescoped wrecks of the cars.  But it was not until a wrecking train arrived two hours after the ruin was wrought, that all of the victims were extricated from the piles of ruins.  Seventeen were placed lifeless on the banks of the creek.  Thirty-eight other passengers of the ill fated train were crushed, mangled or bruised in various degrees, three of whom died.  Many were maimed or crippled for life.  The bridge had gone down in the flood before the train reached the creek and two other railroad bridges between that and Des Moines were swept away by the same flood, so that the train was doomed to destruction in any event.

The amount of public land granted and certified to the State, for various purposes, up to 1878, was more than 8,000,000 acres, or nearly one-fourth of the entire area of the State.  Of this amount 4,400,000 acres were granted to aid in building railroads and in improving the navigation of the Des Moines River; 1,555,000 acres had been granted for the support of the public schools; 204,000 acres for the State Agricultural College; 1,570,000 acres of swamp land.

The report of the Auditor of State for the year ending November 1, 1877, shows some interesting facts:

The number of cattle assessed was 1,452,546 valued at $14,898,841; number of swine over six months, 1,654,798, value $3,899, 301.  The number of horses as 659,385, valued at $20,100,263; mules, 42,887, value $1,670,154.  The loss of farmers of swine from cholera this year was reported at $3,500,000 or nearly as much as the total value of those remaining.  The number of sheep in the State in 1877, was bur 318,439, showing a decrease in the ten years from 1867 of 1,197,787, which was claimed to arise largely from the sever losses by dogs, rendering sheep raising so hazardous as to be unprofitable.

The Seventeenth General Assembly met at Des Moines on the 14th of January, 1878.  John Y. Stone of Mills County was chosen Speaker and on the 15th Governor Newbold sent in his message.  On the 17th John H. Gear and Frank T. Campbell were inaugurated Governor and Lieutenant-Governor and the new Governor delivered his inaugural address.  On the 18th Lieutenant-Governor Campbell was installed as President of the Senate.

On the 29th of January William B. Alliason was elected United States Senator for a second full term of six years over Daniel F. Miller, Democrat.

The most important act of the General Assembly was the repeal of the so-called Granfe Laws, fixing maximum rates to be charged by railroads for transporting freight and passengers, which had been enacted by the Fifteenth General Assembly.  The courts had sustained these enactments and the only course left open to the railroad companies to relieve themselves from the restrictions was to use their utmost power and influence to secure their repeal.  From the time the law went into effect the railroad managers had systematically endeavored by discrimination against Iowa towns and shippers to render the law obnoxious.  A powerful array of railroad officials came before the General Assembly in 1876, urging the repeal of the act of the former Legislature.  Hon. James F. Wilson, one of the most influential of the public men of the State, Colonel Milo Smith and other well-known men appeared before the joint railroad committees of the General Assembly and made plausible arguments against the "destructive legislation" of 1874, but the representatives of the people stood firm for the law.  In 1878 new tactics were determined upon for the pending campaign.  Representatives of the principal railroad companies controlling lines in Iowa had been holding conferences for the purpose of devising some plausible method of circumventing the "unfriendly legislation" contained in the Granger Law, as it was generally designated.  With such able and resourceful counselors as Thomas F. Withrow, John F. Duncombe, Henry W. Strong, N. M. Hubbard, John S. Runnels, Thomas Potter and Major E. S. Bailey, it is not strange that a plan was devised by which the "Graners" were circumvented.  It was determined to unite the citizens of the sections of the State where railroads were wanted, and had not yet been extended, with late shippers who were favored with special rates, in a well organized movement for the repeal of the Granger Law.  The next step was for the various construction companies which had been building railroads in Iowa to declare that no more roads would be built, or Iowa lines extended, under the ruinous restrictions enacted.  Newspapers were influenced to denounce the Grange legislation, public meetings were held and resolutions passed demanding repeal.  To the public, who knew nothing of the secret concert of action, it appeared that there was a change in public opinion and a demand for repeal of the Granger Law.

Never before in the history of Iowa legislation has such a powerful and at the same time such a well chosen lobby gathered at the Capitol as that which appeared before the Seventeenth General Assembly in the winter of 1878.  The corporation managers had been active during the summer and fall in securing the nomination and election of their friends to seats in the Legislature and when the House was organized they secured the presiding officer of that body, easily controlling the popular branch of the General Assembly.  Senator Campbell had been elected Lieutenant-Governor and was President of the Senate.  Here the battle was fought out.  The railroad committee of the Senate was made up with a majority opposed to repeal.  As the fight grew warm two members of that committee were influenced to change their minds and vote for repeal and the Railway Commission bill.  This bill had been prepared and drawn by the attorneys of two of the main truck lines of Iowa railroads.  It permitted the Governor to appoint the three commissioners who were clothed with the power to give advice and receive their salaries from the railroads; but with no authority to enforce the advice.  Excellent and well-known men were appointed and for many years a truce was established between the people and the railroad managers on terms that had been devised by the corporations.  All that had been gained by years of agitation, years of untiring effort on the part of the people to establish their sovereignty over corporations through legislation and the courts, was now surrendered by act of the Seventeenth General Assembly.  It took ten years to recover the lost ground and cost the people of the State millions of dollars.

Ex-Governor William Larrabee, who has made a special study of railroad business and legislation and is regarded as high authority, in his excellent work on "Railroads" says of the first act for the control of these corporations:

"The Graner Laws have been and still are severely criticized by those opposed to the principle of State control and by the ignorant.  It is nevertheless true that those laws were moderate, just and reasonably well adapted to remedy the evils of which the public complained.  The obloquy heaped upon them was the work of designing men who desired to continue their impositions upon the people.  The Iowa law was imperfect in detail and yet its enactment proved one of the greatest legislative achievements in the history of the State.  It demonstrated to the people their ability to correct by earnestness and perseverance the most far-reaching public abuses and led to an emphatic judicial declaration of the common law principle that railroads are highways and, as such, are subject to any legislative control which may be deemed necessary for the public welfare."

Another important act of this Legislature was that which amended the prohibitory liquor law so as to prohibit the sale of malt or vinous liquors at retail within two miles of any municipal corporation, or within two miles of the place where and when an election is held.  Another act restored capital punishment, which had been recently abolished.  A commission was created to investigate an alleged defalcation of the Warden of the Fort Madison penitentiary.  A joint resolution was passed to amend the Constitution of the State to render colored men eligible to seats in the General Assembly.

The Greenback party held its State Convention at Des Moines on the 10th of April, 1878, and nominated candidates for State officers.  The resolutions adopted reaffirmed the principles heretofore declared.

The Democrats held their State Convention at Cedar Rapids on the 7th of June, nominated a full ticket for State officers and passed resolutions similar to those of their last convention.  later in the season a conference was held between the leaders of the Greenback and Democratic parties in which the following combination ticket was agreed upon which received the support of both parries at the election:  Secretary of State, E. M. Farnsworth; Auditor, Joseph Eiboeck; Treasurer, M. L. Devin; Register Land Office, M. Farnington; Supreme Judge, J. C. Knapp; Attorney-General, John Gibbon; Clerk of Supreme Court, Alexander Runyon; Reporter of Supreme Court, J. H. Elliott.

The Republican State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 19th of June and passed a long series of resolutions, which embraced no new declaration of principles.  The following candidates were placed in nomination:  Secretary of State, J. A. T. Hull; Auditor, Buren R. Sherman; Treasurer, George W. Bemis; Judge of the Supreme Court, James H. Rothrock; Register Land Office, J. K. Powers; Clerk of Supreme Court, E. J. Holmes; Reporter of Supreme Court, J. S. Runnells; Attorney-General, J. F. McJunkin.

The election resulted in the success of the entire Republican ticket by an average majority of about 8,500.

The election for Representatives in Congress resulted in the choice of seven Republicans, and two opposition.  In the Sixth District, General James B. Weaver, fusion candidate of the Democratic and Greenback parties, was elected; and in the Seventh District, E. H. Gillette, fusion candidate, was elected.

The first political State Convention for the year 1879 was held by the Democrats at Council Bluffs on the 21st of May.  The only new declaration among the resolutions was the following:

"We favor the free and unlimited coinage of the silver dollar at 412 1/2 grains and the providing of certificates for silver bullion which may be deposited in the United States Treasury, the same to be legal tender for all purposes."

The following candidates were nominated for State officers:  for Governor, H. H. Trimble; Lieutenant-Governor, J. A. O. Yeomans; Supreme Judge, Reuben Noble; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Erwin Baker.

The State Convention of the Greenback party was held at Des Moines on the 28th of May and adopted a lengthy series of resolutions, making the following new declarations:

"We demand the unlimited coinage of the silver dollar of the present standard of weight and fineness.

We demand the reduction of the official fees and salaries of all officers from twenty-five to fifty per cent.

We favor the suppression of the evils of intemperance by all just and legal means.

We desire that mortgages be required to pay an equitable share of the taxes on mortgaged land.

We desire the reduction of the penalty on delinquent taxes to ten per cent, per annum.

We favor the repeal of the railroad commissioners law and legislation to reduce and equalize freights.

We desire that prison contract labor should never come in competition with free labor."

The following candidates were nominated by this convention:  for Governor, Daniel Campbell; Lieutenant-Governor, M. M. Moore; Supreme Judge, M. H. Jones; Superintendent of  Public Instruction, J. A. Nash.

The Republican State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 11th of June and nominated the following candidates:  for Governor, J. H. Gear; Lieutenant-Governor, F. T. Campbell; Supreme Judge, J. M. Beck; Superintendent of Public Instruction, C. W. Van Coelln.  The resolutions reaffirmed the position of the party heretofore expressed on temperance and prohibition, a tariff for revenue and the money issue.  The convention further declared that the  profit arising from the coinage of gold and silver should insure to the Government and not to the  owner of public officers to place them upon an equality with like positions in private employment.

The State Temperance Convention was held at Cedar Rapids on the 16th of June, which passed resolutions favoring the maintenance and strict enforcement of the laws prohibiting the sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquors; also declaring in favor of woman suffrage.  A faction of the convention nominated the following candidates: for Governor, D. R. Dungan; Lieutenant-Governor, F. T. Campbell; Supreme Judge, J. M. Beck; Superintendent of Public Instruction, J. A. Nash.

The election resulted in the choice of the Republican candidates by pluralities ranging from 72,000 to over 75,000.  For Lieutenant-Governor Frank T. Campbell, having received the nomination of the Temperance Convention as well as of the Republicans, received a larger vote than Governor Gear.

Hon. George W. McCrary of Iowa has resigned his position as Secretary of War, and had been appointed United States Judge for the Eighth Circuit, consisting of the States of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado.

The Eighteenth General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 12th of January, 1880, Lore Alford was chosen Speaker of the House.  On the 15th Governor Gear and Lieutenant-Governor Campbell, who had been reelected, were sworn in for a second term.  The most important acts of this session were the following:

To increase the salaries of the Judges of the Supreme Court to $4,000 a year.

To increase the compensation of members of the General Assembly to five hundred and fifty dollars for each regular session and not to exceed six dollars per day for an extra session.

To provide a new military code for the organization, government, and support of the militia of the State.

To establish a State Board of Health to collect vital statistics and assign certain duties to local boards of health.

To protect depositors of bands and to punish fraudulent banking.

To establish a reform school for girl at Mitchellville and provide for its government.

To authorize a special tax to pay the War and defense bonds issued for war purposes by act of the extra session of May, 1861.

To consolidate the State Land Office with the office of the Secretary of State.

A joint resolution was passed to submit to a vote of the people an amendment to the Constitution of the State to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors.  A joint resolution was also passed confirming a proposed amendment to render negroes eligible to seats in the General Assembly and to submit the same to the people at the next election.

At the National Republican Convention held at Chicago, James A. Garfield was nominated for President and Chester A Arthur for Vice-President.

The Democratic National Convention nominated General W. S. Hancock for President and W. H. English for Vice-President.

The National Greenback Convention nominated General James B. Weaver of Iowa for President and B. J. Chambers for Vice-President.

The Greenback State Convention met at Des Moines on the 19th of May, 1880, and nominated the following candidates for State officers:  Secretary of State, G. M. Walker; Treasurer, M. Farrington; Auditor, G. V. Swearingen; Attorney-General, W. A. Spurrier; Register Land Office, Thomas Hooker.  The former declaration of principles and policy were reaffirmed.

The Republican State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 25th of August, and placed in nomination the following ticket:  Secretary of State J. A. T. Hull; Treasurer, E. H. Conger; Auditor, W. V. Lucas; Attorney-General, Smith Mcpherson; Register Land Office, J. K. Powers.  The Convention reaffirmed the policy heretofore declared by the party and heartily ratified the nomination of Garfield and Arthur.

The Democratic State Convention met at Des Moines on the 2d of September and placed the following candidates in nomination:  Secretary of State, A. B. Keith; Treasurer, Martin Blim; Auditor, C. I. Baker; Attorney-General, C. A. Clark; Register Land Office, C. A. Daugherty.  The convention indorsed the platform of the late National Convention and pledged its hearty support to Hancock and English.

The election resulted in the choice of all the Republican candidates by an average majority of 45,000.  The vote for President stood as follows in Iowa:  Garfield, 183,927; Hancock, 105,745; Weaver, 32,701.


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