« AnteriorContinuar »
but healthy and permanent, and we can afford to be called political infants, while we are enlarging and developing the bone and muscle which are to give us energy, vigor, and power, when we arrive at manhood."13 From words as soothing as these no one would have suspected that Gorman was to be the man to propose immediate statehood by squatter sovereign methods at the very next annual session.
· Two proposals made in the legislative session of 1856 looked toward carrying out the plans described. One was a memorial, proposed by a member from far northern Pembina, for an east and west line to divide the territory at 45° 10' north latitude, approximately twelve miles north of St. Paul.14 This line seems to have been chosen with a view to making a separate territory in the north as large as possible, and free from St. Paul domination. The people in the north were even farther removed from St. Paul than those in the south, and the northern politicians were cognizant of their own interests. At the same session St. Andrew D. Balcombe of Winona, a Republican leader from southern Minnesota, introduced a joint resolution calling for the holding of a territorial convention to frame a constitution for the future state of Minnesota, which convention, in conformity with the principles of squatter sovereignty, was to be held without congressional authority.15 Mr. Balcombe was also one who favored an east and west division.
These proposals failed of adoption; both were premature. A bill which did pass and which proved to be of no little importance was that which incorporated the St. Peter Company.16 This act was innocent enough upon its face, yet it possessed several peculiarities. Apparently the company had previously incorporated under the general law,"7 only to find its powers thereunder to be inadequate for its purposes, and it thereupon applied for a special act of incorporation. The name given in the special law in no way indicated its purpose, and the powers granted to it, though referring more specifically to milling, manufacturing, and the improvement of its water power, were sufficiently broad to authorize it to enter a general real-estate business and other lines of activity. Indeed, so unusual was this corporation deemed to be, that even the printer of the laws classified it along with more general legislation rather than with ordinary acts of incorporation.18 If common report be true, it was the members of this corporation who presently made it their aim to have the capital removed to St. Peter in order to enhance the value of their real-estate holdings there.19
13 Appendix to Council Journal, 1856, p.2.
19 Hall, Observations, pp. 26-27; Minn, in Three Cen., 2:490-99. Among other measures of importance passed at the session of 1856, there were seven acts chartering as many railroad corpora. tions, formed in anticipation of a forthcoming federal land grant.
In the session which has been thus briefly reviewed party divisions were, for the first time in the history of Minnesota, sharply brought into the foreground. The Republican minority in the lower house fought day after day to bring about the adoption of anti-slavery resolutions. The Democratic majority, dominated by the “Riceite" faction and strongly attached to the interests of St. Paul,20 succeeded not only in putting off the slavery question which would have split the party, but also in defeating the proposal for an east and west division of the territory and the plan for a constitutional convention. The struggles were many and bitter but the Republicans made little headway. At the end of the session they extracted what comfort they could from the holding of a final meeting of protest, and they departed to their homes only after issuing a ringing appeal to the people to rally to their
3. THE SUMMER OF 1856. After so heated a session it might have been expected that the newspapers would have kept on fanning the fires of political. agitation during the spring and summer preparatory to the holding of the new elections in the fall. In fact, however, if the leading St. Paul newspapers on each side are at all reliable, the interest in territorial politics sank to a low ebb. In the months from April to August, there was very little said in either the Pioneer and Democrat or in the Daily Minnesotian either to arouse or to educate the voter on any question of peculiarly local political interest.2 Insofar as there was any matter at all of a political nature in these newspapers, it related to the national campaign which was being waged that summer, and to the national issues. At no time did the territorial issues come into prominence. Not even statehood received the attention of which it was worthy.
Several of the histories make mention of a series of letters on statehood, from the pen of J. E. Warren, published during 1856 in the newspapers St. Paul. John Esaias Warren was a respected citizen of St. Paul, one of the board of trustees of the College of St. Paul incorporated in 1856,23 and a lawyer by profession. He had been district attorney for Minnesota for a short time in 1854-55 but had been removed from office because of his handling of certain railroad litigation affecting the interests of both the federal and territorial governments.? His removal seems to have been
20 Daily Minnesotian, Jan. 1856, passim. 21 Ibid., Mar. 3, 1856.
* These two newspapers of St. Paul, leaders of the press in their respective parties, have been taken as typical of the newspapers of the territory. While the authors did not think it necessary for their purposes to go much beyond these two, some other student could do the state a valuable service by traversing all the extant territorial newspapers for the years before 1858 with a view to culling out all the facts and the comments relating to the movement for statehood.
23 Terr. Sess. Laws, 1856, ch. 58.
highly pleasing to Gorman and his friends, but not so to the Democratic majority of the legislative assembly who put through a resolution denouncing the action of the president in dismissing him.25 Warren appears to have been close to Rice both in political and railroad matters, and it is not impossible that the latter spoke through Warren in the matter of statehood. At any rate, Warren found no difficulty in getting the Rice organ, the Pioneer and Democrat, to publish his letters and endorse his views.
Having been in the east during the winter of 1855-56, possibly at Washington with Rice for a part of that time, Warren returned to Minnesota early in May, 1856, and, laboring under the misapprehension that the Legislature of 1856 had passed a measure to submit the question of a constitutional convention to the voters that fall, he prepared several public letters to present the arguments favorable to statehood. The first one, written under date of August 3, was published in the Pioneer and Democrat on August 6. Another followed August 14. There was none in September, but on October 2 a third appeared and on December 22 a fourth.26 Others followed in 1857 but they dealt largely with the question of boundaries. These letters reviewed the arguments for statehood already current in Minnesota but it is difficult to believe that they had any great influence on the course of events. They did, however, make it appear that there was some popular demand for the new step, and they also served to prepare the public mind for the events of the winter of 1856-57. The first of the letters gave the Pioneer and Deniocrat an opportunity to explain on August 9 that it favored a north and south division of the territory by a line down the Red river and due south to the Iowa line. This was a reversal of its position six months earlier but in conformity with Rice's own views and with the bill for an enabling act which he presently introduced into Congress.
The condition of relative quiet which prevailed in the newspapers was completely misleading as an indication of the actual state of affairs. It is impossible to read many of the records of the time without thinking of the summer and fall of 1856 as a time of great political activity, though not of great talk. It was a time of apparent pause when real work was being done off-stage, a time for the drafting of measures and the laying of plans. A peculiarity of the whole proceeding was not only that the developments were chiefly taking place behind the scenes, but that when the play began again to be set in motion it was on two widely separated stages,-at Washington and in St. Paul. It is necessary to follow both to understand the subsequent action.
* Council Journal, 1856, P. 122; House Journal, 1856, pp. 148-49, 169, 200.
* There were also several shorter and spicier letters signed "St. Paul” published in the same columns.
4. MR. RICE PLANS THE FUTURE STATE. Rice did not return to Minnesota in 1856. The session of Congress lasted until late into the summer that year, and as his term had yet another year to run he had no need to look immediately to his "political fences.”* More important still, there were in the making at Washington events of great concern to Minnesota which required his presence in that city. Since he could not come to Minnesota, the leading men of the territory packed their bags and went to Washington. Governor Gorman went early in the summer but soon returned. Joseph R. Brown went and stayed until late into the winter, returning to take his place in the territorial assembly after its session of 1857 had begun. Various reports show that at the end of 1856 and early in 1857 there were in Washington Colonel Nobles, General Shields, Major Hatch, H. L. Moss (one of the incorporators of the St. Peter Company), Thomas Wilson of Winona, H. T. Welles and Richard Chute of St. Anthony and Minneapolis, “Mr. Huff from Winona, Major Watrous from Lake Superior, J. W. Lynde from Leech Lake, and other gentlemen."27 Mr. Welles, who arrived in Washington about December 1, 1856, reports that “A formidable delegation from Winona had preceded us,” and that "Another party soon appeared from the Root river district."28 Apparently many of these men were there inspired with but one thought and hope, the procuring of a railroad land grant. No doubt they were interested in statehood for Minnesota, too, for that went hand in hand with the other matter, but the railroad question came first. They wanted to see that a grant was made for the construction of railroads in the territory, and each one wished to make sure that his own district or his own corporation, as the case might be, should not be slighted. 29
In the previous session of Congress there had been introduced a bill for a grant of land to the “Pacific Railroad." This was a scheme apparently backed by "eastern capitalists," so-called, who maintained an active lobby in Washington. Their plan was reported to be to get a land grant for railroads to run through Minnesota territory west and northwest from Winona, and southwest from Lake Superior, and on to the Pacific. Ben. Perley Poore, the Washington correspondent of the Pioneer and Democrat at this time, denounced the bill and the propaganda in its favor as an attempt to acquire by underhand methods “nearly four hundred million acres of land," and to turn
21 Pioneer and Democrat, Jan. 15, 1857; Welles, Autobiography, 2:53 ff.; Rep. Deb., p. 422. 28 Welles, op. cit., 2:55.
20 A number of railroad corporations had already been incorporated by the Minnesota legislative assembly in anticipation of a railroad land grant. It is clear that the most important of them were represented in Washington in 1856-57. H. T. Welles and Richard Chute were members of the group of men, including Edmund Rice, brother of the delegate in Congress, who were organized a few months later as the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, which received the grant of lands for the roads from St. Paul to Breckenridge and from St. Anthony to St. Vincent. General Shields was one of the incorporators of the Minneapolis and Cedar Valley Railroad Company, organized in 1856; Mr. H. D. Huff was an incorporator of both the Transit Railroad Company (1855) and the Root River Valley and Southern Minnesota Railroad Company (1855). It was to these four companies that the legislative assembly presently transferred the federal railroad land grant.
Minnesota over to land speculators. He gave some account of the methods of "King Lobby," and praised Delegate Rice for having refused to play the game. Rice must eve seen what vould have been the effect on the prosperity of his home city, St. Paul, of a railroad system which almost completely passed it by in favor of other towns in the territory. It is very likely, therefore, that he had good reasons for opposing this measure, and that he was not at all sorry to see it defeated.
At the same time, Rice could not follow a purely negative policy. The time had come for some very definite action with reference to the future of Minnesota. The division of the territory and the erection of one portion of it into a state could not be long delayed. Along with the creation of a new state would probably come a grant of land for railroads. The danger was that the enemies of St. Paul would steal a march upon its friends, get Congress to grant land for the building of roads from Winona and La Crescent westward, leaving St. Paul off to one side, and follow that with a bill for an east and west division of the territory which, if adopted, would place St. Paul so far from the center of the state as to deprive it of all rational arguments for remaining the capital. The plans for state-building naturally included a railroad system as one important element. The land grant for the roads should fall entirely within the boundaries of the proposed new state. The enabling act and the act granting the railroad land should supplement each other, and the boundaries authorized for the new state should control the extent of the grant and the routes which the roads would follow.
Rice was too shrewd a politician and business man not to sense the danger to St. Paul and to the proposed new state of Minnesota which lay in the plans of the Winona-St. Peter group. Bound up with this danger was also the risk to his own political fortunes. Should he allow leadership on the statehood question to pass from him, the delegate in Congress, to the other group, he would be taunted in the election of 1857 with having neglected the interests of the territory, and more than that, with failure. If Minnesota were to continue a territory beyond 1857, that is if he failed to get the enabling act through at once, the opposition might easily become too strong for him, elect one of their own men as delegate to Congress, and take away in this manner the great advantage which he still had over them. Did he, on the other hand, permit their plan for the division of the territory and for a railroad land grant to pass, his chances of promotion to higher political office from the new state thus formed would be very small indeed.
What instructions he had from the people of Minnesota to proceed at once to request an enabling act and immediate statehood for Minnesota do not appear. At the beginning of the year Governor Gorman had advised the people of the territory to go slowly in the matter, to await a more robust
30 Pioneer and Democrat, Jan. 15, 1857.