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CHAPTER V

THE DEMOCRATIC PERIOD OF STATE CONTROL: 1846-1854

42. The First Steps.—After the people ratified the proposed constitution at a popular election and Congress had accepted the change in boundaries, arrangements began to be made to provide for a change from the Territorial to the State government. To accomplish and have everything ready as soon as Congress should pass the act of admission as a State, Governor James Clark issued a proclamation stating the facts and appointing October 26, 1846, as the time to elect State officers and members of the general assembly.

43. The Importance of the First State Election. -This was a most important and interesting election, because the recent political controversies had somewhat unsettled the political parties, and because the coming general assembly would have the privilege of choosing the United States senators and three supreme judges; and the most prominent politicians of both the Whig and Democratic parties were anxious not only to secure these offices, but also to control the destinies of the young and prosperous State. . The election returns proved that the Democrats were in the majority, notwithstanding the party controversies, and had elected the governor, Ansel Briggs, and other State officers; but there was still much cause for anxiety, because dissensions over local matters had deprived the dominant

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ANSEL BRIGGS, FIRST GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF IOWA.

party of certain representatives that were essential to the election of United States senators and supreme judges, and had resulted in electing other persons, whose position on party questions was not certainly to be depended upon at the meeting of the General Assembly.

44. The First Deadlock.—Lee county broke the party traditions on local issues (on account of legal difficulties over the Half-breed Tract), and chose independent representatives, while the Democrats were outwitted by the Whigs in Des Moines county and defeated at the polls. Shortly before the day of election, certain wealthy Whigs employed enough Democratic voters and sent them out into the country, at extravagant wages, to drive hogs to market, a common occupation at that time, and although there were no hogs to bring in from the remote points to which they were sent, their absence gave the Whigs the majority, and they thus accomplished by stratagem what they were not able to secure at the polls with a full vote. These two events helped make the first political deadlock known to Iowa, and prevented the State of Iowa from having her lawful representatives in the United States Senate.

45. The Balance of Power.—On the assembling of the members of the first State legislative body, certain designing politicians, who were not directly identified with either of the two great parties, became the balance of power between the opposing factions, and proposed to dictate the election of United States senators and also supreme judges. Jonathan McCarty, a resident of the Half-breed Tract and a citizen of

Lee county, had formerly been a Democratic representative in Congress from Indiana. Abandoning his party in the great political excitement of 1840, he became the head of the Whig electoral ticket of Indiana for General Harrison. The Whigs having fallen into minority in Indiana and McCarty having thus lost his influence he came to Iowa, and was ready to accommodate his political creed to whatever party would promote his individual interests. Being elected from Lee county under these circumstances, he thought he saw a chance to be elected United States senator by the general assembly, and, having the support of those who controlled the balance of power, announced his candidacy. His ticket was derisively named the“ possum ticket,” and the members who supported him were known as “possum” members. During the electioneering and political excitement connected with the proposed election of United States senators, a member, Nelson King, made the charge of an attempt to bribe him to secure his vote for the Democratic candidates, A. C. Dodge and J. C. Hall.

46. The First Legislative Investigation.—This charge led to an extended investigation, in which nothing was satisfactorily proven, but on account of the tie between the Democrats and Whigs and the hostilities that thus were developed, no election resulted and the legislature adjourned, but not without having actually transacted business worthy of mention.

Iowa was not represented in the Senate of the United States for the first two years of her statehood. After the adjournment of the general assembly, the governor appointed the judges of the supreme court,

and started, by so doing, this department of the State government.

47. The Financial Condition.—The first General Assembly found the new State government in debt for Territorial expenditures by $26,000, and with no provision for payment. The members of the constitutional convention had not been paid, and there was no money to pay the salaries of the new State officers or the General Assembly. To meet these emergencies, a loan of $50,000 was authorized, and at once half the possible constitutional indebtedness was contracted. By this means, the new State was started on the high road to honor and prosperity.

48. The Temperance Movement. At this time also great efforts were made throughout the State for temperance reform. Previous to this time, the counties had been authorized to grant licenses for the retailing of intoxicating liquors. Petitions were sent to this first general assembly from every part of the State asking that some steps be taken to suppress intemper

The reply to these petitions of the people by the Assembly was in the shape of an act requiring the voters, at the next April election, to express an opinion on the propriety and necessity of licensing retailers of intoxicating liquors.

The result of this test of public sentiment proved that every county in the State but two was opposed to the licensing of liquor sellers. By this vote, as provided by the law, the liquor traffic was to be suppressed in the counties that voted against license. But the anticipated effect was not realized, much to the disappointment of the friends of temperance reform, as a surreptitious traffic

ance.

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