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CHAPTER VIII

IOWA IN THE DAYS OF CONTROVERSY AND WAR

1859-1865

73. The Slavery Question.—By the Missouri Compromise, Iowa became a State in which slavery

was forever prohibited,” yet at one time there were a few slaves on this soil who were sold by their masters to traders who took them South. This fact of the prohibition of slavery caused the settlers that came to Iowa to be chiefly opposed to that institution, and they were therefore hostile to its extension on any conditions. December 9, 1854, Governor Grimes gave in his message the memorable words that struck the key note of the political history of the State for many years: “It becomes the state of Iowa, the only free state of the Missouri Compromise, to let the world know that she values the blessings that Compromise has secured for her, and know that she will never consent to become a party to the nationalization of slavery." This was Iowa's answer to the proposition made in Congress in 1854 to repeal the Missouri Compromise. In the midst of the great political agitation that existed in the Union, Mr. Grimes was nominated for Governor, and being supported by both Whigs and Free-soilers, he conducted a spirited and successful campaign and was elected by 2,468 majority. An entire change at once began in the political history of Iowa, and soon a like change followed in the majority of the states in the

Union. Mr. Grimes' campaign and election was the first very prominent large movement toward the organization of the Republican party. Six years later Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, and the entire governmental policy of the Great Republic as regards slavery and also as regards tariff taxation was changed.

74. Controversies Over Suffrage. — The new Constitution opened up the controversy concerning suffrage by providing for a vote of the people on striking the word "white" out of the suffrage clause. There were already quite a number of negroes in Iowa, and this question of enfranchising them was one of the first discussions of the kind that occurred in the United States. Since the organization of the State there had been a law upon the statute books providing that no mulatto, negro, or Indian should be a competent witness in any suit or proceedings to which a white man was a party. The general assembly of 1856-57 repealed this law and the new constitution contained a clause forbidding such disqualification in the future. The word

The word "white" was retained in the constitution, but the repeal of the color line" law and the proposition to remove the color line from suffrage, together with a law that provided in a broad sense for the education of all youth in the State" through a system of common schools, made the political excitement intense, since fundamental constitutional problems were being considered, and a radical change seemed promised, unless it could be defeated at the polls. The Democrats made a bold attack upon the Republican party because of the repeal of the “ black laws" and

the provision for negro education, and made a strong and successful appeal to the feeling of race prejudice which still prevailed in the State, as was proven by the defeat of the proposition to strike out then, the word "white" from the Constitution of 1857. The result was, however, a victory for the Republican party, as the vote of Iowa since that time has almost universally supported the policies of that party. The word “white was afterward, in 1868, stricken out of the Constitution by the approval of the people at a general election.

75. The Republican Party Supreme.—In January, 1858, the general assembly met for the first time at Des Moines. Political party supremacy was gradually slipping from the hands of the Democrats. Already in 1855, James Harlan had been elected United States senator by the general assembly, and Augustus C. Dodge, representing the old regime, was retired. The assembly of 1858 completed this policy by electing James W. Grimes United States senator and retiring George W. Jones, who had been associated with Iowa politics from the beginning of its history.

76. The Campaign of 1860.—The presidential campaign of 1860 was a remarkable one for Iowa, and helped make the civil history of the State. The fact that civil war seemed imminent, in case of Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency of the United States was well understood and considered. There was a disposition, however, to consider and decide these issues, uninfluenced by any threat of violence or

Already in 1851, the general assembly, by joint resolution, had declared that the state of Iowa was bound to maintain the union of these States by

civil war.

all the means in her power.” The same year the State furnished a block of marble for the Washington Monument, and by order of the general assembly, inscribed upon it the following sentiment: "Iowa: Her affections, like the rivers of her borders, flow to an Inseparable Union.” No State in the Union had more vital interest in National unity than the people of Iowa. Her population were representatives of the older states, both North and South. All were immigrants bound to these older communities by the ties of blood and fond recollections of early days. Her geographical position was such that a dismemberment of the Union was a matter of serious concern. The Mississippi river was the highway for her people to market their products, and for the navigation of this nature-highway to pass into the control of a foreign government was to isolate Iowa from the commerce of the world. In secession and its results, the State of Iowa could see nothing for her people but confusion, anarchy, and utter destruction of nationality. Hence when the National flag was fired upon at Fort Sumpter in 1861, party lines gave away, party spirit was hushed, and the cause of the common country became supreme in the affection of the whole people.

77. The Meeting of the Crisis.—Peculiarly fortunate was the State at this crisis, in having a truly representative man as chief executive in the person of Samuel J. Kirkwood. He was indeed worthy and able to organize and direct the energies of the people. Within thirty days after the date of the President's proclamation calling for troops, the First Iowa Regiment was mustered into the service of the United

States, a second regiment was in camp ready for service, and the general assembly was in special session, pledging by joint resolution every resource of men and money to the National cause. The constitution of the State limited the State debt to $250,000, except debts contracted to "repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or defend the State in war.”

This assembly authorized a loan of $800,000, if it were necessary, for a war and defense fund, to be expended in organizing, arming, equipping and

SAMUEL J. KIRKWOOD. subsisting the militia of the State, to meet the present and future requisitions of the President. Those in power looked to the spirit rather than to the letter of the constitution, and acted upon the theory that to preserve the Nation was to preserve the State, and that to prevent invasion was the most effectual way of repelling it. Only $300,000 of this loan was ever made, and these bonds were purchased and held chiefly by Iowa people. "A monument to the heroism of the soldiers and sailors of 1861-65 was erected at the capital in 1895. The money expended, $150,000, was obtained from the refunded national direct tax of August 5, 1861.(283, p. 260.)

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