The Wageworker. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1904-????, January 06, 1911, Image 2

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Some Interesting Recollections of the Legislature That Convened in Lincoln Just Twenty
Years Ago This Week How the "Farmers" Yere Hoodwinked by the Smooth Politicians
Just twenty years ago there assembled in the state house in lieutenant-governor should preside, while the speaker opened and
Lincoln the most remarkable legislature, both in make-up and in canvassed the returns. The "farmers" tried to dethrone the lieuten-
actions, that ever convened within the confines of this state. It is ant-governor, and while they had the votes they failed because
doubtful if such another legislature ever convened. Meiklejohn. by the display of a nerve that won the admiration of
The legislature was the result of a political upheaval that was even his bitterest enemies, and the finest of parliamentary skill, man
itselt unique, and which, although hooted and hissed at the time, is aged to preside over what was undoubtedly the warmest joint session
now acknowledged to have been one of the greatest political edu- ever held in the state. Elder, acting on the advice of colleagues, flatly
cators of modern times. The old "Granger movement had sprung refused to canvas the returns setting forth that a contest was filed,
up. flourished for a time, and then died. In the middle SO's another While Meiklejohn was presiding by sheer nerve, a bunch of political
movement of a like nature was started, this time by earnest though manipulators were in the supreme court room with Judge Amasa
perhaps politically unskilled men, who were determined that it J. Cobb, securing a writ of mandamus compelling the speaker to do
would not be wrecked by politicians who had overburdened the once what he was refusing to do. The spectacle of one co-ordinate branch
promising Grange movement. It was essentially a movement of of the government swinging a club over another co-ordinate branch
farmers, and so suspicious were they that-they made it a rule that was a new one, but the club swung because the "farmers' did not
r.o lawyers should be admitted to membership in their local organi- know what to do. The writ of mandamus was issued and given into
rations. Quietly, but with remarkable rapidity, the organization the hands of "Pap" Hastings, a deputy United States marshal, to
grew. Among its promoters were Jay Burrows, John Powers, Omar serve. Just why a writ of a state court should be served by an
M. Kem. Senator Charles II. VanWyck, and others. Its first entry official of the federal court will never be known, but there is reason
mio politics was in 1SS8, but it did not cut much of a figure. In to believe that Hastings was used because the spectacle of a United
1 890 it burst forth into a flame that fairly swept the state. This States official was calculated to scare the "ignorant hayseed" out
farmer organization, nominated a full state ticket, headed by John of their boots. The writ was served after the doors to the house
H. Powers, and there are few alive today who participated in that chamber had been battered down. .Elder succumbed and the returns
memorable campaign who do not admit that Powers was honestly were canvassed. Boyd was declared elected governor, and the repub
clected. But 1890 happened to be the year that prohibition was iican candidates for the other officers were seated. Boyd held on
voted on, and James E. Boyd of Omaha, the democratic candidate for until several months after the legislature adjourned, and was then ,-
governor, was the champion of the anti-prohibitionists. Lucius D. ousted by the state supreme court on the ground that he was notft
Richards, the republican candidate,-paltered and evaded the issue, citizen, and Thayer was again installed into o ce. Some months
The "farmers" refused to be sidetracked by it, and clung to the later the United States supreme court held with Boyd, and Boyd was
main issue, which was that the farmer wTas being robbed on every allowed to fill out his term.
side and proposed to secure relief.. By reason of outrageous ballot Some of the men most prominent in that legislature were never
frauds in Douglas Boyd had an apparent plurality of a few hun- heard of afterward that is to any great extent. Others are stiH with
dred. Boyd, Richards and Powers ran so close together that less us and still in the public eye to some extent. Shrader of Loganv
than 2,000 votes separated the highest from the lowest. The "farm- Stevens of Furnas. Kruse of Knox, Porter of Merrick, Newberry of
ers" immediately served notice of contest, and the democratic and Madison, Elder of Clay all have been lost sight of except Porter,
republican machine leaders immediately got together. It was agreed who is still with us.
between them that Boyd should be declared governor, and the re- Ballot reform and railroad rate legislation were the two big
publican candidates declared elected to the other offices. The first reforms that the 'farmers" proposed to bring about. Church Howe
hitch in this program came when Governor Thayer, who" evidently of Auburn, because of his experience as a legislator, scored a point
had not been consulted, refused to give way to Boyd, basing his by getting in the first bill, providing for the Australian ballot. New
declination on the ground that Boyd was not a naturalized citizen, berry, a man who knew no more about freight rates or rate making
For a time Nebraska had two acting governors, but Thayer was final- than a baby, got in with the first bill for a reduction of rates. New
ly dispossessed by the simple trick of turn off the heat from the berry had simply copied the Iowa freight rate schedules, making
executive offices and freezing him out. The story of the Boyd- no allowance for the difference in distances, or anything else. When
Thayer contest and its final outcome is. however, another story. the bill came out of the committee it was little changed. So ignorant
When the legislature convened the "farmers" had a majority was Newberry that when asked what "k. d." meant in a certain
in the house and with two or three independent democrats had a schedule relating to such' things as chairs, he admitted that he didn't
majority of the senate. George D. Meiklejohn was lieutenant-gover- know.
nor, with Thomas J. Majors lieutenant-governor elect. The republicans and most of the democrats in the house fought
The "farmer" members of the house held a "conference" at the the Newberry bill with all their might, but it was jammed through
l.indell hotel and selected Marsh Elder of Clay as their candidate by sheer force of numbers. In tTTe senate it went up against some
for speaker. How Elder, a rough, uncouth, uneducated man came cf the shrewdest corporation cappers in the state. It was delayed in
to be selected is a rather good story. It came about in this wise : every possible way, every amendment possible and some impossible
The writer, who had for some time prior to the election of that were offered, but the proponents always managed to score. At last
year been a reporter on the Kearney Enterprise, was made Lincoln the time came when the corporation forces could delay action no
correspondent of the Omaha World-Herald about thirty days before longer. The night before the bill was to come to a vote Senator
the legislature convened. Before going to Kearney he had conducted Taylor of Loup disappeared. It ws proved beyond a doubt in the
a weekly paper in Fairfield, Clay county, and while a resident of that mind of any observant man that Taylor had been run out of the
county had heard Elder make a speech in a republican county con- state on a special train, and that he did not go with an empty purse,
vention accepting the nomination for coroner. Shortly after being That same night I was snooping around the corridors of the Lincoln
sent to Lincoln the writer was instructed to "get a line" on the hotel and saw one senator who had been a supporter of the bill
probable organization of the legislature. He was all at sea as quietly escorted into the room of a;mgh official of the Burlington,
was everybody else in the state for all the "farmer" members-elect When the bill finally came to a vote ihevoted "no." During the last
were new men in Nebraska politics. In sheer desperation the writer two or three campaigns this same senktr, who now lives in Lincoln,
picked on Marsh Elder, he being the only one he had ever before I believe, has had some pretty harsh Ithngs to say about democrats
heard of, and began writing "advance information" with Elder as and populists. I
its center. The World-Herald was even then considered as the near- The next day the bill came to a vjottand immediately a "call of
organ of the "farmer" organization, and it was read by them more the senate" was demanded. Lieuter-antGovernor Majors ordered
than all the other dailies in the state combined. Perhaps Elder was the call, well knowing that Taylor oi Loip was beyond reach. For
as much a stranger to his fellow members-elcet as he was to the eighty-six hours the senate was deadlocked under the call. The
state at large, but they soon became impressed with the idea that members ate and slept in the senatelchanber, and some opponent
bf'was the most available man, for the World-Herald was singing cf the bill was always on guard. In the silly watches of the night
"Ins praises everv day. This Avas because the man who was doing some advocate of the bill would ariie and move that the further
the "singing" didn't know a blooming thing about any other man call of the senate be dispensed witlA Tien, while one watchful
cf that party. , guard was shaking Majors awake, othtr guards were hastily kicking
Elder was elected speaker of the house, and the late Governor six or eight opponents of the bill into.lwakefulness. "A motion has
I ovnter, a senator from Boone county," was elected president pro been made to dispense with the furtfu 1 call of the senate." Majors
tern of the senate. would say with a yawn : "Is there ob Ictiori?" Immediately six or
The first sign of trouble was when the legislature met in joint eight sleepy voices would mutter Eject f." and Majors would
session to open and canvas the returns. Precedent said that the sleepily murmur, "Objection being male the call of the senate if