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This volume is the first of a series designed to give to the public the complete history and original records, so far as they exist, of the Constitutional Conventions of Nebraska.
The idea of their publication in their present form arose in the mind of the editor in 1899, when he found in one of the vaults of the State House the original shorthand report of the convention of 1871. A few hours reading in the manuscript was enough to convince that one of the most important sources of Nebraska political and constitutional history was sleeping there under thirty years' dust in forgotten rest. The discovery of this material and its importance led to a prolonged and thorough search for the lost minutes of the convention of 1875. The story of those minutes, as told by Mr. H. H. Wheeler, formerly of the Supreme Court office, is as follows:
"In the fall of 1889, some days after the death of Guy A. Brown, Clerk of the Nebraska Supreme Court, (which occurred Oct. 27th of that year), I went into the basement vault of the Clerk of the Supreme Court in the state capitol to get some articles belonging to me. On the stairway I met David C. Crawford, one of the state house janitors, with a Swedish helper named Henry, conveying a cracker box with a lot of papers in it upstairs. I instantly recognized the papers as the manuscript report of the debates in the constitutional convention of 1875. I told the janitors that they were very valuable papers and ought to be preserved. When I came up from the vaults a few minutes later I stepped into the office of the Secretary of State, and told Nelson McDowell, Chief Clerk, and O. C. Bell, Deputy Secretary of State, what I had seen; called their attention to the value of the papers, and that they properly belonged in the custody of the Secretary of State. I have never seen the debates since, although I have made diligent personal search for them in the state house, having an important law suit involving a constitutional question which the debates would have shed light upon. I have never found any one who has seen those manuscripts since that day.
"I remember perfectly the form of the manuscript. It was written with lead pencil on sheets of soft newspaper, cut into note:
head size, and each day's proceedings tied up separately. The manuscript had been kept many years in that cracker box at first in the Secretary of State's office. Later it was kept in the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, because there was more table room there for persons who desired to consult it. I entered the Clerk's office in 1876, the year after the convention, and remember many lawyers getting the manuscript to consult. I remember in particular Mrs. Clara B. Colby using the manuscript many times to familiarize herself with the work of the convention of 1875."
A long and painstaking search by myself through all the vaults and rooms of the state house was finally rewarded in 1900 by finding several rolls of original manuscripts of the convention of 1875 in one of the basement rooms. These manuscripts were chiefly orig inal committee reports upon different parts of the constitution,-in some cases both minority and majority reports being submitted,-and a few minutes of convention work. These were made the subject of a special article by me in the Omaha Daily Bee of February 24, 1901, and are now a part of the archives of the State Historical Society.
Upon coming into charge of the field work of the Historical Society, in April, 1901, correspondence and search was begun for all documents, recollections, letters and newspaper accounts giving original information respecting the constitutional conventions of Nebraska. The program of the State Historical Society meeting January 12-13, 1903, was upon the subject, and many interesting reminiscences of the conventions of 1871 and 1875 were there related. Among other material gathered in the last four years is that found in Gov. Furnas' voluminous scrap books which have been given to the Historical Society, abstracts of newspaper reports of the convention of 1875 as they appeared in the Omaha and Lincoln dailies of that time and, during the summer of 1905, all the letters and manuscripts of the late Judge Samuel Maxwell, of Fremont, who was a member of the convention of 1871 and also that of 1875.
The story of how the manuscripts of the 1871 convention were obtained for these volumes, and how-most important of all-the money for their publication was obtained, has had all the excitement. of a drama in real life for the writer. It may be of interest to the public now, and to that vaster public yet to be born and live upon
these prairies through all the centuries that are to come. A written application was made to Secretary of State Marsh in December, 1904, for use of the 1871 manuscript to edit and prepare for publication. The matter went over and was laid upon the desk of incoming Secretary of State Galusha, in January, 1905. The Secretary was entirely willing that the manuscripts should be used, but encountered a direct prohibition in the statute which forbade him to "permit any original rolls, papers, or public documents filed in his office to be taken out of it unless called for by resolution of either or both houses of the legislature, or for examination by the executive." Upon consultation with the Attorney General Norris Brown, a preamble and resolution was drawn up by the writer, approved by the Attorney General, given to Representative N. D. Jackson of Antelope county, by him introduced in the House February 6th, and passed unanimously. The resolution is as follows:
WHEREAS, the verbatim report of the debates in the Nebraska constitutional convention of 1871, prepared in manuscript (as the legend thereon states) by the Hon. Guy A. Brown for use as printers' copy to publish said debates has lain unused in the vaults of the capitol over thirty years, and
WHEREAS, the constitution framed by that convention was rejected by the voters at the polls and these debates were therefore never published, and
WHEREAS, the Nebraska State Historical Society is now preparing for publication a history of the constitutions of Nebraska giving all the original source material upon the present constitution and those which preceded it, and
WHEREAS, these debates of the convention of 1871 have been carefully examined by the officers of the historical society and found to be of great historic and general interest, covering in discussion the vital points in our present constitution, the verbatim report of whose convention is lost, and it is highly desirable to have them properly edited, indexed and published so as to make them available to all the people of the state, therefore, be it
Resolved, by this house that the secretary of state is hereby authorized and called upon to deliver to the proper officer of the Nebraska State Historical Society said manuscript printers' copy of the debates of the convention of 1871 for publication under the auspices of said society, taking his receipt therefor.
Armed with a certified copy of this resolution from the Chief Clerk of the House the manuscripts were secured from the Secretary
of State, transferred to the Historical Society rooms that very day, and work begun revising them for publication.
The hardest part of the task remained to be accomplished--to secure from the legislature, confronted with a large state debt, and clamorously besieged for appropriations in behalf of state institutions and new buildings, the money that was absolutely required to give these dusty manuscripts to a reading public. By special arrangement Prof. Howard W. Caldwell and the writer had a brief hearing before the House Committee on Finance, Ways and Means, February 14th. The full committee was not present, the session was hurried, the members were tired, and no action was taken upon the request. The general appropriation bill was framed and reported and passed the house with no item for the printing of these debates.
The senate was the last chance. How to secure from hurried, crowded senators the attention needed to convince them of the real, practical as well as scientific, value of these early Nebraska records,that was the problem. Its solution was attempted by the following brief, which was framed and sent to every member of the senate with a personal letter:
BRIEF FOR A SPECIAL ITEM OF $2,500 TO PUBLISH DE-
1. Nebraska has had four constitutional conventions-1864, 1866, 1871, 1875. The first one adjourned without framing a constitution. The second framed our first constitution. The third sat 47 days and framed a document which was defeated at the polls The fourth made our present organic law, between May 12 and June 12.
2. The minutes of the 1875 convention are lost. We have only the journal, the memories of members, newspaper accounts and letters from which to reconstruct its proceedings.
The minutes of 1871 are complete-every word spoken in the convention. The same topics were discussed in 1871 as in 1875 and the constitution defeated in 1871 is the real model upon whose lines the present constitution is built. The record of 1871 is, therefore, the most valuable existing commentary on our present document.
4. The following is the list of members of the convention of 1871: (List here omitted).
5. The debates are vigorous, comprehensive and stirring. The vital questions argued today in our courts and public forums were debated in the convention by the early founders of this commonwealth, many of whom have since been leaders in its affairs.
6. The minutes of 1871 will make two volumes of 600 pages each in brevier type. A third volume of about equal size will contain all the original matter attainable in relation to the conventions of 1864, 1866 and 1875.
7. The cost of printing per page will be between $1.25 and $2.00, depending upon the size of the edition.
8. The Historical Society cannot print these volumes without a special allowance. It is required by the act which makes it a state institution (Wheeler, Chap. 84a; Cobbey, paragraph 11,375) to publish its transactions and the historical addresses delivered at its annual meetings. Its regular biennial appropriation of $10,000 for current expenses will not take care of this special item after ordinary expenses are paid.
9. These Constitutional Convention volumes should be printed NOW to quote the words of Senator Manderson in a recent letter endorsing the plan-"while there are members yet living who can read proofs and offer correction and comment."
Then began a campaign to awaken members of the Senate finance committee to a realization of the importance of the little item. Letters were written to all the members of the 1871 and 1875 conventions, enclosing a copy of the brief, and asking them, who knew better than any other persons the value and interest of the proposed volumes, to write to their own senator and also to the chairman of the senate finance committee. Besides this, similar letters were sent to members of the State Historical Society, to prominent lawyers and to personal friends of the writer over the state. First and last, over a thousand letters were written. The response was generous, and I have since wondered whether Senator Good, Chairman of that committee, thought a conspiracy had been organized against his peace of mind to secure that sum of $2,500. At this critical juncture the personal interest of Senator A. E. Cady, of Howard County, was secured for the item after a thorough explanation and understanding of its merits. March 23d the senate finance committee agreed to add the following amendment to the general appropriation bill:
"For printing special volumes of series two, containing minutes