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democrat. In 1868 his majority over J. R. Porter, democrat, was 2,227. In 1870 the majority over John H. Croxton was 2,478. But in this, his third campaign, charges were made against him of great irregularities in administering the school fund of the state. His political friends claimed that no harm could come to the state from a re-election, as the legislature would be republican, and they would examine the case and do justice in the premises. Accordingly, by the sixth day of March, 1871, eleven articles of impeachment were presented by the house of representatives, to the senate as a Court of Impeachment, one of which charged Governor David Butler with having appropriated to his own use $16,881.26 of school fund, derived from the general government, and that "in this he had committed and was guilty of a misdemeanor in office." To all the articles he interposed specific denials, and affirmed the borrowing of the school fund and the placing on file a mortgage to secure the same about the first of January, 1871, which would be three years after the arrival of the money in the state treasury.
Three months after the convening of the court (June 1, 1871) he was found guilty of "a misdemeanor in office," and the sentence was that he be removed therefrom. The managers of impeachment were Honorables J. C. Myers, J. E. Doon and Dr. Forest Porter. Honorables Clinton Briggs, John J. Reddick and T. M. Marquette were counsel for the defendant.
On the day preceding the rendering of the decision the gov ernor presented to the speaker of the senate a proposition for settlement as follows, but as the Court of Impeachment had no control of a settlement it proceeded to decide upon a "misdemeanor in office":
To the Honorable, the President of the Senate:
I take the liberty, on the re-assembling of your honorable body, to communicate with you upon the subject of the five per cent fund. Early in the spring of 1868, soon after the collection of that fund, I made a loan of the state of the sum of $16,881.26, and afterwards amply secured the same by bond of mortgage. This was done in perfect good faith and with the understanding that the transaction was perfectly legal. Many, however, of my fellow citizens differ
with me as regards the legality of the loan and the suffi-
Executive Department, Lincoln, May 30th, 1871.
We find the claim against ex-governor David Butler, amounting originally to $16,881.26, due the five per cent fund, which, together with interest now due, amounts to $23,664.84, in a very unsatisfactory condition, there being no securities properly on file in the state treasurer's office as security for the payment of this debt. Ex-governor Butler has submitted a proposition to your committee, to transfer to the state the residence and adjoining grounds, now occupied by him as a homestead, in payment of the above debt upon the following terms: For the house, outbuildings, 80 acres of ground, and furniture contained in the main building, the state to allow the sum of $30,000, to be paid as follows: Principal debt, $16,881.26; interest, $6,283.58; warrant on general fund, $6,835.16; total, $30,000.00. Your committee has the foregoing proposition under careful consideration, has visited the premises and carefully examined the house and grounds, and has reached the decision to strongly urge the passage of a bill for an act to provide for purchasing a governor's mansion.
Instead of adopting the committee's recommendation, the leg. islature passed an act, March 3rd, 1873, "To provide for the liquidation and settlement of certain claims with David Butler." And in accordance with said act, April 4th, 1873, a board of commissioners reported, "That we have examined and appraised 3,400 acres, the lands of David Butler, in quantity sufficient to liquidate the indebtedness of David Butler to the school fund of
the state of Nebraska," to which Governor Robert W. Furnas gave his official approval of the same date.
Eight years after the $16,881 had gone into the possession of Governor Butler, the legislature passed a resolution rescinding the verdict of removal from office; and since the settlement, on the supposition that the 3,400 acres of surrendered land had become valuable and the state could afford to refund the amount over and above the liquidated debt, a bill for that purpose was presented to the legislature, but has not been enacted into law.
ACTING GOVERNOR W. H. JAMES.
William H. James was a native of Marion County, Ohio, and received his early education in the common schools of the State and from the Marion Academy. He was alternately farmer, clerk, and mechanic, and finally student at law, having entered a law office in 1853.
The date of his settlement in Nebraska was in 1857, three years after the territorial organization. From this time until his election as secretary of state in 1870, he had given some attention to legal practice, surveying, and the duties of register of a land office for five years under appointment of President Lincoln. His term of acting governor commenced with the im peachment of Governor Butler, March 4th, 1871, and continued till January 10th, 1873. The legislature convening but once every two years, he delivered his only message January 10th, 1873, and three days thereafter was superseded by Governor Furnas.
Among the subjects presented for consideration we find the admonition that prison discipline should seek the protection of society, and not attempt "vindictive punishment," greater unity of action between the regents and faculty of the state university demanded, special attention to be given the insane, idiots, and imbeciles, pardoning power to be exercised with great care, laws enacted to protect capital coming to the State for investment, and usury laws repealed since "capital is timid."
There remained in the state treasury January 18th, 1871, $37,547; receipts to December 31, 1872, $1,183,074; total $1,220,621. Disbursements, $1,022,233; balance in treasury to credit of the several funds $98,387.
Inasmuch as the exercise of "doubtful and dangerous authority" had given him an administration, "of few days and full of
trouble," he deemed it well to go upon record as to the care of public funds.
While it is true that public money should be touched with the most scrupulous consciousness of authority, it is equally true that the executive officer of the State should not be urged to a stretch of legal or constitutional authority by reason of insufficient provisions, to meet any demands on the State, growing out of the proper administration of the laws. A violation of the law growing out of a public want, may furnish a precedent under which a private need may be met. And I feel that I can not too strongly urge upon your attention the importance of a careful examination into the wants of the state government and the making of such specific appropriations as will remove all necessity or excuse for the exercise of doubtful and dangerous authority.
After the acting governor's intelligent disquisition upon the scrupulous care to be observed in the use of public money, and "the impolicy of resorting to doubtful and dangerous authority," it is a little astonishing that the state senate felt called upon to ask what disposition had been made of a particular fund, in charge of the governor, of which the auditor and treasurer had no report; and further that a senate committee had to report that he admitted that he had not done right in retaining a certain $6,300-and would pay it over on the order of the legis lature, and though he promised to make a written statement to the committee in the course of the same day, had failed to do so.
In those early days of crude laws and new and unexpected demands, it was attempted to palliate delinquencies and indiscretions from the demands of public wants, though there was great danger of establishing precedents in favor of "private needs."