Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση



The fifth governor of Nebraska was born at McConnellsville, Morgan county, Ohio, January 8, 1845, where the first eleven years of his life were spent. In 1856, by the removal of his father's family, he became a resident of New Port, Wisconsin. His father's health failed in the practice of medicine, and there was ample opportunity for an outlay of youthful energy on the land that had been purchased.

Working on the farm during the season of cultivation, and attending common school in winter, supplemented with two terms in the preparatory department of Western Reserve College, Ohio, and a six months course in a business college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, constituted the extent of his agricultural and educational acquirements. The death of his father having rendered his graduation in college impracticable at this time, his self culture was continued during four years preceding October, 1868, by the reading of law, while clerking in a store. Having determined upon the law as a profession, in 1869 he entered the office of John H. Dawes, of Fox Lake, Wisconsin, and was admitted to the bar in January, 1871.

The same year, 1871, in the month of September, he located at Crete, Saline county, or rather anticipated the coming of the beautiful little city, for a corn-crop had been cultivated upon the townsite the previous year. Work upon the Burlington and Missouri River railroad having reached the county and crossed the Blue River, enthusiastic immigrants fancied a railroad centre, the home of manufactures and remunerative commerce. But immigration must produce business before litigation could furnish remunerative practice for the legal profession, and accordingly we find the young attorney devoting himself to mercantile pursuits for the term of six years. In 1877 he opened a law office and has continued in the practice until recently.

But politics were always a certain and successful crop, and could be had for the gardening, and a merchant of courteous address, an honorable trader, and a kind and indulgent creditor occupied an enviable position among public aspirants. Accordingly we find Mr. Dawes a member of a constitutional convention in 1875, four years after his advent to the State, and in 1876 a state senator from Saline County, and from that date for six years chairman of the Republican state central committee. For four years following 1880, he served his party as member of the national republican committee, having been a delegate to the convention of 1880 at Chicago. True to the traditions of his New England ancestry and from his own mature convictions, he welcomed and espoused the establishment of Doane college by the Congregational denomination and has served it as a trustee and secretary for seventeen years. In 1882 he was elected governor, having as competitors J. Sterling Morton, Democrat, and H. G. Ingersoll, Independent; and was re-nominated and elected to a second term in 1884, having again Mr. Morton as an opponent, with J. B. Miller, Prohibitionist. Without intending to trace the official career of Governor Dawes in these brief introductory allusions, it can not be out of place to suggest that his course and success. should inspire the honest ambitious youth of the State who are not inheritors of wealth or aids in advancement to coveted circles and official positions.

On the fourth day of January, 1883, James W. Dawes delivered his inaugural address:

Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives: Having been called by the people of Nebraska to serve them in the capacity of their chief executive, it is in obedience to time-honored custom that I appear before you to-day. In entering upon the discharge of the duties pertaining to the position, I am deeply impressed with its responsibilities and the magnitude of the trust placed in my keeping. It is my determination to devote my best efforts to the service of the people, and I shall serve them with all honesty of purpose and earnest endeavor.

In obedience to the requirements of the constitution, the officers of the executive department and of all the public institutions of the State have severally reported to the

governor. An examination of various reports will satisfy
the most critical that the affairs of the State are in a sat-
isfactory condition; and they furnish ample evidence of the
fact that the interests of the State have been in able and
trustworthy hands. For a detailed statement of the con-
dition of affairs you are referred to the message of my pre-
decessor that has just been read to you and to the reports
above mentioned, which are full of valuable information
concerning public affairs. I would ask for them all a care-
ful and painstaking examination at your hands, and that
the various suggestions and recommendations therein con-
tained may receive the consideration to which their merits
entitle them. This examination should be early and careful
and you will find that economy has characterized public
expenditures and efficiency and faithfulness been manifest
in all the state departments and institutions. I submit
the following suggestions and recommendations.

He then suggested such a course of legislation as should attract immigration to the State, stimulate every agricultural and horticultural interest, advance common school education, sustain the state university, invigorate all benevolent institutions commensurate with the demands of advanced humanity, develop our hidden resources by a geological survey, organize a sufficient and available militia, and protect the people against the sale of fraudulent patents and bogus stocks.

Taking up the railroad question where his predecessor had advanced it, he gave it a reasonable and prudent presentation, as follows:

In this connection I will quote from article eleven (11) entitled corporations, of the constitution of Nebraska, sections numbered four (4) and seven (7): Section 4. Railways heretofore constructed or that may hereafter be constructed in this State, are hereby declared public highways, and shall be free to all persons for the transportation of their persons and property thereon, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. And the legislature may from time to time pass laws establishing reasonable maximum rates of charges for the transportation of passengers and freight on the different railroads in the State. The liability of railroad corporations, as common carriers, shall never be


Section 7. The legislature shall pass laws to correct

abuses and prevent unjust discriminations and extortions in all charges of express, telegraph and railroad companies in this State, and enforce such laws by adequate penalties to the extent, if necessary for that purpose, of forfeiture of their property and franchises.

These citations are made for the reason that I wish to bring before your minds directly, and in the most forcible manner, the fact that by virtue of these provisions in our fundamental law the people have reserved to themselves absolute power in all matters pertaining to the correction of abuses, extortions or unjust discriminations upon the part of railroads or other corporations.

Railroads may be justly regarded as among the most important factors in the rapid development of our State, and it is of vital importance to all interests that they be sustained and encouraged, for it must be remembered that such corporations are indispensable to the material prosperity of the State. They have in the past been dealt with generously by both the Nation and the State; and there is to-day no sentiment among our people such as demands that the railroads should be either destroyed or crippled to the extent of impairing their usefulness or so restricted as to deprive them of a legitimate return upon capital invested. If the railroads have been unjust, the people will not in turn be unjust. The people can not afford to be unjust to any interest, but will be careful that the rights of the public as against corporations are protected by efficient law. It is only asked that such control and regulation be had as will be just and fair considering the respective rights of both the people and the corporations. This is no unreasonable demand. It is such a demand as keeps steadily in view the important fact that with our resources as yet all but undeveloped, we must not repel capital by legislation such as would hazard our best interests.

The custom of granting passes, on the part of railroad corporations, to state officials and members of the state legislature, is one of long standing, and I might say, of almost universal practice. While I do not believe that passes have been given or intended in the nature of a bribe, or for the purpose or with the expectation of improperly influencing the action of individuals, or that they have been considered by those who may have taken and used them as placing them under any obligation, direct or indirect, the fact yet remains that a pass represents value, and its acceptance is for that reason of doubtful propriety. To the end that the representatives of the people may be enabled to avoid even the bare suspicion of having been improperly

influenced in their action or in the faithful discharge of
their public duties, it is recommended that a law be en-
acted prohibiting the granting of passes to officials of the
executive department of the State, members of the legis-
lature, and to any of the class of officials who, by reason
of their public position, may have it within their power
either to confer or withhold favors or benefits to railroad

In conclusion I wish to assure you, that in all matters
calculated to promote the honor, property and general wel-
fare of the State, you will have my earnest co-operation,
and that entering upon the discharge of the duties of the
executive department it is in the firm belief that you will
extend to me your generous aid and counsel.

When Governor Dawes delivered his first biennial message January 8, 1885, he gave the balance of funds on hand in the treasury at $442,816, and the assessed value of taxable property of the State at $123,615,886. He declared that all of the public institutions of the State were in excellent hands. Of the hospital for the insane he reported "410 received during the past two years, which added to the former number of 273 made a total of 683. Of the number treated, 323 have been discharged, 144 of whom were restored to mental health, 69 much improved, 63 unimproved were returned to their counties, and fortythree died during the two years."

He said of the Home of the Friendless:

The Home was opened to receive inmates January 1st, 1882, and since that time has received, adults 95, children 133-making a total of 228. There have been surrendered to the Home 75 children and of this number 57 have been placed in good homes in this State.

It appeared from the reports that during his first term of two years, 141 had attended the Deaf and Dumb School, and numerous applications had been made for the reception of feebleminded persons, of whom we had in 1880, as shown by the census, 356; and hence the recommendation of a separate institution for their benefit. During the same time thirty-six pupils had been in attendance upon the School for the Blind. To the credit of the school, its industrial department had an exhibit at the New Orleans Exposition.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »