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BIRD B. CHAPMAN.
The second election for delegate to congress took place November 6, 1855, at which Bird B. Chapman received 380 votes and Hiram P. Bennet 292, according to the returns of the canvassing board. Mr. Bennet instituted a contest which resulted in the presentation of a resolution by the committee on elections declaring that Bird B. Chapman was not entitled to the seat. Each argued his side of the case before the committee, and in open session before the House of Representatives.
In the house Mr. Stephens of Georgia specially championed the cause of the sitting member, while Washburn of Maine argued in favor of the contestant. It was a contest to reconcile serious irregularities and to eliminate from the count fraudulent votes. Of the two speeches in the house, Bennet's alone appears in the Globe.
Mr. Bennet complained seriously that after the case had been closed before the committee, and each claimant had been so informed, ex parte testimony had been received and incorporated in the minority report:
Mr. Speaker, I object to all ex parte testimony in the case, and I particularly object to the four ex parte affidavits upon which the minority report is based; and first, because it is ex parte; second, because it was never presented to the committee, only to the minority; and third, because it was not shown to me to exist till long after the majority report was printed. And again, because they were made by my political and personal enemies. And fourth, I object to these affidavits because they contain misrepresentations, prevarications, and falsehoods. My old enemy Sharp comes on here about the time the majority report was made; and after looking over all my printed testimony and the majority report, and conning it over three or four weeks, he fixes up a state of facts just sufficient to carry his friend, the sitting
Nebraska contested election case, 1856; Cong. Globe, 33 Cong., 1st sess., 476-477, 630, 641, 970, 1011, 1055-1056, 1196, 1688-1690, 1692, 1711-1715, 1729.
delegate, through, swears to it in a corner, and then takes
The Hon. Geo. W. Jones, United States Senator from Iowa, having volunteered an endorsement of the veracity of Mr. Sharp, received the speaker's attention:
It is true, this deponent was once a member of the Iowa legislature, and while there I believe he supported the election of the Hon. Geo. W. Jones to the senate. Mr. Speaker, one good turn deserves another, and the senator comes to the rescue of his former constituent.
The contestant seems, from the record, to have been neither a novice in debate, nor timid in attacks. Having parried several thrusts from the keen rapier of the mercurial Stephens, he ex claimed in a tone of exultation, "Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Georgia has not quite got me yet." Of the sitting delegate, Mr. Chapman, he said:
The gentleman alluded to his residence in the Territory of Nebraska. Now, I know, Sir, that that is mere claptrap talk; but as he has alluded to it I will answer it. He says when he went to the Territory, thus and so. He went to the Territory the year that the territorial government was organized. He was a candidate for Congress before he got there. He happened to be beaten very badly at the election and the next day after the election he went home to Ohio, and we saw nothing more of him. Yes, we-the squatters of Nebraska-saw nothing more of him until thirty-five days before the election of a delegate last November, when he came back into the Territory. He had to be there forty days to entitle him to vote. He was not a voter, and did not vote at that election. Nevertheless, by getting all of the executive influence of the Territory in his favor he ran a pretty good race; but I beat him. That is, I beat him before the people, but he beat me before the canvassers-all of whom were my personal and political enemies. One word further in reference to this matter. For the purpose of serving a notice upon the sitting delegate, that I intended to take testimony to use in the contest for his seat, I inquired of him last January, in that lobby, where his residence was. In truth he did not know where it was; and I could not serve a notice at his residence in the Terri
tory because he had none there. It will be shown, in my
It is a source of regret that the speech of Mr. Chapman does not appear in the Globe, as there is no way to restore the oratorical equilibrium. On the final vote there were sixty-three members of the house in favor of unseating Chapman, and sixty-nine opposed-so the contest failed. A resolution finally closed the case, on the 25th of July, 1856, allowing the retiring contestant mileage and per diem up to date. The allusions to Mr. Chapman's citizenship are corroborated in Nebraska history.
Hon. J. Sterling Morton is reported as saying of the first election for delegate in Congress, December 12, 1854:
Even in that early morning hour of the county our people exhibited a wonderful liberality in bestowing their franchises upon persons who had no interests in common with them, and who have never since been identified with the material development of this section of the world. Mr. Giddings resided then, as now, in Savannah, Missouri. Mr. Chapman was a citizen of Ohio, and never gained a residence in Nebraska, while Mr. Johnson was a denizen of Council Bluffs, Iowa. But as there were not to exceed twenty-five domiciles in Pierce County (now Otoe) at that time, nor more than fifty beds, it was always a mystery,-except to Col. John Bouleware and family, who then kept a ferry across the Missouri River,-where the 208 patriots came from who exercised a freeman's rights on that auspicious dawn in Otoe of the science of self government and the noble art of electioneering.
In order to parry the point of this truthful charge, be it remembered that this was prior to legislation in Nebraska. Mr. Bennett had not only "come to stay," but was a member of the legislature from Otoe County in 1854 and again in 1859, and was justified in regarding Bird B. Chapman as a Bird of passage.
Dec. 7, 1857 to Mar. 3, 1859.
Fenner Ferguson, who was appointed Chief Justice October 12, 1854, was elected delegate to Congress August, 1857, and was sworn in upon the 7th day of December, 1857.
On the 16th day of September, 1857, Bird B. Chapman, who had been a candidate for re-election, served notice of contest. It appears that there had been four candidates before the people, and the the votes were distributed as follows: Fenner Ferguson, 1,642; Bird B. Chapman, 1,559; Benjamin P. Rankin, 1,241; John M. Thayer, 1,171. After one-half the time had elapsed for the taking of testimony, the contestant served notice November 14th, but the member elect had left the Territory for Washington, D. C., the notice being left at his usual place of residence. At the time specified, testimony was taken in the absence of Ferguson or any one by him authorized to act. A person, however, did appear, and informed the contestant, that unless he was allowed to cross-question witnesses, certain Mormons would not testify for the contestant. If Chapman had inaugurated a game of delay, the tables were turned upon him, on the 3rd of December, when Silas A. Strickland, agent for Ferguson, left notice at Chapman's residence for the taking of testimony on the 14th of the month, Chapman being absent from the Territory.
As a way out of these complications the committee on elections, April 21, 1858, reported a resolution to the House, to extend the time for taking testimony, which would virtually send the case over to the next session of Congress. That was passed by a vote of ninety-eight to eighty-five. Before this action of the House, January, 1858, the legislature of Nebraska passed joint resolutions, in the name of a large majority of the people, affirming belief in Mr. Ferguson's election and in his
"capacity, integrity, fidelity and incorruptibility," and indignantly repelling all foul aspersions cast upon him, for the purpose of prejudicing his right to a seat in Congress. The House of Representatives, feeling that the Nebraska legislature had overstepped the bounds of propriety by attempting to indicate their duty in settling the status of members, on motion, laid the resolutions on the table without printing. Accordingly, additional testimony having been taken, the committee, by a majority, decided in favor of Mr. Chapman; which report was taken up in the House February 9, 1859.
Mr. Wilson of Indiana said, in behalf of the contestant: "This whole case turns upon three precincts-Cleveland, Monroe, and Florence." There were but six voters residing in the Cleveland precinct and but five dwellings therein, and yet there were thirty-five votes cast, eighteen or twenty by persons erecting a hotel for the Cleveland Land Company, who voted for the sitting member and whose votes the committee rejected. He charged, further, that in the Mormon precinct of Monroe, where there were forty Mormon voters, and only five other persons residing there, the vote cast was eighty-seven, of which the sitting member, Ferguson, received eighty-three, and contestant one. And that before the polls were formally opened forty votes had been cast, as a large number of men came there at two o'clock in the morning, voted and went away. He said: "In the Monroe precinct appear names which of themselves are prima facie evidence of fraud-Oliver Twist and Samuel Weller." In the Florence precinct, 401 votes were returned, where the polls were kept open three hours later than allowed by law, of which 364 were for the sitting member and four for the contestant. One person voted four times and at least "one hundred persons were unknown to the oldest settlers."
MR. WASHBURN: "Was not that man whose testimony you refer to, accused of perjury?”
MR. WILSON: "Yes, but the man who accuses him is himself accused of murder."
Mr. Wilson charged in addition that none of the officers in