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him to any specific policy, the acting-governor dealt in brief and general allusions and closed as follows:
I could not forbear, gentlemen, in transferring to another the trust reposed in me, from expressing a pride that, our Territory being thus speedily built up as another arch in the national fabric, your public acts and counsels will contribute to defend and perpetuate the Union and the Constitution of the United States as the only sure foundation of our civil liberties. I trust that your deliberations, by the blessing of Divine Providence, may be conducted with efficiency and prudence, and that the most ardent hopes of each one of you who have confronted the hardships and trials of pioneer life, may be realized in the promotion of the lasting good of our vast and promising young Territory.1
When the 4th Legislative Assembly convened December 8tb, 1857, Secretary Cuming, being again acting-governor, delivered a message congratulatory and instructive:
We are assembled today under the most favorable auspices. The Territory of Nebraska has, thus far, achieved all that her friends could ask. Her early organization and rapid progress have signally illustrated the safety and expansive force of the principles of the Federal compact, from which naturally sprang her organic act.
On account of Nebraska's close proximity to the Anti-Slavery strife in Kansas, where the slave power was determined to enthrone the "peculiar institution," and the resident citizens were equally devoted to the free soil and free men, the governor made the following allusions:
Although lamentable dissensions have given to our sister territory a wider notoriety, we may well congratulate each other upon the verification of the political truth, “Happy is that people whose annals are tranquil." Safe, thus far, from the interference of reckless agitators and the mad efforts of intolerant fanatics, we can furnish to the world an enviable proof of the legitimate effect of the genius and spirit of our republican institutions.
Among his recommendations he mentioned the fact that the 1 Council Journal, 1st session, 12.
citizens of Omaha had contributed $50,000 to aid in completing the Capitol building for which Congress should reimburse them; and that the government should give the territory a surveyor general; distribute troops along the emigrant line of travel; make appropriations for railroad construction and for bridging the rivers and streams on the United States mail routes. He drew a very true picture of the evils of unrestricted and negligent banking and demanded all the safeguards that prudence could dictate.
I have thus presented to you, gentlemen, plainly and hurriedly, such considerations as have occurred to me, uncertain, until the eve of your assembling, whether in my incidental position, such a communication would be required. Once before we have met under similar circumstances. Since that initial period, the bitterness of sectional strife has been measurably allayed. Strange faces and new interests have taken their places upon the stage and many of the actors in our early history have passed away, or been lost in the throng of events. Men, out of repair politically and morally, will continue to be prostrated, one by one, and their names expire with the forgotten influences of the past; but our powerful young Territory will move on with augmented and prevailing force and realize, in its future fortunes, all that human hope or ambition can anticipate or wish. Acting for that Territory in a coordinate capacity, and in view of the mutations of public affairs, and in the vicissitudes of life, permit me to assure you, each and all, that I cherish a sincere desire for your success, individually, as well as in your endeavors to promote the public good. May no personal resentment or local alienations hereafter mar the harmony which should inspire the intercourse of the representatives of the government and of our people. May no
The few days allowed for a session of the legislature had demonstrated the fact that legal enactments were limited, confused and contradictory, and needed constant amendments and comparisons with the legislation of older communities.
The thoughtful reader will understand that the laws, regulations and customs of a new and formative society will be constantly superseded by the progress of intellectual and physical development.
This final message of Governor Cuming closed as follows:
boundary-natural or artificial-prevent the union of all our
Within three months from the date of this official document, its author had passed from earth, and at the meeting of the next legislature, Governor Richardson said: "The Territory has lost one of her brightest intellects, one whose genius and attainments had inspired his many friends with high hopes and marked out for him a brilliant and useful future. T. B. Cuming, Secretary of the Territory, has been called away forever."1
The legislature having referred this message to a committee, the following report was made by its chairman, Hon. R. W. Furnas, subsequently governor:
Thomas B. Cuming was appointed secretary of the Territory of Nebraska by Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, upon the organization of the Territory, and entering at once upon the discharge of the duties of his office, he arrived here in the month of September, 1854. By the untimely decease of Governor Burt, he succeeded to the supreme executive and became ex-officio Governor of Nebraska. How ably he filled that office, those living can testify. In the organization of the first legislature, surrounded as he was by conflicting elements, threatened by fierce contending factions, standing in imminent danger of personal violence, he wavered not once in his fealty to the general government, nor in his fidelity to the trust reposed in him. Throughout the whole duration of those troublesome times he pursued a policy, the sagacity of which was proved by its success, and the wisdom of which is evidenced by the present prosperous position of the Territory which he governed. Upon the resignation of Governor Izard, he again assumed the executive office and from that time till near his death maintained it. He has been identified with the Territory ever since its organization, as one of its highest officers. He died with the mantle of authority still about him, in the land which he had chosen for his own; in the country which he had ruled so well. He was buried with his honors fresh upon him; from the halls where he was
Council Journal, 5th session. 15. 2 Council Journal, 5th session, 30-31.
wont to tread among a people that delighted to do him
Never was the pathway of a young politician beset with greater perplexities and temptations than those surrounding the first temporary executive of the Territory of Nebraska. To be unexpectedly called upon to assume the duties of another, and expected to evolve a government from a state of elementary chaos, in the absence of precedents, would have required all that age, experience and human sagacity could have furnished. While it became his duty to designate the place for the assembling of the first session of the legislature, the final question of Capitol location was left to the representatives of the people; but inasmuch as the place of the first meeting would have the
prestige of an incipient Capitol, his decision was sought in the spirit of desperation. What there was of settlement, was divided by the Platte River into North and South, while in the two antagonistic sections, three rival towns in each were ready to destroy their local competitors to gain a permanent advantage. These were Bellevue, Omaha and Florence to the north, and Plattsmouth, Nebraska City and Brownville to the south.
Bellevue, having been the place where the first governor landed and died, and whence his acting successor issued the first official proclamation, and possessing the most beautiful location, had many reasons to anticipate becoming the permanent seat of government.
When, therefore, Mr. Cuming, having ordered the taking of a census, in 1854, and the election of members of a legislature and of a delegate to Congress, appointed the assembling of the first session for Omaha, the clans were mustered for war. In the absence of courts to issue the quo warranto or mandamus, appeal was occasionally made to the knife and revolver, and under mental conditions affected by the use of money or whiskey. Accordingly, in 1858, when the location question was again revived, and Secretary Cuming was once more acting-governor, after Governor Izard's resignation, a majority of the legislature removed to Florence, eight miles up the river, and called upon him for the records in possession of the minority at Omaha.
Before a solution of this complication was secured Gov. Richardson of Illinois arrived and, assuming control, released the young official once more to his original duty of secretary of the Territory, which place he filled until early in the spring of 1858, when he was stricken by death, in his 28th year.