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the executive in these several political acts. He was elected a member of the house of representatives of the legislature. The training which he had enjoyed fitted him for these new duties. He had acquaintance with the methods and rules governing deliberative bodies; he was able to deliver himself of his views of every question, no matter how unexpectedly it was presented, and he had a keen enjoyment of the excitements and contentions of the unorganized conditions of the new society. The first motion ever made in any legislative body in Nebraska was made by Mr. Poppleton in the first house of representatives for the temporary organization of the house. There was a good deal
a for the legislature to do. The whole system of laws common in an American state were to be enacted, save such as had been in outline provided by the act of congress organizing the territory. In all this work he had a large part. Besides this, another matter deeply concerned every one: that was the permanent location of the capital, which by the organic act was committed to the first legislature. Whether such a matter be considered trivial or not in a mature and settled state, it was thought to be of the first consequence at this time, because it was supposed that to the seat of government would be drawn the attention and interest of persons seeking homes in the region now first open for settlement. We cannot enter minutely into the plans, methods, and influences which finally secured the location of the capital at Omaha, but in them all Mr. Poppleton engaged with all the power of his nature; and it is not too much to say that as much as any man he contributed to the result.
From this time almost until he was stricken down by a severe sickness he gave his first attention to the upbuilding of Nebraska. Judicial business in the courts was limited. There were not many controversies carried into them, and the judges were not very diligent in holding their terms, but there sprang up at Omaha, as elsewhere in the territory, a popular tribunal in which there were many contentions of great interest. The public lands had not been surveyed and no land office of the government had been opened at which titles could be secured. This state of things continued until the spring of 1857, except that government surveys of the lands along the Missouri river were prosecuted to some extent. Almost everybody made a settlement upon a parcel of the public lands and alleged a claim to it. For a variety of reasons it was impracticable for many of the settlers to remain continuously upon their claims, so that they were exposed to the settlement of a second or third comer. To protect themselves against this, they organized what were called Claim Clubs. These popular tribunals have always been found in new settlements. It naturally resulted that the owners of adjoining claims sometimes disagreed as to their dividing lines, and disputes arose between the first and subsequent claims. Such controversies were dealt with before a meeting of all the members of the club, who were supposed to listen to the evidence and the arguments of the parties, and decide according to the justice of the case. A good many controversies of this sort came before the Omaha Claim Club, and were tried in this way. They gave opportunity for the gifts of the young citizen, his powers of persuasion and reasoning, and all that goes to make up a popular orator. Mr. Poppleton threw himself into the controversies in which he was engaged with all the zeal, energy, and power of which he was capable. There was much that was amusing and much that was serious. The whole thing was a school in which the skill and the power of the orator and lawyer were trained.
In 1857 Mr. Poppleton was a member of the state legislature which divided, a portion of the members setting up a pretended legislature at Florence. Mr. Poppleton remained at Omaha with the division recognized by the governor, and was elected speaker and served in that capacity during the balance of the session.
In 1858 Mr. Poppleton was mayor of the city of Omaha, being the second person to hold that office. In the following spring, after exposure in a severe storm, he suffered an attack of facial paralysis, which was followed by a protracted and dangerous illness. Upon his recovery the use of one of his limbs was greatly impaired, and he never recovered its strength. He was
absent from the life of the city for about eighteen months, and returned to it with a vigor greatly reduced. Gradually he recovered his position at the bar and enjoyed for many years a large measure of health and strength. He was, however, always obliged to exercise the greatest care of himself, and his habits largely upon that account have been very abstemious. During the time his strength was impaired he cultivated his love of literature and engaged in the study of the best political and philosophical works. When, in 1867, the state was admitted into the Union, he received the entire vote of the democrats in the legislature for United States senator; and but for methods on the part of the adverse party which his friends have never been able to reconcile with fairness and justice, he would have been elected. In the following year he was the democratic candidate for congress, but was defeated. He has never since taken any part in politics as a candidate for office. Mr. Poppleton inherited from his father an uncompromising faith in the principles of the democratic party. This faith strengthened with his strength and became a part of himself. During the war all of his sympathies, hopes, and convictions were on the side of the Union, and he believed that no measure was beyond the competency of those charged with the administration which conduced to the preservation of the country. He held that the principles in which he was reared and with which he was thoroughly imbued called every citizen to the support and maintenance of that 'Union which Andrew Jackson, in another exigency, had declared “must be preserved.” The conflict once over, he believed in burying all animosity. Soon after the war he obtained from an ex-Union soldier possession of a military land warrant issued to Jefferson Davis for services in the Mexican war. He returned the same to Davis at a time when the north generally was disposed to give the fallen chieftain very different treatment, receiving in return a letter of thanks, signed by all the members of the Davis family, including the infant children, whose fingers were guided to make their signatures.
It has been one of the great doctrines of Mr. Poppleton's faith that it is not the province of government to nurse by subsidies or other like aids the interests of the individual; that it was far better for every citizen to rely upon his own efforts, and as an indiscriminate charity leads its objects to depend thereon rather than upon their own industry and thrift, that the government, in dispensing favors in aid of its citizens, only helped in the end to bring them into a dependent and impoverished condition. This was the fundamental principle of his political faith, and he applied it to all questions of public policy, however they arose. During this period of his life, extending from 1862 to 1878, he was devoted with all his heart and soul and strength to his profession. He loved it for its own sake, and for the good it rendered to society. He held before his eye a high ideal of the lawyer and yielded to no man in his devotion to the law. The period which has been indicated was probably the best part of his professional life. In December, 1863, he was retained by the Union Pacific Railway Company and continued in its service until 1888. Most of his time after 1869 was given to the com pany in whose official list he bore the title of general attorney, having in his charge all its western business; that is to say, in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon, and the territories of Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Idaho. He conducted its important controversies in the courts personally, giving to them his best strength. After 1878 his duties became so arduous that he was obliged largely to withdraw from the courts and confine himself to the general direction of the legal business of the company.
He argued many important cases in the supreme court of the United States and arrested the attention and held the highest esteem of the judges of that tribunal. His reputation was advanced to a high point, not only in the west, but through the country. One of his best efforts was the writing of “The defense of Oakes Ames against the charge of selling to members of congress shares of the capital stock of the Credit Mobilier of America with intent to bribe said members,” which was read in the house of representatives by the clerk.
duced a strong impression and disposed the members to look upon the offenses charged against Mr. Ames in a new light. The exigency seemed, however, to call for a victim, and the result was the censure of the accused. This, however, was a favorable modification of the report of the investigating committee, which recommended expulsion.
The writer of these lines has recently read that paper and has been greatly impressed by the clearness of the statement, the cogency of the reasoning, and the persuasiveness of the appeal. Not long after its delivery he was told by Mr. Sidney Bartlett, the leader of the bar of this country, that he considered it one of the best pieces of modern advocacy.
Mr. Poppleton's official connection with the Union Pacific Railway Company and his good standing and influence with the magnates in the east who controlled the destiny of that corporation made it possible for him to continue to render the most important service to the city of which in 1854 he was one of the founders. By 1873 the fixing of the Union Pacific Company's terminal plant, offices, and equipment at Omaha was finally decided upon and settled. In regard to Mr. Poppleton's share in this result, the most beneficial to Omaha of any event in its history, the following words from the Omaha Herald of that time speak:
"While we rejoice it is but proper that a few words should be said in behalf of the citizen to whom this people owe much for his intelligent, steady, and well directed efforts to bring about the results over which every man in Omaha is rejoicing.
“Andrew J. Poppleton is the one man who, more than any other, has piloted the people through these railroad complications to their present final settlement and security. We say this as a matter of sheer justice to Mr. Poppleton, without going into details to show how richly he deserved it."
Mr. Poppleton was from time to time called upon to deliver addresses upon many interesting occasions. Among them may be mentioned a maiden address delivered before the Agricultural Society of Oakland County, Michigan, at the age of twenty-two;