Morrill's Administration.Pursuant to constitutional provision, and in accordance with established precedent, the legislative session of 1895 began on the second Tuesday in January, which in that year fell on the 8th day of the month. Lieut.-Gov. Daniels presided over the senate at the opening of the term, and Charles E. Lobdell was elected speaker of the house. As the time for inaugurating the new governor was fixed on the second Monday, Gov. Morrill was not inaugurated until the 14th, when Lieut.-Gov. Troutman succeeded Mr. Daniels as the president of the senate, the latter retiring after receiving a unanimous vote of thanks from the senate for the impartial and dignified manner in which he had discharged his duties as presiding officer.
Much of the inaugural message of Gov. Morrill was devoted to a discussion of the weakness of the state constitution. He pointed out and emphasized the fact that when the constitution was adopted but 10,326 persons voted for it, and 5,521 against it, the whole number of votes then cast having been only one-twentieth of the number cast in the general election of 1894. "It would be hardly possible," said he, "for the small number of people living in the state at that time, with nearly two-thirds of the state practically unsettled, to understand, or to anticipate, the wants and needs of a state as large as this has become."
The changes in the organic law recommended by him were as follows: 1To remove or extend the limit of legislative sessions, which at first were held annually, while since 1877 they had been held biennially, and the population had increased to fifteen times the number when the constitution was adopted; 2The reorganization of the judiciary, especially an increase in the number of supreme court justices; 3A radical change in the apportionment laws, so that representation in the general assembly would be more equitable; 4More rigid provisions with regard to the organization of counties and townships; 5A limit to the value of the homestead exemption; 6The constitutional prohibition of trusts and combinations of capital for the purpose of enhancing prices; 7Better provisions for the care of the permanent school fund.
"Many other reasons," he continued, "in my judgment urgent and unanswerable, might be presented in favor of a constitutional convention. The expense, I presume, would be the most serious objection urged against it; but I am satisfied that a simple clause limiting the power of the legislature to appropriate money and to alllow[sic] the incurrence of debt by municipalities, and the further provision allowing the governor to veto any clause in an appropriation bill, would save the state more every five years than the entire cost of a convention."
At the opening of Gov. Morrill's administration the supreme court was so far behind that it was hearing cases filed four years before, and the governor announced in his message that "at the rate of progress it has made since the commission expired, it will be six years before the case filed today can be heard."
The logical remedy for this condition of affairs would be to increase the number of justices, but as this could not be done without a constitutional amendment, and as such an amendment had once been defeated by the people, the governor suggested as a means of relief that the court be permitted to dispense with written opinions in cases where a precedent had already been established and made a matter of record, and the cases that could be appealed be limited to constitutional issues, titles to real estate, franchises, or where the amount involved exceeded $300. The legislature found another method, however, of relieving the pressure on the supreme court, and that was by the establishment of two appellate courts, for which purpose the state was divided into the northern and southern districts. In the former the court held its sessions at Topeka, Concordia and Colby, and in the latter at Fort Scott, Wichita and Garden City.
For several years prior to the inauguration of Gov. Morrill there had been a growing dissatisfaction with regard to the inequalities in the assessment of property for taxation. This subject received due attention in the message of 1895. "The inequality," says the governor, "arises, not from the fact that the property of the state is assessed too low, but because it is assessed unequally. When one piece of property is assessed at ten per cent. of what it is really worth and another piece is assessed at its full value, and other property is not assessed at all, great injustice is done to some of the taxpayers; and yet that condition actually exists in our state today."
He attributed this condition to the fact that the assessment was made by some 1,600 assessors, elected because they were "good fellows," whose reëlection depended upon the support of the persons whose property was valued, and who were interested in keeping the assessment as low as possible, so that their township would not have to pay more than its just share of the public expenses. As a remedy he suggested the establishment of the office of county assessor, the incumbent of which should be appointed by the judge of the district court, thus taking the office out of politics to some extent, and as a further remedy the taxpayers should be given the right of appeal in cases where the county commissioners refuse to equalize assessments.
The governor also paid considerable attention to the acts of the Congress then in session, his utterances on this subject being as follows: "For several years a steady and determined effort was made to open up the markets of the old country to some of the products in which Kansas excels, especially Indian corn, beef and pork. Under a better light, secured by wise legislation, prejudice and cupidity were gradually yielding, and our exports of these products were becoming an important factor of great value to our people, and gave a promise of an increased demand for the articles in producing which Kansas can lead the world. But the present Congress, in my judgment, by ill-advised and crude legislation, assumed to dictate to foreign nations their internal policy of protection to their home industries by discriminating duties on sugar imported from countries having export duties on that article. This has led to active retaliation on the part of those countries, and all the nations of central Europe have become commercially estranged from our country, and are taking active, and what prove to be effective, measures to prevent the importation of our meats, justifying themselves by a revival of the exploded and senseless claim that our meat animals are diseased. The repeal of the reciprocity provisions of our tariff laws has caused Spain and other countries to make a most unjust discrimination against the importation of our farm products. To relieve us of this embarrassment by the removal of this embargo, and to restore us to a condition where we can increase to its utmost limit the exportation of those articles which are our main support, is a matter of universal concern to the people of Kansas. I would therefore urge the passage of a concurrent resolution by your honorable bodies, instructing our senators and requesting our representatives in Congress, to introduce and work for the passage of the most effective remedial legislation."
Upon the governor's recommendation, a law was passed at this session giving force to the constitutional provision prohibiting lotteries, and also a law making it a crime to receive a bribe as well as to offer one to a public official. Such had been the law up to 1869, when that part of it relating to receiving a bribe was repealed, the theory of the legislature being that those receiving bribes would be more willing to testify against the party or parties giving them, if they were permitted to go free. The law of 1895 punished both the giver and taker of bribes with fine and imprisonment.
Another recommendation of Gov. Morrill was that the sum of $3,600 be appropriated for the purpose of erecting three monuments on the battlefield of Chickamauga, which had been made a national park by the act of Congress, approved Aug. 19, 1890. One of these monuments was to represent Gen. R. B. Mitchell's division, one the brigade commanded by Col. John A. Martin, and the third the Eighth Kansas, commanded by Lieut.-Col. J. L. Abernathy. By the act of Feb. 18, 1895, the legislature appropriated $5,000 for the monuments and authorized the governor to appoint a commission of five soldiers who served at Chickamauga and Chattanooga to mark the locations and select the designs for such monuments. Immediately after the passage of the bill Gov. Morrill appointed as commissioners J. L. Abernathy, G. W. Johnson, L. Akers, S. R. Washer and J. F. Starnes. On March 4 the commission organized by the election of Mr. Abernathy as president and Mr. Washer as secretary. In April the commissioners visited the field and in their final report showed that they had expended $4,472.63 of the appropriation, leaving a balance on hand of $527.37.
At this session of the legislature was adopted a concurrent resolution asking the Kansas representatives and senators in Congress to secure the passage of an act donating the Fort Hays military reservation to the state of Kansas for a western branch of the agricultural college, a western branch of the state normal school, and a public park. (See Fort Hays.)
Another resolution requested the "proper authorities, in charge of the United States statuary hall" at Washington, D. C., to permit a monument of John Brown, then in process of construction under the auspices of the Lincoln soldiers' and sailors' national monument association, to be placed in the hall.
On Jan. 22 a vote for United States senator was taken in each of the two houses. In the senate Lucien Baker received 16 votes; L. P. King, 10; A. W. Dennison, 8; J. D. Botkin, Frank Doster, E. R. Ridgely and Percy Daniels, 1 vote each. The vote in the house resulted in 91 for Baker, 26 for King, 5 for John Martin, 1 for Ridgely and 1 for ex-Gov. George W. Glick. In the joint session on the next day Mr. Baker was elected senator, receiving 104 votes as against 53 for King, 3 for John Martin, 1 for Botkin and 1 for Glick.
The legislature adjourned on March 8. Besides the acts already mentioned was one removing from a large number of persons the political disabilities imposed by section 2, article 5, of the constitution, as amended on Nov. 5, 1867, and another act creating the state board of immigration.
Col. J. W. F. Hughes, who was tried by court-martial and relieved of his command as colonel of the Third regiment, Kansas National Guard, by Gov. Lewelling on Sept. 25, 1893, for refusing to remove certain members of the Douglass house of representatives (see Lewelling's Administration), was reinstated by Gov. Morrill and made a major-general on April 12, 1895.
Twice during the administration of Gov. Morrill the militia was called into active service. Toward the close of the year 1895 it was discovered that several graves in the cemeteries near Topeka had been robbed, the bodies taken therefrom later being found and identified in the dissecting rooms of the Kansas Medical College at Topeka. Late on the afternoon of Dec. 11 the sheriff of Shawnee county called on Gov. Morrill for a detachment of troops to guard the college against an attack threatened by the incensed citizens. Acting under orders from the governor Adjt.-Gen. Fox ordered out Company H, First regiment, Capt. McClure, and Battery H, Capt. Phillips, the former stationed at Lawrence and the latter at Topeka. Gen. Hughes was then called upon to take command. He found Phillips' company already on duty at the state arsenal, with 26 men, and learned that Capt. McClure had 37 men at the railroad station in Lawrence awaiting transportation. These men were disbanded and returned to their homes, but the police fearing an attack might yet be made the men belonging to the battery remained on duty until the 13th, by which time the excitement had quieted down and the danger was past. It is probable that no attack on the college would have been made, but it is equally probable that the prompt action of Gov. Morrill may have averted serious trouble.
The second call for troops came on April 20, 1896, when the sheriff of Stafford county attempted to serve warrants upon some persons connected with Bond Bros.' circus, showing that day at St. John. These persons resisted arrest, a riot ensued, and the sheriff and county attorney telegraphed the governor for assistance. About midnight that night Col. P. M. Hoisington, commanding the Second regiment, received at his home in Newton a telegram from the adjutant-general ordering him "to move with Company D to St. John to suppress riot by first train." Col. Hoisington immediately ordered Capt. Kaufman, commanding Company D, to mobilize his company and report as soon as they were ready to move. The company left Newton early on the morning of the 21st and arrived at St. John before noon. In the meantime the circus had gone to Dodge City, and all was quiet in the town of St. John. After consulting with the sheriff and the county attorney, who were not certain they could identify the parties wanted, even if they were still with the show, the company gave an exhibition drill and returned to Newton that evening. In his report of the occurrence Adjt.-Gen. Fox says: "There was at no time any necessity for troops, and the sheriff and county attorney were not justified in making the call; they deserve censure for creating this expense against the state. The aggregate expense was $162.77."
The industrial depression of 1893-94 had brought about a general feeling of discontent. It will be remembered that President Cleveland, soon after his inauguration in March, 1893, had called a special session of Congress to repeal the purchasing clause of the Sherman silver law. This was believed by many to be the cause of the hard times, and it had given an impetus to the agitation in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver. Under these circumstances the political campaign of 1896 was one of unusual interest, and in Kansas it was hotly contested. At the opening of the campaign party leaders were somewhat chary of expressing an opinion on the silver question. A Republican state convention met at Wichita on March 10 for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention. The delegates-at-large were Cyrus Leland, Thomas J. Anderson, A. P. Riddle, C. A. Swensson, M. M. Murdock and Nat. Barnes. They were instructed to vote for William McKinley of Ohio, but a resolution was adopted that it was not advisable at that time to make a platform.
On March 18 the Populists held a state convention at Hutchinson and selected as delegates to the national convention ex-Gov. Lewelling, Frank Doster, W. A. Harris and John W. Breidenthal. The convention declared in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 7; that all money should be issued by the government, and denounced "government by injunction."
Delegates to the Democratic national convention were not selected until June 3, when representatives of the party met at Topeka and selected as delegates-at-large John Martin, David Overmyer, J. D. McCleverty, Frank Bacon, J. H. Atwood and James McKinstry.
On July 16 the free coinage sentiment found expression in a convention at Topeka. Resolutions were adopted approving the course of Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado and his associates in bolting the Republican national convention, and delegates to the national free silver convention at St. Louis were selected.
Two state conventions assembled on Aug. 4the Democratic at Hutchinson and the Populist at Abilene. In order to effect a coalition of the two parties a conference committee from the Democratic convention went by special train from Hutchinson to Abilene with overtures for a joint ticket. After some delay, both conventions remaining in session until the 7th, a fusion was arranged and the following ticket nominated: For governor, John W. Leedy; lieutenant-governor, A. M. Harvey; secretary of state, W. E. Bush; auditor, W. H. Morris; treasuere,[sic] D. H. Hefflebower; attorney-general, L. C. Boyle; superintendent of public instruction, William Stryker; chief justice, Frank Doster; Congressman-at-large, J. D. Botkin. The presidential electors on this ticket were pledged to the support of Bryan and Sewall for president and vice-president, respectively. This arrangement did not suit the "Middle of the road" Populists, and this element of that party decided to nominate a state ticket. A convention for that purpose was called to meet at Topeka on Sept. 19, but before the time arrived the leaders of the movement became fearful that the convention would be packed by Fusionists, and the scheme was abandoned. The Bryan and Watson electors were then chosen by petition.
The Republican convention for the nomination of candidates for the various state offices was held on Aug. 11. All the state officers elected in 1894 were renominated with the exception of the lieutenant-governor, for which place H. E. Richter was chosen. T. F. Garver was nominated for chief justice and Richard W. Blue for Congressman-at-large.
Although numerically the weakest party in the state the Prohibitionists experienced the greatest difficulty in the nomination of a state ticket. One faction, calling itself the National Prohibition party, nominated H. L. Douthart for governor; E. Clark, for lieutenant-governor; T. S. Walter, for secretary of state; Levi Belknap, for auditor; James Murray, for treasurer; J. T. Merry, for attorney-general; Mrs. Virginia Greever, for superintendent of public instruction; J. R. Silver, for chief justice; and M. Williams, for Congressman-at-large. Another faction named Horace Hurley for governor; George Hollingsberry, for lieutenant-governor; H. H. Geyer, for secretary of state; T. D. Talmadge, for auditor; John Biddison, for treasurer; A. H. Vance, for attorney-general, but made no nominations for superintendent of public instruction, chief justice, or Congressman-at-large. A third faction of the party nominated A. E. Kepford for governor.
At the election on Nov. 3 the Fusionists carried the state by pluralities ranging from 7,500 to 12,000. The highest vote received by any Fusionist presidential elector was that of Sidney Hayden171,675. The highest polled for any Republican elector was 159,345 for John R. Hamilton. For governor, Leedy received 168,041 votes; Morrill, 160,530; Douthart, 756; Hurley, 2,347; Kepford, 703. Gov. Morrill's term as governor came to an end on Jan. 11, 1897.Pages 313-319 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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