Montana Politics, Legislation and Reform

Having discharged the onerous duties of his office for a few months, Governor Smith returned to the states, and Meagher again came to the front. Once more he proclaimed a special session of the legislature, the motive of which was that a law had just been passed by congress and approved by the president convening the 40th congress on the 4th of March, whereas the election law of Montana, which fixed the day of general election on the first Monday of September, would leave the territory without a delegate from March until September. Not that a delegate had ever been of much service to the country, but that it was imperative the office should be filled. The proclamation therefore called upon the legislature to convene at Virginia City on the 25th of February, 1867, for the purpose of altering the election law so as to provide for the election of a delegate without loss of time, “as well as for the adoption of such other alterations and amendments as, under the present circumstances of the territory and the nation at large, it may appear expedient to enact.”[1]

There was another motive for a special session, which was the passage of a number of toll road charters, a favorite method of taxing immigration and the traveling public generally. It was the same greed that had cursed eastern Oregon and Idaho. A few hundred dollars expended in grading odd bits of a natural roadway, and an exorbitant toll exacted for every man and animal that passed over it; or a few logs thrown across a stream, and another toll to be paid for that; after which, there was the ferry just beyond, for which a higher charge than either had to be paid. And these latter were also monopolies, their charters prohibiting any other bridge or ferry within a certain number of miles. Fifty-eight charters, chiefly of this sort, were granted at the November session, and a new batch was now to be allowed, if the legislature came together once more.[2] In vain the press, which had the interest of the country at heart, opposed itself to these abuses; they had to have their day.

The legislature met on the 25th, and continued in session until the 6th of March. A number of local laws were enacted, and an attempt was made to amend the election law so as to held an election for delegate and county officers in April, and secure these places to their own party. But the measure failed, the legislature foreseeing that to tamper with so important a law, in the absence, too, of a number of the legislators, would be to invoke the displeasure of congress. Scarcely had they adjourned finally when the telegraph announced that all their law making, from the time when the first legislative body had failed to carry out the provisions of the organic act by passing an apportionment bill, had been declared invalid by congress, together with their numerous oppressive charters,[3] except such as could be sustained in the courts.

The power they had abused was taken away from them. The salaries of the chief and associate justices were raised to $3,500 annually, and the pay of legislators left where it had been first fixed. The judges were authorized to define the judicial districts, assign themselves by agreement, and fix the times and places of holding court, not less than two terms yearly at each place. The governor was authorized to divide the territory into election districts, the election to be held at the time and place prescribed by the legislatures of 1864 and 1865, and the qualification of voters to be the same as in the original act, save restrictions by reason of race or color.[4] There were two years and a half of legislative existence blotted out, and everything had to be begun over at the point where the first legislature left off in a fit of peevishness because the governor endeavored to check their extravagance and love of power. Nevertheless the legislative assembly was authorized to reenact, one by one, such acts of the bogus legislatures as they deemed beneficent.[5]

The situation was unique for a territory which had contributed, in its brief existence of three years, thirty millions in gold to the world’s treasure. But it was this prodigality of wealth which drew to it the cormorants of avarice and crime. The republicans nominated for delegate W. F. Sanders, who received, out of 10,901 votes cast, 4,896. Cavanaugh was returned by a majority of 1,108.[6] As to the legislature, Madison but they may, by general incorporation acts, permit persons to associate themselves together as bodies corporate for mining, manufacturing, and other industrial pursuits. Zabriskie’s Land Laws, 871.

County elected one republican, the only one elected in the territory, and he was ruled out, not because he was not elected by a majority, but because he was not wanted in that body, where, indeed, he would have been of little use.[7]

Many useful statutes were now placed upon record. One, an act to amend an act to locate the seat of government, which removed the capital to Helena, subject to the vote of the people, failed. The governor, who had once approved the measure, now thought fit to veto it, for the bill called for votes on two places only, he said; there might be another more suitable. The surveyor-general’s report showed that when the county lines came to be adjusted, Helena might fall in Jefferson County, and Virginia City in Beaverhead. The Northern Pacific railroad, which all expected to be built in a few years, would naturally be an important factor in the location of the seat of government. For these and other reasons he advised them to let this matter rest for a few sessions, or until the affairs of the territory should shape themselves more definitely.[8] Not satisfied, the legislature passed another bill naming three localities to be presented to the vote of the people, which received the governor’s veto for the same reasons, and other technical objections. It was reconsidered and lost, yet it continued to crop up at succeeding legislation until 1874, when the capital was permanently located at Helena.[9] The penitentiary, however, was located at Deer Lodge City, by act of this legislature, and without active opposition.[10]

That part of the amendment to the organic act which required the election law to conform to the new condition of the country with regard to race and color failed to receive that attention demanded by the mandate of congress, and while the Montana legislators amended the election act of 1864-5, they left upon the statute the interdicted phrase, “white male citizen,” which contempt, when it came to the ears of the government, came near causing the annulment of all the laws of this session, a repeal of the organic act of Montana being threatened,[11] whereupon the discriminating phrase was expunged. Another way of emphasizing their anti-union tendencies was shown in the apportionment act, which was still made to call for the maximum number of legislators, less two in the house of representatives,[12] leaving nothing for the future expansion of the population to build upon. They memorialized congress for permission to form a state constitution while the territory was still deeply in debt, and at the same time, for more than a million dollars to pay the Indian war debt.[13] A good deal of this money would come into the itching palms of the politicians and all the state officers, if they succeeded in getting an enabling act passed. To give increased flavor to the proceedings, the chief justice of the territory and Judge Munson were asked, by resolution, to resign, as I have before mentioned. By this time the legal forty days’ term was exhausted, but an extra session was called, which met on the 14th of December and sat for ten days. Then congress enacted that the territories should held their legislative sessions biennially after July 1, 1869. This change, as usual, gave rise to fresh opportunities. The legislature of 1868 enacted that the next session should convene on the first Monday in November 1870, under the impression that the law was in conformity with the act of congress, which decreed that the representatives of Montana should be elected for two years, and that the legislature at its first session after the passage of the act should provide for carrying into effect the provisions of the statute. But the Montana law was passed on the 15th of January, in anticipation of the act of congress, which was approved in March following, and made no change in the term of the election of legislators. A legal question was involved, but they would hold the session, and settle the question at law afterward. To the legislature of 1868 was elected one republican, from Gallatin County, namely L. S. Wilson.[14] In 1869 the democracy in Deer Lodge County bolted, and the best men of the party inviting the best men of the republican party to join them, formed a people’s party, to correct abuses, and succeeded in sending three members to the legislature.[15] A few republicans were elected to county offices in different parts of the territory, enough to show a growing sense of the evils of a one-sided administration.

In the meantime a new governor had been appointed, James M. Ashley of Ohio. His course in politics had been that of a republican radical, which made him repugnant to the reigning party in Montana. While endeavoring to conciliate this party, hoping, it was said, to become delegate to congress, he subjected himself to its scorn, and failed in his administration, while he was declared to be, in many respects, the best executive that Montana had had. The legislature of 1869, in an effort to deprive him of the appointing power vested in him by the organic act, passed a law relating to the tenure of office, which was vetoed by the governor, and passed over his head, the intent of which was to keep in place certain territorial officers, at a severe cost to the tax-payers.[16] In consequence, there was a suit in the courts, whereby it was decided that neither the legislature nor the governor, the one without the other, had power to appoint, and a bill was before congress in 1870 which proposed to deprive the Montana legislature of all appointing power, and to bestow it upon the governor, as well as to make the secretary ex-officio superintendent of the public buildings in progress of erection, or thereafter to be erected, and prescribing such an oath of office as few leading democrats in Montana could take without perjuring themselves. The bill failed, to the chagrin of Ashley, who instigated it.

In 1870 Benjamin F. Potts of Ohio was appointed governor. He had been a major and a major general in the civil war, and was a republican in principle; but the democrats of Montana made a distinction between republicanism in a mild or a radical form. Even the republicans had become disgusted by Ashley’s overtures to the enemy; so that in consequence of these complications Potts was welcomed by both parties. The democrats pronounced him not a brilliant man, but honest, and affected a good-natured toleration of him. But when in 1872 congress amended the organic acts of all the territories, by giving the governor power to fill vacancies during the recess of the council, in the offices of treasurer, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction, great indignation prevailed in certain quarters, and the governor’s head was threatened. It might have been supposed that such an amendment would have been welcomed at that time, the result of the previous course of the legislature in enacting once that these officers should be elected by the people, which was contrary to the organic act, and again that they should be elected by the legislature, while the organic act said they should be appointed or nominated by the governor and confirmed by the council, having been that the territorial treasurer had been unable to settle his accounts, and the bonds of Montana had gone to protest, that there had been no superintendent of public instruction, and that the auditor had illegally retained his office for four years.[17] Yet it was said by democratic journals that Governor Potts had urged the amendment out of spleen, because the legislature had not confirmed his appointments, while others contented themselves with laying of the blame of territorial subordination to congress at the door of the constitution of the United States.[18]

Changes in the executive office could have little effect against the power of a united legislature. At the seventh session an act was passed prohibiting a foreign born person who had declared his intention of becoming a citizen from voting in the territory[19] in defiance of the organic law, which act congress was certain to disapprove, and which had, like other obnoxious and idle statutes, to be expunged by the following legislature. The election law was the weapon with which these having control of it could punish non-sympathizers. According to the act of congress making the sessions of the legislature biennial, the seventh session was held in December and January 1871-2. During this interregnum of legislative power much uneasiness was manifested, and an effort was made to bring about an extra session by importuning the then delegate, William H. Claggett, to procure the passage of an act postponing the election for delegate in 1872 to October, and granting an appropriation for an extra session. Claggett refused to ask congress to interfere with territorial legislation by introducing such a bill, and when a member of congress was found who would do so, objected to its passage, in consequence of which it failed, and there was no extra session in 1872, nor was that delegate returned to congress at the August election. Indeed, that Claggett, who was a republican, should have been in congress at all was an anomaly in early Montana politics, and was only to be accounted for on the ground that he was not a political aspirant, but was an able man, and belonged to the ‘west side,’ where a majority in some instances had been obtained against the regular democratic ticket. He was nominated in a convention of the representatives elect, and ran against E. W. Toole, beating him by a majority of over five hundred. He proved to be a useful and influential delegate, doing more for Montana in the first eight months of his term than the two preceding delegates had done in seven years.[20]

But that did not prevent the legislature from passing a bill at the session of 1871-2 changing the time of the election of his successor to 1872, thereby shortening his term to one year. Congress, as it happened, passed a bill changing the time of election of representatives and delegates to the 43d congress to the first Monday after the first Tuesday in November 1872, so that the Montana act was partly shorn of its force. In opposition to his better judgment, these who desired his reelection persuaded him to run a second time in 1872, when he was defeated by the well-organized Democratic Party, and Martin Maginnis[21] elected by a majority of about three hundred.

The extra pay of the legislature had been abolished and forbidden by congress, which paid all the legislative expenses. An obstacle was thus removed, and in March 1873 Governor Potts issued a proclamation calling an extra session for the 14th of April, the nominal excuse for which was the imperfections in the laws passed at the late regular session, but the real reason for which was that there existed in Montana a numerous faction, or ring, who were determined in their efforts to inveigle the tax-payers of Montana, already overburdened with debt, into pledging the faith of the territory to build a railroad which was to enrich them if it ruined the commonwealth. There had been much discussion of the question of the legality of a tax levied for such a purpose, some of the journals taking strong ground against it,[22] on the side of the people.

The governor in his message gave a statement of finances, showing an increase of debt in sixteen months of over $29,000, which he did not hesitate to say was due to the “extravagant expenditures of the last legislative assembly, which reached nearly the sum of $45,000;” or to tell them that the finances of the territory had been so managed by the law-making power as to give little hope for its future.

The public debt was in excess of half a million of dollars, which the territory, being possessed of great resources, might pay, but which should not be increased. This advice came after congress had applied the remedy, by prohibiting extra compensation from the territorial treasury, and advancing the pay of the legislators to a compromise between penury and extravagance. The governor recommended legislation which should prevent the sheriff of Madison County charging $222 for taking a convict to the penitentiary at Deer Lodge, a distance of 120 miles, and similar unnecessary wastefulness of the public money,[23] without taking into account that to held offices and spend the people’s money freely were prerogatives of the party dominant in Montana at that time, with which they could never be persuaded to part voluntarily.

On the proposition to vote county bonds to aid in constructing a railway from the Central Pacific to Helena, the governor had an opinion decidedly un-favorable to the project, which he pronounced suicidal. As to the legality of imposing a tax for such a pur-pose, he held that taxes must be imposed for a public and not for a private purpose; and that when taxation was prostituted to objects not connected with the public interests, it became plunder. Some of the governor’s suggestions with regard to retrenchment were carried out; but the railroad bill, the main object for which an extra session had been brought about, was passed and approved by the governor, namely, “A bill for an act enabling and authorizing any county or counties within the territory of Montana to aid in the construction of a railroad, and to subscribe to the capital stock of the same.”[24]

By this act it became lawful for the county commissioners of any county to submit to any incorporated company a proposition to subscribe to the building: of a railroad from the Union Pacific, the Central Pacific, or the Utah Northern into or through the territory of Montana, not exceeding twenty per cent of the taxable property of the county; but upon condition that Madison, Jefferson, and Gallatin Counties should subscribe fifteen per cent, two per cent to be paid as soon as the road reached these counties, and thirteen per cent when it should be completed. A similar proposition should be presented to the other counties, with the difference that the amount to be subscribed was ten per cent in Meagher and twenty per cent in Lewis and Clarke counties, with other provisions, the chief of which was that an election was to be held, at which the people should vote upon the question of subsidy, yes or no.[25]

The failure to secure a grant from congress of a right of way for railroads across the public lands, and the disinclination of the people to be any more heavily taxed than they were, kept the question from being put to a vote before the eighth session of the legislature, occurring in January and February 1874.[26] From the message of Governor Potts, it is evident the Montana law-makers had not much amended their habits of extravagance.[27] The reforms recommended by the executive had not yet reached county commissioners, whose per diem was ten dollars; nor sheriffs, who received three dollars a day for subsisting prisoners in jail; nor prosecuting attorneys, who received three thousand dollars per annum. Under the existing law the cost of collecting taxes was four times greater than in the states east of the Missouri. Only two counties had paid any of their indebtedness the last year. Deer Lodge and Beaverhead. All the other counties had increased their debt, Lewis and Clarke owing $148,550.39; and in Meagher County the commissioners had refused to levy a school tax of three mills, their economy beginning by closing the public schools.[28] These revelations did not prepare the people to regard favorably any scheme which should increase their burdens, and for the time railroad legislation was interrupted.

Meantime a lively interest was felt in the subject of transportation, and much discussion was being had in the public prints as to which route should have the preference. The Northern Pacific, dear to the people of Montana from a sentiment dating back to the days when the United States senate debated a route to China via the mouth of “the Oregon River,” and now plainly a necessity of this commonwealth to open up a vast extent of rich mineral and agricultural lands, was the first choice of the whole of eastern Montana; while the counties along the line of the projected extension of the Utah Northern to Helena would have liked, could they have afforded it, to see that road constructed.

After the passage of the right-of-way act of congress in March 1875, a railroad convention was held at Helena April 21st, at which, among other declarations, it was resolved that a committee of one from each county should be appointed to solicit propositions from the Northern Pacific, Utah Northern, Portland, Dalles, and Salt Lake, Union Pacific, and Central Pacific railroad companies, and to gather information bearing upon the subject of railroads. The only company, which availed itself of the invitation extended by the convention to send commissioners to the legislature, which convened January 1876, was the Northern Pacific. This company appointed its vice-president, George Stark, and its chief engineer, W. Milnor Roberts, a committee to confer with the legislature relative to a plan by which their road could be extended from the Missouri, at Bismarck, to the Yellowstone River, and up the Yellowstone Valley two hundred or more miles, during 1876-7.

The result of this conference was that the Northern Pacific accepted the loan of the credit of the territory in the sum of three million dollars, at eight per cent interest, secured by a hen upon the traffic of the road to and from Montana. An argument in favor of such a loan was that Montana expended annually in freights by the way of the Union Pacific, and by wagons from Corinne, a million of money, to which was added another half million on freights by the way of the Missouri River, and wagons from Benton. The reduction on the cost of freights would soon amount to three millions, if the people could be brought to deprive themselves temporarily of that amount. A similar proposition concerning the Utah Northern was also to be entertained if that company accepted, which it did not, saying that Montana was not able to help build two railroads, and they would wait the action of the people on the Northern Pacific proposition. The election for or against the subsidy was held in April 1876, and there proved to be a majority of only 248 against it.

For such an outcome the legislature[29] was prepared, and passed an act, vetoed by the governor and passed over his head, convening the next legislative body in January 1877. The ostensible reason for changing the time of meeting was to bring it nearer the time of election, as if to amend the election law were not a cheaper method of arranging this matter. Delegate Maginnis was notified to secure an appropriation from congress, and did so.[30]

The Northern Pacific having been disposed of, the Utah Northern now came forward with a proposition to the legislature in session in 1877, and offered to build 300 miles of narrow-gauge railroad within three years, 100 hundred miles a year, starting at Franklin, in Idaho, to a point as far north as the Bighole River, and to be called the Utah Northern Extension, for a subsidy of $5,000 per mile in bonds of the territory, to be placed in escrow in New York, to be delivered at stipulated times, and to draw interest at eight per cent per annum from time of delivery, that is, at the completion of every twenty miles.

The proposition to build to the Bighorn was made to carry the road near or to the national park. But it would in that case pass through a rough and elevated region, not likely to be soon settled if ever, and chiefly outside of Montana, and the legislature in framing a bill changed the route to Fort Hall, Idaho, thence to Pipeston, Jefferson County, Montana, to terminate at or to come to Helena. But no survey of any route had been made, and the bill also was very loosely drawn, leaving it to the railroad company to stop at any point by forfeiting fifteen per cent of the proposed subsidy. If the company accepted the terms proposed in the bill as passed by the legislature, it was to signify its acceptance on or before the 25th of March, and their acceptance or non-acceptance was to be announced by a proclamation from the executive office. Whether it was the change in the route, or whether the tone of the most influential newspapers in Montana foreshadowed to the company the failure of the measure at the election which would follow their acceptance, they made no sign on or before the 25th of March, and the proclamation of the governor immediately after announced the conclusion of all this scheming and legislation, which obviated the necessity of a subsidy election on the 10th of April.

The same year, however, the Utah Northern extended its line northward, changing its route to Snake River, through Marsh Valley and Port Neuf Canon. In April 1879 the president of that company, Sidney Dillon, made a proposition to the governor of Montana to extend the road to the Montana line within the current year, and 130 miles into Montana within the year 1880, provided only that the legislature would, by act, exempt the road from taxation for a period of fifteen years. To be able to accept or reject this proposition, the governor issued a proclamation calling an extraordinary session, to convene on the 1st of July, and in his message strongly advocated the acceptance of the proposition,[31] the message being referred to a committee composed of J. A. Hyde, W. C. Gillette, and W. O. P. Hays, the two former, constituting a majority, reported in favor of the governor’s suggestions, and the latter against them, upon the ground that the laws of the United States did not permit them to grant a special privilege to one company, which in this case they could not afford to extend to other roads, notably to the Northern Pacific, with its 30,400 square miles of land within the territory, besides its movable property when completed. Two bills were introduced, one to comply with the proposition of the Utah Northern, and another to empower the county of Lewis and Clarke to subscribe $300,000 in bonds to that road. In the former case, the law was absolute without being referred to the people; in the latter, it was subject to an election. Both met with much adverse argument, and both were finally defeated. The legislature adjourned on the 23d, having passed nineteen acts, among which were several tending toward a more economical use of the people’s money than had heretofore been the practice of the legislators of Montana.[32]

The failure of the railroad bills did not have the effect to prevent railroad building. The Union Pacific Company could not longer defer competing with the Northern Pacific, which was now approaching the Montana territory with rapid strides. It therefore constructed ten miles of the Utah Northern within the limits of Montana before cold weather interrupted grading. In the following year it constructed 110 miles, and in 1881 reached Helena. With the opening of railroad communication a new era of prosperity, which had been slowly dawning since about 1876, greatly assisted the territory in recovering from its embarrassed financial condition. This, together with the restrictions placed upon reckless expenditure by congress, and the faithful admonitions of Potts, who still held the executive office to the satisfaction of both political parties, finally accomplished the redemption of the territory. When the governor found that at the meeting of the twelfth legislature the several counties still owed an aggregate debt of $619,899.86, he pointed out over again that this exhibit did not sustain their boasted ability for local self-government,[33] and that it must deter immigration, and retard the admission of Montana as a state, recommending certain improvements in the laws regulating county affairs.

On the contrary, the improvement in territorial finances was encouraging, there being a net indebtedness remaining of only a little more than $20,000. Few reforms in county administrations were accomplished at this session,[34] and at the meeting of the thirteenth legislature, in January 1883, the county indebtedness had reached the sum of $658,974.32, and this, while the assessed valuation of the territory reached the sum of $33,211,319.12.[35] The revenue for territorial purposes amounted to $90,803.47, an the treasury of Montana had a surplus of over $14 000 in its coffers.

Here, at last, the territorial craft found clear sailing. With regard to the public institutions necessary to the peace, the penitentiary contained sixty-seven convicts, whose maintenance cost seventy-five cents day, ten of whom earned fifty cents daily at contract labor. During the year 1884 the central portion of the penitentiary building was in process of erection. Fifty-six insane persons were provided for and treated at the public expense, by the contract system. The school system of Montana had reached a condition of much excellence, the schools being graded, and none but competent teachers employed. The population had increased to 40,000, and there was a renewed movement toward a state constitution. Just at this period, after more than twelve years of wise administration. Governor Potts was removed, and Job Schuyler Crosby appointed to succeed him, who assumed office on the 15th of January, 1883, four days after the meeting of the legislative assembly.[36] Crosby was soon succeeded in the executive office by B. Piatt Carpenter, who also served but a brief term, during which the fourteenth regular session of the legislative assembly was held.[37] In 1885 the earnest desire of the people was gratified by the appointment of one of their own number, S. T. Hauser,[38] governor of Montana. At this favorable period let us turn to the material history of the territory.

Footnotes

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  1. Virginia Montana Post, Feb. 23, 1867.
  2. It cost $37.50 for each wagon from Salt Lake to Helena, and as much from Helena to Bighorn River.
  3. The legislative assemblies of the several territories of the United States shall not, after the passage of this act, grant private charters or special privileges, but they may, by general incorporation acts, permit persons to associate themselves together as bodies corporate for mining, manufacturing, and other industrial pursuits. Zabriskie’s Land Laws, 871.
  4. The organic act of Montana, in respect of qualification of voters, was the same as in the organic act of Idaho, which permitted every free white male inhabitant above the age of 21 years,’ an actual resident, etc., to vote at the first election. The amendment to the organic act of Montana above quoted, ‘saving the distinction therein made on account of race or color,’ was an introduction of the l0th amendment to the U. S. constitution before that amendment had been adopted by congress.
  5. The telegram from Washington read as follows: “Congress has annihilated the bogus legislature of Montana and annulled its laws. The election is fixed for September. U. S. judges’ salaries fixed at $3,500. Montanians celebrate here tonight.”
  6. Helena Herald, Dec. 7, 1876; Virginia Montana Post, Oct. 5, 1867. Cavanaugh is described as a man of good abilities, but he did not seem to have used them for Montana. He was a lawyer by profession, and was the first delegate from Minnesota. In 1860 he came to Colorado, residing at Central City until he went to Montana. After his delegateship he resided in New York City. In 1879 he returned to Colorado, settling in Leadville, but died soon after arriving. Denver Tribune, Oct. 31, 1879.
  7. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  8. Mont. Jour. House, 4th sess., 84-88; Deer Lodge Independent, Nov. 30, 1867.
  9. An act was before the legislature in 1868 to remove the capital to Deer Lodge City. The majority of the committee to which it was referred – H. W. English, T. B. Edwards, and Sample Orr – reported against it; and the minority – Jasper Rand and Thomas Watson – in its favor. Mont, Council Jour. 5th sess., 90. The minority report prevailed, and the bill was dually approved, on being amended to read Helena instead of Deer Lodge. The majority of votes was claimed for Virginia City, Madison County, in order to make sure of the result, casting between 1,800 and 1,900 votes, instead of her usual 1,200 or 1,300. Choteau County was thrown out altogether, on account of alleged irregularities. Owing to a change in the periods of the legislature, which became biennial by act of congress in 1869, the capital question was not voted upon again until 1872, when Helena, Deer Lodge, and Gallatin contended for the boon, and Virginia City still managed to hold it. In 1874 a vote was again taken for the removal to Helena. The history of the struggle of Virginia City to retain the capital is one of dishonor. Forged election returns from Meagher County were substituted for the actual abstract. The canvass was made in the presence of the governor. Potts, the secretary, Calloway, and the U. S. marshal, Wheeler. It was said that the governor knew the returns to be fraudulent. However inconsistent that may be with his usual fair course, he made no effort to secure a fair recount when it was made apparent that there had been a forgery committed. The secretary is said to have planned the fraud, or to have been a party to it. He issued a circular requesting the returns to be sent through the express office, and allowed them to remain there 18 days, during which time the false abstract was made. The governor refused to offer a reward for the discovery of the criminal. A large reward was offered by others, but failed of its object. There was an effort made by Potts and Calloway to unseat Knowles, by whose judgment in the courts the electoral count was declared a fraud. The case was taken before the Supreme Court, and a recanvass ordered, which resulted in a majority of 437 for Helena. This ended a long struggle, in which all the dishonest practices of unscrupulous politicians were exhausted to defeat the choice of the people. Deer Lodge Independent, Sept. 21 and Oct. 2, 1874, Jan. 15 and 22, 1875; Helena Herald, Feb. 19, 1874; Deer Lodge New Northwest, May 9 and Aug. 8, 1874.
  10. The comer-stone of the penitentiary was laid June 2, 1870, A. H. Mitchell being commissioner. The plan of the building was a central main structure 30 by 30 feet, with two wings 70 by 44 feet. It was built of brick, and one wing completed in October. Gov. Potts appointed Conrad Kohrs, Granville Stuart, and John Kinna prison commissioners, and James Gilchrist warden. The penitentiary cost, when occupied, in 1871, $49,300. It was placed by law under the charge of the U. S. marshal, William F. Wheeler, and opened for the reception of 12 prisoners on the 2d of July of that year. The expenses of the prison, including salaries of officers, were paid by the general government, until May 15, 1873, when the territory assumed the expenses, and the government paid $1 per day for keeping its convicts. In August 1874 this rule was reversed, the government again assuming charge, and the territory paying $1 per day for its convicts. The actual cost of keeping prisoners was from $1.80 to $2.03 per day, in the first few years. It has gradually been reduced to $1.30. These statements are taken from a written account of the penitentiary by Marshal Wheeler, except the plan of the building, which is copied from the printed documents of the period. The prisoners have no regular employment, although they had made many improvements in the prison, and manufactured their clothing, or performed any labor required. In 1877 there were 83 prisoners in the penitentiary. Wheeler’s Montana Penitentiary, MS., 1-10.
  11. Virginia Tri-Weekly Post, Dec. 7, 1867; Virginia Montana Post, Feb. 29, 1868.
  12. The number at the 6th session was 11 councilmen and 20 representatives. The council was increased to 13 at the 7th session, and the assemblymen to 26 at the 8th. At the 9th session there were 14 members of the council. No two legislatures for a series of years were constituted of exactly the same number of members, the reason lying probably in the election or non-election of certain districts.
  13. There was a bill introduced in the senate, by Morton of Indiana, early in 1869, to enable the people of Montana to form a constitution and state government, which failed.
  14. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  15. The Montana Democrat of June 12, 1869, gives the people’s platform, in which it is said: ‘The continual increase of the county indebtedness, burdensome taxation for worthless services, a reign of violence and disorder resulting from the non-enforcement of the criminal laws and the non-punishment of convicted offenders, and the building-up of a faction dangerous to the welfare of the country, and which aims at control of all county affairs’ are reasons for uniting to overthrow this power. It declared that an emergency had arisen in which it was the duty of all good citizens to lay aside party predilections, to vote for local officers without regard to party. Affairs had indeed come to a sad pass when the democratic journals advocated a rupture in their own well-drilled ranks. The Deer Lodge New Northwest, Oct. 8, 1699, gives some particulars. It estimates the valuation of this county at $1,100,000. On a basis of 23 mills to the dollar, the tax for county purposes would amount to $11,000; the territorial $4,000; the school tax $3,000; the poor tax $2,000; for completing county building $4,400; total $24,900. County scrip was worth 20 cents on the dollar. The sheriff’s office alone had been costing the county $22,000 per annum. How was $11,000 to be made to meet such expenses, and pay 10 to 15 per cent interest on a large indebtedness? It was this problem which extorted a cry for reform.
  16. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  17. William G. Barkley was treasurer and William H. Rodgers auditor at this period. Ashley appointed James L. Fisk, and Rodgers refused to yield.

    Suit was brought in the district court of Virginia City, and appealed to the Supreme Court, and again appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which refused to consider it, and it came back to the Supreme Court of Montana. Meanwhile Rodgers held the office from 1867 to February 1874, four years of the time illegally. The territorial treasurers appointed from 1864 to 1875 were J. J. Hull, 2 years; John S. Rockfellow, l½ years; W. 0. Barkley, nearly 4 years, during which time Leander W. Frary was appointed, in 1869, but failed to obtain possession of the office; Richard O. Hickman, 4 years; Daniel H. Weston. The territorial auditors were John S. Lott, 2 years; John H. Ming, 1 year; William H. Rodgers, over 7 years, or from Dec. 1867 to Fob. 1874; James L. Fisk, appointed in 1869, but unable to obtain possession of the office; George Calloway, who resigned in Dec. 1874; Solomon Star, who held until Jan. 1876, and resigned; David H. Cuthbert. The superintendents of public instruction were, Thomas J. Dimsdale, 2 years; Peter Rowen and Alexander Barrett, both of whom immediately resigned; A. M. S. Carpenter, 1866 to 1867; Thomas F. Campbell, 2 years; James H. Mills, resigned; S. G. Lathrop, 1869; Cornelius Hedges, 1872. Con. Hist. Soc. Mont., 332-3.

  18. Helena Independent, June 8, 1872; Deer Lodge New Northwest, June 15, 1872.
  19. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  20. W. H. Claggett was grandson of Thomas Claggett, of Marlborough, Maryland, a wealthy and respected citizen, who died in August 1873. William H. Claggett seems to have derived some sterling qualities by descent, and not to have stood in any fear of wire-pulling politicians. He won great praise, even from the opposite party, for his energy and ability in the delegateship. I give herewith a summary of his services. “Within a week after arriving in Washington he secured a bill to open the Bitterroot Valley to settlement, by having the Indians removed to the reservation on the Jocko River, and securing the immediate survey of the lands. He also procured the exchange of the Yellowstone Valley with the Crows, who removed to the Judith basin. He arranged with Gen. Sheridan, and influenced congress, since not enough soldiers could be sent to Montana to protect the frontier, to keep the Sioux temporarily quiet by feeding and clothing them to the amount of $750,000; getting an order from General Sherman that the troops on the line of the N. P. R. R. should patrol the frontier, and securing the passage of a bill providing 1,000 breech loading needle-guns and 200,000 rounds of ammunition for the settlers in remote situations. He found the only law giving indemnity to losers by the predatory acts of the Indians had been repealed, and he bad it restored. He secured 6 new post-routes and 20 post offices. He drew up and had passed the national-park bill, setting apart 50 miles square to the use of the nation forever. N. G. Langford was made superintendent, and put to laying out roads. He secured 3 national banks, 1 at Helena, capital $100,000; 1 at Deer Lodge, capital $50,000; and 1 at Bozeman, capital $50,000. He secured an assay office for Helena with an appropriation of $50,000; and another appropriation of $5,000 to pay for the printing of the laws of the 7th session ot the Montana legislature; half that amount to pay a deficiency in settling with the printer of the laws of the 5th session; and an additional appropriation for the survey of the public lands. He procured the amendment giving the governor power to appoint in recess. He assisted in amending the quartz law of the territory, giving these who performed a certain amount of labor upon their claims a patent to the same. He procured an amendment to the organic act empowering the legislature to incorporate railroads. He secured the privilege of having all territorial offices filled by persons domiciled in the territory, excepting U. S. judges, Indian agents, and superintendents. He had the courage to refuse to do something, which he was requested to perform, but never lost a single advantage to Montana through neglect or incapacity. Claggett was formerly of Nevada.
  21. Maginnis was a worthy successor to Claggett and secured many benefits to the territory. He was in congress continuously for ten years.
  22. The Deer Lodge New Northwest, republican, edited and owned by James H. Mills, was unremitting in defense of the people’s interests. The New Northwest was established July 9, 1699, at Deer Lodge. It was an 8-column journal, and ably conducted, without being radical. The journalism of Montana was for the most part conducted with dignity, ability, and considering their remoteness from the great world, with success. The Montanian first published at Virginia City by Joseph Wright and L. M. Black, July 12, 1870, was a democratic journal. Wright left in August 1871, when G. F. Cope conducted it for two years. Cope sold it to a joint-stock company, H. N. Blake being editor, who resigned on being appointed district judge, and was succeeded by H. T. Brown. It was at last sold to the Madisonian in 1876. The Bozeman Avant Courier, democratic, was founded Dec. l0, 1871, by Joseph Wright and L. M. Black, with J. W. Allen associate editor. In 1874 Black, desiring to change the policy of the paper, and Wright’s lease having expired, made a new lease to J. V. Bogert without giving Wright notice. This caused the seizure and suspension of the Courier, from September 25th to November 13th, when Wright, having secured other material, resumed its publication. It was published semi-weekly in 1876, but only for a short time. In February 1877, the paper passed into the hands of W. W. Alderson, J. V. Bogert, republican, associate editor. The Courier was the pioneer journal of eastern Montana, to whoso development it was devoted. The Helena New Letter was started in Feb. 1869. The Missoula Pioneer, democratic, was established in 1871 by the Pioneer Publishing Company, at Missoula City, in Missoula County, and was devoted to the development of western Montana, Leonidas Boyle and W. J. McCormick, editors. Frank M. Woody and T. M. Chisholm purchased the paper in 1873, and changed its name to Missoulian. Chisholm sold his interest the same year to W. R. Turk. The Madisonian, published at Virginia City in Sept. 1873, was a political democratic journal, edited by Thomas Deyarman, sheriff of Madison County. When the Madisonian discontinued, it purchased its material and good-will. The Rocky Mountain Husbandman, devoted to the agricultural development of the country, was started in Nov. l875, by R. N. Sutherlin, at Diamond City, in Meagher County. The Tri-Weekly Capital Times, established in Sept 1869 by Joseph Magree, S. P. Basset, and I. H. Morrison, at Virginia City, was a democratic journal, 6-column sheet. On June 1, 1870, it was transferred to the charge of William T. Lovell and Joseph Wright, who subsequently published the Montanian. The Bozeman Times, another democratic newspaper, was established in 1875 by Henry C. Raleigh and F. Wilkinson, edited by E. S. Wilkinson. It was a 7-column paper, devoted to democracy.
  23. The county of Deer Lodge paid the sheriff during the previous year $7,353 out of its treasury, in addition to the fees of the sheriff paid by litigants in civil causes. The sheriff of Gallatin County received $2,671 in the same way; the county assessor $3,843; the clerk and recorder $1,947 each – all of which was in addition to their proper fees. The aggregate debt of these counties was $97,000. The amount paid for salaries in Gallatin in 1872 was $32,736.02. Message of Gov. Potts, in New Northwest, April 19, 1873.
  24. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  25. Missoulian, May 16, 1873. A bill introduced by W. F. Sanders called for a subscription by counties to the amount of $2,300,000, they giving bonds payable in 30 years, with 7 per cent interest, to be paid semi-annually, which failed to pass. The one, which passed, was a substitute. When Claggett was in congress he was importuned to secure a right of way across the public lands for any railroad companies, and to secure money to pay for the extraordinary session. He managed the matter adroitly. He would not ask for the money until a bill he had introduced granting right of way, and requiring a two-thirds vote of the taxpayers to authorize a county or municipal subsidy, should have passed. Should congress pass the bill, Montana would be safe and he would do his best to get an appropriation for the extra session. This diplomatic course was the origin of the substitute bill. But the U. S. senate did not favor aiding railroads in the territories, and the right-of-way bill was not passed. Claggett did, however, secure an amendment to the organic act empowering the legislature to incorporate railroads, which could do no harm under the restriction of the right-of-way bill. The bill finally passed, in March 1875, and his successor secured $20,000 appropriation to pay the expenses of the extra session.
  26. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  27. In his message to the 8th legislature, the governor made the plain statement that in his first message he had recommended the repeal of the law granting extra compensation to U. S. officers and legislators out of the territorial treasury, but that his advice had been disregarded, except as to the U. S. judges, and that the sum of $32,014.80 was drawn from the treasury of Montana and paid to that legislature; and at the close of that session, 1871-2, $201,000 had been paid by the territory, under the law granting extra compensation, since the assembling of the first legislature. This fact, and the rapid increase of the debt by the law-making power, had caused him to ask the interposition of congress to annul the extra compensation laws; and he had accompanied his request with an abstract of the financial condition of Montana, which produced the desired result in the message of a law of congress prohibiting the passage or enforcement of any law by a territorial legislature by which officers or legislators should be paid any compensation other than that provided by the laws of the United States. U. S. Statutes at Large, vol. xvii. 416. Under this law Montana had expended $41,350.21 less in 1873 than in 1872, and warrants had advanced 10 cents on a dollar in consequence.
  28. Governor’s message, in Bozeman Avant Courier, Jan. 9, 1874.
  29. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  30. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  31. Mont. Jour. Council and House 1879, 12-14. The reasons given by the governor for calling an extra session were, as stated in his proclamation, that the eleventh legislature had adjourned without making an apportionment of the territory for legislative purposes, as required by a recent act of congress, and as the safety of the inhabitants required such legislation as would enable them by armed organizations to protect themselves from Indian depredations, and as the late legislative assembly had failed to enact a law providing for the funding of the debt of the territory at a lower rate of interest than that being paid, and as serious errors appeared in some of the laws passed at the eleventh session, and many legitimate subjects of legislation failed of maturity at that session, therefore he reassembled them to do what should have been done at the regular session. Nothing was said about railroads, but the anti-railroad journals treated the governor’s real design as if it had been proclaimed, and a resolution was introduced in the house censuring, or at least criticizing, the executive for assembling them for reapportionment before a census had been taken, at a season of the year inconvenient for most of them, and in violation of a law of congress that no territorial legislature should be convened without an appropriation first having been made to defray the expenses. The resolution was referred to the judiciary committee, of which W. F. Sanders was chairman. His report is a fine piece of diplomatic writing – he being the head and front of railroad agitation – declaring that the legislative assembly was not a political convention, nor was it elected to criticize the management of the executive department of the government. It might memorialize, but it should not scold. If necessary, it might impeach officers created by it; but the resolution did not proceed to that length. It was inappropriate to be considered or passed by the assembly, and it was recommended that it should not pass. This report silenced the murmur against the governor for doing for once, of his own volition, or at the instance of the railroad party, what they have always been ready to do when their pay was $12 a day for enacting laws which filled the pockets of their favorites. There being no money appropriated, nor any in the treasury, made all the difference, had not congress besides already been driven to reduce their pay to four dollars per diem, and forbidden, them to take any pay from the territory.
  32. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
    The bill reapportioning the territory for legislative purposes was vetoed by the governor because it violated the law of congress requiring the apportionment to be made according to population, and was made ‘to answer the demands of locality alone.’ The house refused to reconsider the bill, and it was lost.
  33. This reproach of the governor was aimed at a continual harping by certain papers on the tyranny of congress, and the greater prosperity of a territory, which could be allowed to choose its officers, and manage its own affairs.
  34. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  35. The governor’s message shows that the county of Lewis and Clarke paid by its commissioners $3,664.40 for about 4 months’ work in assessing the property holders at the rate of 3 per cent per annum. The sheriff received $1.25 per day each for the board of prisoners; more than boardinghouse keeper required of their patrons for first-class fare; and other abuses are mentioned. Yet the people go on today electing legislatures from the same party which for twenty years has persisted in these spoliations.
  36. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature
  37. Members of the 4th – 14th Legislature

    John S. Tooker was Secretary of the Territory; the judges, the same as in 1883, except that John Coburn was in charge of the 1st district;
    Attorney General, William H. Hunt. Mont. Jour. Council, 1885.

  38. Samuel T. Hauser was born at Falmouth, Pendleton County, Ky, Jan. 10, 1833, and was reared and educated in his native state. In 1854 he removed to Missouri and engaged in civil engineering, serving on the Missouri Pacific and N. P. R. R. In 1852 he came up the Missouri to Fort Benton, and prospected over onto the upper Columbia waters, returning in the autumn to the Bannack mines, and exploring the Lewis and Clarke route down the Yellowstone, in 1863. In 1865, in company with W. F. Sanders, he opened a bank at Virginia City, and erected the first furnaces in the territory. In 1866 Mr Hauser organized the 1st National bank of Helena; also, the St Louis Mining Co., at Phillipsburg, now known as the Hope Mining Co., which erected the first silver mill m Mont. The 1st National banks of Missoula, Butte, and Benton were each organized by Mr Hauser. He is largely interested in stock and mining, organized the Utah &. Northern railroad in Mont., and is president of a branch of the N. P. R. R., besides being engaged in many other enterprises.


MLA Source Citation:

Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 5 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/montana/montana-politics-legislation-and-reform.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2013


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