Idaho Since 1890, Political

Late in June 1891, the state supreme court rendered a decision pronouncing the act of 1891, purporting to create the counties of Alta and Lincoln out of the counties of Alta and Logan, to be unconstitutional, on the ground that the state constitution forbids the division of a county and the attachment of a part thereof to another county without a vote of the people in the portion to be separated.

State Attorney General Roberts returned the following opinion to the state superintendent of public instruction: Women possessing the constitutional and statutory qualifications can vote at all school elections; but to vote upon the proposition as to whether a special tax shall be levied women must possess, with male suffragists, the additional qualification of being “an actual resident free-holder or head of a family.”

On May 5, 1892, the Republicans held a state convention at Pocatello, and a nominating convention in August following, at which they advocated the free and unlimited coinage of silver, the creation of a federal department of mines and mining at Washington, protection of labor and capital, prompt action in allotting lands in the Nez Perce Indian reservation, certain amendments to the immigration laws, and holding the Democrats responsible for the crippling of western industries. For the state ticket they nominated, in August, W. J. McConnell for governor, Frank B. Willis for lieutenant governor, James F. Curtis for secretary of state, George M. Parsons for attorney general, Frank Ramsey for auditor, W. C. Hill for treasurer. J. S. Brandon for superintendent of public instruction, and Willis Sweet for congressman.

During the same season the Democrats, also holding state conventions in May and August, at Pocatello, declared, like the Republicans, in favor of the free and unlimited coinage of silver but unlike them declared in favor of several reforms which have ever since characterized their party. In August they nominated A. J. Crook for governor, J. B. Wright for lieutenant governor, B. F. Chaney for secretary of state. T. J. Sutton for treasurer, J. H. Anderson for auditor, J. R. Westen for attorney general and L. L. Shearer for superintendent of public instruction.

Meanwhile the Prohibitionists, representing three counties, met to the number of twenty-five and nominated a full state ticket.

The entire Republican ticket was elected, by a majority of two thousand and more.

The state officers for the year 1893 were: William J. McConnell, governor; Frank B. Willis, lieutenant governor; James F. Curtis, secretary of state; William C. Hill, treasurer; Frank C. Ramsey, auditor; George M. Parsons, attorney general; B. B. Lower, superintendent of public instruction; Isaac N. Sullivan, chief justice; and Francis E. English and Thomas M. Stewart, associate justices.

The second session of the legislature, which meets each alternate year, began January 2, 1893, and continued until the evening of March 6. The delays brought about by the Democrats and Populists in the senate defeated many important measures. By them a rule of obstruction was inaugurated, and bills were held back until the last days of the session, when it became too late to consider them in the house. Among the bills held back was one reducing the state tax levy from eighty-five to sixty-five cents on the one hundred dollars. The levy of eighty-five cents had already produced a surplus and there was no law providing for the lending of the funds. Another bill failing to pass was that which provided for a reapportionment of the representation of the state. Much time was spent in an effort to pass a general law for the division of counties and the removal of county seats.

The governor withheld his signature from a bill that reduced the liquor license from live hundred dollars a year in the large towns to three hundred dollars, making the cost of license uniform in large and small towns. The bill was passed over the governor’s veto in the senate, but the house refused to act with it. The Coeur d’Alene city school of mines bill was not approved, because several of its provisions conflicted with the state constitution, and several were of doubtful meaning. The act authorizing county commissioners to issue bonds for the purpose of refunding the indebtedness of their respective counties was held to give too much latitude to the commissioners, and it was not signed nor was the bill defining the property relations of husband and wife. Just before the close of the session an appropriation bill to cover the state expenses for the years 1893-4 was rushed through the senate, and the house was forced to concur and pass it without amendment. A bill was passed enfranchising the Mormons not guilty of polygamy. Thirty thousand dollars more was appropriated for the Idaho exhibit at the World’s Fair at Chicago. Acts were passed organizing the state normal at Lewiston, providing for the establishment of a soldiers’ home, for the protection of game and fish, providing for the destruction of coyotes, wild-cats, foxes, lynxes, bears, squirrels, rabbits, gophers, muskrats, panthers and cougars, defining and prohibiting certain practices of the nature of gambling, providing for the prevention of fruit-tree pests and for their extirpation, and prohibiting employers from discriminating against labor organizations; and congress was memorialized to pass a law for the free and unlimited coinage of silver.

In 1893 it was estimated that the Mormon voters in the state reached the number of about three thousand in Bingham County, seven hundred in Bear Lake County, three hundred and fifty in Cassia County, and eight hundred and fifty in Oneida County. To most of these the right of franchise was extended during this year (1893), by a modification of the “test-oath” clause in the law.

In August, 1894, the platform adopted by the Republican convention at Boise reaffirmed the doctrine of “protection,” declared for the free coinage of silver, at the ratio of sixteen to one, and advocated the submission of an equal suffrage amendment to the state constitution; while the Democrats, also at Boise and in the same month, declared for revenue for tariff only, and, like the Republicans, for the free coinage of silver at the ratio of sixteen times as much silver to the dollar as gold. The Populists also held a convention, indorsing the platform of the Democratic party of 1892 at Omaha, Nebraska. The ensuing election gave the Republicans the usual majorities. The Populists polled a vote nearly as large as that of the Democrats for some of the offices and even larger for some. The state officers elected were: William J. McConnell, governor; F. J. Mills, lieutenant governor; I. W. Garrett, secretary of state; C. Bunting, treasurer; Frank C. Ramsey, auditor; C. A. Foresman, superintendent of public instruction; A. Case, adjutant general; George AI. Parsons, attorney general; John T. Morgan, chief justice of the supreme court; and J. W. Huston and I. X. Sullivan, associate justices.

The ensuing legislature met January 7, 1895, and continued in session until March 9. Among the measures passed at this session was the repeal of the law passed unanimously at the preceding legislature providing that all obligations should be paid in gold or silver, all contracts to the contrary notwithstanding, the ground for repeal being that the measure had been detrimental to the business interests of the state. An act making a new legislative apportionment was passed providing for a senator for every county, while representation in the house was fixed upon the basis of one representative for every five hundred and thirty-six votes or fraction over one-half of that number cast at the preceding election. The new game and fish law abolished the office of county game and fish warden, specified what are the closed seasons and prohibited the transportation of or dealing in hides of wild animals and hunting with dogs. Three irrigation bills were passed. One was the joint irrigation bill, providing means of accepting the gift of one million acres of land under the Carey act from the federal government, and two measures providing for the organization of irrigation districts, a system of water measurements and the fixing of water rates in certain emergencies by the district courts. Under the new system it was proposed to purchase existing ditches or construct new ones by issuing bonds based upon the property of the district and taxing all the land in the district for the payment of the bonds.

A radical change in the system of locating mines was made by a new mining law, the most important feature of which was a provision requiring a locator to sink a shaft at least ten feet within two months after location, or to make other cuts equivalent.

By this legislature the “age of consent” was still further raised, being now made eighteen years.

In March the office of state engineer was created, to which the governor appointed Frank B. Mills, the lieutenant governor, who accordingly resigned his elective office.

This legislature abolished the counties of Logan and Alturas and created from that territory the county of Blaine, and also established the county of Lincoln from the southern portion of the new county of Blaine; repealed the test oath, passed a law requiring marriage licenses, and memorialized congress to adopt the free coinage of silver, and recommended state constitutional amendments permitting woman suffrage and the election of a prosecuting attorney in each county, instead of district only, as previously.

In March George L. Shoup was elected again to the United States senate, the fifty-second and final ballot being: Shoup, Republican, 27; Willis Sweet, also Republican, 12; and A. J. Crook, Populist, 14.

In 189s the state supreme court decided that women were eligible to practice law, the statutes to the contrary notwithstanding. This court also affirmed the constitutionality of the law providing that water companies shall furnish water free for fire purposes and other great public emergencies. The state officers for 1896 were: William J. McConnell, governor; Vincent Bierbower, lieutenant governor; Isaac W. Garrett, secretary of state: C. Bunting, treasurer; Frank C. Ramsey, auditor; George M. Parsons, attorney general; A. H. Capwell, adjutant general; C. A. Foresman, superintendent of public instruction; Frederick J. Mills, state engineer; John T. Morgan, chief justice of the supreme court; J- W. Huston and Isaac N. Sullivan, associate justices; and Solomon Hasbrouck, clerk of the court.

May 16, 1896, the Republicans held a state convention at Pocatello and selected delegates to the national convention. It declared the reinstatement of silver to be the paramount issue. On August 8 the state central committee convened at Boise and divided into two factions, each claiming to be the regular committee and proceeding accordingly to fill the vacancies in their respective bodies by special appointments. The silver Republicans met August 17, in the same city, and made a declaration of principles similar to those of the May convention, and in addition congratulated Congressman Wilson “on his able and exceptional work” in congress, and unequivocally approved the “action of Senators Teller, Cannon and Dubois and their associates who left the national convention” at St. Louis, and also approved the nomination of Bryan and Sewall for president and vice president of the United States.

At the Republican state convention which met at Boise August 26, the following nominations were made: For representative in congress, John T. Morrison; justice of the Supreme Court. Drew W. Standrod; governor, David H. Budlong; lieutenant governor, Vincent Bierbower; secretary of state, Isaac W. Garrett; attorney general, John A. Bagley; auditor, Elmore A. McKenna; treasurer, Frank C. Ramsey; superintendent of public instruction, Charles A. Foresman; and inspector of mines, Theodore Brown.

Being dissatisfied with the regular nominations of the Republican convention, the silver Republicans. September 26, named a ticket headed by W. E. Borah for representative in congress. Edgar Wilson for justice of the Supreme Court, and Frank Steunenberg for governor. This ticket was filed with the secretary of state as the regular ticket of a Republican state convention, and the same ticket was also filed by petition as the “Electors’ Democratic ticket.”

The Democrats and Populists fused on the principal issues of the day in naming their ticket, under the name of the “People’s Democratic party.” They agreed that the succeeding legislature should select a man from the “present Populist party” for United States senator. On August 21 this party nominated R. P. Quarrels for supreme justice; Frank Steunenberg for governor; R. E. McFarland for attorney general; George H. Storer for treasurer; and B. F. Hastings for inspector of mines; while the Populists named James Gunn for representative in congress, C. C. Fuller for lieutenant governor, James H. Anderson for auditor, George J. Lewis for secretary of state, and Lewis Anderson for superintendent of public instruction. On October 5, George F. Moore was selected by the Populist and Democratic state committees as their candidate for lieutenant governor in place of Mr. Fuller, resigned.

In the exciting election of November 1896, the “People’s Democratic” ticket was successful, their presidential electors polling 23,192, against only 6,324 for the McKinley electors. At the same time the proposed constitutional amendments providing for county attorneys and county superintendents were carried, while the equal-suffrage amendment received six thousand more votes than were cast against it, though not a majority of the votes cast at the election. The last mentioned issue, however, was taken before the supreme court of the state, December 11, which decided that when a proposed amendment to the constitution receives a majority of the votes cast on the proposition whether or not it is a majority of all the votes cast at that election, the amendment is carried.

The history of the struggle which thus culminated in final victory for the advocates of a female-suffrage amendment to the state constitution is interesting to trace.

The movement first took definite shape in the political arena at the Populist state convention of 1894, where, after a hard fight, the passage of a favorable resolution was secured. A similar resolution was then passed by the Republican state convention. Popular indifference to the movement, however, was widespread; and politicians of all parties, while nominally supporting it, seemed to think that when the matter came to a general vote it would be swept into oblivion. The women, however, kept up an active agitation, forming an association for that purpose. The result was that the state legislature passed a bill submitting to the voters of the state the question of a change of the constitution so as to allow woman suffrage. Thereafter the battle was kept up vigorously. A state convention was called in Boise in November 1895, to which eight counties sent delegates. Another state convention assembled in the capital city July 1, 1896, at which the plan of campaign was fully outlined. So pronounced was the sentiment thereafter aroused that all the political conventions in the state recommended the woman-suffrage amendment to favorable consideration. The campaign increased in vigor as the polling day approached, the women refraining from taking sides with either Republicans or Democrats. The official count showed 12,126 votes for the amendment and 6,282 against it.

Although receiving six thousand more votes than had been cast against it, the amendment did not receive a majority of the votes cast at the election, the total vote being 29,697. Thus some doubt remained as to whether or not it had carried, which doubt was based on certain clauses of the constitution regulating the passage of amendments. This doubt, however, was finally dispelled, December 11, 1896, when the supreme court unanimously decided that the amendment had carried, though it had not received a majority of the votes cast at the election. A majority of those cast on the proposition was held to be sufficient.

The following legislature (1897) elected Henry Heitfield, Populist, United States senator, over Frederick T. Dubois, silver Republican, by a vote of thirty-nine to thirty. The same body fixed the legal rate of interest at seven per cent, established a sheep quarantine system, and provided for a state board of arbitration for settling labor troubles.

Governors of Idaho. Years.

William H. Wallace 1863-4
Caleb Lyon 1864-6
David A. Ballard 1866-7
Samuel Bard 1870
Gilman Marston 1870-1
Alexander Connor 1871
Thomas M. Bowen 1871
Thomas W. Bennett 1871-6
Mason Brayman 1876-80
John B. Neil 1880-3
John N. Irwin 1883
William M. Bun 1884-5
Edward W. Stevenson 1885-9
George L. Shoup 1889-91
William J. McConnell 1891-6
Frank Steunenberg 1896-1901


Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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