INTRODUCTION BY PAUL NESBITT
Charles N. Haskell possessed the very highest order of executive ability. Whether as governor of a state, builder of a railroad or head of a corporaton he perceived the essentials and vigorously pressed activities to accomplishment. He never encumbered himself with details—like a good general he left details to subordinates. He was a born leader of men, and like leaders of men, inspired confidence and enthusiasm in others.
He was not a profound lawyer, but he could draw from a profound lawyer enough information in an hour to guide him through hazardous cases. He was not a great statesman, but he grasped the essentials from association with statesmen and put into practice what students could never rise to perform. He relied heavily upon information of other men, but relied upon his own genius in the execution of whatever problems he had in hand.
I do not mean to say that he never made mistakes. He was an intrepid, and, at times, an impulsive fighter in any line of endeavor; and impulsiveness leads one into error. But even when he erred he was to be feared, for he was resourceful in the utmost degree and often turned what appeared to be defeat into victory.
He arrived in Indian Territory at an opportune time for display of his genius, It was unorganized territory, so far as government was concerned. To be sure there was Indian government which concerned largely the affairs of those Indians to whom that territory had been traded by the Federal government; but the whites were crowding into it—as they have ever done. As coal deposits were developed; as oil and gas fields were opened up, capital began pouring in; and where capital is planted, there white men will try to set up some kind of government which they can control.
Lying by the side of the Indian Territory, and taken from it, was Oklahoma Territory. It had the advantage of being an organized territory—was divided into counties with local self-government.
It was a rich, though yet undeveloped agricultural country with a number of thriving little cities. Both territories were clamoring for statehood. I shall not discuss statehood questions, I simply mean to point out that these two territories were potential fields for men who were seeking either political or commercial advantages.
Charles N. Haskell came to Indian Territory as a railroad builder. He made his home in Muskogee, and through his leadership it grew by leaps and bounds. He was an outstanding citizen when questions of statehood were being discussed.
Those of us in Oklahoma Territory were busily engaged in our own political and commercial affairs. Many of us had heard about the railroad building in Indian Territory, and some of us had come to know there was such a person as C. N. Haskell. That was all, until his star flashed across the political skies in meteoric fashion when statehood came upon us.
When the Enabling Act was passed the democratic organizations of the two territories met and agreed to join their forces in a campaign for election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. A campaign committee was selected composed of the following members; Jesse J. Dunn of Alva, Chairman; Charles D. Carter, Ardmore, Secretary; Joseph Johnston, Alva, Treasurer; W. D. Cardwell, Oklahoma City, chairman of speakers' bureau, and Paul Nesbitt, chairman of the press bureau.
Thus I found myself a lieutenant in the chief command of the democratic forces. For more than a year prior to the formation of this committee I had been doing newspaper work in St. Louis and Joplin, Missouri. Jesse Dunn and I had lived in adjoining counties in western Oklahoma and were close friends. I received a telegram from him to be in Oklahoma City when the two territorial committees met there. When I arrived he told me he wanted me to take charge of the press bureau in the campaign—and he arranged with the committees to have me appointed.
I never had met Charley Carter until then, but we became fast friends, a friendship which I cherished to his death. Cardwell I had known for a number of years, and as well Joe Johnston.
They are dead now. I am the only living member of that committee—and I am still young.
Owing to the uncertainties of the election in the Muskogee district party lines were not drawn. The leaders of that little city were determined to have representation in the constitutional convention by prominent and able men. So a citizens ticket was put out with Charles N. Haskell, democrat, as one candidate; and Phillip Hopkins, republican, the other candidate. That district was entitled to two delegates. Both were elected.
As he was on a citizens ticket Mr. Haskell did not take an active part with the demcorats, and we knew little about the campaign over there aside from the controverses which arose because of the absence of a democratic ticket.
I never met the future Governor until after the constitutional convention was in session. Many of us from Oklahoma were not greatly enthused when Indian Territory delegates took charge of the organization of the convention, but from the first days we realized that a master hand was moving pawns on that "checkerboard of nights and days."
After conflicts and strife the Constitution was moulded into form, submitted to a vote of the people, and at the election Charles N. Haskell was elected governor. I did not support him in the primary when he was nominated and we had some verbal exchanges in which I was "devastated." Afterwards we became friends, and I never had a better one—or truer one.
After a year in the Governor's office, perhaps a little more than a year, he asked me to take a position as executive clerk and I complied. I was with him until near the close of his term when I resigned to take up newspaper work. Our relations had been close and I owe to him about all that I know of practical politics. I was always a student of government, and hope that I rendered him some assistance.
Looking back to that period, calling up familiar faces, I find that I am the only living member of Governor Haskell's official family. And I repeat—I am still young.
Sometime in the late fall of the year 1920 I received a telegram
from Governor Haskell asking me to come to New York where he was engaged in business. I complied with the request. I had not seen him for eight years. I found him on the sixteenth floor of a skyscraper on Madison Street. His offices occupied the whole floor and I found him as always, working under high pressure with a long waiting list anxious to see him.
His object in sending for me was to have me write the story of his life, especially his activities in the formation of the State of Oklahoma and his term as governor. For the reason that I was associated with him part of his term as governor, and had gone through the various conflicts leading up to statehood he chose me to perform the task.
After considerable research work I came to the conclusion that any story of Haskell should be told by Haskell—in his own way. I finally convinced him; in fact, the question of time in which to relate the events he wished to put in such a story was the principal obstacle. Finally we hit on the plan which we followed as far as we got with it. He would sit in an easy chair smoking a cigar and relate incidents that occurred; and such was his memory that he could relate incidents and dates without ever referring to records. His words were taken down by a stenographer—and the lady who thus performed was Theodore Roosevelt's private secretary up to the time of his death. After a half hour of "chatting" about the events which transpired in those other days he would return to work.
Unfortunate it was that we had but three or four of these half hours when it became necessary for me to return to Oklahoma. It was arranged that I should return after two weeks and we were to continue our work to completion. As I was preparing to return to New York I received a wire stating that he was ill and would be unable to continue for some time. We never were able to arrange to complete the work. I became involved in political affairs. He came down from New York to give us assistance and we again talked about finishing our work after the campaign. It never came about—and I am here offering some of the chapters I think will be interesting and that are of historical value—principally because they are the words of the man who so largely influenced events of that time.
HASKELL'S OWN STORY
For a number of years prior to statehood, both Oklahoma and Indian Territories had made efforts to induce the Congress to pass acts admitting them to statehood. These efforts had been independently conducted as neither of the territories had entertained the suggestion that their areas should be included in one state.
In fact, single statehood did not grow out of any demand from the people of the two territories. It was forced upon us by the political powers at Washington. As far back as 1898 when states then recently admitted to the Union returned votes against the party in power, prominent republican leaders took the stand that no more territories should be admitted to the sisterhood of states. These leaders reasoned that almost all territories then seeking admission were in the South and West, geographically located, to say the very least, in doubtful territory. Then why should the republican party add to the strength of the democrats in congress by making new states which were quite likely to send up democratic delegations?
This reasoning the republicans adhered to for a number of years. However, as the memory of political ingratitude died out in the ever-changing personnel of congress; and as Oklahoma Territory rather persistantly returned a republican delegate to that body, sympathy was extended to the rapidly growing Territory. The great resources, mounting wealth and population of Oklahoma could not very well be ignored by the republican majority. However, there were enough old members in the houses of Congress to sound a note of warning.
Uncle Joe Cannon, speaker of the house in those days was one who had learned in the school of experience—and reconstruction days were not so far removed; days when the party in power retained its position by limiting the voting population to Northern states. That statehood was finally granted to the twin territories was not the result of any effort on the part of Speaker Cannon. Out of the kindness of his heart, and aside from political alignments and exigencies no kinder man ever lived, he was willing for Oklahoma and Indian Territory to have statehood—but he was in no hurry about it.
When party leaders then in power were pressed and importuned on behalf of citizens of the territories, they would suggest that they might support statehood on condition that the territories should be joined in one state. They argued that it was against the interests of the republican party to make two states which were quite likely to return democratic delegations to congress, whereas, if they must finally yield they could at least consolidate the territories and reduce the damage to their party by a minimum of two democratic senators, and perhaps a divided delegation in the House.
They were perfectly safe in making this proposal. It would keep up an agitation and no agreement between the territories was likely to be effected in the near future. Oklahoma republicans were sure they were in the majority and in the event a state was created for them, they believed they could control within the state. They did not want to take any chances of being overwhelmed by the democrats of Indian Territory. On the other hand, the Indians of Indian Territory did not want to be fettered to a white man's state. Thus political interests prevented any kind of statehood for a number of years.
Along in the early part of 1900 it became difficult to deny statehood to territories that contained a million and a half population; whose farm products were greater than any of a dozen states; that had more miles of railroads than many of the states, a great coal deposit—and oil and gas. Development of the great resources of these two territories interested and brought into them many men of wealth and influence. So great was the pressure in Congress that leaders finally conceded that some action would have to be taken—that in justice to the people of those territories statehood would have to be granted.
Finally republican leaders made known the terms upon which they would support the entry of these territories to the sisterhood of states—single statehood for Oklahoma and Indian Territory. Even after the terms were made known republicans in Oklahoma declared in their platform for statehood for Oklahoma alone, hoping to convince the ever-changing personnel of Congress that their cause was just. The organization of that political party in Oklahoma was in the hands of appointed territorial office holders, and like Uncle Joe Cannon, they were for statehood—but were in no hurry about it.
On the other hand the democrats of Oklahoma Territory held no appointive offices. There were no political ties binding them to a national dominant party. They knew that Congress would grant none other than single statehood for the two territories. The element of selfishness controlled them very largely in their stand for a state made out of the two territories. They knew that the Indian Territory white population came largely from Southern states and was democratic. They knew, too, that the Indians of the Five Civilized tribes were from Southern states and nearly all white intermarried citizens were Southern people. Democrats of Oklahoma Territory looked upon single statehood as a sure method of gaining and maintaining political supremacy in the new state.
However, democrats of Indian Territory were actuated by no such considerations. They knew that the territory of the Indians was strongly democratic and if Oklahoma Territory should be republican, they simply jeopardized their political control by forming an alliance with that territory. They accepted and advocated single statehood because they knew there was no possible chance of getting any other kind of an enabling act.
After several years of agitation, fighting for a state where they hoped to be able to control, the republicans of Oklahoma in 1905 finally accepted what they could not defeat, and joining with the republicans of Indian Territory, made an honest effort to secure statehood on the only terms Congress was willing to grant—incorporation of the two territories into one state. Bird McGuire, delegate to Congress from Oklahoma territory, decided that further efforts to obtain an enabling act for Oklahoma alone were futile and, accepting the ultimatum of his own party leaders in Congress, began lining up forces in the two territories for single statehood. In this he was ably supported by both republicans and democrats.
A convention was called to meet in Oklahoma City July 12, 1905, for the purpose of passing resolutions favoring single statehood, and selecting a delegation to attend the convening of Congress in the fall to lobby for the passage of an enabling act in conformity with the resolutions. There was a feeling that the act would be passed as soon as Congress met and leaders were anxious
to convince that body that there was a strong sentiment for single statehood in both territories.
I am relating the facts which led up to statehood as I saw and understood them at the time. Political leaders were not actuated altogether by lofty and patriotic motives. It was largely a struggle for political power and supremacy—and the welfare of both territories was sacrificed by those who were seeking political position and power in a new state. It is not a bad idea to relate facts once in a while when recording history.
I never had attended any of those statehood conventions, which seemed to be the regular summer outing of the people of the two territories. My time was occupied with railroad building and the promotion of improvements in and around Muskogee. In my work I had made the acquaintance and had become a warm friend of Governor Pleasant Porter, chief of the Creek Indians. Our offices were in the same building.
One morning about the time preparations were being made to elect delegates to the Oklahoma City convention I saw in the Muskogee Phoenix a call for a convention of the Five Civilized tribes for the purpose of asking Congress to admit Indian Territory as a state. This call was signed by W. C. Rogers, chief of the Cherokees; Green McCurtain, chief of the Choctaws, and J. A. Norman. I took the paper in my hand and walked around to Governor Porter's office, and asked him what he knew about it.
"Well," he said, "it won't amount to anything. You know the white people will pay no attention to anything the Indians do. Our wishes would have no weight with Congress."
I told him it might amount to something, if it was handled properly, and could be of great value to the Indians by letting the world know how they stand on the question of statehood. He replied "I haven't much hopes. I know there are some white men like you who understand the Indians; and I know you would do what you could, but the majority of white men will not pay any attention to what the Indians want."
We talked the matter over at some length and in the end the Governor agreed to call all of the chiefs together at a near date when we would talk the matter over again and decide what to do. I
felt that, in order to secure statehood, it would be necessary to have a declaration in favor of it from the Indians. So long as certain leaders in Congress desired to hold off statehood they could get the aid of the dissenting Indians. This they could do because it was not in line with the treaty made at Atoka in 1898 to grant statehood to the two territories. That treaty provided that, "The tribal governments so modified will prove so satisfactory that there will be no need or desire for further change till the lands now occupied by the Five Civilized Tribes shall, in the opinion of congress, be prepared for admission as a state in the Union."
That treaty was made with the express understanding that it was a step towards statehood, and went so far as to specify that "the lands now occupied by the Five Civilized Tribes shall be prepared for admission as a state." There was no thought of including Oklahoma in the proposed state and it was well known that the Indians objected to inclusion in a state where the whites would have the controlling voice in government.
According to agreement Governor Porter called the other tribal Governors together at Muskogee July 20, 1905. They met in the Turner Hotel and sent for me. I found there, Governor Brown, chief of the Seminoles; Governor Rogers, chief of the Cherokees; Governor McCurtain, chief of the Choctaws; Governor Porter, chief of the Creeks, and W. H. Murray, a kinsman of Governor Johnston, chief of the Chickasaws, who was representing the governor. It was the first time I had met Mr. Murray who was destined to take a very promnent part in the affairs from that time on, and with whom I was closely associated through the early struggle leading up to statehood and for a long time thereafter.
In the meeting we discussed the question of calling a convention for the purpose of drafting a constitution with a view to presenting it to Congress and asking that Indian Territory be granted statehood according to the terms of the Atoka Agreement. I told the governors that I did not believe that Congress would grant statehood but that they were entitled to it under the treaty. I told Ahem in the event we failed to secure statehood for Indian Territory that I wanted them to agree that they would accept the verdict of Congress and support statehood for the two territories. I told them I would take part in the convention they were calling and would do all I could to make its work a success.
After discussing the question at length we entered into a written agreement, and all of us signed it, the chiefs of the tribes agreeing to support single statehood if we failed to get statehood for Indian Territory. This was the farthest step towards accomplishment of statehood that had yet been taken for it committed the Indians to such statehood as Congress was willing to grant; and it took from the opponents of any kind of statehood the one excuse they had always been able to rely upon—the opposition of the Indians.
The formal call for the constitutional conventional for Indian Territory was made that day and signed by all of the tribal governors with the exception of Governor Johnston who was not present. George W. Scott, secretary of Governor McCurtain, signed the call as secretary of the meeting. The convention was called to meet in Muskogee August 21, 1905. The call provided for election of delegates from recording districts.
Launching a campaign for statehood for Indian Territory at the time delegates were being selected for the Oklahoma City single statehood convention did not attract much attention at first. It was thought to be a sporadic attempt to thwart single statehood and the leaders of that movement did not take it seriously until the call issued by the five governors appeared calling for election of delegates and fixing the time for the convention.
Governor Porter appointed me chairman of the Tenth Recording District and I called a convention for election of delegates. When we met there was a surprising interest in the election. Chief Porter was unanimously agreed upon, but there was considerable contest for the other places. The following were selected to represent our district. Chief Pleasant Porter; George E. Bennett; S. M. Rutherford; A. P. McKellop; Cheesie McIntosh; Rev. Grant Evans and myself. The alternates were, Connell Rogers; Thomas H. Owens; Masterson Peyton; J. P. Davidson; F. E Bentine; Judge John R. Thomas and Edgar DeMeules.
An incident of the convention was the failure of Robert L. Owen, afterwards United States Senator, to secure a place on the delegation, although he was an enthusiastic supporter of separate statehood. He came to me after the convention and stated that he had been very anxious to assist in writing the consti-
tution, and manifested considerable disappointment that he had been unable to secure a place on the delegation. I had heard that he owned a ranch near the Osage Nation, and asked him if that was a fact. He said it was and told me just where it was located. I knew a cattleman up there, so I told him I would see what I could do to get him into the convention. I called my friend who lived near the Owen ranch and asked him to call a meeting and have Owen placed on a delegation from that section, and he complied, much to the gratification of Mr. Owen.
The separate statehood plan for Indian Territory met with greater approval than we had expected. Practically every recording district elected delegates. Some of the ablest men in the Territory were elected and enthusiastically supported the plan. Many of them had been supporting the single statehood plan on the grounds that it seemed to be the only hope of statehood. Others who were supporting single statehood now looked with alarm upon the growing sentiment for separate statehood.
R. L. Williams of Durant and W. A. Ledbetter of Ardmore, both of whom became prominent in the convention which wrote the Oklahoma Constitution, were opposed to our movement for a convention called by the Indian Chiefs. They did not openly oppose the election of delegates to this convention to any extent. In an interview given to the Muskogee papers Williams said he feared the Muskogee convention would tend to defeat any kind of statehood. That was the popular idea among those who were committed to single statehood. Perhaps if they had known that the Indians were then committed to single statehood, if they were not successful in securing statehood for Indian Territory; and that hereafter opponents of statehood would not have the Indians to fall back upon as excuses for delay, they would not have felt as they did about the matter.
In an interview published in the Muskogee Democrat, August 5th, I said in answer to some of the charges being made against the Convention, "Everybody knows that the white residents of this country who own property here want some kind of statehood for their own protection—but what about the Indian? He never has spoken and Congress is waiting to hear from him. The Indian now comes forward for the first time and asks to be heard."
There were few men who cared to take a stand against the Indians, so the opposition was hushed or remarks very adroitly made.
In and around Muskogee where the convention was to meet such opposition as was at first manifested soon subsided, and even those who were not in sympathy rendered assistance in making preparation for the convention and entertaining the debates. A meeting was held in the room of the Commercial Club where committees were appointed to make arrangements. The Hinton Theater was secured for the convention and decorated for the occasion.
As the delegates began to assemble the chiefs of the tribes met at the Turner Hotel and held a conference. Governor McCurtain was delegated to call and make known that they had selected me as their choice for president of the convention. I told them that I didn't object to doing the work, but it was not good policy to make me the presiding officer.
"While this is to be a joint convention of Indians and whites, it must be kept in mind that the Indians are not merely a side issue," I told them, "but rather they are active participants. There are many Indians well known, not only at home, but in Washington; men thoroughly capable of presiding over this convention. I cannot accept your kind offer, much as I appreciate the honor. In my judgement it would be a great mistake not to have an Indian for president of the convention."
"Although we are all for you," Governor McCurtain replied, "I do think you are right, looking forward to results."
I told him to go back to the conference and agree upon one of the chiefs, and when they had decided whom they wanted, to let me know their choice; that I would then go out among the delegates and see what I could do to line them up. I told him that any one of them would be a credit to the convention and that it was results we were after—not bouquets.
Governor McCurtain returned to the hotel and they had another conference and finally decided upon Governor Porter for President of the convention with the understanding that I would consent to be vice-president. This was satisfactory all around, and we went into the convention with a program pretty well agreed upon.
There were 167 delegates elected representing every section
of the Territory, representing, too, both Indians and white people. Among them were some of the outstanding men of the Territory who were leaders and friends of the Indians. Governor Johnston, Chief of the Chickasaws, did not attend the convention and took no part in the election of delegates. He was at that time busily engaged in settlement of tribal affairs and did not want to divide his efforts. He was ably represented by W. H. Murray who became one of the leading figures in the convention.
The convention assembled at the Hinton Theater on the morning of August 21, 1905, and was called to order by Governor Rogers, Chief of the Cherokees. Rev. A. Grant Evans invoked the divine blessing and Mayor Fite extended a welcome to the delegates on behalf of the City of Muskogee.
D. C. McCurtain, son of Governor McCurtain, Chief of the Choctaws, was chosen temporary chairman. W. H. Murray offered a motion providing for a committee on organization which was adopted. This committee soon reported, recommending Governor Porter, Chief of the Creeks, for President of the convention; C. N. Haskell for vice-president; Alex Posey for secretary and James Culbertson, A. B. Cunningham and W. H. Paul, assistants; Fred Wisnell, Sergeant at Arms, E. H. Doyle official reporter, and D. F. Dickey official stenographer. The recommendation of the committee was quickly adopted and the convention was ready for its work.
Note: At this point in his narrative Governor Haskell asked that the names of all committees of the convention be taken from files and included in his memoirs. The list follows:
Committee on constitution was appointed from recording districts as follows: 2nd, James Davenport; 3rd, R. L. Owen; 4th, John Bullard; 5th, Dr. W. T. Tilley; 6th, W. W. Hastings; 7th, Theo. Potts; 8th, F. R. Brennon; 9th, Geo. D. Harperson; 10th, John R. Thomas; 11th, J. G. McCombs; 12th, G. W. Grayson; 13th, Gov. John R. Brown; 14th, W. A. Welch; 15th, R. B. Coleman; 16th, F. A. Walker; 17th, E. M. Moore; 18th, Joe Colbert; 20th, Frank O. Smith; 21st, Andrew Hutchings; 22nd, W. H. Murray; 23rd, D. N. Robb; 24th, Peter J. Hudson; 25th, S. J. Homer; 26th, W. H. Keltner.
Additional members appointed by Chairman Porter as follows: Cheesie McIntosh, Checotah; D. M. Hodge, Tulsa; Joel M. LaHay, Claremore; W. P. Thompson, Vinita; L. B. Bell, Vinita; C. B. Benge, Talequah; Thos. W. Carlysle, Sallisaw; G. W. Scott, Kinta; J. M. Webb, Kemp; Chas. Bagg, Pauls Valley; J. Hamp Willis, Kingston; J. Henry Shepard, South McAlester; Masterson Peyton, Muskogee; Leo E. Bennett, Muskogee; Connell Rogers, Ft. Gibson; Thos. H. Owen, Muskogee; S. M. Rutherford, Muskogee; A. S. McKennon, South McAlester; D. C. McCurtain, South McAlester; D. M. Hailey, South McAlester; William Sapulpa, Sapulpa; B. H. Whittaker, Stilwell; J. Hill, Beggs; Guy Bowman, Broken Arrow; R. W. Harrison, Atoka.
Committee on constitution met and organized by making W. W. Hastings chairman; Judge John R. Thomas, Vice chairman; A. Grant Evans, secy. Subcommittees were selected as follows: Preamble, declaration of right and powers of government: R. L. Owen, chm., Geo. W. Grayson, Soloman Homer, E. M. Moore, Guy Bowman. County Boundaries, County Seats and Enumeration of Population, Leo Bennett, Chm., Geo. W. Benge, D. C. McCurtain, W. H. Murray, Joel LaHay, Legislative and Executive Departments: Thos. H. Owen, Chm., Theo. Potts, Harry Campbell, Geo. Scott, Joe Colbert and J. R. Thomas. Judicial Department: John R. Thomas, Chm., W. P. Thompson, Chas. Bagg, Masterson Peyton, S. M. Rutherford. Education: J. Henry Shepard, Chm., Cheesie McIntosh, Ben Vaughn, R. B. Coleman, J. L. Webb. Mining, Militia, and Minor Administrative Departments: D. M. Hailey, Chm., Connell Rogers, John Bullete, T. R. Freeman, F. O. Smith. Corporations: Jas. H. Davenport, Chm., Thos. H. Owen, J. G. McCombs, Andrew Hutchings, R. J. Hill. Suffrage, Elections and Preservation of Purity of Government; including Initiative and Referendum: Joel LaHay, Chm., D. M. Hodge, W. A. Welch, D. H. Whittaker, P. J. Hudson. Rights and Exemptions of Property: Gov. John F. Brown, Chm., S. M. Rutherford, L. B. Bell, W. T. Tilley, T. C. Walker. Finance and Revenue: D. M. Hodge, Chm., John E. Brown, Thos. J. Carlysle, W. H. Keltner, R. W. Harrison. Miscellaneous Provisions, Constitutional Amendments and Prohibition: A. S. McKennon, Chm., D. N. Robb, Geo. Harrison, P. A. Byers, Sapulpa.
Committee appointed to accompany congressmen at large to
Washington to work for adoption of constitution: D. M. Hailey, Geo. Benge, W. W. Hastings, W. F. Thompson, Sam Mayes, W. P. Welch, Cheesie McIntosh, Sol. J. Homer, Dr. H. C. Nash, C. M. Shepard, F. E. Breman, Leo. E. Bennett, A. Grant Evans, Chas. Baggs, G. D. Sleeper, Silas Armstrong, E. M. Faulkner, Theo. Potts and J. M. Coombs.
The various committees began at once upon the task of writing a constitution. There was the usual contention over provisions of the proposed organic law such as will always be encountered by men who have studied the questions they have in hand and see and think differently, but the work was rapidly brought to conclusion—compared to other similar conventions. The convention was in session twenty-one days—completed the draft of the constitution and issued a call for election to ratify the work of the convention, and for election of four congressman.
This was the first territory election ever held in Indian Territory. Approximately 67,000 votes were cast in that election. There were less than 10,000 against the constitution. I knew that if we got out a good vote we would have to put some element of personal interest in it, so we injected the county seat question. That brought the voters out. Not all of the voters cared about the constitution but in case it should be successful—and the success of the convention had exceeded all expectations—no one wanted to fall down on the matter of county seats.
We presented the constitution to Congress and our delegation urged statehood along the lines we proposed, but, as I feared, that body would not listen to our appeal. Congress flatly told the committee that it did not propose to make a separate state of Indian Territory. Although the Indians were humiliated and disappointed they were loyal to the agreement we had entered into. They were invited by Uncle Joe Cannon to protest against joint statehood. They told him if Congress would not give them separate statehood they would be satisfied with single statehood.
The Sequoyah convention, as it was called and will always be known, did more to prepare the Indians for statehood than any other thing done for them. They felt that an honest effort had been made to bring about statehood on the lines promised in the Atoka agreement. That Congress would not grant them this right
was an obstacle that could not be overcome. I had pointed out to them in our first discussion of the subject the troubles that were in the way, but I felt that an honest effort should be made to carry out the agreement the government had entered into with the Five Civilized Tribes. When that effort had been made by some of the leading citizens of Indian Territory whose friendship they could not doubt they were willing to submit to the inevitable.
Among the men who participated in the Sequoyah Convention were some who have achieved prominence, not only in Oklahoma, but throughout the Nation. Robert L. Owens became one of the first United States Senators. W. H. Murray became president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention; was speaker of the first House of Representatives of the new state and later a member of Congress. James Davenport was elected to Congress in the first state election, and W. W. Hastings has served several terms in the National House of Representatives. Thomas H. Owens has served on the bench of the Criminal Court of Appeals, and on the bench of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Rev. A. Grant Evans became, at a later date, President of the Oklahoma State University. Moty Tiger became Chief of the Creeks and Dr. Tilley president of the State Medical Board. S. M. Rutherford at this time is serving a term as State Senator and J. M. Keyes, a Cherokee, was elected to the state senate in the first Oklahoma state election. It was my fortune to be the first governor of the new State of Oklahoma.
About ten o'clock on the night of the election of delegates to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention I received a telegram from W. H. Murray saying that he had been elected and hoped that I had been. He stated in this telegram that in the event I was elected I was his choice for President of the convention. I immediately answered congratulating him upon his election and informing him that I had been elected. I also told him not to discuss the presidency of the convention until I saw him, and that I was writing him a letter. In the letter I told Murray that I thought he was the man for president of the convention, but it would be better to say nothing until we had time to size up the situation.
I did not care to be president of the convention. I knew little about parliamentary rules, and besides the presiding officer has little time for legislative work such as I wanted to give to the making of the constitution. I knew Murray to be honest and a good parliamentarian, and I believed that he would make a good presiding officer.
As the time set for the convening of the convention was but a few days off I saw very few of the delegates. I went to Guthrie on Wednesday preceding the convening on Monday, November 20, 1906. When I arrived I went to the Royal Hotel which was then the principal one in town. I had not engaged a room in advance. When I registered I was told that every room in the house was engaged for the convention. Upon inquiry I learned that only five delegates were on the list of those who had engaged rooms. The rest were from Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and other points outside of the two territories, most of them well known attorneys for large corporations.
Mr. Brooks, the proprietor, told me he could give a room for a few days, so I accepted his offer. I knew in my own mind that the crowd that had reserved those rooms would be releasing them soon. Right then I decided that I would propose a resolution that would make them hunt other quarters. While on this subject I will say that is just what I did—and what I believed would result sure enough did. One of the first things I did after the convention was organized was to introduce an anti-lobbying resolution which was passed—and the hotel reservations were promptly cancelled. The corporation lobbyists went to Oklahoma City, principally, where they laid plans to influence the convention by another procedure.
When I arrived in Guthrie, W. C. Hughes, one of the delegates from Oklahoma City, was already there and had under way the nucleus of an organization, the object of which was to make him president of the convention. W. D. Cardwell had charge of his organization operations. The latter had been chairman of the speakers' bureau of the democratic campaign committee and was an able organizer. According to their ideas they had the convention arrangements all made.
R. L. Williams arrived the day following my arrival. There had been considerable talk about how Williams and I would spend
our time fighting each other. This talk came out of the opposition Williams had made to the Sequoyah convention. Newspapers assumed that both of us were ambitious to control, and, having been on opposite sides on the statehood question, would again line up against each other. In that they were judging us by the rule of conduct that had been followed in the Indian Territory when there was nothing but positions to fight for. At this time, however, both of us were anxious to assist in writing a constitution that would meet the conditions which had arisen since other state constitutions had been made.
I met Mr. Williams the day he arrived. We went over to a corner of the hotel lobby and I said, "Mr. Williams, you and I never have had an opportunity to work together. I have an idea that each of us will want about the same kind of a constitution."
I knew that he was pledged to everything that could be thought of in a platform from prohibition to control of corporations. I said, "Hughes is a nice fellow but I don't like the element that is proposing him and I cannot support him for president of the convention."
He agreed that we would be able to work together and said that we would have no differences on the question of organization of the convention as he was there to support me for president. I said that wouldn't do—that it was no place for me to work. I then told him I had in mind for president a man whom I thought was the right one for the place, although I understood that he, Williams, did not like him.
"If you mean Bill Murray," Williams said somewhat wrathfully, "he is the only delegate in the convention I will not vote for. We haven't spoken to each other for five years."
I told him there had been no special occasion for him and Murray to speak to each other as there had been nothing for them to do, but now there was something of consequence; that he and Murray and I must work together as we all wanted the same kind of a constitution. I told him that I had worked with Murray in the Sequoyah convention and had found him honest and capable. I asked Williams not to commit himself—to wait until Murray arrived and I could have a talk with him. I told him if Murray was unwilling to give him fair consideration, I would refuse to
support him. I pointed out to him that if Murray would agree to be fair, he and I could lead the fight to make Bill president of the convention. I told him further that I did not want to be held to any promises as I might be misled into making some I could not carry out, but that I would do everything in my power to see that he secured such position in the organization as would give him a chance to achieve his ambition to assist in writing the constitution.
When Murray arrived I told him of my conversation with Williams. He was not inclined to take Williams into the organization. He said he didn't even speak to the Durant delegate. I talked to him along the lines of my conversation with Williams—that this was no time to rake up past differences; that we were there to accomplish something and we must have harmony in order to do that.
Murray agreed finally that I was right and arranged a meeting. They had no trouble harmonizing their differences and we went to work.
Oklahoma City was the metropolis of Oklahoma and a large portion of the leading men of that territory, as well as those of the Southwest Indian Territory, had business relations at that place. Very naturally there was a closer relationship among them than existed in the eastern section of the new state. Through such associations, such men as W. A. Ledbetter of Ardmore and Sam Hayes of Chickasha came to the convention pledged to Hughes. However, the Sequoyah convention had organized Indian Territory and several members of that convention. They had worked with Murray and me and were friendly to Murray's candidacy. We worked steadily and by the end of the week it began to look hopeful for us.
Sam Hayes had known Murray in Texas and would liked to have supported him but he was pledged to Hughes. He was a splendid young man and highly esteemed in Chickasha where he lived. He made a good impression on me.
By Sunday the Hughes organization began to lose heart. They felt that we were whipping them. In passing through the hotel lobby that morning I noticed Sam sitting there looking bluer than indigo. I asked him if he had bad news from home. He said, "No, but I am disappointed. I came here anxious to
make a record in the convention. It now looks as though Hughes is going to lose out. I am pledged to him and of course, cannot break my pledge. I feel sure now that your organization is going to win, and it has made me a little blue."
"Mr. Hayes," I said, "I would not ask you to break faith with Mr. Hughes. You could not afford to do that. This is just a little friendly contest in the family, and when it is over I am not going to remember it and I don't think anybody else will. I respect you for keeping your promise—and don't hesitate to come to me if ever I can be of service to you."
During our conversation Hayes said he would be glad to support Murray if it were not for his promise to Hughes. I then asked him if, in the event that Hughes got out of the race, he would support Murray as his second choice. He said he would. I secured the support of several other delegates for Murray as second choice. I thought I could foresee the time when the Cardwell crowd would drop Hughes and try to form a combination of another kind against Murray, so I secured as many second choice votes for Murray as possible.
As I had anticipated, by Sunday afternoon the Caldwell forces were looking for a candidate to break into the Murray organization. John Leahy of Pawhuska was suggested, but when John began canvassing the situation he learned that a number of strong men obligated to Hughes would go to Murray as soon as they were released.
Pete Hanraty of McAlester, president of the Federation of Labor of the two territories, was a delegate to the convention. The democratic party had made a strong appeal to the labor vote and most all of the democratic delegates had incorporated in their platforms the demand of labor. It now occured to Cardwell that delegates would not like to refuse support for president of the convention a man who was head of the labor organizations. Mr. Hanraty had not arrived yet and T. P. Gore, who afterwards was elected to the United States Senate, called him on the telephone and asked if he was a candidate for president of the convention. Hanraty said he was not. However, when he did arrive and was urged to enter the race he did so.
This was a strategic move and might have succeeded but for two things. Murray was president of the Farmers' Union of Indian Territory and for a number of years had been active and prominent in that organization. The democrats had catered just as much to the farmer vote as to the labor vote and nearly all candidates had incorporated demands of the Farmers' Union in their platforms as well as demands of organized labor. On that score the two candidates for president of the convention stood on equal terms. The second reason for the failure of the Hanraty move was the pledges I had secured out of the Cardwell forces to support Murray if Hughes withdrew from the race.
If Hughes had not been convinced that we had a majority of the delegates for Murray he never would have got out of the race. In shifting candidates the Cardwell forces lost many who had pledged themselves to Murray when they were released from pledges to Hughes.
When the democratic caucus met to name the officers of the convention Murray received 59 votes to Hanraty's 26. It had been my policy throughout the organization of the convention to so handle the situation that complete harmony would prevail in the end. Those who were associated with me took the same view of the matter and cooperated in perfecting an organization that would start the convention work in complete accord. So, when we had accomplished the election of Murray, we decided to clinch the harmony spirit by making Hanraty vice-president.
To have entered into a factional fight in the beginning of the convention could only have resulted in making it difficult to arrive at agreements in carrying out the will of the people. From a party standpoint I never did believe that election of delegates to the convention was a true index of party strength in the proposed new state. I was sure then, and time has proven that the overwhelming majority was in a large measure a protest against the abuses in government by appointees. Republicans had been in power a long time and all blame for governmental ills was laid at their door.
I believed then, as I believe now, that party success depends upon "delivering the goods" to use a slang expression; in being honest and faithful to the masses of the people. For these reasons
I felt that it was necessary to have harmony in the convention—to subordinate personal ambitions.
One of the problems of the convention was that of dividing the state into counties. Oklahoma Territory was already organized into county units, but Indian Territory was unorganized. From the calling of an election for electing delegates to the Constitutional Convention the county boundary and county seat questions, especially in Indian Territory, had been the objective in selection of delegates. It entered into the organization of the convention and was projected into selection of committees.
Royal Allen was made Chairman of the Committee on county boundaries. Delegates got to quarrelling over county seats and county boundaries and I soon saw that it would be necessary to get that question out of the way before we could accomplish the really big things of the convention. Various committees had been at work hammering into form articles and sections of the constitution. But they were hampered by this intensely selfish question of county seats and county boundaries.
We had worked along through December and it was the intention to adjourn over the Holidays. This adjournment was to be made Saturday noon before Christmas. On Thursday morning before that adjournment, Bill Murray and I were conferring before opening of the convention. We called Roy Allen in and asked him how he was getting along with the county seat and county boundary matters. He said he would not be able to make a report before Holiday recess—that it would have to go over.
To let the delegates to go back home for Holidays with the boundary question unsettled meant more trouble. So I said, "Now Roy, this won't do. We have got to have that report in and approved before recess." As a matter of fact, not a line of it had been written.
I said, "Roy, if I were on your committee and you got tired you could go to your room and lie down and the committee could remain in session." "Well," he replied, "you can do most anything."
John Wills of Miami was on that committee—I had asked Murray to put him on. I sent for him and said, "I guess I will
have to go on that county boundary committee. If you will resign I will ask Murray to appoint me in your place." He said that would be all right. I asked him to tell me what he wanted for his county; that I didn't want him to go off of the committee unless I could protect his interests. He had an easy county to make. Being in the Northeast corner of the State it was just a question of how far west and south he could go. He marked off what he thought would be right. He said it was not all that his people wanted but was all they should ask for and do justice to Vinita's interests. I told him I thought I could protect him on that and he resigned. I was appointed immediately in his place.
The county boundary committee went into session that morning—Thursday—and did not adjourn until nine-thirty Saturday morning. We had been in continuous session forty-eight hours. We marched into the convention Saturday morning and made our report without a single protest from any member of the committee. During that committee session we had made the data for the map of Oklahoma. We divided it up into seventy-five counties. We designated the temporary county seats and provided for a means of changing them by a vote of the people—and it was a mighty good plan. (We had seventy-two county seat and county boundaryline elections while I was governor and no changes were made.)
Writing out the committee report was a tremendous job and that was left to Milas Lassater. It was not completed when we were ready to report. So I went to President Murray and said, "Now, Bill, nobody can read this report but myself—in fact it isn't written yet. We have got to get this report read and adopted before noon." We were to adjourn for the Holiday recess at noon.
John Young was clerk of the convention. I told Bill that John's throat was in bad condition, and I wished he would suggest to John that he ask for the rest of the day off—and to appoint me to take his place. This was done and I read the report. Milas Lassater held the maps and assisted me. I was an expert in land descriptions and railroad surveys, and I just read off township and county lines from the maps, which took about an hour. The report was adopted wthin twenty minutes after the report was completed.
Dividing the state into counties and designating county seats was a hard thing to do because local ambition and not common sense
governed. I got members to realizing early in the convention that we could not get all we wanted—and only by a willingness to give and take could we accomplish successfully what we had been sent to do. Delegate Bob Wlliams was looking after not only his own constituents, but had espoused the causes of various other ambitious towns all the way from the Red River to the Panhandle, and he was before the committee more than any other delegate.
When we adjourned that Saturday noon the delegates returned home with the weight of local interests removed. Of course many of them met dissatisfied constituents, but in the main the people were satisfied—and the way was open for completion of the really big things—putting together the constitution.
The Enabling act provided for prohibition in Indian Territory for twenty-one years. The constitutional convention had no option—it must accept those terms. So far as Oklahoma Territory was concerned, the question of prohibition was left to be disposed of by the convention. The liquor interests were well established in that Territory, nearly every town had saloons.
The question was a big one and entered to a great extent into the campaign for the election of delegates from that section of the new state. Some of the delegates had made no pledges, while others were bound by platform pledges to support prohibition.
The liquor question has always been a vexing one in politics. Wherever political parties were nearly evenly divided, the liquor interests were sufficient to control the stuation, and which ever party yielded the most to them, secured the offices. They held the balance of power, prostituting both parties to the end that the liquor interests should have a free hand to carry on their trade.
In the Sequoyah convention we had provided for prohibition. I have always been against the liquor traffic. I have seen so many good and able men whose lives have been destroyed by liquor that I was opposed to its manufacture and sale for the reason that it does so much more harm than good. Another reason for my opposition to the liquor traffic was the evil effect it had in politics, and the administration of government. The liquor interests had no political convictions. The forces behind it gathered around them the worst elements in society and used them as the balance of power
to defeat any party that would not favor the liquor traffic. This condition had a tendency to put men in office who were influenced and even corrupted by the liquor interests. Especially was this so in a new county where the standards of society had not become fixed and law enforcement was lag.
The only ones I have ever known to receive benefits from the liquor traffic were those who manufactured and sold it, and they were so few compared to the large element that was harmed by it that its traffic could not be justified. I have always felt that if the money spent for liquor, and which did no one any good, was spent for food and clothes and for the education of children who needed these things we would have a better state and country.
I never had in mind anything but prohibition for the new state. I was willing to let the people vote on the question for I was sure Indian Territory would vote for prohibition on the ground that conditions in the new state should be uniform, and as prohibition was fixed by the enabling act in that Territory for twenty-one years people would insist that the sister territory have no advantage or disadvantage in statehood conditions. I knew there was a strong prohibition element in Oklahoma Territory, and with the two elements it would win.
Mr. Dinwiddie, who had been in Washington as the representative of the Anti-saloon League when the enabling act was passed, was now transferred to Guthrie. Rev. Sweet, Methodist Presiding Elder of Vinita, whom I had known for some time, was also in Guthrie in the interests of prohibition. He brought Dinwiddie to meet me soon after the convention convened, and we discussed the prohibition question. Sweet did not know President Murray, so he naturally came to me. They asked me to help them get representation on the prohibition committee. I asked them if they had canvassed the membership of the convention and if they had decided who they wanted on the committee. They had not done this, so I told them to give me a list of the delegates they wanted on the committee.
They came back to see me the next day and handed me a list of six or seven names. In rather emphatic language I told them that wouldn't do as there were to be fifteen members on that committee. They said they thought they would be lucky to get half of
them. I then told them not to limit themselves but to hand in the names of fifteen members whom they wanted on the prohibition committee. They went away and held another consultation and returned with a list of fifteen delegates. The next morning when Murray announced the committee it contained the names of the fifteen men on the list that Dinwiddie and Sweet had handed me. To say they were pleased is putting it mildly.
After the committee was appointed I told Dinwiddie and Sweet there would be a four weeks' session of the convention and then there would be a recess of a week or ten days over the holidays, and that I didn't want them to get in the way with prohibition until after the holiday recess. I told them to hang around and get a line on the convention, visit with the members of the prohibition committee and discuss the question with them, but not to figure on bringing up the prohibition question until after the holidays.
I told them I was going to use the intervening time in shaping county boundaries and prohibition in order to prevent trading on these two questions. I said, "The big town is apt to be for prohibition. The little town will trade prohibition or the Saviour to gratify their ambitions to become a county seat."
They said they didn't know that such a condition existed. I told them I didn't know it, but I guessed that such was the condition and I was going to act on that guess.
When the convention met again after the holiday recess, one afternoon we adjourned rather early. I was at my hotel about four o'clock when Dinwiddie and Sweet came to see me.
"We don't want you to be disappointed," they said, "over this report on prohibition, but it is the best we can do. We have swallowed our ambitions to some extent and we want you to do the same, and support this report."
"What kind of a report has the committee prepared?" I asked.
"Prohibition for Indian Territory and local option for Oklahoma," they replied.
"That is the language of the enabling act and is only the minimum of what we can have," I said. "Did the committee go back on you?"
"Oh, No!" Dinwiddie replied, "but we want to be fair with the committee."
"Now look here Sweet," I said, "let's not waste any time. I won't support your report. I am here for statewide prohibition when we reach that question and you know it. I am not asking you what you think you can get from this convention. I know what you can get. Just tell me right quick what you would like to have."
"Statewide prohibition," they replied.
The trouble was that Robert L. Owen was acting as advisor to the prohibition organization. The liquor interests had bluffed him into believing that they were an all-powerful force in the convention, and in turn he had convinced the whole prohibition element. Every delegate in the convention would have supported that committee report with the endorsement of Dinwiddie and Sweet and the prohibition representatives, but me.
I tore a leaf out of a pamphlet containing the enabling act where it referred to prohibition and by interlining made it read statewide prohibition. I went to Bob Williams with it. I knew he was tied up with instructions from prohibition down to the point of taking a recess. He wanted to know why I didn't let the committee report go through. I told him I was opposed to any calico constitution that makes a thing a law in one part of the state and not in the other. The constitution must be uniform, I told him, and if the people don't like it and want it different let them amend it later on, but a half black and half white constitution would make it difficult for government to function.
Williams asked me to let him introduce the substitute I had prepared, and I gave it to him.
Dinwiddie and Sweet were frightened. They thought I was about to upset a good compromise they had made, although they admitted they preferred statewide prohibition. Within three hours after they had been to see me I began to receive telegrams from ministers over the state asking me to stand by the committee report.
As I was starting to breakfast the following morning, I met
Rev. Wiley of Muskogee and Capt. A. S. McKennon of McAlester who were waiting to see me. Captain McKennon had been a delegate to the Sequoyah convention, and had been instrumental in having prohibition written into that constitution. He was a splendid gentleman. Rev. Wiley was another of my preacher friends, and had been a member of the Sequoyah convention.
They had received telegrams from Dinwiddie and Sweet urging them to wire me to support the committee report. Before taking action they had conversed over the telephone and decided to take the night train and call on me. They said they felt that I was on the ground and was better informed on the situation, and therefore they did not feel like advising me.
We had breakfast together and I explained the situation to them. They agreed that I was right, and so far as I know were the only prohibitionists who supported me.
The committee made its report which was nothing more than the very least that could be got under the enabling act—prohibition for Indian Territory and local option for Oklahoma. Williams offered the substitute providing for statewide prohibition to be submitted to an election of all the people at the time the constitution was to be submitted for ratification. The fight was pitched on the substitute. We debated the question all day until seven o'clock that evening without an adjournment. Coffee and sandwiches were served to the delegates in the convention hall.
I knew there were men in the convention who were not prohibitionist who would vote for the substitute if it was presented properly. I argued that we were compelled by the enabling act to have prohibition in the Indian Territory for twenty-one years. I said, "suppose we write it in the constitution that way—prohibition in Indian Territory, no prohibition in Oklahoma. After the constitution is adopted and we become a state the people may want to vote on an amendment to the Constitution. Look ahead two or three years and see what will result from a campaign. You would have the prohibitionists of Indian Territory side of the state voting against an amendment. You would have the antis voting for it. All the people of Oklahoma would vote against it. Oklahoma side of the state would be against the repeal of prohibition in Indian Territory. The prohibitionists would be against the repeal on
principle. The anti's would be against it because they would be interested in having the activities of the state take place in the Oklahoma side of the state where the saloons would be located. Every convention would be held in Oklahoma City, Shawnee and Guthrie. You would not have a chance to amend the constitution. Let's make the provisions of the constitution uniform—the same for all parts of the state."
There was no use to make a prohibition argument to men who liked to have their liquor, and would ask you to wait a few minutes in your argument while they went out to get a drink. They could see the logic, however, in the argument for a uniform constitution and most of them voted for statewide prohibition.
The battle was a warm one, and was waged vigorously by both sides. President Murray came down on the floor and made a speech for the substitute. Murray was always courageous, and would express his convictions if there was not another man in the convention with him.
Williams who introduced the substitute sat through the fight without saying a word in behalf of the measure he introduced. It was the only time he was ever known to refuse to take part in debate.