Oklahoma Question In Congress of '88
From Vol. 2, A Standard History of Oklahoma, pp. 603-636, by Joseph B. Thoburn, we learn a bit more history of the Cherokee Outlet, Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association, 1889 Opening of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Question in Congress during those early days of Oklahoma & Indian Territory.
As an instance of the spirit of accord between the cattlemen and some of the leaders in Congress, even before the organization of the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association, the following extract copy of a letter, dated at Washington, District of Columbia, January 19, 1883, from United States Senator Preston B. Plumb of Kansas to E. M. Hewins, who was shortly afterward chosen a director of the association under its articles of incorporation, bears evidence:
When the 50th Congress convened, in December, 1887, the Oklahoma measure was again introduced and was championed by its old friends, Weaver and Springer, together with representative Charles Mansur, of Missouri. During the winter and the early part of the following Spring, the Oklahoma Bill occupied a great deal of attention in congress. Its friends were no more determined than its enemies, the latter being aided by strong lobbying forces. On 26 April, 1888, the opponents of the Oklahoma Bill made a desperate effort to have the so-called No-Man's Land attached to Kansas, hoping to cripple the Oklahoma movement, but the attempt resulted in failure.
The agitation for the opening of the unoccupied lands in the Indian Territory had the effect of attracting increased attention to Indian affairs generally and led to the introduction of several novel measures into congress for the purpose of regulating the same. One of those, which was the occasion of considerable sarcastic comment in the Indian Territory was introduced in the Senate by Senator Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts, and had for its object the discouragement of further intermarriages between Indians and whites.
In the House, Representative S. W. Peel, of Arkansas, introduced a bill to authorize the people of the Indian Territory to elect a territorial delegate to the 51st Congress.
Representative George T. Barnes, of Georgia, introduced a measure as a substitute for the Springer Bill, one of the purposes of which was to provide for the removal of all Indians in the territory to lands lying East of the 98th Meridian in order that the entire western part of the territory might be thrown open to white settlement.
Springer, Weaver and Mansur did not succeed in making much headway with their Oklahoma Bill. The opposition threw every possible obstacle in the way and, as the first session lengthened out, other matters seemed to crowd it aside. The excitement of a presidential campaign also tended to detract from the popular interest in the proposed legislation for the legal opening of Oklahoma to white settlement. Much of the popular interest in the Oklahoma movement may have seemed to lag during the summer and autumn of 1888. It was apparent that it was but a temporary lull, for when congress reconvened in December, it gave evidence of added strength.
Couch, Clarke and Crocker, who were the personal representatives of the "boomers," were on the ground to watch every movement and urge immediate action. The business interests of adjacent states began to take an active part in the matter. An Oklahoma convention was held in Baxter Springs, Kansas, December 18, 1888, which was largely attended by representatives of various parts of Kansas and Missouri. It memorialized congress to pass the Oklahoma Bill. A similar convention was held at Fort Smith, Arkansas, January 24, 1889, and gave formal expression to the same sentiment. But the winter wore away with little or no show of progress toward the passage of the Oklahoma Bill.
During the winter of 1888-89 the Indians of the five civilized tribes were represented at Washington by delegations which included some of their ablest men and leaders.
The Indian delegation included Col. George W. Harkins (Choctaw but representing Chickasaws), W. P. Boudinot, Cherokee (nephew of Stand Watie), L. B. Bell (Hooley in Cherokee), Isparhechar and Col. G. W. Grayson (Creek), Judge B. W. Carter (Cherokee-Chickasaw), Senator George Sanders ("Soggy") and Stan W. Gray (Cherokee), Campbell LeFlore (Choctaw), and Sam Paul (Chickasaw).
Hooley (Bell) was asked by a member of congressional committee on territories: "Mr. Bell, what do you do for a living?" With a serio-comic expression on his face Hooley replied, "Various things. I practice law a little, farm some, run for office occasionally, now and then take a hand at poker and never miss a horse race if I can get to it. The rest of my time I spend in trying to fool God like you white people do."
Chances of the Oklahoma Bill were growing more doubtful as the days went by. Finally, in sheer desperation, Representative James B. Weaver, of Iowa, led in a resort to filibustering tactics until, very reluctantly, the committee on rules was forced to abandon its arbitrary position and consent to the consideration of the Oklahoma bill.
The Springer bill was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 148 to 102, February 1, 1889. In the Senate it was debated and referred to the committee on territories, which submitted a favorable recommendation, without amendment, February 18, 1889. One week later, Senator Shelby M. Cullom, of Illinois, tried to have it called up for consideration but was unsuccessful on account of other measures which had precedence over it.
Saturday, March 2, 1889 arrived and no further progress had been made. Inaction probably suited the opposition to the Oklahoma bill better than negative action, since it did not put them on record. Although, it looked as if the measure was doomed to failure, its leaders and backers were not lacking in resourcefulness to this critical juncture.
Assured of the friendship of a strong majority in the House, they naturally turned to that body in their extremity. An amendment to the Indian Appropriation Bill (which had not yet been passed), was hastily prepared, providing for the opening of the unassigned lands to settlement under the homestead laws. No attempt was made to include provisions for territorial government. Thus amended, the measure passed the House late in the last day of the session. The Senate strongly objected to this course of procedure but in the end it was forced to cecede or see the Indian Appropriation Bill fail of enactment. The President of the United States was also authorized to create two land districts and locate the land offices.
The amendment to the Indian Appropriation Bill provided that the unoccupied lands of the tracts ceded to the government by the Creek and Seminole Nations should be regarded as a part of the public domain of the United States and subject to homestead entry from and after a date to be set by an executive proclamation which should prescribe needed rules and regulations to cover possible contingencies.
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