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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter VI: Dunn County in the Barstow-Bashford election,   pp. 38-42

Page 41

court, though to negative its effect so far as that was to be political in its nature by
resigning. Accordingly on March 21, in a communication to the legislature he
submitted his resignation, and the next day Arthur McArthur, lieutenant governor,
addressed a communication to the legislature informing that body that he had
assumed the duties of governor, the governor having resigned.
It was pointed out that Barstow not having been legally elected governor could
not by a pretended resignation of an office to which he was not entitled thus trans-
mit it under the provisions of the constitution to the lieutenant governor. March
28, Basford sent a message to the legislature informing that body that in accordance
with the judgment of the Supreme Court he had assumed the duties of governor
and that he was ready to co-operate with them.
McArthur had asserted that he would never give up the executive offices until
compelled to do so by a judgment of a competent court, but Bashford armed with a
certified copy of the judgment in the Barstow-Bashford case and accompanied
by a sheriff's posse of friends walked into the governor's offices and McArthur
walked out. He is credited in the official report as having served from March 21 to
March 25, 1856. Bashford took office March 25, 1856 and served the remainder
of the term.
During this time of the trial of the right to the gubernatorial office in the court,
there went on a sort of comic opera series of events in the legislature, which pieced
together would make a laughable chapter. The whole situation is probably pre-
sented in the resolution offered bv a disgusted member who sought to condemn the
practice of the legislature in spending its time, "in political discussions, passing
buncome resolutions, framing or building political platforms," and equally frivolous
ways. The senate was republican and the assembly democratic in complexion.
This state was new at the time:'it had been admitted to the union but seven years
before this trial; Eau Claire County had not vet been established; Dunn County
had not then been organized; the state capital was mentioned in the proceedings
as the "Village of Madison;" the total vote of the state was less than 73,000 and
the margin between two political parties in a bitter contest was less than 200 votes.
The peaceable outcome was a distinctive triumph of law over force. The acquies-
cence of the people in the decision rendered showed the strength of their faith in
the efficiency and honesty of the judicial branch of their government. At the trial
three able men sat upon the bench. Judges Edward V. Whiton, Abram D. Smith
and Orsamus Cole presided. At the bar appeared advocates of wide reputation
for learning and ability. Barstow was represented by Matt H. Carpenter, J. E.
Arnold and Harlow S. Orton, and there appeared for Bashford, Edward G. Ryan,
James K. Knowlton and Timothy 0. Howe. In the report of the proceedings are
transcribed the main arguments of counsel on both sides and the separate opinions
of the three judges. The proceeding then in court w a" novel in its nature and the
question presented was political in aspect. It had already been discussed both in
and out of the legislature and had been decided in their own mind by thousands
of our citizens mostly according to the political bias of each.
The fact that all of the prevailing excitement subsided on the announcement by
the court of its decision is matter little short of the miraculous. In the case the
protest of Barstow was that the judiciary could not constitutionally interfere in the
executive department of the state and supervise its prerogatives and privileges, as
it would do if it assumed to correct or set aside the action of the state canvassing
board which had certified that he had been elected to the office of governor. On the
part of Bashford it was claimed that no interference was asked with the prerogatives
and privileges of the executive department; that the claim was that on a proper
application the court could and would protect the people in their right to an honest
vote and an honest count, this under the fundamental right of suffrage reserved to
them by the constitution. If the wrong doing against such right had been done by
a canvassing board it made no difference, the wrong would be righted. The position
of Barstow's counsel was specifically put on record by a question put by the court
and answered by Mr. Carpenter, thtus:
"Chief Justice Whiton--'Do you hold then, Mrt. Carpenter, that the executive

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