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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 39

which had been declared fradulent by the court, and had been filed as a statement
of a vote-at Bridge Creek in Chippewa County, were all written at the same place
and time by a Jackson County official. That he had written them in his office at
Black River Falls. Mr. Knapp explained that he had examined the handwriting
of the returns filed at Madison for the places named and had taken particular
attention of the kind of paper on which the returns were written. That he had
inspected the handwriting of the official in question found in his office and in the
public offices of Jackson County. He then states before the committee, "I also
first pointed out ........ the fact that one of the half sheets, on which the returns
from Gilbert's Mills were written, on file in the secretary's office, had been torn
from a half sheet of the returns from Bridge Creek, and the other half sheet had
been torn from the returns from Spring Creek." The aggregate spurious votes
returned from the three precincts named were 294, showing a majority for Barstow
of 207. Adding to these the spurious votes returned from Waupaca County, the
aggregate was raised to 384 and Barstow's apparent majority from these four sources
to 283.
The result of the state canvass on the face of the returns was to give the office
of governor to Barstow by a majority over Bashford of 157. The Supreme Court
in its decision as to the result of this election for governor contented itself by de-
claring that Bashford received a plurity of the legal votes cast for that office and
was therefore duly elected governor of the state. In arriving at this decision many
Bashford votes were discarded not because they were inherently fraudulent but
because the result had not been properly certified to the state board of canvassers.
For instance, all returns made direct to that board from the voting precincts were
rejected as the law provided that the precinct officers should certify the results
found by them to the county board of their respective counties and thence be re-
ported to the state canvassers. Under this ruling, which was the law, the votes of
Menomonie Mills and O'Galla in this county were thrown out. It was not possible
here to comply with the law, as this county had not become fully organized and it
had no board of supervisors at that time. So far as the result of the gubernatorial
election of 1855 was concerned the two legal precincts of Dunn County exercised no
more influence on the results of the election than did the supposed legal but spurious
vote of Gilbert's Mills.
It might be thought that after all Barstow was ousted from the office of governor
not on the strength of charges of fraud but by reason of the informality of the return
of votes but the Supreme Court in overruling his motion to dismiss the proceeding
provided for his further participation in the proceedings by way of answer and trial.
His counsel, however, appeared at the bar of the court and declined to take further
action in the matter. By thus refusing to proceed in the case it was virtually ad-
mitted by Barstow that he knew that the legal vote of the state was against him.
Through the intermeddling of outside politicians Dunn County not only became
named in the scandal but also innocently became named in connection with the
resulting epoch-making decision relating to the rights of electors to have their
votes which have been lawfullv cast, counted, and not be nullified by the counting
against them of spurious votes, which by mere forms of law have been placed before
a canvassing board. It has been said that in this quo warranto case our Supreme
Court was the first of all courts in the United States to decide that it would go
behind the returns of a legally established canvassing board and ascertain in a
judicial proceeding the true lawful vote cast by the electors for a nominee at a
political election for the office of governor of a state, and decree the installation of
the rightfully elected candidate for the office in dispute, as so ascertained by it.
It was conceded by the attorneys for Barstow that in the case of a state officer,
the present procedure would lie, but they insisted that a governor was not an
officer but something other and greater, that he was an executive; that the executive
branch of the government was in some way embodied in him and that he and it
was beyond the reach of the judiciary branch of the government. The court held
that the governor is an officer within the meaning of the provisions of the constitu-
tion and of the statutes, that he in person is distinct and separate from the executive

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