Conrad Baker (1866 – 1873)
Conrad Baker was Indiana’s first post-war governor. Baker had studied law under prominent Radical Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Stevens. In 1841, Baker moved his law practice from Pennsylvania to Evansville and became involved in Vanderburgh County politics, serving as a Whig state representative. He was outspoken against slavery and, when the Whig Party broke up, joined the Republicans. He ran as Oliver Morton’s lieutenant governor in their unsuccessful 1854 campaign. When Morton ran in 1864 (Morton had been Henry Lane’s lieutenant in 1860), Baker was again Morton’s running mate. Baker was acting governor for a period of time as Oliver Morton was recovering from a stroke and took over the governor’s position when Oliver Morton was elected to the Senate. He was elected in his own right in 1868 in a closely contested race against Thomas Hendricks.
In 1862, Congress had passed and President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act. That legislation had been passed to allow use of public lands for colleges focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts “in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Each state received 30,000 acres of public land for each member of Congress the state had. The land, or proceeds from its sale, was to be used to fund a land-grant college. In 1865, Indiana elected to accept the terms of the Act and, in 1869, Governor Baker signed legislation under the land-grant system to found Purdue. Tippecanoe County’s proposal had included $150,000 (equivalent to $2.7 million) from Lafayette business leader and philanthropist John Purdue, $50,000 from the county, and 100 acres of land from local residents. Purdue was a merchant and former teacher with a variety of civic interests in the Tippecanoe County area. One area where he seems to have profited a great deal was from supplying pork to the Union during the Civil War.
Post-War Constitutional Amendments
It was at the end of the Morton administration and beginning of the Baker administration during which the post-war Constitutional Amendments were passed.
The Thirteenth Amendment, prohibiting slavery, had passed fairly rapidly under Governor Morton in February 1865. It was passed by both chambers within a week, although some Democratic dead enders contemplated an unsuccessful effort to bolt the legislature in order to stall or prevent its passage.
In 1866, an Indiana Supreme Court with four Republican justices elected on the same ticket as Morton and Conrad (and Lincoln) declared Article XIII of the Indiana Constitution invalid. Article XIII was the provision added to the 1851 Constitution that prohibited black people from moving into the state and declared void all contracts with blacks who were in the state in violation of the constitutional provision. The case was Smith v. Moody. Smith was a black man, and Moody owed him money on a promissory note. When Smith sued to collect, Moody said he didn’t have to pay because Smith was here illegally under Article XIII and, therefore, the contract was void. The Indiana Supreme Court made passing reference to the recently adopted Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but it primarily relied on the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution to say that Article XIII illegally deprived people like Moody of the government’s protection and the enjoyment of life and liberty. While upholding some rights for black people, like freedom of movement and the right to contract; the court stopped short of full equality. Black people did not, for example, have the right to vote or hold office; and the Court said this was o.k.
Ellsworth Shade, in a 1960 masters thesis examines the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in Indiana in 1866 and 1867. The Fourteenth Amendment does a number of things — it overturned the Dred Scott decision and guaranteed citizenship to blacks. It sought to guarantee equal protection and impose due process protections against state infringement. It dealt with Congressional representation in light of the three-fifths clause being nullifed. It attempted to disqualify rebels from holding office. And, it prohibited payment of Southern debts related to the rebellion. During the summer of 1866, Oliver Morton championed its ratification in Indiana. The parts that inflicted pain on the Southerners were easy enough to sell, but Hoosiers were not necessarily comfortable with the parts about civil rights for black people. Oliver Morton argued that nobody who wasn’t a monarchist or a believer in slavery could take issue with it. Appealing to regionalism, he said that, finally, Southern whites would be prohibited from enjoying representation on the basis of a black population that had been deprived of civil rights. Indiana Democrats campaigned hard against the Fourteenth Amendment, but the elections that year strongly favored the Republicans. The Republicans controlled both chambers of the legislature and won 8 of the 11 Congressional Districts. In advocating for ratification of the Amendment, Governor Morton unloaded on the South:
Morton then launched a verbal attack upon the South. He accused the Southerners of instituting a reign of terror by persecuting the freedmen and forcing other loyal Union men to flee for their lives. The Governor asserted that the South had, by these actions, stirred the anger of the nation and produced a cry for vengeance throughout the country. Warning Southerners to flee from the wrath to come, Morton called upon the people of the South to put away their perjured traitors, to make haste to abandon their sins, and to accept the proffered terms of restoration presented 2 to them in the proposed amendment.”
Republicans having the upper hand in the legislature and the Democrats being largely powerless to stop the amendment, the debate was relatively brief. Republicans mostly ignored Democratic arguments, quickly rehashed some of their own, and voted to ratify the Amendment about a week after the legislature convened, 29 to 16 in the Senate, and 55 to 36 in the House.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States had a tougher ratification fight. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In 1913, William Gerhichs wrote a comprehensive account of its ratification in Indiana. In 1865, Oliver Morton did not particularly favor immediate enfranchisement, preferring to give freed slaves political power gradually. Among other rationales, he believed that giving blacks immediate rights would be a “pro-slavery” argument — saying that freed slaves were ready for political power would be an indication that slavery had been beneficial enough to them to prepare them for civic responsibility. In any event, given Indiana’s treatment of blacks in its recently adopted 1851 Constitution, it’s fair to say that the population wasn’t fervently progressive when it came to the rights of black people. That said, Morton came around on the issue. Probably because he was a loyal Republican as much as anything else. He felt that passage of the 15th Amendment was necessary to create loyal Republican government in the South. As a Senator, Morton battled with Indiana’s other Senator, Thomas Hendricks. Hendricks disfavored the amendment, believing that loyal states should be able to choose their own course in terms of permitting or denying black suffrage.
In February of 1869, the Fifteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress, and on March 1, 1869, Governor Baker submitted the proposed amendment to the legislature. At first, Democrats urged that consideration of the Amendment be postponed until more routine, more pressing matters were taken care of. They also urged that because no party had campaigned on black suffrage in the most recent elections, consideration of the Amendment should be put off until the next election. When the Republicans did not go along with that, the Democrats bolted. On March 3, the Democrats caucused until midnight. On March 4, 1869, seventeen Senators and thirty-seven Representatives — all Democrats — resigned. Three Democratic Senators and six Representatives did not resign. (Republicans claimed that these were legislators who didn’t figure to get re-elected if they had resigned.) Governor Baker issued a writ for a special election to fill the resigned positions on March 23. (This was only 12 days before a regular election scheduled in April. Failing to wait the 12 days to hold the election was seen as an effort to impose punitive expenses on the districts who had elected the bolting legislators.) The Democrats were chastised for taking their per diem and their allotment of stamps and stationary. One was accused of trading his stamps for a plow:
“One of the conscientious bolters yesterday ‘turned an honest penny ’ by exchanging $18 worth of postage stamps, paid for by the money of the State, for a couple of plows. Here is a fine example of a retired statesman imitating the high Roman fashion of Cincinnatus.”
The constituents of the Democratic bolters were hardly outraged, however. All of the bolters were re-elected in the special election. A special session convened on April 12, and consideration of the Amendment was postponed until May. In that respect, the Democratic bolt seems to have accomplished one of its goals. When the proposal was drawing near to consideration, Democrats proposed to bolt again. Republicans resolved to use some strong arm tactics. Several senators claimed to have resigned but they had not left the building. The door keeper was told to bring them into the chamber, the doors were locked (apparently locked by a Republican senator by the name of Isaac Gray — who would later become a Democratic governor), and they were counted for purposes of a quorum despite claiming to have resigned. The vote was 27 to 1 with 10 marked as present but not voting. After some failed attempts in the House to get a quorum, the Speaker finally decided that the rules for a quorum on a Constitutional Amendment were different — that the necessary percentage should be calculated based on the number of representatives who had not resigned. The House then proceeded with a vote where the Amendment passed 54-0 with 3 not voting. Gehrichs concludes his evaluation of this episode with the opinion that, while the Republicans were on morally defensible ground, viewed through the letter of the law, the Fifteenth Amendment was probably never legally passed in Indiana.
Some other accomplishments during Baker’s term were “appropriations for a soldier’s home, a house of refuge for juvenile offenders, uncontrollable boys and children with unfit parents, and a woman’s prison.” After his term, Baker went into private practice, joining with incoming governor, Thomas Hendricks’ firm,” the law firm of Hendricks, Hord & Hendricks which became Baker, Hord & Hendricks when Thomas Hendricks became governor.” The firm would eventually become the prominent Indianapolis firm, Baker & Daniels (now Faegre Baker Daniels).
And, on a personal note, it appears that it was during Gov. Baker’s term that the first Massons were born in Indiana. James Masson, son of Mansfield B. Masson, had moved from Cincinnati to Indianapolis at some point in the 1850s or 1860s. In 1867, my great-grandfather, Mansfield Ross Masson (founder of the M. Ross Masson company) was born. He had a brother (Woodburn) who would become an Indianapolis lawyer of some prominence another brother, James, who became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a sister, Jennie who became a stenographer and, apparently headed up the shorthand department at the Indianapolis Business University for some time.