History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

History of Missouri

Chapter 13: Administration of Governor Crittenden

Nomination and election of Thomas T. Crittenden — Personal Mention — Marmadnke's candidacy — Stirring events —Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad — Death of Jesse James — The Fords — Pardon of the Gamblers.

It is the purpose in this chapter to outline the more important events of Governor Crittenden's unfinished administration, stating briefly the facts in the case, leaving comment and criticism entirely to the reader, the historian having no judgment to express or prejudice to vent.

Thomas T. Crittenden, of Johnson county, received the Democratic nomination for Governor of Missouri at the convention at Jefferson City, July 22d, 1880. Democratic nomination for a State office in Missouri is always equivalent to election, and the entire State ticket was duly elected in November. Crittenden's competitors before the convention were Gen. John S. Marmaduke, of St. Louis, and John A. Hockaday, of Callaway county. Before the assembling of the convention many persons who favored Marmaduke, both personally and politically, thought the nomination of an ex-Confederate might prejudice the prospects of the National Democracy, and therefore, as a matter of policy, supported Crittenden.

His name, and the fame of his family in Kentucky—Thomas T. being a scion of the Crittendens of that State, caused the Democracy of Missouri to expect great things from their new Governor. This, together with the important events which followed his inauguration, caused some people to overrate him, while it prejudiced others against him. The measures advocated by the Governor in his inaugural address were such as, perhaps, the entire Democracy could endorse, especially that of refunding, at a low interest, all that part of the State debt that can be so refunded; the adoption of measures to relieve the Supreme Court docket; a compromise of the indebtedness of some of the counties, and his views concerning repudiation, which he contemned. [79-80]


By a series of legislative acts, beginning with the act approved February 22, 1851, and ending with that of March 26, 1881, the State of Missouri aided with great liberality in the construction of a system of railroads in this State.

Among the enterprises thus largely assisted was the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, for the construction of which the bonds of the State, to the amount of $3,000,000, bearing interest at 6 per cent per annum, payable semiannually, were issued. One half of this amount was issued under the act of 1851, and the remainder under the act of 1855. The bonds issued under the former act were to run twenty years, and those under the latter act were to run thirty years. Some of the bonds have since been funded and renewed. Coupons for the interest of the entire $3,000,000 were executed and made payable in New York. These acts contain numerous provisions intended to secure the State against loss and to require the railroad company to pay the interest and principal at maturity. It was made the duty of the railroad company to save and keep the State from all loss on account of said bonds and coupons. The Treasurer of the State was to be exonerated from any advance of money to meet either principal or interest. The State contracted with the railroad company for complete indemnity. She was required to assign her statutory mortgage lien only upon payment into the treasury of a sum of money equal to, all indebtedness due or owing by said company to the State by reason of having issued her bonds and loaned them to the company.

In June, 1881, the railroad, through its attorney, Geo. W. Easley, Esq., paid to Phil. E. Chappell, State Treasurer, the sum of $3,000,000, and asked for a receipt in full of all dues of the road to the State. The Treasurer refused to give such a receipt, but instead gave a receipt for the sum "on account." The debt was not yet due, but the authorities of the road sought to discharge their obligation prematurely, in order to save interest and other expenses. The railroad company then demanded its bonds of the State, which demand the State refused. The company then demanded that the $3,000,000 be paid back, and this demand was also refused.

The railroad company then brought suit in the United States Court for an equitable adjustment of the matters in controversy. The $3,000,000 had been deposited by the State in one of the banks and was drawing interest only at the rate of one-fourth of one per cent. It was demanded that this sum should be so invested that a larger rate of interest might be obtained, which sum of interest should be allowed to the company as a credit in case any sum should be found due from it to the State. Justice Miller, of the United States Supreme Court, who heard the case upon preliminary injunction in the spring of 1882, decided that the unpaid and unmatured coupons constituted a liability of the State and a debt owing, though not due, and until these were provided for the State was not bound to assign her lien upon the road. Another question which was mooted, but not decided, was this:

That, if any, what account is the State to render for the use of the $3,000,000 paid into the treasury by the complainants on the 20th of June? Can she hold that large sum of money, refusing to make any account of it, and still insist upon full payment by the railroad company of all outstanding coupons?

Upon this subject Mr. Justice Miller, in the course of his opinion, said: "I am of the opinion that the State, having accepted or got this money into her possession, is under a moral obligation (and I do not pretend to commit anybody as to how far its legal obligation goes) to so use that money as, so far as possible, to protect the parties who have paid it against the loss of the interest which it might accumulate, and which would go to extinguish the interest on the State's obligations." [80-81]

March 26, 1881, the Legislature, in response to a special message of Gov. Crittenden, dated February 25, 1881, in which he informed the Legislature of the purpose of the Hannibal and St. Joseph company to discharge the full amount of what it claims is its present indebtedness as to the State, and advised that provision be made for the "profitable disposal " of the sum when paid, passed an act, the second section of which provided.

"Sec. 2. Whenever there is sufficient money in the sinking fund to redeem or purchase one or more of the bonds of the State of Missouri, such sum is hereby appropriated for such purpose, and the Fund Commissioners shall immediately call in for payment a like amount of the option bonds of the State, known as the "5-20 bonds," provided, that if there are no option bonds which can be called in for payment, they may invest such money in the purchase of any of the bonds of the State, or bonds of the United States, the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad bonds excepted."

On the 1st of January, 1882, the regular semiannual payment of interest on the railroad bond's became due, but the road refused to pay, claiming that it had already discharged the principal, and of course was not liable for the interest. Thereupon, according to the provisions of the aiding act of 1855, Gov. Crittenden advertised the road for sale in default of the payment of interest. The company then brought suit before U. S. Circuit Judge McCrary at Keokuk, Iowa, to enjoin the State from selling the road, and for such other and further relief as the court might see fit and proper to grant. August 8, 1882 Judge McCrary delivered his opinion and judgment as follows:

First.—That the payment by complainants into the treasury of the State of the sum of $3,000,000 on the 26th of June, 1881, did not satisfy the claim of the State in full, nor entitle complainants to an assignment of the State's statutory mortgage.

Second.—That the State was bound to invest the principal sum of $3,000,000 so paid by the complainants without unnecessary delay in the securities named in the act of March 26, 1881, or some them, and so as to save to the State as large a sum as possible, which sum so saved would have constituted as between the State an complainants a credit pro tanto upon the unmatured coupons now in controversy. [82]

Third.—That the rights and equity of the parties are to be determined upon the foregoing principles, and the State must stand charged with what would have been realized if the act of March, 1881, had been complied with. It only remains to consider what the rights of the parties are upon the principles here stated.

"In order to save the State from loss on account of the default of the railroad company, a further sum must be paid. In order to determine what that further sum is an accounting must be had. The question to be settled by the accounting is, how much would the State have lost if the provisions of the act of March, 1881, had been complied with? * * * * I think a perfectly fair basis of settlement would be to hold the State liable for whatever could have been saved by the prompt execution of said act by taking up such 5-20 option bonds of the State as were subject to call when the money was paid to the State, and investing the remainder of the fund in the bonds of the United States at the market rates.

"Upon this basis a calculation can be made and the exact sum still to be paid by the complainant in order to fully indemnify and protect the State can be ascertained. For the purpose of stating an account upon this basis and of determining the sum to be paid by the complainants to the State, the cause will be referred to John K. Cravens, one of the masters of this court. In determining the time when the investment should have been made under the act of March, 1881, the master will allow a reasonable period for the time of the receipt of the said sum of $3,000,000 by the Treasurer of the State—that is to say, such time as would have been required for that purpose had the officers charged with the duty of making said investment used reasonable diligence in its discharge.

"The Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad is advertised for sale for the amount of the instalment of interest due January 1, 1882, which instalment amounts to less than the sum which the company must pay in order to discharge its liabilities to the State upon the theory of this opinion. The order will, therefore, be that an injunction be granted to enjoin the sale of the road upon the payment of the said instalment of interest due January 1, 1882, and if such payment is made the master will take it into account in making the computation above mentioned." [83]


The occurrence during the present Governor's administration which did most to place his name in everybody's mouth, and even to herald it abroad, causing the European press to teem with leaders announcing the fact to the continental world, was the removal of the famous Missouri brigand, Jesse W. James. The career of the James boys, and the banditti of whom they were the acknowledged leaders is too well-known and too fully set forth in works of a more sensational character, to deserve further detail in these pages; and the "removal" of Jesse will be dealt with only in its relation to the Governor.

It had been long conceded that neither of the Jameses would ever be taken alive. That experiment had been frequently and vainly tried, to the sorrow of good citizens of this and other States. It seems to have been one of the purposes of Gov. Crittenden to break up this band at any cost, by cutting off its leaders. Soon after the Winston train robbery, on July 15, 1881, the railroads combined in empowering the Governor, by placing the money at his disposal, to offer heavy rewards for the capture of the two James brothers. This was accordingly done by proclamation, and, naturally, many persons were on the lookout to secure the large rewards. Gov. Crittenden worked quietly, but determinedly, after offering the rewards, and by some means learned of the availability of the two Ford boys, young men from Ray county, who had been tutored as juvenile robbers by the skillful Jesse. An understanding was had, when the Fords declared they could find Jesse—that they were to "turn him in." Robert Ford and brother seem to have been thoroughly in the confidence of James, who then (startling as it was to the entire State) resided in the city of St. Joseph, with his wife and two children! The Fords went there, and when the robber's back was turned, Robert shot him dead in the back of the headl The Fords told their story to the authorities of the city, who at once arrested them on a charge of murder, and they, when arraigned, plead guilty to the charge. Promptly, however, came a full, free and unconditional pardon from Gov. Crittenden, and the Fords were released. In regard to the Governor's course in ridding the State of this notorious outlaw, people we divided in sentiment, some placing him in the category with the Ford boys and bitterly condemning his action, while others—the majority of law-abiding people, indeed,—though deprecating the harsh measures which James' course had rendered necessary, still upheld the Governor for the part he played. As it was, the "Terror of Missouri" was effectually and finally "removed," and people were glad that he was dead. Robert Ford, the pupil of the dead Jesse, had been selected, and of all was the most fit tool to use in the extermination of his preceptor in crime.

The killing of James would never have made Crittenden many enemies among the better class of citizens of this State; but, when it came to his


The case was different. Under the new law making gaminghouse-keeping a felony, several St. Louis gamblers, with Robert C. Pate at their head, were convicted and sentenced to prison. The Governor, much to the surprise of the more rigid moral element of the State, soon granted the gamblers a pardon. This was followed by other pardons to similar offenders, which began to render the Governor quite unpopular which one element of citizens, and to call forth from some of them the most bitter denunciations. The worst feature of the case, perhaps, is the lack of explanation, or, the setting forth of sufficient reasons, as is customary in issuing pardons, This, at least, is the burden of complaint with the faction that opposes him. However, it must be borne in mind that his term of office at this writing, is but half expired, and that a full record can not, therefore, be given. Like all mere men, Gov. Crittenden has his good and his bad, is liked by some and disliked by others. The purpose of history is to set forth the facts and leave others to sit in judgment; this the historian has tried faithfully to do, leaving all comments to those who may see fit to make them. [84-85]

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