Organic Act, Creating the Territory of Nebraska

 

The following is the full text of the organic act which created the Territory of Nebraska:

Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled, That all that part of the territory of the United States included within the following limits, except such portions thereof as are hereafter expressly exempted from the operations of this act, towit: Beginning at a point on the Missouri River where the fortieth parallel of north latitude crosses the same, thence west on said parallel to the east boundary of the territory of Utah on the summit of the Rocky mountains, thence on said summit northward to the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude, thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the territory of Minnesota, thence southward on said boundary to the Missouri river, thence down the main channel of said river to the place of beginning, be and the same is hereby created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory of Nebraska, and when admitted as a state or states, the said territory' or any portion of the same shall be received into the union with or without slavery as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission; provided, that nothing in this act contained shall be construed to inhibit the government of the United States from dividing said territory into two or more territories in such a manner and at such a time as congress shall deem convenient and proper, or from attaching any portion of said territory to any other state or territory of the United States. Provided further, that nothing in this act contained shall be construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in said territory so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians, or to include any territory which by treaty with any Indian tribe is not, without the consent of said tribe, to be included within the territorial limits or jurisdiction of any state or territory, but all such territory shall be excepted out of the boundaries and constitute no part of the territory of Nebraska until said tribe shall signify their assent to the president of the United States to be included within said territory of Nebraska, or to affect the authority of the government of the United States to make any regulations respecting any such Indians, their lands, property or other rights by treaty, law or otherwise, which it would have been competent for the government to make if this act had never been passed.

Section. 2. And be it further enacted. That the executive power and authority in and over said territory of Nebraska shall be vested in a governor who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the president of the United States. The governor shall reside within said territory, and shall be commander-in-chief of the militia thereof. He may grant pardons and respites for offenses against the laws of said territory, and reprieves for offenses against the laws of the United States until the decision of the president can be made known thereon. He shall commission all officers who shall be appointed to office under the laws of said territory, and shall take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed.

Section 3. And be it further enacted, That there shall be a secretary of said territory who shall reside therein, and hold his office for five years unless sooner removed by the president of the United States. He shall record and preserve all the laws and proceedings of the legislative assembly hereinafter constituted, and all the acts and proceedings of the governor in his executive department. He shall transmit one copy of the laws and journals of the legislative assembly within thirty days after the end of each session, and one copy of the executive proceedings and official correspondence semiannually on the first days of January and July of each year, to the president of the United States, and two copies of the laws to the president of the senate and to the speaker of the house of representatives to be deposited in the libraries of congress. And in case of the death, removal, resignation or absence of the governor from the territory, the secretary shall be and he is hereby authorized and required to execute and perform all the powers and duties of the governor during such vacancy or absence, or until another governor shall be duly appointed and qualified to fill such vacancy.

Section 4. And be it further enacted. That the legislative power and authority of said territory shall be vested in the governor and a legislative assembly. The legislative assembly shall consist of a council and House of Representatives. The council shall consist of thirteen members having the qualification of voters as hereinafter prescribed, whose term of service shall continue two years. The house of representatives shall, at its first session, consist of twenty-six members, possessing the same qualifications as prescribed for members of the council, and whose term of service shall continue one year. The number of representatives may be increased by the legislative assembly from time to time in proportion to the increase of qualified voters; provided, that the whole number shall never exceed thirty-nine. An apportionment shall be made as nearly equal as practicable, among the several counties or districts for the election of the council and representatives, giving to each section of the territory representation in the ratio of its qualified voters as nearly as may be. And the members of the council and of the House of Representatives shall reside in, and be inhabitants of, the district or county or counties for which they may be elected, respectively. Previous to the first election, the governor shall cause a census or enumeration of the inhabitants and qualified voters of the several counties and districts of the territory to be taken by such persons and in such mode as the governor shall designate and appoint, and the persons so appointed shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor. And the first election shall be held at such time and places, and be conducted in such a manner, both as to the persons who shall superintend such election and the returns thereof, as the governor shall appoint and direct; and he shall at the same time declare the number of members of the council and house of representatives to which each of the counties or districts shall be entitled under this act. The persons having the highest number of legal votes in each of said council districts for members of the council shall be declared by the governor to be duly elected to the council; and the persons having the highest number of legal votes for the house of representatives shall be declared by the governor to be duly elected members of said house: Provided, That in case two or more persons voted for shall have an equal number of votes, and in case a vacancy shall otherwise occur in either branch of the legislative assembly, the governor shall order a new election; and the persons thus elected to the legislative assembly shall meet at such place and on such day as the governor shall appoint; but thereafter, the time, place and manner of holding and conducting all elections by the people, and the apportioning the representation in the several counties or districts to the council and house of representatives, according to the number of qualified voters, shall be prescribed by law, as well as the day of the commencement of the regular sessions of the legislative assembly: Provided, That no session in any one year shall exceed the term of forty days, except the first session, which may continue sixty days.

Section 5. And be it further enacted. That every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years, who shall be an actual resident of said territory, and shall possess the qualifications hereinafter described, shall be entitled to vote at the first election, and shall be eligible to any office within the said territory; but the qualifications of voters, and of holding office, at all subsequent elections, shall be such as shall be prescribed by the legislative assembly: Provided, That the right of suffrage and of holding office shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States, and those who shall have declared on oath their intention to become such, and shall have taken an oath to support the constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act. And provided further. That no officer, soldier, seaman or marine, or other person in the army or navy of the United States, or attached to troops in the service of the United States, shall be allowed to vote or hold office in said territory, by reason of being on service therein.

Section 6. And be it further enacted. That the legislative power of the territory shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation consistent with the constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act; but no law shall be passed interfering with the primary disposal of the soil; no tax shall be imposed upon the property of the United States; nor shall the lands or other property of nonresidents be taxed higher than the lands or other property of residents. Every bill which shall have passed the council and house of representatives of the said territory shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the governor of the territory; if he approve, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to the house in which it originated, who shall enter the objections at large on its journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of that house shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of that house it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, to be entered on the journal of each house respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the governor within three days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the assembly, by adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Section 7. And be it further enacted. That all township, district and county officers, not herein otherwise provided for, shall be appointed or elected, as the case may be, in such manner as shall be provided by the governor and legislative assembly of the territory of Nebraska. The governor shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the legislative council, appoint all officers not herein otherwise provided for; and in the first instance the governor alone may appoint all said officers, who shall hold their offices until the end of the first session of the legislative assembly; and shall lay off the necessary districts for members of the council and house of representatives and all other officers.

Section 8. And be it further enacted, That no member of the legislative assembly shall hold, or be appointed to, any office which shall have been created, or the salary or emoluments of which shall have been increased, while he was a member, during the term from which he was elected, and for one year after the expiration of such term; but this restriction shall not be applicable to members of the first legislative assembly; and no person holding a commission or appointment under the United States, except postmasters, shall be a member of the legislative assembly, or hold any office under the government of said territory.

Section 9. And be it further enacted. That the judicial power of said territory shall be invested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts, and in justices of the peace. The supreme court shall consist of a chief justice and two associate justices, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum, and who shall hold a term at the seat of government of said territory annually, and they shall hold their offices during the period of four years, and until their successors shall be appointed and qualified. The said territory shall be divided into three judicial districts, and a district court shall be held in each of said districts by one of the justices of the supreme court, at such times and places as shall be prescribed by law; and the said judges shall, after their appointments, respectively reside in the districts which shall be assigned them. The jurisdiction of the several courts herein provided for, both appellate and original, and that of the probate courts and justices of the peace, shall be as limited by law: Provided, That justices of the peace shall not have jurisdiction of any matter in controversy when the title or boundaries of land may be' in dispute, or where the debt or sum claimed shall exceed $100; and the said supreme and district courts, respectively, shall possess chancery as well as common law jurisdiction. Each district court, or the judge thereof, shall appoint its clerk, who shall also be register in chancery, and shall keep his office at the place where the court may be held. Writs of error, bills of exception and appeals shall be allowed in all cases from the final decisions of said district courts to the Supreme Court, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law; but in no case removed to the Supreme Court shall trial by jury be allowed in said court. The Supreme Court, or justices thereof, shall appoint its own clerk, and every clerk shall hold his office at the pleasure of the court for which he shall have been appointed. Writs of error, and appeals from the final decisions of said supreme court, shall be allowed, and may be taken to the supreme court of the United States, in the same manner and under the same regulations as from the circuit courts of the United States, where the value of the property, or the amount in controversy, to be ascertained by the oath or affirmation of either party, or other competent witness, shall exceed $1,000; except only that in all cases involving title to slaves, the said writs of error or appeals shall be allowed and decided by the supreme court, without regard to the value of the matter, property or title in controversy; and except also that a writ of error or appeal shall also be allowed to the supreme court of the United States, from the decision of the said supreme court created by this act, or of any judge thereof, or of the district courts created by this act, or of any judge thereof, upon any writ of habeas corpus involving the question of personal freedom. Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to apply to or affect the provisions of the "act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters," approved February 12, 1793, and the "act to amend and supplementary to the aforesaid act," approved September 18, 1850; and each of the said district courts shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction in all cases arising under the constitution and laws of the United States as is vested in the circuit and district courts of the United States; and the said supreme and district courts of the said territory, and the respective judges thereof, shall and may grant writs of habeas corpus in all cases on which the same are granted by the judges of the United States in the District of Columbia; and the first six days of every term of said courts, or so much thereof as shall be necessary, shall be appropriated to the trial of causes arising under the said constitution and laws, and writs of error and appeal in all such cases shall be made to the supreme court of said territory, the same as in other cases. The said clerk shall receive in all such cases the same fees which the clerks of the district courts of Utah territory now receive for similar services.

Section 10. And be it further enacted, That the provisions of an act entitled "an act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters," approved February 12, 1793, and the provisions of the act entitled "an act to amend, and supplementary to, the aforesaid act," approved September 18, 1850, be, and the same are hereby declared to extend to and be in full force within the limits of said territory of Nebraska.

Section 11. And be it further enacted. That there shall be appointed an attorney for said territory, who shall continue in office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the president, and who shall receive the same fees and salary as the attorney for the United States for the present territory of Utah. There shall also be a marshal for the territory appointed, who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the president, and who shall execute all processes issuing from the said courts when exercising their jurisdiction as circuit and district courts of the United States; he shall perform the duties, be subject to the same regulations and penalties, and be entitled to the same fees, as the marshal of the district court of the United States for the present territory of Utah; and shall, in addition, be paid $200 annually as a compensation for extra service.

Section 12. And be it further enacted, That the governor, secretary, chief justice and associate justices, attorney and marshal shall be nominated, and, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, appointed by the president of the United States. The governor and secretary to be appointed as aforesaid shall, before they act as such, respectively take an oath or affirmation before the district judge, or some justice of the peace in the limits of said territory duly authorized to administer oaths and affirmations by the laws now in force therein, or before the chief justice or some associate justice of the supreme court of the United States, to support the constitution of the United States and faithfully to discharge the duties of their respective offices, which said oaths, when so taken, shall be certified by the person by whom the same shall have been "taken; and such certificates shall be received and recorded by the said secretary, among the executive proceedings; and the chief justice and associate justices, and all other civil officers in said territory, before they act as such, shall take a like oath or affirmation before the said governor or secretary, or some judge or justice of the peace of the territory, who may be duly commissioned and qualified, which said oath or affirmation shall be certified and transmitted by the person taking the same to the secretary, to be by him recorded as aforesaid; and afterward the like oath or affirmation shall be taken, certified and recorded, in such manner and form as may be prescribed by law. The governor shall receive an annual salary of $2,500. The chief justice and associate justices shall each receive an annual salary of $2,000. The secretary shall receive an annual salary of $2,000. The said salaries shall be paid quarter-yearly, from the dates of the respective appointments, at the treasury of the United States; but no such payments shall be made until said officers shall have entered upon the duties of their respective appointments. The members of the legislative assembly shall be entitled to $3 each, per day, during their attendance at the sessions thereof, and $3 each for every twenty miles' travel in going to and returning from the said sessions, estimated according to the nearest usually traveled route, and an additional allowance of $3 shall be paid to the presiding officer of each house for each day he shall so preside. And a chief clerk, and assistant clerk, a sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper, may be chosen for each house; and the chief clerk shall receive $4 per day, and the said other officers $3 per day, during the session of the legislative assembly; but no other officer shall be paid by the United States: Provided, That there shall be but one session of the legislature annually, unless on an extraordinary occasion the governor shall think proper to call the legislature together. There shall be appropriated, annually, the usual sum, to be expended by the governor, to defray the contingent expenses of the territory, including the salary of a clerk of the executive department; and there shall also be appropriated annually a sufficient sum, to be expended by the secretary of the territory, and upon an estimate to be made by the secretary of the treasury of the United States, to defray the expenses of the legislative assembly, the printing of laws, and other incidental expenses; and the governor and secretary of the territory shall, in the disbursement of all moneys entrusted to them, be governed solely by the instructions of the secretary of the treasury of the United States, and shall, semiannually, account to the said secretary for the manner in which the aforesaid moneys shall have been expended; and no expenditures shall be made by said legislative assembly for objects not specially authorized by the acts of congress making the appropriations, nor beyond I he sums thus appropriated for such objects.

Section 13. And be it further enacted. That the legislative assembly of the territory of Nebraska shall hold its first session at such time and place in said territory as the governor thereof shall appoint and direct; and at the said first session, or as soon thereafter as they shall deem expedient, the governor and legislative assembly shall proceed to locate and establish the seat of government for said territory at such place as they may deem eligible; which place, however, shall thereafter he subject to be changed by the said governor and legislative assembly.

Section 14. And be it further enacted. That a delegate to the house of representatives, of the United States, to serve for the term of two years, who shall be a citizen of the United States, may be elected by the voters qualified to elect members of the legislative assembly, who shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges as are exercised by the delegates from the several other territories of the United States to the said house of representatives; but the delegate first elected shall hold his seat only during the term of congress to which he shall be elected. The first election shall be held at such time and places, and be conducted in such manner, as the governor shall appoint and direct; and at all subsequent elections the times, places and manner of holding the elections shall be prescribed by law. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be declared by the governor to be duly elected, and a certificate there of shall be given accordingly. That the constitution and laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within the said territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which being inconsistent with the principles of nonintervention by congress with slavery in the states and territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void, it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any territory or state nor to exclude it there from, but leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the act of 6th March, 1820, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting or abolishing slavery.

Section 15. And be it further enacted. That there shall hereafter be appropriated, as has been customary for the territorial governments, a sufficient amount, to be expended under the direction of the said governor of the territory of Nebraska, not exceeding the sums heretofore appropriated for similar objects, for the erection of suitable public buildings at the seat of government, and for the purchase of a library, to be kept at the seat of government, for the use of the governor, legislative assembly, judges of the supreme court, secretary, marshal, attorney of said territory and such other persons, and under such regulations, as shall be prescribed by law.

Section 16. And be it further enacted, That when the lands in the said territory shall be surveyed under the direction of the government of the United States, preparatory to bringing the same into market, sections number 16 to 36 in each township in said territory sha![ be and the same are hereby reserved for the purpose of being applied to schools in said territory, and in the states and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same.

Section 17. And be it further enacted, That, until otherwise provided by law, the governor of said territory may define the judicial districts of said territory, and assign the judges who may be appointed for said territory to the several districts; and also appoint the times and places for holding courts in the several counties or subdivisions in each of said judicial districts by proclamation, to be issued by him; but the legislative assembly, at their first or any subsequent session, may organize, alter or modify such judicial districts; and assign the judges, and alter the times and places of holding the courts, as to them shall seem proper and convenient.

Section 18. And be it further enacted. That all officers to be appointed by the president, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, for the territory of Nebraska, who, by virtue of the provisions of any law now existing, or which may be enacted during the present congress, are required to give security for moneys that may be entrusted with them for disbursement, shall give such security, at such time and place and in such manner as the secretary of the territory may prescribe.

Approved May 30, 1854.


Source: Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography Of Nebraska, Alden Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912

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