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APPENDIX D.

FLORIDA POLITICAL FRAUDS.

The following correspondence between Mr. George Couch, of the State of New York, who, with his family, spent last winter and spring in Tallahassee, and Mr. Hilton, of this city, speaks for itself:

CANANDAIGUA, October 6, 1876. Judge Hilton, Tallahassee, Fla.: DEAR SIR-I learned while at Florida that in

your

Governor's election, when Bloxham run, that it turned out at or nearly the close of the time of the expiration of office, that Bloxham was fairly elected but was cheated out of the office through fraudulent returns. I wish you would write out the facts relating to this and send them io me immediately in a statement that I can vouch for. I want to show some of the croakers that the frauds practiced South come from a different side of the house than what they preach, Please answer by return mail.

GEORGE COUCH.

TALLAHASSEE, October 12, 1876. George Couch, Esq., Canandaigua, N. Y.:

DEAR SIR-To your note of the 6th inst., received this morning, I reply at once.

The facts of the case to which you refer are these: At the election held in this State, November 8, 1870, W. D. Bloxham, Esq., was candidate for the office, not of Governor, but Lieutenant-Governor; Mr. Niblack being at the same election candidate for the office of Representative in Congress--Florida then compsising but one Congressional District. Both were Democrats, and both were elected. Their opponents were Samuel T. Day, for the office of Lieutenant-Governor, and Mr. Josiah T. Walls (colored) for Congressman, Republicans; and they, though neither of them received as many votes as his Democratic competitor, were declared by the State Canvassing Board elected. The Canvassing Board consisted at the time of Jonathan C. Gibbs (colored), Secretary of State, Sherman Conant, Attorney. General (and at the same time Deputy V. S. Marshal), both Republicans, and R. H. Gamble, an old Line Whig, who dissented from the action of a majority of the Board.

The Board were able to perpetrate this outrage by suppress. ing and refusing to canvass and count the returns from nine counties, in which Bloxham received a majority of 678 votes, and in which Niblack received a still larger majority.

As counsel for Mr. Bloxham, I thereupon applied to the Supreme Court of the State (our highest judicial tribunal), for an order (known in law as a writ of mandamus), to compel the Board to include in the canvass the rejected returns, and as a result to declare Bloxham elected, and to award him a certificate of his election. The petition praying for the mandamus set forth fully the facts of the case-that the election had been held—that Bloxham was a candidate-that he possessed the legal qualifications for the office--that he had received a majority of the votes cast, but was wrongfully denied a certificate of his election by the refusal of the Board to canvass and count the votes cast in the nine counties above mentioned. None of these facts were denied by the counsel for the Board in the arguments before the court on the question of granting the peremptory writ. The objection made was that the court had no jurisdiction of the case, and for that reason should not make the order. But the author. ities furnished by the decisions of other judicial tribunals (par. ticularly of the Supreme Court of Iowa), were so directly in point that our court was compelled to decide that it had rightful jurisdiction in the matter. But the court discovered a very nice technical defect in the petition for the mandamus, which had not occurred either to the minds of counsel for the Board or to that of counsel for Bloxham, which was this: The petition not only asked that the Board of Canvassers be ordered to count the rejected returns and declare Bloxham elected (which was all right), but that the Secretary of State as the organ of the Board (made so by law), be required to give him a certificate of his election. The court held that inasmuch as the Board had not counted all the the returns and declared Bloxham elected, it had never been the duty of the Secretary to furnish him the certificate; that the petition must therefore be amended by striking out so much as asked that that officer be ordered to give the certificate, and that upon such amendment being made the order requiring the Board to count the rejected returns and de. clare Bloxham elected, would be granted.

The petition was thereupon amended to meet the views of the court. A few days (perhaps three or four), however, elapsed before the matter could be brought in the court again ; and then it was discovered that during the interval a bill had been surreptitiously hurried through the Legislature (in which body, by reason of the rejection of the returns from the eight counties, the Republicans had secured a majority) and had become a law by the approval of the Governor, whereby the State Canvassing Board had been abolished, so that, as the court held, there could be no further legal proceedings against them to compel them to do their duty. Thus (as far as I am aware), by an unprecedented legislative outrage, judicial proceedings instituted in the name of the State, to secure for one of her citizens the office to which a majority of the people had elected him, were summarily arrested.

If you have access to any lawyer's library containing the Florida Reports you will find the case published in the 13 volume, Florida Reports, commencing at page 55, where all the facts are given. The title of the case is “The State of Florida ex rel." Wm. D. Bloxham vs. Jonathan C. Gibbs, Secretary of State, et al.Thus thwarted in the prosecution of his legal rights through the summary and expeditious process of mandamus by the intervention of the Legislature, nothing was left for Bloxham but to institute in the same court tedious proceedings by an action at law against his competitor to recover the office. In these proceedings, involving great expense and delays, he was finally successful, and by the unanimous judgment of a court, two-thirds of whose members were Republican in politics, he obtained a decision awarding him the office to which the people had more than eighteen months previous elected him. This second case, for some reason which we are left to conjecture, has not gone into the Florida Reports, but I send you a certified copy of the judgment rendered, taken from the records.

As regards Judge Niblack, elected to Congress at the same time that Mr. Bloxham was elected Lieutenant-Governor, and defrauded of a certificate of his election in the same way, what of him? I answer, after a contest before the House of Representatives at Washington, he finally suceeded in ousting Walls, who had usurped the seat for twenty-three months. This tardy act of justice he obtained at the hands of members of Congress two-thirds of whom were Republican. I may add that in the election of 1874, the same gentleman, Mr. Walls, was again a candidate for Congress, Judge Finley being his Democratic opponent. Again he obtained a certificate of election to a seat to which he appears not to have been entitled; and again the House of Representatives (this time Democratic) after a much shorter contest, however, required him to give place to nis Democratic opponent.

One thủng I have not mentioned in connection with the State Canvassing Board who perpetrated the fraud of which Bloxham and Niblack and the people who elected them were the victims. That is this: Sherman Conant, U. S. Deputy Marshal and now holding the office of Marshal, was not Attor.

ney-General and thus a member of the State Canvassing Board at the time of that election. The then Attorney-General resigned between the date of the election and the day when the election returns were canvassed. He resigned, it is believed, rather than be a party to the fraud which the Republican managers required at the hands of the Board. Marshal Conant was appointed to the vacant office of Attorney-General, and thus one of the Board of Canvassers (still, however, retaining his Federal office) because his reputation as a ballot-box stuffer, established at the election for Governor in 1868, showed that there was no political job unworthy of his hands. As I have said, he is still United States Marshal.

It was during his reign when it was necessary, in 1871, at the meeting of the Legislature, for the Republicans to obtain control of the Senate, that two Democratic Senators were arrested here at the capital and taken off 165 miles to Jacksonville (although Tallahassee was and is one of the places fixed by law for holding the U. S. Court). They were kept at Jacksonville on a trumped up charge of crime, for which neither of them was ever tried, until the Radicals, by ousting members entitled to seats and putting in their places men having no claim to membership, obtained a working majority of both branches of the Legislature. Under the same reign, too, it was that a few days before the Tallahassee municipal election in 1871, at which it was thought the vote between parties would be very close, a number of our prominent citizens, all Democrats, were taken to Jacksonville, at the expense of the United States Government, as witnesses, summoned to go before the U. S Grand Jury, not one of whom was, after getting there, called upon to testify.

In view of outrages like these, the recital of which would fill not a letter but a volume, which we have suffered at the hands of our carpet-bag officials, both State and Federal—(our Legislature has been largely controlled by Federal office holders also members of that body), you need not be surprised to hear that the people of Florida are looking with aching eyes and yearning hearts for the man, be he Tilden or Hayes, who is to give us Civil Service Reform. Only this, however, I add: as Conant & Co. are the agencies by which the reform is expected to be accomplished here, in the event of the election of Governor Hayes, and as they are the parties to be reformed by their own expulsion from office, we are not sanguine as to the success of the reform promised us by the Northern supporters of the Republican Presidential candidate. “Can Beelzebub cast out devils ?" or will he if he can ? Very truly your friend,

R. B. HILTON.

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