James Nelson Burnes.

James Nelson Burnes, late a representative in Congress from Missouri online

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" Love is stronger than hate .'" — James N. Burnes.







Copyrighted, 1889,

judd & detw6iler,

Washington, D. C.

i introduction

The great veneration felt by the people of the State of Mis
souri for the character and services of their distinguished Repre
sentative in Congress, the late Honorable James Nelson Burnes,
together with the sincere regard and deep affection borne him
by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, both in private
and public lite, has encouraged the collecting and collating oi
his speeches and debates in Congress and their presentation in
the following work. To his old and cherished friends such a
volume will, no doubt, prove acceptable as a choice memorial of
their associate. To those attached to him by the loving ties of
kinship, particularly the worthy members of his immediate family,
it is respectfully presented as a legacy, bequeathed to them most
assuredly, but which it has been my good fortune to succeed in
rescuing and giving convenient shape between these covers : and
which, it would seem, ought to be most precious since it com
prehends the culminating work of his life — the work he was
ardently pursuing when struck by the shaft of Death.

A collaborateur, and I trust I ma)- appropriately apply the term
to myself, undertakes a work of this character with feelings akin
to those which move one who walks the ocean strand the morn-
ing after a wreck — when there comes drifting in towards him,
like sorrowful messengers, the fragments of the good ship which
has failed and sunk into the sea. These fragments along the
shore! what mute expressions of the lives of others — of departed
friends, perchance, whose memory alone survives! Here a bit oi
something may open up a flood of memories; or even a scrap
of a letter may cause the tears to unbidden How. Whether along
the exilic of the sea or on the silent, solemn shore of that .


ocean on which some precious soul has recently sailed forever
from us, the same fragments drift in to us and are as sacredly
treasured away.

The speeches of Mr. Burnes were seldom prepared. As a rule,
they were extemporaneous. Several of those which he selected
for distribution among his constituents have been placed in the
forepart of the volume. The debates have been diligently col-
lected from the records of Congress, and carefully compiled. It
was found necessary to condense them materially, but great care
has been taken both to preserve their substance and all the re-
marks, observations, and comments of Mr. Burnes, and retain
unbroken the thread of every discussion.

As an apology for the biographical sketch, I beg to say that
I was not aware until quite late in the day that its preparation
would fall upon me, as it was expected that the narrative would
emanate from some other quarter. Aside, therefore, from the
trepidation with which the sketch was undertaken, it was written
somewhat hastily and under the discouragement of the summer

Concerning the work as a whole, I only regret my shortcom-
ings in performing what to me has been a labor of love ; for it
is a token of veneration for the memory of one whom it was my
pleasure and honor to serve, in a confidential capacity, for nearly
five years ; and upon whose grave I would reverently lay this
humble tribute.



July, 1SS9.


Tort rait.

Introduction ........

Contents ........

Life .........

Speeches and Remarks of Mr. Burnes upon:
Appropriations, time and method of making ....

for public buildings . ...

Army appropriation bill, August I, 1SS4 ....

Assay office at St. Louis, Missouri .....

Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, increase of salary of

Black Bob Indian lands .......

Bureau of Education, removal of ....

Central Pacific Railroad Company ......

Chinese Exclusion act .

Committee on Appropriations, jurisdiction of ... .

Consular and diplomatic appropriation bill, May 14, 1S84

January 10, 1SS5
February 12, 1SS7.
Conference report on consular and diplomatic appropriation bill, July 5, 1SS4

general deficiency bill, August 3, 1886
Creek Indian lands ........

Deficiency appropriation bill, June 16, 18S4 ....

July 2, 18S6 .

Senate amendments, July 29, 1886

Conference report, August 3, 18S6.

February 28, 1887

July 28, 18S8

Senate amendments, September 26, iSSS
Establishment of a United States ordnance factory, August 15, iSSS
Estimates and appropriations, ......

Expenses of United States courts. ......

Findings or awards, Court of Claims .....

French Spoliation Claims .......

undelivered argument upon
Fortification bill, August I, IS88 ......



3 0S














j 70-390






Government securities, printing of .

Haskell, Hon. Dudley C, death of .

Indian appropriation bill ......

Industrial Home in Utah Territory .....

International Boundary Survey between the United States and Mexico
Investigation of construction of Washington Aqueduct tunnel .
Jefferson City, Missouri ......

Judgments, Court of Claims ......

Judicial Districts in Missouri .....

Jurisdiction of Committee on Appropriations ....

Leavenworth and Rio Grande Railroad Company .

Leaves of absence .......

Legislative, Executive, and Judicial appropriation bill, June 10, 1SS6

Eebruary 27, 1SS7
May 26, 1SS8
Manufacture of heavy ordnance, Army warfare
Missouri Judicial Districts ......

Missouri Tress Association, welcome to St. Joseph
Naval Advisory Board ....

Non-resident alien stockholders ......

Oklahoma ........

Tress Association of Missouri, speech of welcome to

Trinting Government securities .....

Public buildings .... . .

Public buildings, appropriations for .

Public land strip .......

Public printing, deficiency in appropriation for

Relief for yellow-fever infected districts

Reduction of salaries ......

Secret-service fund, State Department .....

Senate amendments to general deficiency bill, July 29. 1886

September 26, 1SS8
urgent deficiency bill, March i^, 1888
Soldiers' claims ........

Speech of welcome to Tress Association of Missouri, ;ii St. Joseph
St. Joseph, Missouri .......

Strike on Missouri Tacilic Railroad, in the Southwest

Suspension of the Rules to pass deficiency bill, February 25, 1SS5

Temporary Navy appropriation bill, July 5, 1884

Timber for mining and domestic purposes ....

Time and method of making appropriations

Tobacco tax rebate, appropriation to pay ....

United States courts, expenses of


















• 4







68, 252








3 10



Urgent deficiency bill, March 5, 1886

Urgent deficiency bill, March 3, 1S87 ...

special, January 11, 1888 ....

February 14, iSSS ...

Senate amendments, March 15, iSSS
Utah Industrial Christian Home ......

Watervliet Arsenal, Troy, N. Y., establishment of a United States ordnance factory at,
15, 1888 .........

Washington aqueduct tunnel ......

War ships, construction of ... ...

Resolutions of Condolence:
Appropriation Committee, House of Representatives
Democratic Congressional Convention at St. Joseph, Mo.
House of Representatives .....

Kansas Senate .......

Missouri General Assembly ....

Pocahontas Tribe No. 10, I. (). R. M.

Senate United States ........

St. Joseph City Council .....

colored citizens .......

trades' assembly ......

Turnverein ......







16, 394





James Nelson Burnes was born in the State of Indiana. August 22, 1827.
He sprang from a Scotch-Irish ancestr) of honorable and excellent report, th<
distinguished for no illustrious attainment. We would fain linger to contemplate
its source and the way whence it came : for there is always sincere pleasure to be
reaped in treading the by-paths that lead up to the lives of men whose characters
we would study and whose deeds we would emulate ; were it not that by so doing
we would deviate too far from the path of our narrative, which follows the line of
modern events rather than of those more remote.

En passant, we may observe, however, that with the aid of divers records and
genealogical data — rare morsels of personal story which all well-established house-
holds indulge natural pride in gathering from the wake of their progenitors, and
hoarding away for the edification of posterity — we may trace back the connection
of the name "Burnes" through a goodly number of generations, until we catch
its echo along the verdant slopes of the Doon and among the bonnie braes of
Scotland. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that it is descended of the
same ancestral line from which issued the luckless lover of Highland Mary. But
this is of trivial consequence. We know, however, that the father of the |
Robert Burns originally wrote his name " Burnes." or '• Burness." in which fashion
it came to him, but the son, with poetic license, banished the "e" and inscribed
himself simply Burns.

The Scotch-Irish constitute a happy medium between grave solidity on one
hand and sparkling humor on the other ; between stubborn steadfastness and a
clever sagacity, and as well between uncommon combatativeness and dauntless
valor. Withal they are a noble race — virile, robust and hardy in physique, v:_
ous in intellect, unselfishly patriotic, bold, scrupulously just and profoundly relig-
ious: yet their sturdy, almost rugged, characters are mellowed by tender sensibilities
and gentle spirits.

The grandfather of Mr. Burnes came to these shores in the early morning of
American history. He settled in the Old Dominion (as the State of Virginia was
then, and is still, happily designated 1 and tilled the soil o( a farm hard by the


ancient town of Fredericksburg. The colonies were at that time- pregnant with
the dissensions with England which gave birth to the War of the Revolution, the
inceptive hostilities of which oc< urred several years after his arrival. Quickly did
he enlist his strength in behalf of his adopted country : and his memory is as balm
to his descendants of the existing age, in whose thoughts he is enshrined as one of
those exalted characters of the Revolution so vividly portrayed as " minute men " —
an humble son of Cincinnatus — prepared at an instant's signal to abandon the
plow in the furrow and shoulder his long-barreled flint-lock for the defense and
perpetuity of the divine-given right to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of hap-

It was during these troublous times that James Burnes, the father of the subject
of this sketch, made his advent into the world. He was born on the Spottsyl-
vania county farm. bebruan 14. 177m about three years before the smoke from
the guns at Vorktown, the de< isive battle of the War, had lifted from the horizon
of American Independence.

On December 29, 1805, he married Mary Thompson, a handsome, warm-hearted
girl of a worthy family residing in the adjacent county of Culpeper. The fruit of
this marriage was five sons, of whom lames Nelson Burnes was the fourth, his
birth occurring, as already mentioned, on the 2 Jtl of August. 1827, in the State of
Indiana, to which place his parents had migrated and where their home was then
located. There, on the bosom ol~ the great grassy plains of that region, the young
bud ol humanity blossomed away the first summers of his boyhood. In his tenth
year circumstances formed which provoked the pioneer spirit of his father, and
determined him to move his family still farther in the wake of the setting sun.
This was occasioned by the following event:

In 1837 the federal Government purchased from the Sac and box tribe of
Indians, and opened up to settlement, an extensive tra< t of land embraced between
the then western boundary of the State of Missouri and the Missouri river. This
territory, which was subsequently annexed to the State of Missouri, is commonly
known as the "Platte Purchase." It was toward this new country that James
Burnes lilted his eyes; and within its capaciousness he had transplanted his little
family ere the (lose of the year [837, establishing them at a point on the " Big
Muddy" where now stands the town of Weston.

In those days Chi', ago and St. bonis were sparse settlements in the " far West,"
and all that vast region beyond the Mississippi ranging from the sand hills of Da-
kota to the verdant savannas of Texas and westward to the Rockies, extending to
the remote Pacific, was a mysterious terra incognita— its great wastes untrodden by
white men, and disturbed only by the casual irruptions of predatory bands of


Asa natural sequence, the Indiana farmer discovered the region into which he
had penetrated to be a wild, unbroken wilderness, save where the occasional log
cabin of some adventuresome pioneer peeped from between the trees ol the forest
or obtruded more prominently upon the view. Yet a land riper or more promis-
ing the beams of Phcebus never fell upon. Its soil was fertile and its aspe< i
uresque. To one side the turbid Missouri, gliding on its silenl and ma}
course .seaward, the country was part rolling and part upland, at times softening
away into beautiful landscapes of grassy plains and rich woodland, and a
frowning boldh and precipitously upon the discolored water ol the river; while
away off, a< ross the stream to the westward, and partly screened by a fringing oi
trees, rolled the boundless prairie, still the dominion of the elk, the wild horse,
and the buffalo, and the hunting-ground of the Indian.

There, on the picket line ol civilization, the lithe young stripling was
to grow. It was an .auspicious school in which to train a young heart. The fresh,
pure air of the prairies invigorated and strengthened. The forests were glorious
in all their pristine beauty. Nature reigned supreme. All was free, unrestrained,
and as yet unwithered by the breath of civilization. bred up in environments of
this sort, and in the companionship of the hardy, aggressive men of the frontier,
is it strange that the young son, when grown to mature life, should look with ill-
content upon the artificialities of society and abhor effeminacy, cant, and unnat-
uralness in all their phases and vagaries? He admired legitimate methods. He
loved to be natural. He delighted in the rumbling of thunder and in the tumult
of the tempest rather than in the voluptuousness of the ball-room. Indeed, it is
an incident worth)- of re< ital that one of the strange pleasures of Mr. Burnes'
life was that of going forth at night into the rage of a storm and baring his mass
ive frame to the pelting of the rain and the bluster of the -ale.

The minds of "Jim" (the diminutive by which he was known to his juvenile
friends) and his brothers were early tutored in the ordinary schools of the neigh
borhood ; and, when not under the discipline of their preceptor, the boys assisted
their worth) father in the < are and management o\ the farm.

As time grew apace Platte county, which encompassed Weston, grew populous
with excellent families, and many villages assumed the semblance of prosperous

In his nineteenth year fames graduated from the Platte Count) High School.

Among the families that had settled in Northwest Missouri was that of Phinehas
Skinner, a shrewd, valiant Kentuckian, whose forefathers had. long years before.
blazed the path <\ civilization through that State and established themselves amidst
the beauties of die blue-rass re-ion. This good man was blessed with several


estimable daughters, one of whom, Mary by name, "Jim" met and became enam-
ored of. Their marriage followed in the year 1847. Mary Skinner was a beautiful
girl, with a sweet, lovable disposition, and possessed of a high order of mind,
which well became her. This union resulted in much happiness to both parties,
and, like wine, it grew better and sweeter with the increase of years.

Developing a propensity for the law, his brothers, with that magnanimity of
spirit and fraternal love which has prevailed with them in their devotion to one
another all through life, assisted him with their means to secure a legal training at
the Harvard Law School. He was now in the dawn of manhood — lusty and ath-
letic, with a pleasing countenance, quick eye, and a symmetrical body well tough-
ened by generous use.

His entry into the halls of the university introduced his steel to a finer metal
than it had crossed in the crude districts of the Missouri Valley, for here he
encountered the aesthetic culture and subtle suavity of the East, as well as the urbane
chivalry and lethargic luxuriance of the South, neither of which he desired to
wholly acquire, but their virtues he sought to emulate. Frank and honest in dis-
position, he soon found lodgment in the estimation of his fellow-students, and by
his convivial spirit realized a liberal popularity, which, in the second year of his
term, secured him the presidency of the Parliament of Harvard Law School.

Under the impressions created by his university experience he early manifested
those traits which were so potent in his character in mature years. An incident is
related of his susceptible nature at this time. One of the students, whom he held
as a sincere and affectionate friend, sent him a letter, it appears, preferring charges
of a very humiliating and mortifying character against him. The communication
being an open one, its contents were notorious and aggravated the severity of the
obloquy. He suffered, however, not so much from the open shame to which he
was subjected as from the wound which the treachery of his friend had produced.
It annoyed and pained him the more he meditated upon the hand that had inflicted
it, the faith that had been broken, the confidence reposed violated, and, verily, the
inconstancy of human nature generally. For several days he remained in igno-
rance as to the motive for the attack made upon him, when, being unable to endure
the suspense longer, he boldly and frankly approached his friend, and, taking him
by the hand (as he was wont to do many years later when seeking a reconciliation
or an understanding between himself and some valued friend), requested that he
divulge the secret of his enmity. The young man was disconcerted and surprised
at what he heard, and directly and firmly informed him that the letter was a com-
plete forgery, contrived by malicious minds. Burnes was so moved on receiving
this intelligence, which at once confirmed the sinceritv of his friend and belied the


presumed abuse of his own honorable sentiments, that his strong heart softened
and he wept like a little child.

Xerxes, at Thermopylae, seated upon an eminence viewing Ids glittering legions
of infantry and chariots forming in order for battle in the plain below, wept at the
thought that all the glory and power there represented must so soon pass away, '
and he and his ambition for conquest sink into oblivion. In the first picture we
perceive a man weeping for joy at the restoration of peace between himself and a
friend, and lamenting the injustice done in suspecting his faithfulness. It pointed
to a sensitive nature, and tender emotions of which he remained possessed even in
advanced years. In the second we behold a powerful ruler bewailing the fate that
must sooner or later terminate his operations for subduing nations and destroying
great armies of men.

In 1852, while in his twenty-fifth year, he received the degree of Bachelor of
haws and graduated from the University. The past had been a season of prepara-
tion and probation, and he now looked out over the great ocean of life into whose
trials and vicissitudes he was about to launch. Never did mariner scan the horizon
reaching away into the future more curiously, as if wondering what fortune it might
have in store for him. With Youth at the prow and Fortune at the helm, we may
fancy the exultation with which he embarked on his voyage of life, tending or to
end he knew not where or how.

Returning to Platte county he ardently and zealously courted his adopted pro-
fession, the meanwhile indulging his commercial bent, which eventually proved to
be one of the most potent of his qualities; in various directions, such as trafficking
in real estate, and, particularly, buying and selling hemp on commission, Weston
then being a great shipping point for that staple; nor did he fail to so control his
public acts as to elevate himself before the people, for in the third year after his
graduation he was elected to the position of circuit attorney for his judicial dis-
trict, and in the same year he was chosen Presidential elector for his district,
casting his vote for Buchanan and Breckenridge for President and Vice-President.
These preferments had the effect of exalting him in the sight <)l the community,
and secured for him a greater hold on their consideration.

His exercise in the law having grown quite active, and numerous successful busi-
ness ventures having netted him considerable gain, his means were now materially
increased and fortune was gentl) filling his sails when mutterings from the black
clouds of war, which were piling up in huge grandeur in the Southern skv, fore-
told the desolation soon to sweep over the face of the nation, and turned people's
thoughts into channels other than those of money-getting. Guided by the course ■
pursued by his State, he remained, with that Commonwealth, steadfast in his alle-


giance to the Union ; and, while not entering actively into the conflict, lie attached
himself to the militia of the State for such services as that body might be required
to perform. His rank was that of colonel, a title width adhered to him ever after-
ward and familiarized felicitously him with his friends.

In 1867 he received a sore affliction in the death of his brother Daniel, who had
always been associated in business with himself and his younger brother, Calvin.
The blow was a severe one to them, nor were they soon in recovering from it. The
six children of Daniel, who were left in a sad condition by his demise, for death
had deprived them of their good mother not a great while before, were gathered
by Mr. Burnes into his own househould, he adopting them as his own, and extend-
ing to them the same bountiful love and fatherly devotion with which his great
heart enveloped his own precious sons. This act is one of the brightest upon the
pages of h, is life.

In 1868 he had won such favor in the eyes of the people, as well for his abilities
as his personal virtues, that he was elevated to the distinction of judge of the Court
of Common Pleas of Platte county, in which position he won great credit for his
skillful interpretation of the law and his wise administration of justice. He retired
from this high office in [N72. and also from his private practice of the law. to
which, he had now been devoted for quite twenty years.

.Approaching this period, proceeding with due caution, he had gradually become
involved in the affairs and disputations of politics, and now stood somewhat promi-
nent in civic concerns. In 1856 he launched forth into the campaign then inaugu-
rated and, with added experience, into that of i860, at which times he did effective
work as a speaker, for he early discovered his aptness in this direction, and through
the exercise of this capacity he soon developed unusual smoothness and power in
oratory, which secured him great reputation in the campaign of 1N70.

From the inception of the war to 1N70 he affiliated with the Republican party,
and was a member of the State Republican Convention of 1X70, which, being torn

Online LibraryJames Nelson BurnesJames Nelson Burnes, late a representative in Congress from Missouri → online text (page 1 of 64)