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Censured Lawmakers

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On this date in 1890, sparks were flying on the floor of the senate during North Dakota's first legislative session. The attorney general was called a brainless parrot, and two senators were censured for insults. Republican Senators Frederick Barlow, of Barlow, and David Dodds, of Lakota, had opposed a bill, and in doing so, they compared other senators to “unprincipled demagogues, political deadbeats and shysters of every stamp and affiliation.”

The full Senate debated what to do about the two senators’ words. Senator Harry Deisem, of LaMoure, told senators to “arise in your honor and manhood, and resent these insults.” Senator William Swanston, of Grand Harbor[J1] , said: “when two senators shall hold up the majority of this senate to ridicule and call us by epithets, I think it is time to censure and repudiate them.”

A resolution came forth to censure the two senators. A censure officially condemns a person’s conduct. The resolution’s long preamble said the two senators’ language “could have emanated only in the diseased brain of an imbecile or a villain,” but Senator James Bell, of Minto[J2] , asked for that preamble to be taken out because its language was “too harsh,” saying: “I do not wish this senate to stoop so low as to handle the [same] ‘dirt’ that these gentlemen have handled.”

The Republican-controlled Senate adopted a shorter resolution censuring the two senators, and also stripped Senator Dodds of his title of president pro tempore. In a 25-2 vote, the Senate appointed Senator Judson LaMoure of Pembina to replace him.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1890, March 7. Page 1
The Dickinson Press. 1890, March 8. Page 2
State of North Dakota. (1989).
North Dakota centennial blue book 1889-1989.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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