David Butler, Nebraska’s first state governor, was one of the most controversial figures ever to hold the office. Faced with the problems of transition from a territorial to a state government, he got into difficulties with the Legislature at the start of his third term in the spring of 1871. Eleven articles of impeachment were preferred against him, the first being that he had appropriated to his own use some $16,000 of the school fund given the state by the federal government. He was convicted on that charge (although acquitted on the other ten), and removed from office. In 1877 the Legislature reviewed its action and adopted a resolution expunging the impeachment proceedings from the record.
In the spring of 1889, Butler urged the state of Nebraska to pay him $50,000 as compensation for claims arising out of his earlier removal from office. Edward Rosewater, then editor of the Omaha Bee, said on March 12, 1889, in the Bee: “I hate to be in any way mixed up in this matter for the reason that eighteen years ago, I was one of the leaders in the legislature that impeached him and introduced the first resolution requesting Governor Butler to explain what had become of the school money which he had collected from the government.” But Rosewater went on to spearhead opposition to compensation for Butler, denying the validity of the 1877 expunging of the impeachment proceedings.
Did the ex-governor ever receive any money? Find out from a Timeline column on the Nebraska State Historical Society website. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications