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It is my purpose to write the Lives of the Governors of Minnesota, from the organization of the territory down to the present time. This period is profoundly interesting to every citizen of the state because the annals of human affairs can furnish no more glorious example of development and prosperity. The rulers of the state form a group by themselves and a deep interest is always manifested in the personal history of any citizen who, by talent, character, and the discharge of civic and public duties, arrives at the dignity of its Chief Executive.
Such a series of biographies necessarily carries with it much contemporaneous political history. If in all this the writer shall be able to record facts with accuracy, and draw inferences with candor, he will have rendered the state no inconsiderable service.
As to the fitness of the author for this special work, it should be stated that I have known intimately each and every one of the governors of the territory and state, having lived on terms of personal friendship with them all. I have not only sat at their firesides and known their home life, but from the time when, in 1860, I became Secretary of State to Governor Ramsey, I have participated in almost every campaign in the state. In company with the governors themselves and their leading organizers, I have canvassed the state, and spoken from the same platform with them in nearly every county of Minnesota. I have attended many of the nominating conventions, and have had personal knowledge of the inside workings of the political parties, their motives, purposes, hopes, defeats, such as only those who have personally shared in their councils can understand. For fifty years I have studied the progress of Minnesota and felt the thrill of its political life, and I write the lives of these sons. whom she has most highly honored, not as a distant and critical spectator, but as a partner in the struggles and victories of the half-century. During all these years I have been the political associate, the comrade and friend of the governors of our state.
I am fully aware of the difficulty of preserving a. strict impartiality under circumstances of personal friendship. Relations of amity, or of hostility may insensibly sway the mind. I profoundly appreciate the difficulty of writing contemporaneous annals, and still more of writing the history of men yet in the midst of affairs. The difficulty is not denied. That man yet living should, in a certain sense, read their own obituaries is not in accordance with the fitness of things. It is the penalty, however, which high position must pay.
The design of the work admitted no exception. The author can only affirm that he has been swayed by no prejudices, and was under sacred obligations to pursue the truth, as he understood it; and that if any prejudices or predilections have operated upon his mind, they have been unknown to himself.
Praise bestowed upon known political adversaries, and disapproval of occasional conduct in the history of members of the writer's own party, will be taken as evidence of general impartiality. I feel, too, that I have now reached that autumnal period when a retrospect of men and events is no longer disturbed by the prejudices of the hour, for years have softened to a mellow tone the occurrences of the past.
The preparation of this work has been something more than the amusement of literary leisure seeking an agreeable occupation for a disengaged mind. I have humbly conceived it to be a duty to the state to record, from personal knowledge, matters which might otherwise perish. It should be understood that the Minnesota Historical Society has long urged me to this performance, and is largely responsible for thus trespassing upon the indulgence of the public. It was thought that the writer's personal knowledge of all our governors should be made available for public use.
I have filled some interstices with pen sketches of some other public men, who were prominent actors in the passing drama; but found it necessary to omit many equally worthy of a place in this gallery, or where would the volume end ?
The portraits in this volume are from accepted family photographs taken at the time when each governor was filling the executive chair, or as near it as was possible.
I am indebted to many friends for important assistance throughout this book. The vast archives of the Minnesota Historical Society, by the aid of its librarians, have been sources from which abundant information has been received. I would be wanting in courtesy if I failed publicly to thank the secretary, Dr. Warren l'pham, and Mrs. Rose Barteau Dunlap, for their constant and intelligent assistance.
It also is just and proper that I should mention, as authorities carefully consulted, Eugene V. Smalley's ercellent volume, "A History of the Republican Party;" and other kindred papers; and "The Incestry. Life, and Times of Hon. Henry Hastings Sibley," by Rev. Nathaniel West.
With well nigh fourscore years pressing upon me. I have yet enjoyed the literary work of this volume. Such as these sketches are, I bequeath them to my fellow citizens, as the last of my intellectual efforts, and as a final testimonial of my love and devotion to my adopted state.
JAMES H. BAKER.
Mankato, Minn., August, 1908.