March 5, 1889
And Demands the Seat to Which the People of the State Elected Him.
His Inaugural Address Delivered in the State Capital at Charleston.
Ex-Gov. Wilson's Action.
He Refuses to Hand Over the Office and the Courts Appealed to.
President Carr Also "Swears in," and Now we Have Three Governors.
The Matter to be Decided at Once--
Goff's Ringing Speech in Defense of His Rights.
Special Dispatch to the Intelligencer.
Charleston, W. Va., March 4,--West Virginia now enjoys the proud distinction of being the first and only State in [the] Union to have three Governors. The inauguration was comparatively quiet, there being very few strangers in the city, except a few prominent Republicans who felt an interest in the proceedings, but as it was known that Goff and probably Carr would qualify, about noon crowds began to congregate on the streets and discuss the situation in an interesting manner. About 11:30, General Goff, accompanied by Chairman Cowden, Capt. H. C. McWhorter, and followed by a number of his personal and political friends, and interested spectators, started toward the Capitol. Of course the crowd grew in numbers as it neared the Capitol and by the time the Governor's office was reached there were probably 500 people in attendance. The doors of the Governor's reception room were thrown open and in a few minutes it was crowded with an interested throng, representing all ages, colors and political opinions, every one on the tip-toe of expectancy and pushing forward in the hope of seeing and hearing what was going on. General Goff was courteously received by Governor Wilson and invited into his private office, where he spent a few moments, returning to the Governor's reception room a few minutes later. Just at 12 o'clock he mounted a chair by the desk of Governor Wilson's private secretary and facing the crowd, addressed them as follows:
My Fellow Citizens:--I am grateful to you for your presence and for this demonstration to-day in honor of the great political change which has taken place in West Virginia. On the 6thof November last, the voters of West Virginia elected me Governor of the State, and I am here to-day to assume the functions, duties, dignities and responsibilities of the office. I thank you for your sympathy and for this expression showing your approbation of the course I am pursuing. In spite of the determined efforts of our political opponents to deprive us of the fruits of victory, and in the face of their pre-arranged plan as determined in their Legislative caucus to refuse to announce the result of the election, to decline to comply with the requirements of the Constitution, I am here in pursuance of the call of the people, and we propose to insist upon our rights, and all the political chicanery that can be devised will not prevent the will of the people from being enforced. The Speaker of the House of Delegates, in obedience to the demands and necessities of his party, failed to perform his constitutional duty of “opening and publishing the returns,” and declaring the person elected who had received the highest number of votes for the office of Governor. I am the person who received the highest number of votes for said office and therefore your Governor-elect. I have the certificates from the county clerks of all the counties of West Virginia, showing that I was elected on the sixth day of November last, and the failure of the Speaker and the Legislature to perform a mere ministerial duty cannot and must not, be permitted to deprive the people of the services of the Governor they have chosen. The success of the principles of the Republican party has brought prosperity to the people of West Virginia, has developed our State and stimulated our industrial enterprises.
The inauguration of General Harrison at Washington to-day, and the transfer of power to the Republican party, both in the nation and in this State, will bring to our people that era of prosperity and commercial activity that they have longed for and that Republican ascendency assures.
Now, my friends, we will secure our rights peacefully under the Constitution and by mode provided by law. The Republican party believes in the Constitution and advocates the enforcement of the law. Let me ask you that you continue to repose in me the confidence heretofore expressed and rest assured that I will see that all your rights and privileges are jealousy guarded and fully protected. In this contest the people, regardless of party affiliation, those who love order and believe in justice, those who believe in legislative propriety and judicial decorum, who bow to the will of the people as expressed by the ballot, who love the Constitution and the liberties it secures are with me and bid me God-speed. Feeling the responsibility imposed upon me, conscious of the rectitude of my position, clear as to the line of duty that comes upon, anxious to guard the rights of the people of the State and determined to be faithful to the trust confided in me, I am now ready in this presence and in this Capitol building of my State, to kiss the evangel of Almighty God and commit myself to the destiny that awaits me by virtue of the partiality and confidence of my fellow-citizens.
General Goff was heartily applauded at several points in his speech by his political friends, and it was with great difficulty that order could be restored sufficiently to allow the oath of office to be administered. Captain H. C. McWhorter, with a neat morrocco bound Bible in hand, then stepped forward and proceeded to obligate General Goff to obey the Constitution of the State, etc., after the form provided in such cases. Then the crowd rushed forward to grasp the General's hand, and nearly every one in the room shook hands with him as they passed out toward the door. After the crowd had dispersed, the oath of office was signed, and General Goff, together with Chairman Cowden, stepped into the Governor's office and made a formal demand for possession of the Capitol building. Governor Wilson listened attentively and respectfully, and replied that under the Constitution which has provided for elections of Governor and gives the right to the Joint Assembly to ascertain and declare the result of the election, and that declaration not having been made, he was of the opinion that there had been no election. In such a case he believed it to be his duty to hold the office until such declaration had been made, and for that reason he refused the demand, pledging himself that everything in his power that could be done to facilitate an early determination of the question should be done cheerfully.
General Goff replied that in his opinion the refusal of the Legislature to open and publish the returns did not affect the election. He stated that he had certified returns from every county in the State in his possession, which show that he received a plurality of the votes cast at the November election and that he would at once take steps before the courts to secure possession of the office. He also thanked the Governor for his promise to assist in every way in his power to secure a settlement of the question.
A few minutes later Hon. R. S. Carr, President of the Senate, accompanied by A. D. McCorkle, arrived at the Capitol building, and at once proceeded to the Governor's office, where they were cordially received by Governor Wilson. Only a few spectators were present, but those who were there watched the proceedings with considerable interest. Mr. McCorkle administered the oath of office, and Mr. Carr then made a formal demand for the office, quoting Section 16, of Article 7, of the Constitution as his authority. Governor Wilson replied in about the same words used in his reply to General Goff, that as under the Constitution no Governor had been declared elected, he believed it to be his duty to hold the office until his successor was duly elected and qualified. This, of course, was satisfactory to Captain Carr, who replied "Yours truly" and proceeded to make himself at home for a short time, after which he went down street to attend to his every-day business affairs. General Goff's counsel will arrive to-night and action before the courts will be taken to-morrow.