To the editor:
I read with interest Sen. Black’s Aug. 30 “Keeping in Touch” column, “It’s our duty to preserve our state’s heritage,” in which he holds up the endangered status of the final resting place of former Gov. Samuel Merrill (1822-1899). I applaud the bipartisan interest of both Gov. Branstad and Sen. Black in restoring and preserving the Merrill mausoleum in Des Moines’ Woodland Cemetery.
Black does a good job of recounting Merrill’s early life and military career. What he does not say is that each year Col. Merrill handed over his $800 pension received on account of wounds to a Des Moines hospital for sick and disabled soldiers.
In his first inaugural address (1868), Gov. Merrill “heartily concur[red]” in the federal government’s plan of reconstruction, its spirit to be guided, he said, by the watchword “Malice towards none; charity for all,” citing the words of the Republic’s “noblest martyr.”
“In restoring the Southern people to rights within the Union,” he urged, “let no discrimination be made against the black man.” He later signed legislation that amended the state constitution dropping the word “white” as a qualification for suffrage.
The importance of education was stressed in Merrill’s second inaugural address (1870): “The honor and glory of our State [then not yet 25 years old] will largely depend upon the magnitude and grandeur of her public institutions. Her educational interests must be fostered and promoted, and her public school system placed in the van of progress.”
I am pleased by Sen. Black’s determination to seek the funding necessary to repair and preserve the tomb of Iowa’s seventh chief executive. I hope that his fellow legislators will fall into line to support this effort.
Newton Historic Preservation Commission