The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 38, July 1934 - April, 1935 Page: 3
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Grass Lease Fight and Attempted Imlpeachment
the eastern Panhandle joined Goodnight in maintaining their
original tenders of lease. When the Land Board continued to
refuse, Goodnight stood on his legal rights; the Board declared
the ranchmen trespassers on the public domain and threatened
ejectment by armed force.
Late in December, 1885, Attorney General John D. Templeton
served notice upon W. H. Woodman, district attorney for the Pan-
handle, that suits should be brought against the cowmen for
illegal enclosure, but begged the question for the State by adding:
I do not think that the courts below should undertake, what-
ever may be their views, to pass upon the validity or constitu-
tionality of the statute in any respect. I say this with a good
deal of hesitation, and with all due deference to the courts; but
I do think the grave duty of overturning the statute, for any
reason whatever, should be left to the courts of final resort.
. . . Perhaps it might be necessary to resort to extraordinary
means in some cases to hunt up evidence . . . to send some
one, not as a spy or detective, but openly, for the purpose of
seeing and ascertaining that there is an illegal enclosure or that
there is line riding so that he can go back and testify before the
jury to that fact. . . . I think the Land Board, and per-
haps the Governor, would take steps to furnish the assistance.
Templeton wrote Frank Willis, district judge of the Pan-
handle, expressing a hope that the law was enforceable; hazard-
ing a belief-though the "validity of the law has been gravely
questioned"-that if a conviction can be had below "the court
of appeals will sustain it"; and, finally, assuring the Judge that
"a question of so much gravity as the validity of the law should
be left to the court of final resort."' Willis declined to answer.
Templeton, though somewhat uncertain of his constitutional
grounds, forced the issue, and when the village of Clarendon
was enlivened with the opening of court in January, 1886,
Woodman appeared before the grand jury of cowmen, drawn the
previous July, and, in accordance with the requests of the At-
torney General asked for indictments and said that the State
would have them "whether or no." Thereupon the jury, of
which Goodnight was foreman, found "true bills" against many
of the Panhandle cowmen for illegal fencing, several of whom,
like Goodnight, were on the grand jury themselves. The first
'Senate Journal, 1887, app., 100-101.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 38, July 1934 - April, 1935, periodical, 1935; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117143/m1/11/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.