Did you know that during its first three years of existence, Douglas County had no representative in the Georgia House?
Well, it's true, and we weren't the only new county in the early 1870s without representation. Rockdale, McDuffie, and Dodge counties were also in the same fix.
How could this be?
The phrase "taxation without representation" comes to mind. Didn't we fight a war over the "no representation" thing?
Last week I mentioned the only discussion in the House I could find regarding the bill that created Douglas County had to do with apportionment which is the process to determine the proportional number of members each county sends to the Georgia House of Representatives.
The issue with Douglas County having representation had to do with timing. Douglas County existed as of October 17, 1870. A new census was taken in 1870, but the results would not publish until 1871 or later, and then the issue met the very slow wheels of action with the Georgia Legislature. They needed the new population figures to realign the number of representatives each county was allowed.
While those who pushed hard for a new county didn't seem to mind at the time, the unintended consequence was Douglas County had no representative for close to three years!
During this time we did have a state senator and Dr. John Goodman, the state representative for Campbell County, did double duty for Douglas when needed, but he was not elected by Douglas citizens.
The honeymoon period didn't last long. During June of 1872, almost eight months to the day from the county's birth, there was a meeting locally, and the results were published in the paper. It was stated, "We have been treated with great injustice by the legislature in not giving us a representative, as the [law] which created our county only allows one representative for Campbell and Douglas and does not give us a voice in the choice of that one…We would much prefer to be directly represented…"
Three months later, another meeting was held. Some of those present at the meeting were "Captain C.P. Bowen, G.W. McLarty, D.W. Price, Captain M. Edwards, C.S. Polk, W.J. Abercrombie, and Judge E. Polk." The stated purpose of the meeting "was to nominate some suitable person…to represent the interest of [Douglas County] at the next meeting of the General assembly." This was in compliance with an order from Governor James M. Smith to try and resolve the situation, and at least move things forward.
Professor F.M. Duncan, A.S. Gorman, and W.P. Strickland were all suggested as viable candidates, but the good professor won out. However, it would be several weeks later in January of 1873 before Duncan would be sworn in, and his first action was to stand by and watch from the sidelines regarding the ongoing wrestling match over the Apportionment Bill. He was not allowed to take part in discussions or vote.
Finally, on Jan. 21, 1873, Duncan and the other representatives from the new counties were admitted to seats on the floor with the added language "during their stay in the city." Ten days later it was reported "The debate was spirited and lengthy" regarding the new representatives and the apportionment issue mainly regarding the wording to the resolution and the fact that the existing state constitution would have to be modified to "fit" 136 counties instead of 132. Money for representative compensation would have to be divided a different way, and some weren't happy they had to give up a few dollars.
Many House members kept asking for the matter to be postponed, the 1870s version of kicking the can down the road, but finally, the House decided there would be two members for Carroll and one each for Campbell and Douglas counties. Representative Duncan along with the other representatives for the new counties would each receive $200 for their work as members of Georgia's House.
F.M. Duncan served two terms in the Georgia House as our representative from 1873 to 1877, and then he was elected to serve as our state senator. Following his senate term, Duncan returned to teaching school here in Douglas County.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.