Speech at Battery D, Chicago.
(Delivered September 26, 1893.)
(From the "Chicago Times:" "Democratic enthusiasm broke bounds last night. Battery D the scene of the biggest Democratic rally of the campaign. Fully 7,000 persons were in the building and enough left over to blockade Michigan avenue and Monroe street. It was Democratic enthusiasm that brought the big crowd together which had collected to hear its nominee for Governor. The crowd was not only large, but representative.")
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
In appearing to-night here in our own wonderful city and meeting by neigbors and fellow-citizens, with whom I have lived, with whom I have done business, and with whom I have led that hurrying, busting, high-pressure life that distinguishes this city from all others, I
290desire to lay aside the character of a candidate for office, and to be simply one citizen conferring with his fellow-citizens, and in that capacity glance for a moment at the achievements of this century, the forces that wrought them, and the political duty which patriotism imposes on all of us. Some of you are aware that I have not a high opinion of the achievements of office-holders, but am an enthusiast on the subject of the private individual; I believe that the wonderful achievements of this century, in all the fields of human activity, are to be credited to the genius and labor of private individuals; that in this country, where we have a government of law, policies are all important, and the personnel of the office-holder is a matter of indifference, except in so far as it stands as a guaranty and assurance that the law will be fearlessly and honestly administered. This feeling is intensified when I gaze out over our great State of Illinois, richer, greater, grander in everything that goes to make a great people, than any of the former empires of the earth; and it is still more intensified when I contemplate our own marvelous city, for which I have an admiration and a love that exceed the bounds of enthusiasm. Its rapid growth, its wide extent, its wonderful architecture, its great business houses, its gigantic industrial establishments, its almost countless railroads, its schools, its churches, and its libraries, are the achievements of private individuals; even in so far as governmental agencies were used, it was the character and influence of private individuals that secured these.
In all fields of intelligence we find mankind occupying more advanced ground than formerly. Great institutions for the elevation of mankind, as well as institutions for relieving the distressed or unfortunate, are found everywhere, and even government occupies a higher plane than formerly. What is the force that brought all this about? It is what may be called the higher thought of the world, that thought that keeps its eye upon the star of eternal justice and right. It was the higher thought that opened the way for human liberty, and it is the higher thought that must direct the governments of the world, if they are to be a blessing to mankind.
Let us glance for a moment at what this higher thought has done for the world; find out what the lessons are that it teaches to those who love their country, and what action does it ask of all patriotic citizens. Having taken a glance at what it has done, we will then inquire for a moment whether the policies of the general government and the administrative acts of the State government are in harmony with this higher thought; and if they are, then I will say to you now
291that a reasonable and proper conservatism would require that they be continued; if, however, they are not, if they are found to do violence to every element of its character, then it will be our duty as patriots loving our country, to make a change. It was the higher thought that proclaimed to the world that all men were born free and equal, and that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed. This was laughed at as a wild chimera by those who were fattening on privilege and eating the substance of a crushed people; but the times soon came when this chimera became the cornerstone of the greatest government on the earth.
It was advanced thought that led John Howard to visit the prisons of the world in the last century, and then insisted that, instead of being chambers of horrors, too frightful for human contemplation, they should be governed by law and be made places where men convicted of crime are undergoing that legal punishment which the law imposes, and not that suffering which brutes inflict, and the result was that a great stride forward was taken in prison management. Not very long ago the insane were regarded as possessed of the devil; were chained to a tree, or locked up in dark chambers. The higher thought proclaimed that they were diseased and should be treated in a humane spirit, and soon great asylums were erected for the care of these unfortunates. It has not been long since the deaf and dumb and the blind simply dragged out their lives in the most wretched almshouses.
The higher thought proclaimed that they should be educated, and it was not long until schools were founded by the State for their instruction and keeping. It has not been long when only the children of the rich could be given even the rudiments of an education. The higher thought proclaimed that the best interests of mankind, the welfare and perpetuity of civilized institutions, required that the children of the poor should be educated as well as those of the rich, and it was not long until there were founded those splendid common school systems which have had the support of all good citizens, have attained a wonderful degree of excellence, and are the pride if not the bulwark of our country. It has not been long since traffic in human chattels was not only permissible but even regarded as respectable. The higher thought arose and declared that no man can have property in human flesh and blood, and when the question of slavery threatened the destruction of our country the higher thought proclaimed, from Democrat and Republican alike, that free institutions among men depended upon maintaining the integrity of the Union. It was this
292higher thought that impelled 2,500,000 men, as brave as any that ever marched to battle, to leave their homes, their families — to leave everything they had on earth — and rally around the flag of their country and go down to the swamps, the forests, and the fields of the South; and face not only hardships, but death. It was the higher thought which proclaimed to the world that instead of having in America simply a branch nation of one of the other nations of the old world, the oppressed of all lands should be invited to come here and seek homes. The native American element, with its magnificent genius, its invention, and its wonderful enterprise, led the way, and was soon joined by people from all lands, bringing their industry, their frugality, and steady habits, and native and immigrant worked hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, and as a result we have a homogeneous people, made up of representatives of nearly all of the nations in the world, and possessing in consequence a vitality, an energy, and a strength which no one nationality possesses. It was the higher thought which proclaimed that church and State should be separate, and that the people of different religions as well as of different nationalities should live peaceably and harmoniously in the same country, neither interfering with the other, and all alike devoted to free institutions; and as a result we have what the world never saw before — not only all nationalities, but the votaries of nearly all forms of religion living side by side in peace and harmony, working for the development and the progress of our whole country, all loyal to our flag and forming a State the grandeur of which baffles human conception. Greece in her glory and Rome in her power never dreamed of such an empire.
This same higher thought suggested the idea of celebrating the discovery of this country, because this discovery furnished a field for the development of free institutions, and such a celebration would advance civilization by bringing the nations closer together; and it was in harmony with this idea that we have Just had a dedication which attracted the attention of all the civilized world. Not only have we had within our gates countless multitudes of our own people, but representatives of the different governments of the world. And those distinguished American citizens who had charge of this celebration, and who have managed it with that excellent tact and great ability, which have won for them the encomiums of our people, found that no brute force was necessary: they simply had to appeal to the deeply implanted sense of right, of love of law and order and the spirit of patriotism of the great multitude. This dedication was to open an
293exposition where the nations of the earth are to meet and display their highest achievement. The wonderful buildings which have been prepared for this purpose reveal the development in architecture, in the sciences and in the arts, as well as the lofty conception of the grand and that appreciation of the beautiful that characterizes the higher thought of the world; and I want to say, those able and public spirited men of our city, who conceived the idea of this exposition, and those who carried it out with such remarkable success, as well as the architects and engineers who designed, directed and superintended the construction of these marvelous buildings, and who have thus helped to bring about a meeting of all the nations of the world in friendly relations, have done more for mankind than any of the conquerors named in history. A monument may commemorate forgotten deeds of the latter, but no monument can commemorate the great works of these men, and women, too, in the cause of human civilization.
Turning again to the political field, we find it is not very long since an office was regarded as a private perquisite. The higher thought came and proclaimed that an office was a public trust. There are to be found even yet some men who seem to think that corruption and abuse in their own party should be condoned rather than exposed and punished; that bad government by their own party is preferable to good government by the opposition party; but the higher thought is at work leavening the intelligence of the masses, and proclaiming that the duty which the citizen owes to his country is greater than that which he may owe to any political organization.
Now, my fellow-citizens, let us briefly examine the political conditions existing in our State and in the Nation, and then see what does the higher thought, what does eternal justice and right demand at our hands.
There had grown up in Illinois and other Northern States, an evil known as the penitentiary contract system, under which great and powerful rings grew up around the different penitentiaries. The higher thought proclaimed that this evil should be stopped. The people of Illinois, heeding this voice, adopted a constitutional amendment six years ago to forever stop this wrong; but unfortunately the reform was given into the hands of enemies to carry out. The Penitentiary Commissioners, who, for some reason which can easily be surmised, were interested in maintaining the old system, at once set
294about to defeat the reform, and they have systematically and deliberately violated this fundamental law of this State for six years. They set the convicts to work at what they called the piece-price plan, and they did this because they claimed that the Legislature had made no appropriation for them, although it is an undisputed fact, well known to everybody who has had occasion to be about Springfield, that the Penitentiary Commissioners themselves lobbied with the Legislature and prevented all legislation. Still, while this piece-price plan is in itself a violation of the law, it would not have been so serious a matter if they had adopted it in good faith; but they did not. They practiced a fraud in the manner of carrying it out. I have time to recite you only one example, which, however, illustrates the entire working of the system. They do not agree in advance upon the price which the contractor should pay per piece made by the convict, but they give the contractor as many convicts as he wishes to work, and at the end of the month they ascertain the number of pieces that have been made, and then they fix a price per piece which will require the contractor to pay the same sum per day for each convict that he formerly paid under the contract system. So that, for example, Mr. Winterbotham, the cooperage contractor, who has still a few convicts that are working under the old contract plan, at the rate of fifty-five cents per day, has also a large number working at the piece-price plan. The two classes work side by side and each class costs him fifty-five cents per day. At the end of the month they ascertain the number of barrels made by those working under the piece-price plan, and then they fix the price at such sum as will require Mr. Winterbotham to pay exactly fifty-five cents a day for each convict who is working under the piece-price plan. With the improved machinery he has there, 100 convicts make 1,200 barrels per day. He works from 150 to 200 convicts. Paying fifty-five cents a day, you see it costs him just five cents apiece to have his barrels made.
We had in Chicago several years ago a great many large cooperage shops working free labor. It cost them upward of thirty cents to make and deliver a barrel. It costs Winterbotham about five cents a barrel. The result was the inevitable one. Winterbotham undersold the Chicago coopers and still had a profit of upward of twenty cents a barrel left on the making alone. So that while he was making large fortunes all of the Chicago coopers making barrels for the market were driven out of the business. The employing coopers, after they found they were being ruined, called on the Governor and asked him to enforce
295the law but they got little satisfaction. After repeated effort they succeeded in getting a meeting of the Governor and the commissioners with themselves. These employing coopers, who are men of high standing in our city, have published a report stating what took place at that meeting. They say that the Governor finally stated to the commissioners that it was wrong to have convicts work in this cooperage business in the manner in which it was done, so as to give this Mr. Winterbotham this extraordinary advantage, and that something should be done to stop it, but that Commissioner Jones insolently replied that they would not do it, and when the Governor again insisted that it should be done, Jones simply repeated that they would do nothing of the sort, and put on his hat and left the conference, and that ended the matter. This was over a year ago. The law is not enforced, the Chicago coopers are being ruined and have no remedy. The Governor is said to stand in awe of the penitentiary ring because of its political influence in not only controlling State conventions, but in helping to control elections, and all of this time the Legislature of the State appropriates large sums of money for the benefit of this penitentiary.
A couple of years ago they had a warden there who seemed unwilling to use the institution for political purposes, and he was promptly removed by the direction of the present Governor, and his place filled by a man who is not only an adept at political manipulation, but who at once proceeded to use the force of the institution for that purpose.
At Chester, in the southern end of this State, we have another penitentiary, for the support of which the Legislature makes large appropriations. The Commissioners of this institution, while drawing a large salary from the State, are traveling around over the State devoting their whole time to carrying the election for the present Governor.
We have at Anna, this State, a large insane asylum. Until about two years ago it was in charge of Dr. Wardner, who had the reputation of being an able and conscientious man. He found that there were about a dozen Democrats employed in the institution out of nearly one hundred employes. Dr. Wardner was told that he had either to discharge the twelve Democrats or he would be discharged himself. He replied that he did not like the idea of prostituting the great institution to low political purposes anyhow, and he would go. He went, and so did the few Democrats who were there. The
296doctor was succeeded by Mr. Elrod. Since Elrod took charge he prepared a blank to be filled up and signed. Among the very first questions he asks is this one: "To what political party do you belong?" I hold here a report of this institution signed by the warden and trustees. In this I find there are upward of twenty pages devoted to giving an itemized account of the expenditures of the institution down to the minutest items, with the exception of salaries. The total amount paid for wages and salaries was $57,402.92. Who got the salaries and wages, what they did, how much salary per year or per month or per day, nobody can find out. I have examined the reports of the fourteen or more State institutions, and I find they all make out their reports in the same way, giving full information as to the small items of expense and withholding all information on the subject of the pay roll.
The fact is, that all of these institutions are run as political machines. There is a political ring connected with the management of each of them. Now, where there is extravagance in the management there is also laxity of discipline. We find this to be true in these asylums and other State institutions. In January, 1891, a patient sent to the insane asylum at Jacksonville from Quincy was missed, but there seems to have been but little or no attention paid to his disappearance, for he was gone thirty-three days before he was found. He was then found floating in the reservoir from which the institution gets its water. He was fished out and simply buried, without inquest, in violation of law. Subsequently the matter leaked out, and an investigation was had by the State Board of Charities. At this investigation the superintendent was asked whether or not he had run the water out of the reservoir after the corpse was taken out, and he said "No." And when asked why, he said that it was not worth while; that that corpse floating around in the water for thirty days would make no perceptible impression on the water. It also appeared that there had, during the last seven years, been 254 sudden and unexplained deaths in that institution, and out of the whole number four inquests were held, and the law violated in 250 cases; but that man is still superintendent, and the trustees, who are men of a great deal of political influence, are still in charge of the institution, and the Board of Charities has not dared to make a report.
Now, my fellow-citizens, these institutions are supported by the taxpayers of the State, Republicans and Democrats alike. They were created for the noblest purposes for which a State can appropriate
297money; that is, the care of the unfortunate. They were the outgrowth of the higher thought, and this same higher thought requires that these institutions should be run upon purely business principles. As a citizen and a business man of this great city, I say to you that if I am to have anything to do with the running of these great charitable institutions, they will be lifted out of politics and run for the purposes for which they were created. And I will also say to you that if I am to have anything to do with the control of the penitentiaries of this State, they will be run according to law, and no commissioners will be permitted to deliberately disregard the law, to go out of the way to give a contractor special advantages free of charge, and then snap their fingers defiantly in the face of the Governor when told that this must stop.
When we turn to national affairs we find there has prevailed for more than a quarter of a century, an utterly un-American policy, borrowed from the monarchies of Europe, which enables a comparatively few individuals to appropriate to their own use the substance of the American people, and do this by the operation of law. Every one of the pauper countries of the old world has a high protective tariff and has had for centuries. This tariff long ago produced there, in a complete and most hideous form, these conditions which it has partially created here in the last twenty-odd years, and is now rapidly completing, that is the concentration of the wealth of the land in a few hands, and the impoverishment of the vast masses of the people. Under its blighting influence we have seen our foreign commerce and carrying trade, which was almost the greatest upon earth, not only driven off of the seas, but utterly annihilated. We have seen the condition of our farming and industrial classes made harder year by year. This policy is sucking the blood of our people, and it is gratifying to know that the higher thought of the land is arising to condemn it. Not only do we hear the protestations of the victims and of the political party which has always set its face against this iniquity, but we find that the higher intelligence of the land is stepping to the front and denouncing it.
I have not the time to name the scores of these patriotic men, but I will name a few that are well known to our people here. You recall that great lawyer and statesman, Wayne MacVeagh, who was a member of a Republican cabinet years ago, and who showed his high character by insisting on having the star-route scoundrels brought to justice, even though they were Republicans. He has
298grown weary of, even by his silence, supporting this great iniquity, and boldly declares in favor of that great Democratic principle of equal rights to all and special privileges to none. Many of you personally know Judge Cooley, of Michigan, who has made for himself the name of being one of the greatest jurists this country has produced. He, like MacVeagh, is unwilling to lend even a silent support to the plundering of his country by insatiable greed and corruption and is supporting the Democratic standard. And, nearer to us than all, that great soldier-statesman and jurist of our own city, Judge Gresham, whose keen sense of the wrong that is being inflicted upon his country by this policy of enriching the few and injuring the many, has caused him to make the sacrifice and to lift his voice in favor of reform.
Again, my fellow-citzens, the dominant party, seeing that the consciences of the Nation are awakened and that the intelligence of the country is turning against it, that its hold of power must soon be relaxed, has attempted to place upon the statute books legislation that would enable it to perpetuate its power at will; that would enable a President to absolutely control any election in any State of the Union; a law which would virtually put an end to republican institutions; and it is well understood that it is still the intent of the leaders of this party to pass such a law the moment they can get sufficient power to do so. If they shall succeed in this the ballot of the American freeman will not be worth a rush. The American citizens will no longer be permitted to hold their own elections, but their elections will be held and managed by unscrupulous and desperate partisans holding power from the government, and having only one object in view, and that the perpetuating of themselves in power. Here, again, the higher thought of the land protests, and declares that this is not the way in which to perpetuate free institutions among men.
Now, my fellow citizens, I have endeavored to point out to you that locally, speaking of the State, the higher thought, the patriotic sentiment of the land, demands an honest and a fearless execution of the law, and a non-partisan and business-like administration of the great charitable institutions, that should be placed high above politics. It requires, in short, that the affairs of this wonderful State of Illinois should be kept upon the high plane of excellence in keeping with the humane, enlightened and progressive spirit of our people, and the vast expenditure and effort they have made to put this State in the very front rank of all of the States upon earth.
299I will only add, upon this point, that having spent most of my life in endeavoring to build up and uphold the institutions of my country, a teacher in the public school, at the bar practicing law, as a State prosecutor, and then as a judge, if I am elected to the office of chief executive of this State, it will be the pride of my life, not simply to hold an office, but to give the great institutions of our State a business management, and to place them upon that lofty plane that they should occupy.
Turning, in conclusion, to the affairs of the Nation: I have endeavored to point out to you that the drift of education, the drift of the intelligence of the country, the voice of the consciences of the country, and the voice of the higher thought of the country, are all calling to every patriotic citizen, no matter what his political affiliations may have been, to rise to the emergency and discharge the high duty of the hour by putting a stop to the growth of this aristocratic policy which was imported from Europe, and cast a vote in favor of that genuine American policy of equal rights to all and special privileges to none; and I congratulate you and all patriotic citizens, to whom their country is dearer than the ties of party, that we have, as a national standard bearer, a man who, in the opinion of even Republicans, embodies within himself all of those great elements of higher character, of sterling honesty, of lofty patriotism, of keen sense of justice, of indomitable will, and, what is still more than all of these combined, possesses the courage of a hero; a man who would rather lose the Presidency than be wrong.
Every patriotic citizen, no matter what his past political affiliations may have been, feels that in the hands of this great man the affairs of the Nation are not only safe, but will be guided along the channel of a true American policy, along the channel that leads to eternal justice and right; yea, every patriotic citizen feels that the interests of this nation will be safe in the hands of Grover Cleveland.