Lincoln Steffens & Politcal Corruption
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Enemies of the Republic

Enemies of the Republic | Lincoln Steffens & Politcal Corruption |

Annotation: You can't reform a city by reforming part of it. Corription in American politics is our Americans corruption, political, and industrial too. Businesses started the corruption in pittsburg which then boomed to chicago. Then later reform in New York, which financed the return of Tammny Hall. Our political corruption is a system, that established the custom of the country.



EVERY time I attempted to trace to its sources the political corruption of a city ring, the stream of pollution branched off in the most unexpected directions and spread out in a network of veins and arteries so complex that hardly any part of the body politic seemed clear of it. It flowed out of the majority party into the minority; out of politics into vice and crime; out of business into politics, and back into business; from the boss, down through the police to the prostitute, and up through the practice of law, into the courts; and big throbbing arteries ran out through the country over the State to the Nation-and back. No wonder cities can't get municipal reform ! No wonder Minneapolis, having cleaned out its police ring of vice grafters, now discovers boodle in the council ! No wonder Chicago, with council-reform and boodle beaten, finds itself a Minneapolis of police and administrative graft ! No wonder Pittsburg, when it broke out of its local ring, fell, amazed, into a State ring ! No wonder New York, with good government, votes itself back into Tammany Hall !
They are on the wrong track; we are, all of us, on the wrong track. You can't reform a city by reforming part of it. You can't reform a city alone. You can't reform politics alone. And as for corruption and the understanding thereof, we cannot run 'round and 'round in municipal rings and understand ring corruption; it isn't a ring thing. We cannot remain in one city, or ten, and comprehend municipal corruption; it isn't a local thing. We cannot " stick to a party," and follow party corruption; it isn't a partizan thing. And I have found that I cannot confine myself to politics and grasp all the ramifications of political corruption; it isn't political corruption. It's corruption. The corruption of our American politics is our American corruption, political, but financial and industrial too. Miss Tarbell is showing it in the trust, Mr. Baker in the labor union, and my gropings into the misgovernment of cities have drawn me everywhere, but, always, always out of politics into business, and out of the cities into the state. Business started the corruption of politics in Pittsburg; upholds it in Philadelphia; boomed with it in Chicago and withered with its reform; and in New York, business financed the return of Tammany Hall. Here, then, is; our guide out of the labyrinth. Not the political ring, but big business,-that is! the crux of the situation. Our political corruption is a system, a regularly established custom of the country, by which our political leaders are hired, by bribery by the license to loot, and by quiet moral # support, to conduct the government of city, state, and nation, not for the common good, but for the special interests of private business. Not the politician, then, not the bribe-taker, but the bribe-giver, the man we are so proud of, our successful business man-he is the source and the sustenance of our bad government. The captain of industry is the man to catch. His is the trail to follow.
We have struck that trail before. Whenever we followed the successful politician his tracks led us into it, but also they led us out of the cities-from Pittsburg to the State Legislature at Harrisburg; from Philadelphia, through Pennsylvania, to the National Legislature at Washington. To go on was to go into state and national politics and I was after the political corruption of the city ring then. Now I know that these are all one. The trail of the political leader and the trail of the commercial leader are parallels which mark the plain, main road that leads off the dead level of the cities, up through the States into the United States, out of the political ring. into the System, the living System of our actual government. The highway of corruption is the " road to success."
Almost any State would start us right, but Missouri is the most promising. Joseph W. Folk, the Circuit Attorney of St. Louis, has not only laid wide open the road out there; he knows it is the way of a system. He didn't at first. He, too, thought he was fighting political corruption, and that the whole of it was the St. Louis ring. But he got the ring. Mr. Folk has convicted the boss and members of the " boodle combine" that was selling out his city; yet the ring does not break. Why ? Because back of the boodlers stand the big business men who are buying the city up. But Folk got the business men too: Charles H. Turner, president of the Suburban Railway Company, president of the Commonwealth Trust Company; Philip Stock, secretary of the St. Louis Brewery Association; Ellis Wainwright, the millionaire brewer; George J. Kobusch, president of the St. Louis Car Company; Robert N. Snyder, banker and promoter, of Kansas City and New York; John Scullen, ex-president of street railways, a director then and now of steam railways, a director then and now of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. These are not " low-down politicians"; they are "respectable business men." Having discovered early that boodlers flew in pairs; that wherever there was a bribe-taker, there also was a bribe-giver, Folk hunted them in pairs. And in pairs he brought them down. And still the ring does not break. What is the matter?
That's what's the matter. "That man Folk" is attacking the System. If he had confined his chase to that unprotected bird, the petty boodler, all might have been well. Indeed there was a time, just before the first trial of the boss, Col. Ed. Butler, when the ring was in a panic and everybody ran. If he had stayed his hand then, Folk could have been Governor of Missouri, the leader of his party, and a very rich man. But he would not stop. These were not the things he was after. At that moment he was after Boss Butler; and he got him.
" And the conviction of Butler," he said recently, "is the point where we passed out of the ring into the System."
Butler was not only the boss of the ring; he was the tool of the System. He was the man through whom the St. Louis business man did business with the combine and Folk hadn't caught all the business men involved. The first time I met him, early in his work, he was puzzled by the opposition or silence of officials and citizens, who, he thought, should have been on his side. The next time I saw him this mystery was clearing. One by one those people were turning up in this deal or 'way back of that one. He could not reach them; he can never reach them all, but there they were, and they, their relatives, their friends, their lawyers, their business and social associates- nobody can realize," says Mr. Folk, "the infinite ramifications of this thing"-they, and "this thing," the I' vested interest" of St. Louis, are the St. Louis System.
Corruption was saved, not ended, by the very thoroughness of Mr. Folk. The ring was rallied, not smashed. by his conviction of its boss. The boodlers who had wanted to turn state's evidence " stood pat." Why ? They had an assurance, they said, that " not one of them would go to the pen." Who made this promise ? Butler. Ed. Butler, himself sentenced to three years in the penitentiary, gave this explicit assurance, and he added (this was last summer) that " the courts will reverse all Folk's cases, and, when Folk's term expires, we will all get off, and the fellows that have peached will go to jail." Maybe Butler lied, some of the politicians said that it would be " bad politics" to reverse "all Folk's cases," and that some, possibly Butler's own, would have to be affirmed. Butler, however, was not afraid, and, sure enough, in December his case was reversed. All the boodle cases so far have been reversed. Not a boodler is in jail to-day (January 22d), and the same court gave a ruling which made it necessary for Folk to reindict and retry half a dozen of his cases. The boodlers are a power in politics. Butler sits in the councils of the Democratic party. He sat there with the business men and new, young leaders who drew up the last platform, which made no mention of boodle, and he assisted in the naming of the tickets. After the last election, Butler was able to reorganize the new House of Delegates, with his man for Speaker, and the superintendent of his garbage plant (in the interest of which he offered the bribe for which he was convicted) for chairman of the Sanitary Committee. But the nominations he had helped to make were not only those of aldermen, but of the candidates for the vacancies on the bench which was to try boodle cases, and also for that court which was to hear these cases, and his own, on appeal ! And the presiding justice of this. the criminal branch of the Supreme Court of Missouri, went upon the stump last fall and declared that a man who thought as Mr. Folk thought, and did as Mr. Folk did, had better leave the State !
Appalling? It did not appall Mr. Folk. He realized then that it was a System, not the ring, that he was fighting, and he went after that. There was another way into it. One Charles Kratz, the head of the council combine, did business, like Butler, with and for business men. Kratz fled to Mexico, with means supplied by his business backers, but Mr. Folk used the good offices of the President and the Secretary of State to get the man back. And he succeeded; he had Kratz brought back. The hope was that Kratz would confess and deliver up his principals. The other boodlers, however, received Kratz with a champagne dinner and he also stood pat. But even if Kratz should surrender, and even if Folk thus were to smash the Butler ring and catch not five or six, but fifty, of the captains of industry behind it-still, I believe, the System would stand. Why ? Because " this thing" is more than men, and bigger than St. Louis.
All the while Mr. Folk was probing the city he kept an eye on the state. That was out of his jurisdiction, but it affected his work. Some of the silent opposition he encountered came from state officials and the court which was inspiring so much faith in boodlers was a state court. These officials were not implicated in his exposures, and these judges were honest men, but the State Legislature, at Jefferson City, sent forth significant rumors, and about these Folk gossiped with the St. Louis boodlers, who explained that corruption was an ancient custom of the state. Helpless, but informed, Folk watched and waited, till at last his chance came.
One day in February, 1903, when a bill in which the Speaker of the House was interested failed of passage, that officer left his chair in anger saying, 44 There is boodle in this." The House was disturbed. Folk's work had opened the public mind to suspicions and the newspapers were alert. Investigations were ordered, one by the House Committee, which found nothing; another by a Jefferson City Grand Jury, which resulted in a statement by Circuit Attorney R. P. Stone that it was all " hot air " and that, anyhow, he had no ambition "to become a second Folk." (Stone was indicted himself afterward.) Then the Governor directed Attorney-General E. C. Crow to take charge and Crow took charge. Picking Lieutenant-Governor Lee for a weakling, he concentrated on him. Lee was telling things, bit by bit, but he kept denying them, and the jury was uneasy and reluctant. The outcome of the inquiry was in doubt in Jefferson City, when Mr. Folk heard that "floating all around town" was a lot of thousand-dollar bribe bills which were distributed at the Laclede Hotel. The Laclede Hotel is in St. Louis, and St. Louis is Folk's bailiwick. Folk jumped in. He traced the bills, and, in a jiffy, he had the whole inside story. He gave out an interview directed at Lieutenant-Governor Lee, who saw it; saw, he said, "that Folk had him," and ran to Attorney-General Crow to confess. Changing his mind, he fled the State, but Folk gave out another interview that brought him back. Meeting and agreeing on a course, Folk and Crow worked together. They got Lee's confession in full, and his resignation of the Lieutenant-Governorship; and with all this for a lever, they opened the mouths of other legislators. Indictments followed, and trials; Crow took all the evidence and carried on with ability the dull slow trials which we need not follow.
The lid was off Missouri. The stone Mr. Folk had had so long to leave unturned, was lifted. What was under it? Squirming in the light and writhing off into their dark holes, were state senators and state officers, state committee-men, and party leaders, but also there were the Western Union Telegraph Company, the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the St. Louis and San Francisco, the Iron Mountain and Southern, the Wabash; Mr. Folk's old friend, the St. Louis Transit Company; the breweries, the stock yards, the telephone companies; business men of St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Kansas City-the big business of the whole State. There they were, the "contemptible bribe-taker" and the very--- respectable" bribe-giver, all doing business together. So they still traveled in pairs; and the highway still lay between the deadly parallels-business and politics. The System was indeed bigger than St. Louis; it was the System of Missouri.
What, then, is the system of Missouri ? The outlines of it can be traced through the "confessions of state senators which," Folk's grand jury said, "appall and astound us as citizens of this state. Our investigations," they added, " have gone back twelve years and during that time the evidence shows that corruption has been the usual and accepted thing in state legislation, and that, too, without interference or hindrance. ... We have beheld with shame and humiliation the violation of the sacred trust reposed by the people in their public servants."
Just as in the city, the System in the state is corruption settled into a "custom of the country"; betrayal of trust established as the form of government. The people elect, to govern for them, representatives who are to care for the common interest of all. But the confessing Senators confessed that they were paid by a lobby to serve special interests. Naturally enough, the jurors, good citizens, were incensed especially at the public servants "who sold them out." But who did the buying ? Who are the lobby ? The confessions name Col. William H. Phelps, John J. Carroll, and others, lawyers and citizens of standing at the bar and in the state, and they were the agents of the commanding business enterprises of the state. Moreover, they were aggressive corruptionists. You hear business men say that they are blackmailed, that the politicians are corrupt, and that the " better people" bave to pay.
Colonel Phelps, an officer of the Missouri Pacific, and the lobbyist of the Gould interests, has said that he had to exercise great cunning to keep the Legislature corrupt. New legislators often bothered him, especially " honest men," Senators who would not take money. Sometimes he "got" them with passes, which was cheap, but not sure, so he had been compelled sometimes actually to "rape " some men, as he did Senator Fred Busche, of St. Louis.
Busche is himself a business man, a wellto-do pie-baker, and he went to Jefferson City full of high purpose and patriotic sentiment, he said. Among the measures up for passage was a bill to require all railways to keep a flagman at all crossings. It was a " strike" bill. Phelps himself had had it introduced, to prove his usefulness in killing it, perhaps, or to raise money for himself and his pals. (The corrupt corporations are often cheated by their corrupt agents.) At any rate, Phelps asked Busche to vote against the bill, and Busche did so. A day or two later Phelps came up to Busche, thrust a hundred dollar bill into his pocket, then hurried away and remained out of sight till Busche had become reconciled to the money. "After that," Busche added, "Phelps had me." Busche accepted a regular salary of $500 a session from the railroad lobbyist, and other bribes: $500 on the St. Louis transit bill, $500 on an excise bill, etc. He estimated that he had made corruptly some $15,000 during his twelve years.
Phelps put Busche into the "Senate Combine," which is just such a nonpartizan group of a controlling majority as that which Colonel Butler wielded in the municipal legislature councils of St. Louis. Butler, however, was a boss; Phelps is not. There is no boss of Missouri as there is of New York, Pennsylvania, and other more advanced states. Phelps is the king of the lobby, and the lobby rules by force of corruption. The lobbyists, representing different special business interests, bought among them a majority of the legislators, organized the Senate, ran dominant committees, and thus controlled legislation. You could do business with anv lobbyist, and have the service, usually, of all, or you could deal with a member of the combine. Indeed, the "combine" was free to drum up trade when times were dull and Mr. Folk quotes a telegram from a member sent on such a mission to St. Louis: "River rising fast," it said." Driftwood coming down. Be there to-morrow."
"Driftwood" was boodle bills for business men, and some of it was blackmail but it was all irregular. The regular business was more businesslike. The "combine" was only the chief instrument of the lobby and was made up of dishonest legislators. The lobby controlled also the honest men. For these belonged to their party. The corporations and big businesses contribute to all campaign funds, and this is the first step toward corruption everywhere. It is wholesale bribery, and it buys the honest legislator. He may want to vote against the s; combine," but the lobby serves the party as well as business, and the "State Committee " has to < stand in." That is the way the Democratic party got control of the police and election machinery of the cities and forced those normally Republican communities into the Democratic line. The lobby delivered the dishonest votes, and, in return for such services and for the campaign contributions, the State Committee of the dominant Democratic party has to deliver the honest votes, and often, too, the Governor of the State. And as for the minority party, the Republicans in Missouri are like the minority everywhere: just as corrupt and more hungry than the majority. Disrupted by quarrels over the Federal patronage, the Republican legislators follow the Democrats for more, for dribblets of graft, and the first Senator convicted by Crow was a Republican.
There is nothing partizan about graft. Only the people are loyal to party. The " hated" trusts, all big grafters, go with the majority. In Democratic Missouri, the Democracy is the party of "capital." The Democratic political leaders, crying down the trusts, corner the voters like wheat, form a political trust, and sell out the sovereignty of the people to the corporation lobby. And the lobby runs the State, not only in the interest of its principals, but against the interest of the people. Once, when an election bill was up -- the bill to turn over the cities to the Democrats -- citizens of Kansas City, Democrats among them, had to hire a lobbyist to fight it, and when this lobbyist found that the interest of his corporations required the passage of the bill, he sent back his fee with an explanation. And this story was told me as an example of the honesty of that lobbyist ! Lieutenant-Governor Lee in his confession gave another such example. Public opinion forced out of committee, and was driving through the Senate, a bill to put a just tax on the franchises of public service corporations. The lobby dared not stop it. But Colonel Phelps took one day " his accustomed place" behind a curtain back of the Lieutenant-Governor's chair, and he wrote out amendment after amendment, passed them to Senator Frank Farris, who introduced them, and the lobby put them through, so that the bill passed, "smothered to death."
When Lieutenant-Governor Lee drew aside that curtain he revealed the real head of the government of Missouri. I mean this literally. I mean that this System I have been describing is a form of government; it is the government. We must not be confused by constitutions and charters. The constitution of Missouri describes a Governor and his duties, a legislature and the powers lodged in a Senate and a House of Representatives, etc., etc. This is the paper government. In Missouri this paper government has been superseded by an actual government, and this government is:-a lobby, with a combine of legislators, the Democratic State Committee, and state leaders and city bosses for agents. One bribe, two bribes, a hundred bribes might not be so bad, but what we have seen here is a System of bribery, corruption installed as the motive, the purpose, the spirit of a state government. A revolution has happened. Bribes, not bullets, were spent in it, and the fighting was slow and quiet, but victory seemed sure; the bribe-takers were betraying the government of the people to an oligarchy of bribe-givers, when Joseph Folk realized the truth.
"Bribery," he declared, "is treason, and a boodler is a traitor."
"Bosh ! " cried the lawyers. " Poppycock," the cynics sneered, and the courts rule out the cases. " Bribery," said Judge Priest, at the trial of the banker, Snyder, "is, at the most, a conventional crime." "Corruption is an occasional offense," the ring orators proclaim, but they answer themselves, for they say also, "corruption is not a vice only of Missouri, it is everywhere. "
"It is everywhere," Folk answers, and because he has realized that, because he realized that boodling is the custom and that the " occasional " boodler who sells his vote, is selling the state and altering the very form of our government, he has declared boodle to be a political issue. And because the people do not see it so, and because he saw that no matter how many individual boodlers he might catch, he, the Circuit Attorney of St. Louis, could not stop-boodling even in St. Louis, Mr. Folk announced himself a candidate for Governor and is now appealing his case to the people, who alone can stop it. His party shrieked and raged, but because it is his party, because he thinks his party is the party of the people, and because his party is the responsible, the boodle, party in his state, he made the issue first in his own party. He has asked his people to take back the control of it and clean it up.
Thus, at last, is raised in St. Louis and Missouri the plain, great question: Do the people rule ? Will they, can they rule ? And the answer of Missouri will be national, almost racial in importance. Both the Democracy and the democracy are being put to the test out there.
But Missouri cannot decide alone. "Corruption is everywhere." The highway of corruption which Folk has taken as the road to political reform, goes far beyond Missouri. When he and Attorney-General Crow lifted the lid off Missouri, they disturbed the lid over the United States, and they saw wiggling among their domestic industries and state officials, three ' s foreign trusts "-the American Sugar Refining Company, the American Book Company, and the Royal Baking Powder Company. These are national concerns; they operate all over the United States; and they are purely commercial enterprises with probably purely commercial methods. What they do, therefore, is business pure and simple; their way will be the way of business. But off behind them slunk a United States Senator, the Honorable William J. Stone. He was on the same road. So they still run in pairs, and the road to success still lies between the two parallels, and it leads straight to Washington, where, in political infinity, as it were, in that chamber of the bosses, the United States Senate, the parallels seem to meet. Are the corrupt customs of Missouri the custom of the country ? Are the methods of its business the method of Business? Isn't the System of that State the System of the United States ? Let us see.
Among the letters of the confessed boodler, Lieutenant-Governor Lee, to his friend Daniel J. Kelly, are many references to his ambition to be Governor of the State. When Folk decided to run for that office, the politicians were shocked at his "ambition"; he had not served the party, only the people. But Lee, whom they knew to be a boodler, was not regarded as presumptuous. He was a " possibility." And, in his first letter on the subject to Kelly, he asks how he can sell himself out in advance to two trusts. {' Of course you can help me get a campaign fund together," he says, " and I will be grateful to you. . . . How would you tackle Sugar-Tobacco if you were me in the campaign-fund matter?" Kelly must have advised Lee to write direct, for the next letter is from H. O. Havemeyer, expressing "my hopes that your political aspirations will be realized," and adding suggestively, "If I can be of any service I presume your representative will appear. (Signed) H. O. Havemeyer." Lee wanted Kelly to " appear," and there was some correspondence over a proposition to have the contribution made in the form of advertisements in Lee's two trade journals. But Lee ;; needed help badly, as the country papers must be taken care of," so he asks Kelly " to so present the case to Mr. H. that he will do some business with the papers and help me out personally besides. Do your best, old man," he pleads, " and ask Mr. H. to do his best. A lift in time is always the best." And Mr. H. did his best. Lee had arranged that Kelly was to see Havemeyer on both personal and business accounts, but the" personal" came by mail, and Lee wires Kelly to "drop personal matter and confine to advertising. Personal arranged by mail." And then we have this note of explanation to $ Friend Kelly":
"The party sent me $1,000 personally by mail. If you do anything now it will be on the advertising basis. Truly and heartily. Lee."
Here we have a captain of industry taking a " little flyer" in a prospective governor of a state. Mr. Havemeyer probably despises Lee, but Mr. Havemeyer himself is not ashamed. Business men will understand that this is business. It may be bad in politics, but such an investment is " good business." And there is my point ready made: This " bad" politics of ours is "4 good " business.
A longer trail is that of William Ziegler; his business, the Royal Baking Powder Company; and the company's agent, Daniel J. Kelly. In Missouri they said Crow was " after " United States Senator Stone, but " they travel in pairs," so he had to begin with the business men, as Folk did. He indicted first Kelly, then Ziegler, for bribery. Lee, whose confession caused the indictment of Kelly, wired this warning: $^ D. J. Kelly: Your health being poor brief recreation trip if taken would be greatly beneficial. James Sargent." Kelly took the recreation trip to Canada, and Ziegler, in New York, resisted extradition to Missouri for trial. The prospect was of a long lawyers' fight, the result of which need not be anticipated here. Our interest is in the business methods of this great commercial concern, the Royal Baking Powder " trust," and the secrets of the success of this captain of the baking-powder industry. And this, mind you, as a keyto the understanding of" politics."
We have been getting into business by following politics. Now, for a change, we will follow a strictly business career and see that the accepted methods of business are the despised methods of politics, and that just as the trail of the successful politician leads us into business, so the trail of the successful business mart leads us into politics.
Ziegler's "success story" is that of the typical poor boy who began with nothing, and carved out a fortune of many, many millions. He was not handicapped with a college education and ethical theories. He went straight into business, as a drugclerk, and he learned his morals from business. And he is a " good business man." This is no sneer. He told me the story of his life one nigl-:t, not all, of course, for he knew what the purpose of My article was to be; but he told me enough so that I could see that if the storv were set down-the daring enter prise, the patient study of details, and the work, the work, the terrible, killing work-if this all were related, as well as "he things a business man has to do," then, I say, the story of William Ziegler, might do him, on the whole, honor as well as dishonor. But this, the inspiring side, of such stories, has been told again and again, and it does not give "4 our boys " all the secrets of success, and it does not explain the state either of our business or of our politics. I have no malice against Mr. Ziegler; I have a kind of liking for him, but so have I a liking for a lot of those kind, good fellows, the low-down politicians who sell us out to the Zieglers. They, too, are human, 'so much more human than many a 4 ' better man." How often they have helped me to get the truth ! But they do sell us out, and the 44 good business men" do buy us out. So William Ziegler, who also helped me, he, to me here, is only a type.
Ziegler went into the baking-powder business way back in 1868 with the Hoaglands, a firm of druggists at Fort Wayne, Indiana. The young man mastered the business, technically as a pharmacist, commercially as a salesman. He fought for his share in the profit; he left them and established a competitive business to force his point, and in 1873 they let him in. So you see, Young Man, it isn't alone sobriety, industry, and honesty that make success, but battle, too. Ziegler organized the Royal Baking Powder Company in 1873, with himself as treasurer.
The business grew for three or four years, when it was discovered that alum and soda made a stronger leaven, and cheaper. Worse still, alum was plentiful. Anybody could go into its manufacture, and many did. The Royal, to control the cream of tartar industry, had contracted to take from European countries immense quantities of argol, the wine-lees from which cream of tartar is made. They had to go on making the more expensive baking-powder or break a contract. That would be "bad business."
So Ziegler was for war. His plan was to " fight alum." His associates, less daring than he, objected, but Ziegler won them over, and thus was begun the "Alum War," famous in chemistry, journalism, and legislation. Outsiders knew little about it, but they can find the spoils of that Turner, the State's witness in the boodle cases, was still president of his trust company. When I returned to the city, some honest business men told me triumphantly that Turner had had to resign.
" Is John Scullen still a director of the World's Fair?" I asked.
He was, they said. "Then why has Turner been punished ? " I inquired. "Was it because he boodled, or because he was a traitor to the System and peached ?"
"Because he peached, I guess," was the answer, and there lies the bitter truth. There is no public opinion to punish the business boodler, and that is why Joseph W. Folk had to go into politics and run for Governor out in the State with "boodle" for the sole issue. He is laying down as a political platform the doctrine of the new patriotism, that corruption is treason; that the man who, elected to maintain the institutions of a government by the people, sells them out, is a traitor; whether he be a constable, a legislator, a judge, or a boss, his act is not alone bribery, but treason. His appeal is to the politician, the people, and the business man, all three, and there is hope in all three. The politician is not without patriotic sentiment: Ed. Butler does not mean harm to his country; he is only trying to make money at his business. And as for the business man--
One night, at a banquet of politicians, I was seated beside a man who had grown rich by unswerving loyalty to a corrupt ring-" the party organization," he would have called it-which had done more permanent harm to his country than a European army could do in two wars. He was not a politician, but a business man; not a boodler, but the backer of boodlers, and his conversation was a defense of " poor human nature," till the orchestra struck up a patriotic air. That moved him deeply.
"Isn't it beautiful ! " he exclaimed; and when the boodlers joined in the chorus, he murmured, "Beautiful, beautiful," then leaned over and with tears in his eyes he said:
"Ah, but the tune for me, the song I love, is s My Country 'tis of Thee.' "
I believe this man thinks he is patriotic. I believe H. O. Havemeyer thinks his success is success, not one kind of success, but success. not alone his, but public " pros perity." And William Ziegler, who is spending millions to plant the Am,erican flag first at the North Pole, I am sure he regards himself as a peculiarly patriotic American-and he is. They all are, according to their light, honorable men and patriotic citizens. They simply do not know what patriotism is. They know what treason is in war; it is going over to the enemy, like Benedict Arnold, and fighting in the open against your country. In peace and in secret to seize, not forts but cities and states, and destroy, not buildings and men but the fundamental institutions of your country and the saving character of American manhood-that is not treason. That is politics, and politics is business, and business, you know, is business.
" Do you really call it wrong to buy a switch? " asked a St. Louis business man. "Even if it is necessary to your business ? "
"Say," said a politician, " if a rich mogul comes along and shakes his swag in your face and asks for a switch that he has a right to get, because he needs it in his business, wouldn't you grab off a piece? On the level, now, wouldn't you ?"
They answer each other, these two, and each can judge the other, but neither can see himself as he is or the enormity of his crime. And " that man Folk," rising out of the wrecked machinery o f justice in Missouri, may lead his people to see that the corruption of their government is not merely corruption, but a revolutionary process making for a new form of government; and the people of Missouri, rising out of the wrecked machinery of the government of Missouri, may teach their politicians a lesson in liberty and honor. But that is not enough. That will reach neither the source nor the head of the evil. Some power greater than Folk, greater than that of the people of Missouri, must rise to bring home to the captain of industry the truth: That business, important as it is, is not sacred; that not everything that pays is right; that, if bribery is treason, if the corrupt politician is a traitor, then the corrupting business man is an enemy of the republic. No matter how many bonds he may float in war, or how much he may give for charity and education, if he corrupt the sources of law and of justice, his business is not success but--treason and a people's failure.

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On the Shame of the Cities by Lincoln Steffens

On the Shame of the Cities by Lincoln Steffens | Lincoln Steffens & Politcal Corruption |

Annotation: Their are different kind of politicians. Looters care for themself, while the politicans look over themself, city, and organzation. Steffen also saw that philadelphia was more corrupt than New York, because Irish do most of the governin. Politians that steals are worst than a theft. With all the great opportunities they be pulling they shouldn't be a reason to steal.


On The Shame of the Cities I’ve been readin' a book by Lincoln Steffens on The Shame of the Cities. Steffens means well but, like all reformers, he don’t know how to make distinctions. He can’t see no difference between honest graft and dishonest graft and, consequent, he gets things all mixed up. There’s the biggest kind of a difference between political looters and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by keepin‘ their eyes wide open. The looter goes in for himself alone without considerin’ his organization or his city. The politician looks after his own interests, the organization’s interests, and the city’s interests all at the same time. See the distinction? For instance, I ain’t no looter. The looter hogs it. I never hogged. I made my pile in politics, but, at the same time, I served the organization and got more big improvements for New York City than any other livin' man. And I never monkeyed with the penal code. The difference between a looter and a practical politician is the difference between the Philadelphia Republican gang and Tammany Hall. Steffens seems to think they’re both about the same; but he’s all wrong. The Philadelphia crowd runs up against the penal code. Tammany don’t. The Philadelphians ain’t satisfied with robbin‘ the bank of all its gold and paper money. They stay to pick up the nickels and pennies and the cop comes and nabs them. Tammany ain’t no such fool. Why, I remember, about fifteen or twenty years ago, a Republican superintendent of the Philadelphia almshouse stole the zinc roof off the buildin’ and sold it for junk. That was carryin' things to excess. There’s a limit to everything, and the Philadelphia Republicans go beyond the limit. It seems like they can’t be cool and moderate like real politicians. It ain’t fair, therefore, to class Tammany men with the Philadelphia gang. Any man who undertakes to write political books should never for a moment lose sight of the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft, which I explained in full in another talk. If he puts all kinds of graft on the same level, he’ll make the fatal mistake that Steffens made and spoil his book. A big city like New York or Philadelphia or Chicago might be compared to a sort of Garden of Eden, from a political point of view. It’s an orchard full of beautiful apple trees. One of them has got a big sign on it, marked: “Penal Code Tree—Poison.” The other trees have lots of apples on them for all. Yet the fools go to the Penal Code Tree. Why? For the reason, I guess, that a cranky child refuses to eat good food and chews up a box of matches with relish. I never had any temptation to touch the Penal Code Tree. The other apples are good enough for me, and O Lord! how many of them there are in a big city! Steffens made one good point in his book. He said he found that Philadelphia, ruled almost entirely by Americans, was more corrupt than New York, where the Irish do almost all the governin‘. I could have told him that before he did any investigatin’ if he had come to me. The Irish was born to rule, and they’re the honestest people in the world. Show me the Irishman who would steal a roof off an almhouse! He don’t exist. Of course, if an Irishman had the political pull and the roof was much worn, he might get the city authorities to put on a new one and get the contract for it himself, and buy the old roof at a bargain—but that’s honest graft. It’s goin‘ about the thing like a gentleman, and there’s more money in it than in tearin’ down an old roof and cartin' it to the junkman’s—more money and no penal code. One reason why the Irishman is more honest in politics than many Sons of the Revolution is that he is grateful to the country and the city that gave him protection and prosperity when he was driven by oppression from the Emerald Isle. Say, that sentence is fine, ain’t it? I’m goin' to get some literary feller to work it over into poetry for next St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Yes, the Irishman is grateful. His one thought is to serve the city which gave him a home. He has this thought even before he lands in New York, for his friends here often have a good place in one of the city departments picked out for him while he is still in the old country. Is it any wonder that he has a tender spot in his heart for old New York when he is on its salary list the mornin' after he lands? Now, a few words on the general subject of the so-called shame of cities. I don’t believe that the government of our cities is any worse, in proportion to opportunities, than it was fifty years ago. I’ll explain what I mean by “in proportion to opportunities.” A half a century ago, our cities were small and poor. There wasn’t many temptations lyin‘ around for politicians. There was hardly anything to steal, and hardly any opportunities for even honest graft. A city could count its money every night before goin’ to bed, and if three cents was missin‘, all the fire bells would be rung. What credit was there in bein’ honest under them circumstances? It makes me tired to hear of old codgers back in the thirties or forties boastin‘ that they retired from politics without a dollar except what they earned in their profession or business. If they lived today, with all the existin’ opportunities, they would be just the same as twentieth-century politicians. There ain’t any more honest people in the world just now than the convicts in Sing Sing. Not one of them steals anything. Why? Because they can’t. See the application? Understand, I ain’t defendin‘ politicians of today who steal. The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. With the grand opportunities all around for the man with a political pull, there’s no excuse for stealin’ a cent. The point I want to make is that if there is some stealin‘ in politics, it don’t mean that the politicians of 1905 are, as a class, worse than them of 1835. It just means that the old-timers had nothin’ to steal, while the politicians now are surrounded by all kinds of temptations and some of them naturally—the fool ones—buck up against the penal code. Source: William L. Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall (1905; reprint, New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1963).

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Lincoln Steffens Exposes "Tweed Days in St. Louis"

Lincoln Steffens Exposes "Tweed Days in St. Louis" | Lincoln Steffens & Politcal Corruption |

Annotation: St. Louis thought to be the worst governed city, but it not. It philadelphia, that the worst city of all. Some politicans were sentenced to penitentiary. The Circuit Attorney job is to convict criminals, but the biggest criminals in that time periods were the politicans. The corruption of ST. Louis came from the top, leading to outstrip Chicago. This causing industrial war between these cities.




St. Louis, the fourth city in size in the United States, is making two announcements to the world: one that it is the worst-governed city in the land; the other that it wishes all men to come there (for the World’s Fair) and see it. It isn’t our worst-governed city; Philadelphia is that. But St. Louis is worth examining while we have it inside out.

There is a man at work there, one man, working all alone, but he is the Circuit (district or State) Attorney, and he is “doing his duty.” That is what thousands of district attorneys and other public officials have promised to do and boasted of doing. This man has a literal sort of mind. He is a thin-lipped, firm-mouthed, dark little man, who never raises his voice, but goes ahead doing, with a smiling eye and a set jaw, the simple thing he said he would do. The politicians and reputable citizens who asked him to run urged him when he declined. When he said that if elected he would have to do his duty, they said, “Of course.” So he ran, they supported him, and he was elected. Now some of these politicians are sentenced to the penitentiary, some are in Mexico. The Circuit Attorney, finding that his “duty” was to catch and convict criminals, and that the biggest criminals were some of these same politicians and leading citizens, went after them. It is magnificent, but the politicians declare it isn’t politics.

The corruption of St. Louis came from the top. The best citizens—the merchants and big financiers—used to rule the town, and they ruled it well. They set out to outstrip Chicago. The commercial and industrial war between these two cities was at one time a picturesque and dramatic spectacle such as is witnessed only in our country. Business men were not mere merchants and the politicians were not mere grafters; the two kinds of citizens got together and wielded the power of banks, railroads, factories, the prestige of the city, and the spirit of its citizens to gain business and population. And it was a close race. Chicago, having the start, always led, but St. Louis had pluck, intelligence, and tremendous energy. It pressed Chicago hard. It excelled in a sense of civic beauty and good government; and there are those who think yet it might have won. But a change occurred. Public spirit became private spirit, public enterprise became private greed.

Along about 1890, public franchises and privileges were sought, not only for legitimate profit and common convenience, but for loot. Taking but slight and always selfish interest in the public councils, the big men misused politics. The riffraff, catching the smell of corruption, rushed into the Municipal Assembly, drove out the remaining respectable men, and sold the city—its streets, its wharves, its markets, and all that it had—to the now greedy business men and bribers. In other words, when the leading men began to devour their own city, the herd rushed into the trough and fed also.

So gradually has this occurred that these same citizens hardly realize it. Go to St. Louis and you will find the habit of civic pride in them; they still boast. The visitor gain business and population. And it was a close race. Chicago, having the start, always led, but St. Louis had pluck, intelligence, and tremendous energy. It pressed Chicago hard. It excelled in a sense of civic beauty and good government; and there are those who think yet it might have won. But a change occurred. Public spirit became private spirit, public enterprise became private greed.

Along about 1890, public franchises and privileges were sought, not only for legitimate profit and common convenience, but for loot. Taking but slight and always selfish interest in the public councils, the big men misused politics. The riffraff, catching the smell of corruption, rushed into the Municipal Assembly, drove out the remaining respectable men, and sold the city—its streets, its wharves, its markets, and all that it had—to the now greedy business men and bribers. In other words, when the leading men began to devour their own city, the herd rushed into the trough and fed also.

So gradually has this occurred that these same citizens hardly realize it. Go to St. Louis and you will find the habit of civic pride in them; they still boast. The visitor is told of the wealth of the residents, of the financial strength of the banks, and of the growing importance of the industries, yet he sees poorly paved, refuse-burdened streets, and dusty or mud-covered alleys; he passes a ramshackle fire-trap crowded with the sick, and learns that it is the City Hospital; he enters the “Four Courts,” and his nostrils are greeted by the odor of formaldehyde used as a disinfectant, and insect powder spread to destroy vermin; he calls at the new City Hall, and finds half the entrance boarded with pine planks to cover up the unfinished interior. Finally, he turns a tap in the hotel, to see liquid mud flow into wash-basin or bath-tub.

The St. Louis charter vests legislative power of great scope in a Municipal Assembly, which is composed of a council and a House of Delegates. Here is a description of the latter by one of Mr. Folk’s grand juries:

“We have had before us many of those who have been, and most of those who are now, members of the House of Delegates. We found a number of these utterly illiterate and lacking in ordinary intelligence, unable to give a better reason for favoring or opposing a measure than a desire to act with the majority. In some, no trace of mentality or morality could be found; in others, a low order of training appeared, united with base cunning, groveling instincts, and sordid desires. Unqualified to respond to the ordinary requirements of life, they are utterly incapable of comprehending the significance of an ordinance, and are incapacitated, both by nature and training, to be the makers of laws. The choosing of such men to be legislators makes a travesty of justice, sets a premium on incompetency, and deliberately poisons the very source of the law.”

These creatures were well organized. They had a “combine”—a legislative institution—which the grand jury described as follows:

“Our investigation, covering more or less fully a period of ten years, shows that, with few exceptions, no ordinance has been passed wherein valuable privileges or franchises are granted until those interested have paid the legislators the money demanded for action in the particular case. Combines in both branches of the Municipal Assembly are formed by members sufficient in number to control legislation. To one member of this combine is delegated the authority to act for the combine, and to receive and to distribute to each member the money agreed upon as the price of his vote in support of, or opposition to, a pending measure. So long has this practice existed that such members have come to regard the receipt of money for action on pending measures as a legitimate perquisite of a legislator.”

One legislator consulted a lawyer with the intention of suing a firm to recover an unpaid balance on a fee for the grant of a switch-way. Such difficulties rarely occurred, however. In order to insure a regular and indisputable revenue, the combine of each house drew up a schedule of bribery prices for all possible sorts of grants, just such a list as a commercial traveler takes out on the road with him. There was a price for a grain elevator, a price for a short switch; side tracks were charged for by the linear foot, but at rates which varied according to the nature of the ground taken; a street improvement cost so much; wharf space was classified and precisely rated. As there was a scale for favorable legislation, so there was one for defeating bills. It made a difference in the price if there was opposition, and it made a difference whether the privilege asked was legitimate or not. But nothing was passed free of charge. Many of the legislators were saloon-keepers—it was in St. Louis that a practical joker nearly emptied the House of Delegates by tipping a boy to rush into a session and call out, “Mister, your saloon is on fire,”—but even the saloon-keepers of a neighborhood had to pay to keep in their inconvenient locality a market which public interest would have moved.

From the Assembly, bribery spread into other departments. Men empowered to issue peddlers‘ licenses and permits to citizens who wished to erect awnings or use a portion of the sidewalk for storage purposes charged an amount in excess of the prices stipulated by law, and pocketed the difference. The city’s money was loaned at interest, and the interest was converted into private bank accounts. City carriages were used by the wives and children of city officials. Supplies for public institutions found their way to private tables; one itemized account of food furnished the poorhouse included California jellies, imported cheeses, and French wines! A member of the Assembly caused the incorporation of a grocery company, with his sons and daughters the ostensible stockholders, and succeeded in having his bid for city supplies accepted although the figures were in excess of his competitors’. In return for the favor thus shown, he endorsed a measure to award the contract for city printing to another member, and these two voted aye on a bill granting to a third the exclusive right to furnish city dispensaries with drugs.

Men ran into debt to the extent of thousands of dollars for the sake of election to either branch of the Assembly. One night, on a street car going to the City Hall, a new member remarked that the nickel he handed the conductor was his last. The next day he deposited $5,000 in a savings bank. A member of the House of Delegates admitted to the Grand Jury that his dividends from the combine netted $25,000 in one year; a Councilman stated that he was paid $50,000 for his vote on a single measure.

Bribery was a joke. A newspaper reporter overheard this conversation one evening in the corridor of the City Hall:

“Ah there, my boodler!” said Mr. Delegate.

“Ah there, my boodler!” said Mr. Delegate.

“Stay there, my grafter!” replied Mr. Councilman. “Can you lend me a hundred for a day or two?”

“Not at present. But I can spare it if the Z—- bill goes through to-night. Meet me at F—-'s later.”

“All right, my jailbird; I’ll be there.”

The blackest years were 1898, 1899, and 1900. Foreign corporations came into the city to share in its despoilation, and home industries were driven out by blackmail. Franchises worth millions were granted without one cent of cash to the city, and with provision for only the smallest future payment; several companies which refused to pay blackmail had to leave; citizens were robbed more and more boldly; pay-rolls were padded with the names of non-existent persons; work on public improvements was neglected, while money for them went to the boodlers.

Some of the newspapers protested, disinterested citizens were alarmed, and the shrewder men gave warnings, but none dared make an effective stand. Behind the corruptionists were men of wealth and social standing, who, because of special privileges granted them, felt bound to support and defend the looters. Independent victims of the far-reaching conspiracy submitted in silence, through fear of injury to their business. Men whose integrity was never questioned, who held high positions of trust, who were church members and teachers of Bible classes, contributed to the support of the dynasty,—became blackmailers, in fact,—and their excuse was that others did the same, and that if they proved the exception it would work their ruin. The system became loose through license and plenty till it was as wild and weak as that of Tweed in New York.

Then the unexpected happened—an accident. There was no uprising of the people, but they were restive; and the Democratic party leaders, thinking to gain some independent votes, decided to raise the cry “reform” and put up a ticket of candidates different enough from the usual offerings of political parties to give color to their platform. These leaders were not in earnest. There was little difference between the two parties in the city; but the rascals that were in had been getting the greater share of the spoils, and the “outs” wanted more than was given to them. “Boodle” was not the issue, no exposures were made or threatened, and the bosses expected to control their men if elected. Simply as part of the game, the Democrats raised the slogan, “reform” and “no more Ziegenheinism.”

Mayor Ziegenhein, called “Uncle Henry,” was a “good fellow,” "one of the boys,“ and though it was during his administration that the city grew ripe and went to rot, his opponents talked only of incompetence and neglect, and repeated such stories as that of his famous reply to some citizens who complained because certain street lights were put out: ”You have the moon yet—ain’t it?"

When somebody mentioned Joseph W. Folk for Circuit Attorney the leaders were ready to accept him. They didn’t know much about him. He was a young man from Tennessee; had been President of the Jefferson Club, and arbitrated the railroad strike of 1898. But Folk did not want the place. He was a civil lawyer, had had no practice at the criminal bar, cared little about it, and a lucrative business as counsel for corporations was interesting him. He rejected the invitation. The committee called again and again, urging his duty to his party, and the city, etc.

committee called again and again, urging his duty to his party, and the city, etc.

“Very well,” he said, at last, “I will accept the nomination, but if elected I will do my duty. There must be no attempt to influence my actions when I am called upon to punish lawbreakers.”

The committeemen took such statements as the conventional platitudes of candidates. They nominated him, the Democratic ticket was elected, and Folk became Circuit Attorney for the Eighth Missouri District.

Three weeks after taking the oath of office his campaign pledges were put to the test. A number of arrests had been made in connection with the recent election, and charges of illegal registration were preferred against men of both parties. Mr. Folk took them up like routine cases of ordinary crime. Political bosses rushed to the rescue, Mr. Folk was reminded of his duty to his party, and told that he was expected to construe the law in such a manner that repeaters and other election criminals who had hoisted Democracy’s flag and helped elect him might be either discharged or receive the minimum punishment. The nature of the young lawyer’s reply can best be inferred from the words of that veteran political leader, Colonel Ed Butler, who, after a visit to Mr. Folk, wrathfully exclaimed, “D—n Joel he thinks he’s the whole thing as Circuit Attorney.”

The election cases were passed through the courts with astonishing rapidity; no more mercy was shown Democrats than Republicans, and before winter came a number of ward heelers and old-time party workers were behind the bars in Jefferson City. He next turned his attention to grafters and straw bondsmen with whom the courts were infested, and several of these leeches are in the penitentiary to-day. The business was broken up because of his activity. But Mr. Folk had made little more than the beginning.

One afternoon, late in January, 1903, a newspaper reporter, known as “Red” Galvin, called Mr. Folk’s attention to a ten-line newspaper item to the effect that a large sum of money had been placed in a bank for the purpose of bribing certain Assemblymen to secure the passage of a street railroad ordinance. No names were mentioned, but Mr. Galvin surmised that the bill referred to was one introduced on behalf of the Suburban Railway Company. An hour later Mr. Folk sent the n behalf of the Suburban Railway Company. An hour later Mr. Folk sent the names of nearly one hundred persons to the sheriff, with instructions to subpoena them before the grand jury at once. The list included Councilmen, members of the House of Delegates, officers and directors of the Suburban Railway, bank presidents and cashiers. In three days the investigation was being pushed with vigor, but St. Louis was laughing at the “huge joke.” Such things had been attempted before. The men who had been ordered to appear before the grand jury jested as they chatted in the anterooms, and newspaper accounts of these preliminary examinations were written in the spirit of burlesque.

It has developed since that Circuit Attorney Folk knew nothing, and was not able to learn much more during the first days; but he says he saw here and there puffs of smoke and he determined to find the fire. It was not an easy job. The first break into such a system is always difficult. Mr. Folk began with nothing but courage and a strong personal conviction. He caused peremptory summons to be issued, for the immediate attendance in the grand jury room of Charles H. Turner, president of the Suburban Railway, and Philip Stock, a representative of brewers‘ president of the Suburban Railway, and Philip Stock, a representative of brewers’ interests, who, he had reason to believe, was the legislative agent in this deal.

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Folk, “I have secured sufficient evidence to warrant the return of indictments against you for bribery, and I shall prosecute you to the full extent of the law and send you to the penitentiary unless you tell to this grand jury the complete history of the corruptionist methods employed by you to secure the passage of Ordinance No. 44. I shall give you three days to consider the matter. At the end of that time, if you have not returned here and given us the information demanded, warrants will be issued for your arrest.”

They looked at the audacious young prosecutor and left the Four Courts building without uttering a word. He waited. Two days later, ex-Lieutenant Governor Charles P. Johnson, the veteran criminal lawyer, called, and said that his client, Mr. Stock, was in such poor health that he would be unable to appear before the grand jury.

“I am truly sorry that Mr. Stock is ill,” replied Mr. Folk, “for his presence here is imperative, and if he fails to appear he will be arrested before sundown.” That evening a conference was held in Governor Johnson’s office, and the next day this story was told in the grand jury room by Charles H. Turner, millionaire president of the Suburban Railway, and corroborated by Philip Stock, man-about-town and a good fellow: The Suburban, anxious to sell out at a large profit to its only competitor, the St. Louis Transit Co., caused to be drafted the measure known as House Bill No. 44. So sweeping were its grants that Mr. Turner, who planned and executed the document, told the directors in his confidence that its enactment into law would enhance the value of the property from three to six million dollars. The bill introduced, Mr. Turner visited Colonel Butler, who had long been known as a legislative agent, and asked his price for securing the passage of the measure. “One hundred and forty-five thousand dollars will be my fee,” was the reply. The railway president demurred. He would think the matter over, he said, and he hired a cheaper man, Mr. Stock. Stock conferred with the representative of the combine in the House of Delegates and reported that $75,000 would be necessary in this branch of the Assembly. Mr. Turner presented a note would be necessary in this branch of the Assembly. Mr. Turner presented a note indorsed by two of the directors whom he could trust, and secured a loan from the German American Savings Bank.

Bribe funds in pocket, the legislative agent telephoned John Murrell, at that time a representative of the House combine, to meet him in the office of the Lincoln Trust Company. There the two rented a safe-deposit box. Mr. Stock placed in the drawer the roll of $75,000, and each subscribed to an agreement that the box should not be opened unless both were present. Of course the conditions spread upon the bank’s daybook made no reference to the purpose for which this fund had been deposited, but an agreement entered into by Messrs. Stock and Murrell was to the effect that the $75,000 should be given Mr. Murrell as soon as the bill became an ordinance, and by him distributed to the members of the combine. Stock turned to the Council, and upon his report a further sum of $60,000 was secured. These bills were placed in a safedeposit box of the Mississippi Valley Trust Co., and the man who held the key as representative of the Council combine was Charles H. Kratz.

All seemed well, but a few weeks after placing these funds in escrow, Mr. Stock reported to his employer that there was an unexpected hitch due to the action of Emil Meysenburg, who, as a member of the Council Committee on Railroads, was holding up the report on the bill. Mr. Stock said that Mr. Meysenburg held some worthless shares in a defunct corporation and wanted Mr. Stock to purchase this paper at its par value of $9,000. Mr. Turner gave Mr. Stock the money with which to buy the shares.

Thus the passage of House Bill 44 promised to cost the Suburban Railway Co. $144,000, only one thousand dollars less than that originally named by the political boss to whom Mr. Turner had first applied. The bill, however, passed both houses of the Assembly. The sworn servants of the city had done their work and held out their hands for the bribe money.

Then came a court mandate which prevented the Suburban Railway Co. from reaping the benefit of the votebuying, and Charles H. Turner, angered at the check, issued orders that the money in safe-deposit boxes should not be touched. War was declared between bribe-givers and bribe-takers, and the latter resorted to tactics which they hoped would frighten the Suburban people into submission—such as making enough of the story public to cause rumors of impending prosecution. It was that first item which Mr. Folk saw and acted upon.

When Messrs. Turner and Stock unfolded in the grand jury room the details of their bribery plot, Circuit Attorney Folk found himself in possession of verbal evidence of a great crime; he needed as material exhibits the two large sums of money in safe-deposit vaults of two of the largest banking institutions of the West. Had this money been withdrawn? Could he get it if it was there? Lockboxes had always been considered sacred and beyond the power of the law to open. “I’ve always held,” said Mr. Folk, “that the fact that a thing never had been done was no reason for thinking it couldn’t be done.” He decided in this case that the magnitude of the interests involved warranted unusual action, so he selected a committee of grand jurors and visited one of the banks. He told the president, a personal friend, the facts that had come into his possession, and asked permission to search for the fund.

“Impossible,” was the reply. “Our rules deny anyone the right.”

“Mr. —,” said Mr. Folk, “a crime has been committed, and you hold concealed the principal evidence thereto. In the name of the State of Missouri I demand that you cause the box to be opened. If you refuse, I shall cause a warrant to be issued, charging you as an accessory.”

For a minute not a word was spoken by anyone in the room; then the banker said in almost inaudible tones:

“Give me a little time, gentlemen. I must consult with our legal adviser before taking such a step.”

“We will wait ten minutes,” said the Circuit Attorney. “By that time we must have access to the vault or a warrant will be applied for.”

At the expiration of that time a solemn procession wended its way from the president’s office to the vaults in the subcellar—the president, the cashier, and the corporation’s lawyer, the grand jurors, and the Circuit Attorney. All bent eagerly president’s office to the vaults in the subcellar—the president, the cashier, and the corporation’s lawyer, the grand jurors, and the Circuit Attorney. All bent eagerly forward as the key was inserted in the lock. The iron drawer yielded, and a roll of something wrapped in brown paper was brought to light. The Circuit Attorney removed the rubber bands, and national bank notes of large denomination spread out flat before them. The money was counted, and the sum was $75,000!

The boodle fund was returned to its repository, officers of the bank were told they would be held responsible for it until the courts could act. The investigators visited the other financial institution. They met with more resistance there. The threat to procure a warrant had no effect until Mr. Folk left the building and set off in the direction of the Four Courts. Then a messenger called him back, and the second box was opened. In this was found $60,000. The chain of evidence was complete.

From that moment events moved rapidly. Charles Kratz and John K. Murrell, alleged representatives of Council and House combines, were arrested on bench warrants and placed under heavy bonds. Kratz was brought into court from a meeting at which plans were being formed for his election to the National Congress. Murrell was taken from his undertaking establishment. Emil Meysenburg, millionaire broker, was seated in his office when a sheriff’s deputy entered and read a document that charged him with bribery. The summons reached Henry Nicolaus while he was seated at his desk, and the wealthy brewer was compelled to send for a bondsman to avoid passing a night in jail. The cable flashed the news to Cairo, Egypt, that Ellis Wainwright, many times a millionaire, proprietor of the St. Louis brewery that bears this name, had been indicted. Julius Lehmann, one of the members of the House of Delegates, who had joked while waiting in the grand jury’s anteroom, had his laughter cut short by the hand of a deputy sheriff on his shoulder and the words, “You are charged with perjury.” He was joined at the bar of the criminal court by Harry Faulkner, another jolly good fellow.

Consternation spread among the boodle gang. Some of the men took night trains for other States and foreign countries; the majority remained and counseled together. Within twenty-four hours after the first indictments were returned, a together. Within twenty-four hours after the first indictments were returned, a meeting of bribe-givers and bribe-takers was held in South St. Louis. The total wealth of those in attendance was $30,000,000, and their combined political influence sufficient to carry any municipal election under normal conditions.

This great power was aligned in opposition to one man, who still was alone. It was not until many indictments had been returned that a citizens' committee was formed to furnish funds, and even then most of the contributors concealed their identity. Mr. James L. Blair, the treasurer, testified in court that they were afraid to be known lest “it ruin their business.”

At the meeting of corruptionists three courses were decided upon. Political leaders were to work on the Circuit Attorney by promise of future reward, or by threats. Detectives were to ferret out of the young lawyer’s past anything that could be used against him. Witnesses would be sent out of town and provided with money to remain away until the adjournment of the grand jury.

Mr. Folk at once felt the pressure, and it was of a character to startle one. Statesmen, lawyers, merchants, clubmen, churchmen—in fact, men prominent in all walks of life—visited him at his office and at his home, and urged that he cease such activity against his fellow-townspeople. Political preferment was promised if he would yield; a political grave if he persisted. Threatening letters came, warning him of plots to murder, to disfigure, and to blackguard. Word came from Tennessee that detectives were investigating every act of his life. Mr. Folk told the politicians that he was not seeking political favors, and not looking forward to another office; the others he defied. Meantime he probed the deeper into the municipal sore. With his first successes for prestige and aided by the panic among the boodlers, he soon had them suspicious of one another, exchanging charges of betrayal, and ready to “squeal” or run at the slightest sign of danger. One member of the House of Delegates became so frightened while under the inquisitorial cross-fire that he was seized with a nervous chill; his false teeth fell to the floor, and the rattle so increased his alarm that he rushed from the room without stopping to pick up his teeth, and boarded the next train.

It was not long before Mr. Folk had dug up the intimate history of ten years of corruption, especially of the business of the North and South and the Central Traction franchise grants, the last-named being even more iniquitous than the Suburban.

Early in 1898 a “promoter” rented a bridal suite at the Planters' Hotel, and having stocked the rooms with wines, liquors, and cigars until they resembled a candidate’s headquarters during a convention, sought introduction to members of the Assembly and to such political bosses as had influence with the city fathers. Two weeks after his arrival the Central Traction bill was introduced “by request” in the Council. The measure was a blanket franchise, granting rights of way which had not been given to old-established companies, and permitting, the beneficiaries to parallel any track in the city. It passed both Houses despite the protests of every newspaper in the city, save one, and was vetoed by the mayor. The cost to the promoter was $145,000.

Preparations were made to pass the bill over the executive’s veto. The bridal suite was restocked, larger sums of money were placed on deposit in the banks, and the services of three legislative agents were engaged. Evidence now in the services of three legislative agents were engaged. Evidence now in the possession of the St. Louis courts tells in detail the disposition of $250,000 of bribe money. Sworn statements prove that $75,000 was spent in the House of Delegates. The remainder of the $250,000 was distributed in the Council, whose members, though few in number, appraised their honor at a higher figure on account of their higher positions in the business and social world. Finally, but one vote was needed to complete the necessary two-thirds in the upper Chamber. To secure this a councilman of reputed integrity was paid $50,000 in consideration that he vote aye when the ordinance should come up for final passage. But the promoter did not dare risk all upon the vote of one man, and he made this novel proposition to another honored member, who accepted it:

“You will vote on roll call after Mr.—. I will place $45,000 in the hands of your son, which amount will become yours, if you have to vote for the measure because of Mr.—'s not keeping his promise. But if he stands out for it you can vote against it, and the money shall revert to me.”

On the evening when the bill was read for final passage the City Hall was crowded with ward heelers and lesser

Source: Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of the Cities, American Century Series (New York: McClure, Philips & Co., 1904; Hill and Wang, 1957), 19–41.

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