Monday, January 17, 2011

Today -100: January 17, 1911: Of senators, Gypsy queens, and Coleman Livingston Blease

In a process that makes a good argument for popular election of US senators (Congress is just beginning to consider the 17th Amendment), NY Democratic “Boss” Murphy is trying to fix a Senate seat for his man William Sheehan, now that the D’s have taken control of the Legislature. Murphy called a caucus of the Democratic state legislators, but 25 of the 116 refused to come so that they would not be bound by the caucus vote. One of the 25 was brand-new state senator Franklin D. Roosevelt. Gov. Dix puts forward the odd proposition that legislators should vote in accordance with their own consciences and the will of their constituents, which is just adorable. Neither Democratic faction has enough votes to put through their candidate without R votes. This fight is going to go on for 74 days before a compromise candidate is chosen, and is way too complicated for me to detail here (or to put it another way, I’m too lazy to try to figure it all out).

Meanwhile, the NY Republican caucus nominates the incumbent, Chauncey Depew, nearly unanimously, with a couple of votes going to Teddy Roosevelt.

Immigration deports the new wife of the Gypsy King (who the Times informs us is “inclined to stoutness”). And after he paid $60 for her in Bosnia, too.

Headline of the Day -100: “Auto Takes His Trousers.”

The new governor of South Carolina, Coleman Livingston Blease, is sworn in. Let’s look at his inaugural speech at some length, shall we? He begins by crowing about his victory over “a set of political character thieves, the meanest and most contemptible people known to man,” who tried to “crown him with a crown of persecution, envy and malice.” He recounts how he called on the author of an editorial against him in The State to show up at one of his rallies and repeat his statements in person (the editor didn’t, possibly remembering how his brother, a previous editor, was shot dead in 1903 by Lt. Governor James Tillman, who blamed the paper for his having lost the 1902 governor’s race) (Tillman was acquitted) and demands that the Legislature pass a bill to punish newspaper editors and reporters who say false things about people with a fine and imprisonment. He goes on for quite some time, Sarah Palin-style, about the newspapers that sullied his reputation.

He calls for more support for Confederate veterans, “for any man who does not love the ex-Confederate soldier is either a Yankee or has negro blood in his veins.”

He calls for liberal spending for schools. Well, for schools for white children. But he is against compulsory education because it “dethrones the authority of the parents and places the paid agents of the State in control of the children, and destroys family government” by tacitly telling children “we are giving you what your unnatural parents would not give,” thus imparting “the spirit of rebellion against parental authority”. And he says everyone should stop “parad[ing] figures to show the percentage of the ignorance of” South Carolinians. Any government officials who make such figures public should be fired. What he’s really against, though, is “white people’s taxes being used to educate negroes. I am a friend to the negro race. This is proved by the regard in which negroes of my home county hold me. The white people of the South are the best friends to the negro race. In my opinion, when the people of this country began to try to educate the negro they made a serious and grave mistake... So why continue?”

He wants a law against smoking by boys (not girls?) under 16. Also one against possession of toy guns (and real guns) by children under 16.

He wants to amend the law which currently allows white convicts to be placed in the same camps as negro convicts and worked in the same squads, threatening to pardon any white prisoner so grievously treated.

He is in favor of counties enacting licensing systems for the sale of liquor but only if a majority of the white people want it.

He wants “to make executions for the crime of rape, or assault with intent to ravish, public, as I believe this will bring about more satisfactory results – allowing others, and particularly those of the younger generation of that race from which most of these culprits come, to have a full view of the punishment meted out.” This he says, might prevent some lynchings. Not that there’s anything wrong with lynchings, of course: “Some newspapers and some people, in every controversy between the white man and the negro, seem to take delight in taking the side of the negro and denouncing the lynching, but this is a white man’s country and will continue to be ruled by the white man, regardless of the opinions or editorials of quarter or half breeds or foreigners. The pure-blooded Caucasian will always defend the virtue of our women, no matter what the cost. If rape is committed, death must follow.”

He wants to make cocaine illegal. “I also, in this connection, beg leave to call your attention to the evil of the habitual drinking of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and such like mixtures, as I fully believe they are injurious.” He recommends beer instead.

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