Forget Democrat and Republican, even liberal and conservative rivalry; the 1910 California elections were all about the Regulars vs. Insurgents.
Sonoma County politics shifted leftward for the first time, marking an end to the era when our ancestors voted as if we were some West Coast outpost of the Solid South, yearning for a return of the good ol’ days of Dixie. But first, some background:
The “insurgents” (and yes, candidates proudly called themselves “insurgents”) were progressives who wanted political reform – more direct participation in government by voters, an end to “bosses” controlling cities and a stop to the state legislature being controlled by the Southern Pacific railroad. They wanted conservation of land and water. They wanted women’s suffrage, better schools and prison reform, and more. Most people with such sympathies were Republicans in the vein of ex-President Teddy Roosevelt and loosely organized around the state into chapters of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, which promoted candidates wanting to reform the state Republican party. One wee problem: The Republican party liked the status quo and thought themselves to be fine fellows in no need of reform. This difference of opinion led to many quiet discussions, such as the incident (transcribed below) when a Leaguer tried to participate in the Central Committee meeting in Santa Rosa and was invited to choose between leaving or being promptly thrown out.
The “regulars” were…not insurgents. Examples can be found of newspapers using the term to precisely describe “machine” Republicans as those who voted as ordered by party leaders or Southern Pacific’s lobbyist, but other examples can be found where it was used to describe any politicians not in the League, including Democrats. The Press Democrat sometimes appeared to use “regulars” to mean something like “the public at large.”
It’s important to understand that insurgents were not viewed as bomb-throwing radicals or even a new player on the political scene. Some of their ideas had already become state law, such as political parties choosing candidates by open primaries instead of backroom deals (although Santa Rosa probably violated the law in its municipal elections earlier that year). Even the conservative Press Democrat, which had viciously attacked reformers in past years, published no snarky editorials about the insurgents and even taunted an incumbent for voting against reform legislation.
And although Santa Rosa was usually a forlorn rural outpost on the political map, in 1910 it was a crossroads for election year activity. Two controversial “machine” Republicans came from Santa Rosa and the Democratic candidate for governor, Theodore Bell, was treated like the town’s favorite son (although he really hailed from Napa). The Republican opposing Bell was one of the founders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, Hiram Johnson, and he had a Santa Rosa link as well; as a top San Francisco criminal lawyer, he was originally expected to defend Dr. Burke at his trial for attempted murder and remained on the defense team even as he campaigned for governor.
Bell is an interesting politician to study: He was a feckless Democrat who always seemed out of step with the parade. We first met him in 1904, for example, when he was running for reelection to the House of Representatives and hoping to appeal to Democratic party reactionaries by touting his endorsement from Morris Estee, who had been associated with some of the most racist legislation in state history. When Bell ran for governor two years later, he was transformed into an ultra-progressive reformer; when he tried again for governor in 1918, he was an anti-Woodrow Wilson independent. He switched to the Republican party after that but died before he could roll the dice under their banner.
The Press Democrat – which always supported Bell, no matter what he was running for (and losing at) – relentlessly promised readers his 1910 victory was assured; one editorial item blurted, “by the time Theodore Bell gets through with Hiram Johnson there will not be enough left of the latter gentleman to make even a political grease spot.” Sonoma County was one of the few counties Bell won in 1910 – although his victory here was by only a couple of hundred votes – and Johnson easily won by six points statewide (the Socialist party candidate captured over 12 percent of the vote).
It was a year when voters favored fresh faces: insurgents good, incumbents bad. And although Bell hadn’t held public office since 1904 and talked like an insurgent himself, he had chaired the Democratic convention in 1908 and his name was so often in the Bay Area newspapers that Average Joe Voter probably believed he was some sort of elected official. He was a sharp contrast to State Senator Walter Price (R-Santa Rosa), who seemed to fade into the woodwork after each election was over.
Price, who was profiled here earlier, was a flunky for Southern Pacific (it was even said by some newspapers that he was spying on his party’s caucus for the company). He was apparently one of Santa Rosa’s real estate wheeler-dealers, which is probably the main reason he kept getting reelected. But in 1910 the Press Democrat ripped Price for his anti-democracy voting pattern, where he opposed more oversight of the railroads, opposed open primary voting for party candidates, opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, and opposed women’s right to vote. The PD instead endorsed Louis Julliard, a civic leader who was instrumental in forming the local National Guard Company E (and was, incidentally, another attorney who read law under James Wyatt Oates). The PD – which had never seemed to care before about Price’s connections to the railroad and had laughed at the 1908 notions that Santa Rosa had its own cabal of bosses running the show – was suddenly interested in linking him to machine politics. Although Julliard didn’t run as a reform candidate, Price was defeated, 41 to 52 percent.
A word should be said here about Louis Julliard, along with another freshman to the state legislature that year: Herbert Slater, the former City Editor for the Press Democrat, who would serve in office until his death, 37 years later. Slater was mentioned earlier for his memorable speech on the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, which remains the most important first-hand account of what really happened. He and Julliard will probably never be mentioned again in this journal because their years in public service were untainted by corruption or scandal. The next time you pass Herbert Slater Middle School or Julliard Park – which was the old Julliard family homestead and donated to the city by Louis’ brother – salute Herb and Louis for jobs well done and for being remarkably un-newsworthy. You will appreciate their integrity even more after reading the story below.
The insurgents hated Southern Pacific, and not far behind in their scorn was President Taft, whom many believed was undoing the conservation legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. In a series of muckraking articles published in Collier’s Weekly, it was charged that Taft’s administration was about to hand over the vast coal deposits on federally-protected land in the Alaskan Territory – worth an estimated $3.5 billion, or about one-tenth of the entire national GDP for 1910 – to a private syndicate controlled by J. P. Morgan and the Guggenheim brothers. The vision was that with an almost unlimited supply of cheap coal, San Francisco could be transformed into a new Pittsburgh. Take a moment and picture the Bay Area with great iron works shoulder-to-shoulder churning out heavy black smoke from blast furnaces.
With fortunes at stake, even owning a tiny, tiny, piece of the coal field action would make one filthy, filthy rich, and a man named Harry White held several claims. White was also the player with the political connections to make the enormous project happen. He had organized the “Taft Clubs” in California before the president’s election and was rumored to have been responsible for the appointment of the Secretary of the Interior, who was the key to pushing the deal through. White had also sold shares in his syndicate at the giveaway price of $10 to several West Coast politicians, including California Governor Gillett – and three-term Rep. Duncan McKinlay (R-Santa Rosa).
Since his election to Congress in 1904, McKinlay had been known for three things: His hatred for Japanese and Korean immigrants, his allegiance to Taft, and for burying constituents in the district under a mountain of bulletins, newsletters, and government documents mailed from his Congressional office. He became a personal friend of the president when he was part of the delegation that visited Japan in 1905 with Taft (then Secretary of War) and on returning he joined another Congressman in beating the drum for legislation to exclude the Japanese and Koreans – while he didn’t invent the racist slur “yellow peril,” he damn near wore it out. (MORE on the anti-Japanese hysteria.)
Being associated with the biggest scandal of the day just before an election is never a good thing, and McKinlay tried to change the subject; while investigations were underway into the controversy over the Interior Secretary and the Alaskan coal fields, McKinlay was fearmongering that America was threatened by an “Asiatic industrial invasion” in the form of cheap imported cotton. It didn’t work. McKinlay failed to even make it to the general election, losing by 17 percentage points in the Republican primary to William Kent, one of the leaders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League and a Marin County philanthropist who had recently donated some of his property for the creation of Muir Woods.
McKinlay was one of four Congressmen closely allied to President Taft who lost, and his foes were quick to gloat: The Los Angeles Herald editorialized, “Among the first to fall victims to the insurgent simoon [“poison wind”], Duncan McKinlay proposes to be one of the last to become reconciled. He is bitter in his thoughts of ingrate California, for which he secured so much pork.” Even the Santa Rosa Republican – the paper of record for his own political party – offered a takedown written by Tom Gregory with the subhed, “Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism” (“fetich” here means, “irrational devotion to some activity”).
After his defeat McKinlay proved his party loyalty by campaigning for other Taft allies on the East Coast, ending the summer with several days as Taft’s guest at the summer White House. He was rewarded by being offered the choice of two patronage jobs that paid $5,000/yr for doing nothing: Assistant postmaster general or surveyor of the port of San Francisco. He chose the latter, and spent the remaining four years of his life giving the occasional bitter speech and writing a small book about the Panama Canal. Naturally, he dedicated it to Taft and warned that the Canal will be essential if the Navy ever needs to defend the West Coast from an Asian invasion.
The final political item for 1910 is certainly the oddest, and comes close to “Believe it or Not!” territory. It also shows that although the insurgents beat up the regulars that year, the non-progressives still had spunk.
It seems that one seat in the state assembly was certain to go to the winner of the Republican primary, as no one had stepped forward to run as a Democrat. On the Republican ballot was James Hamilton, an insurgent, and Dr. F. H. Phillips, a dentist from Petaluma. Hamilton won easily but while they were counting votes, county officials discovered a strange thing: There were 25 write-in votes for Phillips – on Democratic ballots.
Phillips seemed genuinely shocked that he had been drafted into the Democratic party, and declined the nomination. In the weeks remaining before the general election, both Santa Rosa papers were peppered with items about the issue: Was his ad hoc nomination legal? Will he serve, if elected? Can his name be prevented from appearing on the ballot? The state Attorney General was asked to rule on the matter and yes, Dr. Phillips was a genuine candidate for office.
Dr. Phillips apparently had a subsequent change of heart, and decided he wouldn’t be so upset at having a “D” after his name as long as it came with “Assemblyman” in front of it. The Press Democrat jumped on board and declared Phillips was “a thoroughly ‘live wire'” and intended to make a “vigorous fight for election.” He told the PD, “I do not consider that I was defeated for the nomination by the Republicans, but by Insurgents– the Lincoln-Roosevelters,” and “Should the people by any unforeseen reason see fit to elect me to act as their representative, I will consider myself in duty bound to accept that office…”
In the end the insurgent won, 51 to 40 percent. But it was no small feat that the reluctant Democrat still pulled in almost 1,800 votes, which surely was every voter who viewed the League with anathema. That makes that race kind of a referendum on political sentiments in 1910 Santa Rosa, and the 51:40 result shows the town was finally joining mainstream America in the progressive era. Barely.
NO LINCOLN-ROOSEVELTERS WANTED BY REPUBLICANS
Rolfe L. Thompson Is Ordered to Leave the Meeting
Representatives of Regular Organization, in Meeting Assembled, Read Supporters of Hiram Johnson Out of the Party–Both Sides Give Their Version of Sensational Incident
Rolfe L. Thompson, chairman of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League organization in Sonoma county, attempted to break in at the meeting of the Republican County Central Committee held in Germania hall in this city yesterday as the holder of a proxy for a member of the committee. He was plainly told that a “Lincoln-Roosevelter is not a Republican,” and therefore had no business at a Republican meeting any more than a member of any other party in direct opposition to Republicanism.
Thompson went to the committee meeting holding the proxy of W. L. Cunningham of Bodega, a member of the Central Committee. He went there seeking a seat in the conference as a Republican, he said, and a lifelong one at tht. He was given to understand that his presence was not desired, and he was given the preference by Chairman S. S. Bogle, either to retire gracefully or else with assistance. He retired quietly from the hall, and left with the words of the chairman ringing in his ears: “This is not a Lincoln-Roosevelt meeting, this is a Republican meeting.”
The news of the throwing down of the gauntlet spread quickly outside the hall and throughout the afternoon and evening the rebuke administered to the Lincoln-Roosevelt committeeman was freely discussed.
When seen after he had left the meeting of the Central Committee at Germania Hall, Mr. Thompson had this to say of what had transpired:
“W. J. Cunningham, Republican County Central Committeeman from Bodega, sent me his proxy, together with a letter, saying: “You represent the Republican principles which this precinct endorses, and I wish you would accept this proxy and vote it for us.” He also added that it seemed queer that the Committee should have asked all who could not attend to make their proxy out in blank and return it for the use of the Committee… [after] I quietly retired, Dr. Bogle immediately proceeded to make a speech endorsing the Southern Pacific in glowing terms, and declaring that Hiram Johnson was not a Republican.
“I construe the manner of enforcing the rule as an exhibition of the strongest antipathy on the part of the chairman and a majority of the committee toward insurgent Republicanism, and an evidence of loyalty to the old machine method of doing politics, with an evident submission on the part of many of the Southern Pacific dominance in politics…”
– Press Democrat, July 2, 1910
“HELP WALTER PRICE OUT”
Under the suggestive heading above quoted, the Analy Standard calls upon all progressive Republicans to rally to the support of the Hon. Walter F. Price, recognized representative of the machine element in this county and paid field captain of the organization at large. “He certainly has a hard fight,” says our Sebastopol exchange, “and Republicans should lay aside personal feelings, if they have any, and see that Price is elected.”
Walter Price will be “helped out” all right, but not in the way the Standard means. He will be helped out of office by the votes of a good many hundred citizens who do not approve of the course he has followed while in office, and who resent his present effort to pose as a reformer, now that he has seen the way the wind is listing.
Walter is a political purist who has merely been “off his feed,” we are assured by the Standard, but he is now all right and can be depended upon to settle down and pull his full share of the load of political enlightenment.
Wouldn’t it jar you?
For years Walter Price has been the man to whom practically all the detail work of the machine in this county has been entrusted. And his vote could always be depended upon when it came to putting a machine measure through. During the last session he fought the direct primary, voted against the removal of the party circle, flatly opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, fought and voted against the initiative, referendum and recall, was against the Stetson law making the Railroad Commission effective, and dodged the vote on the measure ordering a continuance of the investigation into freight and express charges as now prevailing in this state.
Such a valuable man has been Senator Price to the Republican machine, that for years he has been provided with a steady position, first in the county, then in the district, and next in the state, which would enable him to travel about at public expense and keep track of what was going on, at the same time attending to any little details in the work of the organization that happened to require attention.
He recently went far out of his way to write a fullsome letter to the voters of Alameda county and with tears dripping off his typewriter told them Senator Leavitt was the greatest statesman of his time, and if they failed to re-elect that worthy the county of Alameda would never recover from the effects of its short-sightedness. Senator Leavitt is the recognized head and front of the machine, and Price is his ardent supporter. But the voters of Alameda failed to heed the kindly advice of Sonoma county’s Senator, and repudiated Leavitt at the primaries.
And the voters of Sonoma county will render a similar verdict at the polls regarding Senator Price next month.
They will “help Walter Price out” on or about the 8th prox.
– Press Democrat editorial, October 23, 1910
PHILLIPS NOT DISQUALIFIED AND HE WILL MAKE THE RUN
Lincoln-Roosevelters Try to Have His Name Kept off the Ballot
Candidate for Assemblyman in the Thirteenth District Issues Statement Defining His Position and Says He Was Not Defeated by “Republicans” But by “Insurgents”
The news that Dr. F. H. Phillips of Petaluma had decided to make the race for the Assembly in the Thirteenth District, as first published in yesterday morning’s Press Democrat, stirred the local representatives of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League to prompt activity.
In an effort to find some way to prevent Dr. Phillips from qualifying as a candidate, Rolfe L. Thompson and other held an informal conference yesterday morning, and later in the day called at the office of County Clerk Fred L. Wright and argued the matter of the latter’s right to place the name of Dr. Phillips on the official ballot, peremptorily demanding that the name be taken off.
A display of the certification received from the Secretary of State’s office which practically amounts to an order to print the names of the various nominees for state offices in on the ballot, soon put an end to this discussion, and then the contention was raised that, having filed no expense account, Dr. Phillips would not be eligible to receive a certificate of nomination.
Thompson wanted to know if the Clerk’s Office would take an informal opinion from one of the Superior Judges as authority for leaving the name off the ballot, but the reply was that such an opinion would not be sufficient authority for stopping the printing presses and taking any chances on the ballots not being ready in time. Thompson then reiterated his demand that Phillips’ name be left off the ballot, and the County Clerk appealed to the office of District Attorney Clarence F. Lea for advice. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle ruled that there was nothing in Thompson’s contention, and then communicated with Attorney General U. S. Webb by telephone, who promptly ruled that as Dr. Phillips had not been a candidate for the Democratic nomination, he did not have to file an expense account. The gist of Attorney General Webb’s opinion is as follows:
“The fact that Dr. Phillips did not file an expense account as a Republican candidate cuts no figure, under the existing circumstances, because he was defeated for the nomination and did not become the Republican nominee. He could not receive a certificate of nomination as a Republican, anyway. And as he was not an aspirant for the Democratic nomination, but became the nominee of the Democratic party involuntarily, he could not be required to file an expense account as a Democratic candidate…”
– Press Democrat, October 26, 1910
A STANDPATTER AND HE IS PROUD OF IT
Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism
Editor Petaluma Courier: I take my typewriter in hand (both hands) to let you knox–(this machine doesn’t seem to be a good speller) know we are having good weather, and also a number of other things. I assume you have cuts from the same brand of weather, also similar other things, as a difference of sixteen minutes of latitude between Petaluma and Santa Rosa cannon perceptibly vary their two barometer readings. Chief among the “other things” is the lively anticipation of employing a new man for the Second Congressional District’s work in Washington for the next two years. Workman Duncan E. McKinlay during his terms of service there has done–oh, wel-l-l-l, “purty well;” but we fear he has failed to fit himself for and into the changes that have taken place around him. We don’t accuse Mr. McKinlay of Ripvanwinkling our time away–he could not have been profoundly asleep while the momentous events were thundering by, especially when the Special Interests Overlords were loudly celebrating the passage of the Tariff Bill, and the heretofore fulminating Cannon was beginning to shrink in sound to a popgun and in size to the caliber of a derringer. It must be that Mr. McKinlay stood immutable in his dark little niche hugging his fetich of a pastday standpatism to his breast, and to him–pale devotee of a discredited faith–there came no conception of change. Whatever mighty spell was laid upon Mr. McKinlay, numbing his faculties and leaving him reactionary and dreaming, he has not awakened to a true appreciation of his place in the rear column of the world’s great onward movement. In his speech here Saturday evening he burst out exultingly–“I’m a standpatter and proud of it.” He certainly is still asleep and talking in it.
The standpatter as Mr. McKinlay views him and pictures him forth, also smacks of the somnolent, as Mr. McKinlay makes him beautiful as a dream. As the speaker described the ‘patters and their marches and countermarches through the lobbies and chambers of the capitol during the last session of Congress, a puissant host of Trust defenders, one is reminded of the etheralized squadron of archangels in Dore’s Paradise Lost. In his word delineation of an insurgent Mr. McKinlay does not continue closely along the Miltonic line and give us “a goblin damned,” or “archangel ruined,” but he throws on the canvas a composite creature of treachery, vindictiveness, and selfishness, shading down to ingratitude, presumptiousness and mole-blindness. Blending these elements will produce the standpatter’s ideal insurgent, viz: “A fellow who won’t agree with us, therefore, a fellow accursed.”
He dates the birth of the insurgent. A new thing. Sprung full-armed with weapon of unholy warfare suddenly unto being when Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Aldrich, Mr. Payne and others were busy revising the tariff. Says: “Within the great Republican party thus grew the rebellion that would seek to destroy it.” It is difficult to tell which is less accurate, McKinlay’s conception of the standpatter or his version of an insurgent.
Duncan E. McKinlay’s imagination needs repair. When the great corporate interests protected by the almost limitless power of their almost limitless wealth, and further protected by a protective tariff, banded themselves into trusts for the pirating and the plundering and the destroying of weaker competitors in the heretofore free fields of commerce, insurgency reappeared. That was not the day of its birth. It was born far down the centuries. The hut of the insurgent was always close to the tyrant’s palace. Greece would lay aside her classics, leave her academies to insurge till again she was free…Insurgency is older than Mr. McKinlay.
Mr. Editor, this evening in Petaluma you will hear Mr. McKinlay make the peculiar statements he has been making over this Congressional District. He will read detached sentences from the published utterances of Mr. William Kent, his opponent, and from a false premise will argue to a conclusion utterly foreign to Kent’s meaning. He will continue to say that Kent is a freetrader and is desirous of destroying the tariff, and this in the face of the fact that Kent is saying in his travels over the district, “I desire, as does President Taft, to put on the books a tariff law, that is gotten up for the welfare of the WHOLE NATION by DISINTERESTED and expert men.”
Kent meant, NOT BY A BAND OF TARIFF TINKERS IN THE INTEREST OF SPECIAL INTERESTS. What’s the matter with that? Kent is further saying: “I believe in a heavy tariff on luxuries, wines, liquors and tobacco, and I believe in a tariff that will put new industries on their feet, provided they can ultimately stand on their feet.”
Mr. McKinlay says Kent is a dreamer. From the foregoing anybody may see that he dreams bully dreams. He also claims that Kent has not been in California long enough to change his shirt. Mr. Kent came to this state from his native Illinois in 1871, and was changing his shirt twelve years in California before Mr. McKinlay left his native Canada. He persists in giving an incorrect version of Mr. Kent’s repeatedly expressed views on Single Tax, Conservation and “log rolling.” He complains of Pinchot coming out to California to make speeches, forgetting how many weeks he himself was absent from his seat in the House of Representatives making speeches in Missouri and other states of the Middle West. He intimates that conservation is not vital in California just now as one-fourth of her forest area is conserved…Speaking in one of his House speeches (franked by mail to this state for campaign uses) of the economical and business methods practiced in the conduct of the postoffice delartment, he does not refer to the 1909 postal deficit of $17,500,000 nor to Wells-Fargo’s net profit that year of $24,800,000 and to the fact that Uncle Sam pays the railroads three times as much rent for a car than does the express company…Mr. McKinlay bitterly complains of the withdrawal of public lands from entry by actual settlers, but he does not explain that this was a measure taken by the government (the Taft government) to block the wholesale grabbing of vast tracts of land by power-site, timber, coal, oil and other corporations through the usual fraudulent methods. He also complains of the government selling the timber in the National forests, but he does not explain that the purchasers generally are private mill owners and are in competition with the great Lumber Trust–and no Trust can abide competition, but surely Mr. McKinlay is not stumping his district for the Lumber Trust. His observations on State management of State Forests are wholly misleading, and do not arise to the merit of notice. Even the chipmunks in the California trees know that William Kent, the man who purchased and presented the notable Muir Woods to the people as theirs forever, will not advocate a measure that will not be for the true conservation of the forests and natural resources of this State….
…Mr. McKinlay points self-congratulatory to the many public buildings and other appropriations he had extracted from a reluctant national treasury. Certainly a servant, be he porter or president, may hope to receive and may receive the gratitude and even a gratuity over and above his regular remuneration, but he is hardly hustified in demanding either or both donations, or holding up to view the gifts from the United States Treasury to the Second Congressional District of California, as the direct result of his overtime labor in the service of said District. Where does a Congressman’s duty absolute end and his volunteer work begin? But Mr. McKinlay’s requisition for ultra-appreciation might be forgiven him if he had not stepped aside to sneer at a fellow citizen whose only offense is exercising the prerogative of seeking election to an office which is desired by Mr. McKinlay. He says Mr. Kent has “lily-white hands,” consequently will not get postoffice buildings and such. Bill Kent’s “lily-white hands” have been soiled in the honorable toil of turning rascals out of high places and turning those places to the possession of the people again. Mr. McKinlay is very unfortunate in his choice of terms. The cry of “party pork barrel” comes from a growing belief that a man in Washington may sidestep Duty and People and then ride home with a suitcase of appropriations–pork-and all will be well. Kent promises faithful service to this district, to the State, and to the Republic, but he is not making his fight on promises of “pork.”
Mr. McKinlay’s sins of omission committed while making speeches are many.
– Santa Rosa Republican, August 11, 1910