How We Elected the Old Man

Edward Salisbury October 1 1908

How We Elected the Old Man

Edward Salisbury October 1 1908

How We Elected the Old Man

The Way That Charley’s Father Was Made a United States Senator After a Most Exciting Contest and at an Outlay That was Appalling — Some Pointers on How to Wage a Campaign and Keep Your Hands Clean as Exemplified in the Present System of Running for Office.

Edward Salisbury

WHEN the son of one of the richest men in America came to me and said, “Bill, my Old Man wants to go to the United States Senate,” did I hem and haw, and look doubtful? No, sir; that isn’t my style. I said, “Charlie, that’s an honorable ambition. What is there in it for me?”

I’m ashamed to tell you what the answer was, but it was enough to send me flying off to hunt up Incorruptible Jordan.

Incorruptible Jordan is a wonder in his line, and his line is politics; he’s the best lobbyist, appropriation-pusher and

bill-killer in the State of - Well, I’m

not naming the State, but it’s west of the Mississippi River, and it isn’t Wyoming, and it isn’t Idaho.

Jordan is the sort of man who can talk about the immortality of the soul so beautifully as to bring tears to your eyes, and then turn round and play a game of poker that would make the devil himself envious. Yes, Jordan is a wonder; tall and dignified-looking, with gray hair (he could easily be mistaken for a bishop or a bank president), and as crooked as a ram’s horn — except with me. He doesn’t dare be crooked with me, for I’ve a sort of halfNelson hold on his liberty; but for me, he’d be breaking rock

in a striped suit this minute. As I hurried along the street towards Jordan’s office, 1 did some tall thinking, and the more I thought, the more indignant I became. Why hadn’t Charlie’s Old Man mentioned the fact that he wanted to be Senator, sooner—last summer, for instance? Here it was the second of January, and the Legislature would convene on the eighth. A nice time to spring this proposition on a fellow. Six days to get sexenty-six votes ! Wouldn’t that jar you? If it hadn’t been that Charlie’s Old Man was made of money, I’d have been a little discouraged.

I found Jordan in his office.

“Hullo, Bill,” he said, as I entered on

the run. “What’s the matter, man? Is the sheriff after you?” “Guess again,” I said. “The fact is, Jordan, I’ve got the biggest melon on record, and I want to borrow your knife.” “You've come to the Bill ; melon cutting’s my speciDo we divide even this time, or do I only get the seeds?” “My dear fellow,” T said, “the seeds m this melon will be an independent fortune in themselves. Charlie’s Old Man is going to run for U.S. Senator, and you and I arc going to elect him.” “Quite so,” said Jordan. “I put the

idea into his head yesterday at the club.”

That’s the kind of a fox Jordan is. I didn’t know whether what he said was true, then—I don’t know to this day— but it was a trump card for him to play, so he played it. Jordan has a nasty way of always playing trumps, confound him !

“I wasn’t at all sure that the Old Man would rise to the fly, though,” he continued.

“There are mighty few men who wouldn’t,,” I said. “Jordan, my boy, it’s going to be a prosperous year in this State; reserved seats in the next Legislature will be worth ten thousand dollars apiece before the session’s over.”

“Twenty thousand,” said Jordan.

"Do you think the Old Man will pay twenty thousand for a vote?” I cried.

“He’ll have to if he wants to be elected. There’ll be an awful howl when his name comes up at the joint session, if a lot of throats aren’t stopped with treasury notes in the meantime. Of course we can buy some of the Cow County contingent for less, but the average price per vote is going to be well above ten thousand dollars, you see if it isn’t. Is Charlie to handle the sack for the Old Man?”


“Well, tell him to corral all the thousand-dollar greenbacks he can lay his hands on; they’ll come in handy. We don’t want to cut our bait too fine,’ Bill. Fishing for suckers is one thing, and fishing for votes is another.”

“That’s true,” I said.

“And we mustn’t let any grass grow under our feet, either; our cue is to get busy poco pranto. Just you sit down, while I make out two lists of noble Legislators.”

“Going to divide the sheep from the goats, eh, Jordan?”

“Not at all, Bill; we’re only dealing with the goats at present. But there are two kinds of goats—cheap ones and expensive ones.”

Jordan wrote rapidly for about ten minutes. He knew his legislature as a priest knows his beads.

“There,” he said, when he’d finished writing, “we have fifteen cheap goats,

and thirty-two expensive ones. We need

seventy-six votes to elect the Old Man, which means that we’ve got to buy twenty-nine sheep. I’ll be glad of your opinion on the sheep question, Bill.”

“I’ve yet to see the sheep that twenty thousand dollars wouldn’t buy,” I said.

“You can’t bank on what sheep will do, though,” Jordan declared. “They’re silly animals and easily scared. But leaving sheep out of the deal, the proposition is this : the three avowed candidates for the senatorial toga are Burns, Johnson and Gillellen. Charlie’s Old Man is a Republican. Burns and Johnson are Republicans. We must buy them oflf, of course, though it might be well to leave Johnson in the race, say till after the third ballot, when he could retire gracefully in favor of the Old Man. Naturally, Gillellen is in the fight to stay; he’s rich, and his party has a majority in both houses. It looks like a cinch for him on the dope sheet, but money talks, and, fortunately for us, there are lots of Democrats who can understand its language.”

“So our tip is to go after the sheep, eh, Jordan?”

“That’s it, Bill ; us for the sheep. You stick to Charlie and the Old Man’s sack, and I’ll do the rest. If you’ll excuse me now, I’ll trot along, for I’ve a lot of telegraphing to do before dinner time.”

“That’s the ticket,” I said. “The sooner you round up your band of sheep, the sooner Charlie and I can get busy with the sack.”

The Senate and the House had been sitting in joint session for two days for the purpose of electing a U.S. Senator. On the first ballot, Charlie’s Old Man had received seventeen votes ; on the second ballot, twenty-six; on the third ballot, forty-two. Then the unexpected happened; Johnson, the other Republican candidate, didn’t withdraw according to programme. He was to have retired gracefully after the third ballot, but he didn’t retire, he wouldn’t retire—at least, he said he wouldn’t.

Of course it was a hold-up, pure and simple. Johnson was to have been given an independent fortune for withdrawing from the race; he wanted two independ' ent fortunes. It was dashed awkward for us. Already there were all sorts of

rumors of bribery floating about, and investigations were being threatened by Gillellen and his camp. To make matters worse, the men who remained behind Johnson were of the weak-kneed variety, and didn’t dare come out openly for the Old Alan; it would look too raw they said. With Johnson out of the running, they could do it, but with Johnson standing pat, it was out of the. question.

They cursed Johnson. We cursed

Johnson. Charlie’s Old Alan cursed Johnson. But Johnson didn’t mind a bit.

Charlie was furious. “That man John son is a scoundrel,” he said. “He agreed to take a certain price, and if he doesn’t take it and get out, I’ll brand him as a liar and a thief. I’ll show him up to the public for what he is. I’ll-I’ll-”

“Oh, fudge!” said Incorruptible Jordan. “Cut it out, Charlie. Johnson knows what he’s doing. You’ve got to pay what he asks : there are no two wavs about it.”

“I’ll see him in h-first,” said Char-


“No, you won’t,” Jordan replied. “Johnson has got us on the hip, and you know it. Dig up, boy! Dig up!”

Charlie raved and stormed, but he ended by digging up.

We knew he would. If he hadn’t we wouldn’t have put it into Johnson’s head to hold out on him. I don’t want you to get any erroneous ideas about John-

son. He is one of the most honorable men I know; he divided his extra swag with Jordan and me that very night.

The real tug of war was now on; we’d got down to cases at last. The first thing we did, after Charlie bought Johnson off, was to round up all the Johnson men. It wasn’t hard work. If Charlie had been a magnet, and the Johnson men iron filings, it couldn’t have been easier.

Incorruptible Jordan, who is aegreat Bible student, put it neater than that, though. Said he, “Bill, be on deck at

eight sharp, and you’ll see the sight of your life; the Johnson men are coming round to my office to pray to the Golden Calf, and it’s on the books that their prayers will be answered.”

It’s funny how such things get about, but you can’t speak of the Golden Calf in that part of the State to this day without everybody thinking you are referring to Charlie.

Well, the Johnson men came and prayed, Charlie answered their prayers with paper tmoney, and the game was almost played ; for now all we had to do was to go out in the open market and buy up seventeen Democratic votes—or so it seemed. Still, there were all sorts of rumors in the air. and Gillellen and his crowd were getting uglier and uglier. They were said to have threatened to kill the first Democratic legislator who voted for Charlie’s Old Man, and while there may have been nothing in it, the rumor didn’t do a thing but boost the price of Democratic votes.

But there are ways of getting round all difficulties. If the seventeen Democrats we needed were too lily-livered to vote for us, they and some of their friends weren’t at all averse to being absent when the next ballot was taken —that is, if they were kidnapped against their will, and run out of the State on a special train. Still, that was pretty coarse work, and we hoped to find an easier way.

So Charlie, and Incorruptible Jordan, and I sat in executive session far into the night, discussing ways and means Not that we needed to discuss things with Charlie, but it amused him and, as Jor dan said, the more difficulties we could throw in his way, the more Charlie’s Old Man would appreciate our ultimate victory. I must confess that even I was in the dark as to just what Jordan would do next, but I was sure he saw his way clear, and was sawing wood and waiting for the proper opening.

The next day, Johnson retired from the race as per schedule, after which the Gillellen men fought for an adjournment till evening, but we voted them down, and demanded a ballot. Would you believe it, instead of swinging into

our camp, five of Johnson’s men voted for Gillellen ! The Gillellen men cheered, our men cursed and all hell broke loose. But that wasn’t a circumstance to what happened later, when eight of Gillellen’s men voted for Charlie’s Old Man.

Wasn’t that clever of Jordan?

“Let ’em howl,” he said. “We’ve got a howl coming, too. Llaven’t they bought off five of our men? It’s scandalous Bill ! scandalous ! I’d be discouraged If we hadn’t got eight of their men in exchange.”

“Of course we can always get our five men back,” I said admiringly. “I wonder if they’re sure of their eight lambs returning to the fold?”

Jordan smiled. “I’d hate to be one of that bunch of eight,” he said. “I think to-morrow a few more of our men will desert us, Bill, but there’s a good time coming.”

“You bet!” I replied.

Jordan’s prediction came true; the next day four more of our men voted for Gillellen.

Charlie was wild, especially as no new Gillellen men voted for his Old Man. (Charlie wasn’t on to Jordan’s game, you see. We had been very careful to keep him in the dark, for the more desperate things looked, the more money he’d spend and Jordan and I, as public-spirited citizens, liked to see plenty of money in ciij culation.) Yes, sir, Charlie was up in the air good and plenty. That night he cornered Jordan and me, and talked to uslike a Dutch uncle.

“This thing has got to go through,” he said, “and it’s got to go through quick. To-morrow, the Old Man either goes to the Senate, or goes broke.”

“Llear! Hear!” cried Incorruptible Jordan.

“There’s public opinion to consider,” I said.

“It’s none of the public’s business,” said Charlie.

“They think it is, though,” I suggested.

“The best way to square public opinion is to buy up the press and the Old Man’s done that already,” said Charlie, “Besides-”

“The thing to do is to carry this fight outside party lines,” I interrupted. “We must cook up a nice little platform for your father, Charlie; something that will appeal to the rank and file.”

“What rot !” said Charlie. “The rank and file haven’t a thing to do with electing a Senator ; it’s the Legislature we’re after. “We’re not running on a platform we’re running on our bank account.”

“If you can only persuade your father to keep his mouth shut, and let his money do all the talking, we’ll win,” said Incorruptible Jordan.

“Of course we’ll win !” I cried. “Haven’t we got eight Democratic votes already?”

“Yes, and lost nine Republican votes,” said Charlie. “Not only that but I’m worried about Ross of Amador County, and Barker of the Black Hill district; I hear they’re taking money from the other side.”

“Hell!” said Incorruptible Jordan. “You make me tired, Charlie. In the first place, the other side isn’t spending any money, and in the second place, even if they were, Ross and Barker belong to us; they’re bought and paid for.”

“The question is,” I said, “will they stay bought?”

“You’ve got a lot to learn, you two,” Jordan replied. “A good politician takes money from both sides, but he votes foi the highest bidder. That reminds me, Charlie; the Old Man ought to do something for the Rev. Adolphus Peachtree.” “He’s already given him a cheque for his church.”

“A rotten lot of good that will do him Peachtree doesn’t want cheques, he wants greenbacks. He’s a valuable man, Charlie. A parson is always a strong card in the deck, and Peachtree is ready to swear he has seen no signs of bribery in the Legislature.”

“Must have been going about with his eyes shut,” I said.

“That’s the point I’m trying to make,” said Incorruptible Jordan. “A man’s a valuable man who will go about with his eyes shut these days, and as Chaplain of the House, Peachtree’s got a lot of influence. They used to have a blind Chap-

lain in the U.S. Senate, but Peachtree’s got him beat a mile.”

“All right,” said Charlie carelessly, “I’ll put him down on the list for five thousand. That will make three hundred and eighty-five thousand we’ve paid out in the last six days. The Old Man is buying his toga on the instalment plan, but I reckon the last payment will be made before long.”

“Speaking of payments,” I said, “there’s that young ruffian, Jack Boulder of Carson County, to consider. Smiling Smith tossed a bundle of greenbacks through the open transom of his room at the hotel night before last, and the insolent young puppy turned it over to the Attorney-General, I understand.”

“I suppose he counted it, and found it

wasn’t enough,” said Incorruptible Jordan.

“It was ten thousand dollars,” I re-' plied. “Ten thousand dollars in one thousand dollar notes.”

“Well, they can’t trace them to us,” said Charlie.

“It may mean an investigation in the House,” I argued.

“It’s a poor house that can’t whitewash itself,” said Incorruptible Jordan. “Investigations don’t do any harm, and an investigation just now would do some of those fellows good. There’s young Arnold, for instance, who is holding out for twenty-five thousand ; with a good scare thrown into him, like as not he’d sell out for ten, and be glad to take the money. An investigation acts like a

bear raid, you see, and if the bottom dropped out of the vote market, it wouldn’t worry us any, eh, Charlie?’’

“I’m not so sure of that,” Charlie replied. “An investigation in the House would mean investigating the Old Man, and-’’

“Oh, rats!” exclaimed Incorruptible Jordan. “Legislatures are like chicken houses: they all need whitewashing occasionally. Everybody knows that. It isn’t only in this State, it’s in every State. It’s the same at Washington where they do it on a larger scale. Some old Johnnie has said: ‘You can't touch pitch without being defiled,’ but that’s rot. YY>u can touch pitch all you want, if you’ve got a bucket of whitewash handy, and the beautiful thing about a Legislature is, the whitewash is always handy—it’s got to be. Why, my dear boy, nothing could be simpler! All the House has to do is to call for a vote of confidence in itself. Our majority in the House is bought and paid for, and there you are.”

“How about the Attorney-General ?” I asked. “He may demand an investigation.”

“Yes,” said Charlie. “How about the Attorney-General ?”

“That’s easy,” said Incorruptible Jordan, “dead easy. If he gets funny we’ll impeach him.”

“How in h-”—Charlie began.

“Leave that to me,” said Incorruptible Jordan. “He and Dick Ballard used t be in business together, didn’t they? Well, Dick has all the old books of the firm. What’s more, he’s doctored them so that it looks as if Mr. Attorney-General has stolen about nine thousand dollars from him. If worst comes to worst, there’ll be a warrant sworn out on Dick’s evidence. It’s good evidence; I’ve seen it myself. But why explain further? It’s child’s play, I tell you, child’s play.”

“It may be for you,” I said. “You’re a wonder, Jordan.”

“Oh, that’s not a drop in the bucket to what I’ve got up my sleeve,” said Incorruptible Jordan.

“I’ve got a hold on every Legislator who opposes us; if it isn’t a chattel mortgage, it’s a scandal about his wife. I’ve got witnesses who will swear to anything, and a Judge on the Bench who’ll believe ’em.”

“Bully for you, Jordan!” said Charlie. “We’re in this game to win, and we’ll do it, if we have to drive every lying cur who won’t take our money out of the State ! I haven’t any patience with men like Gower and Smathers and Brady. To hear them talk, you’d think the Old Man was acting dishonorably in trying to buy a seat in the U.S. Senate. It makes me tired! We’ve got to elect the Old Man to-morrow, Jordan; to-morrow, you understand !”

“I don’t know about that,” Jordan replied. “There’s an axiom about making haste slowly that applies pretty well in this case. It doesn’t do to crowd the mourners too hard, my boy. Still, if

“There are no if’s about it, Jordan.” “Yes, there are,” said Jordan. “There are more if’s in politics than in any game on record. But what I was going to say, when you interrupted me, was this : if any one were to say to me, ‘Jordan, there’s a hundred thousand extra in it for you, if you elect a given person to a given office before sundown to-morrow/ I would say (this is purely a hypothetical case, you understand) why, I should say

“Never mind what you’d say, Jordan,” said Charlie. “The money is yours.”

Next morning, we elected the Oid Man on the first ballot.

Charlie was jubilant. “It was a bully fight,” he said, “a bully fight. And I’m glad we’ve kept our hands clean, for some day the Old Man may want to run for President.”

Incorruptible Jordan winked at me from behind a big black cigar. “Yes,” he murmured, “thank God we’ve kept our hands clean!”