Too bad you’re not a bigger number.

Your faithful observer once owned a business. It was a little tobacco shop on Jefferson City’s main street that opened with real Cuban cigars for sale. My partner and I opened the place at a time when a thaw seemed likely in American-Cuban relations and distributors who’d bee hoarding Cuban cigars for many years let loose of a few boxes here and there and we got some. It was good for the opening of the business.

It might seem odd that someone who never smoked owned a tobacco store. But a lot of people have gotten rich by catering to other people’s vices. Not us. My partner moved to another town. The fellow we hired to run the store took off to sell insurance and by the time we found someone competent to work in the store, the customer base had weakened. We dipped into our own pockets for several months to make the payroll before I had the regrettable duty of telling our employee that we were closing. The next mortgage we took out on our home was several thousand dollars larger than the cost of the house because the extra money helped pay off the store’s debts.

The experience comes to mind because the legislature will be back at the Capitol in a few weeks to consider whether to override some more vetoes by Governor Nixon. The legislature has discovered that overriding Nixon vetoes is great sport. Nixon has become the most overridden governor in Missouri history. Some lawmakers already are showing confidence that they’ll override Nixon’s veto of a bill that puts some of the toughest limits in the country on unemployment benefits.

Right now, Missourians who lose their jobs and who qualify for benefits can get as much as twenty weeks of payments. That’s already one of the least-supportive standards in the United States. The bill in question would cut that to only thirteen weeks if the state employment rate stays below six percent. A person who has lost his or her job could only get twenty weeks of coverage if the employment rate hits nine percent or more—levels we saw during the recession and, thankfully, recessions are not frequent.

Your observer spent his working life as a salaried employee. Being half-owner of a one-employee tobacco store the size of a moderate walk-in closet hardly qualifies one as a corporate mogul althoughit was enough to get us into the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce which is mostly non-moguls. So the view from this side of the table is that of a worker, an employee, the person likely to be laid off while the managers get bonuses for holding down costs, often by laying off people.

So the view here is from the standpoint of the future person who loses his job, whether with the closing of a little tobacco shop or when a huge business downsizes. Unless the economy is in the tank, he or she will only qualify for thirteen weeks of unemployment benefits under the bill facing a veto override. But if the economy IS in the tank, the person might get twenty weeks. If the jobless person is one of the, say, 5.8% of the workforce considered unemployed (the latest Missouri rate), that person better find a job in thirteen weeks. But if the person is one of the 9.1% unemployed, there might be twenty weeks of coverage.

Everybody I’ve ever known who has lost a job wants to get a new one right away. But finding one isn’t always easy. Sure, you can point to the classified ads as indications that there are jobs out there. But that’s a pretty simplistic response that seems to imply that any job will do if you’re looking for work.

Unemployment hurts. Does it hurt less if you are one of the 5.8% than if you’re one of the 9.1%?   Is it easier to get a job when unemployment is low than it is to get a job when unemployment is high?   On the one hand, you’re looking for work when jobs are filled. On the other hand, you’re looking for a job when there are no jobs.

So if this bill becomes law despite the governor’s veto, a jobless Missourian isn’t as important when times are good as that Missourian is when times are bad. If you’re one of the small number, that’s tough cookies. You should have waited to lose your job until the unemployment rate is much higher. You should have waited for the next recession. Your failure to do so means we will penalize you seven weeks of unemployment insurance. Conditions will be better for business if you aren’t expecting the state to write you checks for seven more weeks.

You know how it is, don’t you?   And the people with your mortgage and the members of your family will be completely understanding and supportive because you’re only a 5.8 instead of a 9.1 and we all know that losing your job is less painful when you’re just a small number.

The party

She sits alone at the table in a quiet corner of the smoke-filled room, the cigarette in her ashtray untouched, slowly burning itself to the end.  She remains attractive in an aging sort of way, her makeup showing cracks over the lines it is supposed to conceal.  A younger man at the bar who spies her staring vacantly into her own future obscured somewhere in the table amuses himself by thinking, “Nice blonde hair.  Wonder why she died the roots brown?”   She is no longer the bright, active young woman in her 20s who delighted friends at the bar with her vivacity, no longer the maturing, thoughtful woman of her 30s who beguiled men with her eyes and soft, low voice.  The best years of her 40s are behind her.  The beguiling eyes have a bit too much eye shadow now.  Behind the unfocused stare at the nothingness of the table top, her mind can hear her own torchy voice made slightly more husky by too many cigarettes, too much bourbon, and too many nights talking loudly to be heard above the crowd of her past, softly, sadly, singing.

The party’s over.

It’s time to call it day.

They’ve burst your pretty balloon

And taken the moon away.

It’s time to wind up

The masquerade.

Just make your mind up ,

The piper must be paid.

The party’s over .

The candles flicker and dim.

You danced and dreamed

Through the night.

It seemed to be right,

Just being with him .

Now you must wake up .

All your dreams must end.

Take off your makeup .

The party’s over.

It’s all over, my friend.  

She continues to sit alone at the table wondering about a future and wondering about her future in this smoky bar where she once was part of the fun before her crowd drifted away one at a time answering different calls that come in life, until she began to spend evenings at the lonely table hoping somebody, anybody, would invite her to join them. She would be an interesting person to talk to if they did. But they never seem to want to do that anymore.  Her glass is empty, just another addition to her running tab at the bar.  She stubs out the last of her mostly-unsmoked cigarette and walks into the evening, the bartender the only one who says “good night.”

Former capitol press corps colleague Summer Ballantine of the Associated Press has been looking at the latest campaign finance reports filed with the state ethics commission by the Missouri Republican and Democratic Parties.   You might have seen the piece she wrote a few days ago about them.

The political parties that once were accumulating big amounts of money a year before a big election are barely keeping the lights on now.  Summer reports they’re in debt “and must essentially start from scratch in terms of fund raising” only twelve months before the statewide primary a year from now.

Once, not so long ago, political parties were, well, meaningful, and campaigns were Lucifer versus Gabriel and political conventions were important.  But that spirit doesn’t seem to live on this quiet street anymore.

Presidential primary after preference caucus after primary after primary have taken the drama out of conventions that are nothing more than infomercial coronations.

It has been thirty-one years since any convention opened without that party’s nominee decided by primary elections.  Walter Mondale went to the 1984 Democratic convention still forty votes short.  But challenger Gary Hart already put out the white flag by starting to lobby for the VP nomination, so the forty votes moved to Mondale and he won easily on the first ballot.

The last Republican convention to start without a candidate having the nomination locked up was in Missouri—the 1976 Kansas City convention.  Ronald Reagan was pressing incumbent Gerald Ford, but Ford rounded up enough delegates for a first-ballot nomination.  However, the drama of the event did draw a lot of interest.  That was the convention where Missouri’s young governor, Christopher Bond, was on Ford’s list of potential VP candidates.

Long, long gone are the days of bare-knuckle closed-door smoke-filled room dealings that produced a nominee—such as the 1912 Democratic convention when House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri was the leading candidate but short of the two-thirds support needed.  He led the voting through TWENTY-NINE ballots before Woodrow Wilson moved ahead of him.  Wilson was nominated after the FORTY-SIXTH ballot.

But we’ve never had a convention like the 1924 Democratic convention that took 103 ballots to pick the general election loser, John W. Davis, beaten in November by Republican Calvin Coolidge.

The last time a brokered convention—the kind we had in 1912 and in 1924—picked a winning presidential candidate was 1936 when Democrats re-nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Brokered conventions in 1952 (when Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson for the first time) and 1948 (when Republicans picked Thomas Dewey) were the last time brokered conventions picked losers.

So the single biggest political party events that fired up the general public in election years have become dim and flickering candles.

As recently as 2004, as Summer recounts in her article, the Missouri GOP raised more than eight million dollars.  Last year it raised less than $1.4 million and through the first six months of this year it had raised just 122-THOUSAND.

She notes the D’s, who raised $12.8 million in the 2004 election cycle, raised ten million dollars less than that for last year’s elections.  And the Missouri Democratic Party reported only $179,000 raised in the first half of this year.

The two parties combined are more than $350,000 in debt.

Deeper thinkers than your faithful observer are analyzing the situation.  But from this distance it appears there might be a couple of factors.

One is that the words “Democrat” and “Republican” have been watered down by divisive definitions that are shouted at us each day on talk radio and on political analysis shows that are necessary to fill the time on the 24-hour cable news channels.  “Conservative” and “Liberal,” once words of honor, are now part of the poisonous rhetoric and name-calling that assaults us each day.  With partisans increasingly trying to paint ugly portraits of the other side with those words, the phrases “Republican Party” and “Democratic Party” are pushed to the margins and the descriptions we used to hear of “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” are lost in the broad-brush simplifications of our political system by those who profit from encouraging broad-brush political antagonism.

Another factor that readily comes to mind, and is mentioned in Summer’s report, is the action taken by the Missouri legislature in 2008 to allow unlimited campaign donations.  We watched that debate from the Senate press table and remember supporters saying the change would be okay as long as there was strong campaign reporting requirements so voters would know who is the money behind the candidates.

But we do not recall any serious discussion about what this would mean to political parties or how the no-limits donation law could be contravened.

The result is independent committees that don’t report the source of the piles of money they use to campaign for, or more often viciously against, candidates.  The result is that major donors give directly to the candidates they want to influence in the event they are elected, rather than giving to the parties.   Why give money to a party that can use it to help all of its general election candidates when you can give money to the individuals you want to have in the system who will be so grateful to you for making them winners that they are more likely to carry your water when they’re in office?

Oh, we know that the standard response from the candidate is that the big givers don’t buy their votes; they just get better access.   But guess what greater access can get you.

One analyst in Summer’s article suggested the change also has had another deleterious effect on our elections and therefore on our legislative bodies.  Unlimited donations to individuals mean more candidates with no experience in politics can get the backing to go directly to the House or the Senate in Jefferson City without any public service experience they would gain by working their way up through local offices.  And so they show up with agendas but not the expertise that will guide them toward their goals, which leads to disruptions in the system that are not beneficial.

And a few days ago, Senator McCaskill told a group at a book-signing in Jefferson City that every presidential candidate is “looking for a billionaire” in today’s campaign climate.  And she talked about how few people have contributed a lion’s share of campaign money raised so far by those candidates.  It’s happening at the lower levels, too.  Right here.

Missouri is the only state in the country without campaign donation limits and with a flawed reporting system.  She says Missouri needs both.  But, observers were left to ask, who–including political party leaders–will have the courage to become the leaders necessary to do something significant, not just something that plays around the edges and doesn’t really change anything?

Our political parties are not quite yet like the wilted blonde at the quiet corner table.  But they, like her, are facing the music.

Now you must wake up.

All your dreams must end.

Take off your makeup .

The party’s over .

It’s all over, my friend.  

We hope not.  We might never go back to the brawling brokered conventions of years gone by.  But there has to be more to our political parties than an empty-eyed lonely lady waiting for that cigarette in the ashtray to burn itself out.  Our nation can’t afford to have the blonde walk out into an uncertain night.

(“The Party’s Over” lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green with music by Julie Styne is from the 1956 Broadway Musical, Bells are Ringing.)



Apples and oranges

Kansas City’s council has voted to require an increase in the minimum wage paid to hourly employees working within its city limits and some members of the legislature, believing the sky will fall as a result, are threatening to punish the city.  Because Kansas City wants to give some people a bigger bite of the apple, the legislature wants to take away an orange. .

The statewide minimum wage is $7.65 an hour.  The Kansas City Council wants to increase it by eighty-five cents an hour this month with annual increases until the wage is thirteen-dollars an hour in 2020.  Critics contend the increases will cause businesses to provide fewer minimum-wage jobs.  Does that mean the people with corner offices will become the ones to re-stock the grocery shelves at night?  Or flip the burgers?  Somebody is still going to have to do that work.

Because Kansas City has mandated that its lowest-paid citizens get raises, some lawmakers want to end the earnings tax the city collects from all of the people who work in Kansas City, even those lowest-paid folks.  Maybe that’s the real problem.  Giving people raises means they’ll pay more taxes on their earnings and we know that tax increases are bad, bad, bad.  Even if the tax increase is less than eight-tenths of a cent an hour.

Let this long-time observer of legislative apples and oranges suggest an alternative to those legislators who think putting more money into people’s pockets is under this circumstance such a dreadful thing that it merits draconian retribution.  Normally the idea that people should have more money in their pockets (because they know how to spend it better than government does) is a concept the legislative majority likes to trumpet when it wants to cut taxes.  But here it’s some kind of municipal capital offense if those taxpayers earn that money.

So, in the spirit of being helpful, we offer an alternative that will improve the image of our lawmakers, particularly those who propose taking a guillotine to Kansas City’s municipal budget. And we can pretty much guarantee that this idea will produce bigger, more positive, headlines than the proposed orange penalty.

Instead of trying to punish Kansas City for having gone through a lengthy process to determine what the city council thinks is a fair phased-in step to take for the lowest-paid workers, the legislature should adopt a position of humility and comradeship.  It would be better for these lawmakers to say, “While we don’t believe lowest-paid workers in Kansas City deserve raises, we support them.  To show that we are in close sympathy with those workers who get the present statewide minimum wage, we are introducing legislation that calls for members of the General Assembly to receive the minimum wage, too.   In doing so, we will lead by example and in that way we will convince Kansas City to repeal its ordinance.”  It’s better to build a bridge than to build a bunker. Or in this case, it’s better to join together with workers at the apple barrel than to yank away a municipal orange that contains a lot of healthy fiscal vitamin C.

Just for grins, let’s calculate how much our lawmakers identified with those making $7.65 an hour.

Floor debate is often 4-6 p.m. on Mondays, 10 a.m. to, say, 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and let’s say nine to noon on Thursday, which is roughly the schedule for a good part of a legislative session.  That’s twenty-one hours.  Some committees meet at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Some meet for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. Let’s be charitable (501(c)4 so we don’t have to report who provides the money) and calculate the average legislator works twenty-five hours a week.   That’s $191.25 for a short work week.   The legislature is in session for three weeks in January, four in February, March, and April, and three more in May, generally.  That’s eighteen weeks.  That puts their earnings at $3,443.50 for the session.

Oops.  We forgot the veto session in September.  Two more days.  Let’s say these folks work eight hours each day.  That’s another $122.40.

Of course, they’re doing constituent things while they’re at home so they’re never really completely off-duty.   So let’s just multiply their weekly wages by fifty (including the September veto session) and that’s an annual salary of $9562.50.  We multiplied by fifty because they’d probably want two weeks off for a vacation or something and we know minimum wage people don’t get paid when they’re not working.

Zowee!!! At minimum wage our 197 House and Senate members would earn $1,883,812.50, total, for a calendar year.  The basic payroll for the members of the legislature is about $7.1 million a year under the present annual salary of $35,915.  That doesn’t count the $105 per diem that each member gets to pay for motel rooms, apartment rents, meals that lobbyists don’t buy for them, drinks at the local bar (ditto), and so forth.  And that doesn’t calculate the cost of state health insurance coverage they get.  By going to a minimum wage, our smaller government legislators could save about $5.2 million taxpayer dollars every year.  That’s another $5.2 million in business taxes that could be cut for all those companies flocking to Missouri and creating all those new jobs we keep hearing are being created because of an improved business climate.

The news just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

Of course, most people earning $7.65 an hour don’t have health insurance provided for them.  Maybe the altruistic lawmakers would want to save the state millions of dollars more by not taking part in the state health insurance program, showing even greater support for minimum wage earners in Kansas City, and elsewhere, who don’t need to earn more while at the same time increasing opportunities for more tax breaks for those job-producing businesses.   Plus, most of our legislators moonlight with second jobs when they’re not in Jefferson City and they can use the money from those second jobs to buy health insurance, just like minimum wage workers do—don’t they?

See, folks, crippling our largest city financially because it has done something for low-paid workers is the wrong way to go.  It’s better to set a positive example by showing that those workers don’t need a higher hourly wage because legislators can get by on the same thing the minimum wage workers get now.

In a time when so many people have a negative impression of government, this would say the Missouri legislature truly is government OF the people.  The best way to change Kansas City’s mind is to show through personal leadership that a minimum wage increase is not needed.

It is only fair that we note that the legislature time and time again has rejected recommendations by a state commission that legislative salaries, already more than double the amount a minimum-wage worker could earn for fifty 40-hour weeks, be increased.  Imagine how much prouder their constituents  would feel if the lawmakers said, “We want nothing more than the hourly wage paid to Gladys who checks things out at our supermarket cash register or Phil, who works behind the counter at our convenience store, or the teenager who takes our money at the fast food place pay window.”

And what would make perfect sense would be a law that says any increase in the minimum wage paid to our legislators beyond increases provided by law would trigger the elimination of the state income, or earnings, tax.

Makes perfect sense.

Of course it does.

No thanks needed.  This proposal is just part of being a good, helpful, citizen who has had the good fortune for many years to hear our lawmakers praise themselves as citizen-legislators.


My shoes smelled

But  the smell got better

It was a musty, earthy smell of long-damp ground that had not seen daylight for a century, ground that was wet enough to stick in the treads of my shoes but was not yet wet enough to be mud.  It was dry enough that I tracked it from place to place.

I checked those shoes later. The soil was gone, wiped off in the grass or the snow or maybe it had just dried and fallen out as I walked down the street.  Maybe the shoes didn’t really smell anymore.  Maybe it was just olfactory memory insinuating itself.  I didn’t want to wear those shoes to other places for a while.  Would other people smell that smell?

Maybe they’d have been bold enough to ask, “What is that smell?  Where have you been?   What did youstep in that you are tracking in here?”   They probably wouldn’t have said those things because it would not have been the courteous thing to do.  Besides, it’s not as if I had stepped in something some irresponsible dog owner left behind.  Or worse, a cat.

I was not alone with this problem.  Several other people were on the same little trip that day into the seldom-visited recesses of the Capitol basement. There was something incongruous about those in our group who were in suits and ties, especially the big guy who was the center of attention.  Governor Nixon had agreed to take the brief photo-op tour with some members of the legislature and the media before announcing he would support some responsible bond-issue spending to make some repairs to endangered parts of the Capitol.

The Governor gets beaten up a lot for his travels hither and yon to talk about jobs and schools and other momentarily hot topics.  But those trips aren’t a whole lot different from his look at what is underneath the great stairway on the south front of the Capitol, or his look from below at the unsafe condition of the closed-to-vehicles roadway that goes through the tunnel under those stairs.  There is value in going to communities to make people feel good about good things happening there or rallying local support against something he thinks is bad for that community and for the state as a whole.

Yeah, sure, politics are involved in a lot of these visits and Jay Nixon is nothing if not a political animal.  But visits by Governors mean something to those who do not deal with him every day—including legislators and reporters.  It’s special when the Governor pays attention to something locally.  The presence of the Governor is important.

His visit was important in that moldy, damp, musty-soil area in the basement of the Capitol.  For those of us who love that building and all that it should represent, that little visit meant the big guy cares.  It’s not important now that many of us have been talking and writing about the Capitol’s serious need of repair and restoration for years.  What’s was important was that the Governor was there signaling that he is significantly engaged now in ending decades of neglect of our greatest state symbol.

He wasn’t talking about ADA accessibility or restoring the paintings and sculpture or recovering the original decorations that have been lost under layer after layer of bland institutional paint.  Right then he was talking about supporting repairs that will stop deterioration of the structure itself.  First things first.

Your scribe had told some members of the legislature that the manuscript for the next Capitol book, the one about the construction of the building, was sitting in a computer in his house on the quiet street of retirement. It’s been in that computer for several years waiting for the final chapter to be written.  What happened during the legislative session determined whether the book has a positive ending that says the building is moving through its centennial era with efforts to repair it and restore it as the great temple of democracy that its builders hoped it would be or whether it is moving through its centennial era as a symbol of statewide responsibilities that are unmet, statewide obligations that are ignored, and a continued willingness to cover over problems and ignore them.

The Governor and the lawmakers on the tour took a step toward the positive the other day. And by the end of the legislative session, $40 million had been approved for repairs to that area.  And at the cornerstone centennial celebration July 3rd, he told the audience the investment is “a great beginning.”   The he continued, “I challenge not only our current government leaders—including me—to build on this commitment and initial investment, but also challenge those who will be in the Governor’s office and the General Assembly in the years to come to carry forward this gret edifice to our state and our way of life.”

In a few minutes after posting this entry, work will continue on writing the final chapter in the next Capitol book.  They will be, at the least, positive hopeful words—although not conclusively positive because there is so much to be done yet.

So it’s okay if my shoes smelled a little.  It turned out to be a good smell because it represented some good steps.  But there is still a lot of walking to do in our Capitol.




Unlimited puffing was resorted to

We recently came across a write-up about early Missouri called, “Affairs of Government, etc.,” and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to pass it along because of the breezy way it was written, which was unusual for the time, and because some of the things it said seem familiar to those of us who watch affairs of government, etc.

Besides, how can a person avoid finding literary treasures in a book called, A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri, With Numerous Sketches, Anecdotes, adventures, etc., Relating to Early Days in Missouri. Also the Lives of Daniel Boone and the celebrated Indian Chief Black Hawk With Numerous Biographies and Histories of Primitive Institutions.

You can take a breath now.

The book was written by William S. Bryan and Robert Rose and published in 1876.  The author’s acknowledge, “We do not expect the reader to believe all the remarkable yarns related under ‘Anecdotes and Adventures.’  Some of them were given to us merely as caricatures of early times, and they can easily be distinguished from the real adventures.’”

Here is their Affairs of Government, Etc.

“The pioneers of Missouri…were not a lawless or vicious class of people, but, nevertheless, some sort of a government was required to restrain the reckless characters that lived in the country.  When the territory came into possession of the United States, one of the most intelligent and influential men in each community was appointed Justice of the Peace, before whom all transgressions were tried and all legal disputes adjusted.  Very few of these men knew anything about law, and some of their decisions and legal documents would be regarded as curiosities in these modern times.  But if they knew but little law, they understood the meaning of justice, and their decisions did not often miss the mark.

“As there were no jails to confine offenders in, breaches of the peace, thefts, and other light misdemeanors were punished by fines, or if flagrant in character, by whipping.  The fined were generally paid with furs and peltry, which were sold for the benefit of the government; but where whipping was the penalty, it was administered in a summary manner, and the offender was permitted to go about his business as though nothing uniusual had occurred.  On one occasion a man who had stolen a hog was taken before Daniel Bone for examination.  His trial and the infliction of the punishment occupied half an hour, and while returning home he was met by an acquaintance, who inquired how he had come out. ‘Eh gad! Whipped and cleared,’ was his laconic reply.   In those days when men fell out of and fought, they never thought of taking their cases into court, but the one who got whipped yielded with as good a grace as he could command, to the superior strength or dexterity of his, and after taking a drink and shaking hands in token of friendship, let the matter drop until he got an opportunity to pay off his score with interest.

But few murders were committed, and generally the murderer made his escape, and was never heard of again; for it he remained in the community he was almost certain to be killed by the friends of the man he had murdered, even if he escaped immediate lynching.

“We give below a literal copy of the first indictment found in St. Charles county, by the first American grand jury that sat under the United States government, in the territory of Louisiana.  It was signed by twelve men, all of whom, except the foreman, had to make their marks being unable to write.  It will be seen from the wording of the instrument that considerable effort was made to give it a legal and solemn sound, in order, no doubt, that it might make a deep impression on the minds of all concerned. It reads as follows:

That one James Davis, late of the District of St. Charles, in the Territory of Louisiana, Laborer, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 13th day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and four (1804), at a place called Femme Osage, in the said District of St. Charles, with force and arms, in and upon William Hays, in the peace of God and the United States, there and then being Feloniously, willfully, and with his malice aforethought, did make an assault, andthat the said James Davis, with a certain rifle gun, four feet long, and of the value of five dollars, then and there loaded and charged with gunpowder one leaden bullet, with said rifle gun the said James Davis, then and there in his hands had and held, fired and killed William Hays.’

“Davis gave bond in the sum of $3,000 for his appearance at court, and Daniel Boone went his security.  He stood his trial and was cleared.

“As the country settled up and the population increased, the number of civil suits grew larger, and people began to feel the need of educated attorneys.  At first, a few pettifoggers, possessing a little learning and vast pretensions, were imported from other localities, and they came expecting to have everything their own way, and to astonish the natives by their profundity. But they soon found themselves eclipsed by the practical, common-sense backwoodsmen, and very naturally settled down to their proper places.  There were others, however, who possessed fine talents and a liberal amount of learning, and these were respected by the people, and soone gained a large influence.  Among the first prominent attorneys was Edward Hempsted, an unlettered man, but one who possessed strong sense and a fine talent for special pleading.  He had a sharp, fierce, and barking manner of speaking, which had a great effect upon jurors, and generally awed them into acquiescence with his own views.  His style became very popular, and was widely imitated by young attorneys.  At the head of the profession stood Col. Thomas H. Benton, whose fame afterward extended over the whole country, and who represented Missouri for thirty years in the U. S. Senate.  One who knew him in the early days of his practice here, thus described him: ‘He is acute, labored, florid, rather sophomorical, but a man of strong sense.  There flashes ‘strange fire’ from the eyes and all that he does ‘smells of the lamp.’

“Edward Bates also became prominent at an early day, and he was probably the most learned of any of the lawyers of that time.  He was a classical scholar, and exhibited the fruits of his attainments in his arrangement and choice of language.  His manners were gentlemanly and pleasing, and his language concise and to the point; but these were often thrown away upon the jury in a region where noise and flourish were sometimes mistaken for sense and reason.

“Unlimited puffing was resorted to then as now, and with like success.  The man who could make the finest show and induce the greatest number of people to talk about him, in the right way, generally won fame and distinction, and became the leader of his portion of the country.  But these things gradually passed away as the country became more enlightened, and men were esteemed for their real worth and integrity rather than for shallow display and great pretensions, unsupported by genuine merit.”

Unlimited puffery, noise and flourish that is mistaken for sense and reason, and the need to find candidates or elected officials whose shallow displays and great pretensions are unsupported by genuine merit remain part of our political fabric today.

Are we any closer to finding or demanding leaders who are esteemed for their real worth and integrity than those pioneer families were almost fourteen decades ago?