Big government comes to Missouri

The State Planning Board in 1937 did a study of office space requirements for state departments in Jefferson City.  Your specialist in the archaeology of forgotten information uncovered it at the State Archives during research on the next Capitol book and thought it offers context for the discussions about what government should be these eight decades later.

In this era when “big government” has become a charged phrase, this report does at least three things:

  1. It gives us a history of big government’s early development.
  2. It explains why the phrase became a necessity.
  3. It explains why shrinking “big government” is easier to say than it will be to do.

We offer this to you as a prelude to later discussions of Donald F. Kettl’s Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America’s Lost Commitment to Competence, a book that says big government is here to stay but today’s political approaches to it might be only  aggravating its shortcomings at a time when enlightened, practical steps should be taken to bring a 19th century system that worked for decades into a workable system in the 21st century. It can be interesting for those of us who are served by government programs but it might be even more useful for those who determine the directions those programs take.

The 1937 study concluded, “A new building is necessary for economy and efficiency in the operation of the State government.”   Here’s the history lesson from that report:

When the Capitol building was still under construction, the state government functions were increasing and the demand for office space likewise increased.  During the last fifty years or more, great changes have taken place in our social and economic structure.  Extensive alterations have occurred in transportation, communication, means of production, trade and commerce, and manners and customs.  New standards of civic and social responsibility have arisen and state government in Missouri, as elsewhere, has been affected and has had to keep pace with the influences of the changing world.  Today, the state occupies a different place in society than it did fifty or even twenty years ago.

Gradually, the emergency of railroads, the industrial system with its thriving cities, the automobile, corporate financing, public utilities and other products of the period confronted the state with problems of regulation and control which it had never before known.  An increase in the material wealth of the population produced a rising standard of living which, in turn, demanded a greater number and better quality of governmental services in the field of education, health, sanitation, and hospitalization of the insane and tubercular.  The awakening of a new social responsibility established institutions for the blind, the deaf, and the delinquent minors.  The automobile placed the state in the road-building business.  Problems arising from industry and urban life demanded that the state inspect mines and manufacturing plants and establish health and sanitary standards.  Decade by decade, as our society has grown in size and complexity, new services and functions have been demanded of our state.  In short, then, the state has developed into an agency for promotion of the well-being of its citizens.

The report noted the number of permanent administrative government employees in Jefferson City (excluding the legislature and the Supreme Court) had grown from fewer than 100 in 1900 to about 1,400 in 1936 because of that half-century of change in American, and Missouri, society and economy.

The first state agency to reflect that trend in an obvious way was the Highway Department. In 1907, the office of Highway Engineer was created within the State Board of Agriculture (not a department yet).  The position became that of State Highway Commissioner in 1913 and just four years after an entirely new department, the State Highway Department, was created—all in response to the rapid growth of the use of automobiles and the need for the roads for them.  In 1920, Missourians approved a $60 million dollar bond issue that started the Missouri Centennial Road Program, the state’s first major effort to create a coherent highway system.  The report reminds readers that in the space of less than fifteen years, the agency for developing the state road system had grown from one person in the office of another state agency into a “huge department” that finally had to move out of the Capitol and into its own building in 1928.

When the 1937 survey was done, twenty-two departments or parts of departments (not including highways) were housed in the capitol.  During legislative sessions they had to find temporary quarters in other buildings in Jefferson City.  Two agencies—the Public Service Commission and the now-Department of Agriculture’s laboratory, had moved full-time into the old post office/federal building that was across High Street from the present main post office.

By 1937, government had so outgrown the capitol that office space on the building’s first floor occupied 48% more space than the building’s designed capacity, the study commenting, “This has been accomplished by using as office space the cafeteria, vestibules, vault space, etc.  The second floor is seriously overcrowded.  In some rooms typists are working in such close quarter that they cannot freely operate their machines.  In one case, the fixtures in a toilet were removed and the space converted to offices.  The need for office space is so acute that it is planned to make use of other toilets for offices in the near future.

“While the legislature is not in session, certain departments expand their activities into legislative committee rooms and the Senators’ private offices.  Each time the legislature convenes, it is the same story. Departments occupying legislative quarters have to move, and each time the legislature adjourns the persons occupying rooms are besieged with requests to let this or that or other departments use the space.”  In those days, the legislature met every other year, not annually.

The Federal Works Progress Administration occupied “extensive space” on the legislative floors, including the Senate balcony.

About 2,600 square feet of space in the basement was improvised into offices that had no ventilation and no natural light.  Between sessions, ten departments or parts of departments rented space elsewhere in town.  During sessions, fifteen departments had to rent space.   More than 200 employees worked in a basement that became so polluted by exhaust gases of delivery trucks that many workers developed “sick headaches” that force them to take time away from work.

Missouri was not alone in dealing with the development of big government.  The Oklahoma State Planning Board had reported late in 1936 that Missouri was just one of 28 states considering new office buildings.

Big government had arrived—out of necessity.  It remains and it is a fact of life.  The result of that 1937 study was the Broadway Office Building.

In later entries we’ll review Kettl’s call for realistic thinking about the focus  of discussion about the direction of government.  In short, he argues without saying it: The goal is less about making government smaller than it is about making American government competent again.

Stay tuned.

Why we will elect a U. S. Senator next year

Every four years, voices are heard suggesting the Electoral College should go away and presidential elections should be decided only by the popular vote. We have come across this interesting article that struck us as a timely addition to the discussion:

“Was anything ever more absurd than the talk about the ‘direct election?’ The direct vote law passes and the happy citizen jumps up and down with joy…At last he can vote for the man of his choice. At last he can stand up a free citizen and select his own candidate…(But) when election day arrives he finds himself confronted with no rights other than to vote for one or two or more men who have named themselves, advertised themselves, exhibited themselves, trumpeted themselves, recommended themselves, impoverished themselves, and discredited themselves on the chance of securing the election.  In short, the direct vote is not half so near a direct vote as the vote which the citizen case in electing a proper delegate…Delegated authority is the best authority that can be exercised in this country.  The representation of the many by the few is absolutely the only form of possible government.  Uneducated, illiterate people are able to vote intelligently for the members of a school board whose duty it should be to select teachers.  Such voters would be wholly unfit to select teachers, but they may be very fit to select those who are fit to select teachers.  And so it is that voters are unfit to draw a tariff bill, or select lawyers, or select artists and men of science, or select soldiers but they are able to vote for men who can make such selections wisely.  The so-called direct vote…is a laughable contrivance as was ever made. It was designed for the purpose of making the…government a private snap for a few men.”

You have doubtless guessed this doesn’t quite match the discussion of voters electing members of the Electoral College who actually elect a president.  It was written about whether voters who were competent enough to elect members of the legislature who in turn would elect U. S. Senators were competent enough to do it themselves.  The Kansas City Journal ran it on March 5, 1911 at a time when a movement was well underway to give voters the opportunity to directly elect members of the United States Senate.

Direct election was “absurd” and a “laughable contrivance” then.  Congress proposed the Seventeenth Amendment a year later.  It went into effect in 1913 after ratification by the states.  The first elections nationally took place in 1914.  The first in Missouri was 1916 when former Governor William Joel Stone became our first popularly-elected U. S. Senator when he was chosen for his third term.

That’s right.  We, the people, have been electing our U. S. Senators for only 44% of our history.

Why not? Because our founding fathers didn’t trust the people at large to make such a decision.

Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution said, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof…”   The Constitutional Convention, trying to balance competing interests, decided this provision would make sure states had some control over the general government.  Author Brion McClanahan, who has looked at the intentions of the founders as they wrote the Constitution, says they intended the senate to be an “aristocratic” chamber “to restrain the potential excesses of the ‘mob’ in the House.”

Harper’s Monthly Magazine published an account in 1884 that explains that idea.  The authenticity of the story is questionable but it is often told to describe the intended differences between the House and the Senate in somewhat less antagonistic language than McClanahan uses.  Supposedly George Washington, who favored a two-chamber Congress, and Thomas Jefferson, who it is said favored a unicameral approach, were discussing the issue when Washington asked Jefferson, “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” When Jefferson replied, “To cool it,” Washington responded, “Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”  Critics say the conversation could not have happened because Jefferson was not at the convention but was in Paris as our Ambassador to France.  Some people who appreciate antiques have noted that the story fits better in the late 19th century than in Washington and Jefferson’s time because saucers in the 18th century were more like small bowls while the saucers in the late 19th century had become more like those we use today.

But the sentiment is the same although the story seems apocryphal.

Suggestions that the Senate membership, as the House membership, should be based on population were countered by those who felt the Senate should be a place where all states would be equal—with two members each or, as Virginia’s George Mason put it, “The state legislatures…ought to have some means of defending themselves against encroachments of the national government” and their election of the members of one of the chambers of the national government would provide that balance. James Madison felt the system meant any national law required passage by one body chosen by the people and a second body representing the states. The founders felt the Senate was the only federal part of what they called the general government.

But Madison had a cautionary statement that has resonance for some people today: “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty, as well as by the abuses of power…and that the former rather than the latter is apparently most to be apprehended by the United “States.”   He continued that the Senate could become “a dangerous preeminence in the government,” but before that could occur, the Senate would need to “corrupt itself; must next corrupt the state legislatures, must then corrupt the house of representatives, and must finally corrupt the people at large.”

A century later, the public concern about a couple of issues generated a movement to change the Constitution to allow direct election of U. S. Senators.  One of the issues was deadlocks within legislatures.  There had been times when legislatures could not agree, thus leaving some states only partially-represented in the Senate or not represented at all.

Missouri was an example.  In 1850, Thomas Hart Benton sought another term but refused to accept the legislature’s demand that he support slavery.  When the legislature met on December 30 to elect a senator, Senator Henry S. Geyer got 64 votes.  Benton got 55 and anti-Benton Democrat (the party was divided) Henry S. Geyer got 37.  Former Congressman and later Governor Sterling Price had a single vote. The deadlock remained after five days, then a week, then twelve days. Anti-Benton forces broke ranks on January 22 when Senator (later Governor) Robert Stewart took votes into the Geyer column on the fortieth ballot.  Benton still have 55 but Geyer now had 80 and became Missouri’s next U.S. Senator.

Corruption also was a concern with allegations that some elections were “bought and sold” in legislatures.

The first proposal for popular election was offered in 1826.  President Andrew Johnson strongly advocated it in 1868.  The Populist Party made it a platform issue in 1892. Oregon allowed it in 1908, then Nebraska. Ten states also were holding advisory elections to let their legislatures know popular sentiment. The U. S. House passed direct election resolutions several times only to see them die in the Senate.  Thirty-three states had created Senatorial primary elections by 1912 and twenty-seven states had called for an amendment to the Constitution.  Congress proposed an amendment that year. Missouri, on March 7, 1913, became the 30th state to ratify. Six states have never ratified the Seventeenth Amendment—Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Virginia, but they have direct elections just like the rest of us.

So that’s why you and I and a few million others—not the legislature—will decide who will be our other U. S. Senator next year, the Founding Fathers notwithstanding.  History indicates that by then we will be so focused on that contest that the Electoral College issue will have slipped well into the background.

 

The stripes

We’ve been thinking more about our Missouri Bicentennial license plate, particularly about the wavy lines at the top and the bottom of the plate.  As the designers have noted, they represent the rivers that have been and remain important to our state.

The Mississippi River that became the eastern boundary of Missouri was for many years the western boundary of the United States, the line that separated the nation from Spanish territory.  Failure by the British to gain control of the river during the American Revolution (thanks in no small part to the 1780 Battle of St. Louis) was key to the nation’s survival and development.

The Mississippi and its tributaries—the Wisconsin, the Illinois, and the Ohio, for example—brought the first explorers and settlers to Missouri.  Father Jacques Marquette and his voyageur partner Louis Joliet followed the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers in 1673 to the Mississippi and followed the it until they encountered a “dreadful” river flowing into the Mississippi, “an accumulation of large and entire trees, branches and floating islands issuing from the mouth of the river Pekitanoui with such impetuosity that we could not without great danger risk passing through it.”  It was the Missouri, of course.

LaSalle and Tonty came down the Mississippi in 1682. It was LaSalle who envisioned a string of French settlements that would control trade with the Indians and exploit the land with mining.  He took control of the area and named it for his monarch, Louis the Great, Louis XIV.  In 1720, Phillippe Renault set up lead mines and brought the first slaves to Missouri to work them.  Etienne de Bourgmont (sometimes spelled “Bourgmond”) built the first fort in western part of the state when he put up Fort Orleans on the north bank of the Missouri a few years later in response to French concerns that Spain was coveting the territory and might mount an expedition from Santa Fe.

The Ohio brought George Morgan and his settlers to New Madrid to establish the first American settlement in this area—on the Mississippi.

Another Mississippi River tributary, which defines our northeast corner, caused thirty years of disputes about where the line should be separating us from Iowa.  The northeast corner was defined as a line that reached the rapids of the Des Moines River.  But nobody knew where those rapids were. Or are.   The dispute triggered by that search almost led to Missouri going to war with Iowa, the famous “Honey War.”   The U.S. Supreme Court finally decided the issue.

The St. Francis River, which flows from Iron County into the Mississippi about 425 miles south, was instrumental in shaping Missouri’s southern border.  When John Hardeman Walker wanted his farm in Missouri, not in Arkansas Territory. the St. Francis River became the eastern border of the Bootheel created to include Walker’s land.

Missouri’s original western border was the western side of Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Clinton, and Clay Counties until 1836 when the federal government convinced the Indians living in the area between there at the Missouri River to move west.  The Platte Purchase added six counties in an area abut the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and extended our northwestern border to the Missouri River.  That’s how the Missouri became part of the border of—Missouri.

Most of the founding settlements of Missouri were on the rivers: Ste. Genevieve, where some accounts say people were living as early as 1722 although other accounts date the founding at 1735 and permanent settlement at 1752; St. Louis, 1764; St. Charles, 1769; Portage des Sioux, 1779, New Madrid, the first American settlement, 1789; Cape Girardeau, 1793.  When lead mining developed in eastern Missouri, one of the biggest challenges for the miners was hacking a road through the forests to get to the river to ship their lead out.

Up to the start of the Civil War, the ten most populous cities in Missouri were all along the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers.  St. Louis, located near the junction of the two greatest rivers, was the largest city in 1860 with 160,773 people. The population of the other nine combined equaled only one-fourth of the St. Louis number.

The importance of rivers is emphasized by the location of the state capital city.  The first state legislature determined the capital should be centrally located.  And how did those lawmakers define central location?  On the Missouri River within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage.  On a principle river not far from an important secondary river that linked central Missouri with the southwest, a capital city that was accessible by a network of rivers that in those days linked all areas of the state, including the northwest corner added a decade after government moved to the City of Jefferson.

The Missouri River gave us, in addition to St. Charles and Jefferson City, the now-vanished communities of Cote Sans Dessein and Franklin, as well as Hermann, and Boonville (which tried in 1831 to take the seat of government away from Jefferson City), Lexington, and eventually Westport and Kansas City, then St. Joseph—and Omaha, and Council Bluffs.

By 1820, some settlers had moved up the Osage and formed what became Warsaw and by 1831, Lewis Bledsoe was running a ferry operation on the river, near the present Truman Dam.

The great rivers brought us legends, mechanical and human—Mike Fink, the fur traders and trappers like Hugh Glass and Jim Bridger, Jed Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick and the men of Ashley’s Hundred; of the Natchez  and the Robert E. Lee and their epic race to St. Louis,  and great pilots such as Joseph LaBarge, who never lost a boat in fifty years, or Joseph Kinney, whose magnificent home called “Rivercene” is now a B&B across the Missouri from Boonville, or Grant Marsh and his steamer Far West, best remembered for setting a downstream record on the Missouri when he carried survivors of Custer’s fight on the Little Big Horn 710 miles down the treacherous river in 54 hours, and with them brought the first news to the outside world of Custer’s fate.  It’s the river of Stephen H. Long and his Western Engineer that started an epic trip west that led to the Great Plains being called “The Great American Desert” for decades.

And what would Samuel Clemens had been if the Mississippi River was not so much of his character?

And all along the courses of these great rivers, now greatly changed, there are remains of the boats that didn’t make it all the way up or down stream and took dreams and people with them, sometimes, to the bottom.   Sometimes the ribs of those boats are exposed when the dry times drop the river levels low enough.  A couple of times—with the Arabia  in Missouri and the Bertrand in Iowa—the remains are found incredibly preserved under layers of mud that used to be the river channel and amaze visitors who have never known when these rivers were the highways that developed our state and led to development of the entire western part of our nation beyond the Mississippi.

And there’s more to the heritage of our rivers—in the form of other avenues that sprang from them.  Former Missouri River ferryman William Becknell, in 1821, left Franklin for a cross-country trading expedition that opened the Santa Fe Trail that created Missouri’s first foreign trading partner and created that path that led to American acquisition a quarter-century later of the Southwest.

And from the village of Westport, the great wagon trains set out on the Oregon and California trails that extended the reach of those first river-borne Missourians to California and to the Northwest.

It was to the river town of St. Joseph, then the westernmost point on the nation’s rail network, there came one day in August, 1859 a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad who caught a steamboat at the city wharf and went further upstream to the river town of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There he met young surveyor Grenville Dodge who was finding a cross-Iowa route for a railroad.  Dodge, just back from a Colorado trip, and Abraham Lincoln looked west and discussed the best route for a line to the Pacific Ocean.  Dodge became a Union Army officer, was wounded at Rolla, Missouri, and in the Battle of Pea Ridge that pretty much settled any hopes the Confederacy had of retaining an organized presence in Missouri. When Congress passed an act that led to the creation of a transcontinental railroad, then-President Lincoln summoned Dodge from the field to counsel him on where the line should begin.  Lincoln’s executive order in 1863 setting construction in motion established the legal headquarters of the Union Pacific in Council Bluffs and the operating headquarters across the Missouri River in Omaha.

Rivers brought the pioneers and the pioneering spirit to Missouri, and from the towns on the great rivers, new roads of dirt and steel opened the West.

It’s a small gesture to their significance that all of this is represented by some wavy lines on the Missouri Bicentennial license plate.  But it’s a significant gesture and maybe those wavy lines will encourage us to think more about those rivers that continue to shape us as Missourians and as Americans.

Special, but not a blue plate special

Your correspondent was concerned for several months that he might have to get a new car—because a proposed new license plate just wouldn’t look good.

You see, Missouri will be celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of becoming part of the Union four years from now and a special committee has been working on the design of a special Missouri Bicentennial license plate.   Some of you might have cast votes for the five original proposals:


They’re varying shades of blue. And they just wouldn’t look nearly as nice as the current white Bluebird plates look on my white car.  They’d disrupt the entire color scheme.  Indescribable angst was increasing.

A lot of people voted for the one they thought was the best of an admittedly bland lot. But in defense of the people who designed these candidates, there was only so much they could do given state laws that regulate the layout of license plates and the Highway Patrol’s preference for plates with high visibility.

State law requires the renewal stickers to be in the middle of the plate. That was done by the legislature several years ago when authorities saw an increasing number of sticker thefts, often by people using metal cutters to cut they off the corners of the license plates.  To foil the thieves, the law was changed so the stickers are in the middle.  That, of course, imposes some limits on how a new plate for general circulation can be designed.

The Patrol took these blue sample plates out on the road to test their visibility and decided the original idea of having light numbers on a dark plate wasn’t going to work.

Great news!

So the license plate commission went back to work.  And this is what most of us will have on the front and backs of our cars by January 1, 2019:

That’s so much better.

Missouri was due for a new license plate anyway.  The current design has been around since 2009 and license plates are considered to have about a ten-year life before they get bent up too much or their reflective nature gets too dull for troopers’ eyes, or other stuff happens to them.

Representative Glen Kolkmeyer of Odessa found himself being asked to sponsor the bicentennial plate bill a couple of years ago.  He had only a few days to draft the bill and get it moving in the House.  But he made it so that the plate will be available for the era that will include Missouri’s statehood bicentennial, the centennial of the dedication of the state capitol, AND the national sestercentennial, the 250th anniversary.

This plate will be the one that most of us use.  Its design will not affect those who like to have specialty plates on their vehicles—which caused us to look into how many specialty plates the state of Missouri issues.  Wanna guess (turn away from the rest of this column for a few seconds before reading on for the answer)?

This year marks for fortieth anniversary, as nearly as we can tell from a Department of Revenue list, of the first specialty license plate.  In 1977, the legislature allowed amateur radio operators and disabled veterans to have license plates with special designs.

Since then the legislature has added another two hundred and one. It almost seems as if everybody has a specialty license plate but hangnail survivors.  And that doesn’t count the separate plates for various kinds of trucks, cycles, antique vehicles, and Lord knows what else.

Imagine being a police officer trying to run a license check.  The first thing you have to do is figure out if it’s a Missouri plate.  Take a look at http://www.theus50.com/fastfacts/licenses-state.php to see how many state plates are similar.  Then imagine all of the car dealers who think they should turn your car into a mini-billboard by sticking their own license plate bracket on your car—which obscures some plate features that might make it easier to decide what state’s plate it is.   A little road dirt, too, and the poor law enforcement officer has to struggle.

Well, anyway—Missouri is getting a new license plate that calls us to remember we didn’t get to be the way we are yesterday.  It’s taken two centuries to make us what we are in the Union—and there were some years when a lot of misery was expended to determine that we’d continue in it.

The plate’s red, white, and blue motif suggests the colors of the stripes of our state flag.  The wavy lines at the top and the bottom remind us that the great rivers have shaped and defined our borders and our character and opened parts of the state for settlement.  They remain major influences today.  The state seal is in the middle, as it is in the middle of our state’s greatest symbol—the capitol.

The Missouri Bicentennial, which is being coordinated by the State Historical Society of Missouri, will afford us a chance to consider how we got to be what and who we are.  But we hope it also will afford us an opportunity to reflect on what we can be and should be in the years before a tercentennial plate is issued.

So it’s not just another piece of metal that should be on the front and back of our cars, whatever color they might be.  And the reflective nature of the plate isn’t something of value only to police officers; it’s something for all of us.

 

The press gang

The Capitol Press Corps swells when the legislature is in session when news organizations that cover government from a distance the rest of the year reopen their press rooms on the fifth floor for the duration or add employees at the capitol or a few months. In the off-session times, the on-site “gang” is smaller.

We use the word “gang” because the headline for this column is the same headline used by the Cole County Democrat, a weekly version of the daily Democrat, on January 3, 1907 when it told readers about the reporters who were arriving in town for the session that year.  The article was written, of course, by a member of the press corps, probably the guy from the Post whose name does not appear on the list, and it is clear there was good-natured camaraderie involved in what was then a pretty competitive bunch.  But the days of two-newspaper towns are pretty much gone—Columbia being the only one in Missouri that comes to mind.

This, though, is the “press gang” of 1907 as the article put it:

+++++++

As usual the best newspaper men in the State are here to cover the legislature.  They are selected because excellent qualifications are required for the positions.  Men who have been tried and not found wanting—men who never betray a confidence and above all tell the truth.

The Star and Times of Kansas city will be represented by Walter Evans, who with the probable exception of Charlie Oldham of this city, is the best posted man in the state on Missouri politics.  He will be assisted by Claud Johnson, a very clever writer, but not well posted in politics.

The Kansas City Post will be represented by Will Williams, a most capable man, who represented the St. Joseph Gazette at the last session.  Harry Edwards of this city will represent the Kansas City Journal. His ability as a writer needs no comment, as it is well known here. The St. Joseph News-Press will again be represented by the “Kid” reporter, but as he is young in years so he is old in experience and that is Bert G. Voorhees. This is the third general assembly that Voorhees has covered for the St. Joseph News-Press, which in itself stamps him as a most excellent reporter.

Rev. Ben Deering represents the St. Joseph Gazette this year.

Jos. J. McAuliffe will, of course, represent the Post-Dispatch. Joe is one of the newspaper men who has the happy faculty of both getting the news and writing.  Joe has been coming here to legislatures and on special work for the Lord only knows how long, and each time he comes he makes more friends and “binds those he has with bands of steel.”  He will be assisted by Curtis Betts, who has lived with us long enough for us to be glad he is here and to hope that he shall always live in Jefferson City.

The Star Chronicle will be represented by W. H. Quigley, who made a name for himself two years ago by his energies and reliable work on the St. Louis Chronicle, while the St. Louis Globe-Democrat will be represented by our own Sam Kellar, the immortal “S. K.” Nuf said.

The Republic will be represented by Chas. B. Oldham, who knows more politicians and political stories than any other writer in Missouri.  Tom Masterson said to be one of the police reporters in St. Louis will be associated with Mr. Oldham in the Republic work.

These men and the members of the legislature are to be our guests for the winter; let’s show them a good time.

+++++++

We don’t know if Ben Deering really was a minister although there are some contemporary accounts from that era of a minister by that name in St. Louis and in Indiana.

Joseph McAuliffe is the reporter who stirred up the great legislative Baking Powder Scandal of 1903 that forced a Lieutenant Governor out of office and led to the indictments of four state senators for bribery.

A photograph in the press room showing Governor Donnelly meeting with the press corps in his office (this was before Warren Hearnes turned the Governor’s Waiting Room into The Office) includes Curtis Betts, still on the job in about 1947.  Also in the picture, by the way, is Bob Holliway, who arrived on the scene a few years after this 1907 article was written, and who spent time in the Cole County jail in 1917 when he would not reveal who on a county grand jury had told him a series of indictments would be issued against the former Commissioner of the Permanent Seat of Government (the equivalent of today’s Commissioner of Administration) who was indicted but never convicted for selling state-owned coal to other state officials or private citizens.

Today’s press corps is far different but no less committed than these jolly fellows of 1907 to telling readers, viewers, and listeners important things those citizens should know about what their elected legislators and state officials are up to. It’s a harder job than it was then because of the pressures technology puts on them in the form of constant minute-by-minute deadlines. And today, as then, some of the things they write are resented by those they write about—although their stories are unlikely to land them in jail. But the press corps remains an important link between citizens and those they elect to make the laws and regulations. It’s too bad there aren’t more of them.

The spirits of Eric Sloane

We’ve been thinking a lot in these days of division, anger, and anxiety of Eric Sloane, dead now for more than thirty years, and something he wrote for our nation’s bicentennial.

He was born Everard Jean Hinrichs but he changed his name when one of his art instructors, John F. Sloan, suggested artists should use assumed names early in their careers so their developmental art would not be recognized as theirs in more successful times. So he became “Sloane” as a tribute to his instructor.  And “Eric?”   That came from the middle letters of “America,” an appropriate choice given what he became.

Eric Sloane was likely the nation’s foremost illustrator and writer about Americana, folklore, and country wisdom. He published about forty books known for their illustrations, perhaps, as much as for their written content.  For instance:

For the nation’s bicentennial, Sloane wrote and illustrated The Spirits of ’76, a thin volume that focused on “ten early American spirits which I believe have either weakened or vanished.”  What he wrote for the first of the spirits resonates today. The Spirit of Respect:

“I have often quipped that the best way to learn any subject is to write a book about it, and researching early American patriotism was no exception.  When I began compiling my group of vanishing spirits with patriotism at the head of my list, I at once began learning.  With frequent flag burnings, with the stars and stripes being worn on the backsides of blue jeans and the Pledge of Allegiance ruled out as unconstitutional, I presumed that American patriotism must be at an all-time low, and that it was the national spirit most in need of return.  As I researched and analyzed the subject, however, I soon realized that patriotism has become all too closely related with war: the most patriotic people in history (like the Nazis) were always the most warlike and ruthless.  Great thinkers, I learned, very often frown upon patriotism, and the more I thought about this spirit, the more I too wondered about its real values.  ‘This heroism upon command,’ wrote Einstein, ‘this senseless violence, this accursed bombast of patriotism—how intensely do I despise it!’  One philosopher called patriotism ‘the religion of Hell.’

“I had never regarded patriotism in such a light and I began to think.  I remembered my first encounter with pseudopatriotism about half a century ago while I was a student at military academy:  while folding the flag at sundown with a fellow student, I had accidentally let it fall to the ground. ‘You son of a bitch!’ my helper cried, ‘You let the American flag tough the ground!’

“That was long ago when obscenities were treated as obscenities and I wasn’t going to allow anyone to call my mother a dog.  A fist fight followed and I still carry a small scar of the incident. I suppose it was a mini example of how wars start, where there is as much punishment to the punisher as there is to the sufferer, all in the name of patriotism.

“Stephen Decatur’s ‘Our country right or wrong,’ had often worried me.  I found more to my liking, Carl Schurz’s ‘Our Country right or wrong—when right to be kept right and when wrong to be put right.’ And so I wondered if we have not been using the word incorrectly (or even the wrong word). I went to my collection of antique dictionaries. In one old volume such as might have been used by George Washington or Nathan Hale or Patrick Henry and other early patriots, I found the answer: we certainly have been using the word incorrectly.

“Patriotism in the old sense was defined as ‘The Spirit of acting like a Father to one’s country: A Publick Spiritedness.’  This definition is quite different form todays: ‘One who guards his country’s welfare, especially a defender of popular liberty.’  I recalled how Hitler described Nazism as ‘the popular liberty’ and his storm troopers were known as ‘defenders of popular liberty.’  War, I realized, has for a long while been waged in the name of patriotism instead of nationalism.  Nationalism has been one of the most killing diseases of mankind. The American Revolution was actually a patriotic revolution against nationalism.

“The difference between twentieth century patriotism and eighteenth century respect became more evident as I researched. Johnson said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’ and Russell said ‘Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.’ Perry said, ‘Patriotic fervor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether.’ But Washington used Shakespeare’s words: ‘I do love my country’s good with a respect more tender, more holy, and profound than mine own life…After what I owe to God, nothing should be more sacred than the respect I owe to my country.’ I began to realize that the early patriot was more aware of his national position than the present day patriot.

“I suppose the first great American patriots were those fifty-six men who signed their names to their own death warrant on July fourth in 1776.  Yet their names are nearly forgotten to history; the average American can name only three or four of the signers of that profound declaration. One librarian was embarrassed about not being able to recall any others ‘besides George Washington and Patrick Henry’; of course neither had signed.  Soon forgotten, true patriotism is a very personal emotion, asking no reward.

“Looking away from the battlefield for an example of patriotism is difficult at first; but they do happen all around us and every day. I found one such example at a wedding anniversary dinner. I don’t like country club affairs and so I really had not looked forward to Haig Tashjian’s surprise party.  Other than my wife and myself, all were Armenian. A diminutive lady arose during the dinner and made a toast.  She confided that she was nearing one hundred years of age and she told how her family had fled in fear of the Turks, and how she came to America.  Then she told how America had fulfilled its promise of being a good home for Armenians just as it has for so many other European people.  ‘And so my toast,’ she said, ‘is not only for the wedded couple, but to the country that has made everything possible for them and for us.  Before I sit down, I want to lead you all in singing God Bless America.

“As the chorus ended I could hear the faraway strains of a rock-and-roll band playing in some adjoining banquet room; there was a meaningful hush as many wiped away a tear; then the dinner continued.  I felt unusually proud to be a native American, and thankful to Armenia for fathering such a gracious people. I had witnessed the inspiration of true patriotism, heroism in humility. Peace has just as worthy patriots as the battlefield.

In the beginning, the word patriotism came from the word pater (father) and patriotism was ‘a quality of respect of one who is devoted to his family in fatherly fashion’; it had little to do with war or nationalism.  Therefore, I offer that the word patriotism be substituted whenever possible, by the better word respect.  I find respect to be the vanishing American spirit most worthy of return to our beloved nation.

“Respect for family, respect for the nation and the land, respect for the flag and the law, respect for mankind and respect for oneself—these have been outstandingly wanting during the last few years.  Within the family, within the nation and to all other nations, the only hope for the survival of civilization is respect or love for one another. In the end, this is all that matters.

Native (-born) Americans are so frequently disrespectful to their nation that it comes as a pleasing and heartening surprise to witness respect for us from those born elsewhere.  The attendant where the Liberty Bell was shown found it interesting that those who most often removed their hats as they beheld the great bell were foreigners. Once two blind Japanese soldiers in uniform came ‘to see’ the bell, and asked the attendant to read to them the inscription thereon.  He led their hands over the raised letters and he showed them where the crack was.  He watched them leave, talking excitedly in their own language and he wondered exactly what their reaction had been.  But stuffed into the bell’s crack, he found two roses that the veterans had been wearing. ‘I didn’t think Japanese soldiers could have done it to me,’ he said, ‘but at that instant I had even more love for America, and respect for the old bell than ever before.’

“”Adlai Stevenson seldom used the word patriotism. ‘When an American says he loves his country, he doesn’t refer to the purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain.  Instead he means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.’”

Sloane’s other lost spirits: hard work, frugality, thankfulness, pioneering, Godliness, agronomy, time, independence, awareness, and an eleventh spirit—hope.

The Spirits of ’76 is out of print but it is available through the internet. My copy was published by Ballantine in 1973. It is pretty much forgotten in today’s social warfare.  But it might be good for people on the extreme wings as well as those in the middle to get it and give serious thought to those lost spirits and the challenge of finding them again. There is always that eleventh spirit.  Hope.

Erasing History in the Missouri House

The daily journals kept by the Missouri House and the Missouri Senate are bare-bones records of their proceedings.  Eloquence and folly voiced during floor debate have no place in them.  This is not, after all, Congress, where the daily Congressional Record captures every word, even words never spoken (Members are allowed to “revise and expand” their remarks).

Reading the Missouri legislature’s journals reveals some things, though.  The journals tell us that the order of procedure used today are pretty much the very same order of procedure used in our earliest legislative sessions.  There is an official structure to the making of laws that is honored every day.  Titles of bills and texts of amendments give us some indication of the thinking of the participants and thus an indication of the standards of Missouri society through time.  Resolutions, too, reflect often contemporary issues, events, and causes.   Only in recent years have debates been archived by, among others, the Secretary of State.

Today, however, we are going to tell you about a House Journal that does not reflect what happened that day because the House deliberately erased the record.   It was an extraordinary event.  We cannot say it was unprecedented because it will take someone with weeks or months of time we do not have to learn if it was.

We go back to Sunday night, January 25, 1903, when the young firebrand temperance-promoting preacher at the Christian Church about four blocks down East Main Street (Capital Avenue today) charged city officials and the people of Jefferson City had allowed Jefferson City to have a lower moral standard than any other small city in Missouri. Crayton S. Brooks charged the arrival of legislators that month had not helped.  His sermon caused great unrest in the capital city and a week of give-and-take in the local press kept the issue hot.  Legislators watched events with interest.

Now let’s look at the House Journal:

—-

TWENTIETH DAY—Tuesday, February 3, 1903. House met pursuant to adjournment. Speaker Whitecotton in the chair. Prayer by the Chaplain. Journal of yesterday read and approved. Mr. Kirkham offered the following joint resolution, which was read and adopted: JOINT RESOLUTION. Whereas. Hon. Dorsey W. Shackietord, Congressman from the Eighth Missouri district, has introduced into the National House 0f Representatives a bill to create a national park at the famous Ha-Ha-Tonka region, in Camden county, Missouri; and Whereas, Lake Ha-Ha-Tonka, and the Niangua river, adjacent thereto, with the surrounding natural scenery and phenomena, have been pronounced by scientists and naturalists the most interesting and beautiful spot on earth; now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of this House, the Senate concurring therein, that the same should be preserved to the people for all time as a national park, and to that end, we urgently request our Senators and Representatives in the National Congress to co-operate with Congressman Shackleford in his efforts to secure the passage of said bill; and be it further Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, duly authenticated, be forwarded to each or our Senators and Representatives at Washington.

Mr. Dolan presented a communication from the “Brotherhood of Daily Life,” condemning the passage of any legislation discriminating between the races; Which was read and referred to Committee on Railroads and Internal Improvements. Mr. Dolan presented a petition from the citizens of Jackson county to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors; Which was read and referred to Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

—-

But that’s not what happened at all when the House came into session that day.

The legislature in those days designated an official newspaper that would publish and bind the official journals at the end of the session.  It wasn’t that difficult at the end because the paper also published the daily journals and all the editors had to do at the end of the session was take all of that type that had been saved and print the bound volumes.

The House Journal for Tuesday February 3 had been published by the Jefferson City State Tribune on January 4 before the House approved the journal for the official record. THIS is what the journal said in the newspaper:

—-

TWENTIETH DAY—Tuesday, Feb. 2, 1903  (the newspaper had the date wrong)

House met pursuant to adjournment, Speaker Whitecotton in the chair.

Prayer by ________,

On motion of Mr. OFFICER, further reading of the House Journal was dispensed with.

MR COLDEN introduced the following resolution concerning the removal of the state capitol:

“Whereas, the pulpit and the press, the two recognized regulators of public morals and the public conscience, condemn Jefferson City, the seat of government of the state of Missouri, as a place where gambling, vice and immorality flourish without protest from the citizens or the officers of the law; and

“Whereas the seat of government was located at its present site in the days of stage coach and steamboat, and is without adequate railway facilities, and is unreasonably inaccessible to a majority of the people of the state, and is further unable to furnish ample accommodations for a capital city; and

“Whereas, the state of Missouri is practically out of debt and will soon be compelled to erect a new capitol commensurate to the needs of the state; therefore be it

“Resolved, That the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Permanent Seat of Government be and is hereby instructed to prepare a joint and concurrent resolution, providing for the removal of the capitol to some point at or near one of the great railway centers of the state, to be determined by a commission to be appointed by the Governor, and to be submitted to the qualified voters at the next general election of the state of Missouri.”

Mr. TICHACEK offered an amendment naming St. Louis as the place to be selected as the railway center named in the resolution.

Mr. GARDNER offered an amendment to the resolution as follows:

“That said commissioners specially consider the practicability of using the buildings to be constructed by Missouri on the World’s Fair site for capitol purposes.”

Mr. WILLIAMS offered an amendment, providing for one million dollars to be raised by the city of St. Louis.

Resolution, with all amendments, was adopted.

—-

The reaction from Jefferson City was immediate, strong, and pointed.  The State Tribune immediately editorialized, “After all Jefferson City is not such a bad place to live in….Jefferson City has the best streets and sidewalks, the best telephone system, the best railway station; one of the best county court houses in the state. Its waterworks and sewerage are unsurpassed.”

The competing Cole County Democrat the next day dismissed Colden’s effort as a “Scare-Crow Resolution,” saying it was “gotten up to scare the people of Jefferson City” and was not taken seriously by any of the representatives who voted for it.

The State Tribune argued that St. Louis was hardly the place to move the capitol if the lawmakers’ aim was to go somewhere lacking in “intemperance, gambling and licentiousness…cheap theatres or other places of seductive character” to lure them from the paths of rectitude.

Representative Colden was beating a fast retreat by Thursday.  “Just a joke,” he proclaimed.  “I am surprised by the seriousness of the people of Jefferson City on the capital removal proposition,” he said.  In fact, he fully supported Reverend Brooks.   So did Lieutenant Governor John A. Lee, the President of the state senate, who said he would not favor moving the seat of government away.

Then on Monday afternoon, February 9, Colden brought his resolution back to the House, noting city officials had taken action, that the charges made against the city had been hurtful, and that his resolution had accomplished its purpose. He moved that his resolution be expunged from the journal.  Another representative moved that the resolution and all of the amendments be expunged.  The House voted 55-16 to do that.

The Journal for that day contains no reference to that discussion or to that vote.

And that is why the original journal for February 3, 1903 indicates Representative Colden never offered a resolution. Nobody offered any amendments to a resolution, and no resolution on removing the seat of state government to St. Louis ever passed.  And since the official journal for February 3 says no such thing ever occurred, the Journal for February 9 contains no record of the House expunging something that never happened—but did.

We know these things happened because the newspaper published them.  And only because the newspaper published them.

We never saw anything like this happen in all our years of covering the legislature.  We hope it is never repeated.  Thanks to a newspaper, the historical record is clear even if the official record is not. That’s why we have a free press with which you can agree or disagree.  But as long as we have media that is free to record events that become history, we will know.  And in knowing we will remain free.

The era of looking outward

I was at the press site at Cape Kennedy the night of December 7, 1972 at 12:33 a. m. (EST) when the last Apollo mission to the moon turned midnight into dawn and thundered into the darkness. I felt the hammering against my chest from the controlled explosions of those engines, enveloped by a roar so loud that I could not hear my own voice describing into my recorder what I was seeing. I cherish the memories captured by my still and my movie cameras in those moments.  In my increasingly long life, I have hiked high trails in magnificent mountains, rafted in grand and great canyons, beheld sunrises and sunsets in hundreds of special places, watched two children being born, and other notable events.  But nothing was as awesome as watching that Saturn V slowly, slowly lift off and then quickly become a dot in the dark sky, a rocket assembly so tall that—were it placed on the railroad tracks below the state capitol bluff—its escape tower would be as high as the statue of Ceres on the capitol dome.  And the only thing that would return would be a capsule only one foot in diameter more than the center circle on a basketball court, and only one foot taller than the height of the basket. Inside would be the three men I had seen a day earlier at a press conference.  

In more than forty years of covering politics and dabbling in covering sports I have seen and I have met a lot of famous people but I have seen and I have met only a few great people.  It is in that small number of heroes that I place the men who rode that rocket—and their colleagues who dared greatly to push our spirits as well as our frontiers forward. I respect those who continue to ride rockets although their reach is well short of the men who began their journey so dramatically that early morning and the men who first risked everything to reach beyond our known world..   

I worry sometimes about those who are considered heroes today in a time when we are less interested in testing our potentials as societies and as mankind and more focused on protecting the little that we are. 

When Gene Cernan died last week, we lost more than the last man to walk on the Moon.  We lost another of the dwindling few human reminders that greatness derives from reaching outward while mediocrity, narrowness, and failure result from looking inward.

 In the stairwell leading to the library at my house is a poster created by Shelbi Burkhart commemorating the Apollo XVII mission.  It is signed by Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt, the geologist who landed on the moon with him. It is framed with my Cape Kennedy and my Johnson Space Center press credentials from that mission.

 Although my work gave me—and still gives me, I guess—a lot of opportunities to collect autographs, I collect only a few and those few are from those who have seen the whole earth as I will never see it (only six of them are left), or from fellow authors. One series is kind of a vicarious participation in the great adventure of exploring space.  The other is kind of a compliment, a shared experience, with those who have gone through the discipline (and sometimes the agony) of writing a book. 

But the signatures I cherish most are those who were, and are, heroes not just to me but to my generation.  They are tangible reminders that greatness is not achieved by limiting what we can be by focusing within.  I have met some of them and it is comforting to realize that people who look just like me or look just like you are capable of greater things than we often let ourselves think.  And I wonder when the time will come when we will look outward again. 

                                               

Wrapping up the 2017 inauguration

Governor Greitens has been in office for a week.  We’ve had time to absorb and assess the events of his big day last Monday and assemble a postscript of sorts to our long series about inauguration history to bring that series up to date and for reference by those who want to add to it for inauguration 2021:

Eric Greitens, the first governor of Missouri without previous elective office experience since Lloyd C. Stark eighty years previously, was inaugurated on an overcast blustery day with the temperature in the upper thirties and gusty winds that sometimes drove the wind chill index into single digits.  The sun fought its way through the clouds early in the afternoon and warmed the then-empty Capitol south lawn into the forties.  

Some different things were done by a governor who had promised in his campaign, and in his inaugural remarks that he would be a different kind of governor.  There was no parade.  None had been scheduled.  It had been twenty years since there had been no parade. Governor Carnahan called off the 1997 parade and was inaugurated for his second term in the rotunda because of the severe cold. Governor Teasdale had cancelled his inaugural parade because of even more severe weather in 1977 although he held his ceremonies outside. Greitens said in 2017 the parade focused on politicians and he wanted his event to focus on people. Ceremony organizers said there wasn’t time to hold one because the incoming governor had as busy morning schedule that began with an interfaith prayer service across the street from the capitol at St. Peter Catholic Church.  A reception in the rotunda, called Honoring Our Heroes, recognized about 150 teachers, law enforcement officers, veterans, farmers, and families of the fallen. They also had a special spot on the inaugural platform.  After the swearing-in ceremonies, the new governor, as Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard, reviewed the troops—something not done in previous memory of these events.  

The swearing-in ceremony had an emcee for the first time in memory who was not a legislative leader—Rodney Bullard, the Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A foundation, a personal friend of Greitens.  Although Senate President pro tem Ron Richard convened the joint session of the House and the Senate, and concluded the event with the adjournment of the session, Bullard handled all of the introductions. 

The other constitutional office-holders elected in November were sworn in ahead of the new governor (long ago, they were sworn in afterwards), including Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, who had had bypass heart surgery just before Christmas. The National Guard Band from Springfield played a couple of numbers to fill the time between the inauguration of the Lieutenant Governor and the high noon inauguration of the Governor.  Everything seemed to be on time for a change. 

As Greitens completed his oath, a B-2 Bomber flew over the crowd, flying from east to west. 

Christopher Bond, Missouri’s oldest living former governor, was among those in attendance.

Security was tight.  This reporter went through three separate wandings before the ceremony.  The day after the event, metal detectors were in operation inside the building at two location. 

Greitens’ inaugural address grew out of his military background, his interest in history, and his previous lack of involvement in politics.  He promised to be a governor of the people, not of the political system, urged his fellow Republicans in overwhelming control of the legislature to listen to the other side (“Sometimes the purpose of our opponents is to be our teachers”) and concluded, “Let’s get to work.”  

—which he did when he went into the governor’s office as the person in charge of it for the first time.  He signed an executive order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the executive branch of government. 

About that same time, private citizen Jay Nixon and the state’s former first lady drove to their home in St. Louis County.

(Photo credits:  Your faithful observer)

The senator, the judge, the Boss, and the Quail

Time is running short this year for people who like to kill one of our state symbols.  The 2016-17 quail season ends soon—January 15, Sunday.  The legislature declared the Bobwhite Quail our official state game bird in 2007.  We watched the debates that resulted from a project to teach elementary school students how the legislature works by getting the legislature to establish a new state symbol.  But none of the debaters mentioned the greatest tribute ever paid on the Senate floor to the quail.

The speech also has some historical threads that involve one of the unique gubernatorial elections in state history, a scandal, and creation of an important state agency.  When you’ve finished reading the tribute to the quail we’ll tell you the additional history that goes with it.

State Senator Francis M. Wilson, an avid quail hunter from Platte County, stood in the Senate March 7, 1911 to support his bill preventing the killing of quail until December, 1914 because the bird numbers had dropped so much.  He argued that the prairie chicken and the wild turkey had almost been exterminated in Missouri and quail were on the verge.  He said the state game and fish warden was trying to stock the state with Hungarian Partridges, which look like quail.  He said those birds plus the rapid multiplication of protected quail would be a service to farmers and would become numerous enough to allow quail hunting to resume. Observers said he convinced a previously hostile senate to pass the bill. His colleagues were so impressed that Wilson was asked to reduce his remarks to writing so they could be printed in the Senate Journal.  He spoke off the cuff but wrote down his recollections of what he said. If you’re an avid quail hunter, you might find this century-old tribute to the official state game bird of some interest. If you’re not, we invite you to look at an example of what was then called “spread-eagle oratory.”  Yes, we note the juxtaposition of eagle and quail.

The quail is among the most ancient of game birds. In some form, differing in habits and appearance, either gay with the plumage of sunny climes, or grave with the subdued colors of cheerless landscapes, it has been found throughout the world.

If we search for its origin it is obscured in the mists of antiquity. The Bible tells us of the Almighty furnishing this toothsome bird to nourish and strengthen the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness. In all ages it has given the historian his brightest glimpse of bird life, and the poet inspiration for his sweetest song. The name given this royal bird differs with the locality and folk-lore of the people, but throughout the eastern states, from the pineries of Maine to the flowery fields of Florida and westward to the foothills of the mountains, it is known as “Bob White”—the true name adopted by all ornithologists. And so it is for the protection and preservation of this messenger of civilization, proud aristocrat of farm and field and orchard that I press this measure upon the Senate. Senators from favored sections of the State, where these birds are fairly plentiful, argue that to enact such a law would be unjust to their constituents. In this I find no comfort for them, but on the contrary one of the strongest arguments favoring the passage of the bill. History repeats itself. Within the memory of many of my distinguished colleagues, the princely domain which I represent was indeed a “hunters’ paradise.” Deer broke covert from every brake; wild pigeons clouded the sun as vast flocks passed from feeding to roosting places; wild turkeys in almost countless numbers were everywhere; prairie chickens abode with us in contentment; wild geese—harbingers of coming fall and spring—covered the sandbars of our rivers, or on mighty wing rushed through the air, but,

“There is a Power whose care Teaches thy way along that pathless coast, The desert and illimitable air, Lone wandering, but not lost.”

 

But how sad the change. How sorrowful the retrospect. In secluded places, scattered far and wide over a limited section of our State, the deer are making their last gallant stand; wild pigeons live only in the glorious traditions of our great Commonwealth; the prairie chicken is now rara avis, and the wild goose calls in alarm his scattered few, as high above its would-be murderers, they cleave the blue of kindly skies as they hasten to the few asylums in the far away Southland, or in the frozen regions of the north. It has been given to me to witness the almost incredible destruction of this valuable game—not at the hands of true sportsmen, for they have long waged unequal battle to stay the wholesale and inexcusable slaughter—but to satisfy the inordinate greed of the “game hog,” and his foster brother, the “pot-hunter,” who slew and still slay merely that they may boast of their prowess with the gun, and to furnish a precarious living for the market hunter who stains himself with the butchery of these gentle creatures our Creator gave as a blessing. Senators, what is true of my section of the State will be in a few years the sad story you will have to tell of man’s inhumanity to game life. It will then be everlastingly too late to repine. “The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on; nor all your piety, nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”

What a splendid fight Bob White is making against the combined hosts of his enemies, and what a fine battle the farmers of my district are waging to save him from extinction. None know better than the farmer and the orchardist the incalculable benefit he is to field, garden and orchard. From “early morn ’till dewy eve,” bright of eye and swift of leg, the Bob Whites are busy with the destruction of noxious insects and weed pests. He is not regarded as a trespasser, but is entertained as a royal guest, whose stay we would have indefinitely prolonged. True, it has taken science a long time to discover what our agriculturists have always known about the value of this bird as his chief assistant among the feathered tribe, but it is now proclaiming its manifold virtues.

It is officially recorded that examination of many hundreds of the stomachs and crops of these birds disclose them crowded with the seeds of noxious and troublesome weeds, his diet for almost half the year. Upon this a Government report, says: “It is reasonable to suppose that in the states of Virginia and North Carolina from September 1 to April 30, there are four Bob Whites to each square mile of land, or 354,820 in the two states. The crop of each bird is filled twice a day and holds half an ounce of seed. Since at each of the two daily meals, weed seeds constitute at least half the contents of the crop, or one-fourth of an ounce, a half ounce daily is consumed by each bird. On this basis, the total amount of weed seeds consumed by Bob Whites from September 1 to April 30, in Virginia and North Carolina alone amounts to 1,341 tons.” May I inquire what the harvest of weeds would have been had each of these seeds produced? Does not this plead trumpet-tongued in his defense? But this is not all science teaches of the aid this bird is giving- those who toil that we may live. Where insects abound, Bob White plays no favorites in his labors of extermination. Alike he wars upon the chinch bug, the grasshopper, the potato bug, the cotton-boll-weevil, the codling moth and other devastating bugs of forest, field and orchard. In a letter to the Department of Agriculture, touching the voracious appetite of this bird for such pests, a gentleman from Kansas writes: “On opening the crop, we found about two tablespoonfuls of chinch bugs,” and when a further consultation of authorities disclose that this bug has cost the farmers at least 100 millions of dollars per year, you may well stand aghast at the formidable array of facts and figures—which admit of no dispute—that Bob White, above all his feather brothers, is entitled to the proud name of the Farmer’s Friend.

It is not alone as an assistant that this bird is so firmly fixed in the affections of the farmer. Incense to its many other virtues rise from countless happy homes all over the land. Rich in sentiment, with ear atune to nature’s symphonies, the farmer revels in the music Bob White contributes to the melody of the Almighty’s musicians. No bright tinted troubadour of the air, flashing here and there like a thing of light, his gorgeous breast almost bursting with rich excess of song, charms him from the seductive call of his best-loved bird friend. Spring has Come. Here and there the brown patches of earth again become the nursery of tender grasses and modest flowers, and all nature is yielding to the annual miracle which heals the scars on winter’s grave with the sweet assurance that we too shall live again. From afar, soft as the mellow tones of a flute, its sharp, staccato whistle, changed by the witchery of the season into the coy notes of love’s first story, comes Bob White! Ah! Bob White. Again the music of his soul changes. The shy wooer of the demure little lady nearby, becomes bold as a knight errant, and as his ardor and jealousy keep pace, from stump, or rail or broken thicket branch or wherever her eyes, kindling with the fires of coming allegiance will fall upon his knightly bearing, or ears hear his ardent protestations, again the call, but now the ringing challenge of the mail-clad warrior ready to do battle in the lists for his lady love. The theater of his song changes again with the coming of June, life’s time of thrift. The earth riots in the blazonry of bloom. The covenants of spring have been redeemed and summer sings of the fatness of field and vine in the coming autumn. While the dew is yet wet on the green of the leaves and gold of the flowers, Bob White banishes sleep with his insistent call, Wheat’s ripe! Wheat’s ripe! His faithful mate is not far. In some neglected spot, where security is found, she is busy with the duties of maternity and again his chuckling notes, All’s well! All’s well! as from “The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild-wood” he gives full throated utterance of his ecstatic joy. What is more charming to the ear than the music of the quail, wafted from wheat shocks as the rays of the rising sun turn from orange to gold the “beauty of the valleys and the glory of the hills?” It surpasses the ripple of the brook, which poets say is nature’s grandest melody. The tenderest memories of my boyhood days are linked with hazy summer, when the air was freighted with the perfume of flowers, fruits and berries and the cheery whistle of Bob White rang through the old orchard. Through the years come hymns of happy reapers, singing in seas of shimmering grain, the sound of bells, tinkling the way of homeward plodding herds, the voices of harvest toilers chanting the dirge of dying day and mingling with it all Bob White’s musical farewell as failing light slips down the cloud-isles of the sunset.

“Dies the day, and from afar away, Under the evening stars, Dies the echo as dies the day, Droops with the dew in the new-mown hay, Sinks and sleeps in the scent of the May, Dreamily, faint and far.”

Mr. President! I am a devotee of the rod and gun, and from the standpoint of a true sportsman—which I claim to be—my pulse always beats quick when I behold that seed time has passed, and the fruitage of the earth has come to its own. “Magnificent Autumn! He comes not like a pilgrim clad in russet weed; he comes not like a hermit clad in gray; but he come like a warrior with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail. His crimson scarf is rent His scarlet banner drips with gore.” The call “Bob White” is silent, but from stubble, pasture, tangled copse and corn fields, standing rank on rank like Huzzars in their uniforms of gold and silver, we hear his peculiar covey call. It falls upon the impatient ear of the sportsman with unmeasured delight. Tired of the grind of the busy mill of business, the weary sentinels of his brain give warning that it is only the wine of nature which quickens the sluggish blood, brings new light to careworn eyes, and paints the pallid cheek with the ruddy glow of health. As he fills his pockets with shells, his faithful dog leaps about him, eager to match his gift of nose with the cunning of this winsome bird. The east is crimsoning with the coming of a perfect day. The Frost King has scattered his jewels with lavish hand, and from bough and twig and stiffened blade of grass, like diamonds in the corona of Queens, they glow and flash with many colored fires as they herald the growing glory of the sun. Bob White is ready for gun and dog in the perfection of limb and wing, feeling assured that if these fail his mimicry of plumage with his surroundings may defeat the “tainted gale” as pointer or setter ranges far and wide o’er the scented heather in its search. But not so. There is a stiffening of the muscles; like an exquisitely carved statue, the dog “stands.” There is a whirr of wings and the air is full of smoke. Again the quest is taken up, and so through the hours of the too short day, over hill and plain—with few birds perhaps—but with renewed health and strength, the weary hunter turns homeward. The day is done. Lights appear as he draws near home. Loved ones run to meet him at the gate, their faces shining with expectant hope as they inquire, How are you! What luck! As he turns to enter man’s only asylum of perfect rest, there comes faintly the covey call again, as

“Shrill and shy from the dusk they cry, Faintly from over the hill; Out of the gray where shadows lie, Out of the gold where sheaves are high, Covey to covey, call and reply, Plaintively, shy and shrill.”

After this speech, which some felt equal to George Graham Vest’s “Eulogy on a Dog,” the Senate passed the bill but the House defeated it, assuring an uncertain future for the quail.

Now, here’s more of the story.

Francis M. Wilson, the son of a congressman, and known in his time as the Red-Headed Peckerwood from Platte County, was elected to the state senate in 1899 to fill a vacancy.  He lost a race for Congress in 1904 but was elected back to the state senate in 1908 and was re-elected twice.  He resigned from the senate to become the federal prosecuting attorney for the western district of Missouri, a position he held until 1920.  He lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 1928 but with the strong support of Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast, won his primary in 1932 and seemed to be a lock to become governor. Truman biographer David McCullough calls him “a freckled, old-fashioned Missouri stump speaker who excelled at charming country crowds with his poetic tributes to the natural splendors of their beloved state.” He had suffered from bleeding ulcers for some time and one morning about three weeks before the election, he complained of feeling poorly and died a short time later. McCullough says that when someone suggested an undertaker be called, Mrs. Wilson refused to allow it until Pendergast was notified. When Pendergast arrived, he immediately asked the family if they favored someone to replace Wilson on the ticket.  Guy B. Park, they said.  “Who the hell is Guy Park?” asked Pendergast—in McCullough’s telling of the story.  Four hours later, Pendergast called back and said it was okay to call a mortician.  Guy B. Park had agreed to run. He was elected by a large margin and remained such a Pendergast ally that the Executive Mansion sometimes was called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Park appointed a new state Game and Fish Commissioner, Wilbur Buford, who noted at the end of his first year that there had been a complete turnover of employees, all patronage hires, a situation that was of increasing concern for Missouri outdoorsmen.  Their concerns led to the formation of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, which promptly began circulating petitions to establish a state conservation department isolated from political patronage. Voters approved the plan in Park’s last year in office, a quarter-century after Wilson’s tribute, the same year they elected Lloyd C. Stark as the new governor.

Stark also had Pendergast support but turned on the Boss and started helping the federal prosecutors build a case against him and the state insurance superintendent who had conspired in a massive fraud case. Stark had another motive—to weaken Pendergast support for Senator Harry Truman because Stark wanted to run against Truman in 1940. In the summer of 1937, Stark appointed the first four conservation commissioners: Buford, Columbia businessman E. Sidney Stephens, State Planning Commission member Albert Greensfelder of St. Louis, and Missouri Ruralist editor John F. Case.  Stephens, who father had headed the commission that supervised construction of the Capitol, became the first chairman of the new commission.

And with that, the quail that Francis M. Wilson so loved gained the guardian they needed and an agency that makes sure there can be quail seasons in Missouri.