Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/461

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
445
THE KEARNEY AGITATION IN CALIFORNIA.

to light, there was a mass of corruption never to be developed, for justice in San Francisco, as in some other places, seems stricken with palsy in presence of rich criminals and powerful rings.

The only remedy which the new party offered for this state of things was the usual remedy, "Elect honest men to office, we naming the honest men;" but in the beginning Kearney proposed the additional safeguard of hanging officials who broke their pledges. And, at the first election in which the new party engaged—to fill a vacancy in the legislative representation of the strong Republican county of Alameda, where the railroad interest is very powerful, and the population consist largely of San Francisco business men—the workingmen's candidate, a railroad employee named Bones, went around with a halter about his neck in token of his acceptance of this condition. lie was elected, took his seat, and immediately began voting just as he had promised not to. There was enough discussion of how he should be hung to make him ask the protection of the Senate, but there was no hanging. This ended faith in that guarantee, but not in pledges, the municipal officials subsequently elected by the workingmen in San Francisco being pledged to draw only half salaries—a pledge which after election they one and all ignored as easily as before election they had taken it.

But, before the feelings which had been aroused by the events of which I speak could spend themselves in a general election of officers, there came, in June, 1878, the election for delegates to a Constitutional Convention. This whole subject of the new Constitution of California is extremely interesting and suggestive, but I can only allude to some main features. The large corporate interests took advantage of the situation, by starting a movement for a "Non-Partisan" ticket, on which, of course, they got a good representation. If they did not also engineer the Workingmen's nominations, they could hardly have done better, as these consisted generally of men utterly ignorant and inexperienced. The "Non-Partisans" carried the State at large, the Workingmen San Francisco and some other centers where they had organizations. The Convention itself was vaguely divided into three groups: first, the lawyers, who largely represented corporation interests; second, the "Grangers," who represented the ideas and prejudices of the farmers and landholders; third, the Workingmen, bent on making capital for the new party, and desirous of doing something for the laboring classes, without the slightest idea of how to do it. But there was nothing in the Convention like agrarianism or socialism, or radical reform of any kind. The lawyers looked out pretty well for their special interests; the Workingmen, satisfied with some clauses about the Chinese, etc. (not worth the paper on which they were written), readily fell in with the Grangers, imagining that, in piling taxation upon capital and all its shadows, they were helping the poor by taxing the rich. The resulting instrument is a sort of mixture of constitution, code,