It's also possible that the US dies in 1919 when it is replaced by something else. The "2nd Revolution/2nd Civil War" might not start in 1919, but start earlier, and finish in 1919 with the extinction of the US and birth of something else.The only thing I can think of that lets the US last to 1919 at this point is Frick wins three terms and stamps out all dissent until it finally boils over.
I wonder if anyone tries to take that to the Supreme Court on grounds of violating the 2nd Amendment? It would be hilarious if they shot it down, pun not intended, but probably unlikely under the circumstances.On 8 September 1903, a motion was passed 267-124 prohibiting the carriage of firearms into the Capitol. Soon, the Sergeant-at-Arms was demanding congressmen unholster and hand over their weapons before entering the chamber. They could be collected on the way out.
Which naturally further radicalizes everyone, because as Frink's sided with the LDP, well, it's not like they have seen any proof of him being merciful or kind towards "reds".I suspect Roosevelt and Darrow are going to spoil for each other, and Frick goes full dictator.
The way things are going, if Frick wins, there will be revolution by 1906, possibly 1905.
Which would only further enflame or catch the moderates and centrists in the crossfire, nudging them towards the socialist camp.I think more likely Frick's ability to coalesce American reactionaries will tamp the lid down on the pot for a few years. I think his initial crackdowns would eviscerate the Socialist movement at the top and electorally, but they will become more militant and eventually explode back sometime between 1910 - 1915.
They likely will. Given what just happened, odds are the Socialists mysteriously "try to escape" or "are caught in crossfire when their comrades tried to rescue them".Well that's worrying. Hopefully the people will have their voices heard once more soon.
This reads of frantic "Oh, I didn't cause a civil war, I just lit the tinder that caused one" asscovering from someone sick of all the blame.Ask Frick! Ask Frick what he paid Watson for the Presidency! I’ll tell you! $30 million dollars! Henry Clay Frick bought the Presidency for $30 million dollars!”
- Philander C. Knox, 1924
I just want to say that this update was especially well written in my opinion. I could really imagine the tension and hearing the angry mob threaten congressmen as they entered the building. I could hear the internationale being sung outside and I could really imagine congressmen being dragged out of Congress while the rest just stared in horror, confusion, and shock.From the first, fraud was widespread and systematic.
Without a doubt its greatest purveyor was the National Party. Not necessarily because the party was especially perfidious. Rather, with the collapse of the GOP, the men of wealth and institutions in whose power it was to affect such fraud put themselves at the disposal of the Nationalists, instead.
In many counties of Pennsylvania, Frick’s old kingdom, men were turned away from the ballot box if their surnames “smacked of Sicily or Hungary.” Even those who could prove citizenship were often denied the vote.
In Oakland, Jack London’s hometown, Darrow’s name was simply cut out of ballots.
In the south, suppression of the vote was even more egregious. Most Nationalists were former northern Republicans who did not have any special opposition to black men voting and may have even favored it in previous times. But now that blacks were an increasingly red constituency, they could make common cause with the tatters of the southern Democrats and their bête noire of negro suffrage.
In Florida, the vote totals of Tallahassee and Calhoun County at least, seem to be entirely fictitious, with 95%+ for Frick, in counties that had showed strong Socialist pluralities in 1902.
An Alabama farmer threatened his tenants that if he heard “any of you voted red, you’ll be begging alms by Friday.”
Sometimes, the methods of manipulation were more forthright. So it was in Houma County, Louisiana, where a group of black men heading to the polls was fired upon by Klansmen armed with Winchesters.
But blacks organized to defend their ballot access. And now that they were leagued with a not-insignificant portion of the white population, they constituted a real challenge to their white supremacist foes.
The Spartacist columns had spent months drilling and preparing for election day, armed with the pistols, rifles, and daggers men like Jack London had helped them acquire. By November they were, if not quite as well-disciplined as soldiers, at least as well-disciplined and capable as the enemy.
In New Orleans, black and ‘foreign’ Spartacists (mostly Italians and Germans) marched to the ballot box with pistols jangling in their belts. The much smaller band of armed white citizens that had gathered to prevent just that lost its nerve and scattered. The Crescent City went resoundingly to Darrow.
Sometimes, neither side gave way. In Jackson County, Mississippi, a firefight broke out at the polls between Klansmen and Spartacists. Though four men died, there was no real victor, as in the end the ballots were destroyed by fire, and Jackson County ultimately did not contribute to the election of the 26th President.
About 36 people died across the south on 8 November as a direct result of electoral violence. There were many more over the rest of the country.
The Socialists naturally could not engage in election-day skullduggery to the same extent, since they lacked any comparable control over the political and state machinery that allowed it. But where they had power, whether through local officials or simply the force of numbers, they did use it.
In Leadville, Colorado, the Socialist mayor placed miners packing revolvers at the ballot boxes for ‘maintenance of public order.’ Though the Nationalists had mustered a rally of some 2,000 citizens a week before, not a single of the town’s 4,382 votes cast went to Frick or Roosevelt.
In Pennsylvania, where the might of the NP left little recourse, there were reports of radical steelworkers quite literally putting guns to the heads of their non-Socialist coworkers to ‘compel them to vote aright.’
The Republican-Populists probably bore the least responsibility for the general fraud. Again, not out of any particular virtuosity, but because they lacked both the money and state power of the Nationalists and the street-level mobilization of the Socialists.
Early Tuesday evening, the first of the results began to roll in.
“I believe the night is promising,” Frick told a reporter, upon discovering he had again won New Jersey.
As that night went on, it became increasingly clear that Frick and Darrow were almost neck and neck, with Roosevelt trailing somewhere behind. Americans awaited the returns with a terrible desperation, even as they beat, shot, and stabbed each other.
It was clear early on that Frick had swept New England, as all had expected. The great exception was Maine, which narrowly went to Roosevelt. The south was Frick’s as well, thanks to his unofficial compact with the remains of the Bourbon Democrats. That was, except for Louisiana and Florida, which went to Darrow, and Georgia along with North Carolina, which went for the Roosevelt-Bryan ticket out of stubborn affection for the Great Commoner.
Past the Mississippi it was a patchwork—the Socialists had taken most of the desolate western states of ever more radical miners and farmworkers; Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Nevada. The Nationalists managed to hold California again. The Socialists took Washington, but Oregon was Frick’s.
As morning of 9 November dawned, the terrible truth became clear: no candidate would take an outright majority of electoral votes.
In the end, Frick took a plurality of 228 electors. Darrow was not far behind, with 188. Roosevelt lingered in third place, with 60.
As for the popular vote, the official returns gave Darrow a small plurality of 6,053,351 ballots cast, for 36.4% of the total.
Frick had 5,583,973 votes cast for him, for 34.5% of the total.
Roosevelt won over 3,900,688 of the men who voted, for 24.2% of the votes cast.
4.9%, or 793,086 ballots were write-ins, spoiled, or otherwise discounted, a notably high amount. This speaks both to the tumult of the election, and the level of fraud.
On the morning of 10 November, the New York Times carried the headline, NO MAJORITY; ELECTION WILL GO TO HOUSE!
It went over with the general populace about as well as might have been expected.
The Daily People charged that Frick had won Pennsylvania’s coveted 32 electoral votes only through fraud, and that they rightfully belonged to Darrow. Frick took a majority in Pennsylvania by only 11,307 votes. It is certainly possible fraud made up the difference, though such will probably never be known for certain. The paper then went on to make the far more fanciful claim that Darrow had in fact won an outright majority of the popular vote nationwide, but that this had been obscured by the Cartel and its lackeys.
The Voice as well as Hearst’s New York Journal, Harpers Weekly, and a number of conservative papers besides trumpeted: FRICK VICTORIOUS, though of course he was as of yet no such thing.
The NYSE fell by nearly 20% upon publication of the results, though considering the economic mire in which the country was already sunk, this was not noticed by many besides stock traders and bankers. Foreign investors—French and British, mostly—began to pull their assets from the country. Those which still remained, at least.
And the violence worsened. In the Lower East End of Manhattan, a Socialist hotbed, a brawl over the results of the election killed three people (which began when someone shouted, “hurrah for President Frick!”). When the police arrived, one of the officers on scene was shot dead.
80 persons were arrested, mostly European immigrants.
Some Nationalists took Frick’s plurality in the electoral college as a sanction to vent their rage on the hated red enemy (if they were not doing so already). Early in the evening of 9 November, the Chicago SLP offices were set alight and severely damaged in the resulting fire. In retaliation, the city’s Nationalist club was stormed by armed Spartacists and four men killed.
In San Francisco, Nationalist Mayor Boxton was assassinated by a pistol-wielding Socialist student. Such was the turmoil in the country this went largely unnoticed beyond California’s borders.
In Philadelphia, unemployed Socialist workers surrounded a courthouse that had served as a polling place the day before, demanding to count the ballots themselves. They were suspicious of the appointed judges who had done the tallying, for they were suspected of being in the pay of the National Party. The courthouse was guarded by CS men, and when the Socialists refused to disperse, they opened fire. Ten men were killed.
This went on for the remainder of November, by which time New York City, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Denver, along with a number of less distinguished cities and counties, were under martial law.
“Congress must not dither and must confirm President Frick as soon as is humanly possible,” Hearst thundered in his journal. “The country crumbles down around our ears.”
Though they might not agree with his pronouncement of the results, all agreed with the sentiment.
Behind closed doors, Daniel DeLeon was greatly excited. Thrilled by reports and photographs of Socialist militants marching ‘with wonderful discipline’ all across the country, he was deluded into believing the strength of the SLP in the streets much greater than it really was (probably slightly more than 25% of the total electorate could be counted in its camp, though it may have been the single most popular party at the moment). DeLeon excitedly told Clark that he believed revolution was at hand, and the ‘electoral show’ would all soon be irrelevant, anyhow. In fact, DeLeon wished to issue a call to arms in the Daily People. Clark was alarmed. He and others near the top of the party, including Ella Bloor and Emil Seidel, struggled to disabuse DeLeon of his wild optimism. Narrowly, they managed to talk him down.
DeLeon buckled and refrained from an outright declaration of war, but he toed the line precariously as he could. In the Daily People, the old Marxist thundered: “Workers! Maintain your arms! Be always watchful! The time is fast approaching!”
As provided by the US Constitution, when no candidate prevailed to win an outright majority of electors, then the election would go to the House of Representatives. There, the president would be chosen from the top three candidates (measured by popular vote) by a majority of state delegations, each delegation itself casting a vote in accordance with a majority of its constituent representatives.
The Vice President would be chosen from the top two Vice Presidential candidates by a simple majority of Senators voting individually.
This process had proven necessary twice before in the history of the Republic: with the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, and with that of John Quincy Adams in 1824.
But never had there been a congress so chaotic as that which to the election was thrown in the winter of 1904.
In view of rapidly deteriorating state of the Union, the weary President McKinley called a special session of congress on 11 December, with the intention that they select the next president (who he prayed would be Roosevelt) post haste.
By early morning on the 11th, a large crowd of the jobless had formed at the Center Market in the federal capital, and from there dispersed through the city, chanting “Darrow is president!” as they marched through the streets and threatening frightened onlookers into joining in the cry. With congressmen now descending upon Washington en masse for the assembly, federal troops were called out to clear out the mob and protect the legislators as they performed their sacred duty.
When senators and representatives trundled from Baltimore into the capital by cab or carriage, they were escorted by hundreds of blue-coated soldiers holding off ‘masses of roaring reds’ at bayonet point.
“Darrow! Darrow!” Rep. George Southwick (R-NY) heard a young man scream from the crowd. “Or we’ll kill you all!”
“I had no doubt,” Southwick would say. “That they would make good on their promise given the opportunity.”
Congress convened under this storm. Inside the vaunted chambers, the atmosphere was scarcely better. Nationalists, Socialists, and Republicans traded barbs, and sometimes threw punches. The stacks of surrendered pistols outside the chambers grew to several feet high.
The Senate easily enough selected its Vice President—the only choices were Emil Seidel, Darrow’s running mate, and William Hearst, Frick’s. The Senate still held a 51-strong majority of Republican senators who, while they might not all be for Frick, were certainly against Darrow. As such, Hearst was narrowly elected Vice President by 47 votes.
It was in the House that the true battle played out.
When the congressmen were finally quieted and confined to their seats by the Sergeant-at-Arms, the first ballot was cast.
The congress was that which had been elected in 1902; that meant in the House, there were 102 Republicans, 99 Socialists, 78 Populists, and 86 Nationalists. All these were scattered over the country, making for divided delegation after divided delegation. Moreover, the Republicans had been elected prior to the 1904 convention split between the Rooseveltians and the Conservatives, the latter of which had largely gone over to Frick. That meant many of the Republicans sitting in Congress were better disposed towards the Nationalist candidate than their nominal party fellow, Roosevelt.
The first ballot was cast in alphabetical order, and went as follows:
New Hampshire-Frick (2-0)
New Jersey-Frick (6-3)
New York-Frick (20-16)
North Carolina-Roosevelt (6-4)
North Dakota-Darrow (2-0)
Rhode Island-Frick (2-0)
South Carolina-Frick (7-0)
South Dakota-Roosevelt (2-0)
West Virginia-Darrow (3-2)
The final tally :
17 states for Frick.
13 states for Roosevelt.
15 states for Darrow.
As soon as the balloting was done the chamber erupted into the usual shouting and insults.
Another ballot was conducted, with precisely the same results. This went on until the sun broke on Washington DC. By that morning, the representatives had reached their 11th ballot, with not a single change in delegations. Some individual congressmen had switched their votes, but none were strategically positioned to flip a state.
Outside, a belligerent crowd gathered around the Capitol, kept back by two battalions of the US 2nd Infantry and four Maxim guns. They roared, “Darrow! Darrow! Give us Darrow!”
Soon, the bickering congressmen could hear The Internationale in the streets outside.
At about 7:00 in the morning, in the middle of the 15th ballot, Henry Teller stood and begged of his fellow representatives. “I appeal to you as intelligent, reasonable men!” he cried, almost in tears. “Does any one of you really, truly want Henry Clay Frick or Clarence Seward Darrow to be the 26th President of the United States?”
A brief and fleeting concord developed between the Nationalists and Socialists as they rose from their seats to heap vicious abuse on the old veteran congressman. Teller stood his ground and steadfastly refused to acknowledge his colleagues’ jeers.
The balloting went on, with no progress.
Occasionally, someone would demand a recount of this or that state, or this or that county (mostly the SLP, and mostly concerning Pennsylvania). But it was abundantly clear to all that an impartial recount was entirely impractical under these conditions.
Meanwhile, the United States continued to fall to pieces. In St. Louis, a band of Nationalists attacked an STLA Woodworkers’ Union office armed with state-of-the-art bolt-action rifles stolen from a militia armory. They shot dead two workers, including one woman, before being repulsed by the Socialists’ own firepower, which claimed the lives of three Nationalists in turn. That was 14 December.
In Brooklyn, National Guardsmen panicked and fired into a crowd of Socialists after the latter began to pelt them with stones and bricks. In the confused, panicked reports the death toll was variously relayed as 3, 6, 8, or 15.
In Clay County, Alabama, six black farmworkers suspected of SLP membership were shot and buried in a mass grave.
“WHO IS PRESIDENT?” The Wall Street Journal demanded.
It was then that DeLeon at last decided to ‘ruin everything,’ as a bitter Victor Berger would put it some years down the line.
Like the rest of the country, his anxiety had reached a fever pitch. He was by now convinced that the failure by congress to select a winner was all part and parcel of the bourgeois conspiracy to deny the SLP its rightful victory.
Bulling through the objections of his comrades, on 18 December, he published a front-page editorial in The Daily People.
Its headline was, “TO ARMS!”
The content of the article was even more belligerent.
“The capitalist system has reached its hideous apotheosis. From here it will tumble into history’s abyss…but only by the force of your arms!”
He went on to charge the American government of fraud: “it is no coincidence that the machinery of this bourgeois republic has come to a terrible halt. For if parliament and the ballot box were anything more than cruel deceptions, the government would by now have passed into our hands. The ‘representatives of the people’ deliberate only to decide the best way in which to cheat us of our victory. We have wrung all we can out of this rotten, cretinous system.”
The article finished with, “let there be no more presidents, no more capitalists or kings. Workers, let your rifles speak!”
It was, at last, what the SLP had managed to refrain from all these years—an open call to violent, armed revolution.
It is debatable to what extent DeLeon was in fact responsible for subsequent events. It is likely history would have unfolded very similarly without his explosive editorial. Nevertheless, its immediate role is difficult to deny.
For upon reading this virulent summon to insurrection, Attorney General Philander Knox hit upon an idea.
Washington DC, USA
19 December, 1904
President William McKinley was in pain.
All sorts of pain.
He feared he was on the verge of another heart attack. The twisting stabs and aches in his chest grew more frequent. His gut squirmed. Even his limbs felt drained of strength.
McKinley lay back on the ottoman in the East Sitting Hall, an arm laid over his chest. Outside he could hear the roar of the mob. And then the dreadful chant, that scabrous little tune—he could nearly sing it himself by now.
Arise, ye prisn’ers of starvation, arise, ye wretched of the earth!
He expected any moment now to hear the rip of Maxim guns. All it took was one bloodthirsty corporal. One hot-blooded red. And then what? A field of corpses spread out all before the Executive Mansion. Soldiers marching roughshod over the dead.
Just like at Wilmington. Just like at Cripple Creek.
Like at Chicago.
McKinley closed his eyes. Periodically, an aide entered the room to inform him on the situation at congress. There was no real purpose to it. It had been the same on the last thirty ballots, and would be the same, now.
He heard the congressmen had taken to sleeping on the chamber floors. It was too much hassle for the soldiers to clear a path through the horde outside so senators and representatives could exit the Capitol.
Frick. Darrow. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt with Bryan.
The President could hear his breath rattle. Good Christ, hadn’t he beaten Bryan? When was that? 1896? Eight years past?
How could this have happened?
The Senate had elected that firebrand Hearst. And so, if the House did not select a winner by March, he would ascend to the Presidency himself.
Hearst and Frick. Wasn’t that Hearst supposed to be half a red himself? What sense did that make?
Nothing. What did make sense, now?
That would be his legacy, McKinley thought, and there was another stab of pain in his breast. He’d failed as surely as any president had failed.
He’d failed to save the country’s commerce. He’d failed to stop the slaughters at Wilmington and Cripple Creek. He’d failed to stop Frick. Failed to stop the reds. Failed to stop the risen Klan.
McKinley the failure.
McKinley the coward.
If there were any Americans left in fifty years, that was how they would remember him.
He cursed the day he accepted the Republican nomination. But what did that matter? There were no Republicans anymore.
The door to the hall clicked open. McKinley turned, expecting to see his aide with a fresh report that the House had failed at another round of balloting.
Instead, it was Philander Knox.
“Mr. Knox,” McKinley said, weakly.
Knox nodded and approached. He clutched a newspaper in his hand.
McKinley beckoned him closer.
“What is it, Mr. Knox? Is everything alright?” he managed to chuckle at his own joke.
“Sir, I’ve an idea. I do not think it is a very good idea, but I doubt anyone has got a better one.”
McKinley narrowed his eyes. He nodded. “Go ahead.”
“I believe we can deliver the House to Roosevelt.”
McKinley snapped to attention at that.
“How might we do that?”
Knox took a deep breath, as if steeling himself to say whatever came next.
“You must outlaw the Socialists, sir.”
He balked. The Socialists were madmen. They could all go to hell for what he cared. But to simply outlaw a party based on—it was the stuff of despots.
“Sir, I cannot do that. On what grounds w—”
“Look at what that man DeLeon has written, now,” Knox said. He tossed down the paper he held before McKinley. The President saw now that it was the day’s edition of The Daily People, the SLP mouthpiece. The headline read, “TO ARMS!”
His eyes bulged, alarmed.
“Go on, sir,” Knox urged. “Take a look.”
With trembling hands, McKinley raised the paper. He gave the editorial a quick once-over. The words leapt out; “rise,” “arms,” “blood,” “march,” “revolution.”
“Sir—” McKinley began to say.
“It is sedition,” Knox interrupted. “Treason, even.”
“It is not treason—” McKinley said. “Who is Mr. DeLeon betraying us to?”
“You hear them out there,” Knox gestured wildly at the window. McKinley cocked his ear towards the singing mob. “That is his army. He is calling them to revolt. That is the levying of war against the United States, sir. That is treason.”
McKinley sighed and closed his eyes.
“And if I outlaw the Socialists? How will you give Roosevelt the House?”
“Listen—look here,” Knox said, speaking with frantic fever in his voice. “Frick has now 17 state delegations. Darrow has taken 15, and Roosevelt only 13. But there are four states with delegations comprised entirely of Socialists. If you outlaw the party—if we arrest these men— four delegations are entirely removed from the count. And so are the Socialists infesting the remaining 41. And I am familiar with the men in Congress, I have toyed with the numbers. Granting no man changes his vote—and they have not been disposed to do that in the past week—if you do what I propose, 19 delegations will go to Roosevelt, as against 22 for Frick—”
“Mr. Knox,” McKinley cut him off. “I am not sure if you are aware, but 22 is a majority of 41, while 19 is not. And—”
“Wait,” Knox urged. “Except that I am assured the men who have turned the delegations of Wyoming and Vermont for Frick can be compelled to vote our way. That will give Roosevelt the majority. If only by one.”
McKinley could only be repulsed. It all smacked of European courts. All the rotten games and alliances.
But then—he could hear that mob just without.
“I cannot do it, Mr. Knox.”
“You must do it, sir! For God’s sakes—if this goes on, if they are still balloting come March 4th—then the congress elected in November will take their place. Are you familiar with its composition, Mr. President?”
Of course he was. The November elections had returned a clear majority of Nationalists and Socialists.
“Yes,” McKinley said, weakly.
“Then it will be Frick or Darrow, and the third selection will be civil war. That is all.”
There was a long quiet between the two men. The President buried his face in his hands.
“How shall the order read?”
19 December, 1904
Andrew Mellon was still huffing when he crested the final flight of stairs and burst in on the study. Frick was at the window, a paper and pen abandoned on a writing desk six feet away. The governor’s eyes swept over the streets of Philadelphia, as if he was looking for something in particular.
Three stories below them, the militiamen guarding the governor’s mansion had established a perimeter two lines strong around the stately house, and even piled up sandbags. It might seem paranoid, but then someone had tried to kill Frick with a bomb only a week before. Again.
“Mr. Frick,” Mellon called.
Frick turned, saw him, and smiled. “Andy! They said you were coming.” He strolled over to his old friend and put an arm around his shoulders. “You said you had ‘bad news,’ eh?”
“Yes. Yes, sir. I do.”
“My friends in Washington have…advised me that McKinley plans to outlaw the Socialists come the 21st.”
Frick’s eyes widened. Then he smiled through his sharp black beard. His grey eyes crinkled.
“Well!” he slapped the nearest table. “The man finally grows a spine!”
“But with the Socialists out of congress—”
Frick’s smile died instantly. And he understood. “The son of a bitch. Which congressmen do they plan to pay off? Is i—”
“Mondell from Wyoming. Both men from New Hampshire. Without the Socialist congressmen that is enough to—”
“I can count,” Frick snapped. The man took to pacing, grumbling, brows knitted in concentration. Outside, Mellon could hear National Guard cavalry clopping through the street.
Then Frick raised his head, a light in his eyes. “Ah!”
“Yes?” Mellon inquired.
Frick whirled around.
“Listen, man—if they flip two states, we need only flip one. That will return the majority to us.”
“Are you familiar with James Watson?”
Andrew Mellon leaned in, certain his friend had something in mind. He always did.
“The congressman from Indiana? Yessir.”
“Last I heard, Indiana went for Roosevelt by a single vote. If Watson can be persuaded—”
“What makes you think he can be?”
Frick patted Mellon’s shoulder.
“Andy, I’m quite sure he can. Can you get in touch with the man?”
“He’s holed up in the Capitol with the rest of them surrounded by that anarchist mob, but I will certainly do what I can.”
“I know you will. Tell him to name his price.”
“Will he go in for it?”
“He will.” Frick read the concern and uncertainty on Mellon’s face. “Trust me, Andy. Everything will be quite alright.”
William McKinley's Executive Order No. 287
DECEMBER 21ST, 1904
It is hereby determined that in calling on its armed partisans to affect the overthrow of the United States federal government by means of civil insurrection, the leadership of the so-called Socialist Labor Party has levied war against the United States, and is thus guilty of treason as defined by Article III, Section 3 of the United States constitution. All adherents to this so-called party and its associated leagues or unions, are liable to arrest as traitors to the United States of America.
The Last Days of the Republic as I Lived Them, by Harry Skinner, former Populist Representative from North Carolina
(©1938, Penguin Books)
…having rested for a time considered by all reasonable, we reconvened in the chamber for the miserable task of casting yet another ballot. This would be the 42nd ballot, and there was little reason to expect it would look any different from the previous 41.
I was seated next to Mr. Matchett, a Socialist from New York. He had, in fact, run for president on the Socialist ticket in ’96, but in the turmoil of the past several years I think most had forgotten him.
The balloting began with Alabama. Her delegation voted Frick, of course. We went down the line. Cannon looked exhausted.
I wonder if I was the first to hear it. At first, I figured it for thunder, because it was a stormy evening. It was the winter solstice, in fact, and darkness fell quickly.
But it was not thunder. It was, in fact, the tramp of soldiers’ boots.
California had just called out its vote for Frick.
Then the doors to the chamber blew open. In stormed some fifteen soldiers in their blue coats. They were all soaked through with rainwater and tracked the grime and mud of Washington’s streets over the fine carpeting. A few elder congressmen in fact offered protests to that effect. The greater part of us was simply too stunned to offer any sort of reaction.
I suppose many took it for some kind of joke, as I heard a number of affrighted giggles.
A young officer stepped forward who I later learned was Captain McClelland. He drew his revolver, I suppose in the interest of theatrical flair, and he declared, “you men of the Socialists are all under arrest.”
We remained seated, all of us. Stunned. My first thought, my primal instinct, was to thank God I was only a Populist.
No Socialist stood. I suppose they may have still not understood the reality of it.
Then a corporal went over and jammed his bayonet at Mr. Hillquit, holding it an inch or two from the man’s face. “Get up!” ordered the young man with his great rifle.
Mr. Hillquit rose, staggering, not quite lucid.
Not all of the Socialists were quite so compliant.
“This is not Russia!” cried Mr. Hayes of Ohio.
A soldier took him by his collar and compelled him to his feet.
Mr. Matchett, who you will recall sat beside me, turned to look me in the eye. He said nothing and did not look particularly afraid. His face held only a sort of vague confusion. I could say nothing to him, in such a state was I. When the soldiers came round to him, he stood.
Mr. Allen of Florida was not quite so insouciant. He gripped his desk tight and roared, “Cossacks! Cossacks!” as two privates quite literally pried his fingers from the desk and pulled him away. It might have been a comical sight were it not so terrible.
Not all of us who were not Socialists were as acquiescent in the travesty as I was (to my eternal shame).
Mr. Pharr, a Populist from Louisiana, rose to his feet. He was a conservative by the standards of his party, and a rich man. But even he could not countenance this defilement of republican government in its supposed sacred seat.
“But you cannot do this!” Pharr protested.
One of the soldiers aimed his rifle at him, and he returned to his seat, quaking.
Soon enough, all 99 Socialists were corralled together and marched out of the chamber like common criminals. Then Cpt. McClelland turned to us. “Well, you gentlemen may return to your work,” he said. And he and his soldiers left us, on the tail of their prisoners.
That left a yawning gap where our colleagues had sat. It was bizarre, as if they had simply vanished. We looked at one another. For some time, no one spoke except in brief mutterings to his neighbor.
Then, we realized, there was little to do but return to the ballot.
I tried feverishly to perform some simple arithmetic and so discover the inevitable winner, now that the Socialist delegations were no longer of any account. But my mind failed me, sickened and confused as I was.
I only realized when the ballot was all but completed, long after I had called out my “Theodore Roosevelt!”
“For Henry Frick!” trumpeted Mr. Watson from Illinois, thus seizing a state that had been ours.
We neared the end of the count.
Conspicuously absent were the cries “for Clarence Darrow!” from the Socialists we had grown so accustomed to over the past forty ballots.
I had hardly registered the horrible reality when Speaker Cannon rose, his face half-triumph and half-dread.
And he announced, “Henry Clay Frick is elected President of the United States of America.”
“…We never abrogated the laws of the United States. All we did was provided for by the Constitution.
DeLeon and his comrades were rebels. Can you deny this? DeLeon and his comrades did seek the destruction of the United States and its institutions. Can you deny this?
Hell, do you think we wanted the poor bastards dragged out of the chamber in that manner? We didn’t have a choice. Not a congressman had left the building in a week for that goddamned red mob outside—there was nowhere else we might have apprehended them…
…It is not a crime to make a private donation to the State of Montana. We never went to Mondell, nor to any of the gentlemen from New Hampshire and said, “vote for Roosevelt, and we shall shower you with gold.”
Ask Frick! Ask Frick what he paid Watson for the Presidency! I’ll tell you! $30 million dollars! Henry Clay Frick bought the Presidency for $30 million dollars!”
- Philander C. Knox, 1924________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A British Times of London cartoon depicts the United States congress staring down the bayonets of some fifty soldiers. The captain in command calls “all in favor of the motion, raise your hands.”
The congressmen’s hands are thrown up in surrender.
The caption reads, “lately in the land of liberty.”