Baltimore Evening Sun (11 October 1911): 6.
Only 1,318 days more!
The men hither up, it will be noticed, still keep a lap or two ahead of the catchpolls pursuing them. Thus far, not a single one of them has been snared. What is more, not one of them shows any sign that he fears being snared. The Hon. John J. Mahon, once denounced bitterly as a fugitive, a caitiff, has since returned to town, resumed his pursuit of honest sport and fixed his accusers with his fishy eye. The Hon. “Frank Kelly patrols his beat unhandcuffed. The Hon. Robert J. Padgett defies the constabulary. The lesser high-uppers issue challenges to the whole community. One of them offors $1,000 cash to anyone who will prove, or even charge under oath, that he was privy to the late deeds of felonious daring. Another offers to swallow a locomotive on the same terms. A third swears by his halidom that his slaves sophisticated the count in direct disobedience to his orders. And so on with the others after their kind!
Strange as it may seem, there is very good reason for accepting the word of these gentlemen. A political boss is ordinarily a man of considerable intelligence, for all his lack of refinement. Even a ward executive, to hold his job 10 days, must have sense. Every such man, you may be sure, knows enough to keep his head out of the lion’s mouth. He is not fool enough, even supposing him to have the inclination, to issue open fraud orders to weaklings likely to be caught, and who may run amuck, at the first alarm, and so betray him. There are other, easier and far less hazardous methods of augmenting the vote--methods which, the popular belief to the contrary, often come to the verge of actual lawfulness.
But the count was juggled! Undoubtedly. Then who ordered the juggling, if not the Royal Family, if not the ward executives? The answer divides itself into two parts. The first part offers the theory that, in the great majority of cases, no orders were issued at all--that each affair was an affair of outposts--that the judges and clerks, on their own hooks, merely tried their best to contribute to the joys of the day, to augment and ratify the job begun by the plain people in the spring, to help the organization to new glory and new security. The second part of the answer offers the theory that, when any order was really issued, when any master mind really bossed the work, it was a precinct executive–a lowly fellow, but one remove from a serf; by no means higher up--who issued the order and furnished the master mind.
A case in point. In one of the polluted precincts the executive was a job-holder in the City Hall. In the spring, like many another such job-holder, he had taken the Mahool side and had worked valiantly against Preston. But Preston won--and so he suddenly found himself outside the breastworks. In brief, his job in the City Hall was in peril; he knew that as soon as the Preston appointments were made he would have to make room for some more faithful fellow. So he prepared to prove his allegiance and his might by carrying his precinct for the organization, and by an impressive majority. As an eminent amateur pedagogue would say, he done so--and now four judges and two clerks face the penitentiary.
Something of the same sort happened here and there. In other precincts the judges probably moved without orders, or even suggestions--on their own responsibility, in a delicate effort to help the executives. In yet others the judges themselves were job-holders or aspirants. At the back of the whole thing was the general feeling that the Preston administration was an orthodox, an “old-fashioned” administration--that every man who hoped to eat of its pie would have to earn the right by sorne valiant service to the organization. And the Republicans either turned their backs, as upon something not their business, or favored the proceedings with fraternal winks.
In nine cases out of ten, it is probable, no orders were issued by the ward executives. Some of them, indeed, were sorely enraged when the recount began to reveal what had been done. They know very well that the public would blame them--and they knew very well that they were not to blame. In some cases the offense was actually as much against them as against the sanctity of the ballot. They were deceived, hoodwinked, wooed under false pretenses. They were misled into the belief that certain precinct bosses, certain humble underlings, were men of might and consequence. No doubt the discovery of the deception gave them acute anguish. No sane man likes to be swindled.
So it is not well to put too much faith in idle talk about nabbing men higher up. When it comes to repeating, of course, the ward bosses will have to do a lot of explaining, but in the matter of the count there is no direct evidence against them. If you choose to call a precinct boss a man higher up, then it may be fair to say that a few men higher up were involved in the sport. But in many cases, perhaps in most cases, the judges operated without specific orders, even from the precinct bosses. The “old-fashioned” spirit was in the air. The time was ripe for every honest organization man to contribute his mite, to turn his little trick.
As for the big bosses, they are no more to be snared than you and I are to be snared. And the reason is very simple--they had nothing whatever to do with it. They let it be known, perhaps, that substantial majorities for certain gentleman would please them--but such customary and perfectly lawful hints are by no means to be confused with open orders to count ghostly ballots.
From the gentlemen who plead that the super-Mahon be given “a fair chance,” and from cold storage mayonnaise, and from the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, and from tight waistcoats, and from the curse of drink--kind fates, deliver us!
Boil your drinking water! Watch the City Council! Don’t forget the School Board!
Quoth Mr. George Blakiston, one of the commission-form evangelists:
There are Baltimoreans who will serve as commissioners for the love of doing good.
For example, the Hon. James Harry Preston, that pious and patriotic man.
If drunk with sight of power, we lose!
Only 1,317¾ days more!
The time comes to choose between the boomers and the super-Mahon. What shall the verdict be? As for me, I confess frankly that I am upon the sharp horns of a dilemma.