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was a "freak” Legislature; that freak bills were to be passed which would make California absurd; that
111 The San Francisco Chronicle denounced as "freak" such measures as the Workmen's Compensation Act, the “Blue Sky". bill, the measure providing for an investigation to fix a minimum wage for women, the bill to give State aid to widows, caring for their children at home, instead of putting the children in asylums, and giving the aid to the asylum management. The San Francisco News Letter was particularly wordy in denouncing the Redlight Abatement and the Conservation acts as "freaks.
The following editorial article from the San Francisco Chronicle of March 25, 1913, is a fairly good example of these attacks:
“A LEGISLATURE OF PROGRESSIVE CRANKS. "It is likely to Do Infinitely More Mischief Than a Legislature
of Rascals Would Ever Attempt. "Nobody is attacking the moral character or good intentions of the majority of members of the present Legislature, but an honest Legislature whose ability to reason is destroyed by its imagination is more dangerous to society than a Legislature of felons.
“For a Legislature of felons would never dare attempt evil things which a Legislature of cranks would enact in the firm conviction that it was pleasing humanity.
"It has been the custom to confine those who have lost their reason in some quiet asylum where kindly treatment and soothing medicaments may gradually restore them to sanity. Our experiment of choosing a select number of them to make our laws seems likely to result in disaster.
“These men are obsessed with the desire and the determination to regulate the business of other people to the minutest detail.
"They are utterly reckless of money and the ability of the people to pay, and it is stated tnat the aggregate of the amounts asked for by the bills introduced is around fifty-nine millions of dollars.
"And that does not include constitutional amendments, among which is one authorizing the Legislature to incur a debt of $50,000,000 to purchase the bonds of political subdivisions which cannot establish their credit in the market.
"There is no end to the costly commissions which it is proposed to create with unlimited
power to provide jobs for innumerable people for all sorts of purposes.
"It is proposed to pension mothers and stepmothers whether they need it or not, and whether they are fit to be entrusted with pension money or not.
“There is an old age pension scheme which would beat even our glorious climate as an attraction to the beggars of the world.
“There is a minimum wage bill whose effect would be to send the least competent women to the streets and to supplant women by men.
“There is a minimum hour bill which assumes women to be incompetent to judge for themselves how long they wish to work, would deprive them of the opportunity to earn good wages during the fruit season and make it impossible to harvest and care for our perishable fruits.
“There are bills for regulating investments by those who know nothing about the investment business, which would make any investment difficult and costly and make it virtually impossiblo
would drive capital from the State; that would wreck industry.
"Freak" bills had, of course, been introduced, just as they had been at all previous sessions, 112 just as they will be in all probability at all sessions to come. Many of the so-called "freak” bills of the 1913 session had
to explore our mining possibilities at the cost of those who are willing to take risk on the chance of profit.
"Without investigation and with absolutely no data upon which to base estimates, it is proposed to enact a most drastic workman's compensation law, which may not seriously embarrass the great corporations, but will expos farmers and other small employers to the danger of absolute ruin.
“The number of tomfool bills is beyond computation. It is proposed to regulate the dress of school children; to forbid the sale of ice cream on Sundays; to 'recall' judiciary decisions; to pay everybody's political campaign expenses; to fine citizens who fail to vote; to hire an expert' to draw a pure paint law; to promote education in 'social science' over the head of the University; to create a high salaried 'welfare commission'; to 'investigate wages'; to remove property qualifications for jurors'; 'to establish industrial courts'; 'to subject appointive oficials to the recall'; 'to regulate the newspapers'—and about everybody and everything else.
“Nearly all these propositions involve a high-salaried commission, with indefinite power to give out jobs.
"It is proposed to make ordinary combinations of business men felonious, while encouraging workingmen to combine, and . especially granting the use of the State property to them to enable them to intimidate or coerce employers and employees who refuse to be governed by them.
"It is not possible to compress into newspaper space any adequate description or even enumeration of the legislative monstrosities which it is proposed to enact into law.
“Conceding the good intent of the weak-minded legislators who introduce these measures in many cases, those in the background who really inspire the propositions are as greedy, hateful and unscrupulous as the worst of those whom they propose to assail."
112 At the 1899 session, for example, a bill was introduced to make the killing of an editor justifiable homicide. However de. sirable the taking off of editors may be, the editor-killing bill didn't become a law.
But a measure quite as "freaky" did at that 1899 session become a law. This particular “freak” required every article appearing in a newspaper be signed by the man or woman who wrote it. The Sacramento Bee, by following this law for one day, made the law and the 1899 Legislature the butt of ridicule of the State.
In a single issue of the Bee, every item, from editorial article to personal mention, bore the signature of the person who had written it. The whole State laughed.
The law was followed, and in its following killed.
From the day of the Bee's observance of that law it became a dead letter.
been introduced session after session 113 and no notice taken of them until in 1913 it served a purpose to make much of them. They had not become laws at previous sessions; they did not become laws in 1913. But the persistent cry of "freak” legislation unquestionably had its effect upon not only the public, but upon Progressive legislators themselves.
From one end of the State to the other letters poured in upon the members urging them to avoid radical action. A cleverly conducted campaign on the part of the Industrial Insurance companies had stirred up opposition in the farming communities against the Workmen's Compensation act; irrigationists uninformed of its real provisions, had been turned against the Water Conservation bill. In fact, there was scarcely an important progressive measure before the Legislature against which opposition had not been created. Members were showered with letters urging them to have care lest they bring disaster upon the State. More
113 In an address at the Progressive banquet given at San Francisco April 12, 1913, to Winston Churchill, Governor Johnson touched upon the matter of “freak” legislation.
"Don't be troubled,” he said, “when a newspaper raises the cry of 'freak legislation,' or 'crank legislation.' Don't worry when trust organs like the Chronicle, the Post and the Los Angeles Times, or other papers of that sort, may indulge in ridicule in the hope of accomplishing the downfall or in hope of ridding the State of a Legislature which has undertaken the solution of serious problems of society as seriously and well as any Legislature which ever sat in any State in the United States.
"There are some people who understand thought-waves-who realize exactly when the psychological moment has come, to impress people with the thing which they desire. You will find at a time like this that those who would destroy the whole fabric are those who would distill into you doubt as to some small, infinitesimal matter.
“Do you, when the cry of 'freak legislation' is raised, ask them what legislation has ever been enacted into law by this Legislature that any man or woman would dare to call 'freak' legislation?' Ask them what bills have been signed, what single bill has become law, which is 'freak legislation.'"
persistent letters advised that the Legislature adjourn; letters still more persistent threatened recall.
And this alarm, this opposition to the passage of good measures, had its origin in cleverly conducted publicity campaigns, and the hammering opposition of the reactionary press. With misinformed constituents urging that good measures be defeated, while a clamoring lobby on the ground manipulated to the same end, proponents of progressive measures saw themselves losing ground constantly.
To be sure publications in sympathy with the Progressive movement, such as the Sacramento Bee, 114 Stockton Record, Oakland Enquirer, San Francisco Bulletin, Fresno Republican, Los Angeles Express and Los
114 In commenting upon the sneers and ridicule of reactionary critics Charles K. McClatchy, writing in the Sacramento Bee of April 5, 1913, said:
“But, thank God, the general citizenry are not blind. “They can penetrate beyond the exceptions and see the general rule.
“They can lose sight of the minimum errors and faults and sins in contemplation of the maximum good that has been and that will be accomplished.
"And when they are twitted with the unfortunate idiocies of undigested legislation-with the quarrels of those who forget the general good in the furtherance of their own petty selfishness with the expose of certain unfaithful who have tried to transform the road to Armageddon into an avenue devoted to political prostitution—they can truthfully say:
“Yes, we admit all that. But the difference between the past and the present is this-that what was then the rule is now the exception.
"You ridicule the Progressives of California for not at one fell swoop cleansing the State of all your sins. You jibe at zealous workers because here and there a bogus worker does what all you Reactionaries were constantly doing-what your State administration ever were upholding.
"You are shocked, not because some such men have been found with us, but rather because they are not with us in such numbers as to control the State Government and force it back into the clutches of the public service corporations and the syndicates of Sin.
"In fact, you are indignant for no other reason than that the elements from which the Progressives rescued California are still so woefully and helplessly in the minority in the operation of its State Government."
Angeles Tribune, showed the insincerity and injustice of these attacks. Citizens of the type of former Governor George C. Pardee and Francis J. Heney remained for weeks at Sacramento urging the passage of Pro-, gressive measures, or the defeat of measures which they deemed to be bad. Through the efforts of Pardee and Heney, for example, the Conservation bill was passed.11 Miss Helen Todd and Miss Alice Kathrine Fellows, by staying at Sacramento, succeeded in forcing out of committee the Home Rule in Taxation constitutional amendment, and finally securing its adoption, after the authors of the measure had given it up as hopelessly lost. Mrs. James Ellis Tucker and Miss Helen Farnham remained at Sacramento for weeks to oppose the Boynton bills, the passage of which would have meant the removal of the pioneer dead from San Francisco cemeteries. 116 Here and there were others, staying at
115 See Chapter IX.
116 The Boynton Cemetery bills had behind them strong members of both Houses. Mrs. Tucker and Miss Farnham devoted their entire time to opposition to their passage. They finally succeeded, after the bills had passed the Senate.
The vote in Senate and Assembly on the first bill of the series (Senate Bill323) was, in the Senate as follows:
For the Bill-Sénators Anderson, Avey, Benson, Birdsall, Boyn. ton, Breed, Brown, Campbell, Carr, Cartwright, Cogswell, Cohn, Flint, Gates, Gerdes, Hans, Kehoe, Larkins, Mott, Rush, Strobridge, Thompson, Tyrrell, and Wright-24.
Against the Bill-Senators Beban, Butler, Caminetti, Finn, Grant, Jones, Juilliard, Regan, Sanford and Shanahan-10.
The measure was originally defeated in the Assembly by the following vote:
For the Bill-Assemblymen Bagby, Beck, Bowman, Bush, Byrnes, Canepa, Cary, Chandler, Clark, Wm. A.; Clarke, Geo. A.; Cram, Ellis, Emmons, Gabbert, Gates, Gelder, Guiberson, Hinkle. Inman, Johnson, Geo. H.; Johnston. T. D.; Johnstone, w. A.: Judson, Killingsworth, Kuck, Morgenstern, Mouser, Nolan, Richardson, Ryan, Schmitt, Scott, Shannon, Sutherland, Wall, Walsh, and White-37.
Against the Bill-Assemblymen Alexander, Ambrose, Benedict, Bloodgood, Bohnett, Bradford, Brown, Collins, Cram, Dower, Farwell, Ferguson. Finnegan, Fish, Fitzgerald, Ford, Green, Griffin, Guill, Hayes, Kingsley, Libby, McCarthy, McDonald, Moorhouse,