Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NON-PARTISAN LEAGUE RISES IN SANDERS COUNTY

Populists' ideas had not been completely stamped out. Now, in 1917, they surfaced under a new name, the Non-Partisan League. Socialistic ideas flourished, and political affiliations shifted.

In this land so newly settled, the majority of it's population pre-middle aged, confident, self-reliant and idealistically presumptuous, politics were hotly attended. As the pinch tightened, political differences polarized factions. C. R. Weare saw himself as champion of the strugglers.

(insert photo)
Caption: Fisherman at Cabinet Gorge on the Clark's Fork River, Bonner County, Idaho. 1945. Courtesy J. Randall Beebe collection.

Self-rule by 'groups' had only just begun and had not yet been homogenized by mass public school education. It was fertile ground for the seeds of change.

While the Community Club and County Civil Defense Board were beginning to coalesce, throughout Sanders County the Non-partisan league began forming.*1.

D. H. Martin of Spokane, held a series of meetings across the broad county the first week of December explaining the purposes and working of the organization to those already joined or interested in the movement. The newspaper informed its readers and added,
"... and friends of the movement are predicting that the politics of the county are due for a general shakeup at the next election."*2.
Martin explained that the league "does not propose to take any part in the election of county officials, but will confine its efforts to electing men of its choice on the legislative, state and national tickets.
"The selection of candidates is made by old-fashioned caucuses, but with party lines eliminated, and the men so chosen are at liberty to file on any ticket in the primaries they desire. The candidate does not necessarily have to be a member of the league, but will, of course, be in sympathy with its aims and be one upon whom the members can depend to work for its interest...," he said.
(insert photo)
Caption: Brown bear and twin cubs in the Bull River valley, Sanders County, Montana. Courtesy J. Randall 'Buck' Beebe collection.

Change was hotly contested, and the editor of the Sanders County Independent Ledger promptly heard from his reader, H. D. Jackson, Trout Creek. December 5, 1917 he published,
"Letter to the Editor" Dear Sir - The 'Non-Partisan League' needs a little attention... the worst kind, who are spreading a feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction among the foreign born and simple-minded native farmers of the United States, and making the dear people pay for it too, at the rate of sixteen dollars per.
"Their 'speiler, who favored the citizens of Larchwood and vicinity on the 4th inst. with one of their 'form' or 'stock' speeches, started off by eulogizing Bob LaFollette. He praised the work of the Wobblies, or I. W. W.s, and all the Pro-German influences in the United States.
"He wound up by telling the ranchers that they were poor down-trodden victims of the grafting 'middlema' and bankers and that if they followed the 'League' they would all be rich and happy.
"The Non-Partisan League claim (sic) a great victory in North Dakota in the fall of 1916. They did elect a governor and a majority of the legislature, but when the committees were formed to draw up the laws for state owned elevators and storage plants, according to the Non-Partisan platform they were elected on, the Socialists were in the majority on the committee and they drew up a Socialist constitution for the state.
"Then because the non-Socialist league members would not vote for a Socialist constitution, the Socialist members would not vote for the state-owned institutions according to the platform they were elected on and the ranchers went back home with their efforts wasted.
"The Non-Partisan League "promoters" are claiming that they have ninety per cent of the people in this valley as members, when in fact they have less than ten per cent." H. D. Jackson.
(insert photo)
Caption: Rock Island in the Clark's Fork River about three miles upstream from Noxon. While providing camping for Native Americans and travelers on the river, the rocky rapids below the island made boat transportation an adventurous affair. Steamboat travelers portaged around it during the era before arrival of the railroad. For quite a time after the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed, the Clark's Fork River was still used for some boat traffic and log drives continued until the early 1920s. Photographed by Wallace 'Wally' Gamble, courtesy Clifford and Dorothy Weare collection.

Jackson's letter got an immediate response from C. R. Weare of Noxon, who sent his response to the Editor, which was published December 27, 1917,
"Letter to the Editor, Replying to the letter you received from Brother Jackson regarding the Non-Partisan League of which I, together with a large number of my neighbors, have become members, I wish to say that he is in error as to the purposes and aims of the League. Like the rest of the folks down our way I put $16.00 into the organization and I still figure that the money is well spent, for it is the first time I ever had the invitation to join in any movement that tends to perpetuate the spirit upon which the government of our country was founded.
"I have been a delegate to several political conventions when the convention system was in order and I have watched the new primary law and its work. I want to say that if the farmer gets even a 10 per cent proposition he will get more than he ever did under the old method of letting two or three men run the politics of the county.
"And I think Mr. Jackson is in error in the matter of percentage of farmers who have become members. I am informed by reliable authority that there are more than 415 paid members in the county at present, or about 95-per cent of the farmers who could spare the $16.00. I am sure that Mr. Jackson ought to be a member as soon as he learns that the charges of disloyalty, pro-Germanism and I. W. W.ism are absolutely unfounded.
"If a program of equality, honesty and good legislation are un-American, why then America has lost its soul and is an empty idol, and no longer worthy of our worship.
"The people, who attack the Non-Partisan League, also conducted an attack on the postal savings bank, the parcel post, federal farm bank, the Federal Reserve. They also subjected the president of the United States to the most bitter attacks before our entry into the European war.
"They are now battering down the Liberty Loan bonds for the purpose of private gain, and holding our government up at every turn. Their pernicious influences have so much power, through their mouthpiece, the press, that I believe they at times intimidate the president and congress.
"In Sanders County there are mortgages against the property of the farmer to the extent of $981,000,000. His interest bill is something like $75,000 a year. To pay this enormous bill, which has been heaped upon him in a good many cases by high rates of interest and poor trading facilities, he must organize in such shape that he will have at least an even break with the rest of the organized interests," Weare wrote. And never short of words to debate, he continued.
"Who has the nerve to say that the farmer is not generally poor and 'down trodden' as Mr. Jackson says the League lecturer informed his hearers.
"We did not need a man from North Dakota to tell us that. Why, honestly I know of a man who had his chickens sold for a small debt and the only reason they did not sell his farm was, he had no title to it.
"And how strange it is, that this happened at Trout Creek, too. How many farms in the western part of the county could be sold for the labor and money that have been put on them? There are not many. Most of them represent a loss to their owners.
"You had better think it over, Mr. Jackson; we know that you are with us, probably not so much by choice as by necessity, and you surely won't let the little outlay of $16.00 prevent you from becoming a partner in our effort toward equality of conditions and the betterment of those who earn their livelihood with their hands rather than with their wits.
"Hoping that you will change your attitude toward your farmer brethren, I am, Yours very truly, C.R. WEARE." One wonders whether the editor or Clifford capitalized his signature.
(insert photo)

Caption: Mule deer doe and yearling in Bull River area. Courtesy J. Randall 'Buck' Beebe collection.

While winter played its usual havoc in 1918 with January rains and floods, taking out numerous bridges and tieing up rail service again, the Non-Partisan League became the focal issue to vent all manner of differences. H. D. Jackson penned a fiery retort to Weare's letter, which was published a couple weeks later, on January 3, 1918.
"Letter to the Editor, C. R. Weare's letter is typical of the Non-Partisan League argument. After the Franco-Prussian war the German warlords started in to Prussianize the world. Part of their plan, as has been proven repeatedly since this world war started, was to teach Socialism. Socialism with autocracy and militarism at home and Socialism without police jurisdiction in all the balance of the world.
"Their paid agents with their paid press have been howling 'rotten government', 'somebody else is getting more than you, they are robbing you', 'I had just as soon be in Germany as here', 'capital is exploiting labor throughout the United States'. 'Those same German agents, now that Socialism is dead and the 'Appeal to Reason' has changed its name, are spreading their dissatisfaction with this government through the Non-Partisan League and Mr. C. R. Weare's letter is conclusive proof of it. When an individual or league tries to spread dissatisfaction with our government at the present time they are Pro-Germans.
"The Non-Partisan League was started in North Dakota in communities where a great majority of the people are Russian or German Socialists. Nearly all the leaders are former Socialists.
"One of the non-Partisan League organizers held a meeting a few days ago at Crookston, Minn. Among other remarks he said he had as soon live under the Kaiser's government as the United States government. He was fined five hundred dollars, besides being compelled to buy one thousand dollars worth of Liberty bonds and donating one hundred dollars each to the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A.
"If the Non-Partisan League should happen to get one or two of their Socialist agitators into congress the harm they would do at this time is hard to estimate. President Wilson said, 'Our immediate task is to win the war'.
"My ancestors have fought in every war for American liberty and the right to vote according to their best judgment. Any time I am sucker enough to give some kaiser-loving Socialist agitator sixteen dollars to tell me how to vote there will be no other way to get rid of it.
"Weare's reference to the American press is especially typical. The press advocated the postal banks, the parcel post, the regional U. S. banks and all laws along these lines. "If the representative press had not advised the laws, they would not have been passed. The Non-Partisan League never got any laws passed and don't intend to. "Weare evidently don't know enough to put up a clean plea for the Non-Partisan League. He had to jump off to my personal affairs. I don't need to do anything like that. "When one of those Pro-Germans call me Brother I just make sure where my pocketbook is and have business some other place." H. D. Jackson."
Sanders County Independent Ledger's editor evidently considered the controversy to be good business, or good politics, because he allotted all the space the two men needed to carry on their debate.

(insert photo)
Caption: Glen Simmons, a friend of Katie Easter, circa 1918-20, at Cabinet Gorge on the Clark's Fork River, Bonner County, Idaho, near northwestern Montana/Idaho border. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Dec. 6, 1917.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Dec. 6, 1917.
Nonpartisan League of Montana program:
  • Exemption of Farm Improvements from Taxation.
  • Rural Credit Banks operated at cost.
  • State (owned) Terminal Elevators, Warehouses, Flour Mills, Stock Yards, Packing Houses, Creameries and Cold Storage Plants.
  • State Hail Insurance.
  • State Inspection of Dockage and Grading of Grain.
  • Torrens Land Title System.
  • Nonpartisan Election law.
  • Equal Taxation of Railroads, Mines, Telegraph, Telephone, Electric Light and Power Companies, and all Public Utility Corporations.
  • State Rural Telephone system operated at cost.
National Demands:
"We demand that the conscription of wealth begun by the government through Income and Excess Profit Taxes shall be continued and increased, that surplus wealth may be compelled to pay the money cost of the war. In order to accomplish these ends the National Nonpartisan league pledges itself to cooperate with the wage workers and enact into law their demands as expressed in the Platform of the Labor League of Montana."

No comments:

Post a Comment