Page images
PDF
EPUB

on the floor by his leading supporters, conspicuous among whom was Hon. J. E. Sheppard, of Sumter, recognized as his spokesman. Mr. Sheppard, early in the day, let fall an intimation as to Mr. Smith's wishes. Instantly there was a tumultuous outburst of enthusiasm from the Smith delegates mingled with violent protests from the Brown supporters; but the latter were greatly outnumbered. During the afternoon there was a renewal of this scene. The convention having disposed of

: its preliminary work, a motion was made to adjourn until the morning of September 1. This brought Mr. Sheppard to his feet with the statement that Senator Smith would find it necessary to leave Macon on the midnight train in order to reach Washington by Thursday at noon. Once more the assemblage broke forth into a fiery storm of protest. But the Smith men again scored. There was no recess taken.

When the time came for nominations Hon. Dupont Guerry, of Bibb, amidst a scene of enthusiasm, in which, however, there was no disorder, presented the name of Judge Nat E. Harris, for governor. Doctor Hardman was nominated by Hon. R. L. J. Smith, of Jackson, and Mr. Anderson by Ilon. R. J. Travis, of Chatham. But the result had already been foreshadowed in the popular vote and on motion the nomination of Judge Harris was made unanimous.

Sen. Hoke Smith was declared the nominee of the convention for the long term, beginning March 4, 1915. This announcement threw the convention into tumult of enthusiasm. With the appearance of Mr. Smith upon the platform, there was a renewed outburst of applause, and several minutes elapsed before order could be restored.

Then came the tug of war. It was already late in the day when balloting for the short term senatorship began; but there was no sign of weariness on the part of the delegates. On the contrary, there was a revival of interest as the grand climax drew near. This was the real fight of the convention, its battle royal. There was a hush of profound silence throughout the hall, as the secretary began calling the roll of counties. Finally, amid breathless excitement, the result of the first ballot was announced: Slaton 130, IIardwick 124, Felder 91, Hutchins 18. Without a combination of the Smith forces the convention was hopelessly deadlocked.

On the balloting ran far into the night. With only minor variations the situation remained unchanged. But Governor Slaton was the heaviest loser. Tax equalization, though a rock of Horeb, from which had gushed streams of revenue, in the midst of a parched wilderness, was becoming a rock on which his campaign for re-election was doomed to be shipwrecked. Tax equalization was an unpopular measure with thousands of tax-payers. This had been the crucial measure of Governor Slaton's administration, its overshadowing feature of legislation. Moreover, some of Governor Slaton's appointments had not been popular. Scores of officeseekers had met with disappointment; and strange to say Governor Slaton was criticized for retaining the office of governor, while an avowed candidate for United States senator, though his predecessor in office, Governor Smith, had set him a precedent in this respect.

Dawn found the convention still in session. With bedraggled looks but eyes still flashing defiance, the rival factions faced each other in the gray morning watches. There was no longer the orderly decorum of the

[ocr errors]

day preceding. Wilted collars—disheveled locks-passionate gesticulations-violent outbursts of temper-haggard expressions of countenance—delegates rushing to and fro in mad excitement, some of them with clenched fists, giving vent to fiery ebullitions of anger—these, in outline features, constituted the scene upon which broadening day-light peered through the shutters of the convention hall. It was well past midnight when the twelfth ballot was taken, the result of which was as follows: Slaton 110, Hardwick 164, Felder 93. Mr. Hutchins had withdrawn from the contest. At this stage of the proceedings, Governor Slaton's friends wished to accord him the privileges of the floor; but there arose a storm of protest from the opposing delegates. For more than an hour pandemonium reigned. At last, from sheer exhaustion, the delegates once more became quiet. Another ballot was taken, but without resolving the deadlock. Finally at 7.30 A. M., on Thursday, September 1, the convention adjourned until 12 o'clock noon.

With less than five hours for rest, it was still a careworn body of delegates upon the ears of whom fell the sound of the chairman's gavel when the hour for reassembling arrived. But a change in the situation was manifest. There was something in the atmosphere of the hall which told distinctly that a crisis was at hand. No sooner was the convention called to order than the friends of Mr. Felder obtained for him the privileges of the floor and mounting the platform, amidst an outburst of enthusiasm, followed almost in an instant by a deep hush of expectancy, Mr. Felder thanked the friends who had supported him in this fight for senator with such a splendid front, stating that, while he honorably coveted a seat in the United States Senate his desire for democratic harmony was greater than his ambition for self-aggrandizement, and he therefore withdrew from the contest.

At the close of Mr. Felder's speech, the friends of Governor Slaton again insisted that he be heard by the convention. To this proposal, there was another storm of opposition, but a spirit of fair play at length prevailed. Governor Slaton took the platform amidst an Ephesian uproar. It was not without extreme difficulty that he made himself heard. At times his voice was drowned in the swelling volume of sound, to which alike his friends and his foes by turn contributed. But he made a strong appeal to the delegates for support, calling attention to his plurality of 7,000 votes in the state primary election of August 19. He counted a plurality also both of counties and of county units, and was the strongest candidate before the convention, having received the strongest popular endorsement. But the temper of the convention was not in accord with the governor's plea. To nominate a candidate it was only necessary for the Felder-Hardwick factions to unite; and the moment was at hand for this fusion of strength.

On the fourteenth ballot, Mr. Hardwick was nominated. The vote stood as follows: Hardwick 235, Slaton 133, Hutchins 4. It is needless to multiply words in an effort to describe what followed. Mr. Hardwick was lifted to the platform for a speech, the echoes of which made the hall resound. At its conclusion the convention adjourned in a tumult of excitement. Following his election, Mr. Hardwick at once resigned his seat in Congress and for the unfinished term Hon. Carl Vinson, of Baldwin, was chosen to succeed him, Mr. Vinson having already been

a

named in the primary for the full term to commence March 4, 1915. Within a few days after his election, Mr. Hardwick took his seat in the Senate of the United States.

Growing out of charges preferred against Judge Emory Speer, of the Federal Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Congress in the fall of 1913 had appointed a commission to investigate his official conduct. Hon. W. A. Huff, of Macon, then well advanced in years, was the chief complainant, alleging that a great estate, to which he was a party

, at interest, had been frittered away by years of litigation, due to the willful connivance and tyranny of the court over which Judge Speer presided. It was charged moreover, that Judge Speer had given members of his own family connection lucrative appointments; that he had been vindictive in persecuting and punishing his enemies; that he had incurred the personal ill-will of the entire bar of the state; that he had been haughty, overbearing, arrogant, arbitrary, dictatorial and oppressive on the bench, especially to those who had incurred his displeasure, whether for political reasons or on grounds purely personal; that it was often difficult, sometimes absolutely impossible, to obtain justice in his court; that scores of lawyers, for this reason, refused to practice in his court; that he cared more for display than for truth; that he sometimes held court at a summer resort in North Carolina, forcing lawyers to cross the state line in order to reach him; and that he was guilty of numerous high-handed acts, ill-becoming a wearer of the judicial ermine of the United States.

At the time these charges were preferred, Judge Speer had served on the Federal bench for nearly three decades. The frosts of more than sixty years had commenced to whiten his hair. He had formerly been a democrat but on certain issues had become a republican. For this reason he had not been in accord with a majority of his fellow-citizens in Georgia, nor on cordial terms with many of his colleagues at the bar. In his several campaigns for Congress he had engendered bitter antagonisms; and these, after a lapse of thirty years, still survived.

Judge Speer's attitude toward his enemies was never at any time conciliatory or friendly and his bearing was imperious. This intensified the personal dislike in which he was held by a great number of people, to whom his brilliant powers of intellect and his captivating gifts of eloquence made no appeal, except to incite in them an increased fear of his ability to thwart the ends of justice. The committee began its probe, in Macon, Georgia, on January 19, 1914. Several weeks were consumed in the hearing. Sessions were held also in Savannah and at other places. Most of the members of the committee were democrats. Judge Speer, though ably represented by counsel, was not permitted to summon witnesses in his own behalf. It was a one-sided investigation, entirely ex parte, to the disclosures of which, in great injustice to Judge Speer, the widest publicity was given.

But, notwithstanding the most rigid scrutiny, brought to bear upon a record of thirty years on the bench, by men of an opposite political faith, the committee found nothing upon which to base charges of impeachment. It was satisfied to return a mere verdict of censure, from which, however, a minority report dissented, in favor of complete exoneration. Judge Speer was not disturbed in his occupancy of the Federal bench, but an act was passed creating a new judgeship in the Southern District of Georgia, to which Hon. W. W. Lambdin, of Waycross, was appointed by President Wilson. At the time of this investigation, Judge Speer was just beginning to recover from a long illness, the result of which for weeks was involved in grave doubt.

On the eve of the European war, when Governor Slaton's administration had entered upon its second year, prosperity in Georgia registered high water mark. The golden horns of plenty were filled to overflowing. Cotton, the staple product of the Southern planter, was bringing an unprecedented price in New York. There were large shipments to Liverpool and to other European ports; and farmers throughout the state were exulting in an era of good times. Governor Slaton's annual message to the Legislature, in the summer of 1914, portrayed conditions in the following paragraph. Said he:*

“I rejoice with you in the general prosperity which has blessed the State during the past year. Since our last session the people have enjoyed the favors of a generous Providence. Their crops have been bountiful, their industries have flourished, to a degree hitherto unknown. The farmer, the merchant, the manufacturer, has utilized with ceaseless energy his opportunities, unrestrained in effort by the hampering effect of unwise laws. The schools and institutions of learning are giving to the children and youth the keys of knowledge and providing them with that equality of opportunity which is all the worthy can demand; and, more important than all, the church in every community is teaching the lessons of Him upon obedience to whose statutes rests the welfare of all nations.”

* House Journal, 1914, p. 92.

CHAPTER XXXIV

[ocr errors]

OUTBREAK OF THE EUROPEAN WAR—THE MOST TITANIC STRUGGLE IN

THE WORLD'S HISTORY—PRESIDENT Wilson's FIRM STAND FOR NEUTRALITY-FINANCIAL CONDITIONS BECOME ACUTE AS A RESULT OF THE WAR-COTTON DROPS IN PRICE AND BECOMES A DRUG ON THE MARKET—No MOVEMENT OF THE CROP_BUSINESS STAGNATES INDUSTRY IS PARALYZED-FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS PREVENT A PANIC -THE “BUY-A-BALE' MOVEMENT-SMALLER COTTON ACREAGE PLANTED IN 1914 AN UNEXPECTED DEMAND SENDS COTTON UP AGIIN-A War LOAN OF $500,000,000 NEGOTIATED BY THE ALLIES IN This COUNTRY STIMULATES INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL ACTIVITYGERMANY, THOUGII HER PORTS ARE BLOCKADED, Also Buys COTTON, STORING IT FOR FUTURE USE—THE LUSITANIA Is TORPEDOED-OVER 1,000 LIVES LOST-SOME OF THE VICTIMS ARE AMERICANS–OTHER AFFAIRS AT SEA ADD EMBARRASSING COMPLICATIONS–GERMANY'S SUBMARINE POLICY-PRESIDENT WILSON HOLDS KAISER WILHELM TO A STRICT ACCOUNT- _WRITES A SERIES OF LETTERS ENDING IN THE MOST BRILLIANT DIPLOMATIC VICTORY ON RECORD-SECRETARY OF STATE WM. J.: Bryin, FAILS TO SHARE IN THIS ACHIEVEMENT, HAVING RETIRED FROM THE CABINET, IN PROTEST AGAINST ITS WARLIKE MESSAGE TO GERMANY-AN EXTREME ADVOCATE OF PEACEGOVERNOR SLATON'S FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS—BEFORE RETIRING From OFFICE, IIE COMMUTES THE SENTENCE OF LEO M. FRANK FROM DEATH TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT_TURBULENT DEMONSTRATIONS—A REVIEW OF THis IIISTORIC CASE_LETTER WRITTEN BY JUDGE ROAN, THE TRIAL JUDGE, ON IIis DEATH BED, PLAYS AN IMPORTANT PARTREASONS FOR COMMUTING THE SENTENCE SET FORTH IN A LENGTHY STATEMENT-FRINK TAKEN TO MILLEDGEVILLE MIDNIGHT SHERIFF VANGUM, On Ilis RETURN, ADDRESSES AN ANGRY CROWD AT THE STATE CAPITOL GOVERNOR SLATON'S LIFE IMPERILEDMR. WATSON'S BITTER CHARGES—THE GOVERNOR'S PARTNERSHIP With ROSSER, ONE OF THE COUNSEL FOR FRANK, Is FULLY SET FORTII—No GROUNDS FOR IMPUTING SORDID MOTIVES TO GOVERNOR SLATION—THE STATE SEVERELY CENSURED BY NEWSPAPERS OF THE COUNTRY FOR DENYING FRINK A NEW TRIAL GOVERNOR SLATON UPHELD BY THE NORTHERN PRESS FOR COMMUTING THE SENTENCE, BUT MOST OF THE HOME PAPERS ARE SULENT_ON RETIRING FROM OFFICE, GOVERNOR SLATON LEAVES FOR AN EXTENDED VISIT TO THE PACIFIC COAST—'HIS PARTING WORDS A DRAMATIC CLIMAX.

AT

But an era of depression was at hand. On the European horizon dark clouds of war were beginning to gather. Events were moving rapidly toward an Armageddon. Within a week's time five of the

« PreviousContinue »