by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
I once knew a man who was nominated by his fellow citizens for a certain office and finally elected without having expended a cent for that purpose. He was very eccentric, but he made a good officer. When he heard that he was nominated, he went up, as he said, into the mountains to do some assessment work on a couple of claims. He got lost and didn’t get his bearings until a day or two after election. Then he came into town hungry, greasy and ragged, but unpledged.
He found that he was elected, and in answer to a telegram started off for ’Frisco to see a dying relative. He did not get back till the first of January. Then he filed his bond and sailed into the office. He fired several sedentary deputies who had been in the place twenty years just because they were good “workers.” That is, they were good workers at the polls. They saved all their energies for the campaign, and so they only had vitality enough left to draw their salaries during the balance of the two years.
This man raised the county scrip from sixty to ninety-five in less than two years, and still they busted him in the next convention. He was too eccentric. One delegate asked what in Sam Hill would become of the country if every candidate should skin out during the campaign and rusticate in the mountains while the battle was being fought.
Says he, “I am a delegate from the precinct of Rawhide Buttes, and I calklate I know what I am talkin’ about. Gentlemen of the convention, just suppose that everybody, from the President of the United States down, was to git the nomination and then light out like a house afire and never come back till it was time to file his bond; what’s going to become of us common drunkards to whom election is a noasis in the bad lands, an orange grove in the alkali flats?
“Mr. Chairman, there’s millions of dollars in this broad land waiting for the high tide of election day to come and float ’em down to where you and I, Mr. Chairman, as well as other parched and patriotic inebriates, can git a hold of ’em.
“Gentlemen, we talk about stringency and shrinkage of values, and all such funny business as that; but that’s something I don’t know a blamed thing about. What I can grapple with is this: If our county offices are worth $30,000, and there are other little after-claps and soft snaps, and walk-overs, worth, say $10,000, and the boys, say, are willing to do the fair thing, say, blow in fifteen per cent, to the central committee, and what they feel like on the outside, then politics, instead of a burden and a reproach, becomes a pleasing duty, a joyous occasion and a picnic to those whose lives might otherwise be a dreary monotone.
“Mr. Chairman, the past two years has wrecked four campaign saloons, and a tinner who socked his wife’s fortune into campaign torches is now in a land where torchlights is no good. Overcome by a dull market, a financial depression and a reserved central committee, he ate a package of Rough on Rats, and passed up the flume. He is now at rest over yonder.
“Such instances would be common if we encouraged the eccentric economy of official cranks. It is an evil that is gnawing at the vitals of the republic. We must squench it or get left. There are millions of dollars in this country, Mr. Chairman, that, if we keep it out of the campaign, will get into the hands of the working classes, and then you and I, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the convention, can starve to death. Keep the campaign money away from the soulless hired man, gentlemen, or good-bye John.
“Mr. Chairman, excuse my emotion! It is almighty seldom that I make a speech, but when I do, I strive to get there with both feet. We must either work the campaign funds into their legitimate channels, or every blamed patriot within the sound of my voice will have to fasten on a tin bill and rustle for angle-worms amongst the hens. You hear me?”
[Terrific applause, during which the delicate odor of enthusiasm was noticed on the breath of the entire delegation.]