Populists

Edwin H. Snow

Beauties of “Joint” Debate
Peoria Editor Who Made His Announcements Too Soon for his Own Comfort—Taking a Lawyer from the Court Room

FCHS Headlight
October 2003

From the Ottawa Evening Herald, September 23, 1903

 Anyone who has lived in the county and watched the trend of events for a decade or more will remember that the fiercest political battles in all the west were fought out here. “Back in Ed Snow’s time” is the common way of referring to the day when political enmity meant personal enmity and a hatred that was carried into private business affairs. In those days men who are now friends, and who had been friends before, avoided each other on the street. Leaders carried guns. Country people came to town as to a hostile territory; the spirit of battle was in the air. At the political meetings women fired questions at the republican speakers. A republican orator received as much consideration in the populist country districts as a representative of a foreign power would today, were he to rise and denounce the government and the flag. It was Snow’s teaching that brought this condition about. [Snow, editor of the Ottawa Journal, became the Populist Party’s state printer when they came to power in the early 1890s.]

 A story was told this morning of the campaign of 1892, when one of the favorite practices of the populist township managers was to advertise a joint debate, without notifying the opposition, and to make capital out of the fact that no one appeared to support the republican cause. One of the duties of the republican committee was to keep track of these “joint” debates.

The populist workers down in Peoria township secured a speaker from Wyandotte, and carefully gave out the notice among their own workers that a joint debate was to be held with the republicans—if any appeared–on a certain night. The news reached the ears of the republican township committeeman, and was by him conveyed to J.N. Harrison, then township chairman. Mr. Harrison, Colonel Parkinson, Duncan Holladay and one or two other republican leaders went secretly to Peoria township on the evening of the meeting and concealed themselves at a house near the church. The local chairman went to the meeting. When the time for opening came the speaker from Kansas City arose as had been expected and announced that the republicans had again shown the weakness of their cause by deserting their appointment. At this stage the republican chairman made for the door and was hooted as he left. The speaker went on to draw a lesson on the absurdity of republican doctrines and the cowardice of republican speakers, from the fact that no republicans were present. At this juncture the door flew open and the republican guard, led by Harrison, marched impressively down the aisle, up onto the platform, and   inquired how he wished to divide the time in debate.

At another time a similar “arrangement” had been made for a joint debate in the neighborhood of LeLoup. The news did not reach town until late in the .afternoon. Judge Smart was trying a case in justice court. A substitute attorney was secured and the future judge started for the scene of the conflict. Five men also started from Ottawa, each taking a different road and routing out every republican whose place they passed. The house was filled with republicans and a “very enjoyable time was had.”

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