PROGRESSIVE POLITICS
CHAPTER 27

In California, and throughout the nation, the period between 1900 and the outbreak of World War I featured the growing discontent of farmers. Their wrath was directed at the powerful railroad, meat-packing, banking, and manufacturing monopolies. City workers, meanwhile, opposed the undue influence of big business over government. They harbored a special anger toward corrupt machine politics at the municipal level. During this period a group of reform-minded journalists, dubbed the “Muckrakers” by President Theodore Roosevelt, exposed shady business practices and political graft. They also championed new legislation to exercise more control over large industrial combinations.

As the new century dawned, no state or national leader had yet stepped forth to head the crusade for reform. In the presidential campaign of 1900, California voted for the conservative Republican William McKinley over Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryan, as did the nation as a whole. By 1904, however, both the state and national mood had shifted toward liberalism. In the presidential election of that year, Californians supported Theodore Roosevelt, who had arisen as the standard-bearer of reform. But in the ensuing gubernatorial campaign, Republican James N. Gillett, a machine candidate, prevailed, solidifying the popular belief that political control of the state lay behind the scenes, rather than with the electorate. The real power in California was the Southern Pacific Railroad.

For the half century beginning with its construction, the political activities of the Southern Pacific shaped the course of California history. At first, the S. P.’s founders entered practical politics in order to maintain their dictatorship over rates and services. In short order, railroad lobbyists and emissaries—principally William F. Herrin of San Francisco and Walter Parker of Los Angeles—became adroit dispensers of money on behalf of their cause. At Sac-

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