The Accusations of Grove L. Johnson
IN JANUARY 1897 there was a bill before the House of Representatives to fund the thirty-five-year-old debt owed by the Central Pacific to the United States Government. The bill proposed to extend the second mortgage held by the government, since the railroad alleged that it could not possibly meet the full amount of its indebtedness of 120 millions, but the measure also provided that the railroad should thenceforward make payments every six months toward reduction of the principal as well as to cover the interest. And the Southern Pacific promised, if the bill were passed, to extend its lines into southern California on the south and Oregon on the north.
Was the railroad bluffing when it said it couldn't pay? If not, the only alternative to the funding bill seemed to be for the government to foreclose at a loss and take over itself the ownership and management of the road -- a measure that few congressmen had the hardihood to favor, though it was supported by Mayor Sutro of San Francisco, by the Examiner, which had resumed its anti-railroad stand, and by a petition to which that newspaper had obtained 150,000 signatures on the Pacific Coast.
On January 8, 1897, Grove L. Johnson of California delivered a long speech in defense of the funding bill. At its close he appended a few uncomplimentary remarks on Mayor Sutro and then turned the full force of his eloquence on Hearst. He was by no means as disinterested as he pretended since he had just been defeated for re-election largely through Hearst's influence. But amid the tarnished rhetorical gems of his speech were