A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Making f a Political Boss

IT WAS A HOT, humid July day in Washington in the summer of 1912. Throughout the country men spoke of the recent national political conventions and speculated about the impact upon the presidential election of Theodore Roosevelt's bolt from the Republican party and his formation of the Progressive party. But in the Senate chamber a more immediate personal drama was occurring.

For three days a short, stocky, blond-headed man, who looked more like a schoolteacher or a minister than a politician, stamped up and down the chamber's center aisle, defending his right to his Senate seat and casting barbed challenges at his enemies. The man was William Lorimer of Illinois. The charge was that his seat had been purchased. His foes included the nation's most prominent politicians: President William Howard Taft, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, and Senator Robert M. La Follette.

The final decision was the Senate's. Lorimer expected no mercy, and none was given. "Oh, Senators," he cried, "you may vote to turn me out," but such a decision would be "the crime of the Senate" rather than a judgment based on evidence. "I am ready," said Lorimer. And, while the packed galleries waited breathlessly, the Senate voted 55 to 28 to oust him from his seat.1

The Senate ejected Lorimer because a majority of its members believed, or at least voted as if they believed, that his seat had been acquired through corrupt means. In alienating senatorial and public opinion, however, Lorimer's identification as a political "boss" was perhaps as crucial as the specific charges levied against him. In the

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1
Congressional Record (hereafter cited as CR), 62nd Cong., 2nd Sess., XLVII, 8986.

-3-

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