The Treason of the Senate

By David Graham Phillips | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
Thrifty Patriot Allison

IN Allison of Iowa the Republican-Democratic "merger" for betraying the people to "the interests" has about its craftiest senatorial agent. If he were a man of courage and decision, and if he "represented" a Rhode Island whose senators could flout its public opinion, not Aldrich but Allison would be the leader of the "merger." His skill at duplicity needs no other tribute than the fact that, despite an unbroken record of forty-three years of betrayal of the people to "the interests," especially the people of his own state, he has been a senator continuously for thirty- three years. How politically careless have we been, how short-memoried, how credulous of words and neglectful of deeds, how easily tricked by cunning appeals to prejudice! We have been struggling with the great thieves operating through railways and tariffs, and have not seen that it was the Senate that determined our national laws, superintended the distribution of our prosperity, and selected our national judges. We have been defeated because we have not realized that it was our Allisons and Aldriches and Lodges and Baileys in far- away Washington, in the Senate, who were making our struggles futile--were making, and are.

Allison's public beginnings were in 1863, when he, a poor Dubuque lawyer of thirty- four, was sent to the House because about all the best young men of that then sparsely populated state were at the war. He found Congress, which the people thought absorbed in patriotic labor, really possessed by and busy for the great graft-seekers through war contracts and Union Pacific and other Western enterprises in vast land and franchise looting. Like him who journeyed from Dan to Beersheba, young Allison had fallen among thieves. But they did not despoil and despitefully use him; they made friends with him. Like latter-day Joe Bailey, he was poor; but, unlike Joe, he did not have to wait until he was a senator before he suddenly struck "pay-dirt" in quantity. To go into that part of his career in detail would be to retell the stupendous graft story of the Union Pacific Credit Mobilier, etc.; Allison was more or less active in and for all of those huge "loans" and land grabs which cost the people and netted "the interests" thousands of millions, besides licenses in perpetuity to extort rents and exorbitant freight rates. He was hand in glove with the chief "developers of the resources of the country"--with John I. Blair, Morris K. Jesup, Jim Fisk, L. B. Crocker, Oakes Ames, and the rest.

One typical instance: It came out in 1873 that our poor young patriot had been for some time owner of at least sixty thousand dollars of Dubuque and Sioux City stock; that he got it soon after his début at Washington, along about 1867, when with his aid the road got the valuable favor of a Congressional act saving it from the just forfeiture of its charter (act of March 2, 1867). Before the Congressional ( Wilson) investigation committee, compelled by the public scandal over the many vast and open robberies with Congressional aid, they asked Allison on February 1, 1873,

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