Chapter 23: progressivism and the growth of social consciousness.
Cracks in the control that the Republican Party's old guard had exercised for so many years began to appear on both the national and state level at the advent of the new century. The assassination of President William McKinley late in the summer of 1901, a few months after the start of his second term in office, brought Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to the White House. Roosevelt soon began to speak loudly for Progressive reforms, though in practice he was far from being a radical. Beginning about 1902, articles in popular magazines, novels, and scholarly works by so-called muckrakers provided detailed and sometimes lurid accounts of political malfeasance, frenzied quest for wealth, and disregard of the public welfare by big business. Such articles revealed sordid conditions in city slums and graft in city and state governments. The muckrakers played a major role in bringing about an insistent public demand for reform. In different parts of the nation leaders appeared to champion one or another of dozens of different reform proposals. Thus arose what is called the Progressive Movement. It was a movement that crossed party lines, with each of the two major parties having its Progressive wing, opposed by the conservatives or "stalwarts" within the party.
In Michigan, where many of the reforms associated with the Progressives had been advocated a decade earlier by Hazen Pingree, Pingree's successor as governor--lumber baron Aaron Bliss--proved to be not quite as loyal to the party bosses as originally had been assumed. After the longtime leader of the state's old guard, Senator James McMillan, died in August 1902, efforts to keep his machine organization intact failed. William McMillan, who had looked after his father's interests in Michigan while the senator spent most of his time in the East, supported Dexter M. Ferry's candidacy for the vacancy in the Senate left by McMillan's death. But Governor Bliss surprised the McMillan forces by appointing Russell A. Alger, who had steered an independent course in Michigan Republican politics, to the Senate. This early indication of Bliss's own independence, which undoubtedly helped to gain him the votes he needed to be reelected in 1902, was followed in 1903 by a call from Bliss for the enactment of "a satisfactory primary election law." This was a somewhat belated response to the heavy criticism that had resulted from reports that $750,000 had been spent at the 1900 Republican state convention, which had nominated Bliss for governor, to buy the votes of delegates for the several wealthy candidates seeking the party's gubernatorial nomination. For several years reformers, including Michigan's Hazen Pingree, had advocated the direct primary, which was intended to eliminate boss control over the choice of candidates by allowing all members of the party to participate in the selection process through a special primary election. It had first been adopted in Mississippi in 1902, although Progressives came to regard Wisconsin's primary law, passed in 1903, as the model for this kind of legislation. Reform came slowly in Michigan, however. In 1903 the legislature acted to authorize primaries only for the choice of county candidates and even then only in Wayne, Kent, and Muskegon counties.
In 1904 the old McMillan machine successfully backed Fred M. Warner to succeed Bliss as governor. Warner is one of the more important but relatively neglected Michigan political figures. He had been born in England in 1865, and he was thus Michigan's first foreign-born governor. (The only others have been the Canadian-born John B. Swainson in 1960 and the Mexican-born George W. Romney in 1962.) As a baby, Warner was brought to this country by his parents, and he was later adopted by P. Dean Warner of Farmington, where Fred Warner late in the century began developing a highly successful cheese and dairy business. He served in the state senate in the nineties and then was elected secretary of state in 1900 and again in 1902.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the Democratic Party in Michigan had been so weakened by the factional disputes of the 1890s that the Republican nomination for office was tantamount to election, and Warner easily won the election for governor in 1904. Nonetheless, the landslide margin of the victory of Theodore Roosevelt, the symbol of Progressivism, in the presidential election of that year gave evidence of rising popular support for Progressive reforms. These election returns obviously had an influence on Warner, whom the old guard had assumed they could control. Opinions about Warner vary greatly. Some regard him simply as an opportunist who took up a cause that he thought would assure his reelection. Others, however, feel that he was either a liberal all along or that he sincerely became convinced of the need for change. For whatever reason, Warner began pressing for the adoption of Progressive reforms, starting with a call for an effective primary law. The legislature, still controlled by the conservatives, responded in 1905 with a general primary law for the state which was so complex that it proved to be unworkable--undoubtedly the intent of the conservatives when they passed the bill. When he was reelected in 1906, Warner became increasingly independent and worked for an improved primary law, which was finally enacted in 1909. The law made it mandatory for the major parties to nominate through the primary system their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, United States senator (although the final choice of the senators still rested with the legislature), House of Representatives, state legislature, and city offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit. Warner did not press to have candidates for other state elective offices chosen by primaries because he had learned after his nomination in the primary that he could go to the state convention following that election and dictate whom he wanted to run with him as candidates for secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and other offices to be filled in the general election.
Meanwhile, the state legislature, with constant prodding from Warner, had been enacting a considerable body of Progressive legislation. In 1907 a railroad commission was established and was given power to establish railroad rates and to regulate railroads and other utilities in the state, replacing the ineffective system of regulation that had existed earlier. Taxes on telegraph and telephone companies were increased, the receipts being added to the primary-school fund. The problems resulting from industrialization began to receive greater attention. The state labor department was established. Safety measures were required in factories, and the hours of labor for employees under eighteen years of age were limited to ten hours per day or fifty-four hours per week. Pure food acts and the regulation of insurance companies were among other reforms enacted during the Warner administration--certainly one of the most active in the state's history.
Warner's second term in office also witnessed a state constitutional convention, the first one in over thirty years and the first since 1850 to succeed in securing the adoption of a new constitution. Voters in 1904 had rejected a proposal to call a convention to revise the 1850 Constitution, which had been amended numerous times. By 1906, however, supporters of a convention had succeeded in convincing a majority of the voters that a constitution drafted in the mid-nineteenth century no longer spoke to the needs of a state that was undergoing such rapid change as was Michigan in the early years of the twentieth century. Delegates to the convention were elected in September 1907, and the ninety-six successful candidates assembled at Lansing on October 22. All but eight of the delegates were Republicans. The conservatives, who were dominant in the convention, resisted much of the pressure for a wholesale change along the lines that reformers would have liked. Just enough concessions were made to the Progressives to assure popular ratification. The constitution that the convention approved at the completion of its work in February 1908 was basically a rewriting of the 1850 Constitution, with much of that document retained word-for-word but with some reorganization of the order in which the material was presented. Women's suffrage was turned down, but women taxpayers were allowed to vote on bond issues. The popular Progressive reforms of initiative and referendum were rejected, although the legislature was allowed to refer a measure to a popular vote if it chose to do so. Cities were given the right to home rule and were authorized to own and operate public utilities. Juvenile offenders were placed under the jurisdiction of the probate court, and the legislature was given the power to pass laws limiting the hours of labor for women and children in factories and the conditions under which they worked.
The Constitution of 1850 had been noted for the restrictions it had placed on the state officials, in contrast to the wide latitude that the 1835 Constitution had provided to permit state officials to exercise their judgment in dealing with the problems of the day. Some of these restrictions were removed in the new constitution but many more were retained. On the whole, then, the 1850 Constitution, although somewhat altered, survived in the Constitution of 1908, leaving to subsequent amendments and a new constitutional convention in 1961 the task of updating a pioneer-era constitution to meet the needs of a twentieth-century industrial state.
The Constitution of 1908 was approved by a nearly two-to-one margin at the general election in November 1908. At the same time, Fred Warner was elected to a third term, becoming the first governor to serve in that office for three consecutive terms. (John S. Barry had held office for three terms but the terms had not been consecutive.) Strong opposition had developed to Warner, however, and his margin of victory in 1908 was the thinnest given to any governor since the election of 1886. There were allegations of poor management and corruption in his administration. In addition, even though Warner could and did boast of the impressive list of reforms that had been enacted during his administration, he failed to gain the support of the Progressives. Instead, the Progressives in the Republican Party flocked to the standard of a dynamic new leader, Chase Salmon Osborn.
Osborn is one of the most interesting political figures that Michigan has produced and one of only a handful of such figures who came to have much influence outside the state. He was an independent man, unorthodox and nonconforming in his ideas. These attributes were the source of his greatest strength but in the long run were also chiefly responsible for his rapid decline in power in his party and in the state after 1912. (1)
A native of Indiana, where he had been born in 1860, Osborn had become a newspaperman, working for papers in Chicago and Milwaukee before purchasing the weekly paper in Florence, in the Wisconsin portion of the Menominee Iron Range. He sold the paper at a profit in 1887 and moved on to Sault Ste. Marie, where he turned that city's Evening News into one of the leading papers in northern Michigan. A stint as postmaster of Sault Ste. Marie in the early nineties marked the start of an active political career. Osborn first gained state attention in 1895 when Governor John Rich appointed him state game warden. In this position Osborn first became identified as a staunch advocate of conservation measures. He supported Hazen Pingree, with whom Osborn came to share a belief in the need for reforms. In 1899 Pingree appointed him to the more important position of state railroad commissioner, which required Osborn to spend much time in Lansing, causing him to sell the Evening News, although he retained his permanent residence in Sault Ste. Marie throughout his life. Osborn's four years as railroad commissioner left him convinced of the need for more effective regulatory measures.
In 1900 Osborn unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor at the party's state convention, and his charge that the supporters of the other candidates were paying delegates as much as $3,000 to vote for their man helped to arouse support for the abandonment of the convention in favor of a direct primary. After completing his term as state railroad commissioner, Osborn turned his attention to the development of iron ore deposits which he had located in the Lake Superior area. As a result, by 1908 he had become financially independent through the sale of the rights to these deposits to mining companies and through other investments. He then reentered the political arena.
The campaign that Osborn now launched to achieve his ambition of becoming governor was astutely managed by Frank Knox, a Grand Rapids man who had served with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and had then apprenticed in the newspaper business at the Grand Rapids Herald, which was owned by a moderate Republican politician, William Alden Smith. In 1900 Osborn had persuaded Knox to take over the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News. In 1908 Knox successfully urged a reluctant Osborn to support Warner for a third term, arguing that this would prevent another Republican from gaining the office and thereby give Osborn time to build up support for his own bid for the governorship two years later. Knox also furthered Osborn's career in 1908 by securing his appointment as Michigan's delegate to a White House conference on conservation and also by arranging for Osborn to be the chairman of the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention of 1908. Warner then rewarded Osborn for his support by appointing him to fill a vacancy on the University of Michigan's Board of Regents, a job which Osborn tackled in his typically energetic fashion.
On October 16, 1909, Osborn formally entered the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1910, although Knox and other aides had begun planning the campaign shortly after Warner's reelection in 1908. Osborn went throughout the state in his campaign for the nomination, traveling about 12,000 miles in July and August 1910, and averaging eleven speeches a day--up to a thousand during the course of his entire campaign. He used a Cutting, an automobile manufactured in Jackson during his campaign, taking advantage of the greater flexibility that this new means of transportation gave the political campaigner. He was not the first to do so in Michigan, however. Fred Warner had made extensive use of automobiles in his campaigns, but his earlier efforts in this instance, like his promotion of Progressivism, would be forgotten in face of the greater attention that Osborn's activities have received.
In his speeches Osborn repudiated Warner, spoke of the scandals of the government in Lansing, promised to wipe out the state deficit and inaugurate an economical, efficient administration of state affairs, and committed himself to serving only one term in order that he might devote his full time to the duties of governor instead of taking time to run for a second term. He had opposition in the party. Fred Warner backed the candidacy of Lieutenant Governor Patrick H. Kelley, although Kelley, in his campaign, sought to disassociate himself from the Warner administration, so widespread had its unpopularity become. Because Kelley had already campaigned and been elected to state office, he was the best known of the candidates. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Montgomery presented a more serious challenge to Osborn, since he supported the same reforms as did Osborn. His withdrawal from the race to accept a federal judicial appointment was therefore a welcome development to the Osborn forces. Grand Rapids businessman Amos Musselman was not considered a serious contender. Oddly enough, Osborn gained some backing from the remnants of the old McMillan machine who, although ideological opposites of Osborn, backed him simply to defeat the candidate backed by Warner. But these same politicians wanted to return the conservative Julius C. Burrows to the United States Senate for another term, whereas Osborn gave his backing to the moderate Charles Townsend.
In the Republican primary of September 6, Osborn received 88,270 votes to 52,337 votes for Kelley and 50,721 for Musselman. The general election in November was an anticlimax, as Osborn defeated his Democratic opponent, Lawton T. Hemans (now chiefly remembered as the author of a biography of Stevens T. Mason) by 43,000 votes. Osborn had become the first and to date the only resident of the Upper Peninsula to be elected governor. He owed his election to the primary system, to an able organization, and to his identification with the Progressive sentiments of the day. The importance of the last factor was emphasized by the fact that the Progressive-minded Charles Townsend defeated the incumbent, Senator Burrows, to gain the Republican nomination for the Senate in the 1910 primary. This led to the election of Townsend by the Republican majority in the state legislature, which still, at this time, was vested with the final say in the choice of senators. (2)
Beginning with a speech in Greenville in October 1909, Osborn had promised, if elected, to give the state a "New Deal," employing a term that Franklin D. Roosevelt would popularize two decades later. Osborn's New Deal called for a series of measures to be enacted, most of which fit within the framework of Progressivism. One of his major achievements as governor was the adoption of a workmen's compensation law in 1912. Under the old English common law, an employer was not responsible for an injury suffered by an employee on the job if it could be proved (as it usually could) that the injured or a fellow employee had been negligent. Under the new law there was no escape from employer liability in such cases, and although it was not the first such law in the country, Michigan's workmen's compensation act became a model that other states would follow. Osborn kept his promise to practice strict economy in state government, discharging many employees in the process, and leaving office with a large surplus in the treasury. (3) He was one of the first of the state's governors concerned about the proliferation of state agencies, boards, and commissions. His efforts to improve the efficiency of the state government and to restore to the governor the power as the state's chief executive officer that had been vested in that office under the Constitution of 1835 marked the start of a fight that would enlist the support of strong-willed governors from that time on.
Osborn, who resembled Pingree in a number of ways, had to battle a conservative state senate over appointments and other matters. He called the legislature back for special sessions, as Pingree had done when it failed to carry out his recommendations. Osborn emerged from these fights with new laws giving more powers to the state tax commission and to those charged with regulating railroads, express companies, telephone companies, banks, insurance, and saloons. In cases where Osborn was turned down, such as on his proposals for the initiative, referendum, and recall, he planted the seeds that were to bring a harvest of reform after his term had ended.
While Osborn was battling for Progressive reform in Michigan, Progressive sentiment in the Republican Party was turning against President William Howard Taft, who had been nominated for the presidency in 1908 upon the recommendation of retiring President Theodore Roosevelt and subsequently had been elected over William Jennings Bryan. Taft continued Roosevelt's program in several areas, such as prosecuting trusts, but he lacked Roosevelt's flair for publicity. Taft's support of a high tariff act early in his administration offended Progressives. Senator Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin emerged as the leader of the Republican Progressives, and by 1911 he was mounting a campaign to seize the party's presidential nomination away from Taft in 1912. When Teddy Roosevelt returned from a world tour in 1910 he soon became aware of the Progressives' disenchantment with Taft, a feeling that he too began to share.
As the campaign of 1912 approached, Michigan's Governor Osborn played a key role in the efforts of the Republican Progressives to dump Taft in favor of a reform-minded candidate. Osborn seemed initially to favor LaFollette, but though he liked LaFollette's ideas he disliked the man, and in a speech in Lansing on January 2, 1912, he dealt the LaFollette campaign a crippling blow by declaring that despite the Wisconsin senator's fine reform record he did not have the qualifications to be president. Osborn called upon LaFollette to withdraw and join with the Progressives in an effort to persuade Roosevelt to enter the race.
Roosevelt was eager to run but he wished to make it appear that he was being drafted for the race. In January and February 1912, therefore, Osborn and his faithful aide Knox worked with Roosevelt on the draft of a letter. Osborn then got a group of his fellow Republican Progressive governors to sign this letter, which expressed the hope that because of the demands of the public, if the nomination came to Roosevelt--"unsolicited and unsought"--he would accept it. When the letter was presented to Roosevelt he acted appropriately surprised and flattered, and declared that under such circumstances he would be obliged to accept the nomination. (4)
A spirited contest now ensued between Taft and Roosevelt supporters for delegates to the June Republican National Convention that would be held in Chicago. In a few states where presidential primaries had been adopted, the voters showed their preference for Roosevelt. Osborn urged the state legislature to approve such a primary for Michigan. A bill was passed, but Osborn was unable to get the two-thirds majority in the senate that was required to give the act immediate effect, thus delaying the implementation of the act until the 1916 presidential campaign and killing Osborn's hopes of using it to influence the selection of delegates in 1912.
The Republican state convention was held in Bay City on April 11, 1912. It was calculated that the twelve delegates to the national convention that would be chosen by congressional district caucuses would be evenly split between Roosevelt and Taft supporters. The fight centered on the six delegates elected at large by the convention as a whole. Frank Knox, chairman of the Republican State Central Committee, which had charge of convention arrangements, was a Roosevelt man, but Paul King, the secretary, and a majority of the committee members were Taft supporters. Two delegations from both Wayne and Calhoun counties--one for Taft and the other for Roosevelt--claimed seats in the convention. The Taft majority on the state committee sought to seat the Taft delegates from these counties and exclude the Roosevelt delegates. Within the hall disorder was rampant and there were several fistfights. The keynote speaker, Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana, was escorted out of the hall for his own protection. Police finally restored order, but in the meantime the Roosevelt delegates had entered the hall, held a meeting in one corner, and chosen six Roosevelt at-large delegates to the national convention. The remaining members chose Taft delegates. Unfortunately, the Roosevelt meeting in the corner failed to name a secretary, so there was no official record of its proceedings.
The Republican National Committee, which had charge of arrangements for the Chicago convention, was Taft-dominated. Several delegations were contested, including Michigan's, but all the Taft delegations were seated temporarily and the convention was then allowed to decide which delegation in each case should receive permanent seats. When the Michigan case came before the convention, the lack of an official record of the selection of the Roosevelt delegates proved fatal. The Taft delegation retained its seats, and Taft won renomination for a second term.
Because of a severe foot injury, Chase Osborn had been unable to attend either the state or national party conventions. Following the action of the Republicans in nominating Taft, Osborn's actions caused consternation to Roosevelt and his supporters, who had begun planning a third-party effort. Osborn urged Roosevelt to do nothing, unless the Democrats in their convention at Baltimore nominated a reactionary. On July 2, after forty-six ballots, the Democrats nominated the Progressive governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson, and Osborn announced his support for Wilson. Roosevelt meanwhile proceeded with the organization of a separate Progressive Party, which nominated him for the presidency in August. Osborn then reversed himself and came out in support of Roosevelt, although he did not actively campaign for the Rough Rider until late in October when he helped to carry on the fight for the Progressive candidate after Roosevelt had been sidelined by a would-be assassin's bullet.
On the state level, Osborn stuck with his one-term pledge and was not a candidate for reelection. The Republicans nominated Amos Musselman to succeed Osborn. Roosevelt's Progressive Party put up a full state ticket headed by Lucius W. Watkins as its gubernatorial candidate, while the Democrats nominated Woodbridge N. Ferris for governor. The latter, who had also been the party's candidate for governor in 1904, had become widely and favorably known in Michigan as the founder and head of Ferris Institute in Big Rapids. Ferris Institute was a school where practical subjects were emphasized and where students with small means could get an education. Ferris and his wife took a deep personal interest in each student, and over the years made many friends.
It was the split in the Republican ranks that gave the Democrats both nationally and in Michigan their best chance at victory in many years. The Michigan campaign was especially confusing, with the incumbent Republican governor openly supporting the Progressive candidate for president, but at the same time insisting that he was still a Republican and refusing to come out in support of the Progressives' slate of state candidates. Because of Osborn's backing and Roosevelt's popularity, Roosevelt received the plurality of the popular vote in Michigan and gained all the state's electoral votes--the only time between 1852 and 1932 that the Republican presidential candidate was shut out in Michigan. (5) Wilson, the national winner in this election, ran third in Michigan, behind Roosevelt and Taft; but in the gubernatorial contest, the Democrat, Ferris, ran ahead of his opponents, receiving 194,017 votes to 169,963 for Musselman and 152,909 for Watkins, thus becoming only the second Democrat to be elected governor of Michigan since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854. (6) Ferris's victory, however, was more an indication of his personal popularity than it was of any resurgent Democratic strength, for the Republicans picked up all the other elective state executive offices, with the Progressive candidates for those offices running close seconds and the Democratic candidates trailing in third place. The Republicans also retained comfortable majorities in both houses of the legislature. The election demonstrated that the Republican Party was still clearly the majority party in Michigan, but it also was the first indication of an independent streak in the Michigan electorate that sometimes would lead it to vote for the candidate and not for the party--a tendency that would become more and more evident in later years.
As governor, Ferris pushed for additional Progressive reforms, and although he lacked a majority of his own party in the legislature, he was able to achieve much of what he asked for through a coalition of reform-minded legislators. In 1913 this reform coalition submitted to the voters a proposed constitutional amendment to provide for the Progressive reform known as Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. With its adoption, the voters had the power, through the petition process, to propose or reject legislation and to remove elected officials from office. Along with the institution of the direct primary, this furthered the goal of the Progressives to democratize the entire political process and provided a mechanism that voters would employ with increasing frequency in the years ahead.
Ferris would have had little chance of winning a second term in 1914 if the Republicans had reunited their forces, but that party was still torn by dissension and was unable to mobilize its full strength against him. A Detroit attorney, Alex Groesbeck, had emerged from the wreckage of the 1912 campaign as a powerful new force in the Republican Party. Although he had been a Taft supporter, as the newly selected chairman of the Republican State Central Committee Groesbeck sought to persuade the Roosevelt insurgents to return to their party. In addition, Groesbeck persuaded the party regulars to accept these defectors and give them committee assignments. Groesbeck was quite successful in these efforts. In the process, he was also seeking support for his own campaign to become the party's gubernatorial nominee in 1914. When Groesbeck formally launched his campaign late in 1913 he recognized he would have opposition. Chase Osborn, after leaving the governor's office at the end of 1912, had gone on a world tour, proclaiming disinterest in seeking the governorship again. When he returned to Michigan, however, he quickly responded to the calls of his friends and entered the 1914 primary race. Groesbeck figured that Osborn would be strong in the outstate areas but that his own support in Wayne County would offset Osborn's support elsewhere in the state. Although basically a conservative, Groesbeck sought support from the Progressive wing of the party by advocating a few reforms, such as the abolition of child labor and the establishment of a labor conciliatory service. He also counted on the support of the conservative party regulars who blamed Osborn for the rift in the party ranks that had lost them the governorship in 1912. But Frederick C. Martindale, who was serving his third term as secretary of state and was also from Detroit, entered the primary and angrily attacked Groesbeck for seeking to deny him the nomination to which he felt he was entitled because of his past record of success in state elections. The result was another badly split Republican Party, with Osborn emerging as the victor in the primary with 58,405 votes to Martindale's 47,942 and Groesbeck's 43,137. Much of the Osborn vote probably came from Democrats who crossed party lines (a practice that was possible under the secret primary election system adopted in 1913) since Ferris had no opposition in the Democratic primary.
The remnants of Roosevelt's Progressive Party put forth the educator Henry R. Pattengill as their candidate for governor, and in the November general election he received over 36,000 votes, which was approximately the margin of difference between Ferris, who got 212,000 votes to win reelection, and Osborn, who received around 176,000 votes. The defeat marks the virtual end of Osborn's political career, which had seemed to hold such great promise only four years earlier. He would be a candidate for office on other occasions in later years but would never come close to victory. His fatal error had been in announcing that he would serve for only one term as governor. Had Osborn run for a second term in 1912 he would probably have won, and he could have won a third term in 1914, in which case he would have been a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1916.
Woodbridge Ferris's victory was again a personal, not a party, triumph. In the other contests the Democrats were swamped, with the Republicans winning twenty-nine of the thirty-two seats in the senate and ninety-five of one hundred seats in the lower house. The party also retained its hold on all the other state executive offices. Many Republicans had obviously voted for Ferris, whom they considered less objectionable than Osborn. Indeed, Ferris had courted this anti-Osborn conservative Republican vote by repudiating some of his own party's reform platform, although after the election Ferris returned to his more normal Progressive reform position. By 1916, however, the Progressive Movement had about run its course. The Republicans in Michigan finally closed ranks, giving the Republican candidate for president, Charles Evans Hughes, the state's electoral vote, while Albert E. Sleeper from Bad Axe, a candidate more in the standpat mold of the pre-Progressive era, won the gubernatorial race. Ferris, undoubtedly foreseeing certain defeat if he had sought a third term, was not a candidate for reelection.
Along with the political reforms that are the best-known accomplishments of the Progressive period, other developments in these years reflected greater consciousness of human suffering, of the plight of the poor and handicapped, and of the needs of the less fortunate members of society. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, social Darwinism had been popular, and by some this meant that progress came through social organizations that did not interfere with the natural law of the survival of the fittest. But such a concept was never generally accepted, and the Progressive Movement, with its distinctively humanitarian emphasis, gave new impetus to programs and approaches which, like the Progressives' political reforms, had their roots in the past.
One of the areas of concern was that of the treatment of criminals, with the early years of the twentieth century seeing an increasing move toward reforming criminals rather than punishing them. Back in 1837 the legislature had authorized the construction of a state prison at Jackson. The concept of a prison at that time had become one of providing a place where a person could be restrained from doing further harm to society. Although the whipping post had been used in Detroit in the early 1830s, the idea of inflicting physical suffering on criminal offenders as a punishment for their wrongdoing was giving way to a more humane attitude. The prison at Jackson was modeled after one at Auburn, New York, which provided individual cells for prisoners but allowed them to work together in groups during the day. The first prison at Jackson was a wooden building surrounded by a palisade, but a new structure with stone walls was started in 1841. A massive, medieval-like prison was built in the 1880s, which was replaced in the 1930s by a huge new facility which earned the dubious honor of being called the world's largest walled penal institution--it housed approximately 5,500 prisoners.
Michigan was the first state in the Union to abolish capital punishment. One of the reasons for this was an incident across the river from Detroit in Canada, where, in 1837, Patrick Fitzpatrick was convicted of a crime on circumstantial evidence and was hanged for the offense. A few months later another man confessed on his deathbed that he had been guilty of the crime for which Fitzpatrick had been executed. This caused a revulsion of feeling on both sides of the border. The abolition of capital punishment came about when a revised code of laws, adopted on May 18, 1846, set the maximum penalty for murder as "solitary confinement at hard labor ... for life." There was some resistance to the change, but there was no widespread demand for the restoration of capital punishment. The substitution of lifetime solitary confinement for convicted murderers proved to be a less humane form of punishment than the death penalty, however, rendering nearly half of those so confined hopelessly insane within a few years. As a result, a legislative act in 1861 permitted prison authorities greater leeway in the handling of murderers, thus inaugurating more humane approaches. Attempts in recent years to initiate an amendment to the 1961 state constitution to restore capital punishment have continued to be unsuccessful. (7)
Over the years other more lenient methods of treating criminals replaced earlier practices. The whipping post was abolished. In 1875 the legislature prohibited the "water cure" and lashes inflicted on the bare body at the state prison. In 1877 a reformatory was established at Ionia for "first offenders." By about 1887 women convicted of felonies were sent to the Detroit House of Correction. Not until 1977 was a separate state prison for women opened near Ypsilanti. The Northern State Prison was built at Marquette in 1889. The Ionia State Hospital was opened in 1885 for mentally insane criminals. Beginning in 1896 good behavior in prisons could be rewarded by paroles under supervision--a way of reorienting the prisoner to the duties of citizenship. The principle of probation was recognized as early as 1903. It was gradually accepted that in most cases crime arises out of broken families, poverty, and emotional imbalance rather than from the innate malevolence of the individual. (8)
The practice of treating juvenile offenders separately from adults began as early as 1855 with the establishment in Lansing of the Michigan Reform School, later the Boys' Training School. The Michigan Reform School for Girls, later the Girls' Training School, was established at Adrian in 1879. In later years these facilities were removed from the control of the Department of Corrections and placed under the control of the Department of Social Services. Beginning in 1909 a special division of the probate court in each county was given jurisdiction in juvenile cases.
Significant advances were made in the early twentieth century in the development of medical facilities in the state. In an earlier day the care of the sick had been regarded as the function of the home. Society was concerned only when a disease was communicable or contagious. The first general hospital in the state, St. Vincent's, was opened in Detroit in 1845 by the Sisters of Charity. Harper Hospital in Detroit was established during the Civil War for sick and injured soldiers. Due to a lack of knowledge concerning asepsis and its importance, disease was often spread rather than cured in hospitals. Not until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the use of antiseptics and anesthesia became common, were many hospitals built. During the 1880s and 1890s private benefactions made possible the founding of general hospitals in many of the larger cities. Grace Hospital in Detroit was incorporated in 1888. By the turn of the century, Battle Creek, Bay City, Grand Rapids, Hancock, Ishpeming, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Manistee, Marquette, Menominee, Mount Clemens, and Saginaw had general hospitals. The University Hospital at Ann Arbor had its beginnings as an adjunct of the Medical School soon after 1850. Facilities for this hospital were inadequate until the end of the century, when the state began construction in 1899, which marked the true beginnings of the University of Michigan Medical Center.
The care of the mentally ill had been recognized as a state function as early as 1848 when the Kalamazoo Asylum for the Insane was established by legislative act. Not until 1859, however, did the institution receive its first patients. Up to this time, mentally ill persons were cared for in homes. If they were violent, they were confined in an attic, a shed, or even an iron cage in the yard. Dorothea Dix, famous for her work in calling attention to the plight of these unfortunates, spoke before the Michigan legislature to make its members more aware of the problem. For some years, however, few families would permit their loved ones to be committed to an asylum; to do so was considered a social disgrace. But in the first decade of the twentieth century, the public began to think of mental illness in the same way it thought of physical afflictions. Meanwhile other asylums had been established by the state: at Pontiac in 1873, at Traverse City in 1881, and at Newberry in 1893. In 1911 and 1912 the names of these institutions were changed to State Hospitals. A fifth such hospital was located at Ypsilanti in 1929. Tremendous advances were made in the treatment of mental cases, leading to a steady increase in demand for institutional treatment. Private mental hospitals were established to supplement the state hospitals. The Wayne County Hospital at Eloise was originally built to receive mental patients from that county, but most of its patients came to be cared for by the state.
The era of the Progressive Movement also saw the state assume the responsibility for the care of other kinds of illness and disabilities. Michigan had the first state law providing for tax-paid hospitalization for tuberculosis patients. The first state tuberculosis sanitarium was built at Howell in 1905. In subsequent decades other state sanitariums were opened at Gaylord, Kalamazoo, and Hancock, in addition to a tuberculosis unit at the University of Michigan Hospital, and fourteen approved county, city, and private tuberculosis hospitals. Free chest X rays were provided for the early detection of tuberculosis. Several Michigan doctors, including Dr. John Alexander and Dr. Cameron Haight of the University of Michigan, and Dr. E. J. O'Brien of Detroit, were pioneers in the field of chest surgery for the treatment of the disease. In the mid-thirties O'Brien helped to lead a massive campaign in Detroit to reduce the tuberculosis rate in the city by getting more people to have chest X rays and tuberculin tests in order to catch the disease in its early stages. The success of the drive drew national attention. (9) Much later the use of antibiotics was another factor in reducing the death rate from tuberculosis in Michigan from 103 per 100,000 in 1900 to 5 per 100,000 by 1958. So rapid was the decline of tuberculosis as a major killer that in 1959 all the state sanitariums except the one at Kalamazoo were turned over to the care of mental patients.
The treatment of epilepsy was also assumed as a state responsibility. In 1895 an institution was opened at Lapeer for the care and treatment of epileptics. After 1914 this became an institution for mentally retarded children, with the severe epileptic cases being treated at a new institution established at Wahjamega.
State responsibility for the handicapped was recognized in 1848 by the passage of legislation that appropriated the proceeds from the sale of twenty-four sections of salt-spring lands for the establishment of an "asylum for the deaf, dumb, blind, and insane." In addition to the institution for the insane at Kalamazoo, the state provided a school for deaf and blind children at Flint in 1854, with a separate school for the blind opened at Lansing in 1879. As the number of deaf children increased, the state, instead of building additional schools for them, provided state aid to school districts to permit them to maintain special classes for the hard of hearing. The first law giving such aid was passed in 1899. Under an act passed in 1923 similar aid was provided to districts that maintained special classes for blind and crippled children. In 1921 federal aid also became available for the vocational rehabilitation of the handicapped.
As early as 1871 a state school for dependent children was opened at Coldwater. Beginning in 1929 such children were cared for in licensed homes and attended regular schools. Private service organizations which developed early in the twentieth century, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions, made important contributions to the care of crippled children. Rotary was particularly instrumental in the formation of the Michigan Society for Crippled Children in 1921. Private charity, however, had been devoted to the welfare of children since the earliest years. An orphan asylum existed in Detroit as early as 1836. Among the associations which arose that were devoted to child welfare were the Michigan Children's Aid Society, founded in 1891, and the Children's Aid Society of Detroit, which developed in 1914 but was an outgrowth of two earlier societies, the Home for the Friendless, a Presbyterian women's organization formed in 1862 to care for the orphans of soldiers, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, established in 1893.
A number of organizations developed whose goal was to enrich the lives of young people. The Boy Scout movement, originating in England in 1908, reached Michigan about 1910. The first Boy Scout Councils, formed in 1911 and 1912, were centered at Grand Rapids, Flint, and Lansing. Troops were organized rapidly; business and professional men volunteered as troop leaders, while churches and schools cooperated fully. The movement helped to bring about a rebirth of interest in out-of-doors activities, but its cardinal purpose was to build good citizens. The Girl Scouts formed their first Michigan troop at Detroit in 1916; by 1938 there were 617 troops in the state. The Camp Fire Girls, however, preceded the Girl Scouts, the former organization having been founded in 1900 and incorporated in 1912. Saugatuck had one of the earliest Camp Fire Girls groups in Michigan, with its charter granted in 1913. The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is an organization that dates from the nineteenth century. A "young men's society" organized in Detroit prior to the Civil War was the predecessor of the Detroit YMCA. When the first state convention was held in 1868, some fifteen associations sent delegates. But the greatest growth came after 1900. Activities expanded along several lines. Athletic activities were important from the first; the YMCA pioneered in the introduction of basketball. As early as 1903 the Jackson and Grand Rapids associations were operating boys' camps. Camp Hayo-went-ha, built on Torch Lake north of Traverse City and opened in 1904, is reputed to be the first permanent boys' camp in the western states. The camp movement grew by leaps and bounds after World War I, with many different organizations sponsoring summer camps for boys and girls. The first YWCA was organized in 1885 at Kalamazoo. Through a program of physical training, education, and social activities the YWCA sought to provide a wholesome center for the use of young women employed away from home. By 1934 a total of seventeen cities had YWCA organizations in Michigan.
These were but a few of many social agencies that grew up in cities and even in smaller communities during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Others came later. Many of them sought to obtain funds for buildings and for operations expenses by annual "drives." By the time of World War I the number of drives for funds to support social agencies had become so great that some sort of cooperative effort to raise money was clearly needed. Combined drives were held in Grand Rapids and Detroit in 1917 to support the war relief agencies as well as local agencies. The "community chest" plan was adopted by most major Michigan cities between 1917 and 1922. It soon became the accepted way to raise funds to carry on the work of such organizations as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, orphanages, homes for the aged, child-welfare clinics, and a variety of other agencies. The word "charity" disappeared as citizens began to regard the support of agencies dedicated to social betterment as a civic obligation.
No one typified this sense of the responsibility all citizens must share in the welfare of their community better than Caroline Bartlett Crane of Kalamazoo. A native of Wisconsin, where she was born in 1858, she came to Kalamazoo in 1889 to serve as pastor of the First Unitarian Church. A believer in the Social Gospel, which sought to make the churches more active agents of social change and betterment, she transformed this Unitarian organization into a creedless "People's Church" that fulfilled her goal of a church that operated seven days a week to meet the needs of the community. In the nineties she used her position to advance the cause of women's rights, to provide relief to the victims of the depression that followed the Panic of 1893, to be an advocate for the poor, and a host of other activities. On New Year's Eve, 1896, she married Dr. Augustus Warren Crane, who was ten years younger than she and who would become a prominent radiologist. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Crane resigned her pastorate in order to devote more time to what she called her "civic ministry." Appalled at the conditions she found in a slaughterhouse in Kalamazoo, she crusaded for strict inspection of meat on the local, state, and national level. The improvement of the facilities and the care provided to residents of county poorhouses and the need for much higher standards of municipal sanitation were other causes for which she campaigned in the early years of the twentieth century. Until her death in 1935, Mrs. Crane remained active, becoming an advocate in the 1920s of the need for greater city planning to avoid the ugliness of unplanned urban sprawl, and providing a link between the reform movements of the Progressive era and the next upsurge of such activities in the 1930s. (10)
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|Publication:||Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1995|
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