The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, May 27, 1910, Page 3, Image 3

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The Commoner.
MAY 27, 1910
Mr. Bryan at Omaha
I am here to speak upon the political situa
tion in Nebraska, and- I have asked for a hear
ing at this time because I am just leaving for
an absence of nearly six weeks. If I were going
to be at home I would have delayed speaking
on this subject for two or three weeks, 'but it
may be just as well to speak now as later.
Let mo in the first place answer a few criti
cisms. It has been charged that I am attempt
ing to dictate to the democratic party. No one
can fairly make that charge. I have no dis
position to dictate, and have no means of en
forcing a command if I desired to issue one,
but I am a member of the democratic party,
I am a citizen of the state of Nebraska, and be
sides being in duty bound to meet the respon
sibilities of a democrat and the responsibilities
of a citizen, I am also bound to meet those high
er responsibilities that res,t upon us as moral
beings. I think you will agree with me that I
have as much interest in the democratic party
as any other member of the party, and if any
of you think that my course jeopardizes demo
cratic success I think you will not deny that I
have as much interest in democratic success as
any other member of the party. Even those
who are candidates for office are not personally
interested in its success more than I am, for
in the national work I am trying to do I would
be embarrassed by the defeat of the party in
this state, especially if the responsibility for the
defeat could be fairly placed upon me. I think
you will agree also that as a citizen of the state
I have as deep an interest in the welfare of the
state as any other citizen. I am as closely iden
tified with this state's standing, with its welfare
and with its progress as any other member of
the party. I am a taxpayer in the- state of Ne
braska and can not be indifferent to anything
that affects the state.
As an individual I have my responsibility as
well as others, and I have no more right to
dodge a question that is ready for settlement
than you have.
When I returned to the state after an ab
sence of some months I found a condition hero
that I had not expected to find. I had an
nounced my position on the subject of county
option and had said before leaving that it was
an issue that could hot be avoided unless the
initiative and referendum was submitted by a
special session, and the submission of the initia
tive and referendum only avoids the issue be
cause it presents a larger issue and one which
includes county option together with other
issues. Under the initiative and referendum
any question upon which the people desire to
act can be submitted at the polls. If we have
the initiative and' referendum submitted we can
work this fall for the adoption of the amend
ment and when it is adopted we can take up any
question upon which the people desire to act.
.When I reached Nebraska I found that the spe
cial session had not been called because the
canvass made did not assure the success of
the amendment. I found that the liquor inter
ests which controlled enough members of the
senate to prevent the submission of the initiative
and referendum were insisting that the county
option question should not be made a state
issue. They wanted to have the state organiza
tion of both the leading parties against county
. option, and their argument was that the matter
should be left to the districts, but I found that
these same liquor interests were at work secret
ly, selecting candidates for the state senate with
a view to controlling that body. I,found that
representatives of the national liquor organiza
tion had been in the- state, and that they had
tried to arrange for the selection of senatorial
candidates. I found that representatives of the
local liquor interests were acting with the na
tional organization and that the plan deliberately
entered upon and industriously pursued was to
secure enough state senators to prevent the
carrying out of the wishes of the people. I
found that certain special interests were com
bined with the brewers and that an offensive and
defensive alliance had been formed, under the
terms of which the special interests would act to
gether to block any legislation to which they
objected. Having fully informed myself and hav
ing secured evidence that is to my mind con
clusive, I had to decide my duty as a democrat,
as a citizen and as a man, and I announced that
I woifld attempt to ascertain the sentiment of
the democratic members of the' legislature on
the initiative and referendum, and would ask
the dinect legislation league ito ascertain the
position i o the republicans-onfithis proposition.
I said that I had no doubt that the governor
would call a' special session if assured of enough
votes to pass the resolution submitting the ini
tiative and referendum. I also announced at
that time that in case the initiative and referen
dum was not submitted it would bo necessary
then to meet county option as a stato Issue, and
that I was in favor of a platform declaration in
favor of it. I at once addressed letters to the
democratic senators and members of the legis
lature, and the Direct Legislation League has
made inquiry of the republican members. While
the poll is not yet complete it is certain that
the resolution would have no difficulty in passing
the house, but it is still doubtful whether it
would pass the senate. Some of the senators
who voted "no" are willing to vote "yes" in
case they are asked to do so by a majority of
their constituents, while other senators have
declined to promise to vote for it even If peti
tioned to do so by a majority of the voters of
their district. The governor has said that ho
would call this special session if ho has written
assurance of sufficient votes to pass the initiative
and referendum resolution. I can not say yet
whether the written assurance can be given,
nor "can I say whether the governor would feel
justified in calling a special session upon the
.assurance that has been given. But whether
'the special session is called or not, I believe
that the democrats of the state should know
the political situation and understand the sordid
influences which are attempting td dominate the
politics of both parties.
If the special session is not called there is
but one reason for it, and that Is, that the
opposition to the Initiative and referendum, not
in the house of representatives nor among the
people, but solely in the state senate, is sufficient
to prevent the submission of this amendment.
Whether the senators who oppose the initiative
and referendum represent the wishes of their
constituents or not is really immaterial so far
as the public is concerned. If these senators
do -not represent their constituents then the
liquor interests are responsible for compelling
the misrepresentation of these senatorial dis
tricts. If, however, the senators represent their
constituents, then we must face a more serious
proposition. The. reason given by most of the
senators who opposed the initiative and refereir
dum was that their people are opposed to county
option, and opposed to the initiative and referen
dum because It could be used for the submission
' of the question of county option. In other words,
if these senators represent their constituents the
men opposed to county option Insist upon mak
ing it a paramount issue. As the initiative and
. referendum are intended to give the people a
chance to vote on public questions the defeat
of this proposition by those who are opposed
to county option means that rather than have
county option submitted they will prevent the
submission of any question. If the liquor ques
tion must be disposed of before we can secure
the initiative and referendum then the sooner
we dispose of it the better, for we have no as
surance that the liquor interests will be any
more willing to have the initiative and referen
dum submitted by the next legislature than they
are to have it submitted by the present legisla
ture. We might as well prepare for the con
flict and settle now the question whether a
special pecuniary interest can control the poli
cies of the parties of the states; silence conven
tions on important issues and then set up legis
latures by secret manipulation. I fbr one am
not willing that the democratic party shall go
into the present campaign as the open and
avowed representative of the liquor Interests.
I do not know how many of the democrats may
agree with me. There is no way of finding out
where our party stands unless a fight is made,
and I am willing to be counted as one who pro
tests whether those who agree with me are few
or many. I believe that they are many, in fact,
I. believe that if the matter can be fairly pre
sented to the democratic voters a large ma
jority will record themselves as unalterably op
posed to the domination of our party by the
liquor interests. At least I will not admit until
we are voted down in the convention or at a
primary that a majority of the democrats are
willing to take orders from the liquor dealers
who have a pecuniary interest In opposing all
restrictions and who have, in the past, opposed
every important effort to limit the "Bvils of the
The liquor Interests have no politics. They
are willing to act with any party they can con
trol and against any party the? can not control.
When Andrew Jackson was told by Nick
Biddle that his bank could elect or defeat a
president Jackson answered that if so it had
. more power than It ought to have -and more
1 than it would have In the future, 'And so we
say that if tho liquor interests have powor to
defeat tho Initiative and roforendum thoy havo
more power than thoy ought to have, and moro
than wo aro willing for them to retain.
I need not submit an argument at this tlmo
in Savor of tho inltiativo and rcforondum, but
as I shall not bo hero again for some weeks I
deem it worth while to answer some of tho
arguments that havo been advanced against
county option, sinco tho opposition to county
option Is responsible for obstructing tho initia
tive and referendum. It is hardly necessary to
submit any argument in favor of county option
for it stands upon Its own merits, and thoso
who oppose It can not successfully combat tho
arguments presented in its favor. The pro
sumption is on tho side of thoso who favor coun
ty option; tho presumption Is always upon tho
side of those who assert the right of tho peoplo
to havo what thoy want. In ordor to overthrow
that presumption there must bo sound argument.
Take the situation in this stato. We have town
option, that is, a town has tho right to oxcludo
saloons if it desires to do so, and no opponent
of county option dares to controvert that right.
Tho stato has tho right to prohibit saloons. No
body controverts that. Upon what ground, then,
will one dispute tho right of tho county, half
way between the town and the stato, to voto
upon the subject?
I have heard It said that it Is unfair to allow
a county to exclude the saloons unless a victory
for the wots in a county romoves all restrictions.
"Why," thoy ask, as if it woro a reasonable
question, "should a victory for tho drys close
all saloons unless a victory for the- wets opens
all the saloons?" There aro several answers,
if the question woro worthy of a serious reply.
In tho first place, wo have in the stato tho very
situation which opponents of county option say
would be unfair In tho county. This stato went
wet twenty years ago. If it had gone dry all
the saloons would havo been closed. What op
ponent of county option will Insist that because
the stato went wet there should be no cloaing
of saloons in smaller localities? Tho liquor In
terests would not bo willing to submit stato
prohibition on any such conditions as that im
plied in the question. That is, they would not
be willing to have the proposition submitted
in this way; if state prohibition carries all tho
saloons shall be closed, if state prohibition is
defeated then thero shall be no local prohibition
, anywhere in the state. The liquor interests
would not daro to go before tho people on such
a proposition, neither would they bo willing
to submit that proposition in a county. When
county option is secured each county will havo
the right to vote on tho subject of saloons, and
there is probably not a county in tho stato In
which tho saloon interests would bo willing to
submit a proposition in lino with the argumpnt
they now make. They would not be willing to
ask that a victory against county option be con
strued as a permission to establish a' saloon any
where and everywhere regardless of local senti
ment. When we have county option the liquor
interests in each county will be very glad to
havo it understood that any town in the county
can adopt a non-license policy in case tho
county itself does not adopt a no-saloon, policy.
The fallacy of the argument to which I havo
referred lies In the fact that the opponents of
county option talk of what is fair to tho salopn.
The word "fairness" ought not to be used by an
advocate of tho saloon. Tho saloon is an evil,
and where it is allowed to exist at all it is de
fended not as a good thing but as a nuisance
that Is necessary. To say that, because a ma
jority of the people of tho county are not wil
ling to close all saloons therefore the peoplo
of no community should be allowed to close a
saloon is an Insult to their intelligence, and
the argument 'will not bo made when the subject
is generally understood.
There Is another argument which I have heard
advanced. Men have told mo that a' majority
of the people of their county favored saloons
and that the saloons therefore ought not to bo
disturbed. My answer is that under county
option the people of any county can have sa
loons if they want them. Tho man who opposes
county option ought to be asked to answer a
question: "Are you afraid that under county
option the saloons of your county will bo
closed?" If ho says he Is, then in opposing
county option he is opposed to the peoplo of
his county deciding the question for themselves.
In other words, ho wants saloons in the county
whether the majority of the people want them
or not. If he says that he is not afraid of his
county going dry then he is not satisfied to
have, saloons in his county but wants to forco
saloons into counties that are opposed to them.
A liquor dealer might defend such a position