of 1891 Wallace Grand Jury on Corruption
Between Labor and Capital
Failure to Control The District Attorney's Office
of Types of Graft
Fight Trust Briberies
Park Side Bribery
Home Telephone Bribery
Pacific Telephone Bribery
Gas Rate Briberies
Corporations' Share in the Briberies
Park Side Company Board of Directors
Railroads' Board of Directors
Gas and Electric (PG&E) Board of Directors
States Telephone Board of Directors
Valley Water Co. Board of Directors
of Immunity to Certain Supervisors
of Citizens to Help Prosecute Crime
of the Prosecutions
of D.A. Langdon in 1907
of Municipal Corruption
of Supervisor Gallagher's Home
of Fremont Older
of Francis J. Heney
of Government Papers and Secrets
in the Police Department
Union Labor Party Platform
Timeline of Graft Investigations
"The Situation in San Francisco" by James D. Phelan
Boston Herald Interview With James D. Phelan
Mysterious Death of Police Chief Biggy
Fremont Older Wants Ruef Released from Prison
on the Causes of Municipal Corruption
in San Francisco, as Disclosed by the
Investigations of the Oliver Grand Jury,
and the Prosecution of Certain Persons for
Bribery and Other Offenses Against the State.
WILL J. FRENCH,
HENRY GIBBONS JR.,
WILLIAM KIRK GUTHRIE,
appointed by the Mayor,
October 12, 1908.
by order of Board of Supervisors,
City and County of San Francisco,
January 5, 1910
Rincon Pub. Co. 130 McAllister St.
Francisco, December 31, 1909.
Edward R. Taylor, Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco.
the 12th day of October, 1908, your Honor addressed a letter to each of
us, requesting an investigation into the circumstances giving rise to a
series of criminal trials which have seen been known as the "Graft
is our understanding, gathered from your letter and, more particularly,
from the subsequent conferences with you, that our functions were to make
an analysis of the crimes for which indictments were brought by the Oliver
Grand Jury, particularly with reference to their classification as briberies
or extortions; together such evidence as we could find concerning the classes
of persons taking profit from the criminal or vicious enterprises uncovered
by the investigation; the extent of which the public has been debauched
or deceived into according political, social or commercial prestige to
such persons; and the obstructions that the state has met in attempting
to uncover the crimes or punish the offenders. In other words, what was
desired was primarily, a collection of the more recently manifested symptoms
of a deeply seated disease in our body social and politic, in the hope
that it may lead to a true diagnosis and the discovery of a cure.
under your warrant, we have called for a conference with us men from many
classes of the city's social, industrial and political organization. The
response has been on the whole, extremely willing, as soon as the invited
persons have been convinced that we are not trying to secure evidence for
the pending criminal cases and that we were not seeking to procure any
accompanying report is made up from the statements of these persons, the
examination of City and County records, the confessions of those charged
with crime, and from various matters that have come under our own observation.
As such a committee has not power to summon witnesses, no attempt has been
made to determine what particular persons connected with the various quasi-public
corporations engaged in bribery, actually collected and handled the money.
one of the many persons we have interviewed has seriously questioned that
all but one of the larger of these corporations, by some chain of agency,
did pay moneys for favors done or promised. In view of the confession of
Abraham Ruef who, as the attorney for nearly all of them, delivered the
money to the officials, and of their ratification of the briberies by the
acceptance of the benefits, we have taken the guilt of the corporations
to be one of those facts established beyond a reasonable doubt.
reader of the report must always bear in mind that we are considering a
disease in the community, and that the description no more pictures the
workings or organization of the whole corpus of the people than a treatise
on tuberculoses describes the structure or healthy functions of the human
trust officer who invests trust funds in a house of assignation is not
a fair representative of San Francisco bankers, nor is the example a fair
one of his daily banking activity. The president of an exchange of merchants
who becomes bondsman to the prostitute because it may help his sale of
liquors to the lower class saloons, is not a fair sample of her merchants.
The manager of the gambling stands of a race track who becomes a director
in a social club of gentlemen is very far from a fair illustration of his
fellow members. Yet each is, in our opinion, a fair illustration of the
symptoms of the disease which you have commissioned us to describe.
is it to be inferred that San Francisco alone is a victim of the malady.
The evidence is conclusive that a like evil exists to a greater or less
degree in all of the larger American cities It is to San Francisco's credit,
however, that she has been the first to show the moral courage to attack
the persons responsible for the condition, regardless of their social,
political, or financial powerand in some instances regardless
of the fact that, in other respects, they are valuable members of the community.
have to regret the sickness and absence from the city has prevented the
Reverend Father Crowley from participating in most of our sessions, and
hence in our final report. He joins in our recommendations and expresses
his sympathy with the ideals and purposes of the committee. A copy of his
letter to Mr. Denman is appended to the report.
further response to your suggestion, we have appended certain general recommendations
which we believe may be of value. The evils disclosed are firmly established
in so many of our institutions that no single remedy can be expected to
eradicate them. The school house, the club, the church, the bank, the business
establishment, the political caucus, and the newspaper office, each must
feel the force of an enlightened public opinion, and be levied upon for
its contribution in the struggle which in its last analysis is but a phase
of the eternal war between man's civic consciousness and his private greed.
WILL J. FRENCH,
HENRY GIBBONS JR.,
on the Causes of Municipal Corruption
in San Francisco, as Disclosed by the
Investigations of the Oliver Grand Jury,
and the Prosecution of Certain Persons for
Bribery and Other Offenses Against the State.
EARLIER INVESTIGATION BY THE
WALLACE GRAND JURY THE ADOPTION OF THE CHARTER.
history of municipal wickedness in San Francisco dates back to the days
of the discovery of gold and its population by gold seekers and adventurers
from all parts of the world. The story of the Vigilance Committee of 1856,
with its violent and extra legal efforts to suppress the demoralizing reign
of crime then controlling the city, and is well known; and the struggle
against corruption by public affairs had been continuously active, in one
form or another, from that time to this.
until the empanelment of the Wallace Grand Jury in August, 1891, we find
no attempt made at a comprehensive search under forms of law for the causes
and persons ultimately responsible for the class of municipal dishonesty
now known as "grafting." This Grand Jury was empaneled under
Judge William T. Wallace, then on the Superior Bench, but formerly a Chief
Justice of the State. They were sworn in on August 20th, 1891, and reported
September 23rd, 1891. The first pages of this report show there was at
that time, the same relation between a plutocratic organization of special
privilege and the office holder, the politician and the public, that was
disclosed by the more complete investigation of the Oliver Grand Jury in
OF THE GRAND JURY.
the Hon. W.T. Wallace, Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco:
body was assembled and sworn by the Court as a Grand Jury on August 20,
1891. It began work at once, appointed sub-committees, and arranged
for frequent sessions. Very soon thereafter Stephen T. Gage, one of the
directors of the Southern Pacific Railway, and Richard Chute, a salaried
employe of the same company, declined to obey the subpoena of the Grand
attorneys asserted that we were not a legal body exercising official authority,
and when brought before his court, Judge Murphy sustained this view.
other processes the question was carried to the Supreme Court, and Creed
Haymond, general solicitor of the Southern Pacific Railway, attacked the
validity of the Grand Jury before that tribunal.
Supreme Court, after some days' deliberation, decided that we could subpoena
and compel the attendance of witnesses. But these harassing delays consumed
a month or more, and in the interval we could do very little as it was
thought proper to be sure that we had the rightful power before it was
exercised with necessary firmness. Then came a period of about six weeks
without other legal checks or impediments. During this time we were free
to delve into the arcana of rascality and dishonesty that fronted us everywhere.
We made all efforts to fulfill our duty, and heard many witnesses. We collected
an immense quantity of evidence tending to show venality and money taking
by various officials both municipal and legislative.
found that agents and brokers, who were fully recognized as such, went
freely to persons interested in legislation and agreed to defeat or pass
persons other than those in office were implicated, and we began to wonder
to what heights our researches would lead us. A number of men, presidents
and directors of corporations, who had paid moneys either direct or through
agents and brokers, had consented to make a full and unreserved confession
in case we were adjudged by the highest legal tribunal in the State a lawful
people maybe deemed by some moralists more culpable than those to whom
were paid the price of dishonor, upon the principle that if there was no
booty there would be no thieves. The corporation owners defend the payment
of this tribute in saying that th legislators and supervisors are highway
robbers who have to be bribed; for otherwise, by adverse enactments they
threaten the destruction of the financial interests involved. But in some
instances these financial interests have been obtained in an improper manner,
and a just enforcement of the statutes would cause the forfeiture of the
if it be not so, who shall say these corporations are justified? What remedy
can cure the injury to patriotism and free government that makes worthless
rascals out of men who would have been perchance honest if they had not
been tempted? Not even our vacuous laws admit any difference between the
buyer and seller of men's consciences.
by law nor by that abstract sentiment of what is fair and right to man
and man, is the tempter better than the tempted.
millionaire sitting in his luxurious office rotund with the wealth filched
from the public coffers by unclean franchises, may hold up his hands and
say, `Preserve me from these bandits.' But is he less culpable than the
poor devil of a senator or assemblyman that has incurred debts during his
candidacy which he is unable to pay? Who finds himself for the nonce lifted
to a position which he knows is evanescent, and is tempted by wines, banquets
are all alike guilty and criminal. But be that as it may, the tongues of
these corporation owners for the present are silenced. For there came again
legal intervention to thwart the Grand Jury."
report was signed by the following Grand Jurors:
JOHN A. LENNON,
WM. M. CUBERY,
BARCLAY HENLEY, Foreman.
It is apparent that the problem of the relative immorality
of bribe giving and bribe taking, and the holding of profits of the bribery
had become, even at that time, one of public consideration.
"legal intervention" which came again "to thwart the grand
jury", followed the indictment and flight of [Blind Boss] Buckley
and the summoning of Senator Stanford to testify to the part played by
the Southern Pacific in the politics of the city and state. The Supreme
Court of the State, by a vote of four to three, held that the grand jury
was improperly constituted, because of an irregularity in the appointment
of the elisor.
other matters considered in the report, was the following:
Mayor is helpless. He can do nothing. He is only a chief clerk. He has
the appointment of his personal staff and no more. Like Prometheus bound
to the rock of the Caucacus he sees these vultures eating the vitals of
the City and can only cry out against the revolting deed.
Mayors of San Francisco have been generally reputable men. But could they,
have they, stayed this dirty slime of corruption? It requires a rare order
of courage to denounce those with whom one is in daily official and social
contact. What, then, is the remedy?
is in a new charter, granting above all, enlarged powers to the Mayor and
for the exercise of which he would be directly responsible. He ought to
be really as he is nominally, the Head of the City Government. He should
have the appointment of all subordinate officers whose election is now
vested in the Board of Supervisors. His powers should include also the
appointment of Park, Police and Fire Commissioners. For the Mayor's Office
is executive while the Board of Supervisors are legislative, and to the
executive, from the President and Governor on down, is granted the power
and the right to appoint, while the legislature in certain cases confirms."
on the suggestion of this report, Mayor James D. Phelan subsequently appointed
a committee of one hundred citizens to draft a charter which should attempt
to remedy the administrative defects of the loosely drawn "Consolidation
Act" and other statutes then constituting San Francisco's organic
was apparent from the debates of the committee of one hundred that they
did not expect to eliminate entirely from our Government the evil of grafting.
What they attempted was to so reorganized and concentrate the functions
of government that the responsibility for dishonesty or inefficiency could
be readily traced and public opinion intelligently applied for the removal
or reforming of the offending officer. The result of their deliberations
was a draft of a charter which, after the formality of a consideration
by a freeholders' convention, was adopted by a vote of the people. It is
interesting to note that the machine organization of both the Republican
and Democratic parties strongly favored the old system of concealed responsibility
and actually fused on the ballot to support a set of candidates for the
position of freeholder who were antagonistic to the charter proposed.
Phelan was the first mayor elected under the charter and with him an excellent
board of supervisors. It is admitted by practically all the witnesses we
have had before us that the government during this and Mr. Phelan's succeeding
(and last) term was excellently administered, both in its legislative and
War Between the Laboring and Capitalistic
Classes and the Development of the Schmitz-
these years, there had been a gathering of forces for the struggle between
the then newly organized unions of laboring men and the combination of
capital employing labor. The last year of the Phelan administration saw
the first engagement between these two classes in what was generally known
as the "Teamsters' Strike". With the merits of this controversy
we're not concerned, but the breach between employer and employee was widened
by the conduct of both parties. The teamsters claimed that their organization,
to prevent the employment of non-union men, was justified, because
without it they were unable to resist the attempt of the employers to lengthen
the hours of labor and hold down the wage.
employers' organization refused to recognize any right of the employees
to organize and also refused to listen to any arguments presented on behalf
of the employees by agents of the unions. The denial of the right to band
together for the purpose of collective bargaining with capital, solidified
at once the somewhat loosely combined forces of the unions. Certain acts
of deliberate and cold-blooded cruelty and violence towards the non-union,
strike-breaking teamsters, drove into the capitalistic organization
many persons who otherwise would have remained neutral in the struggle.
alignment of the citizens, based on bitter class antagonism, has shown
itself in the political life of the city ever since. In the succeeding
election for the mayoralty, all administrative and political questions
were entirely lost to view. Eugene E. Schmitz, the Union Labor candidate,
whose campaign was skillfully handled by Abraham Ruef, was elected by a
election of Schmitz afforded ideal conditions for municipal corruption.
The voters who elect or vote against a candidate because he represents
a class in a class war, regard him solely as a class representative. They
overlook the method in which he performs the ordinary functions of his
position and are absorbed entirely in those official or extra-official
acts which favor or injure the apparent interests of their class. No form
of charter or legislative enactment can be devised to carry a government
successfully under such conditions. However, while the charter was powerless
to prevent an election on class lines, it entirely vindicated the wisdom
of its framers in the clarity with which it exposed the responsibility
for the corruption and facility with which it lent itself to the substitution
of an entirely new and clean administration, when class antagonism had
quieted and administrative questions again became paramount.
the first two Schmitz administrations, a majority of the Board of Supervisors
was elected from incumbents of the Phelan regime, and no scandals have
been discovered in the legislative branch of the government during that
period. The second election of Schmitz, in 1903, found the laboring men
still strong in his support, and his plurality should, in the main, be
attributed to the class antagonisms again skillfully fomented by Ruef.
activities of Ruef on his own behalf were shown to have begun in the profitable
stimulation of the vicious industries of the town almost immediately after
Schmitz's first election. These earlier enterprises were consummated through
the aid of the various municipal commissions, all of which, with the exception
of the Board of Education, are subject to removal by the Mayor without
the summer of 1903, Ruef had already begun to reach out beyond mere grafting
on vice. We find him approaching Rudolph Spreckels with a scheme to so
shape the relation between labor and capital in San Francisco that no bank
would dare bid a fair price for the municipal bonds to be offered for sale
in the fall of that year. Ruef's plan was to precipitate a street-car
strike at the time of the receipt of the bids, thus enabling Mr. Spreckels
to buy the bonds without competition, at a low figure. The day his proposition
was made, Mr. Spreckels met Mr. Thomas Driscoll and Mr. Edward Tobin at
luncheon and told them of his experience with Ruef and of his intention
some day to organize and drive such men out of power in the city, and,
by perfecting a good government organization, keep them out. Up to this
time Mr. Spreckels had taken no special interest in civic affairs, but
the boldness of Mr. Ruef and the viciousness of his proposition opened
his eyes to the duty of men in his position to use their influence for
better city government. It was this incident, he says, which turned his
mind away from a career devoted exclusively to business.
citizens still living, who had in the nineties organized for the overthrowing
of the Buckley regime, were not blind to the conditions existing, but their
appeals seemed to fall on deaf or unwilling ears. By their efforts both
the Democratic and Republican parties were brought into fusion in 1905,
and the campaign of that fall brought forth a full discussion of the evils
of the administration. A final rally was held the night before election,
at which Mr. Francis J. Heney told, in plain language, of certain briberies
which were subsequently made the subject of indictment, and pledged himself
to return to California and assist in prosecuting the guilty persons, of
whom Mr. Ruef was one, should a third election continue Ruef in power.
Heney had just tried a remarkable series of cases, twenty-one in all,
against a large body of men engaged in looting the Federal Government of
its timber properties in Oregon and elsewhere. As a result of his prosecutions
a vast conspiracy to defraud was disclosed and thirty-four men (amongst
others a United States Senator), were convicted, but three of whom maintained
successful appeals. These trials were all in the Federal courts, where
the orderliness and dignity of procedure precluded the suggestion that
the judgments were the result of any improper methods. All this prestige,
however, failed to obtain for Mr. Heney sufficient attention among the
voters to make any impression on the election results.
was the support of Schmitz due to any failure on the part of the press
to make public the character of his administration. For many months prior
to the election of 1905, the "Evening Bulletin", under the editorship
of Fremont Older, had been raising the cry of corruption. That paper painted
a picture of the viciousness of the city government which, in its shocking
veritythough amply justified by the subsequent investigations
of the grand jurygave offense to many good citizens, that is
to say, to many good persons who were quite willing to stay blind apparently,
at any cost to their inner self respect.
third election of Schmitz showed a decided change in the character of the
vote he received. In the portions of the city where the more prosperous
merchants and capitalists lived, men who by instinct and interest would
be most unlikely to support a Union Labor candidate, he received a very
considerable plurality, while in the "Labor" districts his vote
showed a decided falling off.
was for a time suspected by many that the sinister strength of Schmitz
in the wealthy quarter of town was due to tampering with the voting machine.
It could not be believed that the financial leaders, the bank managers,
the great merchants, and the more pecuniarily successful of the professional
classes, were in sympathy with an administration pledged to an extreme
labor platform and about which the odor of corruption was already discernible.
The discovery, fourteen years before, by the Wallace Grand Jury, of the
participancy of many members of these classes in municipal corruption,
or their sympathy with it, had been forgotten.
the reason for the majority of the Union Labor leader in the residential
quarters of the town given over to the capitalist and his class, only became
apparent upon the exposures of the Oliver Grand Jury, we leave to that
chapter the explanation of what, on its face, is a political contradiction.
Failure of the Schmitz-Ruef Ring to Control
the District Attorney's Office as shown by
Langdon's Raids on Protected Gambling
Resorts His Independence the More Significant
Because of the Gambling Spirit in San Francisco.
others on the Union Labor ticket, was William H. Langdon, who was elected
District Attorney. Ruef, not fully realizing the number of his friends
among the richer classes, and, no doubt, feeling Schmitz's declining popularity
with the laboring people, had sought to strengthen his ticket by placing
on it Mr. Langdon, then Superintendent of Schools, who had a large following
both inside and outside the School Department.
had become apparent very shortly after his election that Mr. Langdon's
hold on the sympathies of the average voter was largely based on much more
of moral character than even the wiser political observers had given him
credit for, and that whatever votes his name may have brought to the Ruef-Schmitz
organization, Langdon did not intend that that name should be sullied by
the corruption of the Schmitz administration. Shortly after taking the
oath of office in January, 1906, he began a series of raids on the many
establishments of the professional gamblers operating under the protection
of the Ruef-Schmitz Board of Police Commissioners.
significance of Langdon's raid became apparent when we consider the remarkable
attitude which a very large portion of the community bears toward the vice
of gambling. Men of recognized prominence in the social and financial life
of the city openly admitted their proprietorship and participancy in gambling
ventures of the most sordid character. The proprietor and manager of the
Emeryville race track, the largest and most widely demoralizing gambling
establishment west of the Rocky Mountains, a man who was also one of Schmitz's
bondsmen, has been elected since the fire to the directorate of one of
the oldest clubs in San Francisco. This organization has long occupied
a commanding position in the social history of the city. It has among its
members the largest number of the owners and managers of the various large
quasi-public corporations of the state, and probably of the whole
West, men who are real leaders in finance and trade, and creators of industries.
While occupying the position in their governing body to which these gentlemen
had elected him, the whole state arose in arms and, after a violent campaign
in which was exposed the daily toll of embezzlement, suicide and ruin he
caused, compelled the legislature to pass a law aimed at closing his gambling
stands. With these high lights thus thrown on the character of his business,
and despite his intimacy with the indicted Mayor, he was again chosen one
of the directors at their next election.
slot machine is a gambling device whereby a saloon-keeper or cigar
man wagers liquors or cigars against his customers' small coin on the turn
of cards mechanically shuffled. This contrivance was licensed by the Supervisors.
It was installed openly on the street in cigar stands and stood on practically
every bar in the city. At first the objections of the innocent were quieted
by the suggestion that the device was a mere "trade stimulator";
but the lines of men and boys standing on the sidewalk waiting their turn
to wager with the shop, and playing their coin long after their immediate
need for tobacco had been supplied soon made it clear that its purpose
was mainly to appeal to the gambling instincts of people of moderate means.
To be more thoughtful, the suicidal policy of an American city licensing
a machine to stimulate the nervous, high strung American to the use of
alcohol or tobacco, was as abhorrent as the denial that th city was licensing
gambling was absurd.
large profits of these machines were divided between the high rents of
the landlords and the proprietors of the stands, after paying the salaries
of the considerable body of persons employed to supervise the playing.
It is true that some landlords refused to become silent partners in such
discreditable enterprises. The exceptions, however, were few and the numbers
of such gambling plants in the city ran into thousands, standing educators
to the children on the streets in the easily learned vice of seeking to
acquire the property of somebody else without giving an equivalent.
would seem that the banks, the supposed conservators of thrift and saving,
would be the first to protest against the evil. On the contrary, we find
that when the civic sense had been awakened to the point where the Supervisors
were considering a bill to abolish the machines, the majority of the large
commercial banks signed the following petition:
the Honorable Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco,
State of CaliforniaGentlemen:
undersigned of the City of San Francisco, respectfully request of your
Honorable Body that Bill No. 782, passed to print on Monday, April 5, 1909,
be amended so as to limit the number of slot machines in use at any one
place, to two (2); that the use of slot machines to be licensed be limited
to stimulation of trade in merchandise dealt in by the owners of the machines;
that all so-called `pay-backs' be prohibited; that the granting
of licenses for slot machines be placed under the supervision of the Police
Department in order that gambling may be prohibited; that the time for
the issuance of licenses to any person, firm or corporation shall be limited
to the period between July 1st, 1909, and January 1st, 1910, and that all
licensing of all slot machines shall be discontinued on January 1st, 1910,
instead of July 1st, 1909, as provided in the said Bill Number 782, all
of which provisions are incorporated in a proposed amended Bill which will
be submitted to your Honorable Body with this petition.
are moved to make this request by reason of the fact that the less than
three months remaining until July 1st, 1909, is not sufficient in which
to allow the cigar dealers of this City and real estate owners from whom
they rent their places of business, to so adjust their business relations
as to prevent the unavoidable and serious hardship that will result to
all parties concerned, if the Bill is put in force at that time.
tens of thousand[s] of dollars are invested and leases running into the
thousands of dollars per month have been made upon the basis of the use
of those machines as they were used prior to the fire and for the past
fifteen years, and to entirely upset these arrangements, made in good faith
by all parties, a large majority of whom have never used their machines
as gambling devices, will mean ruin for many very worthy people, who are
in no sense law-breakers, and are among our most respectable citizens.
mere fact that certain persons have violated the law and used their slot
machines as gambling devices, should not move your Honorable Body, in your
effort to reach and prohibit their schemes, to work a hardship to a much
larger number of honest persons.
that you are actuated only by the best motives, and that you desire to
do the greatest good to the greatest number, we respectfully submit this
petition in the hope that it may be granted.
FARGO NEVADA NATIONAL BANK OF SAN FRANCISCO,
"UNION TRUST COMPANY OF SAN FRANCISCO,
"COLUMBUS SAVINGS AND LOAN SOCIETY,
"THE ANGLO & LONDON PARIS NATIONAL BANK,
"THE BANK OF CALIFORNIA,
"THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF SAN FRANCISCO,
"THE CROCKER NATIONAL BANK OF SAN FRANCISCO,
"THE SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL BANK,
"WESTERN NATIONAL BANK."
is claimed that because on an average a day's play the so-called "honest"
machines netted the house about a fair price for the drinks or cigars lost
by it, the institution was not a gambling device. This equally shallow
contention is answered by the fact that the same player does not play against
the house all day. While the luck may average even for the house over a
period of time, this is due to a balance of the cigars won by some players
against the coin lost by others.
what these banks call a "stimulation of trade" by machines not
used as "gambling devices" by many "very worthy" and
"most respectable" people.
admitted purpose of this appeal of the banks was to allow the landlords
and the keepers of the machines to take profit enough from the public to
tide them over the period of readjustment and to a future date, when the
practice would cease. To do this, however, they were willing to argue that
the machine was not a gambling device because it decided a wager of tobacco
against money instead of money against money.
a community in which gambling was treated with such tolerance, it was a
matter of more than ordinary significance that the District Attorney should
have commenced a vigorous enforcement of the laws against the large gambling
resorts. A number of church organizations, particularly the Catholics,
and many good citizens, rallied to Langdon's support. As the entire city
government, including the Police Department, every administrative board
and the Supervisors, were under the control of Schmitz and Ruef, and as
several of the police judges had been elected from their ticket, the task
seemed almost helpless. Langdon could neither obtain the officers necessary
to ferret out the criminals, or to enforce the laws, nor the funds from
the Supervisors to hire special detectives for that purpose. Nevertheless,
he was able to close two of the establishments which were running under
the protection of the administration, and to prevent others being opened.
significant thing, however, was the demonstration that the people had a
District Attorney who was with them rather than in the camp of the enemyand
this at the beginning of the term of the corrupt Board of Supervisors,
and before their alleged hold-up practices had been disclosed.
was this fact of Langdon's willingness to enforce the law, even against
a vice as complacently established as gambling, which brought ridicule
on the subsequent claim that the quasi-public corporations had been
held up and were victims of extortion. We have later set forth the name
of the directors of these corporations. It cannot be doubted that if Mr.
Langdon had had behind him the power and wealth of these men, either the
alleged extorting would not have been attempted or the guilty parties would
have been convicted without great delay.
Commencement of the
Investigation of the Schmitz-Ruef Regime
we have before pointed out, the Supervisors, the legislative body of the
city, had not been captured by the Ruef-Schmitz machine until the November
election of 1905, and that from the adoption of the charter in 1899, until
January, 1906, the beginning of the term of the Ruef-Schmitz Board,
there had been no suggestion of corruption with regard to the fixing of
rates for water or gas, or the granting of franchises or permits. The attacks
of the "Bulletin", and of the many speakers who took the stump
in the fusion campaign of the fall of 1905, were all directed at the evils
existing in the administrative boards which were appointed by Schmitz,
particularly the Board of Public Works, which were spending large sums
of tax-payers' moneys with an absurdly small showing in results, and
the Police Department, which was marketing the privilege of violating the
laws passed for the regulation or suppression of the city's vices.
December, 1905, Mr. Older, Mr. Heney, and Mr. Lincoln Steffens met in Washington,
D.C., where Mr. Heney was engaged in matters arising out of the prosecution
of the timber frauds. These gentlemen had a long conference concerning
the situation in San Francisco, and Mr. Older suggested that Mr. Rudolph
Spreckels, a very large tax-payer, and hence interested in suppressing
the extravagance of the Schmitz boards, could be persuaded to assist in
securing funds to aid in exposing the corruption in San Francisco, and
that Mr. Phelan, who had inaugurated the government under the charter,
and had been very largely instrumental in securing its enactment, would
also be willing to contribute for this purpose. Mr. Heney then agreed with
Mr. Older that as soon as he could free himself from his engagements with
the national government he would lend his services to a movement to prosecute
the offending officials. The only condition he imposed was that Mr. William
Burns, the Federal detective who had unearthed the timber frauds, should
co-operate with him and that there should be sufficient funds supplied
to secure Mr. Burns any other assistance he might think necessary. Subsequently,
in January, 1906, Mr. Heney, Mr. Older, Mr. Spreckels and Mr. Phelan met
in San Francisco, and plans were further matured. Mr. Heney's pre-occupation
with the land fraud cases delayed the matter until June after the earthquake
and fire of that year, when Mr. Burns' detectives began a systematic investigation.
of this becomes pertinent in view of certain charges made long afterward
"that the citizens should not support District Attorney Langdon or
Mr. Heney (who subsequently became his assistant) because they were tools
of Mr. Spreckels in an attempt to ruin certain persons indicted for bribery
in connection with the passage of franchises for quasi-public corporations."
The plan of attack on the Schmitz-Ruef administration had been determined
at a time when the only evil aimed at was the corruption in the administrative
boards of the government, months before the franchise briberies had been
suggested, and even before the board which was subsequently bribed had
to the top of the page.
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