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- The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 10/86 -

To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, November 10

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--This is to be a mere bulletin. I am elected once again--10,500 majority, the largest received by any candidate. You expected me to run for Mayor I know. Well, it was offered me--the nomination, I mean--and all my campaign expenses promised. But I couldn't accept, having told the Labor Union people that I was a candidate for City Attorney and not for Mayor. This Labor Union Party is a new one, the outgrowth of the recent strike. They have elected their Mayor, a musician named Schmitz, a decent, conservative young man, who will surprise the decent moneyed people and anger the laboring people with his conservatism.[Footnote: Lane lived to smile at his too charitable characterization of this San Francisco Mayor.] I didn't have one single word of praise from a newspaper in the campaign. They hardly mentioned the fact that I was a candidate. It was jolly good therefore to win as I did.

And my congratulations to you, my honored friend, Dean Wigmore. Next year I am to publish my Opinions, a copy of which, of course, will go to you, but not by virtue of your office, old man. You are arriving, of course, but there is something better in store. A Federal Judgeship is the thing for you; and when I get into the Cabinet you shall have it. But don't wait till then. I'm gray and bald now and my boy patronizes me. So don't wait, but get your lines out, and one of these days you'll make it. Where next I shall land I don't know, probably in a law office, praying for clients. ... Always yours,

F. K. L.

Lane's first majority in 1898 of 832 votes was increased to 10,500 in 1899, when he was re-elected; and two years later he won by a still larger majority. A number of his opinions, as City Attorney, were collected and bound in a volume, as none of them had been reversed by the Supreme Court of the State.

He took much pleasure in a dinner club that he helped to form. The members were University professors, lawyers, newspaper men, and a few business men. "But," says one of them, "in spirit they were poets, philosophers and prophets. They were aware that their solutions of problems vexing to the brains of other men, would be Utopian, but as they were not willing to be classed with ordinary Utopians they named their club Amaurot, after the capital of Utopia, thus signifying that while they dwelt in Utopia, they were not subject to it but were lords of it--the teachers of its wisdom and the makers of its laws."

His home life absorbed much of his leisure. He and his family had moved into a modest house on Gough Street, in San Francisco, with a view of the bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Marin Hills from the upstairs living-room window--for no house was a home to Lane that had no view--and in the back-yard, among its red geraniums and cosmos bushes, he played Treasure Island and Wild West with his boy.

In the summer of 1902, Lane was nominated as the Democratic and Non-Partisan candidate for Governor of California. At the Democratic Convention at Sacramento, an onlooker described the excitement among the delegates before a selection was made, "Throughout the night until late afternoon of the second day, without any clear solution of the problem, came the roll-call of the counties, then a wild stampede for the young City and County Attorney of San Francisco, who was borne to the platform. ...

"It was Franklin K. Lane who stood a goodly and confident figure, waving a palm-leaf fan for quiet. He said:--

"'I was in the rear of the hall when Governor Budd made his speech and voiced the call of the party for a winner, and, in response to his call, I have taken this platform.'"

This note of joyous truculence, with the little out-thrust of the underlip, brought, as so often before and since, laughter and applause.

A hot and spirited campaign followed. California is naturally Republican, and Lane had many times challenged and attacked the great powers of the State. He made as his chief issues, Irrigation, Prison Reform, and a fairer share in the world's goods for all the people. He traveled far and fast, often speaking six times in a day, at different places, and sometimes riding a hundred and fifty miles in twenty-four hours, over the rough roads of remote counties.

While campaigning he outlined his notion of public service in this way, "No man should have a political office because he wants a job. A public office is not a job, it is an opportunity to do something for the public. Once in office it remains for him to prove that the opportunity was not wasted. ..." And again he said,--"There is nothing that touches me so, in the little that I have seen in political life, as this, that while it is a game in which men can be mean, contemptible and dastardly, it is a game also that brings out the finer, better, and nobler qualities. I know why some men are in politics to their own financial loss. Because they find it is a great big man's game, which calls for men to fight it, and they want to stand beside their fellows and do battle."

In regretting that he could not attend a Democratic meeting, at Richmond, California, he sent this letter,--


MY DEAR MR. NAUGLE,-- ... The cause of Democracy is being given more sincere and thoughtful interest this campaign than for many years. One of its cardinal principles is that the individual is more important to the State than mere property, and that the welfare of the majority of our citizens must always be paramount and their rights prevail, no matter what the weight of influence in the other side of the balance. It is work and personal worth which make a State great both politically and industrially, and in my estimation they are to be found in largest proportions in the Democratic party. For these reasons I believe there will be a very large change in the vote of this State in our coming election. Reports have reached me from many parts of the State, and I am entirely satisfied that we shall win this fight provided that we do our full share of earnest work, if that be lacking we don't deserve it. ... Yours for honest victory,


At first Hearst's powerful paper, the San Francisco Examiner, took a negative tone toward Lane's candidacy but soon became dangerously, if covertly, antagonistic. Of Hearst's methods of attack Lane wrote, in detail, on July 3, 1912, to Governor Woodrow Wilson, then Democratic nominee for the Presidency. After enumerating one specific count after another against the Examiner Lane said:--

"When a boy putting myself through college I was business manager of a temperance paper which advocated prohibition. He [Hearst] published extracts from this paper and credited them to me, and on the morning of election day sent a special train throughout the whole of Northern California containing an issue of his paper, appealing to the saloon-keepers and wine-growers for my defeat.

"... No editorial word of his disfavor appeared, but in every news article there was in the headline a cunning turn or twist, calculated to arouse prejudice against me. I notice in this morning's issue of the American the same policy is being pursued regarding you.

"Now the great mistake I made was in not boldly telling the public just what I knew. ... I felt that it was a personal matter with which the public was not concerned, but I know now, as I have gotten older and seen more of politics, that it was a public matter of the first importance, as to which the public should have had knowledge.

"Later when he [Hearst] budded as a candidate for President, in 1904, he sought an interview with me and said that he was not to blame for the policy that had been pursued. Our interview closed with this dialogue:--

"'Mr. Lane, if you ever wish anything that I can do, all you will have to do will be to send me a telegram asking, and it will be done.'"

"To which I responded, 'Mr. Hearst, if you ever get a telegram from me asking you to do anything, you can put that telegram down as a forgery.'"

In a State like California, one of whose chief industries was the growing of wine-grapes, and where the Examiner was the farmer's paper, at least one phase of the attack upon Lane bore heavy fruit. Upon election day the count between Lane and Dr. George Pardee, the Republican candidate, was found to be close. In the end several thousand votes, unmistakably intended for Lane, were thrown out upon technicalities. Lane was defeated, and Dr. Pardee took office. It was a bitter blow.

The night when the final bad news was brought to Lane in his home, he called his son, of four, to him, leaning down he put his arm around the boy very gravely and tenderly, and said, "Ned, it isn't my little son, it is Dr. Pardee's little boy that is going to have that white pony."

The boy caught the emotion in his father's voice, and said cheerily, "O, that's all right, Dad. That's all right."

Lane found that in spite of the loss of the Governorship his circle of personal contacts had been greatly widened by his campaign. He had come to know, and be known by, the men most prominent in California public affairs and he had made, and confirmed, many friendships with men who had given themselves whole-heartedly to his advancement. Of these friendships he wrote, in 1920, to his friend Timothy Spellacy, "Eighteen years I have known you and never a word or act have I heard of, or seen, that did not make me feel that the campaign for Governor was worth while because it gave me your acquaintance, friendship, affection. ... When I get mad, as I do sometimes, over something that the Irish do, I always am tempted to a hard generalization that I am compelled to modify because of you and Mike and Dan O'Neill, in San Francisco--and a few more of the Great Irish."

The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 10/86

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