BEN B. LINDSEY
THE MAN WHO FIGHTS "THE BEAST"
[Judge Lindsey is known all the world over for his work in the Juvenile
Court in Denver, Colorado. To his courtroom there come visitors from
every State in this nation, investigators from Europe and officials
from China and Japan to study his laws and observe his methods. But to
himself, his famous Juvenile Court is side issue, a small detail in his
career. For years he has been engaged in a fight of which the founding
of his Juvenile Court was only a skirmish.
Without money, without powerful friends, without personal popularity,
this one man has codified laws, instituted reforms, founded charities,
and balked corruption.]
From "The Beast," by Ben B. Lindsey and Harvey J. O'Higgins.
Doubleday, Page & Company, 1910.
FINDING THE CAT
I came to Denver in the spring of 1880, at the age of eleven, as mildly
inoffensive a small boy as ever left a farm—undersized and weakly, so
that at the age of seventeen I commonly passed as twelve, and so
unaccustomed to the sight of buildings that I thought the five-story
Windsor Hotel a miracle of height and magnificence. I had been living
with my maternal grandfather and aunt on a farm in Jackson, Tennessee,
where I had been born; and I had come with my younger brother to join
my parents, who had finally decided that Denver was to be their
permanent home. The conductors on the trains had taken care of us,
because my father was a railroad man, at the head of the telegraph
system; and we had been entertained on the way by the stories of an old
forty-niner with a gray moustache, who told us how he had shot buffalo
on those prairies where we now saw only antelope. I was not
precocious; his stories interested me more than anything else on the
journey; and I stared so hard at the old pioneer that I should
recognize him now, I believe, if I saw him on the street.
My schooling was not peculiar; there was nothing "holier than thou" in
my bringing up. My father, being a Roman Catholic convert from the
Episcopalian Church, sent me to Notre Dame, Indiana, to be educated;
and there, to be sure, I read the "Lives of the Saints," aspired to be
a saint, and put pebbles in my small shoes to "mortify the flesh,"
because I was told that a good priest, Father Hudson—whom I all but
worshipped—used to do so. But even at Notre Dame, and much more in
Denver, I was homesick for the farm; and at last I was allowed to
return to Jackson to be cared for by my Protestant relatives. They
sent me to a Baptist school till I was seventeen. And when I was
recalled to Denver, because of the failure of my father's health, I
went to work to help earn for the household, with no strong attachment
for any church and with no recognized membership in any.
I suppose there is no one who does not look back upon his past and
wonder what he should have become in life if this or that crucial event
had not occurred to set his destiny. It seems to me that if it had not
been for the sudden death of my father I, too, might have found our
jungle beast a domestic tabby, and have fed it its prey without
realizing what I was about. I should have been a lawyer, I know; for I
had had the ambition from my earliest boyhood, and I had been confirmed
in it by my success in debating at school. (Once, at Notre Dame, I
spoke for a full hour in successful defence of the proposition that
Colorado was the "greatest state in the Union," and proved at least
that I had a lawyer's "wind.") But I should probably have been a
lawyer who has learned his pleasant theories of life in the colleges.
And on the night that my father died, the crushing realities of poverty
put out an awful and compelling hand on me, and my struggle with them
I was eighteen years old, the eldest of four children. I had been
"writing proofs" in the Denver land office, for claimants who had filed
on Government land; and I had saved $150 of my salary before my work
there ceased. I found, after my father's death, that this $150 was all
we had in the world, and $130 of it went for funeral expenses. His
life had been insured for $15,000, and we believed that the premiums
had all been paid, but we could not find the last receipt; the agent
denied having received the payment; the policy had lapsed on the day
before my father's death; and we got nothing. Our furniture had been
mortgaged; we were allowed only enough of it to furnish a little house
on Santa Fé Avenue; and later we moved to a cottage on lower West
Colfax Avenue, in which Negroes have since lived.
I went to work at a salary of $10 a month, in a real estate office—as
office boy—and carried a "route" of newspapers in the morning before
the office opened, and did janitor work at night when it closed. After
a month of that, I got a better place, as office boy, with a mining
company, at a salary of $25 a month. And finally, my younger brother
found work in a law office and I "swapped jobs" with him—because I
wished to study law!
It was the office of Mr. R. D. Thompson, who still practises in Denver;
and his example as an incorruptibly honest lawyer has been one of the
best and strongest influences of my life.
I had that one ambition—to be a lawyer. Associated with it I seem to
have had an unusual curiosity about politics. And where I got either
the ambition or the curiosity, I have no idea. My father's mother was
a Greenleaf, and related to the author of "Greenleaf on Evidence,"
but my father himself had nothing of the legal mind. As a boy, living
in Mississippi, he had joined the Confederate army when he was
preparing for the University of Virginia, had attained the rank of
captain, had become General Forrest's private secretary, and had
written—or largely helped to write—General Forrest's autobiography.
He was idealistic, enthusiastic, of an inventive genius, with a really
remarkable command of English, and an absorbing love of books. My
mother's father was a Barr, from the north of Ireland, a Scotch-Irish
Presbyterian, her mother was a Woodfalk of Jackson County, Tennessee, a
Methodist. The members of the family were practical, strong-willed,
able men and women, but with no bent, that I know of, toward either law
And yet, one of the most vivid memories of my childhood in Jackson is
of attending a political rally with my grandfather and hearing a Civil
War veteran declaim against Republicans who "waved the bloody shirt"—a
memory so strong that for years afterward I never saw a Republican
without expecting to see the gory shirt on his back, and wondering
vaguely why he was not in jail. When I came to Denver, where the
Republicans were dominant, I felt myself in the land of the enemy. And
when I "swapped" myself into Mr. Thompson's office, I was surprised to
find that my employer, though a Republican from Pittsburg, was so human
that one of the first things he did was to give me a suit of clothes.
If there is anything more ridiculously dangerous than to blind a
child's mind with such prejudices, I do not know what it is.
However, my own observations of what was going on about me were already
opening my eyes. I had read, in the newspapers, of how the Denver
Republicans won the elections by fraud—by ballot-box stuffing and what
not—and I had followed one "Soapy" Smith on the streets, from precinct
to precinct, with his gang of election thieves, and had seen them vote
not once but five times openly. I had seen a young man, whom I knew,
knocked down and arrested for "raising a disturbance" when he objected
to "Soapy" Smith's proceeding; and the policeman who arrested him did
it with a smile and a wink.
When I came to Mr. Thompson to ask him how he, a Republican, could
countenance such things, he assured me that much of what I had been
reading and hearing of election frauds was a lie—the mere "whine" of
the defeated party—and I saw that he believed what he said. I knew
that he was an honest, upright man; and I was puzzled. What puzzled me
still more was this: although the ministers in the churches and
"prominent citizens" in all walks of life denounced the "election
crooks" with the most laudable fervor, the election returns showed that
the best people in the churches joined the worst people in the dives to
vote the same ticket, and vote it "straight." And I was most of all
puzzled to find that when the elections were over, the opposition
newspaper ceased its scolding, the voice of ministerial denunciation
died away, and the crimes of the election thieves were condoned and
I was puzzled. I saw the jungle of vice and party prejudice, but I did
not yet see "the Cat." I saw its ears and its eyes there in the
underbrush, but I did not know what they were. I thought they were
connected with the Republican party.
And then I came upon some more of the brute's anatomy. Members of the
Legislature in Denver were accused of fraud in the purchase of state
supplies, and—some months later—members of the city government were
accused of committing similar frauds with the aid of civic officials
and prominent business men. It was proved in court, for example, that
bills for $3 had been raised to $300, that $200 had been paid for a
bundle of hay worth $2, and $50 for a yard of cheesecloth worth five
cents; barrels of ink had been bought for each legislator, though a
pint would have sufficed; and an official of the Police Department was
found guilty of conniving with a gambler named "Jim" Marshall to rob an
express train. I watched the cases in court. I applauded at the
meetings of leading citizens who denounced the grafters and passed
resolutions in support of the candidates of the opposition party. I
waited to see the criminals punished. And they were not punished.
Their crimes were not denied. They were publicly denounced by the
courts and by the investigating committees, but somehow, for reasons
not clear, they all went scot-free, on appeals. Some mysterious power
protected them, and I, in the boyish ardor of my ignorance, concluded
that they were protected by the Republican "bloody shirt"—and I rushed
into that (to me) great confederation of righteousness and all-decent
government, the Democratic party.
It would be laughable to me now, if it were not so "sort of sad."
Meanwhile, I was busy about the office, copying letters, running
errands, carrying books to and from the court rooms, reading law in the
intervals, and at night scrubbing the floors. I was pale, thin,
big-headed, with the body of an underfed child, and an ambition that
kept me up half the night with Von Holst's "Constitutional Law,"
Walker's "American Law," or a sheepskin volume of Lawson's "Leading
Cases in Equity." I was so mad to save every penny I could earn that
instead of buying myself food for luncheon, I ate molasses and
gingerbread that all but turned my stomach; and I was so eager to learn
my law that I did not take my sleep when I could get it. The result
was that I was stupid at my tasks, moody, melancholy, and so sensitive
that my employer's natural dissatisfaction with my work put me into
agonies of shame and despair of myself. I became, as the boys say,
"dopy." I remember that one night, after I had scrubbed the floors of
our offices, I took off the old trousers in which I had been working,
hung them in a closet, and started home; and it was not until the cold
wind struck my bare knees that I realized I was on the street in my
shirt. Often, when I was given a brief to work up for Mr. Thompson, I
would slave over it until the small hours of the morning and then, to
his disgust—and my unspeakable mortification—find that my work was
valueless, that I had not seized the fundamental points of the case, or
that I had built all my arguments on some misapprehension of the law.
Worse than that, I was unhappy at home. Poverty was fraying us all
out. If it was not exactly brutalizing us, it was warping us, breaking
our healths, and ruining our dispositions. My good mother—married out
of a beautiful Southern home where she had lived a life that (as I
remembered it) was all horseback rides and Negro servants—had started
out bravely in this debasing existence in a shanty, but it was wearing
her out. She was passing through a critical period of her life, and
she had no care, no comforts. I have often since been ashamed of
myself that I did not sympathize with her and understand her, but I was
too young to understand, and too miserable myself to sympathize. It
seemed to me that my life was not worth living—that every one had lost
faith in me—that I should never succeed in the law or anything
else—that I had no brains—that I should never do anything but scrub
floors and run messages. And after a day that had been more than
usually discouraging in the office and an evening of exasperated misery
at home, I got a revolver and some cartridges, locked myself in my
room, confronted myself desperately in the mirror, put the muzzle of
the loaded pistol to my temple, and pulled the trigger.
The hammer snapped sharply on the cartridge; a great wave of horror and
revulsion swept over me in a rush of blood to my head, and I dropped
the revolver on the floor and threw myself on my bed.
By some miracle the cartridge had not exploded; but the nervous shock
of that instant when I felt the trigger yield and the muzzle rap
against my forehead with the impact of the hammer—that shock was
almost as great as a very bullet in the brain. I realized my folly, my
weakness; and I went back to my life with something of a man's
determination to crush the circumstances that had almost crushed me.
Why do I tell that? Because there are so many people in the world who
believe that poverty is not sensitive, that the ill-fed, overworked boy
of the slums is as callous as he seems dull. Because so many people
believe that the weak and desperate boy can never be anything but a
weak and vicious man. Because I came out of that morbid period of
adolescence with a sympathy for children that helped to make possible
one of the first courts established in America for the protection as
well as the correction of children. Because I was never afterward as
afraid of anything as of my own weakness, my own cowardice—so that
when the agents of the Beast in the courts and in politics threatened
me with all the abominations of their rage if I did not commit moral
suicide for them, my fear of yielding to them was so great that I
attacked them more desperately than ever.
It was about this time, too, that I first saw the teeth and the claws
of our metaphorical man-eater. That was during the conflict between
Governor Waite and the Fire and Police Board of Denver. He had the
appointment and removal of the members of this Board, under the law,
and when they refused to close the public gambling houses and otherwise
enforce the laws against vice in Denver, he read them out of office.
They refused to go, and defied him, with the police at their backs. He
threatened to call out the militia and drive them from the City Hall.
The whole town was in an uproar.
One night, in the previous summer, I had followed the excited crowds to
Coliseum Hall to hear the Governor speak, and I had seen him rise like
some old Hebrew prophet, with his long white beard and patriarchal head
of hair, and denounce iniquity and political injustice and the
oppressions of the predatory rich. He appealed to the Bible in a calm
prediction that, if the reign of lawlessness did not cease, in time to
come "blood would flow in the land even unto the horses' bridles."
(And he earned for himself, thereby, the nickname of "Bloody Bridles"
Now it began to appear that his prediction was about to come true; for
he called out the militia, and the Board armed the police. My brother
was a militiaman, and I kept pace with him as his regiment marched from
the Armouries to attack the City Hall. There were riflemen on the
towers and in the windows of that building; and on the roofs of the
houses for blocks around were sharpshooters and armed gamblers and the
defiant agents of the powers who were behind the Police Board in their
fight. Gatling guns were rushed through the streets; cannon were
trained on the City Hall; the long lines of militia were drawn up
before the building; and amid the excited tumult of the mob and the
eleventh-hour conferences of the Committee of Public Safety, and the
hurry of mounted officers and the marching of troops, we all waited
with our hearts in our mouths for the report of the first shot.
Suddenly, in the silence that expected the storm, we heard the sound of
bugles from the direction of the railroad station, and at the head of
another army—a body of Federal soldiers ordered from Fort Logan by
President Cleveland, at the frantic call of the Committee of Public
Safety—a mounted officer rode between the lines of militia and police,
and in the name of the President commanded peace.
The militia withdrew. The crowds dispersed. The police and their
partisans put up their guns, and the Beast, still defiant, went back
sullenly to cover. Not until the Supreme Court had decided that
Governor Waite had the right and the power to unseat the Board—not
till then was the City Hall surrendered; and even so, at the next
election (the Beast turning polecat), "Bloody Bridles" Waite was
defeated after a campaign of lies, ridicule, and abuse, and the men
whom he had opposed were returned to office.
I had eyes, but I did not see. I thought the whole quarrel was a
personal matter between the Police Board and Governor Waite, who seemed
determined merely to show them that he was master; and if my young
brother had been shot down by a policeman that night, I suppose I
should have joined in the curses upon poor old "Bloody Bridles."
However, my prospects in the office had begun to improve. I had had my
salary raised, and I had ceased doing janitor work. I had become more
of a clerk and less of an office boy. A number of us "kids" had got up
a moot court, rented a room to meet in, and finally obtained the use of
another room in the old Denver University building, where, in the
gaslight, we used to hold "quiz classes" and defend imaginary cases.
(That, by the way, was the beginning of the Denver University Law
School.) I read my Blackstone, Kent, Parsons—working night and
day—and I began really to get some sort of "grasp of the law." Long
before I had passed my examinations and been called to the bar, Mr.
Thompson would give me demurrers to argue in court; and, having been
told that I had only a pretty poor sort of legal mind, I worked twice
as hard to make up for my deficiencies. I argued my first case, a
damage suit, when I was nineteen. And at last there happened one of
those lucky turns common in jury cases, and it set me on my feet.
A man had been held by the law on several counts of obtaining goods
under false pretences. He had been tried on the first count by an
assistant district attorney, and the jury had acquitted him. He had
been tried on the second count by another assistant, who was one of our
great criminal lawyers, and the jury had disagreed. There was a debate
as to whether it was worth while to try him for a third time, and I
proposed that I should take the case, since I had been working on it
and thought there was still a chance of convicting him. They let me
have my way, and though the evidence in the third charge was the same
as before—except as to the person defrauded—the jury, by good luck,
found against him. It was the turning point in my struggle. It gave
me confidence in myself; and it taught me never to give up.
And now I began to come upon "the Cat" again.
I knew a lad named Smith, whom I considered a victim of malpractice at
the hands of a Denver surgeon whose brother was at the head of one of
the great smelter companies of Colorado. The boy had suffered a
fracture of the thigh-bone, and the surgeon—because of a hasty and
ill-considered diagnosis, I believed—had treated him for a bruised
hip. The surgeon, when I told him that the boy was entitled to
damages, called me a blackmailer—and that was enough. I forced the
case to trial.
I had resigned my clerkship and gone into partnership with a fine young
fellow whom I shall call Charles Gardener—though that was not his
name—and this was to be our first case. We were opposed by Charles J.
Hughes, Jr., the ablest corporation lawyer in the state; and I was
puzzled to find the officers of the gas company and a crowd of
prominent business men in court when the case was argued on a motion to
dismiss it. The judge refused the motion, and for so doing—as he
afterward told me himself—he was "cut" in his Club by the men whose
presence in the court had puzzled me. After a three weeks' trial, in
which we worked night and day for the plaintiff—with X-ray photographs
and medical testimony and fractured bones boiled out over night in the
medical school where I prepared them—the jury stood eleven to one in
our favour, and the case had to be begun all over again. The second
time, after another trial of three weeks, the jury "hung" again, but we
did not give up. It had been all fun for us—and for the town. The
word had gone about the streets: "Go up and see those two kids fighting
the corporation heavyweights. It's more fun than a circus." And we
were confident that we could win; we knew that we were right.
One evening after dinner, when we were sitting in the dingy little back
room on Champa Street that served us as an office, A. M.
Stevenson—"Big Steve"—politician and attorney for the Denver City
Tramway Company, came shouldering in to see us—a heavy-jowled,
heavy-waisted, red-faced bulk of good-humour—looking as if he had just
walked out of a political cartoon. "Hello, boys," he said jovially.
"How's she going? Making a record for yourselves up in court, eh?
Making a record for yourselves. Well!"
He sat down and threw a foot up on the desk and smiled at us, with his
inevitable cigarette in his mouth—his ridiculously inadequate
cigarette. (When he puffed it, he looked like a fat boy blowing
bubbles.) "Wearing yourselves out, eh? Working night and day? Ain't
you getting about tired of it?"
"We got eleven to one each time," I said. "We'll win yet."
"Uh-huh. You will, eh?" He laughed amusedly. "One man stood out
against you each time, wasn't there?"
"Well," he said, "there always will be. You ain't going to get a
verdict in this case. You can't. Now I'm a friend of you boys, ain't
I? Well, my advice to you is you'd better settle that case. Get
something for your work. Don't be a pair of fools. Settle it."
"Why can't we get a verdict?" we asked.
He winked a fat eye. "Jury'll hang. Every time. I'm here to tell you
so. Better settle it." 
We refused to. What was the use of courts if we could not get justice
for this crippled boy? What was the use of practising law if we could
not get a verdict on evidence that would convince a blind man? Settle
So they went to our client and persuaded the boy to give up.
"Big Steve," attorney for the tramway company! The gas company's
officers in court! The business men insulting the judge in his Club!
The defendant's brother at the head of one of the smelter companies! I
began to "connect up" "the Cat."
Gardener and I held a council of war. If it was possible for these men
to "hang" juries whenever they chose, there was need of a law to make
something less than a unanimous decision by a jury sufficient to give a
verdict in civil cases. Colorado needed a "three-fourths jury law."
Gardener was a popular young man, a good "mixer," a member of several
fraternal orders, a hail-fellow-well-met, and as interested as I was in
politics. He had been in the insurance business before he took up law,
and he had friends everywhere. Why should he not go into politics?—as
he had often spoken of doing.
In the intervals of the Smith suit, we had had a case in which a
mother, whose child had been killed by a street car, had been unable to
recover damages from the tramway company, because the company claimed,
under the law, that her child was worthless alive or dead; and there
was need of a statute permitting such as she to recover damages for
distress and anguish of mind. We had had another case in which a young
factory worker had been injured by the bursting of an emery wheel; and
the law held that the boy was guilty of "contributory negligence"
because he had continued to work at the wheel after he had found a flaw
in it—although he had had no choice except to work at it or leave the
factory and find employment elsewhere. There was need of a law giving
workmen better protection in such circumstances. Why should not
Gardener enter the Legislature and introduce these bills?—which I was
eager to draft. Why not, indeed! The state needed them; the people
wanted them; the courts were crippled and justice was balked because of
the lack of them. Here was an opportunity for worthy ambition to serve
the community and help his fellow-man.
That night, with all the high hopes and generous ideals and merciful
ignorance of youth, we decided—without knowing what we were about—to
go into the jungle and attack the Beast!
THE CAT PURRS
Denver was then, as it is now, a beautiful city, built on a slope,
between the prairies and mountains, always sunny, cool, and clear-skyed
with the very sparkle of happiness in its air; and on the crown of its
hill, facing the romantic prospect of the Rockies, the State Capitol
raised its dome—as proud as the ambition of a liberty-loving
people—the symbol of an aspiration and the expression of its power.
That Capitol, I confess, was to me a sort of granite temple erected by
the Commonwealth of Colorado to law, to justice, to the ideals of
self-government that have made our republic the promised land of all
the oppressed of Europe; and I could conceive of no nobler work than to
serve those ideals in the assembly halls of that building, with those
eternal mountains on the horizon and that sun of freedom overhead.
Surely a man may confess so much, without shame, of his youth and his
inexperience.… It is not merely the gold on the dome of the
Capitol that has given it another look to me now.
It was the year 1897. I was about twenty-eight years old, and my
partner, Gardener, was three years younger. He was more worldly-wise
than I was, even then; for while I had been busy with briefs and
court-work, he had been the "business head" of the firm, out among
business friends and acquaintances—"mixing," as they say—and through
his innumerable connections, here and there, with this man and that
fraternity, bringing in the cases that kept us employed. He was a
"Silver Republican"; I, a Democrat. But we both knew that if he was to
get into politics it must be with the backing of the party
"organization" and the endorsement of the party "boss."
The "Silver Republican" boss of the day was a man whom we both
admired—George Graham. Everybody admired him. Everybody was fond of
him. "Why," they would tell you, "there isn't a man in town who is
kinder to his family. He's such a good man in his home! And he's so
charitable!" At Christmas time, when free baskets of food were
distributed to the poor, George Graham was chairman of the committee
for their distribution. He was prominent in the fraternal orders and
used his political power to help the needy, the widow, and the orphan.
He had an engaging manner of fellowship, a personal magnetism, a kindly
interest in aspiring young men, a pleasant appearance—smooth and dark
in complexion, with a gentle way of smiling. I liked him; and he
seemed to discover an affection for both Gardener and me, as we became
more intimate with him, in the course of Gardener's progress toward his
coveted nomination by the party.
That progress was so rapid and easy that it surprised us. We knew, of
course, that we had attracted some public attention and much newspaper
notice by our legal battles with "the corporation heavyweights" in our
three big cases against the surgeon, the tramway company, and the
factory owner. But this did not account to us for the ease with which
Gardener penetrated to the inner circles of the Boss's court. It did
not explain why Graham should come to see us in our office, and call us
by our first names. The explanation that we tacitly accepted was one
more personal and flattering to us. And when Gardener would come back
from a chat with Graham, full of "inside information" about the party's
plans—about who was to be nominated for this office at the coming
convention, and what chance So-and-so had for that one—the sure proofs
(to us) that he was being admitted to the intimate secrets of the party
and found worthy of the confidence of those in power—I was as proud of
Gardener as only a young man can be of a friend who has all the
brilliant qualities that he himself lacks. Gardener was a handsome
fellow, well built, always well dressed, self-assured and ambitious; I
did not wonder that the politicians admired him and made much of him.
I accepted his success as a tribute to those qualities in him that had
already attached me to him with an affection rather more than brotherly.
We said nothing to the politicians about our projected bills. Indeed,
from the first, my interest in our measures of reform was greater than
Gardener's. His desire to be in the Legislature Was due to a natural
ambition to "get on" in life, to acquire power in the community as well
as the wealth and distinction that come with power. Such ambitions
were, of course, beyond me; I had none of the qualities that would make
them possible; and I could only enjoy them, as it were, by proxy, in
Gardener's person. I enjoyed, in the same way, his gradual penetration
behind the scenes in politics. I saw, with him, that the party
convention, to which we had at first looked as the source of honours,
was really only a sort of puppet show of which the Boss held the wires.
All the candidates for nomination were selected by Graham in
advance—in secret caucus with his ward leaders, executive
committeemen, and such other "practical" politicians as "Big
Steve"—and the convention, with more or less show of independence, did
nothing but ratify his choice. When I spoke of canvassing some of the
chosen delegates of the convention, Gardener said: "What's the use of
talking to those small fry? If we can get the big fellows, we've got
the rest. They do what the big ones tell them—and won't do anything
they aren't told. You leave it to me." I had only hoped to see him in
the Lower House, but he, with his wiser audacity, soon proclaimed
himself a candidate for the Senate. "We can get the big thing as easy
as the little one," he said. "I'm going to tell Graham it's the Senate
or nothing for me." And he got his promise. And when we knew, at
last, that his name was really on "the slate" of candidates to be
presented to the convention, we were ready to throw up our hats and
cheer for ourselves—and for the Boss.
The convention met in September, 1898. There had been a fusion of
Silver Republicans, Democrats, and Populists, that year, and the
political offices had been apportioned out among the faithful
machine-men of these parties. Gardener was nominated by "Big Steve,"
in a eulogistic speech that was part of the farce; and the convention
ratified the nomination with the unanimity of a stage mob. We knew
that his election was as sure as sunrise, and I set to work looking up
models for my bills with all the enthusiasm of the first reformer.
Meanwhile there was the question of the campaign and of the campaign
expenses. Gardener had been assessed $500 by the committee as his
share of the legitimate costs of the election, and Boss Graham
generously offered to get the money for him "from friends." We were
rather inclined to let Graham do so, feeling a certain delicacy about
refusing his generosity and being aware, too, that we were not
millionaires. But Graham was not the only one who made the offer; for
example, Ed. Chase, since head of the gambler's syndicate in Denver,
made similar proposals of kindly aid; and we decided, at last, that
perhaps it would be well to be quite independent. Our law practice was
improving. Doubtless, it would continue to improve now that we were
"in right" with the political powers. We put up $250 each and paid the
The usual business of political rallies, mass-meetings, and campaign
speeches followed in due course, and in November, 1898, Gardener was
elected a State Senator on the fusion ticket. I had been busy with my
"three-fourths jury" bill, studying the constitution of the State of
Colorado, comparing it with those of the other states, and making
myself certain that such a law as we proposed was possible. Unlike
most of the state constitutions, Colorado's preserved inviolate the
right of jury trial in criminal cases only, and therefore it seemed to
me that the Legislature had plenary power to regulate it in civil
suits. I found that the Supreme Court of the state had so decided in
two cases, and I felt very properly elated; there seemed to be nothing
to prevent us having a law that should make "hung" juries practically
impossible in Colorado and relieve the courts of an abuse that thwarted
justice in scores of cases. At the same time I prepared a bill
allowing parents to recover damages for "anguish of mind" when a child
of theirs was killed in an accident; and, after much study, I worked up
an "employer's liability" bill to protect men who were compelled by
necessity to work under needlessly dangerous conditions. With these
three bills in his pocket, Senator Gardener went up to the Capitol,
like another David, and I went joyfully with him to aid and abet.
Happy? I was as happy as if Gardener had been elected President and I
was to be his Secretary of State. I was as happy as a man who has
found his proper work and knows that it is for the good of his fellows.
I would not have changed places that day with any genius of the fine
arts who had three masterpieces to unveil to an admiring world.
I did not know, of course—but I was soon to learn—that the
Legislature's time was almost wholly taken up with the routine work of
government, that most of the bills passed were concerned with
appropriations and such necessary details of administration, and that
only twenty or thirty bills such as ours—dealing with other
matters—could possibly be passed, among the hundreds offered. It was
Boss Graham who warned us that we had better concentrate on one
measure, if we wished to succeed with any at all, and we decided to put
all our strength behind the "three-fourths jury" bill. Since Graham
seemed to doubt its constitutionality, I went to the Attorney General
for his opinion, and he referred me to his assistant—whom I convinced.
I came back with the assistant's decision that the Legislature had
power to pass such a law, and Gardener promptly introduced it in the
It proved at once mildly unpopular, and after a preliminary debate, in
which the senators rather laughed at it as visionary and
unconstitutional, it was referred to the Attorney General for his
opinion. We waited, confidently. To our amazement he reported it
unconstitutional, and the very assistant who had given me a favourable
opinion before, now conducted the case against it. Nothing daunted,
Gardener fought to get it referred to the Supreme Court, under the law;
and the Senate sent it there. I got up an elaborate brief, had it
printed at our expense, and spent a day in arguing it before the
Supreme Court judges. They held that the Court had already twice found
the Legislature possessed of plenary powers in such matters, and
Gardener brought the bill back into the Senate triumphantly, and got a
favourable report from the Judiciary Committee.
By this time, Boss Graham was seriously alarmed. He had warned
Gardener that the bill was distasteful to him and to those whom he
called his "friends." It was particularly distasteful, it seemed, to
the Denver City Tramway Company. And he could promise, he said, that
if we dropped the bill, the railway company would see that we got at
least four thousand dollars' worth of litigation a year to handle. To
both Gardener and myself, flushed with success and roused to the
battle, this offer seemed an amusing confession of defeat on the part
of the opposition; and we went ahead more gaily than ever.
We were enjoying ourselves. If we had been a pair of chums in college,
we could not have had a better time. Whenever I could get away from my
court cases and my office work, I rushed up to watch the fight in the
Senate, as eagerly as a Freshman hurrying from his studies to see his
athletic room-mate carry everything before him in a football game. The
whole atmosphere of the Capitol—with its corridors of coloured marble,
its vistas of arch and pillar, its burnished metal balustrades, its
great staircases—all its majesty of rich grandeur and solidity of
power—affected me with an increased respect for the functions of
government that were discharged there and for the men who had them to
discharge. I felt the reflection of that importance beaming upon
myself when I was introduced as "Senator Gardener's law partner, sir";
and I accepted the bows and greetings of lobbyists and legislators with
all the pleasure in the world.
When Gardener got our bill up for its final reading in the Senate, I
was there to watch, and it tickled me to the heart to see him. He made
a fine figure of an orator, the handsomest man in the Senate; and he
was not afraid to raise his voice and look as independent and
determined as his words. He had given the senators to understand that
any one who opposed his bill would have him as an obstinate opponent on
every other measure; and the Senate evidently realized that it would be
wise to let him have his way. The bill was passed. But it had to go
through the Lower House, too, and it was sent there, to be taken care
of by its opponents—with the tongue in the cheek, no doubt.
I met Boss Graham in the corridor. "Hello, Ben," he greeted me.
"What's the matter with that partner of yours?" I laughed; he looked
worried. "Come in here," he said. "I'd like to have a talk with you."
He led me into a quiet side room and shut the door. "Now look here,"
he said. "Did you boys ever stop to think what a boat you'll be in
with this law that you're trying to get, if you ever have to defend a
corporation in a jury suit? Now they tell me down at the tramway
offices"—the offices of the Denver City Tramway Company—"that they're
going to need a lot more legal help. There's every prospect that
they'll appoint you boys assistant counsel. But they can't expect to
do much, even with you bright boys as counsel, if they have this law
against them. You know that all the money there is in law is in
corporation business. I don't see what you're fighting for."
I explained, as well as I could, that we were fighting for the bill
because we thought it was right—that it was needed. He did not seem
to believe me; he objected that this sort of talk was not "practical."
"Well," I ended, "we've made up our minds to put it through. And we're
going to try."
"You'll find you're making a mistake, boy," he warned me. "You'll find
you're making a mistake."
We laughed over it together—Gardener and I. It was another proof to
us that we had our opponents on their knees. We thought we understood
Graham's position in the matter; he had made no disguise of the fact
that he was intimate and friendly with Mr. William G. Evans—the great
"Bill" Evans—head of the tramway company and an acknowledged power in
politics. And it was natural to us that Graham should do what he could
to induce us to spare his friends. That was all very well, but we had
made no pledges; we were under no obligations to any one except the
public whom we served. Gardener was making himself felt. He did not
intend to stultify himself, even for Graham's good "friends." I, of
course, went along with him, rejoicing.
He had another bill in hand (House Bill 235) to raise the tax on large
foreign insurance companies so as to help replenish the depleted
treasury of the state. Governor Thomas had been appealing for money;
the increased tax was conceded to be just, and it would add at least
$100,000 in revenue to the public coffers. Gardener handled it well in
the Senate, and—though we were indirectly offered a bribe of $2,500 to
drop it—he got it passed and returned it to the Lower House. He had
two other bills—one our "anguish of mind" provision and the second a
bill regulating the telephone companies; but he was not able to move
them out of committee. The opposition was silent but solid.
It became my duty to watch the two bills that we had been able to get
as far as the House calendar on final passage—to see that they were
given their turn for consideration. The jury bill came to the top very
soon, but it was passed over, and next day it was on the bottom of the
list. This happened more than once. And once it disappeared from the
calendar altogether. The Clerk of the House, when I demanded an
explanation, said that it was an oversight—a clerical error—and put
it back at the foot. I began to suspect jugglery, but I was not yet
sure of it.
One day while I was on this sentry duty, a lobbyist who was a member of
a fraternal order to which I belonged, came to me with the fraternal
greeting and a thousand dollars in bills. "Lindsey," he said, "this is
a legal fee for an argument we want you to make before the committee,
as a lawyer, against that insurance bill. It's perfectly legitimate.
We don't want you to do anything except in a legal way. You know our
other lawyer has made an able argument, showing how the extra tax will
come out of the people in increased premiums"—and so on. I refused
the money and continued trying to push along the bill. In a few days
he came back to me, with a grin. "Too bad you didn't take that money,"
he said. "There's lots of it going round. But the joke of it is, I
got the whole thing fixed up for $250. Watch Cannon." I watched
Cannon—Wilbur F. Cannon, a member of the House and a "floor leader"
there. He had already voted in favour of the bill. But—to anticipate
somewhat the sequence of events—I saw Wilbur F. Cannon, in the
confusion and excitement of the closing moments of the session, rush
down the aisle toward the Speaker's chair and make a motion concerning
the insurance bill—to what effect I could not hear. The motion was
put, in the midst of the uproar, and declared carried; and the bill was
killed. It was killed so neatly that there is to-day no record of its
decease in the official account of the proceedings of the House!
Expert treason, bold and skilful! 
Meanwhile, I had been standing by our jury bill. It went up and it
went down on the calendar, and at last when it arrived at a hearing it
was referred back to the Judiciary Committee with two other
anti-corporation bills. The session was drawing toward the day
provided by the constitution for its closing, and we could no longer
doubt that we were being juggled out of our last chance by the Clerk
and the Speaker—who was Mr. William G. Smith, since known as "Tramway
"All right," Gardener said. "Not one of Speaker Smith's House bills
will get through the Senate until he lets our jury bill get to a vote."
He told Speaker Smith what he intended to do and next day he began to
That afternoon, tired out, I was resting, during a recess of the House,
in a chair that stood in a shadowed corner, when the Speaker hurried by
heavily, evidently unaware of me, and rang a telephone. I heard him
mention the name of "Mr. Evans," in a low, husky voice. I heard,
sleepily, not consciously listening; and I did note at first connect
"Mr. Evans" with William G. Evans of the tramway company. But a little
later I heard the Speaker say: "Well, unless Gardener can be pulled
off, we'll have to let that 'three-fourths' bill out. He's raising
hell with a lot of our measures over in the Senate… What?…
Yes.… Well, get at it pretty quick."
Those hoarse, significant words wakened like the thrill of an electric
shock—wakened to an understanding of the strength of "special
interests" that were opposed to us—and wakened in me, too, the anger
of a determination to fight to a finish. The Powers that had "fixed"
our juries, were now fixing Legislature. They had laughed at us in the
courts; they were going to laugh at us in the Capitol!
Speaker Smith came lumbering out. He was a heavily built man, with a
big jaw. And when he saw me there, confronting him, his face changed
from a look of displeased surprise to one of angry contempt—lowering
his head like a bull—as if he were saying to himself: "What! That
d—— little devil! I'll bet he heard me!" But he did not speak. And
neither did I. He went off about whatever business he had in hand, and
I caught up my hat and hastened to Gardener to tell him what I had
When the House met again, in committee of the whole, the Speaker, of
course, was not in the Chair, and Gardener found him in the lobby.
Gardener had agreed with me to say nothing of the telephone
conversation but he threatened Smith that unless our jury bill was
"reported out" by the Judiciary Committee and allowed to come to a
vote, he would oppose every House bill in the Senate and talk the
session to death. Smith fumed and blustered, but Gardener, with the
blood in his face, out-blustered and out-fumed him. The Speaker, later
in the day, vented some of his spleen by publicly threatening to eject
me from the floor of the House as a lobbyist. But he had to allow the
bill to come up, and it was finally passed, with very little
opposition—for reasons which I was afterward to understand.
It had yet to be signed by the Speaker; and it had to be signed before
the close of the session or it could not become a law. I heard rumours
that some anti-corporation bills were going to be "lost" by the Chief
Clerk, so that they might not be signed; and I kept my eye on him. He
was a fat-faced, stupid-looking, flabby creature—by name D. H.
Dickason—who did not appear capable of doing anything very daring. I
saw the chairman of the Enrolling Committee place our bill on
Dickason's desk, among those waiting for the Speaker's signature;
and—while the House was busy—I withdrew it from the pile and placed
it to one side, conspicuously, so that I could see it from a distance.
When the time came for signing—sure enough! the Clerk was missing, and
some bills were missing with him. The House was crowded—floor and
galleries—and the whole place went into an uproar at once. Nobody
seemed to know which bills were gone; every member who had an
anti-corporation bill thought it was his that had been stolen; and they
all together broke out into denunciations of the Speaker, the Clerk,
and everybody else whom they thought concerned in the outrage. One man
jumped up on his chair and tried to dominate the pandemonium, shouting
and waving his hands. The galleries went wild with noisy excitement.
Men threatened each other with violence on the floor of the House,
cursing and shaking their fists. Others rushed here and there trying
to find some trace of the Clerk. The Speaker, breathless from calling
for order and pounding with his gavel, had to sit down and let them
At last, from my place by the wall, on the outskirts of the hubbub, I
saw the Clerk dragged down the aisle by the collar, bleeding, with a
blackened eye, apparently half drunk and evidently frightened into an
abject terror. He had stolen a bill introduced by Senator Bucklin,
providing that cities could own their own water works and gas works;
but the Senator's wife had been watching him; she had followed him to
the basement and stopped him as he tried to escape to the street; and
it was the Senator now who had him by the neck.
They thrust him back into his chair, got the confusion quieted, and
with muttered threats of the penitentiary for him and everybody
concerned in the affair, they got back to business again with the
desperate haste of men working against time. And our jury bill was
It was signed; and we had won! (At least we thought so.) And I walked
out of the crowded glare of the session's close, into an April midnight
that was as wide as all eternity and as quiet. It seemed to me that
the stars, even in Colorado, had never been brighter; they sparkled in
the clear blackness of the sky with a joyful brilliancy. A cool breeze
drew down from the mountains as peacefully as the breath in sleep. It
was a night to make a man take on his hat and breathe out his last
vexation in a sigh.
We had won. What did it matter that the Boss, the Speaker, the Clerk
and so many more of these miserable creatures were bought and sold in
selfishness? That spring night seemed to answer for it that the truth
and beauty of the world were as big above them as the heavens that
arched so high above the puny dome-light, of the Capitol. Had not even
we, two "boys"—as they called us—put a just law before them and made
them take up the pen and sign it? If we had done so much without even
a whisper from the people and scarcely a line from the public press to
aid and back us, what would the future not do when we found the help
that an aroused community would surely give us? Hope? The whole night
was hushed and peaceful with hope. The very houses that I
passed—walking home up the tree-lined streets—seemed to me in some
way so quiet because they were so sure. All was right with the world.
We had won.
 A New England family, to which the poet Whittier was related.
 This is one of the few fictitious names used in the story. Judge
Lindsey wishes it disguised "for old sake's sake."
 Many of the conversations reported in this volume are given from
memory, and they are liable to errors of memory in the use of a word or
a turn of expression. But they are not liable to error in substance.
They are the unadorned truth, clearly recollected.—B. B. L.
 Wilbur F. Cannon is now Pure Food Commissioner in Colorado.
 Smith is now tax agent in the tramway offices.