JULY 2019

JULY  2019
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

ABIUARE! Going After Galileo


I make no claims to understand the Byzantine logic of Catholicism, but I do feel empathy for Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. History records that it was Bellarmine who was the instrument of Galileo Galileo’s destruction. But at least the Cardinal was not an brainless evil little toady like Caccini, or a Machiavellian social tyrant such as Maffeo Barberini (aka Pope Urban VIII), and they both played far larger roles in bringing down the best brain in Europe since Pythagoras. And the Cardinal did write, early the fifteenth century, such a revolutionary sentence as: “…Civil authority is instituted by men; (and that power resides) in the people, unless they bestow it on a Prince.” Such revolutionary sentence could almost have been written by Thomas Paine, a century and a half later, and it speaks of a faith that values logic and democracy. It is a brand of Catholicism that at times today feels nostalgic.
Things began to go ugly in the spring of 1615 when the Dominican monk Tommasco Caccini took it upon himself to journey to Rome. Caccini was very suspicious of mathematics, which he did not understand, and his intent was to throw what he saw as “money changers” out of the Vatican. On the surface Caccini was complaining about Copernican astronomy, but Copernicus was beyond earthy correction, having died in 1543. In fact this “dreadful fool”, as his own brother described Caccini, sought to overturn the dominance of the Jesuit order in the Church. This was an internal Catholic  "cultural war".
Of course the Pope himself, Paul V (above), was a Jesuit, so Caccini aimed at a stand-in instead; Galileo Galilei. Caccini told the Holy See that Galileo had contaminated all of Florence with his heresies about the sun being the center of the solar system, and the moon not being a pristine celestial orb. Worse, Caccini alleged that Galileo was saying in public that God did not perform miracles. Caccini might be a “turbulent ignoramus”, as Galileo described him, and Pope Paul V might know that his own nose was being tweaked by the Dominican, but Rome could not ignore the charges that had been made.
The pope turned to his most dependable cultural warrior, 73 year old Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (above). It had been the intellectual Bellarmine who had out maneuvered and isolated the clever James I of England over his English translation of the bible, and who had prosecuted the magician Giordano Bruno sixteen years earlier. They had been forced to put a wooden clamp on Bruno’s tongue to prevent him from shouting heresies while they burned him at the stake, but in the end Bruno was silenced. It is doubtful the Pope wanted Galileo silenced so absolutely, but he expected Bellarmine to remove the Flrointine as an irritant, whatever that demanded.
The problem was that Bellarmine was too much of an intellectual, and he understood enough about mathematics to know that Galileo’s numbers were right. When the old and ill Bellarmine interviewed Galileo, which he did three times, he fell under the genius’s spell. In the end Bellarmine provided the Florentine with a letter that allowed him to "discuss" the idea of a sun centered universe, so long as he did not claim publicly that it was not opinion but fact. Despite what Bellarmine and Galileo both knew to be fact, officially the Earth remained at the center of the universe because several Popes had said it was so. Robert Bellarmine would die in 1624, and later become a saint, but his letter of instruction for Galileo would prove to be a dead letter.That letter rose from the dead after Pope Paul V died in 1621. He was followed by the brief and sickly Pope Gregory XV, and in 1623 by the energetic and energetically ignorant Pope Urban VIII, aka Maffeo Barberini (above). How Barberini’s mind worked was revealed in 1624 when he issued a Papal Bull, or pronouncement, making it a sin to smoke tobacco - not because it was unhealthful but because it often caused its users to sneeze, an act which Barberini considered similar to sexual ecstasy - which leaves me wondering about Signor Barberini’s boudoir habits during flue season.For the next eight years it was war and not sin which occupied Barberini. If he was not fighting battles to extend the Church’s (and his families') dominions, then he was preparing to fight battles. Barberini turned the Vatican into an arsenal, and built a factory in Tivoli to supply it with weapons. And when the Holy See ran short of cannon Barberini had bronze ripped from the roof of that temple to the Roman Republic, the Pantheon, and melted into more cannon. As an unknown sage put it at the time, “That which the barbarians did not do, Barberini did” (in Latin – “quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini”).
But finally, with the printing of Galileo’s newest book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, in February of 1632, the prosaic world of ideas captured Barberini’s attention. Seeing criticism of himself in Galileo’s arguments (and, honestly, it seems to have been there) Barberini ordered the book seized and the printer arrested. And he ordered the Inquisition to investigate Galileo.The Church had been at war with dissenters from the moment Christ died on the cross, and by 1542, when Pope Paul III established the “Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition” in Rome, that war had become formalized and institutionalized, replete with all forms of torture, including water boarding, and with all the advantages and disadvantages found in any bureaucracy.
By 1633, when an ailing Galileo was ordered to Rome (he arrived carried in a litter) to face the Dominican Cardinals who had been given responsibility for his inquisition, the machinery of correction had been perfected. To be charged was to be guilty.
Galileo thought his 1616 letter from Cardinal Bellarmine would protect him, but Bellermine was a decade dead, and instead the Cardinal’s letter would be the clamp used to silence Galileo’s tongue. Galileo was presented with an “official” copy of that letter which included a phrase – “Galileo agrees to neither hold, defend, nor teach the Copernican opinion in any way whatsoever” – that had not been in the original letter, which the old man still had. Holding this official forgery Galileo mumbled, “I don’t remember the clause “in any way whatsoever… ”. And then his voice fell silent. He must have understood at that instant that this Pope (and his army of sycophants) was willing to commit the sin of bearing false wittiness to secure Galileo's silence, or his death.
When presented with his false confession the old man signed. To have refused would have been to invite a death by fire. And in the last act of the farce Galileo was required to openly announced his “abiurare”, that he abjured and renounced the idea that the sun was at the center of the solar system. Later generations would insist the old man left the court muttering his independence, but that was just wishful thinking. Barbarini used the power of Galileo's imagination, which had once opened the universe to all of mankind, to defeat him. He could imagine the endless pain the Pope could cause him. That is not faith. It is obedience. In exchange for his “abiurare” the old man was allowed to return to his home in Florence but he was never allowed to write another word on science. He died in January of 1641, blind and gagged. It was a great victory for Barbarini.

It was not until October 31, 1992 – Halloween, 350 years later –that Pope John Paul II expressed the Church’s official regret at the way Galileo had been persecuted. John Paul admitted that the Earth does indeed revolve around the sun, once a year. According to John Paul II, “The error of the theologians of the time…was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture.”It seemed, at least for a time, that Catholicism would enter the twenty-first century in peaceful coexistence with science. Cardinal Bellarmine would have been pleased, but I remain  more than a little wary of the sins the church would commit tomorrow, in God's name.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

MAY I HAVE A WORD? Okay on Okay.

I guess it would be okay to say the whole thing started when somebody noticed that according to the criminal code of Boston, ""No person, unless duly licensed by the mayor and aldermen, shall ring, or cause to be rung, any bell, or other instrument, in any street, to give notice of the exercise of any business or calling...under a penalty of not less than three nor more than twenty dollars for each offense.” This bureaucratic banality inspired the formation, on October 26, 1838, of the Anti-Bell-Ringing Society, or in abbreviated form, the ABRS.
It was a joke, of course, an inside multi-layered joke - a joke about a joke about a joke. In this cause the first joke, to the jesters,  was the anit-bell ringing law itself. And the second joke was in the group's name. It wasn't an anti-bell ringing society, it was actually a pro-bell ringing society; sort of the way “Working Class Americans for Fair Taxes" aren't any of those things either. And the third joke was that there wasn't anybody actually in the anti-bell ringing society.
See, during the 1830's there were 43 newspapers in the city of Boston, from the weekly Advertiser to the Daily Wig. As you can imagine, the competition was rather severe.  Each of their publishers had an axe to grind, from conspiracy theories ( the Anti-Masonic Christian Herald) to benevolent rich people (the National Philanthropist), or they carved out special interest niches (the New England Farmer). But the capitalist imperative eventually drove all the successful newspapers to copy each other, just as reality television did in the 1990's. A by-product of this leveling process was an intellectual rebellion by those who consumed the same papers but needed to convince their fellow readers that they were smarter than the average yokels who read this drivel. Karl Marx referred to this as the "Club Effect", when he said, "I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it." Or was that Groucho Marx?  Anyway...
At the time in Boston, there were many inside-joke clubs, like the Association of Presidents of Bankrupt Insurance Companies, or the Mammoth Cod Association, or the Flouring Committee. Most of these existed merely to post newspaper announcements for non-existent meetings for these non-existent clubs. . Some of them, like the Anti-Bell Ringing Society went so far as to announce platitudinous field trips, which nobody actually showed up for because there was actually no body in the clubs. Everybody who got the joke was supposed to read these announcements and just laugh, not pack their bags.
In November of 1838 the ABRS went so far as to file suit in court to overturn the anti-bell ringing ordinance. And although they never paid the filing fee (and their case was never on the docket) the founders, whoever they or he was, kept the joke going by arguing with their non-existent critics that they had as much right to gather together as "any other moral and benevolent societies in existence". Did I mention their critics were also non-existent?  According to the stream of press releases, issued by the Lord High Chancellor of the ABRS, the group had elected a "Professor of Bell-ecution", and a “Benign Reliever of the Bell-y-ache”. And at their first mythical anniversary dinner party they (myth-ically) had toasted the ladies as, “the only belles the members of this society will ever ring to.”  In mid-March of 1839 they even took a mythical train trip to New York City. The term "ad nasseum" leaps to mind. Are you LOL yet?
Taking their cue from these latter day “You Tube-erites” the newspaper columnists launched their own abbreviated inside-jokes, abbreviated because they relied on initialism, also known as acronyms. In this alternative inside joke universe the initials KY were substituted for “know yuse”, which had already been substituted for “no use”. Ah, if this had been the late 1830's you and I would have been ROTFL right now. Parenthetically, this buffoonery was intensified by including an explanation of the ersatz slang gag in parentheses immediately following the acronym, as in “N.C. ('nuff said), when the writer might have simply written “enough said” instead, or “GTT (gone to Texas), or PDQ (pretty damn quick) and SP (small potatoes) or AWALY (Are we all laughing yet?).
e.g.; in June of 1838 the Boston Morning Post (one of the participating newspapers) carried the following note: "Eliot Brown, Esq., Secretary of the Boston Young Men's Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Indians, F.A.H. (fell at Hoboken, N.J.) on Saturday last at 4 o'clock, p.m. in a duel W.O.O.O.F.C. (with one of our first citizens.) What measures will be taken by the Society in consequence of this heart rending event, R.T.B.S. (remains to be seen)."  Nobody was actually shot, except of course the writer who was shooting his mouth off, but i.e,. removed from their environment these abbreviated jokes shriveled up and just died. But while they were in vogue, they reduced the world to a 18th century MMORPG (Massive Multi- player Online Role Playing Game). Ah, LOL et al. for the initiated. All others must pay cash.
On March 23, 1839 the Post (again) carried a follow-up story on page two, concerning that mythical field trip the ABRS did not take to New York City. The editor of the Providence, Rhode Island "Mercury" had  noticed that on the day announced, nobody from the ABRS had been on the Boston to New York train, and noted so in his newspaper. The Boston Sophisticates were in stitches. Clearly the poor philistine from Providence was not in on the joke. But the Post's columnist, Mr. Charles Gordon Greene, continued the gag by responding as follows: "We said not a word about our deputation passing "through the city" of Providence.—We said our brethren were going to New York... and they did go... The "Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells," is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his "contribution box," et ceteras, o.k. (all correct) —and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward."
Okay, ignoring Mr. Greenes' convoluted sentence structure for now, the corks were flying because (mythical) champagne bottles had been opened by the (mythical) band of raucous anti-bell ringing acolytes, in their mythical celebration. And reading all this, the non-mythical readers of the Post were by now having a jolly good time at the expense of the rubes from Providence. And I suspect they were having such a good time that they failed to notice the momentous event which had just occurred - the birth of a new word.
Not the conception, certainly, which may have occurred orally a hundred years before, maybe a thousand years before. But this was the moment of birth, March 23, 1839, the first appearance in print that has so far been uncovered of the word "Okay" or OK. The word was so new, is still so new even today, that its spelling has yet to be standardized. And it all happened because the humorists in Boston had become cannibalistic, consuming their own jokes.
But OK would probably have died aborning (or a-boring) had not it been saved by the Presidential election of 1840, which pitted the incumbent Democrat Martin Van Buren against the Wig, William Henry Harrison. You might think the joke here was that Harrison would win the election but died just a month after his interminable inaugural address. But it turns out the real joke was on the loser, Van Buren, who took only 7 states, to Harrison's 19. But that's OK, because Van Buren's political loss was a big win for lexicography.
You see, the Democrat's campaign manager, Amos Kendall, decided it would be a good idea to emphasise his man's roots. Van Buren, although elected from Pennsylvania  had been born in the tiny New York village of Kinderhook,  a bastion of Dutch culture in a rising sea of Englishmen, making their man an ethnic minority. And believing this was just the image the American people were looking for in a politician, Kendall decided to give him the nickname of "Old Kinderhook", calling attention to both his age and his different-nesss at the same time. And he tied it all together with that trendy new word from Boston.  They even had campaign buttons printed up reading simply "OK", and started OK clubs, urging supporters to say, "I'm voting for OK", as in "Old KInderhook".
In response the Wigs insisted that OK actually stood for "Out of cash" or "Out of credit", revealing once again the endless wealth politicians can mine out of America's mountains of economic insecurity. One Wig columnist described them as " “frightful letters … Those who wear them should bear in mind that it will require their most strenuous exertions … to make all things O.K.”
The fledgling word derivative then received a further boost from new technology, when the Morse telegraph was introduced in 1844. It took far less finger pressing to tap out the word "OK" (you could ignore the "o" and the "K" was just "dash - dot - dash") than to tap out the words "All is Correct". OK was far easier to spell, too. In fact, OK is the strongest remaining artifact of telegraphy in our culture, the equivalent of a "Record Player" in the era of compact discs, and compact discs in the era of music downloads.
Twenty years later the young six foot five inch James Pyle left his family home in Nova Scotia to seek his fortune in New York City. He opened a factory in Greenwich Village, where he repackaged sodium carbonate powder as "Pyle's OK Pearline Soap". Mr.Pyle's genius was his discovery that the only difference between soaps was the advertising. All his advertisements framed traditional images of children and dogs and kitties, with that hip new word, OK. He plastered Manhattan from the Battery to the Bronx with the word "OK" until the denizens were seeing it in their sleep. James made a literal fortune, and in 1914 his company was bought out by Proctor and Gamble, which renamed the product "Ivory Soap" and dropped the OK. But by now the adolescent word was strong enough to stand on its own two letters.
And just as the telegraph was being pushed to extinction by the telephone, the lucky "OK" was given yet another new boost on May 5, 1961. Commander Alan B. Shepard, sitting atop a Redstone rocket, assured his controllers that, "Everything is A-OK." And because the American space program performed in public, and the entire world was listening with rapt fascination, this anachronistic sliver of American English slang, a 130 year old inside joke amongst Boston sophists,  instantly became the first phrase of modern international slang.
Everything was indeed "OK." People the world over, who do not speak or usually hear English, know and use OK. It is a borrowed word, which is a nice way of saying it may be the only English word for which the Shakespeare family is does not collect royalties.
Okay?
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

TOO MANY GOVERNORS Nebraska Goes Nuts.

I am surprised that nobody got lynched in Nebraska during the winter of 1890-91. Tempers were tense on the prairie that winter,  and the newspapers all had a dog in the hunt, so to speak, and they could be trusted to be neither fair nor accurate, but certainly unbalanced. In the election on Tuesday, 4 November, 1890, the Republicans and Democrats split between them seven seats in the state senate and forty-six seats in the house. But every other seat, eighteen in the senate and fifty-four in the house, gave a clear majority to an upstart third party, the so called “hogs in the parlor”, the People’s Independent Party. And to those who dream about the transforming- the log-jam busting magic -  of a third party in Congress, let the experiences of the PIPs be a lesson in reality.
Cornhusker politics have often been more colorful than the reticent citizens are wont to admit to outsiders. What other state’s tourism motto could boast with a straight face “We go both ways”? Either they don’t think anybody else is bright enough to get that joke, or they aren’t. And either possibility is not a compliment to the denizens of Nebraska.
Even before Nebraska was admitted to the union, on 7 January, 1859, a fracas of fisticuffs fractured the Nebraska territorial legislature, between those who lived north and those who lived south of the Platte River. It may seem pointless to be divided by a stream famously described as “too thick to drink, and too thin to plow”, a river which, in the late summer, resembles more plain than flood plain, but politics is rarely about reality and doubly so in Nebraska, where reality is so flat and peppered with cow poo. After the brawl the South Platte faction removed themselves across the river to the hamlet of Florence, which had, according to the newspaper “Nebraskian”, “…been, for months, laboring assiduously to delude strangers that it was a city”.
The entire place only became a state over President Andrew Johnson’s veto in 1867. And in the 1870 Supreme Court decision “Baker V. Morton” the justices had to slap down the state’s power structure for stealing land from a poor sod buster and using it to bribe state legislators, in the infamous “Skiptown scandal”. But all of this would prove a mere foretaste to the bounty of bovine pie hurling offered up after the election of 1890.
To the farmers living on the Nebraska prairie in the 1880’s it seemed the railroads were standing on their throats. And to those concerned about Health Care Reform or Union busting, I urge you to study the century long struggle against the railroad monopolies. All across the American west, farmers had bought their land from the railroads. The banks which held their mortgages were owned by the railroads. The only way to get their wheat and corn to market was via the railroads. The only silos to store their harvested crops while awaiting shipment were owned by the railroads. The railroad monopolies set the shipping rates and the silo rates and there was no appeal to their heartless bookkeeping.
Try and start a bank to break the railroad monopoly, and the state legislators would make it illegal. Try and build your own silo, and the state legislators would make it illegal. Politics in Nebraska were so rotten it was said the Union Pacific Railroad picked one of the States’ two Senators, while the other was chosen by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
Theoretically the American two-party system should offer the oppressed a choice. But by 1890, thanks to political contributions from the railroads,  the Democrats supported a laissez faire approach to capitalism, while the Republicans were tied to an activist government in favor of the capitalists (i.e. the railroads). The oppressed majority were cow pied out to luck.
Thus was born the Farmer’s Alliance, which morphed into the People’s Independent Party. It was forged in response to decades of railroad corruption, railroad influence selling, and political stagnation - sound familiar? (I'll give you a hint - substitute the word bank or insurance company for the word railroad)  And then on top of that, a drought not equaled again until the dust bowl of the 1930’s reduced many Nebraska farmers to poverty. According to one mocking Republican observer, the ideal world envisioned by these “hayseeds” was a combination of a Victor Hugo plot and a Baptist revival meeting. But the truth was, all that most of these farmers wanted was for somebody to just acknowledge the railroads were standing on their wind pipe. It was their hoarse cry for justice which had produced the results of the election of November 1890. And when the Nebraska legislature convened in joint session in January of 1891,  things very quickly developed into that Victor Hugo melodrama.
To begin with, the new speaker of the House, Independent Sam Elder, decided he was going to bypass the acting President of the Senate, Republican Lieutenant-Governor George Meiklejohn, and preside over both houses of the legislature all by himself. That was plainly illegal and extra-constitutional but Sam figured that desperate times called for desperate measures.
However, Elder’s plans for a grand investigation of election fraud and a remaking of state government were derailed when Meiklejohn grabbed the gavel off the podium and refused to return it. There was a shoving, grasping cat fight for the precious totem, which Meiklejohn eventually won. From this point the business of government in Nebraska got very noisy and ground to a complete halt, all over the issue of the certification of the new governor.
As these things were normally counted, the clear election loser was the Republican candidate L.D. Richards, who received just 68,878 votes. The Democrat, James Boyd, had received 71,331 votes, and was, according to county election officials from across the state (who were all either Democrats or Republicans, of course), the winner. But Speaker Elder was certain the actually winner had been John Powers, the candidate of Elder's People’s Independent Party. Officially Powers had received 70,187 votes, making him second by 1,144 votes. But Elder believed with good reason that 2,000 fraudulent votes had been cast for Boyd in Douglas County, centered on Omaha. And Speaker Elder was demanding an immediate investigation.
With the Republicans siding with the Democrats against the Independents, neither side dared to adjourn. Elder presided from the podium, calling on speakers and announcing votes, while Meiklejohn sat at the clerk’s desk, doing the same. Nobody got anything done because nobody could hear anybody else. Sometime after midnight, with the Republicans caucusing with their Democratic allies in an anteroom, Speaker Elder ordered the doors locked and told the sergeant-at-arms to admit no one without a written pass from him; check.
Meanwhile, the presumed victor, James Boyd, had requested and received an immediate hearing before the State Supreme Court. Boyd was asking for a writ of mandamus (“…a court order that required another court, government official, public body, corporation or individual, to perform a certain legally required act”). Boyd’s attorney argued his case before three judges of the Nebraska state Supreme Court, in a hearing room crowded with armed angry spectators from various political factions. After the hearing it was expected the judges would retire to consider the arguments. Instead the justices held an immediate huddle and after a few moments Chief Justice Cobb announced that the weighty issues of freedom of speech, suffrage, democracy, public order and good government were all irrelevant. The court had decided that certifying election results was simply a clerical duty and not a matter of choice. Cobb signed the writ of mandamus on the spot and then ran for the exit; checkmate.
The spectators were so stunned they were frozen. And that was probably the only reason none of the freshly disenfranchised voters in the room started shooting. The sheriff of Lancaster County (a Democrat), surrounded by deputies (more Democrats), smashed down the locked doors of the legislative chamber, charged to the front of the room and forcefully served the writ upon Speaker Elder. They practically threw it in his face.
And to everyone’s surprise, Speaker Elder did as he was ordered to do. John Boyd was officially declared the official governor of the state of Nebraska. “Thus”, said Judge Bayard Paine forty-five years later, “tragedy was averted in Nebraska statecraft.” Instead, tragedy was converted into low comedy.
At that point in time the most hated man in Nebraska was probably the outgoing governor, Republican John Thayer. It was Thayer’s open kowtowing to the railroads over the previous year which been most responsible for the defeat of the Republican Party in the past election. And he now refused to surrender his office, saying he would “hold on to the chair, the seat, and the office of Governor until the cows come home.” Whatever happens in Nebraskan politics, one way or the other, it always seems to come down to cows.
While the legislature bickered downstairs, Thayer barricaded himself in the governor’s offices upstairs. He called on 25 men of the State militia under the appropriately named Captain Rhody, who was a Republican,  and the Republican dominated Omaha Police Department, to stand guard over his self. Having finally taken the oath, Boyd moved into other offices in the State House and dispatched the Lincoln County sheriff (again) to take procession of the executive suites. But this time the sheriff ran up against an armed militia which refused to surrender. Fist fights again broke out, until Boyd ordered his side to retire.
On 10 January, 1891 it finally occurred to Captain Rhody that he and his little band of men had been maneuvered out on a limb, and if that limb collapsed he was the one most likely to be lynched from it. Rhody announced to Governor Thayer that “I have saluted you for the last time”, and then marched his little army back to their barracks. Abandoned, Thayer surrendered the Governor’s offices, and Boyd moved in.
But Thayer was far from ready to give up. He hired his own attorney and on 13 January, 1891, appealed to the state Supreme Court. His argument was inventive; John Boyd was not qualified to be governor because he was not an American citizen because he had not been born in the United States. And that made John Thayer the original “birther”.
Indeed Boyd had been born in Ireland in 1834. His family had immigrated to America when he was 14. His father had begun the naturalization paperwork in 1849 but events, both personal and political, had intervened. In 1856 the Boyd family had moved to Nebraska territory and had become involved in business and local politics. They were still residents in 1867 when Nebraska had been admitted to the union over President Andrew Johnson’s objection. But Boyd’s father had never completed the naturalization paperwork. Ergo, argued ex-Governor Thayer, John Boyd was not qualified to be the current governor of Nebraska.
And on 5 May, 1891 the State Supreme Court agreed with Thayer. Of course most of the judges had been appointed by Thayer, but Boyd chose not to call the Lincoln County Sheriff again. Boyd was out and ex-governor Thayer was Governor again. The Nebraska governor's office was beginning to resemble the prize in a game of musical chairs, but without the music. But what Thayer had done was a desperate power grab and doomed to failure in the long run, if for no other reason than it assured that any Irish Republicans in Nebraska were not likely to vote Republican again in the near future.
More immediately, Boyd appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Their decision was announced by Chief Justice Fuller: “Manifestly,"  he said, "the nationality of the inhabitants of territory acquired by conquest or cession becomes that of the government under whose dominion they pass…The judgment of the supreme court of Nebraska is reversed…” It was an 8 to 1 judgment, issued on 2 January, 1892. And thus the election of 1890 was finally decided, over a year later. Boyd resumed his office on 3 February of 1892. But, since the Governor of Nebraska served just a two year term, the antics of Governor Thayer and Speaker Elder, had effectively cut Boyd’s term in half.
And that is the kind of political victory that only makes sense when figured by the quarterly profit and loss statements of a corporate board. Politically, the Republicans were still out on that limb, in strong disfavor in Nebraska, and the Democrats made the smart move of courting the Independents.
The frustrated farmers and their leaders had come to the realization that to fight the large railroads would take a national political movement, and the Nebraska Independents, along with similar groups around the nation, found themselves drawn toward the Democratic Party. And in the Presidential election of 1896 they aligned themselves behind Nebraska Democratic Senator William Jennings Bryant, for President. He lost.
And that defeat deflated the Independents. nationally. They never  beat the railroads, which retained a great influence over national politics well into the 1950’s.  But rather than the Democrats absorbing the Independents, in fact the Independents absorbed the Democratic Party. What came out of their joining was a populist Democratic party, a party that saw government as a force to redress grievances, a party which, for all its numerous failings, was a people’s party. And in that small way, the Nebraska populists won. In the long run. The human race is a marathon, dear readers. And none of us will live long enough to win it. But you still have to run.  You might as well at least try to win.  Just to keep it interesting.
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