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The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Twenty-Six

I suppose the greatest problem with the real Jack the Ripper story is that the ending is so unsatisfying.
A poet of the age predicted, "They've captured Leather Apron now, if guilty you'll agree; he'll have to meet a murderer's doom, and hang upon a tree" But the murderer was never identified, never tried, never publicly punished, never danced at the end of a rope. But then, that is the horror of real murder. The victim cannot be recovered, nor can the victim's loved-ones be made whole. The horror of a real murder usually dies only when the killer, and those who loved the victim, die.
Not so with Jack the Ripper. His horror has so far survived 130 years after his last victim bled out in a dark and dirty corner of the dark and dirty Whitechapel.  Part of the reason for the longevity of his horror is the photo (above) taken in the tiny sad room at 13 Miller's Court, Dorset Street. 
Part of the reason is that the newspapers sold 1 million additional papers a day during the “Autumn of Terror”: - August, September, October and November of 1888. 
And part of the reason is that the historical-fictional Jack the Ripper has proved too profitable to let him die. But the police in 1888 were dealing with a real killer.
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (above, front center), one the smartest officers in Whitechapel,  reminded readers of his memoir what the police knew by middle of September. “The perpetrator,” he wrote, “...was in the habit of using a certain public-house, and of remaining there until closing time...all of the victims were all of the same class... and living within a quarter of a mile of each other; all were murdered within half a mile area; all were killed in the same manner...he (the killer) lived in the district.” So the police - well at least those below the management level - were not fools. They knew who they were looking for. But finding him was not their top priority.
After the Hanbury Street murder of Annie Chapman on 8 September, Whitechapel and Spitafield were flooded with uniformed Constables and plain clothes Detectives, even employing the Whitechapel Vigilantes. As Commissioner Sir Charles Warren had said in his petulant self defense written in September and published in the November Murray’s Magazine, “...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime...” And that was what the police concentrated on – preventing the killer from killing again. And they did.
For 14 days – Friday, 15 September, to Friday, 28 September – Kosminski found the police foiling his searches for another victim, until he was forced outside his hunting grounds to Aldegate, where the public/police net was thinner. 
There, in the early hours of Sunday, 30 September,  he murdered Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square. But even then Warren's plan worked. 
The police were able to focus on Aaron Kosminski, living with his brother just down the block on Goulston Street (above) from where the Eddowes bloody apron was found.  Then, during all of October, the “tails” which Chief Inspector Donald Swanson pinned on Kosminski kept him from claiming another victim - 
...at least until 8 November when Kosminski was able to isolate Mary Kelly in her room – earlier in the evening, before the pubs had closed. And even then he did not kill until closer to dawn, when Kelly's singing, as reported by a neighbor, finally stopped.
The police never had solid evidence to arrest Aaron Kosminski. But Aaron Kosminski was still alive and no longer killing. Why? First there was Abraham, Aaron's older brother. Living with the first paternal role model Aaron had known since his father's death in 1874 would have been a stabilizing influence. 
And second, whoever the Ripper was, he was insane but he wasn't nuts. He did not want to get caught. He had always retained enough control to avoid witnesses and the police, to delay his gratification until the he was certain of his own safety. And by January or February of 1889, with no further killings, the police tails of Aaron Kosminski must have been superseded by more pressing matters.
 
And third, accepting Special Agent Douglas' profile, the Ripper was extremely passive until the assault. He needed the prostitute to initiate contact. He needed alcohol to lower his own inhibitions. And he needed the victim to be unconscious or dead before he could show the knife and penetrate her with it. This speaks of a man so repressed he might stand in the rain rather than asking to come inside. He was a paranoid schizophrenic but a high functioning one, as was proven by his arrest on a Saturday in December of 1889 for walking an unmuzzled dog in Cheapside.
Charles Dickens called Cheapside (above)  “...the busiest thoroughfare in the world...Here the two great arteries of Oxford Street...the Strand and Fleet Street from the west...Bishopsgate and Leadenhall from the east....Moorgate on the north and King William Street on the south, are all united...” The Cheapside Street market had been in existence for hundreds of years, but during Victorian times, says Dickens, it was “...almost monopolized by men's shops: hosiers and shirt makers, tailors and tobacconists, and above all by jewelers.” 
In fact, says Dickens, “The stranger will be particularly struck with the absence of women...in Cheapside (above)...there is scarcely a woman to be seen to every hundred men.” It would appear an odd place for a homicidal maniac with a particular hatred for women to be walking his dog, muzzled or unmuzzled.
Having been arrested, the 23 year old Aaron Kosminski made a competent presentation in court. He argued that since he did not own the dog he was not responsible for muzzling it. Like arguing a parking ticket in court, logic was of course no help  But when the magistrate found him guilty and assessed a 10 shilling fine, Aaron was quick enough to argue that it was the Jewish sabbath, and his faith forbid him from handling money. He presented a normal enough image that he was allowed to go free, returning on Monday to pay the fine. As Scientific American pointed out in September 2014, “...very few serial killers suffer from any mental illness to such a debilitating extent that they are considered to be insane by the criminal justice system.”
So this was the man who convinced Mary Jane Kelly to open her door to him, convinced Annie Chapman to go to the back yard with him, and convinced Martha Tabram to lead him off the already dark George Yard, through the narrow passage to the courtyard behind the buildings, and then up the unlighted stairs. Her trip to her own death may have been the longest of all the victims, requiring the greatest confidence that the man who was about to murder her, posed no threat whatsoever.
Seven months later, on Saturday, 12 July, 1890, this same man was meekly led by his brother-in-law to the Mile End Workhouse (above), where he was described as having been “insane for the last two years.”  It must have been hard for a Jew to turn their own blood relative over to the charity of Christians, but Arron was hearing voices, had stopped washing and refused food from any person's hand because he feared being poisoned, preferring to eat discards from the gutter. Aaron was granted admission. However 3 days later, either because the doctors suspected he was malingering, or because he fooled them, his brother Abraham took him home again.
It was not to last. On 4 February of 1891 the police brought him back to the Workhouse. The same issues were mentioned – not working, not washing and eating from the gutter – but this time the police said he had threatened his sister Martha with a knife. His family did not challenge his admission, and 3 days later, on 7 February, 1891 he was transferred to the Jewish wing of the infamous long corridors of the Colony Hatch Asylum for the “pauper insane” in Barnet, North London (above). The paperwork justification for transfer has not survived the century, but we do know Aaron Kosminski arrived with both hands tied behind his back.
Colony Hatch adhered to the Victorian belief that all problems are better with organization – from morning calisthenics to regimented meals. The 2,000 patients were also expected to work, in the tailor shop, the garden or just washing floors. Since most of the patients came from the East End the asylum had a kosher kitchen and a Yiddish interpreter. The records at Coolny Hatch have survived and they detail Aaron's 3 year transgression from “apathetic” to "Incoherent, at times excited and violent." The staff noted, “He declares that he is guided and...controlled by an instinct that informs his mind, he says that he knows the movements of all mankind, he refuses food from others because he is told to do so, and he eats out of the gutter for the same reason”
Eventually the violence became predominant, and Aaron's last stop was the complex of buildings at the Levesden Asylum For Imbeciles in Abbots Langley, 20 miles northwest of London (above). 
Aaron survived here for a quarter of a century, having spent most of his life institutionalized. The staff noted, "Patient does not know his age or how long he has been here." 
Aaron Kosminski died of a gangrene infection at the age of 54 years, on Monday, 24 March, 1919. At the time of his death he weighed just 96 pounds. But he lived longer than any of  his victims.
Kosminski even out-lived his would-be nemesis, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (above). After retiring from the Metropolitan Police in 1896, with over 50 awards and commendations, including being named a Druid of Distinction, Reid moved to Hampton-on-Sea, atop the chalk cliffs of England's east coast. Here he became an English eccentric.
He renamed his home “Reid's Ranch”, and painted the outside walls with castle battlements and cannon aimed at the ocean. He opened a stand in his garden shed (above), from which he sold postcards – mostly featuring himself - and lemon-aide and wrote crank letters to the local newspaper. He died at the age of 61, on 5 December, 1917, the same year he finally married.
Thus I end my version of the story of Jack the Ripper – just another human being,  more unhappy and violent than most, but just another human being.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THE GREAT ABSCONDING

I am sure you have heard of “Tricky Dick” Nixon, and probably “Slick Willy” Clinton, and maybe even Martin Van “Ruin”, or “Ruther-”fraud” B. Hays. I  certainly believe Mitt “47%” Romney should have known about “Ten Cent” Jimmy Buchanan - who opined that a dime was a fair daily wage, and vetoed new colleges because “"there were already too many educated people -”.   But I'm willing to bet you have never heard of James William “Honest Dick” Tate, even if you are from Kentucky. But you ought to have.
 
Sans his nom de plume, there was nothing special about James Tate (above). He was of average height and average weight. His forehead was made large by his retreating jet-black hair line. But his bushy “coffee stainer” mustache was the fashion in his day. However, it did hide a down turned mouth, that perhaps hinted at the tragic death of his three year old son, Howard. Still his daughter, Edmonia Lloyd Tate, survived, as did his loving wife Lucy Hawkins Tate. Then in 1867, after 13 years in various appointed positions in Kentucky politics, the 36 year old James Tate had so “materially contributed, by his personal popularity, to the great success of the Democratic party"  that he was elected State Treasurer.
The Treasurer was responsible for all funds collected in fees, permits, taxes, fines and rents, managed the state's bank accounts, paid state employees and dispensed benefits and verified and paid all bills. And it was during his campaign for the office that James William acquired his cognomen. But I cannot escape the suspicion “Honest Dick” Tate was not chosen by the party for his probity, but for his “popularity”.  In fact it was Democratic Party supporters who actually bonded him, pledging their wealth as a guarantee of Tate's “rock sand honesty”, as required by law before he could assumed the position. But that guarantee was contingent upon other state officials verifying “Honest Dick's” work And there is no evidence anybody ever actually did that.
To the public, James “Honest Dick “Tate was an average man, making an average salary of  $2,400 a year (barely $60,000 today), with perks worth perhaps a thousand dollars more. Jame's average unassuming home, at Second and Shelby Streets in Frankfort, cost all of $6,000 (about $100k today). But James was moving in powerful circles now, re-elected every two years for the next two decades. He was the “Treasurer for Life”, and it became known in Frankfort Democratic circles that should a politician need to borrow a few thousand dollars, as Governor Preston H. Leslie did in 1872, then “Honest Dick” would be happy to accept their IOU, and not be too bothersome about demanding prompt repayment. So amiable was “Honest Dick” that he had a safe filled with personal checks, cashed for Democratic friends, and drawn on public accounts, but never submitted for reimbursement.
James Tate also chased his own financial Eldorado, investing in land in Indiana, Virginia and Tennessee, along with several coal mines in Kentucky. However the land he bought does not appear to have appreciated in value, and the mines never seemed to produce enough coal to justify their purchase price. James also tried speculating in stocks and, it appears, when those investments failed, more direct forms of gambling. And like all gamblers, losing was just another excuse to risk more.
All of this was below the surface, while in the public view the 1878 “Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky” noted that “Honest Dick” Tate was “successively re-elected by popular majorities, perhaps exceeding those obtained by any other candidate for office in the State...it would seem that his lease on the office might be regarded as a fixed fact.” And in 1886, John McAfee described James Tate as the “trusted and honored treasurer” with an “unblemished record for probity and principle...(James) is held in high esteem, and his integrity and forbearance are regarded as of the highest order.”.  But rumors must have been floating about Frankfort, because during the 1887 campaign for governor, the perennial second Kentucky party Republicans brought the issue to the surface.
Their candidate that year was the ex-prosecutor from Garrard County, orator William O'Connell Brady, and in an anti-big government attack, Brady charged the Democrats had created unneeded extravagant new offices, like Railroad Commissioners and an Agricultural Bureau. And almost as an aside, Brady suggested the time was past due for an audit of “Honest Dick” Tate's books. The Republicans had no evidence, but the attacks proved so successful with voters that after just one debate, ex-Confederate General and Democratic candidate Simon Bolivar Buckner, invented a reason to avoid any further debates.
Democrat Buckner defeated Republican Brady as Governor. But his 3 August 1887 victory margin was just 5 points.  Brady had made the strongest Republican showing since the Civil War, and it scared the hell out of the Democrats. In the same election, James “Honest Dick” Tate won re-election for the 11th time, by a margin of 67,000 votes, far more impressive than Governor Buckner's 16,712 vote margin. That made "Honest Dick" the strongest potential Democratic opposition to the new Governor.
It was that fall, that newly elected Democratic State Senator John Kerr Hendrick, an ex-prosecutor from Livingston County, called for a full audit of “Honest Dick” Tate's books. But James Tate said a family illness required his attention, and he needed a little time to get the records together. Senator Hendricks thought Tate was stalling, but the Governor agreed to put the audit off until the spring of 1888.
It was than that a change appeared in “Honest Dick's” modus operendi. Some on his staff noted cash deposits in the state's bank accounts slowed to a trickle. And, if any had noticed, he paid in full a number of his personal debts. Then on Wednesday, 14 March, 1888, Henry Murray, a Treasury Clerk, noticed his boss in the office vault, filling two tobacco sacks with gold and silver coins, and an approximately 4 inch thick roll of paper money.  Murray assumed the Treasurer was preparing to make a bank deposit. And even after “Honest Dick” was found to have slipped out of the office unseen, no one was alarmed. A note left on his desk informed the staff he was going to Louisville for two days.  It caused little notice. Long time staffers knew better than to expect the boss to return to the office before Monday.
But “Honest Dick” did not return on Monday morning. A staffer dispatched to his home on Second Street, was told his wife Lucy had not heard from him since he left for Louisville, the previous Wednesday. Telegraphed inquires to the Ohio River town said the Treasurer was last seen on Friday evening at a bar, drinking heavily.  Saturday, 17 March, he had been seen boarding a train for Cincinnati. After that, James “Honest Dick” Tate simply vanished. Newspapers would call it the “Great Kentucky Absconsion”.
The scene left behind told the story of a desperately disorganized personality.  Staffers said it had always been that way. The account books seemed written in barely legible hieroglyphics, filled with post dated transactions, erasures, corrections, and indecipherable notations. The safe contained women's beaded bags and purses, and a satchel belonging to a dead infant. It was also brimming with $150,000 in IOUs and “cold checks” from $5 to $5,000, some going back ten years. No hard cash was left behind except for a bundle of $1,000 in $10 bills, found under the safe. How long it had laid there in the dust, no one could say.
In the afternoon of Tuesday, 20 March, 1888, the Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, and the President of the state Senate, the Secretary of State, received the following message: “It having been learned this morning that said James W. Tate has been absent from his office since the 15th instant...there is in all probability a large deficit in his public accounts...we by virtue of the authority vested in us...hereby suspend said James W. Tate...” It was signed “S. B. BUCKNER, Governor”.  From this day forward, “Honest Dick” Tate would be referred to as “The Defaulting Treasurer.”.
George Willis, a Democratic spin doctor was left spinning. “Such flash of lightning and peal of thunder as was never heard before or since came out of clear sky and rocked the state and the Democratic party as nothing had done since the (Civil) war."  Kentucky's state historian noted that “almost everyone was under suspicion either as an accomplice of Tate or because of owing the treasury money, and those who had borrowed money from the treasury were numerous.” Briefly, and perhaps for the first time in Kentucky history, the politicians were ashamed. The Governor made a personal loan to keep the state afloat for awhile.
So inaccurate and confused was The Defaulting Treasurer's record keeping that it proved difficult to make an accurate account of the missing funds. And it was not in the interest of those with checks and IOU's in the safe to make an accurate accounting. A week later Governor Buckner announced the missing tally at approximately $247,128.50 (almost $6 million today). Within a week James “Honest Dick” Tate was impeached in absentia on six counts and removed from office, and then indicted by a grand jury.  A reward of $5,000 was offered for his arrest. But the money was never claimed.
Luckily, daughter Edmomia had married a man named Martin, and was living free and clear in distant Kansas City, so the abandoned wife, Lucy,  could live with her. She had to leave Frankfort because the state of Kentucky had seized the house and everything of value within it, all of Jame's bank and stock accounts, including 100 barrels of “Big Spring” bourbon whiskey – another bad investment by the “Defaulting Treasurer”. 
The house, the whiskey, the investments, were sold at auction, and collected $50,000 (over $1 million today.) But that left the bond holders on the hook for the remaining $200,000 (about $5 million today). They paid, but thanks to a Kentucky Supreme Court decision in 1895, none of those who had authored checks or IOU's found in the safe were required to reimburse the bond holders. That judgement was marked “Not to be officially reported”, and sealed. Most of the names on the IOU's never became public, leaving the bond holders on the hook.
But what happened to the “Defaulting Treasurer”, “the Great Absconder”, AKA James “Honest Dick” Tate? He was rumored to be everywhere from Bremen, Germany, to Toronto, Canada. Some said he had joined the expiate Confederate community in Honduras, or Brazil, where slavery remained until May of 1888. In October of 1893 there was a brief flurry of excitement when a newspaper reported he was “Said to have been seen on the “Cotton Belt Train.” in Arizona Territory. But that proved to be mistaken identity, since the New York Times had reported “friends who should know” said he had died in China three years earlier. In 1894 Navy Ensign Hugh Rodman, who had known Tate back in Frankfort, reportedly had dinner with the “Defaulting Treasurer” in Japan, and said he was not well. That should not have been surprising, since he would have been well over sixty by then.
Edmonia later admitted to receiving letters from her father, posted from San Francisco, British Columbia and Japan. The last one read, in part, “I know I will be much denounced and by parties who forget former circumstances”. He professed to being interested in returning to denounce his partners in crime. But he never came back, and he never sent any money to his abandoned wife and daughter.  In 1896 1,200 Kentuckians signed a petition asking the Governor to grant a pardon to James Tate, so he could return and name names.  No such pardon was ever offered. With time new scandals rocked Kentucky, and people forgot about “Honest Dick “ Tate. But we should remember our mistakes. That is how we learn from them.
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