I really would like to post more than once or twice a month. That will not happen this month. I have a promise to myself to write more. And I will, I promise. I have a backlog of disturbing stories to share. I have a backlog of personal history to share. That will not happen in this post. What will fill the space at this time is a relatively short biographical sketch of Richard Franklin Pettigrew.
Who the hell is Richard Franklin Pettigrew, you ask? Well, he was the first Senator from the state of South Dakota. He served for two terms, from 1889 to 1901. Before that, he was a Congressman from the Dakota Territory. He is virtually lost to history, but he also reminds me why I still love the internet, especially Wikipedia and Google, for search and books. If Richard Franklin Pettigrew was mentioned in any history class I ever took, I missed it. The reason I even heard about him was because he was mentioned by Robert Anton Wilson in Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything.
According to Wilson, Pettigrew said that the United States had become a country “by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations.” Pettigrew is also credited with saying “Capital is stolen labor and its only function is to steal more labor.” Furthermore, he said the Republican Party “had come into being as a protest against slavery and as the special champion of the Declaration of Independence, it would go out of being and out of power as the champion of slavery and the repudiator of the Declaration of Independence.” You might begin to see why he has been lost to history.
The Russian Revolution is the greatest event of our times. It marks the beginning of the epoch when the working people will assume the task of directing and controlling industry. It blazes a path into this unknown country, where the workers of the world are destined to take from their exploiters the right to control and direct the economic affairs of the community.
And I think you really see why Pettigrew has been lost to history. Which I also think is too bad. The interwebs took me to an essay called ‘A Forgotten Fighter against Plutocracy’ written by George Novak who was—gasp!—a Communist. Plutocracy is rule of the rich and I firmly believe that is what we have on our hands. And I firmly believe it is wrong. And I firmly believe that our education system is specially designed to help perpetuate this condition.
But, really, I am here to talk about Mr. Pettigrew because he is against Plutocracy. Novack states that Pettigrew levied corruption charges against the Republican Party after a man named Cramp had complained to Pettigrew about a $400,000 donation to the Republican campaign fund in 1892 in return for contracts. Cramp said the money was “misused” and padded the wallets of the Republican National Committee. Pettigrew also charged Republican bigwig “Dollar” Mark Hanna with bribing his way into the Senate. Four members of the Ohio Senate Committee on Elections had signed a petition stating as such.
However, the charges were not looked into. Hanna and the Republicans engaged in a campaign to undermine Pettigrew. When it appeared that Pettigrew might win re-election in 1900, a half million dollars was raised to defeat Pettigrew. “Farmers were promised ten dollars before and ten dollars after the election if they voted right,” according to Novack. Bankers were included in the election rigging as well. Pettigrew was defeated.
Pettigrew did not go away quietly. He stayed active in national politics and eventually wrote a book called Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920. The book was quickly reprinted as Imperial Washington. I found it on Google books and I would love to go into a synopsis and review, but I am tired. Novack can explain its import:
Triumphant Plutocracy was Pettigrew’s last testament to the American people. He died four years later in 1926 at the age of 78. He had traveled a long and winding road in the course of his political career and his final position was far from his starting point. He had entered the Republican Party soon after the Civil War, a devout believer in the virtues of capitalist democracy, the Constitution and the Flag. As the bankers and industrialists tightened their grasp upon the economic and political life of the nation, throttling resistance to their ever-expanding power, plunder and privileges and extending their sphere of exploitation around the globe, Pettigrew, fighting them all along the way, gradually shed his illusions.