He put it plainly to General Waymouth—that while he sympathized to some extent with the latter’s desires for general reform, there were certain interests that propped the party and must be handled with discretion in the clean-up. He had already drawn some consolation from the fact that General Waymouth had modified in a measure the planks that he submitted for the party platform. He followed up this as a step that hinted a general compromise, and at last frankly presented his requests. He asked that tax reform be smoothed over, that the corporations be allowed an opportunity to “turn around,” and finally that the prohibitory law should be let alone. He argued warmly that General Waymouth could not be criticised by either side if he left the law as he found it. The radicals were satisfied with the various enactments as they stood, and if there were infractions it became a matter of the police and sheriffs, and the Governor could not be held accountable. And he laid stress on the fact that the people did not want a Governor to tarnish the dignity of his office by fighting bar-rooms.
But Chairman Presson found an inflexible old man who listened to all he said, and at the end declared his platform broadly and without details. Those details of proposed activity he kept to himself. The platform was: That it behooved all men in the State to be prompt and honest in obeying the law. That the man who did not obey the law would find himself in trouble. Moreover, position, personality, or purse could purchase no exceptions.
That was a platform which Mr. Presson could not attack, of course.
He listened to it sullenly, however. He was angry because common decency prevented him from expressing his opinion. He had heard other candidates pompously declare the same thing, but he had not been worried by fear that saints had come on earth.
This calm old man from whose fibre of ambition the years had burned out selfishness, greed, graft, and chicanery was a different proposition. His words sounded as though he meant what he said. And when he asked the chairman if he had any objection to offer to a system of administration that carried out exactly what the party had put in its pledges to the people, Presson glowered at him with hatred in his soul and malice twinkling in his eyes, and could find no language that would not brand him as a conspirator against the honor of his State.
But he went back to headquarters swearing and sulking.
In this spirit did candidate and managers face the campaign.
It is not easy to hide family squabbles of that magnitude. The men concerned in the principal secret of the State Convention kept their mouths shut for the sake of self-preservation. But unquiet suspicion was abroad. The Democrats nosed, figured, guessed, and acted with more duplicity than had characterized their usual campaigns against the dominant party. Their leaders gave their party a platform that invited every one to get aboard. Every question was straddled. It was a document of craft expressed in terms of apparent candor. It elevated a demagogue as candidate for Governor, and promised every reform on the calendar. These were the rash pledges of the minority, more reckless than usual.