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John A. Johnson

John A. Johnson: The People’s Governor

Copyright Date: 1949
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    John A. Johnson
    Book Description:

    The first native-born governor of Minnesota, and the only Democrat to have been elected to that office three times, was also the first Minnesotan to have a presidential nomination within his grasp. This study of a man who was, perhaps, the state’s most beloved chief executive is a warm, fast-moving personal biography and an engrossing piece of political history. The issues, personalities, shifting political currents, and party cleavages, state and national, of the early 1900s live again in the full recounting of the political campaigns of that era. One chapter is devoted to the 1908 Democratic National Convention at which Johnson’s name was place in nomination for the presidency -- the convention which chose William Jennings Bryan as its standard-bearer for the third and last time. Johnson was a man of buoyant spirit and great personal charm, and the story of his life again dramatizes the American tradition that by force of character a man can lift himself from the humblest beginnings. At the time of his death in 1909 the warships in New York harbor dropped their flags to half-mast, and hundreds of memorial services were held throughout the nation. Many believed that, had he lived, Johnson would have won the presidential nomination and election in 1912.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6284-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER I Heritage and Youth
    (pp. 3-30)

    The years from 1850 to 1860 have been called the era of “The Great Migration,” for in that decade about 2,600,000 Europeans crossed the Atlantic to settle in the United States. In those years the number of foreign born in the United States increased from 2,244,600 to more than 4,000,000. “This migration was great in comparison with the native American population, great in the trails of settlement it broke, great in the cultural foundations it laid. Subsequent decades were to see a larger volume of arrivals, but no migration paid richer dividends to American civilization.”¹

    The number of Scandinavians who...

  2. CHAPTER II Country Editor
    (pp. 31-55)

    When John A. Johnson became editor of theSt. Peter Heraldthe paper was two years old. It had been founded by Henry Essler and John Blackiston on October 17, 1884, at the suggestion of St. Peter Democrats who wanted a more lively paper to represent their party and who offered to finance its establishment. The two men had planned to found a newspaper in Jordan, since there were already two newspapers in St. Peter, but they were persuaded to change their plans.

    TheSt. Peter Journal,edited by Horace Greeley Perry as a Democratic organ, was a dull, heavy,...

  3. CHAPTER III Debut in Politics
    (pp. 56-88)

    As editor of theHeraldJohnson naturally turned his attention to national and local politics. Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic president since Buchanan, was serving his first term as president of the United States, and his administration did little to relieve the dullness and monotony which had characterized national politics since the Hayes administration. Yet Cleveland, unlike Hayes and Arthur, his predecessors, and Harrison, his successor, at least had some insight into the problems facing the country and made an attempt to deal with them.

    The Civil War and Reconstruction had come to an end, but party politicians continued to...

  4. CHAPTER IV Victory and Defeat
    (pp. 89-114)

    The poverty of Johnson’s early years and the nearly fatal attack of typhoid fever had left their effect upon the constitution of the tall, thin man. During the year 1896 Johnson suffered from attacks of severe abdominal pain. At first he ignored them, but as they increased in number he was forced to be concerned. He had an attack once when

    Dr. William J. Mayo of Rochester was making a visit to the St. Peter Hospital for the Insane. Mrs. Johnson called Dr. Mayo, who examined Johnson and advised him to come to Rochester for a thorough physical examination. Johnson...

  5. CHAPTER V Prelude to 1904
    (pp. 115-135)

    The strenuous campaign for re-election to the state senate in 1902 left Johnson in poor physical condition. Since his second operation in 1898 he had made two hard campaigns that would have taxed the strength of a man in excellent health. It was not surprising, then, that in the early months of 1903 he suffered more and more frequent attacks of severe abdominal pain. In the summer he became so ill he realized he would have to consult Dr. Will Mayo, and near the end of August he and Mrs. Johnson went to Rochester. There Johnson learned he must submit...

  6. CHAPTER VI The Election of 1904
    (pp. 136-166)

    The Democrats had watched with great interest the strife in the Republican party, but they could take little hope from it unless they put their own house in order. The Minnesota Democrats split upon candidates, too, but upon the candidates for the presidency—Judge Alton B. Parker and William Randolph Hearst.

    The leaders of the national Democratic party were determined not to run Bryan again. Twice he had been defeated; that was enough. The party leaders resolved to choose a candidate who would appeal to the conservative East, and they settled upon Judge Alton B. Parker of New York, a...

  7. CHAPTER VII Governor Johnson
    (pp. 167-189)

    Ill and exhausted, Governor-elect Johnson returned to St. Peter as soon as he learned the results of the election. He had no opportunity to rest, however, for the town gave a huge reception in honor of his victory. Special trains from the Twin Cities brought about ten thousand people from all over the state to St. Peter for the occasion.¹ Although in constant pain, Johnson happily took part in the celebration. Speaking in the open air, he addressed the assembled crowd and thanked them for their loyal support.

    Among the listeners was his mother, for whom this was a great...

  8. CHAPTER VIII A Second Term
    (pp. 190-225)

    As early as May 1905 there was much speculation as to who would be the Republican nominee for governor in 1906. Mentioned then as possible candidates were Secretary of State Peter E. Hanson, State Treasurer Julius H. Block, J. F.Jacobson, who had just been replaced by Leonard Rosing on the State Board of Control, and C. F. Staples, a member of the State Railroad and Warehouse Commission. By September State Senator Ripley Brower of St. Cloud and State Representative Albert L. Cole of Walker were added to the list.

    As the new year dawned, Jacobson, Cole, and Block seemed to...

  9. CHAPTER IX Johnson for President?
    (pp. 226-265)

    Since the emergence of William Jennings Bryan as the most prominent Democratic leader, the party had suffered from disharmony and disunion. When Bryan was the Democratic candidate for president of the United States in 1896 and 1900, there were some conservative Democrats who refused to vote, others who went over to support the Republican candidate, and some who halfheartedly supported Bryan only because of party loyalty. The majority of those who opposed Bryan came from the South and the East. The State of Maryland, for example, though traditionally Democratic, went Republican every time Bryan ran for president.

    The conservative Democrats...

  10. CHAPTER X The People’s Governor
    (pp. 266-295)

    Minnesota’s Democratic leaders were so involved in campaigning for Johnson’s nomination for the presidency that they gave little attention to the state campaign until after the Denver convention. Johnson had never considered running for a third term, and his attention had been centered on national affairs and on his plans for lecturing. When the time came, therefore, for the Democrats to prepare for the gubernatorial campaign, they were at a loss for a candidate.

    The Republicans, on the other hand, were sure of at least one strong candidate for governor. Since the election day that saw the defeat of A....

  11. CHAPTER XI Minnesota Mourns
    (pp. 296-308)

    While Johnson was in Washington, the Payne-Aldrich tariff bill was being debated in Congress and discussed by the country at large. This bill was the result of a Republican pledge made in the national platform in 1908 — a pledge, as it was popularly understood, to revise the tariff downward, and President Taft had committed himself to this interpretation during the campaign.

    The president called a special session of Congress to revise the tariff, but his message opening the session was brief and contained no militant call, no urgent request, for the downward revision the people were demanding. The Republican congressmen...