Thursday, December 11, 2008

Personal Asides: How Awful About Patti!....Former Railroad Lobbyist Lincoln Might Twitch in His Grave but Not Turn Over—Completely.


How Awful About Patti.

Well, com’on, guys. Everybody, including a little lady whose husband is running into trouble and who herself might do a little time, is entitled to express a few vulgarisms…even obscenities…without the august, sanctimonious mainstream media raising their eyes to heaven. After all, we know that journalists don’t swear, don’t take the name of the Lord in vain and never-ever make un-fastidious allusions to the male-female reproductive process. I think the “Sun-Times” headline yesterday that gasps at the surreptitiously tape-recorded exclamations of Patti Blagojevich…gasps!...presses its fingers to its eyes so as to ward off a cerebral hemorrhage in astonishment…is really overdone.

And what is this stuff about the quick canonization of Dick Mell? Huh? Is that the same Dick Mell who was on public radio so often with me on the Bruce DuMont show where we’d have to clamp our hands over his mouth before we went on as he was in the midst of god-damning his political enemies? Now all he’s worrying about are his daughter and grandchildren. Why, goodness sake, I remember Dick Mell before he became a virgin. The guy whom Hispanics in his area call “the Old Gringo” because of his dirty tricks against them.

The guy who had a garage-full of Bernie Epton signs. The guy who plotted to get his son-in-law’s career jump-started. I remember being in his office when he was taking calls…my-my…what he was going to do to Rostenkowski before they agreed that they would lie down and not oppose Rosty…and then what he would do to Michael Flanagan…and what he SAID about Michael Flannagan being unmarried, And how he passed the word when Rod ran for governor as how he…Mell…would reward everybody who played ball in that election. Yes-yes-yes, he’s a saint all right.

We’re worried about Patti’s dirty mouth, are we? And there we have the sainted, white-haired old multi-millionaire saddened. Makes you tear up.

Hasn’t Stirred in Oak Ridge Yet.

The indictment of Rod Blagojegvich is truly the nadir of all Illinois…maybe national… politics…probably topping but not by much the record of Republican Gov. Len Small [1921-29] who cut fund-raising deals by letting murderers out of jail with pardons if their supporters would come up with some cash…that coming after his indictment as state treasurer for money laundering for which he was acquitted but not before he tampered with the jury that freed him. Blago is definitely the worst, having attempted to shop a U. S. Senate appointment for dough on the barrel-head. That never happened before here—but, then, who can be sure.

I take second to no one in condemning Blago but I must say I was rather troubled when Patrick Fitzgerald said that Lincoln must be turning over in his grave. Undeniably, Lincoln was the second greatest president…and more than that—a genius—which the first greatest, Washington surely wasn’t, But turning over in his grave?

Are we talking about the same Lincoln, the railroad lobbyist, who as state rep led his Whig party to appropriate $12 million…then a huge sum…for subsidies for railroad building and where, in the old capitol, he drew a map for a railroad from Galena in the extreme northwestern part of the state and a road to run north of St. Louis, three roads to radiate and then a road to run from Quincy through Springfield and another from Warsaw to Peoria…another from Pekin to Bloomington? I think we are. It led to a huge financial debacle with no projects being completed and all of the money either wasted or stolen…or paid to railroad lawyers of which Lincoln was the prime example.

Yes we are, that same Lincoln who became the nation’s premier railroad lawyer (read: “Lincoln and the Railroads” by John W. Starr)…the same Lincoln who was continuously one of the crack attorneys for the Illinois Central from its organization in 1849 until he became president…who was such a corporate insider that he traveled the Midwest in a private rail car with a free pass…who successfully defended the road against McLean county which wanted to tax the road’s property. He won and sent the railroad a bill for $5,000. That sum is roughly equal to more than $200,000 today, the largest sum ever paid at that time to any Midwest lawyer for a single case in the 1850s. Lincoln presented his staggering bill to the president of the road, George B. McClellan by name, the vice president of Illinois Central—yes the same McClellan who would work for Lincoln as the Union’s top general of the Grand Army of the Potomac, whom Lincoln replaced twice and who ran against Lincoln as a Democrat in 1864.

The IC board didn’t want to pay it so Lincoln and McClellan hatched a plan to get him the fee. Lincoln then sued IC for the money but meanwhile McClellan worked inside the company to get them to lay down for it so when Lincoln showed up in court, no lawyers from IC were there, so he got paid by default. Lincoln became the most successful railroad lawyer of his time…representing not just the IC but the Chicago & Alton, the Ohio & Mississippi and the Chicago & Rock Island. Nothing wrong with that nor with the fact that the New York Central offered him its general counsel’s job at a stratospheric salary…$10,000 per annum…then approaching a million a year—which he turned down because he would have to move to New York and he had political plans here.

Nothing wrong with that either. Nor by the standards of the time with the trip he took free on the railroad to Council Bluffs, Iowa where he purchased some property from his fellow railroad attorney Norm Judd who had acquired the tracts from the Chicago & Rock Island. Why did he do so when Council Bluffs was a town of 1,500 with little future? Because Lincoln knew there would be a transcontinental railroad sometime and that Council Bluffs would figure in the future as being a good starting point for the railroad. How did he know that coming from Springfield? Because the renowned railroad engineer (one who designed routes), Grenville Dodge, told him so.

And thus it came to pass that when he became president he proposed emergency legislation to create just that self-same transcontinental railroad and that he personally picked Council Bluffs, Iowa as the eastern terminus. And he named Dodge as chief engineer for the UP.

Nothing wrong with this stuff by the rubric of the mid-19th century. But he was not just a genius and humanitarian. He was more than that. He was one hell of a lobbyist, lawyer and manipulator. Of course he never sold a senate seat but he damn sure took care of his friends who took care of him.

He’s probably disturbed a lot about Rod but not enough to turn over in his grave. At least not yet. Of course there’s more to come out about Rod and so maybe the Great Emancipator is getting ready to make his move.


  1. I used to be a Lincoln apologist until I read Tom DeLorenzo's The Real Lincoln." That was a real eye-opener which your post simply affirms and expands. Seems like politics has always been about special interests and personal advancement. Where are the statesmen who are "for the people?"

  2. Is anyone working on a book that documents that Martha Washington and/or Mary Todd Lincoln expressed herself like Patti?

    Would John Powers allow Patti's remarks on this blog?