Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman


Fred sat down at a small table in the room and proceeded to write a short, sharp address to the voters of the Congressional district, announcing the candidacy of George Chapman for a seat in the National Congress. It proceeded to state who he was, his age, family, occupation, winding up with a statement of his reasons for opposing the election of Henry Carter, who had just been nominated by one of the great political parties. The iniquitous bill, that Carter had fathered in the State Assembly was cited as a positive proof of his utter unfitness to be a lawmaker; it. was a violation of every principle of the rights of an American citizen, as a property owner, and the election of such men to be the lawmakers of the nation threatened the property interests of every citizen. He claimed that it was an insult to the intelligence of the people of the district to present such a candidate to them for their suffrages.

When he had finished it Fred took it up, and, looking at Watson and Chapman asked, "How will this do?" and he proceeded to read it.

Both of them were astonished, as they listened, for its diction was perfect, eloquent, persuasive, and its logic irresistible.

"That's a fine thing, Fearnot," said Watson. "It puts the whole question in a nutshell and places Carter in an exceedingly embarrassing position. He will be forced either to defend or go back on his position as an Assemblyman, and in either case he will be on the defensive, which is always an awkward position for a candidate to occupy before the people."

"Yes," said Fred, "he'll laugh at it at first and probably try to ignore it, but we've got to force him to face the music, and when he attempts to explain he'll get himself tangled up, like a kitten playing with a spool of thread.

"Now, Mr. Chapman," he continued, turning to the young lawyer, "you must work day and night. Get personal friends of yours to go to the different counties in the district to work up clubs, and have them supplied with copies of this letter. I'll have ten or twenty thousand copies of it printed. Of course you must exercise judgment in selecting the friends who will open the fight for you. As this is a practical age, tell each one of them that you'll pay expenses and twenty-five dollars a week besides, for their time. Keep posted as to every dollar of expense incurred, and every bill shall be paid promptly. Get you a good horse and buggy to go to every point where you think you can make by it. Say little about politics: just make it a personal fight against Carter and his utter unfitness to be a lawmaker. Boldly offer a reward for any reputable lawyer who will pronounce that bill of his to be either right or constitustional; and make the claim boldly that he himself knew that it was unconstitutional, but had done it to gain votes from a certain class of ignorant people living in the vicinity of Dedham Lake; and that the man who would attempt such an outrageous attack upon private property, to gain votes, was the man to elect to stay at home."

Fred left a considerable sum of money with young Chapman, and returned the next morning to Ashton with Watson. When he reached the town he found Carter's political friends making preparations for a demonstration that evening. There was a big crowd and Carter made a very plausible speech and considerable enthusiasm was developed. Another lawyer also spoke, lauding Carter as a rising statesman, who would be an honor to the district when he took his seat in the hall of the National Congress. Fred was present, listening to everything that was said and making notes.

Suddenly he called out to the speaker:

"Tell us something about the Carter bill."

The speaker paid no attention to the request, but went on with his eulogistic declaration, and Fred again propounded the question. The speaker ignored it and those of the opposite political party began to laugh at and jeer him.

"Why don't you answer the question?" one of them asked. And then Carter's friends began to hiss and demand order, but his opponents saw that they had him in a tight place, and jeered and hissed back, until for a time it looked as though some of them would come to blows.

The meeting finally broke up with considerable disorder and the next morning a great deal of angry talk was indulged in, and at the hotel a prominent citizen, one of Carter's supporters, tackled Fred about it.

"What right have you to bother with an election in this district, not being a voter?"

"Just as much right as you have, sir," he replied. "I'm a taxpayer here, and I don't know whether you are or not."

"Yes, I am," said the citizen. "I was paying taxes here before you were born."

"Then you own real estate?"

"Yes, a good lot of it."

"Then tell me what you think about the Carter bill."

"Oh, hang the Carter bill!" exclaimed the citizen. "That has nothing to do with a national election."

"Yes, but it has a great deal to do with Carter," retorted Fred, "and instead of hanging the bill the bill will hang him; for it is reasonable to presume that he won't have any more sense as a Congressman than he had as an Assemblyman, nor any more honesty."

"Do you mean to say he's not an honest man?" the citizen asked.

"Certainly I do. He's a political freebooter. He would vote for a law that would take from you and me any natural rights that we now possess, were it worth anything to him to do so.

"He introduced that bill to get the votes of those fellows around Dedham Lake."

"Well, there's no danger of the bill ever becoming a law," said Carter's friend.

"No, I don't think so either; but is Carter to blame for that? It doesn't relieve me from the responsibliity. And now let me tell you that Mr. Carter has got the fight of his life on his hands. His party has about two thousand majority in the district, but there are honest men enough in his party to defeat him."

"Why, you don't know what you are talking about, Fearnot. He'll have a walkover. If I were a betting man I would bet ten to one that he would be elected."

"Well," said Fred, "I'll put up one thousand dollars at such odds as that, and will pay you another thousand if you can find a man to cover it."

"Surely you don't mean that?" the man asked.

"Yes, I do. I'll deposit the money in the bank here, at the odds you mention and pay you another thousand if you'll get it covered. I'll do even better than that. If you can persuade any of Carter's friends to cover it, I'll give you two thousand dollars."

"All right, I'll do it," said the man. "Our people up here don't have much money lying around loose, but a lot of us can make it up, I guess."

"All right." said Fred. "Let them make it up, and I'll deposit two thousand dollars extra with a written agreement to pay it to you if Carter is elected. So you needn't take my word at all. I'm a minor, you know."

"Is it possible that you really believe that Carter can be beaten?"

"Yes," said Fred, "and I'm betting solely upon the honesty and horse sense of the average citizen. That bill of his is going to lose him in average of from one to three hundred votes in each county in the district."

"I don't believe it will lose him ten votes in the whole district. I'm going to vote for him, and I think I'm just about as honest as anybody else."

"Really, now," laughed Fred, "do you think you are honest?"

The man flushed up and asked Fred if he meant to insult him.

"Oh. no, nothing personal; but you spoke of your honesty, and of course that gives me the right to take it up. You say you're going to vote for him."

"Yes, I am not only going to vote for him, but I'm going work for him."

"Very well, now; let me put a question to you. If you owned Dedham Lake and the property around it would you vote for him in view of that bill which was aimed at that piece of property, to take away from the owner of it the right to control it as he saw fit?"

"Yes, I would." said Fred, "you must excuse me if I tell you frankly that I don't believe you. I think your partisanship has warped your judgment and bottled up your conscience. Hence I won't discuss it with you, but will go right over to the bank, oviiere I've got a little wad of money, and put up the thousand dollars for you and your friends to cover," and he left the hotel, went to the bank, where he drew a check for three thousand dollars, one thousand of which he placed with the cashier as a stakeholder, to be covered at odds of ten to one. Then he left with him two thousand dollars to be paid to any man who would succeed in persuading any friends of Carter to cover the bet.

It turned out that the cashier himself was one of carter's political supporters, and he remarked to Fred:

"You are throwing your money away, Mr. Fearnot."

"All right, if you think it's thrown away, just pick it up," he retorted.

"I'm not a betting man," replied the cashier.

"Well, persuade some of your friends to do it, then."

"No, I wouldn't persuade a friend to do a thing that I wouldn't do myself. I have conscientious scruples about such things."

"Yet you have no conscientious scruples about voting for a man who attempts to pass a law to take from another the control of his own private property, eh? How about that little verse that hints about a man's straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel? You will find that the conscientious scruples of honest men in this district are going to make them vote for Mr. Carter to stay at home, instead of going to Washington."

"I guess you don't know much about politics," said the cashier, with a smile.

"No, not much. I'm banking on the honesty of the average citizen."

"Well, now, don't you go about questioning the honesty of people, or you'll get yourself into trouble."

"Oh, I don't mind the trouble. I'm into this thing to make trouble for Carter. I may get a pair of black eyes, but you want to take a peck at him the next day after the election."

"Oh, he'll be all right," said the cashier. "His party is too strong in this district for him to be beaten."

"You had better put it this way," suggested Fred, "that there are not enough honest men in the district to beat him."

"No, I'll leave you to do that sort of foolish talk," retorted the cashier.

"I'm going to, and to do plenty of it, too. Of course, if anybody comes here to make inquiries about this money I've put up, you'll answer their question, will you not?"

"Oh, yes, I'll tell them the money is here, and that the bank will hold it and turn it over to the winners the next day after the election." Fred returned to the hotel where the landlord asked him if he really had made such a bet.

"Yes," said Fred. "I've just returned from the bank, where I put up the money as I said I would."

"Well, I'm going to vote against Carter," said the landlord, "for I don't belong to his party. But I'll tell you, you're going to lose your money."

"Well, don't you bet I will. You just wait a while and see how things are going. You'll be astonished."

"Well, Crenshaw is hurrying around among his friends to get them to cover your bet."

"I hope he'll succeed," laughed Fred, "for it will be a dead sure thing for him, no matter which way the election goes, for I've offered him two thousand dollars to get his friends to cover it."

"Thunder!"exclaimed the landlord, "why didn't you give me that chance?"

"Didn't know that you wanted it. I'll put up another one for you if you think you can get his friends to do it."

"Oh, it's too late now. It would hurt my own party if I did."

A few days later Chapman's letter was published in all the opposition papers in the district, and some of Carter's newspaper supporters published it also; and all of his friends laughed heartily at what they called the presumption of the young Springdale lawyer. But a week later the opposition lawyers began publishing the fact that a great many of Carter's friends were showing sigins of disaffection, and that some had come out boldly for the young Springdale lawyer, saying that he was right and that Carter was not a fit man to be a membeer of even a township school board, much less a Congressman. Finally the announcement was made that Chapman would address the citizens of Ashton on the following Wednesday night, and of course there was great curiosity to hear him. He had spoken in the town but once, and that was in a case, in court. when he mde a good impression as a young lawyer.

Of course every member of the opposition party turned out to swell the meeting to respectable proportions. Notwithstanding they had a candidate of their own in the field they were willing to help along anything that would hurt Carter.

On the other hand, all of Carter's friends showed up at the meeting to hear what the young independent candidate would say against him. He made a splendid speech, for Fred had posted him on the points, and had obtained the opinions of several eminent lawyers in the State on the constitutionality of the Carter bill, and they were read to the meeting. He made a fine impression, for he had taken particular pains to prepare a good speech, and as he had a fine delivery and a good voice, he won many friends.

When he finished and sat down there were loud calls for Fearnot, and. as, everybody in the audience knew that Carter had once ordered him out of his office, there was great curiosity to hear what he had to say, and the surprise that awaited them was really a startling one. Before he had been speaking five minutes every one in the audience recognized the fact that he was a splendid orator, and the wittiest one they had ever listened to. He ridiculed Carter as a lawmaker so mercilessly that the would-be Congressman's supporters fairly squirmed ill their seats. Then his denunciation of his assault upon the rights of private property was, scathing, and he declared that his nomination was an insult to every honest man in the district.

"I offered him fifty dollars in his office," he exclaimed, "for his opinion on the bill as a lawyer, not as a politician, and he hadn't the moral courage to take the money and give the opinion, although fifty dollar fees don't often come his way. Just now he would rather have votes, than money, and the next day after the election will find himself without either."

He went on depleting to every property holder present the danger of such laws upon the statute books of the State, from men who legislate for political purposes rather than for the good of the people. He then told the audience what he had found out about George Chapman, who was fighting the battle for honesty.

"His father died ten years ago," he said, "leaving upon his young shoulders the support of a widowed mother and a sister younger than himself. He was at school then, but left immediately and went to work to keep the wolf away from the door, and during the next five years the light of a little lamp could he seen from the window of a room in his cottage home till long, after midnight. He was studying to fit himself as a teacher that he might earn money for the support of his mother and sister. Think of it, fellow citizens, of that tremendous struggle of a youth from his sixteenth to his twenty-first birthday! Not once did he go to any social gathering to dance and frolic, such as you and I indulged in, for he realized the responsibility restIng upon him as well as a man twenty years older would have done. At last he submitted himself before the Board of Education and they found him competent to teach' in the district school. They granted him a license and certificate, and the school that he taught was declared by the County Superintendent to be the best in the county. Again the light of that lamp sent its rays through his attic window upon the dark shadows of the night, whlst others slept. Now he was studying law. He read deeply and thought still deeper and in due time, when he applied for admission to the bar, the committee that examined him, and the judge on the bench, declared him well equipped to practice in all the courts of law and equity in the great State of New York; and, fellow citizens, his knowledge of law is very different from that of his distinguished opponent. It is deeper, higher and wider; and, better still, his moral nature would revolt at an attempt to invade the private rights of his fellow countrymen through forms of law, that gain might come to him. He's an honest man, who would carry his honesty with him in the halls of legislation. You may call him young and inexperienced, but honesty is always innate. He is twenty-five years of age, and that means twenty- five years of honesty. Carter is forty-two years old, and that means fortytwo years of what? Let that infamous bill of his speak for him. Will any man dare call him honest? Those who requested him to Introduce that bill sought by force of arms, clubs and guns to take possession of another man's property, and, failing to do so, went to him for assistance, and he, in his capacity as a legislator, sought to enable them to steal, through forms of law, that which they could not steal by stealth or force, and now he is asking you to extend his field of usefulness in that direction. He is the man to delight the heart of the burglar, the pickpocket and the horse thief."

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