1872 – Anthony testifies to, comments on, Kansas Senator’s corruption

Proof of the power and respect Daniel R. Anthony commanded within the State of Kansas

is evident in one of the headlines of the 1872-73 political year. According to many sources, including William G. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas, after the 1871 congressional elections, it came to light that Kansas Senator Alexander Caldwell (1830-1917) may have bribed members of the state legislature in order to procure their votes.

In February of 1872, the U.S. Senate authorized the “Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections” to investigate the charges. The investigation lasted over a year, and eventually resulted in the resignation Caldwell. (Mark Grossman, Political corruption in America: an encyclopedia of scandals, power, and greed, 2003, 44)

As an amusing aside, Caldwell’s entry in Grossman’s alphabetically arranged book is followed by Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign finance scandal. Indeed, some things never change, whether 1872 or 1996, party politics is rife with corruption.

Anthony’s Leavenworth Times devoted much of its space to the trial events as they unfolded. In the February 29, 1872 edition of the Times, Anthony published the full text of the Senate Legislature’s authorization for an investigation, calling it “a chapter of damaging revelations” and “a bad job all around.” The same issue of Anthony’s mouthpiece offered advice for Senator Caldwell as well, saying “Mr Caldwell must meet the issue; the affair, however unwelcome it may be to him, and to the people of Leavenworth, cannot longer be ignored; to remain silent now is to plead guilty to the indictment.” The entire issue from Feb. 29, is available through the following link. In the same issue, but a different article, the paper argues that the investigation into Senator Caldwell, which appears to have first began in the Kansas State legislature, was probably instigated by opponents of Caldwell who were bitter over their defeat. A full copy of the Feb. 29th issue is available below.

Leavenworth Times report on senate office corruption case (courtesy, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/)

Besides commenting on it, Anthony was also called upon to testify in the case as it developed. Cutler lists him as a witness in his account in History of Kansas and a New York Times article from January 19, 1873, mentions his testimony on the year-long investigation. W.S. Banks was an associate of Anthony, and I’m not sure if calling him the “Editor” of the Leavenworth Times was appropriate on the part of the NYT or not.

(Courtesy, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers)

This was a complicated matter for Anthony. He was, like Caldwell, a staunch Republican, and his newspaper calls into question the character of the men accusing Caldwell of bribery. However, it is evident he testified against his fellow Republican. Perhaps the explanation lies in Anthony’s prized idea of personal honor and integrity. From my study of him so far, reputation and honor were two things he prized. His February 29th paper notes the unequivocal tone of the committee report. For Anthony, no matter how much it pained him to see a fellow Republican indicted, he was obliged to do what he thought the right thing and to testify against Caldwell during the long investigation that followed.




Mark Grossman, Political corruption in America: an encyclopedia of scandals, power, and                 greed. New York: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2003, 44

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