with considerable force and eloquence. It contained all the
usual objections to equal suffrage, but not a word to show
why the men of the state should be denied the right to vote
on the question.
George H. Sullivan gave utterance to some gems. "The
women now begin the political education of the men." "They
The Minnesota Legislature of 1915 23
train the boys." Does that therefore unfit the women from
taking any part in public affairs themselves?
"The social unit is the family, and this should be the
voting unit." What is the logic of this? Wouldn't it require
the father to do all the voting? Where would the grown up
boys come in? Suppose there were no men in the family,
who then would do its voting?
"If the women want anything or need anything let them
come to us." And pray, who are "MS"; and who has given "MS"
all political rights, even to deny to the men of the* state a
vote on this vital question.
"Women now have the right to elect their husbands!"
But perhaps they have other needs, George; and then how
about the women who have no husbands?
"If women vote they will undermine the family and
destroy the social unit." Oh, yes, George, we all know how
completely they have undermined the family and destroyed
the social unit wherever they have had a chance to vote.
The bill finally came to a vote with the following result:
Thirty-three to thirty-four.
Those who voted in the affirmative were:
Alley Gillam Peterson, E. P.
Andrews Gjerset Peterson, F. H.
Benson Griggs Potter
Blomgren Hanson Putnam
Campbell, W. A. Holmberg Rustad
Carley Jones Rystrom
Denegre Lende Sageng
Dunn, R. C. Lobeck Turnham
Dwinnell O'Neill Vermilya
Gandrud Orr Vibert
Gardner Palmer Wallace
Those who voted in the negative were:
Adams Healy Ries
Baldwin Hegnes Rockne
Bonniwell Hilbert Steffen
Buckler Jackson Sullivan, G. H.
Callahan Johnston Sullivan, J. D.
Campbell, A. S. Knopp Swenson
Collester McGarry Van Hoven
Dunn, W. W. Millett Ward
Duxbury Nelson Weis
Glotzbach Nord Westlake
Handlan Peterson, G. M.
For some time the vote stood a tie, thirty-three to thirty-
three. Then Senator A. S. Campbell of Austin was found
and voted no. To Mr. Campbell belongs the distinction of
having saved the male voters of the state the labor of taking
thought and voting upon this important question.
The women had good reason to expect the vote of Adams,
Grose and Ward. Indeed they claimed that these men had all
pledged their support.
In the House.
Having lost their case in the Senate the advocates of
equal suffrage for women concluded to bring the matter up
in the House in a different form.
The Minnesota, Legislature of 1915
A bill was introduced to secure to women the right to
vote at presidential primaries and for .the nomination and
election of presidential electors.
A majority of the elections committee reported the bill
out for indefinite postponement, which is the usual way to
kill a bill.
A minority report to place the bill on general orders was
signed by T. T. Morken, Carl A. Wold, Charles L. Sawyer
and J. H. Boyd.
The- vote was taken upon the minority report to give
the bill a chance and stood sixty-five to forty-four in favor.
Those who voted in the affirmative were:
Harrison, J. M.
Hynes, J. H.
Teigen, A. F.
Teigen, L. O.
Thompson, A. L.
Thompson, H. O.
Peterson , A.
Harrison, H. H.
voted in the negative
Johnson, J. T.
Peterson, A. M.
This left twenty-one members not voting: Borgen, Brown,
Burrows, Devoid, Ferrier, E. R. Hinds, Kneeland, Knutson,
Lydiard, Marschalk, Miner, Mueller, Novak, Pendergast, Pikop,
Pless, Ribenack, Sliter, Wilkins, Woodfill and Speaker Flowers.
Of these Burrows, Devoid, Kneeland, Marschalk, Pikop,
The Minnesota Legislature of J915 26
Pendergast and Woodfill are known to be for equal suffrage.
This would have passed the House with a good majority
if it could ever have secured the necessary eighty-seven votes
to bring it to final passage.
It was near the close of the session and the bill failed
along with several hundred others.
Amending the Constitution.
Should the fundamental law of the state put a premium
on ignorance and carelessness? Is it fair that men who are
too ignorant of the merits of a question to vote on it at all
should have their votes counted either way? Is it right that
the voter who is so careless or indifferent that he neglects
his opportunity to vote should be counted as voting no?
There would seem to be but one answer to these ques-
tions. It would seem that constitutions should be made and
amended by the votes of those who have enough interest in
such matters to cast a ballot, and not by those who fail to do
so. By what process of logic do we persist in counting the
votes of those who voluntarily disfranchise themselves? Why
should we presume that everyone who does not vote at all
intends ^to vote "no?"
All this seems very stupid and ridiculous, and yet it
is a fact that we have just those conditions in Minnesota.
Our constitution cannot be amended in the slightest detail
unless more than half of all those who go to the polls and
vote at all shall cast a vote in favor of the amendment
EVery voter who is so ignorant of the proposed amend-
ment that he does not vote every one who is so careless
that he neglects to vote every one who is so stupid that
he knows nothing about the proposed, amendments all these
are carefully counted as voting "no." The result is that it is
almost impossible to amend our constitution, and so we must
submit to be governed by the dead hand of the past.
How It Works in Practice.
At the election of 1914, eleven amendments were proposed
some of them, at least, of most vital importance to the peo-
ple. The first amendment, and perhaps the most vital of all,
was the one establishing the initiative and referendum. By
the initiative the people themselves may enact statutes or
amend the constitution, when the legislature fails to act. By
the referendum they can veto bad laws which the legislature
This system has been in successful operation for many
years in Switzerland, in Australia and New Zealand. Recently
it has been adopted in about one-third of the states in the
union. All Minnesota cities may have it for local purposes
by adopting a home rule charter.
The initiative and referendum amendment received
168,004 votes, and only 41,577 votes against it. Yet the people
are denied this change in their constitution, because of a
stupid, vicious and unjust provision that counts every ignorant
and careless voter, who failed . to vote at all, as if he had
intelligently voted against it.
26 The Minnesota Legislature of 1915
Amendment No. Three.
This amendment was intended to enable the state to
construct roads, ditches, and firebreaks, in through and
around unsold school and swamp lands. Under the present
constitution this cannot be done.
The framers of the constitution could not foresee the
needs of coming generations, and so we are now helpless
even to adopt so sensible a provision as this to enable us to
conserve our public lands and protect our standing timber and
the neighboring settlers from the ravages of fire.
This amendment received 162,951 votes. * The opposing
vote was 47,906. Nearly four to one favored it, yet we can't
The recall amendment enabling the people to recall
objectionable public servants received 139,801 votes.
44,961 voted "no."
Of the eleven amendments ten of them received over-
whelming majorities, some not quite two to one, and some
more than four to one. Yet only one of the eleven got votes
enough to carry. And all this because our constitution con-
tains such a stupid and unjust provision as to require a
majority of all those present and voting at the election to
vote "yes" in order that we may change our fundamental
It has not always been so. As originally adopted our con-
stitution could be changed by a majority of those voting on
the proposed amendment. From the time Minnesota was
organized as a state until 1898 this system prevailed. Many
needed changes were made in our constitution always by a
majority of those who were intelligent enough to vote on the
questions at issue.
How the Change Was Made.
It was during the legislative session of 1897 that the
change was made. W. W. Dunn was at that time attorney
for the Hamm Brewing Company of St. Paul, and was their
representative in the legislature, having been elected on the
Republican ticket by the voters of that part of the city near
the plant of the brewing company.
Mr. Dunn brought in a bill proposing to so amend the
constitution that thereafter it should require a majority of
all those present and voting at the election to favor an
amendment before it could become a part of the fundamental
On the floor of the house S. A. Stockwell, a member from
Minneapolis, put the question squarely up to Mr. Dunn, as
"Do the forces that are behind this amendment intend to
put up the bars so high that no further amendment of the
constitution will be possible on any subject, in order to head
off the possibility of the passage of a prohibition amendment
at some time in the distant future?"
Mr. Dunn answered, "The gentleman from Hennepin is
The proposed amendment passed both House and Senate,
The Minnesota Legislature of 1915 27
and was submitted to the people at the election of 1898. The
brewery interests were united and alert. The word was sent
out to every saloon in the state to get all the votes possible,
in a quiet way, in favor of the brewer's amendment.
The decent people of the state were caught napping, and
the amendment was carried. If the people could have been
informed they would probably have voted it down.
The following facts seem to warrant this conclusion:
In 1898 S. A. Stockwell ran for the -Senate In the seventh
eleventh and twelfth wards of Minneapolis. The district was
strongly Republican and Stockwell was a Democrat. In
every speech he called attention to this amendment and
urged its defeat. The eleventh and twelfth wards had many
saloons, the seventh none. In all three wards most of the
voters were working men.
Stockwell was not only elected, but his district cast a
good majority against the brewer's amendment. The peo-
ple can be trusted to vote right if they understand.
Next to the right of self government, taxation is the most
basic problem that has ever confronted the people of the world.
If taxes are just and fair the people will be prosperous,
contented and happy.
Gibbon in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,"
declares that "great estates ruined Rome"; and we know that
an unjust distribution of the burden of taxation was the
cause of those "great estates."
"Great estates" have been the ruin of every nation that
has gone down to destruction in all the history of the world;
and in every case unjust taxation has been the foundation on
which these "great estates" have always been built.
Theories of Taxation.
There are two theories of taxation.
One says "tax everything"; the other says "tax nothing
that labor of hand or brain has produced."
A man tries to get a home. He takes up a piece of land
and begins to use it. Tax him.
He gets a team of horses and some tools. Tax him.
He grubs out the stumps, and puts in a crop. Tax him.
He builds a cabin to shelter himself and wife. Tax him.
He gets a cow to furnish milk for his family. Tax him.
He builds a fence to protect his crops, to keep his cattle
and horses in and to keep other animals out. Tax him again.
He needs more room and builds a better house. Double
his taxes and more.
He gets a new stove and table. Increase his taxes.
He cleans up his front yard, plants flowers and shrubs,
and gives his house a new coat of paint. He is a bad citizen;
tax him again.
By this time he has been pretty well robbed of his earn-
ings, and has to borrow money to go on with. Tax him again
by means of taxes on money and mortgages, notes and other
'credits, and then add a registration tax which some stupid
people used to think the money lender would have to pay.
28 The Minnesota Legislature of 1915
They are wiser now and know that the money lender never
pays any taxes except such as he has first taken out of the
For every good and useful thing that this man has tried
to do to get a home, to develop his farm and earn an honest
living, tax him, fine him, penalize him as if he were a crim-
inal; and then wonder why he can't get on in the world.
There are some men who are strong enough to stand all
this and still make a living; but many more could do far
better if they could be free from the crushing burden of
And how the land grabbers and speculators enjoy this
system! They always get in ahead of the home maker, in
both country and city, get hold of as much land as possible,
and put up the price every time the useful citizen does any-
thing to improve the neighborhood.
Our system of taxation could not do it more effectively,
if it had been deliberately and maliciously designed by the
Devil himself, to prevent people from opening up farms,
getting homes, producing food, clothing and the other neces-
sities and comforts of life.
But this is not the worst of it. This system that penalizes
industry while it encourages land grabbing and speculation,
is the direct cause of so much land held out of use at a price
which industry can never hope to pay.
This is the reason why the homeseeker is forced to travel
miles and miles beyond the border of settlement and civiliza-
tion to find land cheap enough for his meager purse.
This is the reason why pur booming cities sprawl over
two or three times the space they should, building sky-
scrapers in some parts where people live and work like
sardines in a box, and leaving block after block empty and
unused because the owners find it more profitable to hold
idle for the increase in value than to put it to use and pay
the extra taxes.
By encouraging the vacant lot industry, this system
enormously increases the cost of opening and grading streets,
of sewers and water mains, of sidewalks and pavements, of
curbs and boulevards, of gas, electric and street car service;
all of which must be carried across these waste spaces at
All these and many more are the evils that inevitably
flow from the false theory that we should "tax everything."
"Tax nothing that will come to you nothing that your
taxes will drive away nothing that labor produces."
The people of the three northwestern Canadian provinces
are wiser than we.
There the farmer is not taxed more because he breaks
the prairie sod and raises a crop, or fences his farm, or builds
a house and out buildings, or buys furniture, or tools or
cattle or horses. He is not fined and penalized because he
paints his buildings and beautifies his surroundings.
There the people of the towns and cities are not taxed
more because they build houses and stores and factories and
fill them with furniture and goods and machinery.
The Minnesota Legislature of 1915 29
There they are not taxed more because they use the
land, employ labor, and produce useful things.
The man in the country with an improved farm, the best
of buildings, cattle, horses, machinery and all the crops he
can raise, pays no more taxes than does the speculator who
holds idle and unused an equally desirable piece of land.
The city man who builds a store and fills it with goods
is taxed no more than the owner across the corner who holds
idle and prevents improvement. Goods can be sold cheaper.
The city man who builds a factory and fills it with ma-
chinery to make useful things is taxed no more than is the
owner of an equally desirable factory site that he is hold-
ing for a higher price. He can sell his products cheaper.
The city home owner is not fined because he has built,
himself a house and furnished it for the comfort of his
family. The man who owns the vacant lot next to him pays
the same taxes as the home owner.
The value of land is created by the people. It is there
because the people are there doing useful things. It in-
creases as the people increase in number and develop a
better civilization. The value of land would all disappear
if the people should go away.
What we call "land value" is really a "people value."
The people as a whole create every dollar of it, and therefore
in justice they have a right to it.
The products of labor are not like the value of land.
They are not created by the people as a whole, but by the
individual efforts ot the workers. Therefore the public as
a whole has no right to these products of labor and should
not tax and penalize their owners.
The Tax Situation in Minnesota.
In 1906 the people adopted an amendment to the consti-
tution, which permits the legislature to classify property for
purposes of taxation, and to tax different classes at different
rates. But probably it cannot exempt any class entirely.
Under this provision laws have been enacted taxing
money and credits at three mills on the dollar and substi-
tuting for the tax on mortgages a fee for the registration
of fifteen cents for each one hundred dollars.
This is an improvement over the old system; but why
tax borrowers at all? for it is the borrower who must pay
all such taxes.
In 1913 Mr. .Spooner introduced a bill to classify property
for purposes of taxation. This bill was amended in several
particulars and finally became the law.
It contained two good features.
First, it taxed iron ore, mined or unmined, at a higher
rate than any other property.
Second, it taxed household furniture at only twenty-five
per cent of its full and true value. This let out many poor
people from the visits of the assessor.
The bill was bad in two particulars:
First, it attempted to class land as platted and unplatted
and taxed the platted at forty per cent and the unplatted at
thirty-three and one-third per cent of full and true value.
30 The Minnesota Legislature of 1915
This looks like a wholly unwarranted distinction, and
one of very doubtful constitutionality.
Why should a man be taxed more heavily simply because
he has platted his land and thus taken the first step toward
making it useful for homes and business?
Why should a man be taxed less because he refuses to
plat his land and bring it into the market, but holds on 'to
get the increase in value that will come to him because
of the building up and improvement of the surrounding lots?
In all the large cities of the state there are very valuable
tracts of land left unplatted.
In all such cases these lands and the improvements on
them are let off at thirty-three and one-third per cent, while
the surrounding platted lots with the homes and business
buildings on them are rated at forty per cent.
There is one house on Summit Avenue, St. Paul, worth
over $40,000 on a piece of unplatted land worth many thou-
sands more, and all this goes in at thirty-three and one-third
per cent, while the people who own the homes all around
are taxed at forty per cent.
This is only one case. There are many more in all the
cities of the state like this.
Any law that permits such injustice ought to be amended.
But the second defect in this law makes it more unjust
still. It makes no distinction between land on the one hand
and the products of labor on the other. Here is a natural
line of demonstration and one that the county boards, audi-
tors and assessors have been making ever since the state
Everywhere and always the tax officials have assessed
buildings and improvements and all kinds of personal prop-
erty at a much lower rate than land.
This new law as introduced by Mr. Spooner and as
finally passed removes this distinction and provides that
the buildings and improvements must be taxed at the same
rate as land.
Under this law the taxes on buildings and improvements
have been increased in all parts of the state, and in St. Paul
we were forced to add about $20,000,000 to their valuation,
while the lands of the city were only increased about one
million. Most of this increase on buildings will fall on homes
and business structures.
It works well for the land speculators, but is hard on
the home owners and business men, and these are the ones
that Mr. Spooner and the legislators claimed to be helping.
They made a bad bungle of it which the next legislature
ought to correct.
S. R. Child and C. H. Warner were the only House mem-
bers to vote against the Spooner bill.
In the Senate the bill was amended and passed with only
ten votes against it.
And thus was placed on the statute books a law so
framed as to do great injustice where it was intended to
Taxation in the 1915 Legislature.
During the session of 1915, Jones in the Senate, and
The Minnesota Legislature of 1915 31
Marwin, Indrehus, Anton Peterson, L. O. Teigen, Welch,
Vasaly and Woodfill in the House, introduced a bill to amend
the tax classification law so as to reduce household goods
to one per cent, all buildings, structures and improvements
in or upon land to ten per cent, all personal property now
in class three to ten per cent, and put all land in one class
at forty per cent.
Mr. Searls brought in a bill to tax improved unplatted
real estate at a lower rate than unimproved. The principle
of this bill met with popular approval, but its doubtful con-
stitutionality and the practical difficulty of defining the amount
of improvement necessary to secure the lower rate caused its
advocates to abandon it.
These bills were reported unfavorably by the tax com-
mittee of each house. But something along this line is sure
to be considered favorably before many years. Public senti-
ment is drifting strongly in this direction, and the legislature
Later Indrehus and Gordon introduced a resolution, di-
recting the tax commission to investigate the working of the
present system and report their findings with recommenda-
tions for relief to the next legislature. Mr. Spooner brought
in a bill reducing taxes on buildings to twenty-five per cent.
Spooner's bill was indefinitely postponed, and the resolution
died on general orders along with about two hundred other
Gross Earnings Taxes.
> Public service corporations have but one source of in-
come what they collect from their patrons. It therefore
follows that the greater burdens of taxation we put upon
them the higher their charges must be.
The St. Paul Gas Light company pays a five per cent
gross earnings tax, and they are allowed to charge five
cents a thousand more for gas. Plainly this is not a tax on
the company, but a tax on the users of gas. It amounts to
a five and one-half per cent tax on every dollar's worth of
gas consumed. The company gets it all back out of the
consumers and makes a good profit besides.
A large part of the state revenue is collected by a system
of gross earnings taxes from the railways and other public
Of course the charge of these companies must be enough
more to cover all such taxes and a good margin besides.
So far as the earnings of the railways come from the
handling of grain and other farm products, all taxes on these
earnings are taxes on the farmers of .Minnesota.
So far as railway earnings are derived from merchandise