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PREFACE.

The first draft of this “Political History of Wisconsin," by A. V. Thomson, was made for The Milwaukee Sentinel, and published in the Sunday edition of that newspaper from week to week until concluded, the initial installment appearing in the issue of January 2, 1898. A resident of Wisconsin for nearly fifty years, and during most of that time active and influential in journalism and politics, Jr. Thomson was widely regarded as the man above all others best fitted to write the history of politics in Wisconsin, and he undertook the task in response to numerous urgent requests. It proved to be the final work of his life. When the closing chapters saw the light of print, he was on his death-bed. But even in the extremity of mortal illness, his mind was busy with the history, and he wrote several letters to publishers with reference to bringing it out in book form. He carefuily revised the earlier chapters for final publication, and gave explicit directions, which have been scrupulously carried out, regarding the revision of the remainder. It is the belief of those who have been concerned in the erection of this monument fashioned by his own brain and hand, that, in the artistic and substantial form in which it is here presented, his work appears as he would have wished to see it.

The history which Mr. Thomson proposed to write begins with the Ordinance of 1787 and comes down to the election of Scofield and McKinley in 1896. It is not constructed on the lines of what is termed critical history, which is generally dry; neither is it a mere chronicle—a chronicle is also dry. Dr. Thomson's work is for the most part cast in the narrative form. The chief personages with whom it deals were intimately known to the author, and he draws them from lise, illustrating their characteristics by happy anecdotes. His easy, graceful, lucid style invests with interest even tie discussions of party principles which necessarily come within the scope of such a work. The early steps in the organization of political parties in Wisconsin are graphically sketched, and the lieated campaign which resulted in the defeat of the first draft of a State constitution is fully described and explained, together with the fight over the boundary, in which the members of the constitutional conventions and territorial Legislatures savy fit to pit themselves against Congress and the Federal government. The years which followed the organization of the State government were full of exciting political occurrences. The Judge Hubbell impeachment trial; the escape and rescue of the slave Joshua Glover; the Bashford-Barstow litigation-very much like a revolution—in which the judiciary was called upon to decide who was Governor of Wisconsin; the conflict in the Booth case between the Supreme Court of Wisconsin and the Supreme Court of the United States; the corruption at the capital in 1856, when bribes were received from a railway corporation by the Governor and most of the members of both houses of the Legislature of Wisconsin, all these stirring incidents, episodes and events of Wisconsin's political history are brought before the reader in procession. Then the writer devotes himself to recounting the part which Wisconsin played in the great drama of the Civil war. There is on one side of the picture the patriotic response to the call for troops, and on the other the Ryan address and the draft riots in Washington and Ozaukee counties. Dr. Thomson was "the man who started the ball rolling" for Vatt. H. Carpenter for United States Senator in 1869, and who licaded the successful opposition to his reëlection in 1875. Both campaigns are vividly recalled, not in a one-sided way, but in a manner which shows Plutarch’s impartial desire that "both the Greeks and the Romans shall be accorded fair treatment." Wisconsin was the first State in the Union whose Legislature successfully attempted to set a limit to the amount of fare that might be charged by railways. The Potter law and the Grange movement, of which it was the outcome, have full justice done them in Mr. Thomson's history. So have the two great struggles on the money question—that of 1875-1877, when the issue was "honest money vs. greenback infiation,” and that of 1896, when the issue was "sound money vs. silver inflation.” The Bennett Law, the reapportionment squabble and the treasury cases—each comes in for impartial treatment, and there is an interesting non-controversial survey of the temperance movement in Wisconsin.

A brief review of the author's life is a fitting prelude to his book. "Alexander McDonald Thomson was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, May 30, 1822. His father removed with the family to Trumbull county, Ohio, when he was two years old. His ancestors were Scotch on his father's side, the grandfather coming from Paisley, and his mother was a Pennsylvania Dutchwoman. Naturally he possessed some of the characteristics of both races—the tenacity of the Scotch and the stubbornness of the Dutch. For thirty-five years after his advent in Ohio, Mr. Thomson, as boy and man, resided in the famous old GiddingsGarfield congressional district. Then, in 1849, he removed to Wisconsin. He was educated in the common schools and at the Western Reserve Teachers' Seminary and Normal School, located at Kirtland, Ohio. In early life he followed the business of teaching. He married Miss Emeline L. Peck, June 11, 1846, at Bloomfield, Ohio. She died July 8, 1892. On his arrival in Wisconsin he settled first at Hartford, Washington county, and engaged in farming About five thousand Wisconsin farmers mortgaged their farms to different railroad companies for stock in the corporations, between 1850 and 1860, as a means of helping build the roads-a scheme for raising the wind that proved very disastrous to many of the mortgagors. The mortgages had ten years to run, and bore 10 per cent. interest, no interest to be paid until due. Many of the roads never were built. Every one of those built became bankrupt. When pay day came, there was great excitement in the State, as some of the holders at once began to foreclose the mortgages upon the farmers' homesteads. The farmers formed a State organization in self-defense, holding that they had been defrauded; and, like the Barnburners of New York, they resolved to resist the collection of the mortgages to the death. In order to hold the organization compactly together, and disseminate information on the subject, they established a weekly paper, and Mr. Thomson became its editor, issuing the first num; ber August II, 1860. It was called The Home Journal, and was published at Hartford. In 1859. Mr. Thomson became associate editor of The Free Democrat, then published by S. M. Bootlı, in the city of Milwaukee. In 1864 Tie became part owner and editor. of The Janesville Daily Gazette, in which capacity he continued six years. During his residence in Janesville he twice represented the city in the Assen bly of the State, and was Speaker of the House at both sessions, being each time chosen by acclamation in the Republican caucus. In 1863 he was sergeant-at-arms of the Assembly, and again in 1864. In the Republican State convention of 1869, the Rock county delegation presented his name as a suitable person to be nominated for Governor of Wisconsin. In 1870 he became editor-in-chief of The Milwaukee Sentinel, which position he held until 1874. In 1873 many of the Republican papers urged him to be a candidate for Lieutenant-Governor, but he declined the honor. In that year he published a volume of the poems which he had contributed from time to time to his paper, and which were written amid the cares and confusion of journalism. The title of the volume was “The Poems of a Day.” After leaving The Sentinel he became the associate editor of The Chicago Evening Journal, which position he held for nearly four years, when failing health drove him to the "New Northwest," where he opened up and improved one of the finest wheat farms in North Dakota. In his retirement his pen was not allowed to rust, and his articles on agriculture, written on his farm, had a wide circulation. During his residence in North Dakota the Republican papers often used his name as a candidate for Congress and for other places of honor and trust. In 1892 he returned to Milwaukee. January 24, 1894, he was married to Miss Annie E. Greenman, of Chicago. He had no children."

The above modest sketch, never heretofore published, was prepared by Mr. Thomson himself, at the instance of a friend, in 1895. He died June 9, 1898.

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