Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16

Cleveland's Johnson: Elected Mayor

Cleveland's Johnson: Elected Mayor




One day in the early fall of 1897 thirty friends of Henry George

closeted themselves with the great single-taxer in Tom L. Johnson's

New York offices. The question before them was: Should George

be a candidate in the approaching New York mayoralty election?

Some of those present observed that their leader's health was not

good and that an exhausing campaign could render permanent

damage to him. An eminent doctor had only recently advised that

the exertions of a political canvass might hasten George's death.

George himself admitted that he did not want to enter the lists.

Nevertheless, he refused to consider his health and argued that only

one point should be debated: Would his candidacy further "the

cause"? With weighty misgivings the group agreed that it would.

After Tom L. Johnson escorted the failing George to the Cooper

Union platform on the night of the nomination, there was no turn-

ing back. A hard, wearying campaign worsened his condition as the

final week approached. Although the night of October 28 was cold

and wet, George drove himself relentlessly on, making five speeches

in far apart sections of Manhattan. Obviously tired and dispirited,

he rambled incoherently over many subjects. Returning to his head-

quarters in the Union Square Hotel, he fell unconscious, and a

hurried call summoned friends and relatives to the bedside. When

Johnson was aroused he sensed what was happening and, according

to a friend, "writhed as one writhes who has been pierced by a

sword." Early in the morning George died. That same day midst

the heavy gloom at campaign headquarters, "poor Tom Johnson"


* Eugene C. Murdock is chairman of the department of social science and assistant

dean of the college at Rio Grande College, Rio Grande, Ohio. Two previous articles

of his on Tom L. Johnson have been published in the Quarterly: "Cleveland's

Johnson," in the October 1953 issue (Vol. LXII, pp. 323-333), and "Cleveland's

Johnson: At Home," in the October 1954 issue (Vol. LXIII, pp. 319-335).