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Behind The Scenes In St. Louis
by [?]

You go to the city hall in St. Louis, the old one, which looks like a rickety tobacco warehouse, or the new one, which is a realization in material of a bad dream consequent upon too much rarebit, and you might as well be in Berlin. You are lost without an interpreter. You must talk German or a Joe Emmet dialect, to make yourself understood. Money only doesn’t have to talk German at the city hall. That is transferred without being translated. The mayor of the town talks, in his public addresses, a lingo that would make the fortune of a vaudeville comedian of the Dutch Daly stripe; and his son, who is his secretary, has the physiognomical symptoms of intellectuality that you might expect in a dude who eats with his knife, or any Brummel of “the bad lands.” The lower branch of the municipal legislature is a bedlam. Its sessions are eruptions of obscenity. Talk is indulged in that would cause the ejectment of the talker from a bawdy- house parlor. The august body never rouses into activity save over some measure with “stuff” in it. The combine will take as low as twenty-five dollars to beat or pass a bill. They introduce bills to induce the franchise holding syndicates to put up money to kill them, and business is at its best when two or three street railroad bosses can be led into bidding against each other for the passage or defeat of some measure. The St. Louis house of delegates is as fine a gang of rapacious ruffians as ever invited mob law in an American city.

Politics in St. Louis is practiced by the pimps and pothouse habitues, just as in other cities. Two of the best known office holders in the city have been accused publicly of stealing $1,200 that was given them to support a measure for capitol removal at the last general election. They got the money to divide among the members of the city committee, and no member of that body ever saw a copper of it. The check was cashed, however. The governor appointed to their present offices the men who got the money.

It costs more to conduct the city government of St. Louis than it costs proportionately to govern New York. The town is overrun with an army of men drawing salaries, and few sober breaths, but doing nothing else. The present head of government when he left the office of city collector, lost or destroyed his books, that they might tell no tale of the monstrous malfeasance of his administration. Corporations were held up for sums that never appeared on the books. Instead of paying licenses and taxes, merchants, manufacturers, saloon keepers, brewers and others paid tribute to the then subordinates of the present mayor. Corruption is rampant all through the city government. Every one knows it; but no one feels like expressing it for the reason that such exposures are “chestnuts” to the St. Louisan. There have been reform waves in every large city in the Union, now and then. In St. Louis, never. The syndicate of snappers that holds the franchises won’t have it. Reform doesn’t go. They want the old gang they have been dealing with, in power. No matter which gang dominates, Democrat or Republican, the syndicate owns them. It doesn’t like the prospect of dealing with strangers. It likes to buy over and over again the same old crowd to enact or defeat certain bills. When the gang in power is Democratic, Ed Butler does the buying. When the gang is Republican, Chauncey I. Filley takes the money and dictates what his creatures shall do. Butler disgorges something; Filley nothing. Butler deals with Filley when Filley has fooled the people into electing his men, and vice versa. It is Croker and Platt over again on a smaller scale. These two men have all the corporations by their throats. They are both men of genius in their line, commanding an insane devotion among the slums and a certain amount of admiration and awe, from among the wealthy, if not the respectable, of that city.