Date of Award

Spring 1983

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Third Advisor

Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan

Abstract

As a newsman, I have had to endure accusations at various times that I (meaning my profession) had fabricated scandals only to "get" those in government who had views different from my own. I have been amazed to note the number of times that wrongdoing has been uncovered, only to be greeted by a yawn from the general public. Upon reading several accounts of a major scandal which took place at the turn of the century within the borders of my home state, Montana, I was curious to find out what the results of that event had been. Were the revelations met with disinterest at that time, too? Most importantly, I wanted to see if corrective action had been taken to prevent a repeat of the scandal. I found that the Federal Constitution, as originally written, provided the opportunity for the bribery which took place in Montana's 1899 election of a United States senator. It mandated that a majority of state legislators in each legislature would elect the state's U. S. senator. If bribery were the intent, it was clearly much easier to buy a handful of state lawmakers, rather than a majority of the state's population. This fact, and a comparison of social and economic trends in Montana to those in the rest of the nation, make up the first chapter. Subsequent chapters deal with the scandal itself. Chapter Two tells of a unique-- and in some ways, brutal -- "war" which led to the actual bribery by copper baron W. A. Clark of a large portion of Montana's legislators. Chapter Three describes an incredible eighteen days, during which a majority of the state lawmakers one by one succumbed to the temptation of sudden wealth. The fourth chapter deals with the U. S. Senate's handling of the chicanery in Montana, which sent that body perhaps its richest member. The fifth chapter analyzes the impact that the scandal had upon the average Montanan. The concluding chapter looks at its national impacts and the part it played in changing the Federal Constitution to permit the direct election of U. S. senators and discusses the fate of W. A. Clark. Even today, it is difficult to believe that up to a million dollars could have gone into the bribery of a Montana legislature. With inflation since the turn of the century taken into account, the same effort now would translate into millions of 1983 dollars.

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