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Chapter 33

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of New Orleans

by
John Kendall

published by The Lewis Publishing Company,
Chicago and New York, 1922

The text is in the public domain.

This page has not been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 35

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p532 Chapter XXXIV
Paul Capdevielle, Mayor

The Flower administration was a turning-point in the history of New Orleans. It closed one epoch and opened another. With it the Reconstruction era came to an end. With it began the period of commercial prosperity which extends over into the present time. Significant, also, is the fact that since Flower's time the city elections, however hotly contested, present little of that revolutionary aspect which so often accompanied them in the precedent generation. Certain characteristics of the Reconstruction period persisted, and still persist, nor are they likely wholly to disappear till the last survivor of that terrible chapter in the city's history shall have passed away. But from Flower's time there have been contrary forces which have with steadily augmented power operated for the creation of better civic ideals. Thus although the election of 1900 witnessed a triumph of the "regulars," their victory was fairly won, and in the administration which then came into power there was an earnest and, on the whole, successful effort to continue the work begun in Flower's time. The "regular" nominee, Paul Capdevielle, had been considered for mayor in 1896, but he was not then in a position to accept the nomination, even had it been tendered him formally. But as the election of 1900 approached, he found himself differently circumstanced. As soon as it became known in the Sixth Ward, where he resided, that Capdevielle was a receptive candidate for the nomination, his friends organized a strong movement in his behalf, which had the support of a ward leader, Brewster. After a hot fight they succeeded in electing a Capdevielle delegation from the ward to the city nominating convention.

The "regular" democratic convention met in March. The nomination of a candidate for mayor was put off till towards the end of the meeting. In selecting names for the other offices the time-honored custom of apportioning the names among the different wards was observed. Capdevielle was not without opposition in the convention. W. H. Byrnes, a well-known local insurance man, proved an active competitor for the first place on the ticket. At first it looked as though he would capture the nomination. Brewster, finding, as he thought, that sentiment was setting irresistibly towards Byrnes, was anxious to see that the Sixth Ward should have recognition of some kind, even if denied the right to name the mayor. He therefore indicated his willingness to surrender what seemed a profitless pretension to the first place on the ticket, and to accept the comptrollership as the ward's share. Brewster's attitude on this occasion was much misunderstood. By many he was thought to have sacrificed Capdevielle and the mayoral nomination to get the comptrollership; whereas, as a matter of fact, he was actuated by a desire to protect the interests of his community, and only yielded on the matter of the mayoralty when it appeared that no other course was open. The comptrollership was accordingly allotted to C. R. Kennedy. In the Sixth Ward, however, Capdevielle's friends made vigorous protests. The ward's delegates in the convention likewise insisted upon his nomination. p533Kennedy therefore felt that he must withdraw from the ticket. This opened the way to a readjustment by which the comptrollership was assigned to the Fifth Ward in consideration of its support for Capdevielle; and as the leaders of the Fifth and Third wards were leagued together by many mutual interests, this arrangement brought over to the Sixth Ward the votes of the Third also, with the result that Capdevielle received the nomination.

The rest of the ticket was composed of: Vital Tujague, comptroller; G. B. Penrose, treasurer; T. J. Moulin, commissioner of public works; F. E. Bishop, commissioner of police and public buildings; W. T. Hardee, city engineer; city attorney, S. L. Gilmore; Fred Zengel, city notary.

There was a time when Flower might have had the position which Capdevielle now occupied. Early in the year he had been approached with regard to becoming the "regular" nominee for mayor. The leaders of both the city and state democracy were anxious to heal the breach in the party, and, especially, to prevent a repetition of the Citizens' League movement in the impending election. To insure this object they were prepared to accept Flower, if he, on his part, would agree to make certain concessions regarding the distribution of office which would facilitate the amalgamation of what had so recently been antagonistic parties. Flower, however, took the position that he could not seek the nomination, though willing to accept it if tendered him. This attitude made the contemplated arrangement difficult, but it did not seem impossible, until, just when the negotiations were approaching a critical stage, Flower unexpectedly left the city to attend a convention in Buffalo, N. Y. His absence at this particular moment shipwrecked the entire fusion project.

Although the Citizens' League had lost a large part of its membership by gradual attraction back into the ranks of the "regular" organization, there still remained a considerable fraction of the organization faithful to its tradition. This group now decided to put Flower forward as an independent candidate. Under the leadership of W. B. Spencer, W. D. Denegre, Charles Rosen, and others, a campaign committee was formed which rapidly called into being clubs in each one of the wards. Then delegates from each of these organizations met and endorsed Flower. This organization took the name of the Jeffersonian democracy. It must be confessed that the Jeffersonian democracy accepted Flower with some reluctance. Had there been another available candidate the leaders would have preferred him. Flower's attitude of receptivity with regard to the "regular" nomination had been very displeasing to his late associates; but his administration had been so satisfactory that no other candidate could be found who so obviously merited the suffrages of the people or so emphatically deserved the endorsement conveyed in a renomination. However, some of the very men who engineered the Jeffersonian democracy did so with entire certainty that Flower could not be elected, and that the movement was valid only as a protest against "ring" rule and the "regular" election methods.

Many other influences conspired to prevent the Jeffersonian democracy from carrying the election. It had arrayed against it all the forces which were working to reconsolidate the municipal and state democracies. The political situation in the state helped also in that direction. There were four state tickets — the democratic, the populist, the regular republican, and the fusion-republican, the last of which had the support of the so‑styled "lily white" element in the republican party. W. W. Heard was p534the candidate of the democrats; D. M. Sholars, of the populists; and C. T. Cade, of the regular republicans. At the head of the fusion-democrats was Donaldson Caffery, Jr., son of one of the leaders of the anti-lottery fight of eight years before. Caffery was a strong candidate, and it was clear that if he were to be defeated the democracy could not afford to neglect a single factor, particularly in the city. As state and city elections fell on the same day, the result was that the state issues were more or less intimately connected with the city campaign. Moreover, the city "regulars" had taken a leaf out of the Citizens' League book. In 1896 the Citizens' League had canvassed the city thoroughly, and knew precisely what and where was the vote on which it could rely, and when and how it should expend its efforts in making new adherents. In 1900, however, it had done nothing of the kind to be compared with the thoroughness and finality with which the "regulars" had canvassed the city. Flower was, however, confident of success. He knew that there were no objections to him personally. He had made an excellent executive. He felt that his personal popularity and excellent record would counterbalance any deficiencies of organization and suffice to carry through the Jeffersonian ticket. There was a final condition which worked for his undoing, and that was the fact that the ballot was extraordinarily large, and it was necessary for a voter who wished to scratch his ticket to mark individually no less than twenty-seven different candidates. The expert political managers on each side understood that the majority of voters would prefer to stamp the party emblem once rather than go to the trouble of picking out individual candidates: it would be easier to vote "straight" than otherwise, and that therefore Flower's personality would not be sufficient, attractive though it was, to guarantee the success of the ticket headed by his name.

The campaign though brief was spirited. Capdevielle announced his support of the principle of municipal ownership. His principal organ, the Picayune, supported him largely on that basis. But municipal ownership was not a vital issue in the election. Capdevielle only alluded to it casually in his utterances on the stump. Flower did not oppose it. The question of civil service also emerged from time to time. A mass meeting at Parkerson Place on April 8 adopted resolutions demanding the repeal of the existing civil service law on the ground that it was "an undemocratic institution tending to the creation of an office-holding class."1 But the real issue was the candidates, and the arguments for and against the opposing sides were almost wholly personalities. The election took place on April 17. The extraordinarily bad weather which prevailed that day had no doubt considerable effect in cutting down Flower's vote. A rain fell of such intensity that many parts of the city were under water for hours. In some places voters had to be carried to the polls on the backs of men and boys; at others roughly-made rafts were pressed into service for the same purpose. Flower received 13,099 votes; Capdevielle, 19,366.2


[image ALT: A photograph of a ferocious-looking old man, his mouth entirely hidden behind a very prominent bushy moustache. It is Paul Capdevielle, an early‑20c mayor of New Orleans.]

Mayor Paul Capdevielle

Capdevielle was born in New Orleans, January 15, 1845. He was of French descent. His father, Augustin Capdevielle, was born in France, but settled in New Orleans in the year 1825, and became a prominent merchant. The son was educated at the Jesuits' College, in New Orleans, p535whence he was graduated in 1861. He served with credit in the Civil war. He enlisted in the New Orleans Guard Regiment of Infantry, but in 1862 joined Boone's Louisiana Artillery. He was captured at Port Hudson, in July, 1863. Paroled soon after, and subsequently exchanged, he entered Legardeur's battery, and continued in the Confederate service till the close of the war, when he surrendered at Greensboro, N. C. He walked thence to his home. He returned to civil life, taking up the first employments that offered, but incidentally occupying himself with the study of the law. In April, 1868, Capdevielle was graduated in law from Tulane University. From that date till 1892 he was actively engaged in the practice of his profession in New Orleans. He rose rapidly both as a lawyer and in business life and public affairs. In 1892 he gave up the law to accept the presidency of the Merchants' Insurance Company, which then did a large business, but later on was liquidated and sold. For thirteen years Capdevielle was its president. His political history began in 1877, when he was appointed by Governor Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Nicholls a member of the State School Board. While he was a member of this body the entire state school system was reorganized and put into effective operation. Subsequently he was appointed a member of the New Orleans Levee Board. p536In 1899 he resigned from the latter board when he was tendered the nomination for mayor of the city.3

The new administration was inducted into office on May 7, 1900. Mayor Capdevielle, in his inaugural address, made some important suggestions. He spoke of the drainage system which was about to be constructed, and pointed out that if the city desired to have its own electric light plant, it could operate it without much additional cost, by using the power house of the drainage system. This suggestion was in line with the theory of municipal ownership to which the new mayor had pledged himself in his campaign utterances. The matter was taken up in the city council at an early date, and an ordinance was adopted calling for bids for the erection of a new electric light plant. Two methods were suggested by which the corporation might become the owner of the plant, the first, a so‑called "outright ownership plan," provided that the expense be met in annual installments out of the city alimony and from the reserve funds over a certain number of years; the other, known as the "installment plan," permitted the contractor to build and operate the plant, the city paying annual installments on the purchase price, and the plant to be turned over to the municipality when completely paid for. At that time the city was paying $250,000 to a private company for lighting the streets, etc. It seemed a feasible plan to turn this large sum in the direction of paying for the property. Two sets of bids were therefore called for. A bid on the "outright ownership" plan was accepted. This provided for the construction of a lighting plant on the site of the old police jail, on South Robertson Street. The work, however, was never undertaken. After a long delay, the contract appears to have been cancelled, and in March, 1903, the comptroller was directed to readvertise for bids. These when received were referred to a special committee of the council, and the project seems to have gone no further.4

In a further effort to fulfill his campaign promises, Mayor Capdevielle advocated the passage by the State Legislature of new legislation on the subject of civil service. An act was accordingly passed in 1900, correcting the provisions in the previous law under which persons not bona fide citizens and residents of New Orleans might, by merely passing the examinations, qualify for employment under the city government.5 The existing civil service commission attempted to enjoin the city from enforcing this act, alleging that it was unconstitutional; but the matter when carried to the State Supreme Court was decided adversely to it. The board accordingly wound up its affairs and went out of existence. A new board was appointed in 1901, since which date the civil service, under the modified law, has been a fixed feature of the city government of New Orleans, its value and influence being yearly more clearly recognized.

The new mayor, in his inaugural address, recommended that, although there was admittedly a great demand for further paving of city streets, in this matter the city should proceed slowly. Mayor Capdevielle pointed out that the drainage and sewerage plans remained to be carried out, and that the expenses connected with these works would be heavy; it was p537judicious, therefore, to limit the amount of paving until drainage and sewerage had been installed. Nevertheless, the administration was able to meet the large expenses entailed by the paving with asphalt of Canal Street from Liberty Street to Metairie Road. The gravel pavement previously laid on this considerable extent of frequented thoroughfare had become much worn; it had to be repaired; but the outlay which it would involve was so large that the council very wisely deemed it the truest economy not to expend money in merely restoring a pavement which had not proven durable; but by adding somewhat to the initial outlay, substituted a permanent and handsome improvement. The ordinance first adopted authorizing this important work was attacked in the courts; the contract was annulled in view of certain legal questions which arose; but these having been disposed of, a second ordinance was adopted in October, 1902, which avoided all the objectionable features of its predecessors and the work was accordingly completed in the following year. Other noteworthy legislation connected with the city streets was enacted, permitting the opening of Carrollton Avenue from Orleans Street to City Park Avenue; and of Burgundy Street from Poland to Delery streets. A little later, in the upper part of the city, Magnolia and Freret streets were opened from Seventh Street to the upper line of Audubon Place. Metairie Road was renamed City Park Avenue by an ordinance passed in 1902.

The administration made some important arrangements with regard to the city railroads. In 1901 the extension of the Orleans Street Railroad was sold on the basis of the payment to the municipality of 4 per cent of its gross annual receipts. In May, the street railways company was granted permission to establish a belt line of Canal and Esplanade streets. In January, 1901, the historic Clay statue, which during almost fifty years had stood at the intersection of St. Charles and Canal streets, was removed to Lafayette Square. The claim was made that the statue interfered with the safe operation of the street cars in Canal Street. The rededication of the statue in its new location was made the occasion of interesting and appropriate ceremonies. In 1902 the various railway companies which till then had operated independently the various lines of street railroad, were consolidated under the name of the New Orleans Railways Company. With them were combined the electric light and gas companies. The whole was capitalized at $80,000,000.

An important achievement was the recovery by the city of its markets. Litigation with that end in view was in process between the city and the market lessees. In December, 1900, an offer of compromise was accepted by the city. As a result, the city was able to take over the charge of these institutions at the beginning of the century. This was in line with the policy of municipal ownership to which the administration stood committed. The building of a new public market at the corner of Burgundy and Touro streets was another instance of the application of this principle. The city erected several other important new structures, the largest being a new jail. The old jail on South Robertson Street had fallen into a state of dilapidation where it was a reproach to the municipality. A contract for the erection of the present "House of Detention" was let among the first acts of the new administration. The building was completed within two years, and cost $112,800. A smaller jail was also built in the Second District.

p538 The State Legislature in 1902 passed an act merging the Drainage Board and the Sewerage and Water Board. To this organization was committed the task of constructing the great system of sanitary improvements, the installation of which is the most noteworthy achievement of New Orleans in the twentieth century. As a part of the general scheme of improvement in the city the Board of Liquidation accepted bids for $12,000,000 of Public Improvement Bonds on December 17, 1900. The bonds were sold at the price of $104 619/1000. They carried interest at 4 per cent per annum. The success of this transaction was very gratifying. Mayor Capdevielle showed great interest in the management of the city finances. In spite of the large enterprises inaugurated in his time the tax rate was maintained at twenty-two mills. When he came into office he found a bonded debt, including interest, of $20,278,917. The floating debt was $423,473.39, and the liabilities for contracts under execution was $243,412.86. The total debt was therefore $20,945,803.25. The assessment for 1900 was $139,235,101.99 — not a large amount for a city, which, according to the census of 1900, had a population of 287,104. The assessment rose by 1904 to $158,584,194.

A few minor ordinances enacted during the Capdevielle administration may be mentioned, among them those regulating the distribution of fuel oil to the manufacturing plants of the city, many of which were, it appeared, supplied by pipe lines; consolidating the Second and Third District ferries; and inaugurating a movement for a union railroad station. The last-named project was initiated on October 28, 1902, when the council appointed a special committee to work out a plan in conjunction with the various railroads having terminal facilities in the city. A long series of conferences ensued, but nothing definite was achieved. Nevertheless, to the public opinion engendered during the discussions may be attributed the grouping of the railroad passenger depots at three central points, a few years later, instead of at individual stations scattered over the whole area of the city, as had previously been the case.

In this connection it should be mentioned that during this administration additional space was granted on the river front to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad to enable it to erect a station and extend its tracks in the vicinity of the foot of Canal Street.

In 1902 the State Legislature passed an act enabling the city to build a new court house, to cost $575,000, of which $200,000 would be contributed by the state. A commission was appointed to carry out the provisions of this act. The work was begun in 1903, but was not completed till 1910, at an outlay which considerably exceeded the original figures.

The most important events of the Capdevielle administration were, however, the visit of President McKinley, the Charles riot, and the street car strike of 1901. The president spent two days in the city at the beginning of May, 1901. He was met at the railroad station by the mayor and the city council, and the next day he was received at the Cabildo by the State Supreme Court and the Louisiana Historical Society. This was the first instance in the history of New Orleans that a president of the United States had visited it while in office.

The Charles race disturbances were of a most serious character. They lasted four days. At one time it seemed likely that rioting on a large scale would ensue. The trouble started on July 23, 1900, when a policeman named Mora attempted to arrest the negro, Robert Charles. Charles was p539a singular character. He is said to have been a native of Columbus, Miss., and to have committed some offense there which made it desirable to seek refuge elsewhere. He came to New Orleans, and gave himself out as the agent of Bishop Turner and the movement for the exportation of American negroes to Liberia. When the police searched his room they found it filled with incendiary literature, exaggerating the servile condition of the negroes, and the oppression of the white race. Throughout the disturbances there was fear that his cronies, filled with these ideas, might start to carry out the suggestions of murder and arson which these publications inculcated. Charles had associated with himself a cousin named Pierce. Their behavior was so mysterious that the white people residing near Washington Avenue and Dryades Street, where the two negroes had rooms, concluded they were burglars and so reported to the police. Mora was one of three officers sent to make the arrest. Both negroes drew pistols and fired at the officers; Pierce was taken, but Charles succeeded in making his escape, after inflicting three wounds on Mora. This occurred in the early hours of the night; during the remainder, policemen trailed the fugitive, and as dawn was approaching, located him in a negro lodging house at Fourth and Rampart streets. Here an attempt was made to effect an entrance, and Charles, who had armed himself with a Winchester rifle, shot and killed two of the officers, Capt. John Day and Corp. William Lamb, as they were advancing down a little side alley on the premises. Charles appears to have been under the impression that Mora was killed; and resolved to sell his life dearly. It is said that some notion of martyrdom was also mixed up in his murderous frenzy.6

The news that the officers had been killed spread rapidly, and on July 24 mobs which are described as composed of boys and young men under twenty-one years of age formed in various parts of the city, partly with the idea of lynching Pierce, partly of co‑operating with the police in the search for Charles which was in progress; but most of all, to hunt down and kill negroes. Five negroes were killed, and seven were wounded under the most distressing circumstances. Several whites were injured also by stray bullets. The governor of the state, apprised of what was occurring, offered a large award for the apprehension of Charles; acting Mayor Mehle did the same on behalf of the city; and at the close of an agitated day, the latter official also issued a proclamation calling on all good citizens to repair to their homes, and directing that all drinking places be closed. The police failed to make any arrests. Their indifference, or incompetence, in this regard encouraged the rioting. Unquestionably, they sympathized with the rioters, whom they regarded as inspired by the wish to avenge their slaughtered comrades. The most dangerous mob formed at Lee Circle, and proceeded thence to Morris Park, where some incendiary speeches were made. Only the lack of a leader prevented the movement from becoming very grave indeed.

The following day saw Mayor Capdevielle on the scene. He had been absent at one of the summer resorts on the Lake Shore when the trouble began; he now hurried home and took energetic measures to suppress the disorders. He ordered the arrest of every person known to have been implicated in the disturbances of the previous day; citizens were warned off the streets, and a call for special police was answered by p5401,500 volunteers, who were sworn in, armed, and assigned to duty. Col. E. E. Wood was put in command. He called to his assistance some of the officers who had served under him in the Spanish-American war, notably Maj. W. L. Hughes, Capt. H. L Favrot, Lieuts. Fortin and Schmutz, and others. Prominent citizens also responded and were put in command of squads stationed at various critical points throughout the city. In spite of these precautions many negroes were set upon and beaten during the day, and two were killed. Some of these were inoffensive persons on their way to or from work. But there were several who were overheard to make remarks eulogizing Charles and his "war on the whites." Other negroes heard to indulge in these remarks were arrested and detained in jail. These were exceptions, however; the majority of the negro population, especially the law-abiding element, obeyed the mayor's proclamation and remained indoors. As a further precaution, the mayor appealed to the governor to call out the militia, and this was done towards the end of the day.

In the meantime Charles had taken refuge in a house on Saratoga Street, near Clio. There on the 27th he was located by the police. The vicinity was patrolled, and the armed citizens, the militia, and the police conjointly undertook to drive the defiant black from his refuge. Two policemen and two citizens were killed in the attempt. Another citizen was mortally wounded. Finally, the building, which had been riddled with shot without inflicting any injury upon Charles, was set on fire; and the desperado, driven from his refuge on an upper floor, was shot and killed as he was trying to effect his escape. This, properly speaking, closed the episode; but during the day the mob spirit broke out in various parts of the city, negroes were maltreated, and the negro school built by the colored philanthropist, Thomy Lafon, and bearing his name, was set on fire and burned. Three negroes were killed by the mob that day.

Mayor Capdevielle made energetic efforts both at the time, and after the disturbances were over — which was by nightfall, July 27 — to cause the apprehension of the rioters. Early in August four or five whites were indicted for being concerned in the killing of negroes, one white man was indicted for shooting at a policeman, and three for inciting a riot. Some of these cases, especially the graver ones, failed; but the remainder were convicted and punishment was inflicted. The emergency police, after having rendered splendid service, was disbanded on July 28. The expenses connected with the formation of this force were heavy, and especially so, coming at a critical moment in the financial history of the city.7

The street car strike of 1901 was also a matter of great expense to the administration. It lasted fifteen days, during which time no cars were run for passenger service in the entire city, except that old-fashioned horse-car between Gretna and Algiers, on the opposite side of the river. The first hint of trouble between the car company and its employees came in October, 1900, when there was a strike on the New Orleans & Carrollton road. This, however, was adjusted within forty-eight hours. Subsequently, the company, which had recently acquired complete control of all the electric lines in the city, effected with the men an arrangement regarded as satisfactory on both sides. This was in April. Shortly thereafter the company introduced a new and larger type of car, which enabled p541it to lay off certain employees, and also made changes in schedules which the men regarded as infractions of the April agreement.8 The company was also having trouble with its linemen, when, on September 24, 1901, the carmen, at a great meeting, formulated their demands and announced that, unless acceded to, a strike would follow. They wanted, among other things, an eight-hour working day, and 25 cents per hour. The company was given three days in which to consider the proposition. Its reply was made on the 26th and was a rejection of the demands, on the ground that the April agreement was still binding, and the men could make no demands justly until it expired, some months later on. The result was that at daybreak on September 27 every line in the city was tied up. About 2,000 men were affected. Thereafter for fifteen days the public either walked to and fro, or rode in improvised conveyances, wagons fitted with benches and automobiles being operated on regular schedules and doing a thriving business. The sympathy of the public was largely with the strikers. Many of the other trade organizations endorsed their movement. The linemen employed by the company also struck insofar as their work connected with the operation of the cars, but they remained at work in the lighting plant, which was also controlled by the company; and thus the city was supplied with light, although at one stage of the contest there seemed a strong probability that they would stop there also.

Mayor Capdevielle interested himself actively to adjust the dispute. Similar steps were taken by a committee of Canal Street merchants. The company offered to arbitrate on October 1, but the strikers insisted that the schedule outlined in the last demand should be instituted pending a decision by the arbitrators; with the result that the two parties remained as wide apart as ever. The merchants' committee worked out a scheme of compromise on the basis of a 10‑hour workday and minimum wage of 23 cents per hour, but this proved unacceptable. There was no violence till the first week in October closed. On the 8th the company attempted to run four cars on Canal Street, operated by strike-breakers imported from St. Louis, under police protection. But these were attacked at Galvez Street and put out of business. Several persons were injured, but none seriously. Three arrests were made. The mayor, apprehensive that the trouble might spread, and remembering the efficiency of the emergency police during the Charles riot, issued a call for a similar organization, but only a few citizens responded. He then asked the governor to order out the militia, but this extreme step was not taken till the following day. On that day a further attempt to operate passenger cars led to a hot fight at the corner of Dorgenois and Canal streets, in which pistols were freely used. Two policemen were wounded, and ten civilians, some of whom were strikers, and the remainder interested bystanders. A police patrol wagon hurrying to the scene was overturned, and the occupants, eight in number, all injured more or less severely.

On October 9 Governor Heard arrived in the city. Seven hundred militiamen were under arms in their armories. No cars ran that day except those carrying the United States mail; which were suffered to operate regularly during the whole progress of the strike, without interference except on September 29, and that not of a serious order. On the 10th the governor notified the strikers that they must accept a scale of 20 cents per hour and a 10‑hour day, with a minimum of $1.50 per diem; p542but that the cars must be operated, and if need be all the resources of the state would be used to protect them. The strikers accepted these terms. W. S. Parkerson, who conducted the negotiations with the strikers, was given the credit for the adjustment which was affected during the course of the day; and night fell upon a city greatly relieved to find that it had again escaped a serious danger. The street car company on its side agreed to take back, without discrimination, such of the men as were needed to operate the cars on the new schedules.9

Mayor Capdevielle, proud of his French ancestry, improved every opportunity while at the head of the municipality, to cement the ties of friendship between the people of his city and those of France. He was particularly active in promoting the establishment in New Orleans of charities designed to benefit the French sailors, numbers of whom are constantly in the port, and to relieve the indigent among the permanent French population of the city. These labors were recognized by the French government in 1902, by the bestowal of the cross of the Legion of Honor, an official of the French embassy in Washington coming to the city expressly for the purpose of presenting the insignia. Later in the same year, the Swedish government conferred on the mayor the cross of commander of the Order of St. Olaf, in expression of its appreciation of the mayor's efforts on behalf of the sailor-subjects of the King of Sweden, who likewise were frequent visitors to the port.

The term for which Capdevielle had been elected should have expired on May 7, 1904, but the State Legislature, at its meeting in 1902, adopted extensive amendments to the city charter, by which the life of the administration was prolonged till December 5, 1904.10 These amendments did not materially alter the forms of the city government.

The city continued to be divided into seventeen wards and seven municipal districts, the boundaries of which are substantially the same as previously. It was provided, however, that the legislative power of the corporation should be vested in a council of twenty-one members, composed of one member from each of the wards, and four councilmen elected at large in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Municipal districts. The increase in the council of four members was effected by assigning one new councilman to represent a ward in each of the Sixth and Seventh districts, and one new councilman at large each in the Second and Third districts. These new councilmen, it was stipulated, should not be elected till the election to be held in November, 1904; in the meantime, the incumbent councilmen, seventeen in number, should continue to hold office undisturbed. The provision of the charter regarding the salaries of the councilmen was continued, and made contingent upon attendance at all meetings in the month for which the salary was paid, except in cases where an excuse for non-attendance had been presented to the council and accepted by it. Section 11 of the amending act made provision for a president of the council, to be elected by the council from among its own members, to serve through the life of the council, and to receive an annual salary of $1,000. The president of the council was made ex‑officio chairman of the finance committee. There was also to be a vice president p543of the council, to be ex‑officio chairman of the budget and assessment committee, and who was to fill the place of president in case that official were incapacitated, until such time as a successor were elected by the council. The vice president, however, received no salary. The functions of the council were, in general, unchanged by the amendments. The executive department of the city was declared to consist of a mayor, a comptroller, a treasurer, a commissioner of public works, a commissioner of police and public buildings, and a city engineer. All of these officials were made elective, to serve four years. It was provided, however, that the incumbents should continue in office till November, when a general city election was to be held. The duties of these officials were not different from those prescribed by the charter, the provisions of which with regard to filling the mayor's office, in case of a vacancy, were retained in full. The principal feature of the new law was that it made all executive officers elective. Thus the mayor was relieved of the right to appoint the city engineer, and the commissioners of police and public buildings and of public works, which he had enjoyed under the charter of 1896.

As the time for the November election approached, the leaders of the "regular" democratic organization agreed upon Charles Janvier as a suitable candidate for mayor. In many respects this choice was a happy one. Janvier had been prevented by a family bereavement from participating prominently in the city campaign of 1900. But since then he had been interested in state politics, and was a member of the State Legislature, to which he had been elected from the Sixth Senatorial District. He had just brought to a successful conclusion the gubernatorial campaign, in which he had figured as Blanchard's manager. Blanchard was anxious to see Janvier named for the mayoralty. At that time the governor of the state was in a position to exercise almost dictatorial powers in regard to the city nominations. He possessed the right to name the tax assessors, of whom there were six, and other officials. By putting in these remunerative and much-sought‑for offices the leaders of the various city wards, he was able to maintain a complete supervision of city politics. In fact, it was usually the case that the city ticket was made up to fit the wishes of the person who occupied the gubernatorial chair. The campaign of 1904 is one of the most important in the recent history of New Orleans, because this power of the governor was to be made unexpectedly the main issue. The result of the election, while a defeat for those who opposed Blanchard, led, nevertheless, to the enactment, a year or two later, of a body of laws stripping the governor of the appointive power in New Orleans, and thus liberated the city to a large extent of the control which the state administration had exercised over its government.

The fact that Blanchard favored Janvier for mayor, therefore, made his nomination by the convention practically a certainty; but Janvier was unwilling to make the sacrifice which the acceptance of the mayoralty has always involved where a business man has consented to accept it. It meant the withdrawal for four years from active business life, the surrender of important business connections and the resignation of valuable agencies, and the necessity at the end of four years of beginning life all over again. Only a man of independent means could therefore undertake the office. This, in fact, has been one of the principal reasons why New p544Orleans has seldom had a business man of high standing in the community as its chief executive. Janvier's refusal of the nomination caused the leaders of the democracy to select one of their own number to head the ticket. The choice fell upon Martin Behrman.

Behrman was at that time looked on as one of the strongest men in the city. He was born in New York City, October 14, 1868, the son of Henry and Fredreca Behrman. The parents removed to New Orleans in the year 1865, and soon afterwards the father died. The mother survived till 1880. The death of both parents in his childhood thus threw the future mayor upon his own resources at a tender age. His educational advantages were consequently limited to a brief attendance at the public schools. Shortly after the death of his mother the boy secured employment in a retail grocery store, where by dint of character and ability he was successful. He later became connected with a wholesale house in the same line, and finally, at the age of 19, was made a traveling salesman. For two years he sold groceries on the road. His attractive personality had won him many influential friends, and when the position of deputy assessor of the fifth district of New Orleans was offered him, he accepted it. The zeal and ability with which he discharged the duties of this office, led to his promotion four years later to the assessorship of his district. Again his success was awarded by promotion. As president of the board of assessors he exhibited over a term of four years the same qualities which had distinguished him in minor positions. In 1892 he was appointed clerk to the city council. In April, 1904, Behrman was elected state auditor, which position he was holding at the time when he was nominated for the mayoralty of New Orleans. On being named for this position he resigned the state office. Most of his life had been spent in the Fifth District (Algiers); he was extremely popular there, and in selecting him to head the "regular" ticket the local democracy paid a compliment to a part of the city which had until then figured far from conspicuously in the councils of the party.

There was no talk of opposition to Behrman, and that he would be named in the convention, and then duly elected, seemed certain. But an unexpected issue was injected into the situation, and one of the bitterest fights in the history of recent municipal politics was precipitated over the nomination for district attorney. The program which the convention was expected to follow when it convened, in September, included the indorsement of Chandler C. Luzenberg for that position. Luzenberg was a well-known young New Orleans attorney, who had sacrificed a lucrative practice in order to take over the office of district attorney, at a critical moment, following the assassination of J. Ward Gurley, in July, 1903. Gurley, who had been made district attorney in 1900, was attacked in his office by a madman named Lyons and cruelly shot to death. This tragic event at a time when the office was handling several important trials, made it necessary to replace the murdered official with a man of conspicuous ability. Governor Heard had therefore tendered the post to Luzenberg, with the understanding that if in the sixteen months which remained of Gurley's term, he was successful, he would be nominated for the place in the elections of 1904. Agreeable to this understanding, the leaders of the city democracy notified Luzenberg, almost without exception, of their intention to support him before the convention.

p545 Governor Blanchard, however, had another candidate. Porter Parker, a well-known New Orleans attorney, had been elected to the State Legislature from the upper end of the Sixth Senatorial District (11th ward), as a colleague of Janvier. The governor admired his abilities, and had endorsed his candidacy some time before, apparently unaware of the commitments which bound the city democracy to Luzenberg. On being informed that Luzenberg was to be nominated for district attorney, Blanchard resolved to use his immense appointive power to coerce the city leaders to do his will. He came to New Orleans, sent for all of the ward leaders who held state appointments, and bluntly gave them the option of supporting Parker or suffering the consequences. One of them, Robert Ewing, proprietor of the Daily States, who was then one of the tax collectors, refused to do the governor's bidding. He was supported by John T. Michel, the Secretary of State, who was at that time the leader of the Thirteenth Ward; and by the city attorney, Samuel L. Gilmore, who was the leader of the Fourteenth Ward. Luzenberg, on learning how the situation was shaping itself, released from their promises all those who had pledged him their support; but when the convention met, Ewing made a strong fight on the floor against what he regarded as the unwarrantable interference of the state administration in purely local affairs. Michel and Gilmore also voted against Parker's nomination, but the other leaders capitulated, and his nomination was effected. There was never any question as to Parker's fitness for the position. Personally, he was acceptable to all the delegates, but the objection to his candidacy in the convention, and afterwards among the people at large, was merely incidental, the real opposition being to the governor.

The result of Parker's nomination was that there sprung into existence at once a party which took the name of "Home Rulers." At the head was W. S. Parkerson. With him were aligned a number of the leaders of the old citizens' league. They rapidly effected an organization in the city, called a convention, and put up the name of Charles F. Buck. At one point in the fight over Luzenberg Governor Blanchard, when the local leaders balked over submitting to his dictation, had used the words, "Well, what are you going to do about it?" These words were seized upon now by the home rulers, and became their war cry. There can be little doubt that the majority of the citizens were with the new party, but the time was too short for the home rulers to build up and consolidate their organization, and the "regulars," swallowing their indignation, set to work whole-heartedly to bring about the election of their candidates. Luzenberg would probably have been offered the home ruler nomination of district attorney, but having permitted his name to go before the "regular" convention, he felt, as a loyal party man, that he was precluded from accepting a nomination at the hands of the opposition; and as soon as he heard that the party was organizing, published in the papers a card announcing his adherence to the "organization." His name would undoubtedly have meant a great accession of strength to the home rule ticket. Another cause which weakened the party was the fact that many of those who would have voted for Buck were disenfranchised by failure to pay their poll tax. A poll tax law had been enacted two or three years before, under which no one was eligible to vote who had p546not paid his tax for two years. This duty had been performed faithfully by the partisans of the "regular" nominees; it had been neglected by the "best" element in the community, which would naturally have rallied to Buck's support. This, in the judgment of keen observers, made the "regular" victory certain; and in fact, when the votes were counted, Buck had only 10,047 as against Behrman's 13,962.

A minor interest was supplied to the election by the fact that the republicans were led, as a result of the split in the democracy, to nominate a city ticket. Their candidate for the mayoralty was John F. Wogan, who received 496 votes. The socialists, too, figured in the election — for the first time in the history of the city. They named W. Covington Hall for mayor. Hall received but 179 votes.


The Author's Notes:

1 Picayune, April 13, 1900.

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2 Campbell, "Charter of the City of New Orleans," etc., (1908), p23.

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3 Fortier, "Louisiana," III, 87‑89.

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4 Ordinances 974 and 1717, N. C. S. After the resolution placing the matter in the hands of the council committee, the city records contain no further allusion to this interesting matter.

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5 Act 89 of 1900.

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6 Picayune, July 24, 1900.

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7 Picayune, July 26, 27, 28, 1900.

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8 Picayune, September 25, 1901.

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9 Picayune, September 28‑30, August 1‑12, 1901.º

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10 Act 216 of 1902.


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