Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 28, 2011


Page 11



Mystery Surrounds Origin of Flyer Slamming McLachlan




In the annals of dirty tricks in California elections, few have been more shameful than one pulled in 1900 in the race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the multi-county Sixth District, in which Los Angeles was located. But to this day, it isn’t known who pulled the trickery.

A hit piece was mailed to Spanish-speaking voters, falsely quoting Republican James McLachlan as uttering anti-Catholic remarks. Was it the handiwork of the Democratic candidate, himself? Was it issued by supporters, without his knowledge? Did it emanate from the Republican side to derive advantage from the subsequent discrediting of a ruse?

The Democratic aspirant was former San Luis Obispo City Attorney William Graves, who had been a member of the legislature in Arizona Territory. He was in a Nov. 6 run-off with Republican nominee James McLachlan and two members of minor parties.

McLachlan had been elected to the seat in 1894, but was rebuffed by voters in 1896 when he sought a second term. He launched a comeback bid two years later, but dropped it “in the interest of party harmony.”

The Nov. 2, 1900, issue of the Los Angeles morning Herald contains the text of the circular, translated from Spanish into English. The Evening Express reprinted it later that day, as did the Los Angeles Record. It begins:


“All faithful Spanish-Americans are requested to take notice of the following when they come to vote for a member of Congress at the election of the 6th of November:

“The Republican nominee, James McLachlan, was in congress before and in 1896, while a member thereof he was noted only for his opposition and hatred to anything that had even a distant association with the Catholic church. He was, and is yet, a member of the hated A. P. A., and all Catholics ought to vote against him and in favor of Hon. W. H. Graves, who is of our own race and blood and a faithful son of the holy Catholic church.”

The “A. P. A.” was the American Protective Association, a secret society that sought to bar Catholics from gaining public offices. McLachlan, according to the Herald and to the Express, was not a member.

It does appear that Graves—a grandson of Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule—was courting votes based on ethnicity. An Oct. 26 item in the Express says that Graves “is devoting special efforts to the Spanish and Mexican vote,” that he “counts upon the fact that he is partly of Spanish blood,” and was delivering some of his talks in Spanish.

The flyer continues:

“Here is a copy of one of the speeches made by Mr. McLachlan while he was a member of Congress, in which he showed a portion of the hatred which be feels for our people and church.”

There follows a distorted version of McLachlan’s explanation of why he supported a proposed amendment to a bill which would have appropriated more than $250,000 to schools for American Indians. The amendment would have restricted allocation of funds to secular schools.

The campaign piece attributes to McLachlan these remarks (in Spanish in the circular, translated into English in the Herald):

“The pages of history are black with the results of such legislation as this bill proposes and the same pages are full of warning to all nations of the earth to avoid all legislation for the special benefit of the Catholic church.

“My ancestors, centuries ago, gave up their lives among the hills of old Scotland, fighting against the Catholic church, and their descendants have not ceased to this hour opposing this organization.”

McLachlan’s actual remarks are set forth, copied from the Congressional Record of Feb. 24, 1896. These words appear:

“Personally I make no war upon the religion of any man. On the contrary, I join with all good American citizens in strenuously contending for the principle that accord to every man, woman and child the right to worship God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, but I contend no less earnestly for the principle that in this Government of ours there must ever be a complete separation of church and state….

“The pages of history are darkened by the records of the fatal results of just such legislation as that proposed by this bill, and the same pages abound in warnings to all the nations of the earth to sacredly avoid all legislation for the special benefit of any sect or denomination….

“My ancestors, centuries ago, gave up their lives among the rugged hills of old Scotland fighting for civil and religious liberty and the absolute separation of church and state, and their descendants have never wavered to this hour in their loyalty to the principle for which they died.”

There will be more about the controversy in the next installment.


 Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company


MetNews Main Page     Reminiscing Columns