"Question of Personal Privilege - the Everglade Drainage" - Mar. 5, 1912 speech by Hon. Frank Clark of Florida in the Ho...


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"Question of Personal Privilege - the Everglade Drainage" - Mar. 5, 1912 speech by Hon. Frank Clark of Florida in the House of Representatives
Series Title:
Business Records of Sydney Octavius Chase
Physical Description:
Clark, Frank
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Box: 22
Folder: 5.67. Everglades Drainage


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida

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University of Florida
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e/demn those things which I believe rede(t upon my State
le, and I shall advocate those things which I believe wfll
'ir good and preserve their honor."




-" T.



MARCH 5, 1912


32,398- 10633


Vi.' a





Mr. CLARK of Florida said:
Mr. SPEAKER: I rise to a question of personal privilege.
The SPEAKER. The gentleman will state it.
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, the Washington Post
of this morning contained an article which I send to the Clerk's
desk to have read.
The Clerk read as follows:
GoV. A. W. Gllcbrlst. of Florida, arrived In Washington yesterday
and lost no time In making known his desire to be heard by the Commit-
tee on Expenditures in the Agricultural Department In the matter of
the charges made against the proposition to reclaim the Everglades of
his State. He says the people of Florida are aroused by chbargey made
by Representative FRANK CLAHK that the reclamation of 4,000.000 nacres
of swamp land is only a scheme to further the interests of a coterie of
land corporations.
** I came to Washington," Gov. Gilchrist said, to let the committee
know the true state of affairs.
In my opino,,n the attacks are instigate.d by the railroads of the
West, who wish to have this great immigration to Florida stopped.
They are naturally anxious to not only keep their own people at home,
but to have other immigrants come to their country. Naturally with the
influx into our country the western railroad interests are being dimin-
"The last census shows that Florida's Increase In population was
42.1 per cent, second to no State east of the Mizsl.sippl. The value
of the Everglades and the feasibility of the drainage and the healthful-
ness of the country have been admitted by all who have visited the
I am at a l,:'ss to understand or account for the attacks made upon
the Everglades by Representative CLAKS From what I have been told,
he has never seen them. When the congressional committee, on its
way to Washington from Key West. stopped off at Fort Lauderdale to
visit the Everglades. it Is said that Representative CLASK'S boat reached
the cypress swamp thaLt- borders part of the eastern edge of the Ever-
glade., when Mr. CLARE, addressing the committee, said:
Gentlemen, here are the Everglades. You see.what they are. This
is all there Is to see. Let us go back, as I have an engagement with
Mr. Flagler at Palm Beach.' And toward Palm Beach his boat was
turned Immediately. From the citizens of Fort Lauderdale I have the
information that Representative CLARK never did reach the Everglades.
*' I am confident that the Investigation In progress will prove his
charges to be unfounded. Just what his motive was In bringing them
I know not, but I can say they are a mistake."
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker. I regret very much to
be compelled to ask a little of the time of this House to say
32698--110653 a

something upon" this most remarkable emanation. The Com-
mittee on Erpenditures in the Department of Agriculture of
this House is engaged in making certain investigations. They
are examining witnesses in an honest endeavor to ascertain the
facts. I have been content to wait until the facts have been
submitted to that honorable committee, and until that committee
had made its report to this House so that the House might bp
in possessionn of all the facts and could take such action as could
properly come within its jurisdiction and was right.
But the governor of my State fearing, I suppose, that the two
Senators from Florida and the three Representatives in this
House were incapable of taking care of the interests of the
State has seen fit to journey all the way from Tallahassee to
Washington, as he says, to defend Florida." Now, Mr. Speaker,
if I were really making an attack on my State or any of the
interests of my State, surely the two gentlemen who sit at the
other end of the Capitol and my two distinguished colleagues
on this floor would take care of the interests of that State with-
out the interposition of the governor. But the governor comes,
and forthwith, without waiting to appear before the committee
and under oath give testimony, proceeds to get into communica-
tion with a newspaper reporter and issues this remarkable
Mr. Speaker, let me say, in the first place, that people may
wonder what motive is actuating me and why I began or under-
took to put on foot this investigation. I will tell you. In
October last year there appeared an article in the Washington
Times in which It was stated, in substance, that a certain valu-
able official document of the Department of Agriculture had
been suppressed, that document, being a document dealing with
the Everglades of Florida; that in some mysterious manner the
report of the engineers who had made a survey of the Everglades
had disappeared, and the circular letter which had been pre-
pared to give information to Inquirers all over the country had
suddenly been suppressed.
The article went on to say that it had been learned that this
circular letter was suppressed at the instance of former Senator
Taliaferro of Florida, and myself, and that we had gone to the
Department of Agriculture and had brought influences to bear
in that department which succeeded in suppressing this im-
portant official document; that we did that at the instance of
the Florida East Coast Railroad Co., a corporation in my
State, owned and controlled by Mr. Flagler; that Senator
Taliaferro and myself were under the control of this railroad
company; and that we exercised this influence which they said
we had over this great department to suppress this document
at the Instance of the railroad company, which railroad com-
pany, the article stated, owned large areas of land in that
territory which it wanted to sell, and if the Everglades were
drained and the land put upon the market they would come in
competition with the holdings of the Florida East Coast Rail-
road Co. In other words, Mr. Speaker. that Senator Taliaferro
and myself were simply the tools of the railroad company,
owned by them, and that we had to do their bidding; that we
did it and had this document suppressed.
Knowing that to be absoltitely false so far as I was con-
cerned, I at once proceeded ito have an investigation. I wrote

the Secretary of Agriculture and demanded to know of him if
I had ever approached him along the line of securing the sup-
pression of any documents in his office. He :insweredi me that
not only had I not. but that his understanding of my position
was that I had always insisted upon the publication anud dis-
tribution of the document, contending that the people of this
country bad the right to the information contained in it. Later
on I found that Senator Taliaferro had made no such request.
I knew, Mr. Speaker, that the Secretary had informeol me in
the presence of witnesses that this circular letter had been
suppressed by him at the instance of the persons engaged in
selling the Everglades lands.
I knew that I had not asked him to suppress it. All admit
now that I made no request for its suppression, but on the con-
trary always insisted upon its publication. So, Mr. Speaker,
when that charge vanishes into thin air It remains for the gov-
ernor of Florida-God pity the State-to travel all the way to
Washington and put in public print the intimation that I am
now acting at the instigation of the railroads of the West."
Mr. Speaker, from my place I brand that intimation as a.
base, vile, uncalled-for, deliberate falsehood, whether it comes
from the governor of the State of Florida or anybody else. He
says "the people of Florida are aroused by charges made by
Representative FRANK CLABK that the reclamation of 4,000,000
acres of swamp land is only a scheme to further the interests
of a coterie of land corporations." Mr. Speaker, I have never
made any such charge. The statement that I have is a base
fabrication, without the warrant of one scintilla of truth. I
have always said, Mr. Speaker, that I was not opposed to the
drainage of the Everglades as a work of internal improvement.
I have been opposed, T am now opposed, I shall continue to be
opposed to the outrageous exploitation of those lands by a lot
of conscienceless land sharks, to the disgrace of my State and
to the thievery of millions of dollars [applause]. and if I have
not enough honest voters in my district to stand by me in elect-
ing me to Congress upon an honest platform like that, God
knows I do not want to be here. [Applause.]
By the way, the governor of my State, before he was gov-
ernor, was interested in some land exploitations not in the Ever-
glades, and it may be, Mr. Speaker, that a fellow feeling makes
him wondrous kind." He has exploited land, and it may be that
the governor's great heart goes out in warm sympathy for these
people exploiting the Everglades; and they are exploiting them,
let me tell you. Only yesterday one of the most prominent
citizens of my district, living on the edge of the Everglades,
told me that he saw not long ago in a paper called the Florida
Home Seeker, a picture of a negro and a mule and a plow
standing in the tall grass, almost covered with its luxuriant
growth. It appeared to him in the picture as a broad prairie.
The negro was holding the handles of the plow just as though
he was ready to start a furrow. This gentleman told "me that
in his little town he saw the photographer who took that pic-
ture, which was in the literature of one of these shark com-
panies. That photographer told him that the negro and mule
and plow were on a flatboat, pushed out into the tall grass. and
that he, the photographer, sat in a rowboat when he took the
picture. [Applause and laughter.]


That is the character of performance that I am protesting
against. For the honor of my State I am fighting such conduct
as that. [Applause.] Listen to this:
[H-on. FLNKr CLARKic, MIAMI, FLA., February 24, 1912.
Washington. D. C.
DuEn Sin: I am Inclosing you a circular letter sent out by one of
the Everelade companies and received by me over a year ago
I bought contracts from this company upon the direct representation
that the lands, at that time were ready for cultivation. Ift. not found
so upon investigation my mcney was to bre refunded. It was not
The enclosed bunk" was sent through the malls with the fraudu-
lent Intention of deceiving purchasers into believing these lands fit to
plant, while, as a matter of fact. It was still under water. Go for them.
Very truly, yours,
Mr. Randall came there from Long Beach. Cal. So they have
gone all over this country. They have bled everybody, they
have stolen, they have robbed men and women in all of this.
land. They hoae made homes unhappy, they have depleted the
little savings of working people right in this eity, aud yet the
governor of my State says that when I attack these thieves aud
plunderers I am making an attack upon Florida. God help
Florida if that is true. [Applause.] But, Mr. Speaker, the in-
sinuating part of this article lies here. Gentlemen are all
around me who were on the trip coming back from Key West.
Gentlemen are right here who stopped at Lauderdale, and they
know what took place. They know that we only had an boutr
and a half to stop there, distinctly understood. Call on my
friend, Mr. PnGcr'i, of Tennessee. or some of these other gen-
tlemen, and let them tell you how some of those land sharks got
charge of some of the faster boats on which were Brother
PADGEIT an1d a lot of others, and how they ran wiles up the
river and kept them over four hours, and one of them delib-
erately told PADGETT'r, CLARK never would come to look at these
Everglades. We have got you fellows and you have got to see
them. We have shanghaied you."
Mr. BATHRICK. Will the gentleman permit a suggestion?
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Certainly.
Mr. BATHRICK. Is it not a fact some of the gentlemen
upon that boat that went up the Everglades were carried to a
farm known as the Davie farm, in the Davie ditch section-
Mr. CLARK of Florida. I believe so.
Mr. BATHRICK. And is not it a fact that after all these
representations respecting frost in Fiorida where the represent-
atives of these companies had stated this section was below the
frost line-is it not a fact about the 7th or 8th of February of
this year all the vegetables upon that same Davie farm were
destroyed by frost?
Mr. CLARK of Florida. I do not know.
Mr. BATHRICK. I will say that it is true.
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, the governor says, so
this reporter says, and I presume he reported it correctly-my
experience with newspaper reporters in Washington is that' they
generally get a fellow pretty straight, and I apprehend that the
governor said it-that when we had gotten up to a certain
point that I said:
Gentlemen, here are the BEveilindes. You see what they are. This
is all there Is to see Let us go back, as I have an engagement with
Mr. Flagler at Palm Beach," and toward Palm Beach his boat was
turned Immediately.

That is absolutely untrue, not that I disclaim association and
acquaintance with Mr. Flngler. I am not a groundling. I am
not ashamed to acknowledge the acquaintance and the friend-
ship of a man who has builded a glorious country out of what
was a wilderness before. [Applause.] But this little pin-
headed governor [laughter] thought it would hurt we polit-
Ically in my district to associate me with Mr. Flagler. That is
why he drew in the name of Mr. Flagler. He thought that
would cost me some votes. But he is mistaken. The intelli-
gence of the constituency of the second congressional district
of Florida averages much higher than the intelligence of the
governor of Florida. [Laughter and applause.] I am confi-
dent that the investigation in progress will prove his charges
to be unfounded." What were my charges? Simply this and
nothing more. I said that a certain circular letter on the sub-
ject of the Everglades sent out by the department was sup-
pressed. I said that the Secretary told me that he suppressed
It at the instance of persons engaged in selling Everglade lands.
Then I asked the committee to ascertain who those people
were and why this document was suppressed. I will prove
everything I have said by testimony that even the governor of
Florida, with his limited ability to weigh facts, will be able to
discover establishes the truth of the charge. Ah, Mr. Speaker, I
have made no fight upon this project. I have not said that the
lands were good or bad. I do not know. The only thing I have
contended against is this conscienceless exploitation of these
lands, making misrepresentations, and publishing and circulat-
ing deliberate falsehoods in reference to them.
Mr. AKIN of New York. Will the gentleman yield?
The SPEAKER. Does the gentleman from Florida yield to
the gentleman from New York?
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Yes, sir; for a question.
Mr. AKIN of New York. I wanted to make a statement in
regard to a letter which I received a few days ago from a gen-
tleman who is now down in Florida investigating the Everglade-
as to purchasing some land. He said that while down there he
met a gentleman from Iowa who had bought some of this Ever-
glade land by mail, and had come down there to see it, and he
made this remark: I have bought land by the section; I have
bought land by the acre: I have bought laud by the foot; but,
my God. I have ever bought land by the gallon [Laughter.]
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, the governor under-
takes to put me in the attitude of attacking the interests of my
State. Gentlemen upon this floor who hale been here during
my term of service know that I have never lost an opportunity
to paint the beauties of that fair Stateand tell in my humble wny
of her charms. rApplause.] I have done all I could to repre-
sent her faithfully and well. Whenever her fair fame has been
attacked I have always come to her defense. The governor of
Florida by this silly and untruthful attack can not injure me
among the people, because they know it is false. In spite of him,
in spite of the land thieves, for whom he speaks, the intelligent,
honest democracy of that district, unless I mistake the sigus of
the times, will again express their conddenue in me by sending
me back to this great body. [Loud applause.]
And I shall continue to stand for honest dealing as I see it.
I shall condemn those things which I believe reflect upon


my State and my people, and I shall advocate those things
which I believe will ijure to their good and preserve their
honor. [Applause.]
If standing for bonesLy, if standing for right, if standing for
truth is to defeat me, then I do not want a sent here or any-
where else. If I cnu not hold a commission from an honorable
constituency upon an honorable basis, I would prefer to go
back home, and, if' need be, settle on some beautiful little spot
alongside of one of our lovely lakes and spend my time amoug
the yeomanry of that district, who are my friends, and aid
them in making '" two blades of grass grow where only one grew
Mr. Speaker, I have In this transaction simply denounced
wrong. I have simply inveighed against dishonor. I have
simply denounced theft. No man can make me believe that
when I am doing that I am bringing discredit upon my State.
I stand for Florida Orst. I love the State, her people, and her
interests. When I shall go down to rest it will be in her bosom,
in her generous soil, among the people who have been so good
to me, and I shall sleep in the sands of that great State, whose
people I know do not approve or indorse dishonor and theft.

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