John Riley Tanner

Last updated

John Riley Tanner (April 4, 1844 – May 23, 1901) was the 21st Governor of Illinois, from 1897 until 1901.

Contents

Tanner was the first governor in the country to be openly neutral in labor disputes, gaining national notoriety for his actions in a series of coal mine disputes. With the Spanish–American War looming, he was the only governor to raise and combat-equip a National Guard unit of African American soldiers led by African American officers.

Tanner's administration was capable and efficient, placing the state on a sound financial footing and passing significant legislation. However, he was constantly at odds with Chicago's political leaders, both Democratic and Republican, a feud that came to be symbolized by his signing of the infamous "Allen bill", which gave control of Chicago's intra-city transportation network to corrupt financier Charles Yerkes.

Tanner declined to seek a second term as governor, instead choosing to oppose the renomination of his former political ally, Shelby Cullom, as U.S. Senator. Tanner was badly defeated within his own party, ending his political career. He died less than five months after leaving office.

Early life

John Riley Tanner was born on a farm near the town of Boonville in Warrick County, Indiana. His family moved to Illinois when he was a child, and he grew up on a farm near Carbondale. He enlisted in the 98th Illinois Infantry at the age of 19, during the Civil War, and saw service with Sherman's army. When the 98th Infantry was mustered out of service in June 1865, Tanner was transferred to the 61st Illinois Infantry, and was mustered out of service later that year. He then returned to southern Illinois and settled in Louisville, Illinois, where he farmed and entered into a partnership with his brother in a milling and lumber business. [1] He married Lauretta Ingraham on Christmas Day 1866 and they had two children, Lucinda J. and J. Mack Tanner, but Lauretta died on October 22, 1887, at the age of 40.

Political rise

Tanner would rise through Republican party ranks to become the unrivaled boss of a powerful political machine. In 1870 he began his long and successful political career in the Illinois Republican party of that era, winning elections and garnering appointments to increasingly important positions. He was first elected to the office of sheriff of Clay County, Illinois (1870–72), and afterwards became circuit court clerk for the county (1872–76). He was appointed master in chancery (i.e., a senior officer of the court) of the circuit court (1877–80), and then served two terms in the Illinois State Senate (1880–1883). Tanner was appointed United States marshal of the Southern District of Illinois by Republican President Chester A. Arthur, but was soon removed by incoming Democratic President Grover Cleveland.

Now prominent in statewide Illinois politics, Tanner was elected State Treasurer in 1886, and in 1891 he was appointed to the State Railroad and Warehouse Commission. In 1892 he was made Assistant Treasurer of the United States Treasury at Chicago, and was elected chairman of the Illinois State Republican Central Committee in 1894, a committee on which he had previously served as a member (1874–84). [1]

As chairman, Tanner was at the head of his party in its heyday of state power and national influence, the boss of a well-oiled political machine that he had helped build. As such, he was instrumental in resuscitating the flagging political fortunes of U.S. Senator Shelby Moore Cullom within his own Republican party.

Tanner was a tireless worker and strong-willed party boss. Under his leadership during the 1896 political campaign, the entire Illinois Republican Party state ticket was elected, the party secured majorities in both branches of the state legislature, and eighteen of their twenty-two candidates for congressmen were elected. Tanner himself was elected governor, defeating incumbent John Peter Altgeld by a wide margin.

Administration

Cora English Tanner, wife of the governor Cora.English.Tanner.1.jpg
Cora English Tanner, wife of the governor

Tanner led up to his inauguration in grand style with his marriage to the socially prominent Cora English on December 30, 1896. She was known for her interest in social reform and her outspoken support of her ideals, views that were shared by her husband.

John Tanner's administration was noteworthy in several respects. He placed the state on a sound financial footing, and significant legislation included the establishment of the State Board of Pardons, the State Board of Examiners of Architects, the offices of the State Food Commissioners and the State Commissioners of Game, and the Juvenile Court Act. Western Normal School was established at Macomb (originally a school for teachers, now Western Illinois University).

Tanner was also known for his antagonistic relationship with Chicago, and was often at loggerheads with its political bosses, both Democratic and Republican. The mutual hostility came to be symbolized by the "Allen bill", a legislation signed by Tanner which gave control of Chicago's intra-city transportation system to corrupt financier Charles Yerkes. Faced with long-term constraints that would virtually cripple many efforts to develop the city, Chicago was galvanized into instituting internal reforms and ensuring the bill's repeal.

Tanner was an active and unbiased patriot. When the Spanish–American War was declared, he was the first governor in the country to have the state militia ready to be called up into national service. Within 36 hours of President McKinley's call for volunteers, ten thousand equipped troops were ready for muster into the U.S. military.

Among Illinois' contributions were the 8th Illinois Volunteers, an African American regiment with African American officers and an African American commander; and when the President tried to dissuade him from recruiting African Americans, Tanner used his considerable influence to pressure the national government into calling up the regiment and sending them to Cuba, one of ten equipped Illinois regiments to be called up. [2]

Tanner achieved national notoriety with his position on labor disputes at a time when they were characteristically numerous and violent, particularly in the Illinois coalfields. His position was non-partisanship, the first governor to make it a state policy. When violence broke out, he was quick to send state troops to quell the violence, and he was adamantly opposed to the importation of armed men by either side, using troops to enforce state laws against it. The most notable incidents of the day were at Virden (where imported armed men had fired on Illinois strikers), at Pana (racial strife between white and black coal miners, with the governor siding against the position of the white miners), and Carterville (where unarmed African Americans were shot by white miners, an incident vehemently condemned by the governor).

Legacy

John Tanner's tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery John Riley Tanner's tomb.JPG
John Tanner's tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery

Tanner's early and untimely death meant that he would never be able to mend the ill feelings that resulted from his disputes within his own party, particularly those that arose from his challenge to Shelby Cullom immediately preceding his death. His relationship with Chicago politicians had been consistently antagonistic over the years, and they felt no inclination to remember him kindly.

He had personally opposed the use of violence against both companies and laborers in labor disputes, and had favored the elevation of African Americans from an inferior social position to one of equality. As neither principle was actively supported by successful politicians of either party, either before or after his term as governor, it is fair to attribute the principles to him personally, and to note that he was out-of-step with his nineteenth century contemporaries.

Tanner is affectionately remembered both by Organized Labor, and by the African Americans who benefited from his policies. Their donations in remembrance of him accounts for the grand tomb that was erected at his grave.

Quotes by and about Tanner

Workers' rights

This is the first time in the history of the State or of the nation that the military power of the law, during an industrial contest, has been exercised in defense of the rights of American labor.

on Tanner's use of the state militia at Virden [3]

Again, those who attempted to take the place of the locked-out miners did not move of their own volition, but came as an army, some of them in cattle cars, and all under the protection of Winchesters in the possession of men disqualified to perform police duty under the laws of this State.

on Tanner's use of the state militia at Virden [4]

Personally, I believe that employes and laboring men have the same natural and legal right to form combinations for the purpose of maintaining a living wage that employers have to combine in order to keep up the price of their manufactured products and to keep down the price of labor.

from a speech by Tanner at Trenton, Illinois on November 7, 1898 [5]

It appears to me that of all obligations that can be formed, none is so justifiable, or expedient, or sacred, as an agreement in which the employers of labor and their employes unite upon equal terms and have a common interest. That was precisely the character of the agreement reached at Springfield, to which the Virden and Pana mine owners were parties.

from a speech by Tanner at Trenton, Illinois on November 7, 1898 [5]

Who hired these assassins? What right had they to hire them? They were not even citizens of this State, but armed invaders of its soil—fifty or sixty of them, armed with repeating Winchester rifles loaded with powder and ball, invading our State for the purpose of shooting—and they did shoot down—our citizens.

from a speech by Tanner at Trenton, Illinois on November 7, 1898 [6]

The A. F. of L. expresses its heartfelt thanks to John R. Tanner, governor of Illinois, for the noble stand taken and the precedent established by him for the cause of organized labor.

American Federation of Labor, 1919 [7]

Racial attitudes

To His Excellency, John R. Tanner, the able and fearless executive of the great State of Illinois, who believes and who has the courage of his convictions, that it is the heart, the brain, the soul, not the skin, that go to determine manhood; who, acting on this belief and the fundamental principle of this government that "taxation without representation is tyranny," had the manhood to appoint colored officers to command a Colored Regiment, this book is affectionately dedicated

History of the Eighth Illinois United States Volunteers, 1899 [8]

Even from the very doors of the White House have I received letters asking and advising me not to officer this regiment with colored men, but I promised to do so, and I have done it. I shall never rest until I see this regiment—my regiment—on the soil of Cuba, battling for the right, and for its kinsmen.

from a speech by Tanner to members of the 8th Illinois, after an all-white regiment had been activated for service in the Spanish–American War, 1899 [9] [10]

I am the only Governor in the United States who sent to the field, in response to the call of the President for volunteers, a negro regiment, officered by negroes, with a negro colonel at its head.

from a speech by Tanner at Trenton, Illinois on November 7, 1898 [11]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Peter Altgeld</span> Governor of Illinois from 1893 to 1897

John Peter Altgeld was an American politician and the 20th Governor of Illinois, serving from 1893 until 1897. He was the first Democrat to govern that state since the 1850s. A leading figure of the Progressive movement, Altgeld signed workplace safety and child labor laws, pardoned three of the men convicted in the Haymarket Affair, and rejected calls in 1894 to break up the Pullman strike by force. In 1896 he was a leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, opposing President Grover Cleveland and the conservative Bourbon Democrats. He was defeated for reelection in 1896 in an intensely fought, bitter campaign.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shelby Moore Cullom</span> American politician (1829–1914)

Shelby Moore Cullom was a U.S. political figure, serving in various offices, including the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate and the 17th Governor of Illinois.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oak Ridge Cemetery</span> United States historic place

Oak Ridge Cemetery is an American cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Marshall Hamilton</span> American politician

John Marshall Hamilton was the 18th Governor of Illinois, serving from 1883 to 1885. Born in Union County, Ohio, Hamilton became interested in politics at a young age, joining the Wide Awakes when he was thirteen and the Union Army four years later. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University he studied law and was admitted to the bar. A notable attorney in Bloomington, Illinois, Hamilton was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1876. He served there until 1881, when he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Illinois on a ticket with Shelby Moore Cullom. When Cullom resigned after election to the United States Senate, Hamilton became Governor of Illinois. He was not selected as a candidate for re-election, but did serve that year as a delegate to the 1884 Republican National Convention. He spent the rest of his life as an attorney in Chicago, where he died in 1905.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lawrence Yates Sherman</span> American politician (1858–1939)

Lawrence Yates Sherman was a Republican politician from the State of Illinois. He served as United States Senator, the 28th Lieutenant Governor, and as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

The history of Illinois may be defined by several broad historical periods, namely, the pre-Columbian period, the era of European exploration and colonization, its development as part of the American frontier, its early statehood period, growth in the 19th and 20th centuries, and contemporary Illinois of today.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Yates Jr.</span> Governor of Illinois from 1901 to 1905

Richard Yates Jr. was the 22nd Governor of Illinois from 1901 to 1905—the first native-born governor of the state. From 1919 to 1933, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois. Although he failed to receive his party's nomination in 1928 to the Seventy-first Congress, he was later appointed nominee and elected in place of Henry R. Rathbone who died prior to the election. In 1932, he was unsuccessful in his bid for reelection to the Seventy-third Congress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William M. Smith</span> American politician from Illinois

William M. Smith was an American farmer and politician who served as the 24th Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. A Republican, he held the position from 1871 until 1873.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Virden</span> Labor union and racial conflict in Illinois, 1898

The Battle of Virden, also known as the Virden Mine Riot and Virden Massacre, was a labor union conflict and a racial conflict in central Illinois that occurred on October 12, 1898. After a United Mine Workers of America local struck a mine in Virden, Illinois, the Chicago-Virden Coal Company hired armed detectives or security guards to accompany African-American strikebreakers to start production again. An armed conflict broke out when the train carrying these men arrived at Virden. Strikers were also armed: a total of five detective/security guards and eight striking mine workers were killed, with five guards and more than thirty miners wounded. In addition, at least one black strikebreaker on the train was wounded. The engineer was shot in the arm. This was one of several fatal conflicts in the area at the turn of the century that reflected both labor union tension and racial violence. Virden, at this point, became a sundown town, and most black miners were expelled from Macoupin County.

The Pana riot, or Pana massacre, was a coal mining labor conflict and also a racial conflict that occurred on April 10, 1899, in Pana, Illinois, and resulted in the deaths of seven people. It was one of many similar labor conflicts in the coal mining regions of Illinois that occurred in 1898 and 1899.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Illinois coal wars</span>

The Illinois coal wars, also known as the Illinois mine wars and several other names, were a series of labor disputes between 1898 and 1900 in central and southern Illinois.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Edwin Taylor</span> American journalist

George Edwin Taylor was an American journalist, editor, political activist, and politician. In 1904, he was the candidate of the National Negro Liberty Party for President of the United States. He was the first African American to run for president.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrew Shuman</span> American newspaper editor and politician

Andrew Shuman was an American newspaper editor and politician. A native of New York, Shuman worked at several small local newspapers until he secured a position at the Syracuse Journal in 1853. He left the position in 1856 to work as an assistant editor for the Chicago Evening Journal, a predecessor of the Chicago Sun-Times. He was elected the 21st Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in 1876. A leading candidate for the Illinois governorship in 1880, Shuman instead decided to increase his role at the Evening Journal and retired from politics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1913 United States Senate elections in Illinois</span>

Two United States Senate elections were held in Illinois on March 26, 1913. The two elections were interconnected through a compromise made to elect a Democrat in the regular election and a Republican in the special election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1899 Chicago mayoral election</span>

In the Chicago mayoral election of 1899, Democrat Carter Harrison Jr. was reelected, winning a plurality of the vote and defeating Republican candidate Zina R. Carter, former Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, as well as several minor candidates by a double-digit margin.

The Carterville Mine Riot was part of the turn-of-the-century Illinois coal wars in the United States. The national United Mine Workers of America coal strike of 1897 was officially settled for Illinois District 12 in January 1898, with the vast majority of operators accepting the union terms: thirty-six to forty cents per ton, an 8-hour day, and union recognition. However, several mine owners in Carterville, Virden, and Pana, refused or abrogated. They attempted to run with African-American strikebreakers from Alabama and Tennessee. At the same time, lynching and racial exclusion were increasingly practiced by local white mining communities. Racial segregation was enforced within and among UMWA-organized coal mines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1896 Illinois gubernatorial election</span>

The 1896 Illinois gubernatorial election was held on November 3, 1896.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1880 Illinois gubernatorial election</span> US gubernatorial election

The 1880 Illinois gubernatorial election was held on November 2, 1880.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cicero Lindly</span>

Cicero Jefferson Lindly (1857―1926) was an American politician and judge who served as a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives.

References

Bibliography

John Riley Tanner
John.R.Tanner.jpg
21st Governor of Illinois
In office
January 11, 1897 January 14, 1901
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Illinois Treasurer
1886
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Illinois
1896
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Treasurer of Illinois
1887–1889
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Illinois
1897–1901
Succeeded by