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Kansas Historical Quarterly - G. C. Clemens: The Sociable Socialist

by Michael J. Brodhead and O. Gene Clanton

Winter 1974 (Vol. 40, No. 4), pages 475 to 502;
Transcribed by Larry Wilgers; composed in HTML by Name withheld by request
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets refer to endnotes for this text.

REFORMERS of the late 19th century have been viewed, then and now, as a peculiar lot. G. C. Clemens was perhaps one of the most delightfully peculiar of them all. As a radical Kansas Populist who became a Socialist, Clemens voiced a criticism of American society and prescribed a solution for its many dislocations that put him sharply at odds with the conventional wisdom of his time. Like that of all mortals, his thought and his life style, especially when viewed in perspective, were not free of contradictions and inconsistencies. Nonetheless he possessed a keen and inquiring mind that carried him beyond mere egoism and into a fairly prolonged search for social justice. Among the many reformers spawned by the late 19th century economic revolution, few indeed went to the root of matters with anywhere near the degree of gusto and precision characteristic of this all-but-forgotten Kansas gadfly.

"G. C." stood for Caspar Christopher, an uneuphonic combination of given names Clemens disliked and occasionally ridiculed. If they were familial tributes, it was of no great consequence to Clemens; he was not one to dwell on the past and he could be most irreverent when confronted with a case of genealogical infatuation. He had nothing but contempt for the "practice of searching graveyards and scraping the moss from tombstones for evidence that one ought to be of some consequence in the world. It may be true that 'blood will tell'; but it is nevertheless true that the veriest clod in any embicile [sic] asylum had as many ancestors as Solomon or Plato, and perhaps, as brilliant, too." [1] Human beings, he felt, simply had to stand on their proven merits.

Ironically, he traded on his surname and cultivated the appearance of the man he allowed his contemporaries to believe was his kinsman, Samuel Langhorn Clemens. Simply by not denying any relationship to the famous humorist, while at the same time embellishing a truly remarkable natural resemblance, he enjoyed the reputation of being "Topeka's Mark Twain." [2] If the two were related, however, the fact was apparently unknown to G. C Clemens. The only known reference he made to the noted Hannibal product appeared in an 1881 issue of the newspaper he then edited. "There is a party," he wrote, "whose real name is the same as our own, but who, for some prudential reason perhaps, has for several years chosen to pass in the world under the alias -- Mark -- Mark Twain." That he was by no means unhappy about being thought a relative was perhaps revealed in the sardonic remark that followed: "We disown him, and wish it distinctly understood that we are the only lunatic in this family." [3]

Actually little information was handed down concerning Clemens's family or his early years. His parents were Eliza J (Barnes) Clemens, a native of Kentucky, and William E. Clemens, a native of Virginia. It was on April 23, 1849 in Xenia, Ohio that the couple celebrated the birth of their son. The elder Clemens, a "pioneer" of Ohio, farmed for a period and then became a merchant. According to one account, some "misadventures" plagued his business career. Apparently because of this, the Clemens boy, at the age of 13, was "thrown on his own resources." In any case, Clemens was denied a college education. But exceptional abilities, expanding horizons, and great determination, all of which Clemens obviously had, made for a combination difficult to deny. Various jobs came his way. He labored in a brickyard, learned the trade of cigarmaker, and taught school. Along the way he prepared himself for a career in law, and in 1869, at 20 years of age, the supreme court of Ohio admitted him to the state's bar after he had, according to one account, "passed a very brilliant and remarkable examination." [4]

His youthful years having encompassed the Civil War, it was not surprising that Clemens felt compelled to account for his whereabouts in relation to it. In a comic autobiographical statement, he noted that he "rushed madly into the turmoil, and for three long perilous years served [his] . . . country as a notary public in the great state of Ohio." [5] Actually Clemens was too young either to have donned a uniform or to have been a notary in those years. The notary's commission he later held probably bore the signature of Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes, whom Clemens, for a time, was fond of referring to as his "fellow statesman." [6]

The year 1870 marks the true launching of Clemens's career, for it was then that he struck out for the West and alighted in Topeka. There he remained for the rest of his life, because, as he put it, he "couldn't get away." [7] Topeka, the growing capital city of a growing state, proved in time to be a good spot for a man like young Clemens to build a solid reputation as a lawyer. But first there were the lean years. Clemens, with perhaps a touch of bitterness beneath his humor, later recalled:

I was poor. Alas! that is but too true. Your humble servant might have been frequently seen with an unseemly spot of mustard on his proboscis -- the sole remnant of recently eaten free lunch -- returning to his stately lodgings over an undertaker's shop, where the world, with all its sin and folly, was for a few brief hours, forgotten in balmy sleep, coveted and found upon the soft floor, with chair and overcoat for a downy pillow. In those primative Topeka days the subscriber's principal amusement was smoking a miserable pipe filled with still more miserable tobacco, in company with a few kindred Bohemians with kind hearts and empty pockets. He was also dodging his landlord. Your orator, in fact, handsomely imitated the example of the poor "cuss" in Spenser's Fairie Queen:

"His raw-boned cheeks, through penury and pine

Were shrunk into his jaws as he did never dine."

But I lived. I survived it all, and am permitted by a kind providence to enjoy better days and occasionally a square meal. . . . [8]

The young attorney, by his own admission, was also something of rakehell in those years, having "plunged into the whirlpool of vice and sin, then characteristic" of that booming city on the prairie. [9]

He distinguished himself at the bar through voracious reading and natural brilliance. Old Topeka lawyers remembered Clemens's performance in the federal circuit court in the 1870's when he appeared "with a pile of books" in order to challenge a point of law long regarded by the profession as incontestable. His hour-long argument impressed the lawyers present as "the finest they add ever heard." The judge, although not convinced by Clemens's brilliance, delayed the delivering of his decision until the next morning "as a compliment to the young man's ability." [10]

The rising attorney showed both candor and wit in a case heard in the circuit court by Associate Justice Samuel F. Miller. Seeing that the case was going against him, Clemens attempted to confound the court with a barrage of irrelevant points. When the exasperated Miller admonished him to stay with the "merits of the case," Clemens replied: "If your honor please, when I get down to the merits of this case, I seem to lose all interest in it." [11]

Success at the bar never brought financial security. Clemens, like his supposed relative Mark Twain, was often improvident and in debt at the height of his career. When his monetary fortunes were at their lowest, it was said that he habitually fitted himself out in his best clothing, hoping to give himself, if not others, the outward impression of prosperity. [12] Another story had it that a particularly insistent collecting agency set upon Clemens in behalf of one of his impatient creditors. The agency's unique method of hastening collection was to station a man at the front of the debtor's home in order to bang pots and pans while shouting abuse at the victim inside. When this technique was employed against Clemens, the young lawyer fought back. He brought charges of disturbing the peace. The agency lost and the fine imposed by the court forced it out of business, making Clemens a hero to the other Micawbers of Topeka. [13]

One reason for Clemens' lack of material gain was his willingness to give his attention to pursuits other than the law. In the 1870's he took a lieutenant's commission in the state militia. He later wrote that he dodged his military responsibilities when his unit was called out to suppress a "riot" accompanying a railroad strike: "I struck for my home and fireside, like the Scots under Bruce, and stayed there." [14] Another account had it that he abandoned his quest for martial glory when he was assigned to command a militia group ordered to prevent rampaging cowboys from sacking Abilene. At the time designated for his troops to assemble at the railroad station, only Clemens appeared; "and after drilling himself until his dangling sabre had worn holes in the depot platform he threw up his commission and reported to the governor that North Topeka had not lost any cowboys and that the proposed expedition to the interior had been abandoned." [15]

Significant wealth likewise eluded Clemens because he seldom served the great corporate interests. The Reports of the state's supreme court show that the cases he argued before it were usually for clients of modest means or no means at all. But perhaps this should not be taken as an early indication of his later radicalism; he unquestionably retained ambivalent inclinations that could just as well have foreshadowed a turn in an opposite direction. Selections from his first major legal treatise, The Law of Corporate Securities (1877), reflect this, while laying bare strikingly conservative, undemocratic, and elitist streaks:

We live in a glorious country. Here every man is a king, and has the privilege of being as untramelled by reason and responsibility as any who ever wore a crown or sat upon a throne. . . . Every man may assist in making laws which are to govern him and the people of his State; or, if he be totally destitute of both honesty and financial ability, he may even aspire to the management of fiscal concerns of his city or county, as an alderman or a county commissioner in which character his practice of the Capt. Kidd and the Micawber systems of finance combined, must inevitably render him famous.

Worse yet, Clemens snorted, was

that simple but successful scheme of robbery which consists in the exercise of the right of suffrage, by means of which the man who owns no landed property save what adheres to his person, and no goods and chattels save a family he mistreats, and a vote which is in a state of perpetual hypothecation, dictates to the hard-working and the moneyed classes who shall officially squander their money, contracts debts for them to pay, and then complains at the departure of flush times when the last farthing is needed to pay off the mortgages his prodigality has placed upon the homes of the business of honest and thrifty citizens. [16]

Like Henry Adams and the Mugwump mentality, generally, in an age when industrialization subjected American traditions to unprecedented strains, Clemens was quick to blame the problems of his era on the allegedly corrupt influence of democratic institutions. The foolish or fraudulent disposal of municipal securities, according to him, was "made possible by a system of government which recognizes every filthy blackguard as a 'sovereign.'" The "vast majority" of the electorate is corrupt. He was convinced, moreover, that this element constituted "about all who actually vote; the decent class of our citizens, in great numbers, having long since ceased to handle the ballot because of its futility. . . ." Who, he asked, had ever heard of a law requiring that taxpayers alone approve bond issues? "One would think that as they are to pay, they ought to be allowed to make the bargain. But no! The question is uniformly submitted to the 'elector,' a term which, in this country, is rapidly becoming the synonym of 'knave' or 'imbecile.'" He concluded, however, that the "fault is not in the people, . . . it is in the system. Republics have been tried before, and have perished of the corruption engendered by the very characteristic which distinguishes them from monarchies -- the right of suffrage." [17] It should also be noted that he endorsed, in this work, the "grand" and "farsighted policy" of federal land grants to the transcontinental railroad corporations -- a policy which was at the time under attack by reform elements. [18]

At this point Clemens was seemingly deaf to the growing protest movements in Kansas. He was also becoming literally and totally deaf. The rapid progress of the affliction led him to abandon law briefly and to seek a literary career. [19] He hit upon the ambitious idea of producing a paper in the style of the Tatler and the Spectator. [20] Thus, for one year, from October, 1880, to October, 1881, he published and edited his own weekly "semi-literary-political-local" paper called The Whim-Wham. It was a shaky venture from beginning to end. Utilizing his exceptional wit, the first number made the most of the circumstances. He notified his would-be subscribing public that the paper was "published on credit. Mortgage not yet placed." The paper would be delivered "by carrier, or by mail to any part of the civilized world or the United States. . . ." Advertisements were to be "inserted for nothing -- the editor gets his support by passing around the hat at church on missionary Sundays." He warned the public "not to give credit to any of the employes of this paper, because it hasn't any employes and the editor has hard work to get credit for himself." Among the rules to be observed were: "No subscriber [will be] allowed to stop his paper unless he has paid in advance." "Persons wishing obituaries in the current number [that is, 'Saturday or later'] must arrange not to die later than Wednesday." [21]

The Whim-Wham not only provided an outlet for his ambitions as a writer and humorist, it was also a forum for his political and social views -- which were still essentially conservative. He accused the Farmers Alliance of trying to frighten the railroads, other business interests, and the press. He wrote that he intended no criticism of the "real farmers of the community -- we speak only of the clods who have no time to cultivate crops because of their constant efforts to take care of the country." [22] Commenting on the Topeka farmers' convention that had just adjourned, Clemens editorialized in a style that would later do justice to any anti-Populist editor of the 1890's:

Think of a body of men assembling from all over the state for no other purpose than to abuse railroads, anathematize people for wearing polished boots and clean shirts! . . . Reduce the salaries of officers! . . . We are to have no receptions, no inaugural parades, no social amenities. Our highest officers must dress like muleteers and cultivate the rude manners of a country boor, in order to please the Spartan taste of a collection of unprincipled demagogues and brutal ignorance calling themselves "the people!" [23]

Sketch of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and photo of Gaspar C. Clemens

LOOK ALIKES! A sketch (left) of SAMUEL LANGHORN CLEMENS (MARK TWAIN) which was used as a cover illustration for the Barnes & Noble college outline series on American Literature, by Crawford, Kern and Needleman. And a photo (right) of Gaspar C. Clemens (1849-1906) of Topeka, the subject of this article. The two apparently were not related, for Gaspar C. once wrote of Samuel L.: "We disown him, and wish it distinctly understood that we are the only lunatic in this family."

Page 4 of first issue of the Whim-Wham, by G. C. Clemens, 1880

A reproduction of page 4 of the October 9, 1880 (the first), issue of The Whim-Wham, published in Topeka by G. C. Clemens in 1880-1881.

Apparently there were several cancelled subscriptions in the wake of this attack on the Alliance; and Clemens's response to that was extraordinarily witty:

Can we afford to reduce our income fifty cents a month merely to struggle on behalf of decency, clean shirts and law? No, we cannot, and we shall not; we yield to inevitable necessity, as our contemporaries have done, and henceforth The Whim-Wham shall be the organ of the "Farmer's Alliance," the bitter enemy of toilet soap, . . . plug hats and all other diabolical means employed in making "the rich richer and the poor poorer"; and the staunchest advocate of the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" -- as soon as we can find out what it means. [24]

While he had no sympathy for protesting farmers, he did express his concern, in an almost patronizing way, for workers victimized by the new technology. "The trouble," he wrote, "with the laborer is not the decrease in the 'volume of the currency,' as he is so constantly told; it lies deeper than that. . . ." But his "remedy" was an innocuous suggestion that the country revise its educational system in order to supply more technical or vocational training. [25]

Not long after these editorials, however, he made an observation that might have presaged a subsequently deeper commitment to both farmers and laborers:

It is a sad fact that the inventions, measures and movements which promise most for the advantage, pleasure, and elevation of the world, are prostituted by the base, mischievous, and unprincipled, to vile purposes, until good men are willing to forego all they had hoped from the innovations, in order to rid society of the ills they bring in their train; and what at its coming was hailed with joy, becomes a scourge and a curse. [26]

Politically, the young editor wore no party label. He ridiculed what he called "the miserable un-American party machinery," and minced no words in declaring that the two major parties have no "principles that can be formulated." He managed a kind word for the Greenback party, however, which had long suffered abuse from the Republican press of Topeka: "We have no use for any party, but we have noticed thet [sic] the Greenback speakers and writers have a creed of principles that can be formulated. . . . We are unable to say as much for the Republicans." [27]

Clemens's opposition to the state's prohibitory law also put him at odds with respectable Kansas Republicanism. He occasionally had a kind word to say for "the fruit of the vine," and whenever possible he got in a blow at John Barleycorn's tormentors. [28] One choice example was directed at Republican Gov. John St. John, leader of the prohibition forces. In an aside concerning the possible motive of Charles J. Guiteau for his assassination of Pres. James A. Garfield, Clemens stated: "The most probable theory is that he is insane, at least we are told that he talks and acts a great deal like his excellency, our Governor St. John." [29]

Although cynicism predominated, the issues of The Whim-Wham contain some hints that reform impulses were indeed stirring in the publisher's bosom. On March 5, 1881, he came out flatly for woman suffrage. He was convinced that it was essential that something be done "to elevate the intelligence and the moral tone of politics." The "only hope of the country," he wrote, "is the vote of woman; for though she may not always be able to give good reasons for her course, she will never vote for vulgar brutality. . . ."30

Clemens was also angered by the nation's treatment of the Indian. In reference to the mounting pressures on the Indian territory, he wrote: "We are horrified at the wickedness of drinking beer, but we are pacific and serene at the gathering of a mob bent on an unholy mission -- a crusade against the sacred rights of helpless men." It was all too obvious to him that "it was a maxim in American politics that no Indian should be allowed to retain his lands after they have been ascertained to be desirable. . . ." [31]

The issues nearest to his heart at this time were the injustice of the police-court system and police brutality. It was Clemens's feeling on these issues that, in time, seemed to have contributed more than anything else to his radicalization. Apparently the struggling young attorney had an unpleasant experience with Topeka's police-court system not long after he had removed to Kansas. [32] As a lawyer, these courts were the antithesis of everything he had learned regarding due process. In the last issue of The Whim-Wham he pleaded:

"We sincerely hope that our venerable Police Judge will not permit his heart to be hardened toward the unfortunate, nor make of his court a tribunal over whose portals might properly be inscribed -- "Who enters here leaves hope behind" -- because of the tirade of vulgar abuse heaped upon him by the Commonwealth [Topeka's major Republican daily]. For a long time, nearly every person doing convict labor upon the streets, was laboring to pay for no crime under Heaven but that he was poor. [33]

But Clemens's concern for the downtrodden could be selective. He demonstrated little sympathy for blacks who had become the political pawns of designing white Republican politicos in Kansas and elsewhere. At the time he was editing The Whim-Wham, the "Exodusters" -- thousands of indigent black migrants fleeing southern oppression and seeking opportunities in the West -- were pouring into eastern Kansas and receiving public aid. He wrote of "an army of southern negroes attempting to gain a livelihood in the state by the income derivable from, skillful voting, alone." And he lamented the "outrage" of convict labor which was rendered more unendurable by the circumstances that only white men were thus punished for their poverty, while at the very time the worst collection of petty-thieving colored paupers the city has ever had in it, were supported by the public, overran the town, and stood watching their white brethren toiling to heal the wounds the City's dignity had received, from their wicked and atrocious crime of being poor without a "relief society" upon which to depend. [34]

It would appear that the thorough radicalization of G. C. Clemens came suddenly. A further clue to the why of his political conversion may have been revealed in an off-hand remark he made in The Whim-Wham: "Our readers," he wrote, "are the better classes of people -- the fashionable and the very poor. . . ." He defiantly maintained that his list of subscribers did not include even one individual who belonged to "that wretched middle class, who cannot be fashionable and scorn to be thought poor; ever struggling for position, and defaming their neighbors in order to appear their betters." [35] His independent ways and unpopular causes, his disinclination to accumulate wealth, denied him full membership in the ranks of the "fashionable"; therefore it would seem only natural that he should gravitate ever more toward the camp of the "very poor." This he did. By 1887 his reputation as the "Topeka anarchist" was established. His reformist outbursts were almost exclusively directed against the evil conditions suffered by urban laborers. Even in the Populist decade of the 1890's, when the ferment of the time attracted a wide variety of types to the reform camp, Clemens was the most urban-minded and labor-oriented of the Populist leadership.

Given his attitude toward the pervasive materialism of his time, his inclination to champion the cause of the underdog, and his own laboring-class background, Clemens's attitude was no great anomaly. Then, too, he was looking at the social injustice of his day from an urban viewpoint. Although Topeka was not a large manufacturing center by Eastern standards, it was a city of industry by Western standards. The Santa Fe railroad's shops were located there; and the federal census of 1890 reported that 3,390 industrial workers were employed in Topeka -- enough for a sensitive and observant man to see problems. [36] Also, many of Clemens's clients came from the humble and "criminal" classes and much of his legal work was before the police courts.

In 1885 he published an article in a law journal denouncing the militia law enacted by the Kansas legislature that year. To Clemens, the most obnoxious provisions of the statute were those which empowered sheriffs and mayors to request aid from any militia commander, even allowing militia officers to act on their own initiative in cases of "insurrection or eminent danger thereof." [37] Clemens was convinced that the law was intended primarily to put down strikes, and he warned that the railroads could have their own employees or representatives commissioned for that purpose. [38] Carried to ridiculous extremes, he stated, the law would permit a sheriff "to call out a regiment of militia, a Gatling gun and a brass band, and all the other terrors of war, to help him replevin Mrs. O'Flaherty's pig from the unlawful custody of Columbus Jeremiah Dixon, or to eject an impecunious tenant from three clapboards and a dismantled hinge she holds upon tenure of 'eight dollars a month in advance.'" [30] Clemens contended that the law clearly violated the state's constitution on several counts--in particular he pointed to the constitutional provision that empowered only the governor to call out the militia. He concluded that "It was no friend of free government . . . that drafted this law." [40]

In an article for the same journal in 1886, Clemens objected to the proposal that courts of arbitration be created to settle labor disputes. According to him, adjudication by arbitration courts would conflict with the state constitution. [41] Worse still, such agencies were inadequate for coping with the serious labor unrest of the times. He concluded on a most apocalyptic note:

The fact is, and it had better be recognized, that legislation removing the dangers of the labor crisis is legally impossible, for radical measures are prohibited by the constitution, and only radical measures will do. To change the state or national constitution by ordinary means would require two or three years; and the crisis admits of no such delay. Our hands have been tied by our own misguided prudence in constitution-making. Hence, revolution is inevitable -- it is here. By universal consent we could make it a peaceful revolution, by making new constitutions through sovereign assemblies -- not waiting the slow course prescribed by our present organic laws. But we are powerless otherwise, however willing to avert our fate; and the revolution

must sweep over our land, be fought out, and one side or the other be victorious. The crisis is impending -- it is serious. Aided by the light of history, I see its awful turmoil; and I deemed it my duty to point out to my fellows how frail is the only dependence of present hope -- industrial arbitration. [42]

The following year he published a pamphlet on the labor question in which he pointed out that other remedies proposed for society's ills -- free trade, free silver, the single tax, and others -- were likewise inadequate, because, in his view, the problem stemmed from unemployment and poverty brought on by labor-saving technology; this in turn created less demand for manufactured goods; less money in the hands of consumers meant fewer buyers of farm produce. He also stressed that the crisis was international because foreign markets were growing smaller and more glutted. [43]

Clemens's more radical posture was evident in another pamphlet he wrote at this time, in which he denounced the injustice, lack of evidence, and other legal flaws of the arrest and trial of Chicago's Haymarket protestors. It was for him an almost unbelievable extension of shoddy police-court procedures to an incident of national consequence. He reviewed the affair and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the authorities. And, except for an outburst charging that the Pope of Rome ruled the United States through his Irish minions in the nation's police forces, he made his case in a judicious manner. [44] But of course his defense of the Haymarket anarchists contributed mightily to his reputation as a wild-eyed radical among his more conservative fellow citizens.

The Haymarket affair was a cause celebre, and he soon stepped up his war against alleged police brutality at home. During the summer of 1887 he spoke four or five times before open-air gatherings in Topeka. And in August he helped to organize and spoke before a "Grand Rally" at the city park, called to protest "Police Infamies," and to "put the police beneath the constitution and the law" by petitioning for the abolition of such hated police instrumentalities as the court, the jail, and the "hoodlum wagon." Shortly thereafter a fire destroyed the city's prison barn and a man died in the flames. A local editor insinuated that Clemens, the "leader of a gang of anarchists," was responsible. Clemens sued; the editor's defense was that he was only repeating a current "street rumor." In court Clemens exploded, charging that the editor was trying "to stir up a mob" in order to "cause" his "murder." [45]

In the wake of the incident, Clemens continued to assail the injustices of the police-court system as vigorously as before. The first edition of his guide to the Powers and Duties of Constables was prefaced by a stern declaration:

This manual has been prepared for the use of officers who, regarding their oaths, are desirous of legally discharging their duties. The "detective" and the "collection agent," who aims to ride roughly over the defenseless and the poor, regardless of the law, will find little to entertain him in this book, save what may commend itself to his judgment in the sections relating to partiality, oppression and misconduct in office. In short, this is a constable's, not a criminal's guide. [46]

At about the same time, Clemens became associated with yet another unpopular cause. He, along with a leading Democratic lawyer of Topeka, David Overmeyer, served as counsel for the Harman family of Valley Falls. Through their periodical, Lucifer, the Light Bearer, the Harmans scandalized the state by advocacy of free thought and sexual liberation. In 1886 Lillian Harman and

Edwin C. Walker performed their own marriage ceremony, in accordance with the family's doctrine. Clemens and Overmyer defended them unsuccessfully in the state supreme court against the charge of unlawful cohabitation. [47]

Offensive articles and stories in Lucifer subsequently resulted in three trials of Lillian's father, Moses Harman, the editor of the paper. In two of the trials, Clemens and Overmyer worked together on Harman's defense. Their main argument contended that if the distribution of Lucifer violated the federal law against sending obscene printed material through the mails, so too did the mailing of the Bible, many medical books, the works of Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, and others. Judge Foster complimented the attorneys for their "ingenious argument," which he admitted showed "much research in the field of general literature"; but he ruled against them nevertheless and Moses Harman was sentenced to prison. [48]

By this time Clemens was no longer content merely to flay the proponents of the status quo; his interest in the "labor question" had taken him a step further. The "ultimate aim" of the labor unions he now believed to be the creation of a new society based on "universal co-operation." In 1889, therefore, he joined with eight other reformers to incorporate a venture known as the Kansas-Sinaloa Company. The purpose of the organization was to promote, financially and otherwise, Alfred K. Owens's ill-fated Utopian colony in Topolobampo, on the west coast of Mexico. [49]

These were extraordinary and visionary actions to be sure; but then, the times were also extraordinary. Kansas, and much of the agrarian South and West, had been racked by an acute agricultural depression which, in turn, sparked the unrivaled agrarian political outburst of the 1890's; in its train a whole flock of gawky Gilded-Age chickens came home to roost. Clemens, like a number of other radical critics of his time, readily found a prominent niche in the Peoples party -- the political arm of the disillusioned and the disinherited. From the time of its organization as a state party in June, 1890, until its effective demise in 1898, Clemens gave to the Populist cause unreservedly of his forensic, legal, and literary talents. He and two other gifted Kansas lawyers, W. C. Webb and Frank Doster, served as the legal brains of the movement in Kansas. [50]

After their spectacular and productive first campaign of 1890 the Populists went on, in 1892, to capture control of the state administration and the upper house of the legislature. Uncertainty as to whether the Populists or the Republicans had won a majority of the house of representatives, however, brought on the great "Legislative War" of 1893. Clemens, Doster, and Webb served as the attorneys for numerous Populist and Democratic legislative candidates who were contesting the validity of the election of their Republican opponents in suits brought before the state supreme court. [51] Clemens also published a pamphlet that provided legalistic hints to the Populists to aid them in securing control of the legislature. He concluded the work with a diatribe against the "scheming, unscrupulous European owners of Kansas corporations" {e.g., the Santa Fe railroad) who had "gone so far in their audacious attempts to enslave the people that stern measures must be taken to put corporations beneath the law and retire them from political control for all time." His determined advice was aptly encapsulated in the comment, "A PEOPLE'S HOUSE OR NONE!" [52]

At the height of the dispute, Populist legislators barred their Republican counterparts from the chamber of the house of representatives. The Republicans responded by battering down the door with a sledgehammer. In the melee that followed, two persons, Clemens and a National Guard private, were said to have been the only combatants to sustain injuries and shed blood. [53]

An unusually bitter opposition press was quick to blame Doster, Webb, and Clemens for fomenting the "war." As legal advisors they were on the front line. In February, 1893, the three attorneys served as counsel in a state supreme court case arranged for the purpose of deciding whether the Republicans or the Populists were entitled to the house majority. To practically no one's surprise, the two Republican justices, with the sole Populist member of the court dissenting, decided in favor of their own party. [54] The Populists then yielded, but not without having their say. Clemens, in particular, blasted what he called the "unblushing mendacity" of the Republican justices and accused them of arriving at the "sham" decision before the case was heard. But the accusation was made with some trepidation and regret because, as he put it, "such charges" levied "against two members of the highest Court in the State can do me little good in a professional way" and also because he professed a strong personal liking for one of the two -- probably the popular William Agnew Johnston. [55]

In an article for a Kansas magazine, Clemens fulminated against the deputy sheriffs ("deputy champions of law and order," he called them) who had been enlisted by the Republicans to aid them during "The Late Conflict." He advised his readers to "Take the definition of treason laid down against the Homestead workers and apply it to the deputy sheriffs who menaced the Governor and his militia at Topeka!" He also maintained that some of the militiamen were guilty of mutiny and treason as a result of their open defiance of the governor's orders." [56]

Controversy raged on all fronts throughout the troubled term of Populist Gov. L. D. Lewelling (1893-1895) and Clemens frequently appeared as counsel for the administration in cases that came before the state's courts. The Populist attorney won a few and lost a few. It mattered not whether he was serving as Lewelling's representative to the innocuous Chicago Anti-Coal Trust Convention of 1893 or acting as the governor's legal arm in a fruitless effort to remove Republicans from appointive offices, Clemens had committed body and soul to the Populist cause and confronted each new assignment with all his energies. [57]

It was during the busy and hectic time of Clemens's service to "The First People's Party Government on Earth" that he set about writing his novel of agrarian and labor protest, The Dead Line. The reform press of Kansas announced in January, 1894, that the Topeka Advocate, the leading Populist paper in the state, would publish the work serially. Free copies of the first chapter were offered and readers were encouraged to interest themselves in what gave promise of being "the sensation of the period among story reading people." It was also disclosed that the writer was using a nom-de-plume ("Gideon Lame, D. D."). The explanation: he "is a professional man, whose reason for writing over an assumed name is that he is engaged in other work, and does not desire notoriety as a story writer. He is a Western man and not unknown to fame. Though he has admirers in all political parties, there are those who fear and others who hate him. . . ." [58] Not long after the novel had been serialized in the Advocate, the newspaper made a bound version of the book available to the public that resolved the mystery of authorship for those few who were by then still in the dark -- "Gideon Laine, D. D." was indeed Topeka's own G. C. Clemens.

The circulation of the Advocate was at its height (about 80,000 weekly) during the period that Clemens's novel was serialized, so he undoubtedly entertained and inspired a fairly sizeable number of receptive readers. The number of bound copies sold, on the other hand, was probably small and the work most surely did not cause the literary and political splash that Clemens may have entertained for it in his more optimistic moments. In the meantime, he remained active as Populism's advocate at the bar in Kansas. Among other political cases in the mid-1890's, he was the party's lawyer in a victorious suit which forced the Republican secretary of state to place Tom Watson's name on the state ballot as the Populist candidate for vice-president in the 1896 election. [59]

Although the national silver coalition went down the road to defeat behind William Jennings Bryan in 1896, in Kansas the Populist-Democratic-Silver Republican combination emerged victorious; for the first time in the state's history, the Republicans were outnumbered in all three branches of the state government. Seemingly, six years of political agitation and sacrifice were fulfilled. At last Kansas reformers had their chance to right some wrongs and at the same time claim the prizes of successful political struggle. Clemens's reward came by means of an appointment to the position of reporter for the state supreme court. His appointment was made by a unanimous court, the Republican Johnston having joined the Populist justices Frank Doster and Stephen H. Alien in making it. [60] In this capacity, he was to prepare for publication the decisions of both the supreme court and the Kansas court of appeals for the next two years. His work as reporter subsequently won for him the approval and praise of Kansas lawyers of all political persuasions.

New official duties by no means slackened the pace of Clemens's crusades for reform. He was credited with bringing to the attention of Gov. John W. Leedy the practice of using women on the prison rock piles of Kansas City, Kan. The governor promptly ordered an end to the sordid policy. [61] At one point, Clemens even came into conflict with his own party when the fusionist legislature tried to reduce the salaries of some state employees and officials -- including that of the supreme court reporter. He was especially irate over the proposed reduction of faculty salaries at the state university. The outspoken Clemens, returning to an alarm he had sounded while editor of The Whim-Wham, told the press that "when the cry shall be heard that we have driven learning from the state, and that accusation cannot be denied, I can but blush for my party and hang my head in silent shame." [62]

There were other, more fundamental matters, that began alienating Clemens from his party. He detested the seemingly inexorable drift of the Populists toward fusion with the Democratic party and the obvious weakening of the reform impulse that was signified by that drift. In a pamphlet entitled An Appeal to True Populists, published during the campaign of 1896, Clemens struck out at the fusionist leaders:

These traitors to the holy cause of the people would have us abandon, as they have already abandoned, every aim of our party, in order that we may secure the accession of old-party politicians, who, we are cooly informed, are too ignorant or too capitalistic to endure even the mention of postal savings banks, the public ownership of public utilities, a national currency issued directly to the people without the intervention of banks, the extinction of the monopoly of the earth, or the paring of the rather dangerous claws of the federal courts. [63]

He had this to say about the great infatuation with silver: "We can put silver back where it was in 1873, but we cannot put the world back there. And, in the world of to-day, with its gigantic trusts and combinations -- none of which will our proposed allies permit us to touch -- would free silver restore the conditions of twenty-three years ago? What folly to even dream!" [64]

By 1896 Clemens had retained, even extended, his commitment to the original radical reform program of Kansas Populism; during the same period, a growing number of Populist leaders and a significant portion of the rank and file had undergone a degree of moderation. [65] In part, Clemens wrote The Dead Line with the object of converting more of his contemporaries (Populists included) to the goal of a more fundamental reform of society. During the same period that the novel was being serialized, Clemens published a letter in the Advocate that humorously yet graphically indicated the course he had taken. He stated that government, as viewed by those who controlled it, was "an ancient hand-organ, into which its antediluvian manufacturers put certain tunes which must never be changed. It ceaselessly grinds out the Tariff schottische, the Gold-Silver-and-Parity Waltz, the Revenue polka, the exhilerating [sic] gallop -- -'Our Foreign Relations,' and the soothing measures of 'After Us the Deluge.'" Before the Populist movement, continued Clemons, political battles had been fought over one all-important issue, "Who shall turn the crank?" At any time in the past when the people had grown weary of the "endless monotony" and had "demanded a change of program," the disenchanted "have been assured the trouble was with the unskilled or negligent wretch who was grinding the machine ...." Finally, however,

a party has arisen to demand a more radical change; which says to the people "Let us remodel the old organ somewhat, so as to adapt it to modern music, and put into it an entirely new set of tunes. Let us substitute for this antiquated noise the beautiful strains of "The Earth was Made for All," and "All men are Brothers Now," and . . . "Poverty is No More." But the champions of prehistoric melody exclaim in horror, "The impious innovators are going to change our consecrated tunes and even overhaul the sacred machine! Let us redeem the holy noise-box from the blasphemous wretches." [66]

This view was reflected at various points in his novel. On one occasion he had John Cotterell, the young socialist workingman hero explain why he felt the Populist party was not wholly adequate for the task of righting existing wrongs: "You can't patch up this old social system so as to do any permanent good," said he. "It's putting new cloth on an old garment. . . . Patch work won't do any good. You've got to be satisfied with things as they are or you've got to have socialism. . . . There s no middle ground -- no room to tinker. [67]

Populism was a tinkerer's movement in the sense that it proposed to achieve social justice by piecemeal adjustment of the system; one might argue, with good cause, that it was a bit more willing to tinker with fundamental parts than have been other reform movements that occurred before and after it, but it was nonetheless a tinkerer's movement. Little wonder that Clemens parted company with the fusionists -- or as he put it, he "didn't leave the Populist party, it left him." [68] There were early indications that a move to a more compatible political home might be in the works. In November, 1893, he had exchanged letters with Laurence Gronlund, the nationally prominent Socialist leader. Gronlund was seeking support for the organization of a Socialist following in Kansas and he wrote Clemens that the communication he received from him was "really the first encouraging letter" he had received from Topeka, which he viewed as his "natural headquarters" on his visits to the state. [69] Thereafter the circumstances already described carried Clemens squarely into the growing Socialist movement.

By September, 1897, he was organizing the Kansas Union of Social Democrats. [70] And when, in 1898, the Populist-Democratic ticket was defeated, Clemens could not have been overly distressed. Nor did he grieve at the loss of his post as state supreme court reporter, as was indicated by this parody of "Wolsey's Fall" that he wrote for the edification of his Republican successor, Thomas Emmett Dewey:

Farewell, awhile farewell, to all my greatness.
No more shall soap and matches be supplied.
Nor towels be daily laundered for me by the state:
No more shall my proud name adorn the backs
Of books I have not writ; books of which e'en
The very authors deign not, save when recompensed, to read.
This is the state of man; today he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
In two years comes a frost, a serial frost,
The campaign lacketh warmth to dissipate;--
A killing frost; and when he thinks, vain man,
His greatness is a ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls; falls hard, as I do now;
And must seek him out a place to light. How wretched
Is that man that hangs on politics -- and gets left!
There is, betwixt the way things look before election and
The way they look in the returns which to headquarters come,
Room for more pangs and fears than women have;
And when the victim falls, 'tis with a thud,
As when dissecting room cadavers fall,
Mark my let down, and that that ruined me!
Dewey, I charge thee fling away ambition.
By that sin fell the angels. Draw thou thy pay.
And therewith be content, and trouble not thy soul
About tedious work thou art hired to do.
Let that plebeian job of its own self take care.
While wisely thou dost labor to thyself solidify
With things extern, upon which, in two brief years,
Thou mayest be doomed to rely for victuals and for needful duds;
Then, if thou fallest, as thou mayest,
Thou still some ice canst somehow cut.
And -- prythee, lead me in;
There take an inventory of all I have
To the last rubber band. 'Tis the state's.
My faded hat, my fadeless glory, are my own.
0, Dewey, Dewey,
Had I but served yon Kipling's beastly muse
With half the zeal I served the state --
Had caught upon my Smith-Premier
The promptings of that Rudyard jade
And by the thousand words sold them for cash -- ,
She would not thus have turned me out
Upon the yet unverdant grass.
Learn wisdom from my fate. [71]

Soon after leaving his post, Clemens successfully defended before the state supreme court the constitutionality of an 1891 Populistic law which had limited the working day of state and local employees to eight hours. [72] He also plunged into Socialism with his characteristic verve. For the rest of his life, he wrote, orated, organized, and campaigned for the cause. His Primer on Socialism, published in 1900, defined socialism as "a practical plan for making possible a happy life." "That," he wrote, "is Socialism's only aim." To accomplish their goal, Socialists "need only change the motive and management of the industries which provide for the maintenance and enjoyment of physical life." He took pains to emphasize that nothing else need be altered because "ITS MISSION [Is] PURELY ECONOMIC": [73] "It invades not the domain of the mind or soul. It crosses the threshold of no man's house to peer, to spy, or to regulate." [74] Under his brand of Socialism, the public would own only the most basic raw materials, industries, and "processes of production, distribution, and exchange." [75].

At the close of this tract, Clemens mentioned that it was necessary for the states to free themselves from the control of the federal courts because of the federal judiciary's hostility to reform legislation passed on the state level. [76] Early in 1900 he enlarged upon this theme in an address to the State Society of Labor and Industry. In a most precocious manner, he denounced what he so aptly called a "Strange irony of fate" -- that late-19th century constitutional revolution that saw "The fourteenth amendment, adopted for the sole purpose of preventing legislation for the oppression of black men by their former masters," construed to create "a complete barrier to legislation to prevent the oppression of the wage-worker, white or black, by the employing class." [77] He insisted that the "underlying principle of labor legislation" was Socialism:

Every law for the protection of man, woman, or child against the greed of an employer is a flat denial of the economic philosophy which dominates the industrial world to-day. The more permeated with socialism society becomes the easier it will be to get labor legislation enacted, the surer will the courts find it constitutional. [78]

Although Clemens insisted that he was a modern "scientific" Socialist, as opposed to a utopian, [79] he found the Socialist Labor party too "hide-bound" and therefore unappealing to Westerners. [80] He was in fact quite an eclectic and humane Socialist (especially in his utter disinclination to advocate or utilize violent means). In 1900 he wrote:

Some timid folk seem to fear that somebody will manufacture a socialist state and set it down over them some night while they are asleep. When socialism comes it will have to come through legislation, and it will be just what the people choose to have it. Bellamy's "Looking Backward" is a beautiful dream, and it has done infinite good in turning people to the favorable contemplation of socialism. But the scheme sketched in "Looking Backward" is colossal communism -- not socialism. Few modem socialists could be induced to put their necks into such a yoke. Latter day socialism is socialism with liberty -- social democracy. [81]

Equally revealing was an undated penciled note from his personal journal:

While Socialism is the end they keep always in view, Socialists recognize that until that end shall be attained they must live in the world as it is, changed by such means as they can use to make it more bearable in the meantime. A good Christmas dinner is a delicious thing to look forward to, but the breakfast of this morning must be such as we can get. I shall not refuse to eat ham and eggs to-day because I hope to have turkey with dressing sometime next year. [82]

On another occasion he made a passing reference to In His Steps, the novel by Charles M. Sheldon of Topeka that enjoyed a fantastic sale (which incidentally may have been partially inspired in the writing by similar but less developed forays in Clemens's Dead Line), and referred to Jesus as "The crucified founder of Socialism," who if he were "on earth today . . . would be found among the very people his alleged followers threaten with prisons." [83]

Clemens had also been suspicious at first of Eugene Debs and his following because they were johnny-come-latelies to the Socialist crusade. But he soon aligned himself with Debs's Social Democratic Party. [84] In April, 1900, at an organizational meeting, Clemens became its state organizer and secretary. [85] He also began publishing The Western Socialist News, a monthly paper that ran only from April to September of 1900. During the short life of the periodical, its publisher used its pages to introduce prospective readers to the Socialist program and also to denounce the two major parties which he believed were "alike controlled by those who tenaciously and selfishly cling to the old social system which [was] . . . passing away before their eyes." [86]

Curiously, Clemens was on the expansionist side of the imperialist debate of the 1900 campaign, but for a rather extraordinary reason. As he explained it:

Where capitalism goes, education will go; discontent with capitalism will go; Socialism will go. With the last acquisition made by conquering capitalism, capitalism will be at bay. It can expand no farther, and without expansion it must . . . destroy itself. . . . Let capitalism become universal, and Socialism can become universal. Expansion is right, for it is creating historic development and hastening the end of misery in the world. [87]

He twitted William Jennings Bryan for having argued that the Filipinos should be given "a government of their own" because they were "not fit to be our fellow citizens," and because "a republic should have no subjects." Clemens said he would accept that argument but Bryan should be willing to apply "The same logic . . . on this side of the Pacific. . . . Southern states have declared the illiterate blacks unfit for citizenship; . . . and . . . new state constitutions have taken the suffrage from them." He then asked: "Are these states to hold these people as subjects . . . ? No. They should not be required to yield obedience to the laws in whose making or execution they have no voice." He asked whether a matter of "reliable Democratic votes" was all that would sustain the contradictory positions. [88]

Clemens's position on the imperialist question was conditioned also by a more ordinary reservation that has a remarkable contemporary ring. In one of his speeches recorded in his notebooks, apparently for a Topeka audience, he remarked: "While our boys are fighting and dying at the front in a far off strange land, I refuse to say one word that might be construed into saying to the bereaved, your son, your brother, your father, you husband, fell in an unholy cause." [89]

At the height of this debate, during the summer of 1900, the inchoate Socialist party in Kansas chose Clemens as its gubernatorial candidate. In the two succeeding elections Clemens was again on the Socialist ticket, for attorney general in 1902 and associate justice of the supreme court in 1904. During these years, he maintained an active and distinguished law practice. Despite his radical views, he retained the respect and friendship of his more politically conventional brethren at the bar. Some of them remembered him later as "the greatest equity practitioner in the west." [9] They also recalled fondly that he was "able to get more fees out of a client than any other old timer. His motto was always get a retainer and get a refresher frequently." [91]

Early in his career he had urged fellow lawyers to learn the art of oratory so they might increase their courtroom effectiveness; even appellate courts, he insisted, which were "supposed to be legal icebergs," were impressed by "the counsel who can present his case the most clearly and agreeably, and whose voice sounds least like a filing saw. . . ." [92] His printed briefs show that he practiced what he preached; his arguments demonstrate learning not only of the law but history and literature as well. They are studded with references to the great writers, the works of whom were well represented in his own impressive library. [93] But there were limits to using erudition before the courts, as the conclusion of one of his briefs attests:

I had intended all along to close this argument with a very beautiful and affecting peroration. I had "stuffed" my memory with much of the choicest imagery of the Orient, and had read up a good deal of Chaucer, Euclid and other poets -- but I won't do it. I will not put the beauties of imagination under bonds [this was a bond case]. Besides there is no apparent affinity between the grandeur of the Orient or the poetical effusions of Euclid, and a Kansas bond. . . . I am going to quit right here. [94]

As an attorney, Clemens was of course not solely interested in wit and eloquence. He was primarily concerned, especially in his last years, with using his professional gifts to promote his vision of social justice. Although he recognized that many lawyers "have been ever ready to help rivet more securely the fetters upon the limbs of the oppressed," he believed that "the history of the bar is everywhere a conspicuous part of the history of liberty." Citing the "golden deeds of lawyers and judges" such as Lord Mansfield, Jefferson, Benjamin Butler, Wendell Phillips, Karl Marx, and Ferdinand Lassalle, he proclaimed a pride in his profession which made him "feel like exclaiming with exhultation, 'I, too, am a lawyer.'" [95]

Again using the cases he argued before the state's appellate courts as indicators, it appears that Clemens devoted the bulk of his energy to the fight for the weak and the forgotten. He was in fact a pioneer in the struggle against segregation. In 1879 the Kansas legislature had passed a statute which sanctioned separate elementary schools for black children in the cities of the first class. In 1903 William Reynolds, a black resident of Topeka, attempted to enroll his child in a white school. The child was refused admittance and Reynolds initiated mandamus proceedings against the city's board of education. His attorneys were G. C. Clemens and F. J. Lynch. [96]

Their arguments stressed the statute's violation of the state constitution, which required that Kansas establish a uniform system of common schools. They contended that "'Common' means to the people -- all the people -- regardless of color, race, social standing or religious belief, or it has no particular meaning -- is meaningless. Every school was to be a 'common' school. No school was to be a select or class school." [97] The statute likewise violated the requirement that the state have a uniform system, since only five cities were entitled by the law to have separate schools. [98] Referring to the members of the court itself, the brief pointed out that "Of the seven justices on this bench, only one hails from a locality aristocratic enough to be legally entitled to give colored children separate schools, and force the 'poor white trash' to stay away from theirs." Continuing their sarcasm, Clemens and Lynch asked: "Are the white children whiter or the colored children blacker in Leavenworth than in Ottawa?" [99]

Reynolds's attorneys further argued that the school law violated the 14th amendment of the federal constitution, citing Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) for support. [100] They declared that the Kansas statute did not even measure up to the "separate but equal" doctrine of the majority opinion in the Plessy case because the Kansas law did not require equal facilities for the segregated schools. The school board "may build an educational palace for the whites and give the colored children a hovel. . . ." [101] Clemens and Lynch asserted that good, modern school facilities were necessary to inspire the children of the poorer classes. [102] The brief also declared that "the mingling of the races at school is itself educative. . . ." [103] Their argument closed on a strong and bitter note:

The discrimination goes far beyond simple segregation. The insult is made more galling by added circumstances of contumely. Not even health is regarded. The excuse must be that having expended so much in providing an elegant school for the whites, little was left the defendent to expend on the children of African descent. But does the Fourteenth Amendment recognize such an excuse?

If the defendant is vested with discretion to provide separate schools, the testimony shows it has so abused that discretion that its action is void. [104]

In this case the court ruled unanimously against Reynolds and upheld the constitutionality of segregation. Shortly thereafter Clemens persuaded the court to decide against segregation in Coffeyville, a Kansas city of the second class. [105] But it was not until 1954, in a more famous case contesting segregation in Topeka, that the United States supreme court vindicated the position of John Marshall Harlan and G. C. Clemens by declaring separate schools everywhere to be unconstitutional.

A year after the Reynolds case, Clemens appeared before the state supreme court as one of the lawyers for a party contesting the constitutionality of mandatory school prayers. [106] Here, too, he was unsuccessful; but again a victory would later be won for the principles he championed.

For the last half-dozen years of his life, however, Clemens's major target was Kansas prohibition. Most of the cases he argued before the state supreme court during these years concerned violations of the prohibitory law. In all of them Clemens appeared as counsel against the law. [107] It was for him a deeply rooted personal fight; he gladly accepted the cases of those persons accused of breaking the dry law. He even challenged its constitutionality in the United States supreme court. [108]

Such intense opposition to prohibition indicated that Clemens had evaded the puritanical streak all too common among radicals of his era; it also signified that he sensed that John Barleycorn had far too often been made the scapegoat for the problems of the new industrial society by contemporaries who were much less willing than he was to subject the system to a thorough analysis. But his devotion to the battle against the social and economic ills of the day never caused him to lose his humor and charm. Even though he was in many respects the most radical Kansas reformer of his time, he was respected, even loved, by many of his more conservative contemporaries. The members of the Topeka bar especially admired him, not only for his professional abilities, but for his appealing personal qualities as well. Stalwart Republican Eugene F. Ware, federal pension commissioner and an outstanding Kansas lawyer, wrote fondly of "Clem the sociable socialist." [109] Clemens responded in kind by declaring publicly his friendship and admiration of his colleagues, particularly those of the Topeka bar. [110]

Eulogies of Clemens by Kansas attorneys mention, however, that he, like all mortals, had his faults and foibles. In addition to his attachment to radicalism, his colleagues lamented that he wasted too much time and energy in trying to satisfy a desire for literary fame. [111] The writing of The Dead Line, the cultivation of the Mark Twain image, and the obvious trading on the Clemens name, all indicate that he indeed aspired to notoriety as an author. But for the most part his writings were confined to legal subjects. Throughout his career he compiled and revised manuals on local law enforcement, appellate jurisdiction, election laws, roads and highways, and corporation laws. [112] In 1903, at the height of his Socialistic phase, he even produced a work called The Kansas Statutes Concerning Domestic and Foreign Corporations, designed chiefly for persons wishing to form corporations. [113] Although these works were basically only compilations of the relevant statutes and court decisions, Clemens often used them to express his personal views. He urged laymen not to stand in awe of the supposedly all-wise lawyers; [114] and he lectured lawyers on professional ethics, admonishing them not to employ cheap tricks and technicalities to win their cases. [115]

In line with the great degree of diversity that Clemens's personality was able to accommodate, he was also an enthusiastic member of the Elks. In December, 1904, he delivered a memorial address for a departed lodge member. He focused his listener's attention on the question of immortality. Admitting that science and reason seemingly refuted the possibility of an afterlife, he contended that man must not doubt immortality simply because he did not understand it. "Let us get back to Nature, and trust once more our spiritual sense, which God gave us that we might know what reason nor sense can not teach -- that death is not the end of life, but only a change." [116] Philosophically, at least, Clemens was prepared for his own death, which came less than two years later, on October 7, 1906. Not only did his wife and daughter mourn the loss of their "Dearie Clemens," [117] but the community of Kansas reformers and the bench and bar of the state expressed profound and sincere sorrow.

As a young man Clemens had written that he intended to live the kind of life that would merit him the following epitaph: "Here is one who was as free as the eagle above the mountains, who never feared the face of man, and never feigned what he did not feel from either fear or hope." [118] If ever a man earned that epitaph G. C. Clemens did. But Clemens would probably have settled for the tribute his legal colleagues supplied in their memorial: "He fulfilled the maxim of Rufus Choate as to the fate of lawyers 'who lived well, worked hard, and died poor.'" [119]


MICHAEL J. BRODHEAD, Kansas-born with his Ph. D. from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, is associate professor of history at the University of Nevada in Reno. O. GENE CLANTON, also Kansas born, received his Ph. D. from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and is associate professor of history, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Professor Clanton acknowledges assistance from a Washington State University grant in the researching of this article.

1. G. C. Clemens, "Memorial to W. C. Webb," Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the Bar Association of the State of Kansas (Clay Center, The Times, 1899), p. 15.
2. Letter of Grace Overmyer to Michael J. Brodhead, January 19, 1970.
3. The Whim-Wham, Topeka, July 16,1881
4. Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Bar Association of the State of Kansas, 1907 (n. p., n. d.), pp.25-26; "In Memoriam," Kansas Reports, v. 72, p. vi.
5. Clemens, "History of Topeka," Radges' Directory of the City of Topeka for 1889-1890 (n. p., n. d.), p. 19.
6. Topeka Mail and Breeze, July 9, 1897.
7. Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Bar Association of the State of Kansas, 1907, p. 26.
8. In the Circuit Court of the United States, for the District of Kansas. Henry B. Cullum Receiver of First National Bank of Topeka, Complainant, vs. Daniel M. Adams, et al., Defendants. Exceptions to Bill for Impertinence. Argument for Exceptants, by G. C. Clemens (Topeka, Geo. W. Martin Publishing House, n. d.), pp. 6-7.
9. Topeka Commonwealth, September 2, 1887.
10. Topeka Mail and Breeze, July 9, 1897.
11. Ibid.
12. Overmyer to Brodhead, January 19, 1970.
13. Topeka Daily Capital, September 8, 1941.
14. Clemens, "History of Topeka," p. 19.
15. Topeka Mail and Breeze, July 9, 1897.
16. Clemens, The Law of Corporate Securities, as Decided in the Federal Courts (St. Louis, W. J. Gilbert, 1877), pp. 19-20.
17. Ibid., pp. 20-21.
18. Ibid., p. 170.
19. The Whim-Wham, May 7 and 28, 1881.
20. Ibid., May 7, 1881.
21. Ibid., October 9, 1880.
22. Ibid., January 22, 1881.
23. Ibid., January 15, 1881; see, also, January 22, 1881.
24. Ibid., February 12, 1881.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid., April 30, 1881.
27. Ibid., July 30, 1881.
28. For example, see Ibid., March 5, 1881.
29. Ibid., July 9, 1881.
30. Ibid., March 5, 1881.
31. Ibid., January 1, 1881.
32. Ibid., January 15, 1881. It is pure speculation, but if one couples the fact of Clemens's deafness with his great sensitivity to police brutality, one cannot help wondering whether there may have been a connection between the two.
33. Ibid., October 1, 1881.
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid., November 6, 1880.
36. U. S. Department of the Interior, census office, Report on Manufacturing Industries in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Part II. Statistics of Cities (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1895), p. 583.
37. Clemens, "The Militia Law," Kansas Law Journal, Topeka, v. 1 (May 30, 1885), pp. 261-263.
38. Ibid., p. 264.
39. Ibid.
40. Ibid., p. 266.
41. Clemens, "Industrial Arbitration," Kansas Law Journal, v. 3 (April 3, 1886), pp.117-118.
42. Ibid., p. 118.
43. Clemens, The Labor Problem, Stated for the Busy and the Tired (Enterprise, Kan., Anti-Monopolist Job Office, 1887), pp. 5-8.
44. Clemens, A Common-Sense View of the Anarchist Case, With Some Points Apparently Unnoticed by Others, by a Common Home-Spun Western Lawyer (Enterprise, Kan., n. p., 1887), p. 8.
45. Topeka Commonwealth, August 25 and September 2, 1887; Damnable! Police Infamies of a Single Week, broadside, Kansas Historical Society [August 7, 1887].
46. Clemens, Powers and Duties of Constables; Constables' Guide for Use in the State of Kansas (Topeka, George W. Crane Publishing Company, 1888), p. iv.
47. State v. Walker, Kansas Reports, v. 36, p. 297.
48. U. S. Harmon [sic], Federal Reporter, v. 34, p. 872; Arguments in Support of Demurrer to the Indictment of M. Harman, E. C. Walker and Geo. Harman Under the Comstock Law, by G. C. Clemens and David Overmyer. Also Judge Foster's Decision Overruling the Demurrer (Valley Falls, Kan., Lucifer Publishing Company, 1889), p. 6; U. S. v. Harman, Federal Reporter, v. 38, p. 827; U. S. v. Harmon [sic], Ibid., v. 45, p. 414. See, also, William Lemore West, "The Moses Harman Story," Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 37 (1971), pp. 41-63.
49. Clemens, The Ultimate Aim of Trades-Unions (Topeka, Jeffersonian Printing House, 1889), p. 6; "Corporation Charters (Official Copybooks From the Secretary of State)," K.S.H.S., archives division, v. 35, p. 128.
50. Michael J. Brodhead, Persevering Populist: The Life of Frank Doster (Reno, University of Nevada Press, 1969), passim; O. Gene Clanton, Kansas Populism: Ideas and Men (Lawrence and London, University Press of Kansas, 1969), passim.
51. Rosenthal v. State Board of Canvassers, Kansas Reports, v. 50, p. 129; Shellabarger.
v. Williamson, et al., Ibid., p. 138; Wilds v. State Board of Canvassers, Ibid., p. 144; Rice v. Board of Canvassers of Coffey County, Ibid., p. 149.
52. Clemens, Points for Populists as to Organizing the House of Representatives (n. p., n.d.), pp. 10-11.
53. Topeka Mail and Breeze, July 9, 1897.
54. In re Gunn, Kansas Reports, v. 50, p. 155.
55. "Horton's Decision Reviewed by G. C. Clemens," in Ed. S. Waterbury, The Legislative Conspiracy in Kansas, Courts vs. Constitution; Who Are the Anarchists? (Topeka, Kansas Bureau and News Company, 1893), p. 88.
56. Clemens, "The Militia and the Deputy Sheriffs," The Agora, Topeka, v. 2 (April, 1893), p. 290.
57. Lewis v. Lewelling, Kansas Reports, v. 53. p. 201; Eastman v. Householder, et al., Ibid., v. 54, p. 63; Lease v. Albaugh and Lease v. Clark, Ibid., v. 55, 62; State ex rel. Dawes, Attorney General, v. Breidenthal, Ibid., p. 308; "Official State Roster," Kansas Historical Collections, v. 8 (1903-1904), p. 533.
58. Integral Co-Operator, Enterprise, January 16, 1894.
59. Breidenthal v. Edwards, Secretary of State, Kansas Reports, v. 57, p. 332.
60. Undated clipping from Kansas City (Mo.) World, "Kansas Historical Scrapbooks," regional history collection, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
61. Kansas City (Mo.) Star, July 16, 1897.
62 Undated clipping from Kansas City World, "Kansas Historical Scrapbooks," regional history collection, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
63 Clemens, An Appeal to True Populists, "People's Party Pamphlets" (K.S.H.S.), v.6.
64. Ibid.
65. Clanton, Kansas Populism, see especially chs. 10-12.
66. The Advocate, Topeka, September 5, 1894.
67. Clemens, The Dead Line: A Kansas Story of Society, Religion, and Politics (Topeka, The Advocate Publishing Company, 1894), p. 22.
68. Clemens's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
69. Laurence Gronlund to G. C. Clemens, November 13, 1893, "Clemens Collection," K. S. H. S., archives division.
70. Clemens's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
71. Topeka State Journal, February 25, 1899.
72. In re Dalton, Kansas Reports, v. 61, p. 257.
73. Clemens, A Primer of Socialism (Topeka, The Western Socialist News, 1900), p. 3.
74. Ibid., p. 4.
75. Ibid., p. 8.
76. Ibid.. p. 12.
77. Clemens, "Labor Legislation and How To Get It," Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention of the State Society of Labor and Industry, Held at Topeka. Kan., February 5, 6, and 7, 1900; Also the Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention of the Society of Miners, Held at Topeka, Kan., February 5 and 6, 1900 (Topeka, W. Y. Morgan, state printer, 1900), pp. 20-21.
78. Ibid., p. 26.
79. Clemens, A Primer of Socialism, p. 10.
80. Kansas City World, July 6, 1897.
81. The Western Socialist News, Topeka, May, 1900.
82. Clemens's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
83. The Western Socialist News, June, 1900.
84. Kansas City World, July 6, 1897.
85. The Western Socialist News, June, 1900.
86. Clemens's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
87. Ibid.
88. The Western Socialist News, July-August. 1900.
89. Clemens's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
90. Topeka State Journal, February 10, 1923.
91. Ibid.
92. Clemens, "The Kansas Lawyer," Kansas Law Journal, v. 1 (March 7, 1885), pp. 69-71.
93. Clemens's library was itemized in one of his notebooks contained in the K. S. H. S., archives division.
94. In the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas. Nimrod Long, J. B. Briggs and M. B. Mortem, Partners as N. Long & Co., Plaintiffs, vs. Humboldt Township, in the County of Allen, in the State of Kansas, Defendant. Argument for Plaintiff by G. C. Clemens (Topeka, Topeka Blade, n. d.), p. 19.
95. "Labor Legislation and How To Get It," pp. 24-25.
96. Reynolds v. Board of Education of City of Topeka, Kansas Reports, v. 66, p. 672.
97. In the Supreme Court of Kansas. William Reynolds, Plaintiff v. The Board of Education of the City of Topeka, of the State of Kansas, Defendant. Brief for Plaintiff. G. C. Clemens, and F. J. Lynch, Attorneys for Plaintiff (Topeka, Ed. G. Moore & Son, n. d.), p. 8.
98. Ibid., pp. 10-11.
99. Ibid., pp. 12-13.
100. Ibid.. p. 15.
101. Ibid., p. 17.
102. Ibid.
103. Ibid., p. 18.
104. Ibid., pp. 18-19.
105. Cartwright v. Board of Education of City of Coffeyville, Kansas Reports, v. 72, p. 32.
106. Billard v. Board of Education, Ibid., v. 69, p. 53.
107. In re Gray, Ibid., v. 64, p. 850; State v. Chiles, Ibid., p. 453; State v. Chesney, Ibid., v. 65, p. 861; State v. Durein, Ibid., p. 700, Ibid., p. 1, Pacific Reporter, v. 80, p. 987; City of Topeka v. Chesney, Kansas Reports, v. 66, p. 480; State v. Engleman, Ibid., p. 340; Newman, County Clerk, v. Lake, Ibid., v. 70, p. 848; City of Topeka v. Kersch, Ibid., p. 840; State v. Klauer, Ibid., p. 384; Statev. Sheaslely, Ibid., v. 71, p. 857; State v. Ross, Ibid., p. 856; Stahl v. Lee, Ibid., p. 511.
108. Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Bar Association of the State of Kansas, 1907, p. 27.
109. Eugene F. Ware to W. E. Connelley, April 10, 1911. -- "Connelley Mss.," regional history collection, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
110. Clemens, Appellate Jurisdiction and Procedure of the Supreme Court of Kansas (Topeka, Geo. W. Crane & Co., 1885), p. 96.
111. "In Memoriam," Kansas Reports, v. 72, p. vii.
112. Complete Compilation of the Corporation Laws of the State of Kansas, Including Banking and Insurance (Topeka, Crane & Company, 1898); The General Election Laws of Kansas Systematized for the Convenience of Electors and Election Officers (Topeka, Crane & Co., 1899); A Manual of the Law of Roads and Highways, in the State of Kansas (Topeka, G. W. Crane & Co., 1885); Township Officers' Guide: A Manual of the Laws Concerning Townships and Township Officers in the State of Kansas (Topeka, G. G. Crane & Co., 1887). Most of these works went through several editions.
113. Clemens, The Kansas Statutes Concerning Domestic and Foreign Corporations for Profit (Other Than Railway, Sewerage, and Slack-Water Navigation Companies,) and Mutual and Fraternal Insurance Companies; With Notes and Instructions and Forms (Topeka, Crane & Company, 1902.
114. Clemens, Appellate Jurisdiction, p. 81.
115. Ibid., pp. 96-97.
116. Clemens, Elks' Memorial Address, Delivered Sunday, December 4, 1904 . . . Before Topeka Lodge No. 204 B. P. O. E. (Topeka, Crane & Company, 1905), p. 13.
117. Overmyer to Brodhead, January 19, 1970; see, also, Clemen's notebooks, K. S. H. S., archives division.
118. The Whim-Wham, Topeka, July 23, 1881.
119. "In Memoriam," Kansas Reports, v. 72, p. viii.