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DR. S. D. FESS FOR CONGRESS A MAN OF IDEAS, OF EXPERIENCE, INTEGRITY, AND OF COMMANDING MORAL INFLUENCE BY GEORGE D. BLACK Figure DR. S. D. FESS Dr. S. D. Fess—An Estimate of the Man The people of the Sixth Congressional District are to be congratulated upon the fact that Dr. S. D. Fess, President of Antioch College and Vice-President of the State Constitutional Convention, has offered himself as a candidate for Congress to be voted upon at the primary election to be held on May 21st. When men of the intellectual and moral type of Dr. Fess are willing to enter the field of politics, it is a presage of better things to come in our national life. No more reassuring and heartening spectacle could be presented to us. It means that the day of the merely professional politician and time-server has wellnigh gone by, and that the best kind of men are more and more to be demanded for our places of public trust and service. As Dr. Fess has been presented as a candidate for the suffrage of the voters of this district, it is only just that every one of these voters should know something of the life and work and character of the man. It is to supply this knowledge that I am writing this paper. Dr. Fess has lived an intensely active life, and to tell all about it would require a volume. He is a man who has always been getting things done, working hard for the joy of the work and the delight in seeing things accomplished, and not from calculation about preferment and honors. EARLY LIFE AND STRUGGLES I should like to dwell on many interesting points in his career that will have to be sketched in with a few words. He was born in Allen County and belonged to a family of seven and was reared in poverty, his father dying when he was four years old. He went to the common schools and later by his unaided efforts made his way through the Ohio Northern University at Ada. This was done by his going to school in the summer and teaching in winter. In this way it took nine years to complete the course. In 1887 he began to teach in his Alma Mater and continued in this position until 1902. SOME OF HIS ACTIVITIES Here again I can give only a brief outline, and many important things must be omitted entirely. In 1889 he graduated at Ada with the highest honors of his class. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1892 and became manager of the College of Law at Ada, which position he held for five years. During this time he practiced in the courts. At the time the Ohio Northern University was taken over by the Methodist Church he was made its vice-president. From 1884 till 1902, when he left for the University of Chicago, Dr. Fess was quite active in politics, taking the stump in every campaign. In 1896 he spent eleven weeks in the campaign for McKinley, speaking some days three times. He met Congressman Tannehill of the Zanesville district in a debate, and on the 29th of August he debated with Ex-Governor St. John at Ada in the fair grounds before an audience of six thousand people. His argument against the free coinage of silver was used as a campaign document in many states, and was pronounced by Gov. Bushnell the finest argument heard in the campaign. What he was doing in campaigning in these years will be suggested by the statement of the Chairman of the Republican State Committee in 1900, who said that there were more calls for Fess than for all the other Ohio speakers combined. In 1900 he was a candidate for the nomination for Congress in the Eighth District, and after five days and on the 632nd ballot he was defeated. At this time he was frequently mentioned as a suitable candidate for governor. In 1902 he accepted a call to the University of Chicago where he remained till 1906, at which time he accepted the presidency of Antioch College. At Antioch he found a field suited to his taste. The college had had many reverses. The student body had greatly declined. The buildings were in need of repair and of many improvements. In the five years of Dr. Fess' presidency the institution has seen important improvements from every standpoint and has made marked progress. He organized a Chautauqua at Antioch at his own heavy financial risk the first year, and has continued it every year since to the great pleasure and edification of the whole country round about. It is done on his part as a service to the community. Since going to Antioch he has declined a number of invitations to other and more lucrative positions in this and other states. Only recently he has declined a call to take the directorship of the University Extension Work in the State University of Colorado. HIS LECTURE WORK Dr. Fess is in constant demand in the lecture field. It is a remarkable and interesting fact that though he is going in every direction to lecture, he has never yet filled an engagement through the arrangement of a bureau; and that he has given courses of lectures in every county seat in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is doubtful whether a statement like this can be made of any other man in the lecture field. An idea of his popularity in this line of work may be had from the fact that in some cities in Pennsylvania, in Pittsburg[sic Pittsburgh], Lancaster, and York, he has delivered over forty lectures in each city; and that his lecture on Lincoln has been given hundreds of times in various states, and that in 1909, the year of the Lincoln Anniversary meetings, he declined 143 invitations to make this address. It is apparent to any one that a man to keep himself thus constantly before the public as a speaker must be a man of real substance of thought, a man with messages that are worth while. But as a public speaker he has not confined himself to one field, but he has generously responded to calls for assistance in various movements for social and industrial betterment. While he was in Ada he had one of the largest Sunday School classes in Ohio, and in Chicago he was identified with the young men's work in the Presbyterian Union, and also with the Y. M. C. A. and Men's Religious Clubs. HIS BOOKS He has published the following books, some of which are in use as text-books: Outline History of the United States. History of Political Theory and Party Organization in the United States. This is a volume of 600 pages. Civics of Ohio. And he is now engaged in writing for a leading publishing house a history of Ohio. Dr. Fess has always taken particular pleasure in helping struggling young people to an education. Perhaps remembering his own early hardships has made him especially sympathetic with this class of persons. During his professional career more than a score of young men and young women have found a home and help in the Fess family. Some of these have taken positions of prominence. HIS MORE RECENT WORK During the Constitutional Convention Dr. Fess' name has been kept prominently before the people of the state. What he has done there is recent history. When the people of Greene County urged him to be a candidate for the position of delegate to the Convention he complied with the understanding that he would not campaign for it. He was out of the state at the time of the election, and this called attention to him and caused his name to be prominently mentioned for the presidency of the Convention. For personal reasons he forbade his name to be used in this connection. He was honored by being elected to the vice-presidency. It is well to review here briefly some of the things Dr. Fess has stood for and has done in that Convention. Up to this writing, April 4th, every measure that has gone through he has supported as it passed, and no measure that he has opposed has gone through. He conscientiously favored the good roads proposition and the three-fourths verdict for jury conviction. On the liquor question he voted for the license clause as submitted as the best one that could possibly be passed by the Convention. On the woman's suffrage question he favored leaving it to a vote of the people. What he did for the Initiative and Referendum is a good illustration of the man's sound judgment and mental poise, coupled with a thoroly[sic thoroughly] progressive spirit. After the Convention had debated for two weeks and was rent asunder over the question, with no sign of an agreement in sight because of the insistence and vehemence of the extremists, Dr. Fess came to the front and brought the thing to a focus and really saved the day for the measure. He was chairman of a voluntary committee that wrote the Initiative and Referendum proposal as it passed the Convention. The president of the Convention earnestly urged Dr. Fess to take the lead in a conference with a few others in the hope that something might be done to bring order out of the hopeless confusion; and this Dr. Fess did on the condition that the radicals on either side were not to control the conference, and that a measure which would stand a good chance of meeting the approval of the voters of the state should be offered to the Convention. The most exciting scene in the convention was when in the midst of the Initiative and Referendum debate the president declared the convention recessed and left the chair, refusing to put a motion on an appeal from his decision. It was then in the midst of the most acute excitements when the body was wrought to a frenzy of protest and indignation, that Vice-President Fess took the chair, deliberately straightened out the parlimentary[sic parliamentary] tangle into which the President's imprudence had thrown things, and restored order and good will so that the business of the Convention could be continued. For this act of courage and skillful diplomacy Dr. Fess has been widely commended by the state press. A number of papers have editorially urged his name for the governorship of the state. Dr. Fess has been deeply interested in the reform of the State Judiciary so as to do away with its delays and vexations and to place the poor and rich on an equality before the law; and in this work before the convention he has done an important service. Looking over the man's career and studying his intellectaul[sic intellectual] and moral equipment, let us sum up now the reasons for the statement that was made at the start that the people of this district are to be congratulated upon his candidacy. His qualifications for Congress are many, and of a high order. 1. He was brought up on a farm, and knows the farmer's problems and needs. He has never ceased to have a lively interest in farm life, and frequently appears before farmers' institutes as a speaker. 2. His own early experiences in poverty and toil and struggle burned into his soul a deep and abiding sense of the lot of the world's toilers, and no man has a keener sympathy with those whose hands have been made rough with honest work, and whose shoulders are stooping under the weight of earth's heavy physical burdens. 3. His active life has brought him into association with all classes of people educators, scholars, professional and business men; and he understands and appreciates their points of view. He can think and speak for many classes, because his own life has gone through many experiences, and his training has been in the School of Man. 4. He is a trained lawyer. Not only has he studied and practiced law, but he has taught it; and so is equipped from a legal point of view to be a legislator. 5. He is one of the best parliamentarians in the country. At Ada he taught parliamentary law and wrote a manual on the subject. 6. He is an accomplished historian. For years he taught history. He is an authority on United States history. Few men go to Congress as thoroly[sic thoroughly] conversant as Fess is with all the details of the almost endless problems and discussions and dreams and hopes that entered into the making of our national government. A legislator needs knowledge, as well as some other things. A merely good intention is not enough. No other man in Ohio does as much speaking on the men and ideas that have made our government as S. D. Fess does. 7. He has always been intensely interested in public questions, and is a student of present-day problems. 8. He is a speaker of commanding influence, and would go to Washington the peer of the ablest and best men that measure wit and knowledge and persuasion against one another in that arena of intellectual and linguistic conflict. He would command attention and respect, and the people of this district would never have to be ashamed of its representative by a sense of his obscurity and inferiority. He would represent and honor the district. 9. Above all else S. D. Fess is a man of deep and abiding moral convictions. He is no political time-server. At Washington he would never shirk, nor shilly-shally, nor try to fool the people. He would stand for the best things, for progress, for wise, sane legislation; and it is absolutely certain that his principles would never be for sale. If there is any one thing needed in this country more than anything else it is that our best men, moral men, trained and thoroly[sic thoroughly] equipped men, shall be willing to give their time and thought and life to political service. Inferior men and immoral men are always ready to accept political preferment. They are the bane of our governmental life. When the best sort of a man is presented for our choice to serve us in our public life no more serious responsibility rests upon us than to give him our enthusiastic support.
|Title||Dr. S. D. Fess|
|Personal Name Subject||Fess, Simeon D.|
|Digital Collection||Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century|
|Contributing Institution||University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Dept.|
|Archival Collection||Redpath Chautauqua Collection|
|Rights Management||Educational use only, no other permissions given. U.S. and international copyright laws may protect this digital image. Commercial use or distribution of the image is not permitted without prior permission of the copyright holder.|
|Contact Information||Contact the Special Collections Dept. at The University of Iowa Libraries: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/contact/index/|
|Number of Pages||15|
|Digitization Specifications||Scanned at 600 dpi, 32-bit color. Master image available in tiff format.|