Life in the Chiaroscuro
The novel depicts the political situation in Milwaukee in 1904 to be very corrupt and dishonest in every way. Police officers would not put people in jail because “there was no evidence” when there was clearly evidence that they would just ignore. The government was corrupt in the sense that the elected officials would do things to benefit themselves and their friends who help them. Everyone in the police force would look out for those people who the mayor told them to look out for. This is why those who were supposed to be in jail, are not.
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The high up officials who were part of the corruption had the means to destroy anyone who went against them. They had the power to do whatever they wanted and never suffer any type of consequence. I think that this is an accurate portrayal of corruption and politics in Milwaukee in this time period because there are very many similarities in the book and what actually happened. David Stuart Rose served five terms as mayor in Milwaukee. His corrupt mindset was held in office for 10 years. “He was elected in 1898 until 1906 and again in 1908-1910. He suggested improving the port by building docks off of Jones Island. He said that the rivers were becoming inadequate to meet the demands of trade. He was rumored to have accepted $50,000 from an electric utility but he was never found guilty in court. He was known for his corrupt administrative. He allowed brothels and casinos to operate even though it was against Milwaukee rules. While he was mayor, police were asked to turn “blind eye” upon the request of City Hall. After people started to realize what was going on, he was eventually elected out of office and a Socialist was elected in.
Emil Seidel was the first Socialist mayor of Milwaukee in 1910. The book also depicts politics in 1904 in Milwaukee accurately because in the book, it says that Theodore Roosevelt makes a speech and is shot in the middle of it. Without leaving to seek medical help, he stood there and finished his 90 minutes speech. Theodore Roosevelt really did give that speech in Milwaukee. John Schrank also, in fact, shot him because he thought that a president should not serve more that two terms. Schrank was caught and spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital.
After Roosevelt was shot, he went on with his speech and said, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. Some of the goals of American Socialist reformers in the early 1900’s were “low-cost housing, workers compensation, old-age pensions, public ownership of municipal services, and labor reform. ” These goals compare to the goals of the American Socialist reformers in the novel because the reformers in the novel want to take care of corruption and get the mayor out of office. They want things to be better for everyone living in Milwaukee, not just the mayor and his friends. The American Socialist reformers wanted better pay, better jobs, and better benefits for workers.
They wanted to prove to the people of Milwaukee that they do not need David Rose to be in power. They wanted to show that a socialist can do just fine in office, if not better than Rose. The American Socialist reformers were still not very popular so they wanted to gain popularity with the people. “While the Socialist Party was on the rise in America, it was still fairly limited in strength. Eugene Debs would never be president. As for the mayor, I was not so sure. ” The role that ethnicity and race play into the novel is that people were segregated and treated differently by society as a whole.
On Jones Island, it was mostly Polish and German people known as Kashubes. They were far away from the city life, living on technically a peninsula all by themselves with almost no visitors going there. They were not wealthy at all and lived in houses “so close together that you could, if you so chose, stand on one rickety porch while shaking hands with someone standing on the porch next door. ” Another way ethnicity and race play into the novel is when Benjamin’s father told him when he was a boy that “you’d best avoid the wrong sort of people. Gamblers, politicians, and negroes. His father thought that in order to succeed and to stay out of trouble, he must avoid those types of people. When Benjamin walked into Slaughter’s Turf Cafe, he noticed that the people in there are the exact people who his father told him to avoid. This book is very valuable to Milwaukee because people who actually live there everyday should know what happened in their own backyard. The way basically the entire government in the city of Milwaukee was corrupt is a bit disturbing. The way things used to be politically was completely corrupt and there is no doubting that.
I found the book to be extremely interesting and I loved learning about what happened in a city that is so well known in today’s society. I’m sure that the people of Milwaukee who read this book are very shocked to know what happened in the city they live in. I would expect that even the people who are not very interested in history, found it to be very fascinating to learn about what happened before their time. This book is also very valuable as a supplement to the study of American history in general because we, as Americans, should know and understand the way things used to be.
It is important to learn about corruption in the government because corruption was part of the reason why some of the movements were started. It is also important because through corruption, people started to realize that the people they were voting in were only helping themselves. This made people start thinking more on whom they wanted in office and what issues they wanted changed. Putting the supernatural aspects aside, A Life in Chiaroscuro is a believable and compelling story depicting life in a typical American city.
I think it is like a typical American city because back in the 1900’s, corruption was not an uncommon thing. Corruption was everywhere in many cities especially big, major cities. The government did not necessarily want to take over everything in a city. They wanted to do things to benefit themselves. There is a part in the book that shows that elected government officials link themselves to important businessmen to help themselves out and their friends. “In the midst of it all, the mayor lines his pockets with bribes from the industrial sector, particularly from John Beggs. In big cities during the 1900’s, there were many people involved in corruption. There were elected officials, police officers, businessmen, and even just wealthy people who wanted to become wealthier. This is a perfect example of the people in the book and what they did to become more powerful and wealthier than they already were. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. [ 2 ]. “”mule” (Civil War). ” Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Historical Society, 1996. Web. . [ 3 ].
Kestenbaum, Lawrence. “Index to Politicians: Rose. ” The Political Graveyard. Lawrence Kestenbaum, 1996. Web. . [ 4 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. 30. [ 5 ]. Rogina, Jeffries L. “”It Takes More Than That to Kill a Bull Moose”: The Leader and The Cause. ” About Theodore Roosevelt: President and More, from The Theodore Roosevelt Association. The Theodore Roosevelt Association, June 1998. Web. . [ 6 ]. Norton, Mary Beth, David M. Katzman, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff, and Fredrik Logevall. “A People and a Nation: A History of … Mary Beth Norton, Carol Sheriff, David M Katzman, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff. ” Google Books. Suzanne Jeans, 2008. Web. . [ 7 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. 149. [ 8 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. 32. [ 9 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. 65. [ 10 ]. Ferguson, Paul-Thomas. A Life in Chiaroscuro. Rock Island, Illinois: Paul-Thomas Ferguson, 2008. Print. 155.