Millions and millions of… spikes and creosoted railroad ties ago, railroad baron controlled California’s land.
By Dwayne Hunn in San Diego Review
Across the sea the Swiss found themselves suffering through similar corporate, railroad robber baron stones. That started to change in 1858, after Switzerland’s Neuchatel canton legislature granted a generous subsidy to a railroad.
Referendum pressure swept through the cantons, as people opted to trust themselves rather than politicians. By 1891 Switzerland adopted a new Federal Constitution, which included the referendum and initiative.
On our shores it was 1887 when family physician Dr. John Haynes, inspired by first-hand experience with the Swiss process, began to help Los Angelians copy the Swiss process into their city charter. By 1903, when the state legislature approved the charter, Dr. Haynes had already spent two years attending every state legislative session awl party convention garnering support for direct legislation. His campaign strategy focused on conservative businessmen, to whom he stressed that direct legislation would benefit honest corporations and reputable businessmen. He also focused on gaining the support of newspaper editors. Nonetheless, the 1909 legislature rejected statewide reform.
In 1910 Hiram Johnson was elected governor on a reform platform and the 39th California Legislature submitted a constitutional amendment for initiative, referendum and recall to the people. Frederick O’Brien, Los Angeles Record correspondent, ended his March28, 1911 front page editorial with:
“A final word: the 39th session of the legislature laid the foundations of political freedom and equality in California. Upon its enactment will be laid the superstructure which will ultimately give every individual his share of labor’s earnings.”
With the legislature’s submission of the constitutional amendment to the people, Governor Johnson hit the campaign trail, often speaking to turn away crowds at places like Temple Auditorium in Los Angeles. Most Californians concurred with the Los Angeles Examiner ‘s September 28, 1911 depiction of that event:
“Young, vigorous, brave and able, with a record of accomplishment as executive head of the state greater in less than a year of service than that of predecessors of three decades, having broken the power of railroad corporations that bad ruled and corrupted all California for a generation— the forward citizenry of Los Angeles rallied last night to hear him with love and admiration in their hearts.”
The voting booth reflected the people’s admiration for the governor and reform. The initiative and referendum were voted into the state constitution by 168,744 to 52,903. The recall was accepted by a vote of 178,118 to 53,755.