Letter to the Editor
27th Iowa Top Banner

A Letter to the Editor written by Eunice Holbrook (mother-in-law of Charles Sweney)

Transcribed and submitted by George Mills, Great Grandson of Charles Sweney - March 2014

Messr Editor

Much has been said in your valuable weekly concerning the unjustifiable influence of the Osage political dynasty, on the condition, history and prospects of our good County. Most lamentable indeed is that tissue of events which, under Osage rule, against law and in defiance of judicial decisions, has forced the county hopelessly into debt, has reduced the finances and destroyed the credit of the County, and given to all our judicial, financial and executive affairs the appearance, at least, of systemic fraud and protected plunder. I notice with satisfaction that the influence of your paper has been brought to bear against these things. I notice also that notwithstanding your repeated protests and in the face of the just indignation of an abused people, the Osage office holders and office seekers, still continue the practice of that absurd system of trickery and fraud, whose disastrous results are so clearly evidenced by the miserable conditions of the County credit and finances.

The developments at the late Democratic Rice-ville Convention has the final touches upon this picture of Osage inconsistency & fraud. The controlling forces in this political nest have become at length too forgetful of that power of the people whereby they hold their "brief authority." Relying upon the supposed blindness of the outside towns, and glorying in the cunning of their own discernment, they have finally discovered that for them the 'hand-writing on the wall' is already visible 'Mene, mene.' For them and by their own hands has the sacrifice been prepared and offered. For them the final victim has been started for the course - a candidate most charmingly fitted by administration plunder & by artful aid in County peculation to be the compagnon de voyage for a salt river cruise of that illustrious citizen John C. Bishop of Osage fame. Alas when will these things have an end? - At the late Democratic Rice ville Convention (called to nominate a Candidate for this Representative District) the Osage delegates, being seven in number, regulated and assumed a basis of representation for this County, whereby they (the Osagers) cast fourteen of the twenty seven votes to which the County is entitled. This process, by which Osage gave to her candidate seven votes other than her own, which belong to other towns of the County presents to us a new and unique style of forcing a candidate for election, upon notice of the good people of our County. It remained for the Democratic electors of Mitchell, Cedar, Otranto and St. Ansgar (which towns were mostly represented by the Osagers in this Convention) to say by their votes, whether the candidate thus unfairly forced upon them is acceptable to their ideas of the boasted impartiality of Democratic action. - To this Convention there come from the Osage hotbed, seven delegates armed and equipped to force into nomination one of their own number as a candidate for Representative. Another of their number is made President of the Convention. Still another of their number is principal secretary of the Convention. Still another (who was formerly a resident of Osage and is now and always was a friend and small satellite or torch-bearer to Col. Jenkins) is made Counting teller of the Convention, and finally on every active Committee appointed by the Chair Osage delegates have the majority or Chairmanship. Now we are ready for action! The balloting commences and continues. No choice for several ballotings is made. Suddenly in the midst of a trifling discussion got up for the purpose, some weary delegate who has many miles to travel after night-fall, sings out a motion that Col. Jenkins be nominated by acclamation. Hurrah! - the chair is up in an instant, puts the motion before a man can get in a dissenting word edgeways, a few 'ayes' respond. And so the chair hastily declares that Col. Jenkins is the nominee of the Convention! Thus the trap was set and baited. Thus the trap was sprung and fastened while the willing victim - the scape goat of the Convention, full laden with its sins and yet bearing them with a puritanical and penitential grace, presents himself for the suffrages of the people, ridiculously claiming that the broad platform of Democracy, whose first plank and plats are probity and honor, in his political creed - his rule for legislative action! But, is there now a day of reckoning at hand for those who thus shamelessly trifle with the well-being of their party and their County? These things must have an end. In the hearts of the people, in the will of the people, certainly in the rights and duty of the sensible, thinking mind of the People; still exists that voiceless power of the people, which, like the vision of Minerva that made Achilles tremble, will draw down this Aristocratic dynasty, from very weakness of the knees, while ruin, political ruin, 'traveling faster than the flying showers on the mountain side; will overtake and bury the political Demagogue who shamelessly defies or circumvents by trickery & fraud, that grants power, that Guardian nemesis of our Country, the Peoples will.

Eunice A Holbrook

Written by my mother
A.E. Sweney


Contextual Notes

tissue - an interwoven or interconnected series or mass,, e.g., a tissue of falsehoods.

"Mene, Mene" (the hand writing on the wall) - an idiom for "imminent doom or misfortune" and for "the future is predetermined". from Hebrew.

"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" used in the book of Daniel (Chapter 5) interpreted as forecasting the imminent end for the Babylonian kingdom.

peculation (civil law) - The unlawful appropriation, by a depositary of public funds, of the property of the government intrusted to his care, to his own use, or that of others.

compagnon de voyage (French) - traveling companion

salt river - U.S. political slang phrase to row (someone) up Salt River is to "send that someone to political defeat." First used 1828 in Kentucky.

John C. Bishop - a) there are two conflicting profiles for the same individual, or b) there are 2 (or more) different individuals with the name “John C. Bishop” all who lived in the same general area of Northern Iowa during the late 1850s.

From the Cerro Gordo Press, Mason City Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, August 28, 1858, Owens Grove

1858 - John C. Bishop - It will be remembered that in our last issue, we gave a description of the discovery and arrest of this notorious character, and also that when he came under charge of the sheriff of Franklin County, he made his escape to Owens Grove of this County. From authentic sources we learn that he was seen a day or two afterward on Rock Creek a little stream that makes into Cedar River, a short distance below Osage.


From the History of Mitchell and Worth counties, Iowa ... and biographies of representative citizens. History of Iowa, embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, and a brief review of its civil and military history .. (1884), Union Publishing Company, Springfield, Illinois.

1856 - J. C. Bishop came from Centerville, St. Joseph Co., Mich., and settled in Osage. He studied law in New York; was there admitted to the bar. He opened an office, and was for a time in partnership with J. B. Shipman, also with J W. Van Orman. In August, he ran for County Prosecuting Attorney, but lost.

1857 - According to historical records, on Aug. 8, 1857, John C. Bishop, John A. Robb and Jacob I. Chase offered to build a courthouse at Osage for $25,000. (Mason City Globe Gazette 2012?)

1857 - J.C. Bishop, Democrat, was elected as the Representative for the 12th District in October election. Note: a John C. Bishop lost an election to be a Member of the Assembly, Worth County, October 13, 1857.

1859 - J.C. Bishop left Mitchell County.

Col. Jenkins

James D Jenkins is listed as a lawyer in Osage, in the 1860 U.S. Census. He was a Colonel in the Black Hawk War, and was elected as a Democrat to be the Representative for the 56th District in the Election of October 1859.

penitential - of, pertaining to, proceeding from, or expressive of penitence or repentance

probity - confirmed integrity; uprightness