Inaugural Address of Mayor John P. Hopkins
December 27, 1893
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
GENTLEMEN OF THE COUNCIL—With deep appreciation of the solemnity of its proceedings, this Council has taken proper action regarding the suddenly created vacancy in the Mayor’s office. After an election in which the voters of Chicago manifested deep interest, it is my duty as Mayor-elect formally to enter upon the performance of the assigned task. This I do with unaffected diffidence, but with resolute purpose to meet as far as lies within my power to demands of a situation rendered more difficult because of widespread distress in commercial and industrial affairs. It is my aim to faithfully serve the City of Chicago, and to this end I sincerely and confidentially ask your counsel and assistance.
The corporate authorities of Chicago are the Mayor and Common Council. Broadly defined their field is separate. With the Council lies legislative duty; with the Mayor the task of executive work. But their relations and duties are closer than indicated by the line usually drawn. They so interweave and blend that they are practically one. I am glad to recognize this unity and to appeal to it in behalf of that sentiment which is common to us all, pride in Chicago’s place among the great cities of the world and sincere desire to promote its well-being.
One of our first duties is to perfect a business already entered upon through your direction whereby the finances of the city may be placed in absolute order. You are familiar with that requirement of the law under which the city is incorporated whereby the expenditures of the fiscal year must be regulated strictly in accordance with the provisions of the annual appropriation bill. Money is raised by the city for no other than a corporate purpose, and to divert funds thus raised to other than corporate purposes is manifestly to disregard the law in one of its essentials. In no subdivision of the city government is it proper that expenditures should exceed specific appropriations, and it is important, therefore, that the exact condition of funds in the Treasury should be known at all times in order that the heads of departments may not be betrayed into excess of expenditure. The accounts of the Comptroller’s office, wherein the condition of city finances, general and special, is shown, ought to be as clear, and simple, and easy of comprehension as those of any great corporation, municipal or other. If this is not the condition of these accounts a remedy, it is obvious, must at once be applied.
The city authorities are not permitted to increase appropriations save to meet an extraordinary situation, and then must proceed in the manner pointed out by the law itself. The annual appropriation bill is the one guide of expenditure, and that justice may be done the body of the people from whose earnings all the moneyed support of the city government comes, economy must be rigidly practiced. We must gain favorable balances; not increase embarrassing deficits. We must act entirely within the law, and so proceeding may place the money affairs of Chicago upon a sound business basis.
It is for the City Council to determine whether increasing distress, threatening a winter of extraordinary severity to the vast number of unemployed who are residents of Chicago, is not an emergency within the meaning of the law, and whether money may not be had for useful public work, to be expended advantageously through the employment of labor upon the streets and otherwise.
I recommend the earliest possible adjustment of the money accounts between the city and the World’s Columbian Exposition.
In an endeavor to redeem my promise to place the Police Department in such condition of efficiency that neither appointment thereto nor promotion therein nor discharge therefrom shall be dependent upon party service, but shall be for merit or for cause only, I feel that I should have your approval, for thereby the efficiency of the most numerous and of a highly important department of the civic government will be advanced. Incompetents, drunkards, and men so little instructed in their duties or so unmindful of them as to trespass wantonly upon the personal rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of Illinois must be dismissed from a force which can be made, and which I hope to aid in making, as model a department as the fire force.
You are already engaged upon the important business of relieving grade crossings of railways from the murder and menace of life and limb which are inevitable and increasing incidents of such crossings. The work has the approval of this vast community. The railroad corporations themselves realize the need of abandoning old methods of transit in this populous city. To attain results we must exercise patience, but where human life is daily sacrificed patience will not be a virtue unless it is accompanied by persistence. When the managers of railway corporations understand the city is in downright earnest in this regard they themselves will meet the city authorities half way and expedite the reform which they might delay were drastic methods adopted, but which sooner or later must come.
Grants hitherto made by the Common Council to private corporations have almost invariable proven of great value to the fortunate recipients. These have their rights, but they also have their duties, and it shall be the care of the City Executive to hold them to fulfillment of the same. No further grants ought to be made that do not provide full compensation to the city for valuable privileges given.
I rely upon your hearty co-operation in every effort possible for me to make in furtherance of municipal welfare, and thanking you for your attention to an address not designed as a message, I wish particularly to make acknowledgment to the able Alderman who has filled the Mayoralty ad interim, and to express satisfaction that he continues his service to the city.
- Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, December 27, 1893, p. 1341–42.