Inaugural Address of Mayor William Hale Thompson
April 26, 1915
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
Editor’s note: The following message was apparently submitted in writing to the Council.
To the Honorable the City Council of the City of Chicago:
The men and women of Chicago, by their sovereign right of suffrage, have placed in our hands the guidance and management of their municipal government.
Our beloved city, the second in the United States, fourth in the world and destined to become the greatest in the world, today outranks in wealth and population many republics and monarchies and comprises a cosmopolitan citizenship gathered from all quarters of the globe to avail themselves of equal opportunity, acquire wealth, secure justice and rear their children in the atmosphere of liberty.
I am deeply appreciative of the honor of my position as chief executive and profoundly sensible of the grave responsibilities it involves. In assuming the office of Mayor of Chicago I beseech your hearty and loyal co-operation in the conduct of this administration, that not only the people of our city, but of Illinois, the Nation and the World may henceforth look to Chicago as attractive to visit, desirable to reside in, inviting and profitable to business, wide awake to the expansion of its commerce and ever solicitous for the employment, well-being and happiness of its people.
My greatest desire, seconded by my ambition to achieve constructive results, is that no shadow of corruption, dishonesty or wrong-doing shall cloud any of the varied and multitudinous activities of the city government during my term of office.
It is my business and yours to safeguard Chicago’s interests and protect the life, liberty, personal and property rights of its citizens under the constitutions of the United States, the State of Illinois and the laws in force, which each of us have solemnly sworn to support. Let this obligation guide us in the discharge of our official duties, and I ask you, Aldermen, and every citizen of Chicago of whatever tendency of party, creed or race to co-operate with me so that during the four years to come the fair name of Chicago shall stand out respected, honored and unsullied before the nations and people of the world.
I entrust to the heads of departments and bureaus the conduct of the city’s business. The responsibility for proper and efficient management and the faithful execution of laws and ordinances rests upon their shoulders. I forewarn all concerned not to ignore this admonition. Service to the public must be the measure of efficiency . The inquiries and requests of citizens and taxpayers must be promptly and intelligently handled by department employees. Laziness and discourtesy will not be tolerated. Charges will be preferred against the negligent in this respect. The over-lapping of the inspection service between the several departments and bureaus to the annoyance and petty persecution of taxpayers must be stopped and duplicate work and useless employees dispensed with. I ask the aid of the Aldermen in remedying these conditions.
I have pledged the people of Chicago that our streets shall be safe for men, women and children. The Chief of Police must make them so. I assure him and the members of his department of my support. I wish to say to the policemen of Chicago that credit will be awarded for honest and capable police service and promotion can only be earned by a record of full performance of sworn duty. No political influence will be permitted to have effect in the Police Department. The protection of life, limb and property, the security of every citizen and the safeguarding of the honor of women is too obligatory a function of government to yield to the trifling of politics.
The patrons of our transportation lines are entitled to better service than now afforded. I ask the proper committees of the Council and such departments of the city as deal with this service to move at once to enforce the provisions of the traction ordinance and relieve the conditions now responsible for overcrowding and delays. As Mayor I shall act in this matter to the extent of the authority I possess for the purpose of benefiting the public forthwith.
I am advised by the Chairman of the Public Utilities Committee of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly that two elements may operate to defeat the passage of the so-called Chicago Home rule Bill. These are the early adjournment of the Legislature and the Public Utility Companies themselves. This authoritative statement is of such a character that it must be heeded by the press and the people if Chicago is to regain it s right to regulate and control its public utilities, of which right it was deprived a year and a half ago.
The people themselves must be aroused to the necessity for action in order to secure a restoration of their inherent right to local self-government and in this way regain the power to improve conditions in the traction service and regulate the prices to be paid by the people for gas, electricity and telephone service.
Members of the General Assembly from the State at large who believe in even-handed justice and fair play can certainly have no objection to allowing Chicago Home Rule and the people of this city are certainly capable of self-government and should not be denied this right at this time.
The chief executive of our state is a former Mayor of this city and therefore realizes the imperative need for Home Rule. I have invited him to appear before the Public Utilities Committee of the House with me and I also invite all the Members of the City Council, representatives of the numerous civic organizations and as many public spirited citizens as can possibly spare a day from their business to be in Springfield tomorrow and appear with me before the Committee to urge upon the Legislature prompt consideration for the Home Rule Bill and such action by the House and Senate Committees as will bring this vital measure to a roll call on its passage in both branches of the General Assembly.
I have promised the gas consumers of Chicago that the city’s interest in the pending suits to secure permanent price reductions and the return of refunds due them will be vigorously prosecuted and in my campaign, in challenging my opponent’s stand on this question, I named a committee of aldermen, whom I would appoint to engage competent counsel for this purpose. I hereby redeem this promise and request Aldermen Lawley, Utpatel, Merriam, Capitain, Nance and Richert to act as a special committee for the purpose named and urge their confirmation under your rules that they may take prompt steps in this important matter. In the meantime I renew my advice to all gas consumers to save their receipted gas bills.
For reasons over which the local government of Chicago has no control we have 150,000 people out of employment and many more working at reduced wages and on part time. This causes distress. The plurality of 148,000 votes by which I was elected cannot be explained by the paramount importance of one or several local issues. The fact is the voters emphatically expressed their dissatisfaction with the economic conditions existing under the present national administration and protested as vehemently as they could against the legislation enacted at Washington which has been followed by hard times. When the voters are aroused to a political situation they generally respond in the right. The results of this contest are undoubtedly but a forecast of the people’s verdict to be rendered at the polls in the next general election.
But we should urge action to alleviate depressing commercial conditions locally, and this is the time to devise ways and means to expedite the construction of all contemplated public works, including the new Union Station and other terminal projects under consideration by the Terminals Commission, the widening of Twelfth street, the Michigan Boulevard extension, the water front development and the subway problem. In addition I desire to obtain the co-operation of the City Council in engendering a spirit of team work among the commercial interests of our city with a view to reviving in some degree private business activity. I have, therefore, in accordance with announced pre-election statements, arranged to call a business men’s convention, to be held in the near future, for the purpose of jointly discussing between the businessmen of Chicago, large and small, representatives of the railroads, traction lines and public service corporations and executive, legislative and administrative officials of the city, plans to stimulate activity in public, semi-public and private enterprises to provide work for thousands of unemployed people.
Under the statutes I am part of the City Council. I shall strive to preside over your deliberations with fairness and parliamentary decorum. I shall make recommendations to you from time to time on matters bearing upon the administration of the city government and for the best interests of the people as I see them.
No doubt, I shall deem it my duty at times to veto certain measures passed by your Honorable Body. In so doing I want the members of the Council to feel that no discourtesy toward one or more is intended. I shall only exercise that power after mature and impersonal consideration.
I am a firm believer in the separation of the three co-ordinate branches of government--Executive, Legislative and Judicial--peculiar to our American system, and that one should not intrude upon or violate, the prerogatives of the other. I do not intend to exceed the rights and privileges of the executive nor transgress upon the legislative or judicial functions. I shall impartially execute the laws made by the proper legislative authorities and interpreted by the judiciary.
Wm. Hale Thompson, Mayor
- Chicago City Council. Journal of the Proceedings, April 26, 1915, p. 2–5.