Mayor-Elect Thomas Hoyne Inaugural Address, 1876

Thomas Hoyne Biography

Note: Although Thomas Hoyne’s election was declared illegal and thus he never legally served as mayor, he did preside over several meetings of the City Council and delivered an inaugural address. He took the oath of office May 9, 1876 and delivered the following address at the May 15th meeting.

His Honor, the Mayor, presented the following inaugural address:

Gentlemen of the City Council of Chicago: In meeting with you for the first time since my election as Mayor it seems proper that I should address to you such remarks as the occasion naturally suggests.

The firmness and dignity with which you have asserted the rights of the people under circumstances of indignity in this chamber—the quiet, manly self-possession and courage with which you have conducted all your proceedings, and maintained the authority vested in you by the laws, have gained for you the almost unanimous commendations of the community. I have only to add that I would be ungrateful did I not say that my own thanks are an inadequate acknowledgment of the obligations under which you have placed me by the prompt and unsolicited recognition which you accorded my rights in declaring me the legally elected chief magistrate of the city; and I have been deeply affected by all that has transpired in connection with this event.

With these remarks, gentlemen of the Council, I beg to greet you as the representatives of the people.

You have entered upon the performance of your very honorable and important duties at the most critical and interesting period of our municipal government. Both as to the circumstances attending your election, as well as to the momentous issues involved, there has been a feeling that no ordinary dangers menaced the prosperity of the city and the happiness of our people. The improvident and reckless expenditure of the city's means; the unnecessarily heavy burdens of taxation imposed upon the citizens; the creation of new offices, and the utter indifference manifested by the late administration to all the reasonable complaints of their constituency had filled the minds of our people with distrust and alarm. The city demanded a class of wiser and better men in her public councils. Many of you, I know, have reluctantly and at considerable sacrifice to yourselves, yielded to this demand. Your well-known characters in public life, the uprightness of your integrity, and your deep stake as citizens in that protection to life and property which a judicious and wise management of city affairs must afford equally to all classes, afford the assurance which the people need, that thorough, deep and radical reform will follow upon your advent into the administration of the city.

An immediate return to frugal expenditures and administrative purity is the first demand of this people. The condition of public credit, the future values of property, the continuance of that marvelous progress which has hitherto attended our growth, the production of wealth in all industrial occupations, and the safety of its accumulations, the welfare, the increase, and happiness of the people, or (to finally express the sum of all which can be said in two words) the good government of the corporation, depend upon a speedy removal of existing abuses, and a complete reform in the existing administration of all its affairs. Your selection has been timely and fortunate, as through you may be accomplished the results of a revolution under the forms of law which the people of other countries only reach by bloodshed and violence, carnage or crime.

It has rarely ever happened that in merely local contests the entire body or mass of the people became so directly engaged upon the issues at stake as in the last municipal election of this city. It is certainly true that never before the contest last fall for County Treasurer, and the last city election, have our entire business community—the commercial and industrial classes—all cast aside private engagements to devote themselves to the performance of political duties. Business on the election day was suspended at all places of exchange, the Board of Trade adjourned over, the banks and great mercantile houses closed their doors, and the large manufacturing establishments released their employes. It seemed as if that day had been set apart by common consent as a day consecrated to municipal devotion, because of some great impending or apprehended disaster.

A concomitant circumstance of all this and equally significant, was the monster mass meeting of thirty thousand or forty thousand people, called without distinction of party, held at the Exposition building a week previous. According to all estimates it was the largest number of people ever convened for political deliberation in this city. And yet the utmost decorum and unity marked the entire proceedings. The resolutions were unanimously adopted. A candidate for Mayor was put in nomination upon a reform platform. Never, perhaps, since the time of the ancient Greek republics, did a whole people seem, by actual presence at an assembly, to realize the idea of practical democratic government in coming themselves to demand a change of administration in the rulers of a city, and to protest against the evils from which, they had suffered. Taken altogether, such extraordinary and unprecedented demonstrations of public feeling are significant when we consider that, according to every theory upon which the American people deal with municipal government, it is instituted for the people and by the people themselves.

The truth is, and the fact may be candidly stated, that during the last decade of years there has been growing up and increasing in our midst a class of social and political criminals, somewhat peculiar to the civilization of large American cities. It does not matter as to names, but the class, in some cities, have been distinguished as "Plug Uglies" or "Bowery Boys ;" or whether in Chicago they go by the name of "Bean Club" or "Cosmos," their dangerous and criminal instincts are the same. To live without industry is the habit of the largest number; and to fix themselves in some public office is one of the highest of their ambitions. They are the loudest of partisans upon whatever side or in whatever party they enlist their peculiar services. This class are too cunning or intelligent to rob and steal the same as ordinary criminals, because punishment would be sure to follow exposure. But more unscrupulous and equally depraved as the more vulgar criminal, they can rob or stuff the ballot boxes of the people; instead of plundering the individual, they find it safer to plunder the body politic!

No despotism is more cruel or contemptible than that of this social barbarism. The ballot-box, in a free State, is the arbiter of its destiny. The people make their own laws and choose their own rulers, but the choice is made through the expression of the ballot-box, as the vehicle through which their supreme will can be conveyed. The ballot-box is the sacred depository of the law, into which is received and collected the aggregate will—it may be said, the brains of the aggregate people—and through which speak all the oracles of the wisdom of the community into the general State.

Under imperial governments we have precedents where a great emperor or chief has constrained the people outside of the ballot-box to deposit a particular vote, but we have no instance where he has robbed or plundered the ballot-boxes of the people of one opinion to substitute, by stuffing, another will of his own.

The people of Chicago had learned, with amazement, that at an election held in this city last year, the Judges appointed to have custody of the boxes; and count the ballots, had themselves criminally outraged the ballot boxes of the voters by stuffing them with illegal votes, and that thus the legitimate will of the people, on a question so grave as the adoption of the present charter of municipal government, was defeated.

In the recent town election for South Chicago, again the criminals of the class referred to, encouraged by immunity from punishment, flushed with the insolence of success, and braving public opinion, precipitated at last their own ruin. On that occasion, it would seem from the evidence, as if they had deliberately resolved that, however the people might nominate candidates of their own choice, the ballot-box conspirators would defeat such choice by counting into office their criminal confederates. The fraud was too transparent for investigation, and it has failed.

The successful working of such schemes accounts for the number of men in our midst without other "visible means of support" than the places which they obtain as partisans in the public offices. Many of them—without the recognition they obtain from men in authority—would be ranked as they are: the vagabonds or outcasts of society. We find that frequently some of them grow rich, and that all expend in idleness or living more than the honest laborer or artisan can procure by the hardest toil in his calling. They claim a right to dictate, and threaten all who refuse to descend with themselves to the haunts of infamy and crime. Unfortunately their confederates are often found in the offices of the county, city or State, above or below them, in grades of distinction, and are fed at the cost of the people.

It is true that perhaps no organization exists in the constitution of which is written the terrible secrets of these bandits. Their code of morals requires such to be hidden. But there is no doubt all know and recognize each other instinctively. Their dread of the interest which honest and upright people take in the elections is peculiar. They know that a natural cause of hostility is between them. The number of these persons without any other occupation than "politics," has so multiplied in this city that they fill the places of public resort. They constitute the moral pest which disseminates the poison of official life, and debauches the tone of public morals. The justice of the courts has been debilitated in vigor. The atmosphere of the jury-box and the witness-stand is redolent of perjury and intrigue. If the decrees of courts are not openly exposed for sale, it is not because there are not official purchasers ready to pay the price of such "wares."

The situation as respects the city has been summed up by the late Grand Jury in language no less graphic than truthful in relation to the county, where they say: "The system of management employed by the County Board is rotten. Officialism is degraded by its low intellectual character, its depreciated moral tone, its constant association with jobbery, extravagance, intermediates, perjury and incompetence."

A legitimate fruit of this is the recent Gage and Von-Hollen defalcations—the loss of over half a million of dollars to the public.

Our young metropolis has barely escaped the catastrophe which the Tweed ring brought upon New York. She was robbed of millions by her thieves before the discovery was made, and irrevocably and fatally bound under the mass of public indebtedness which now oppresses and threatens to impoverish the people of that city for generations to come. Chicago has been drawn up to the brink of the chasm into which New York has fallen, but thanks to the young energy and intelligence of her people, she has awakened in time to answer the question put to the people by the ring thieves of New York; "What will you do about it?" We have answered: "Thus far have you gone, but we warn you go no farther."

Under such circumstances the late administration of city affairs, in which were many whom we must recognize as among the best of our citizens, and whom I entirely exonerate from suspicion, seemed utterly over-powered by the official influence in which they hopelessly struggled to overcome the constant repetition of outrage upon outrage inflicted by a corrupt and inexorable majority.

  1. They neglected to retrench or economize in the matter of public expenditures, although the great pecuniary distresses of the people imposed this as a necessity in private life upon all classes of the community.
  2. As a corollary to this, they increased the amount of the tax levies, and made new offices, and raised instead of lessening the rates of compensation of all persons in the public employment.
  3. Finding that the people could not bear the burdens of taxation imposed, they sought by illegal means to raise money to pay themselves upon the credit of our people. They increased the public indebtedness of the city nearly five millions of dollars beyond the constitutional limit.
  4. They have actually jeopardized a municipal credit which was never before impeached by illegitimate issues of time-loan certificates, placed upon the markets of foreign cities, against law and every remonstrance which could be urged in deprecation of so fatal and ruinous a policy.

It may have escaped their notice that a large body of gentlemen of this city, including many, if not all, the prominent bankers, heads of the leading commercial and mercantile houses and business establishments, had condemned the financial policy of anticipating the receipts of revenue by collections.

Among the resolutions which were passed by the Municipal Reform Club before the election was one which resolved "That the practice of the city government in anticipating the receipts of revenue, by making time loans on certificates, had a dangerous tendency. That the illegitimate character of this indebtedness was of itself calculated to impair the credit of the city, while it opened the door to every species of fraud and extravagance in city expenditures. That it had produced a confusion in the administration of the city finances impossible of extrication or remedy in the hands of men intrusted with their management."

It seems as if the Comptroller had but verified by his experience what these gentlemen had asserted. The city credit has been jeopardized. A judicial tribunal called upon at the instance of the present Comptroller to pass upon the validity of issuing certificates to place upon the market has declared them illegal unless drawn upon a specific fund, and the extravagance of all city expenditures has exceeded the utmost effort of the City Comptroller to collect the money to defray them under the most exorbitant levies upon the property of the citizens, besides other inducements held out personally to enforce payment.

I think the people demand a discontinuance and the utter abandonment of the whole certificate system as soon as possible, and the anticipation of revenue in advance of its collection for any purpose. I would repeal the late ordinance, retrench expenditures, pay off out-standing obligations as fast as the taxes now unpaid are collected, and contract no new liabilities, since the best means of restoring your credit is to pay off the creditor, and leave no outstanding obligations to be paid.

The city is neither insolvent nor in a failing condition. She is rather in the situation of some first-class business house, whose financial agents have mistaken their authority and issued paper against which it has made no provision, because the issue itself was unauthorized. If, however, recognizing the equity of the transaction rather than the law of the case, they assume the payment, it would be unreasonable in such a creditor to require a substitution of new certificate obligations for those taken by him. On the contrary, ultimate payment being assured, the debtor might well insist upon such indulgence as he needed, even though the obligation could not be paid at maturity.

The rule of law in case of public agents is, that all persons are bound to take notice of the authority vested in their hands, so that in case the public creditor takes an illegal security, he takes it with notice, and there would be no hardship in deferring his payment until such time as the debtor could realize from the collection of funds anticipating the means of payment. Under the circumstances stated there would be no injustice if such claims were deferred.


Our community has suffered from a policy of excessive taxation and extravagance at a time when all private interests have been greatly depressed, and at a time of panic when all values have been shrinking as well as all profits in business decreased. The distress has been aggravated in Chicago by the terrible losses of two great conflagrations in the years 1871 and 1874. Some of our greatest estates have been reduced to bankruptcy, and their owners to the hardships of penury. Large sales of estates for non-payment of taxes have taken place, because of the heavy rates of taxation imposed, and depreciation of rents and the inability of both landlord and tenant to pay them. And during all this time of suffering and distress the tax-payers have been exposed to the most cruel and violent taunts, by some men in authority, who never paid a dollar for taxes into the treasury from which they have received a support.

All men of intelligence are certainly informed that, according to all the best approved writers and thinkers of modern times, including political economists and statesmen, that taxation is merely the taking from individuals a part of their property for public purposes —that the value levied by taxation never reverts to the members of the community after it has been once taken from them, and that taxation itself is not a measure of reproduction. And it is impossible to deny the conclusion that the best taxes, or those that are least bad, are always the lowest, while taxation pushed to the extreme has the lamentable effect of impoverishing the individual without enriching the State.

Investigation Demanded

In view of these the plainest truths of common acceptance, I would deem it of the very first importance that as soon as possible there should be a committee appointed with power to investigate all city offices, and all sources of expenditure, with a view to retrenchment in all directions where it may safely be done. If a million and a half can be saved out of the appropriation as made by the late Council, it will go far toward liquidating the illegal certificates of indebtedness created, and placing in our hands funds to run the schools, pay the members of the Police and Fire Departments, the laborers, and other employes of the government to whom it is now in arrears. If we must fail to meet our obligations promptly as they fall due, let us postpone the payment of the creditors whose necessities are the least urgent or imperative.

The committee can ascertain and classify all the different kinds of our municipal indebtedness, with a view to providing for its immediate payment, as it accrues due and payable. And in the meantime it might be judicious to instruct the City Treasurer to refuse payment, at present, of any moneys on hand until the classification of all indebtedness be made, and all our taxes and available assets are adjusted upon a basis such as will prefer the most urgent demands in the order in which they should be first paid, according as moneys are received into the treasury.

The present Comptroller is able and intelligent, and his experience is ample. He is ready and willing to place before your Committee on Finance all the information required to frame a safe and judicious scheme of polity, and assist them with valuable suggestions in respect to the city credit.

I can see no reason why the affairs of a great municipal corporation cannot be managed with the same judicious economy, as to all branches of its expenditure and revenue as well as a large mercantile house or railroad corporation.

We have now in this chamber the ablest body of representatives who have ever taken charge of our municipal interests. The movement of the people themselves has inaugurated this reform, and they look to such representatives as yourselves to fully accomplish the expectations they have formed from your high characters. In this view I know they will not be disappointed.

I have not had yet the opportunity, nor perhaps the experience, to suggest how you should proceed to work out some of the most desirable problems on your entering into office. You no doubt will proceed first to investigate, and then judiciously carry out your own views of retrenchment.

It would be rather premature, from the experience I have in municipal affairs, to make suggestions to so intelligent a body, among whom I recognize men long conversant with city matters. I have, however, made some examination, and I trust you will excuse my temerity, if I say that I am satisfied a saving of about one million and a half of dollars can be made in the appropriations of the late Council, for the last year. It seems that, exclusive of the school service, the city employs a total number of persons, in all the departments of about, 1,316 persons. The aggregate compensation of this number is $1,459,000. This is an average of about $1,100 per annum for each person. Without any knowledge of the details, I venture the assertion that neither in any other civil service of any government, or any private business or enterprise whatever, where so large a number of persons are employed, even when skilled labor constitutes the mass of the employed, has there ever been so high an average compensation paid among so large a number of persons.

I think that if we concede the whole number of persons were necessary, and considering that comparatively a small proportion of the whole are men of special skill in any branch of industry, such as engineers, etc., we will have to admit that an average compensation of $600 for each person, judiciously distributed, would be ample for the service, and on this basis we would have a saving of $786,282.

It seems that a total of 533 persons are engaged in the police force of the city. There are two chiefs of the force, a Marshal and Superintendent, each with a salary of about $4,000 per annum. No one will doubt that one or the other of these officers should be abolished, which would save $4,000. With the exception of about twenty-five or thirty persons, who receive salaries ranging from $500 to $750 per annum, the whole police force receive a compensation per annum of not less than $1,000 each—many of them over that sum.

Considering the nature of the services performed, I think it would be a safe estimate to average the compensation of the 500 persons in these times, at $600 per annum each, making a total of $300,000. I find the amount appropriated last year for the whole force is $626,000; and in this department alone, I think one might safely estimates saving of about $250,000.

The Board of Public Works is composed of three Commissioners, at salaries of $4,000 each, and 169 persons. The aggregate expense of running this department, seems to run up to $227,000, while the total of all the expenses for running our sister city of Milwaukee, a city of 110,000 population, and about one-fourth or one-fifth the size of our own, is only $202,000.

This department calls for a close examination. I cannot conceive the necessity of twelve draughtsmen, a superintendent of street cleaning, and also a superintendent of sidewalks, and thirteen sidewalk inspectors at $900 each per annum; nor, in addition to other policemen, 18 water policemen, or 15 street foremen, at salaries of $1,180 each—all receiving a larger measure of compensation for the times than any branch of similar occupation or artisan or mechanical labor.

The truth is, this whole 'department should receive the attention of the Council. I am unable to comprehend why there should be three heads of this department, instead of one superintendent over all. If the object of the corporation were to find employment or subsistence for many good men in office, then the city should be run rather as any other eleemosynary institution than as a business affair, giving the poorer men all the places. I never could see the necessity or justice of paying three servants to perform the duty of one; and I think it will be found, in any event, that the services in this department can be greatly reduced, and the work more efficiently performed by a smaller body, and at a reduced rate of compensation. I estimate that at least $125,000, or more than $100,000, can be saved in this department.

It seems that the corporation has a Health Department with forty-seven persons employed, at a cost of $62,000 per annum. Twenty-eight of these persons are called sanitary policemen, and receive a compensation of $18,000. The printing alone, in this department, is estimated, for 1876, at $1,500! For disinfectants is charged $675. There is a salary of a sanitary superintendent of $2,062.50, and a charge for sanitary inspection and vaccination $2,250. Whether the Sanitary Superintendent is the same person who charges for sanitary inspection I am not advised, but it is obvious to my mind that the whole department needs the inspection of a committee, or some person appointed by this Council.

And I would recommend the entire abolition of the Board, with the exception of one competent and faithful superintendent—a thoroughly competent medical expert—and clerks, with proper provision made by ordinance placing the Health Department under the police of the city, and in this way a saving could be effected of at least $50,000 out of the appropriation for this department.

The expense of lighting streets in this city, I am informed, was, last year, some $700,000, while the whole expense for the same service in St. Louis was only $200,000. In Milwaukee it was only $52,000, and Milwaukee is about one-fifth of the size and population of this city. It would seem that with proper representations to the Gas Company a saving can be made in this department of the city lighting of about $400,000.

I estimate a saving cane made in the Fire Department at least $75,000, having reference to the same ratio of compensation allowed in case of the police force, without reducing the number or the efficiency of the department.

In the matter of the compensation allowed the Police Justices, about 4,000 each, I find there can be saved at least $10,000, allowing the compensation now paid to these functionaries, if only the fines and fees recovered and perquisites allowed are credited and returned to the City Treasurer.

I find the Mayor is not only allowed a clerk, but in addition four policemen, at a cost of $3,540. It is not obvious to me why ordinary policemen of the regular force cannot serve the Mayor, if necessary, as well as men appointed as Mayor's police.

I presume no one will doubt the propriety of retrenching the amount of the Tax Commissioner's office, $11,000, appropriated by the last Council, since it has ceased to perform any essential part in the collection of revenue under the law at present in force.

The office of Building Inspector, with a clerk and twelve deputies at a salary of $900 each per annum—the whole cost to the tax-payers being in this department $13,880—should be abolished, since the whole duties might be better discharged by some competent city architect authorized to charge some fee upon each inspection of plans of the owner of a building to be erected, not exceeding a certain sum in each case, to be paid by such owner.

The Board of Education has a force, it seems, of 698 persons, whose aggregate compensation does not exceed $574,312,a lower average than is found in the compensation of the same number in other departments ; but I am unwilling, without more examination, to suggest any reduction in this department.

I have indicated that expenses can be retrenched about one and a half millions of dollars, this being from the merest cursory examination, and without at all entering into detail. I have no reasonable doubt that, properly re-organized with proper men, this municipal government can be better managed at a cost of two millions of dollars than it can ever be managed as now organized at a cost of five or even ten millions.

The whole disbursement of the ordinary expenses of the State of Illinois from Dec. 1, 1872, to Nov. 30, 1874, inclusive—that is, two years—was $2,106,781, or per annum only $1,058,390. This sum of $1,058,390, it will be remembered, not only pays the Governor, Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, but twenty-six Circuit Judges, the seven Supreme Court Judges, and their expenses ; 102 District or Prosecuting Attorneys, about 300 members of the General Assembly, etc. In other words, it runs the whole executive, legislative and judicial machinery of the State at a cost of $1,058,390 per annum.

And besides this, it includes a sum of $809,031 for the State charitable institutions during the two years, and a variety of other items like printing, the expense of conveying prisoners to the Penitentiary, and office expenses of the various State offices.

In conclusion, gentleman, two generations of men have not passed away since the site of this city was known as a military fortress in the Indian country—one of the frontier posts of the far West. Many of the earliest settlers are still among you, and although their hairs are whitening they are still vigorous and of active life. It is only thirty-eight years since the city was organized under its first charter of government, when it contained less than 3,000 souls. To-day, with 500,000 people and $600,000,000 of an annual trade, we have become the fourth city in rank and trade of the United States! The position of the city on the great lines of that water communication which connect the two gulfs of Mexico and the St. Lawrence, is the natural seat of a great metropolis, while our railroad system connects us with every remote part of the American continent. The energy and intelligence of our people have overcome the effects of two of the greatest conflagrations, one of which, as a great calamity, has never been surpassed in any history of a people. The rise, progress, and prosperity of Chicago are without any parallel in growth among cities of ancient or modern times.

And now the question comes to every anxious and loving heart, proud of her glory, her unrivaled history, and marvelous achievements, What of the future? Is this magnificent progress to continue, or is it to be now arrested? The answer rests with you, the representatives of the people. The question is one of government—shall it be good or bad?

We combine in this city all the material elements of production, wealth, capital, machinery, energy, a young, thrifty, and enterprising mixture of races—all we need is the protection of life and property, a good and economical municipal government, with wise and honest rulers to manage our affairs, and there is nothing which has ever been predicted by the most sagacious or sanguine as the future of Chicago which will not be exceeded in the glory, prosperity and greatness of that genius of her destiny which has attended her progress from the beginning.


  • Chicago Common Council. Journal of the Proceedings, May 15, 1876, p. 13–16.
Print this page