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Chapter 176: Dead Level Earnest

September 1, 2022
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Here’s an interesting article about Emmett Wilson’s final speech to the public as he was winding up the Congressional campaign. I’ve transcribed the text from the newspaper, and have included annotations/notes here and there for additional information, in brackets. I liked how the writer (unnamed) recorded Emmett’s speech; he (or she) seemed to capture some of his personality in the words, which is nice to see. There’s very little primary data (actual letters, recordings, handwritten or typed actual speeches) from Emmett’s political or personal life in existence today.

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Candidates spoke here last night.

Source: The Pensacola Evening News, April 30, 1912, via microfilm. Image captured by the author.

“Emmett Wilson, candidate for congress from the third district, addressed the citizens of his home county last night [Monday, April 29] at the court house. Music was furnished by the Pensacola Concert Band. Every seat in the court house was filled, all of the standing room was taken and the halls were crowded. It was the largest crowd which has gathered at the court house this year and was one of the biggest meetings held during the primary in this county.

“County Solicitor Scott M. Loftin presided over the meeting and when he introduced Mr. Wilson said that the people of this county ought to find out what their real interests are and vote accordingly. He said that in view of its prosperity and prospects Pensacola ought to have a representative in congress [Felkel can’t argue with that.]. Walton and Jefferson counties, he said, would probably vote for their personal interests and home men and that Pensacola should do the same thing and vote solidly for Emmett Wilson. Mr. Wilson, the speaker said, needed no introduction to Pensacola, as he was thoroughly identified with its interests, is able, competent and energetic and had been a vigorous prosecuting attorney.”

[Here’s the part I love about this article; the writing sounds like Emmett speaking about himself and his background. It reads naturally and easily.]

“After he was introduced Mr. Wilson was given an ovation. He expressed his pleasure at finishing his campaign in his home county and waded into his subject. He said that this was the girlhood home of his mother [Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson] that his brothers [Max, the oldest; and Cephas, next oldest, Wilson] were born here and that he hoped his words would fall on fertile soil. Since January, he said, the campaign had been an arduous and expensive one, trying on his nerves, but that if Escambia county stood by him the first half of the battle would be won and he would be high man.

Emmett wasn’t kidding about it being expensive. As of April 23, 1912, he’d spent $2596.53, which (in current dollars) is about $77,690, according to the Inflation Calculator. Emmett was not wealthy. Source:The Pensacola Journal, April 23, 1912, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

“He said that at the beginning he had decided that candidates for office should issue platforms and tell the people where they stand on questions which affect the welfare of the public, and he had done so at the outset.

“There are three classes of office holders, the speaker said, in every party. One are [stet] known as progressives, another known as the conservatives, and still another who hold office merely for the honor which it gives them. ‘Look the candidates over,’ said Mr. Wilson, ‘and see which kind you want to represent you in the federal congress.’

“Mr. Wilson said that he was one of the progressive kind and explained that a progressive should not necessarily be one-sided but should be able to cope with the emergencies which arise. He said that a progressive will not be satisfied in getting a few dollars for appropriations but must be ready to champion the things which will not only benefit the men of today but posterity.

W.W. Flournoy, ‘a most excellent gentleman,’ according to Emmett Wilson. Photo source: Find-A-Grave.com

“He said that he could not discuss his platform in detail but that it contained more things of interest to the people than Flournoy ever thought of. Mr. Wilson said that Col. Flournoy [William Walton Flournoy] was a most excellent gentleman but belonged to the old school who believe that the government could not be improved upon.

“Progressive democracy does not seek to tear down the old government but instead would aid it. He says businesses conducted on the lines that businesses were conducted a hundred years ago would not do for today and that the government needs to keep up with the progress that progressive democracy is a process of restoration and not revolution.

“He spoke at length on his platform and his policies and his remarks were enthusiastically received. Mr. Wilson is one of the most forcible and convincing speakers in Florida and his friends who had never heard him make a public speech before were proud of him last night. He speaks in dead level earnest just as if he were calmly and seriously arguing a matter with a crowd of friends on the street, his gestures are natural, graceful, and forceful. He sticks right to the subject and drives one point home right after the other; his naturalness and deep earnestness impressing his hearers at the outset and being the central characteristics of his ability.

[These are such great descriptions of Emmett as he was delivering a speech during his campaign; it reminds me of his work on different debate teams while he was in college at Stetson University. He won a gold medal for public speaking. He wasn’t always so good; there’s an earlier article from a college publication during his time at West Florida Seminary that said he could use a public speaking coach. Apparently, Emmett would take such advice to heart.]

“After Mr. Wilson’s address Captain J Ed O’Brien Pensacola candidate at large was introduced…WA McRae, Candidate for commissioner for agriculcture spoke in his own behalf.

“WH Watson spoke for WH Milton for governor; Worth Trammell spoke for Park Trammell.

“A Cary Ellis, candidate for sheriff made a short speech which was received with enthusiasm. No other candidate for sheriff spoke.

“A number of other county candidates spoke, being limited to five minutes, close at about 11 pm.”

Categories: Congressman Florida History

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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