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FORMATION OF COMMITTEE. Immediately upon being notified by General Orders No. 2 of my appointment to the committee as acting chairman, I called a meeting of the committee for the purpose of organizing. Prompt action was necessary, as a Constitutional Convention Committee was about to report to that body, and it was brought to our attention that certain unjust measures were being considered which would attack the rights of veterans. At this meeting, July 7, 1918, Past Commander Charles A. Flanagan, Camp 14, was elected chairman, and Dan D. Brothers, Camp 15, was elected secretary. At this and all other meetings of the committee, of which many were called, your Department Commander, the chairman and secretary, as well as the other members of the committee, were present. Your Department Commander's advice was of great benefit to the committee. Several of the pending measures were considered and future action discussed, including not only departmental legislation, but national, as we were constantly in touch with the National Legislative Committee, of which your Department Commander is an active member. The work, some of which is yet to be completed by the Legislative Committee of next year, was still being lobbied up to the evening of April 25, and must be continued until our bills are signed by His Excellency the Governor and a new Legislative Committee appointed. The committee, or a representative, has appeared at the State House on hearings, or lobbying both branches, and is on record on more than one hundred bills that have been introduced for the benefit of veterans and their dependents. We are recorded on bills favoring Civil, Spanish and World War Veterans too numerous to mention individually here. As this is a war veteran's year as far as legislation is considered, our activities have been more pronounced, and many times have caused interference with our duties aside from the organization, from which we receive our livelihood. To do this work faithfully is a sacrifice, and the only gain to the committee is that it feels its members have contributed their time and energies for the welfare of veterans and their dependents.
RESOLUTION BEFORE THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. That a resolve was under way to deprive veterans of their constitutional rights — that of petitioning the Legislature for measures favoring veterans — was brought to our attention immediately after the organization of the committee. This measure had passed its hearing stage and was about to be reported out of committee to the Constitutional Convention. The proponents and advocates of this infamous measure had it well under way, even so far as considering a majority for its favorable passage. It was one born of the minds of men whose sole interest in life is to keep a veteran under the so-called “merit system” of the Civil Service Commission, which is governed and guided by an iron hand, in that a veteran with an honorable discharge from the armed forces of our country should receive in certain positions under the civil service a few points, and a person under the same conditions who had served in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in peace time and had received a non-commissioned appointment, or had served a term of years, but not in war time, should receive more points in the civil service examination than a man who had served the country in time of war. These points were given on the authority of the Civil Service
Commission which had the power of appointment, and this resolution was the wedge placed to deprive veterans of their rights, offered to the Constitutional Convention by the chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission and his few followers, who were becoming fidgety in the fear that too many of the brave boys of our State might return after the World War was over and demand rights which would be justly theirs, as well as all the veterans who served faithfully to the credit of this State. Can you picture this nefarious attempt of a few ungrateful citizens of our Commonwealth, in their utter disregard for the gratitude to the boys who were even then in the trenches in Europe, on the high seas en route, or in cantonments training to fight a foe in the greatest war in the history of the world, to even consider such legislation in time of war under the guise that they were doing it to protect the civil service laws against deterioration? We were compelled to organize an opposition and circularize the Constitutional Convention and show up the methods of the proponents of this infamous resolution. In our circulars, which appear elsewhere in the Encampment Proceedings, we show an attempt to stab in the back the boys then fighting, as well as those who had protected the honor of our country and flag in previous wars. In our efforts we were ably assisted by members of the Constitutional Convention, as well as former members of both branches of the Legislature. When the resolution was presented after an exciting session, in which the committee and the Department officers were attacked on the floor by the members in their speeches, we defeated the measure by the magnificent vote of 98 to 36. Comrades, we met these pseudo-reformers and started them on the downward road, and it is a long hill, for we are still at it in a hard battle, and we do not yet see the bottom of the hill, nor shall we hesitate until we have them where they ought to have been placed years ago — in oblivion! Our full Preference Bill, which is now ready for the Governor to sign, will do the trick. That will be the final stage, and we need never fear the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission and its auxiliaries again, for they will be compelled to seek other fields in which to plant the seed of opposition to the veteran, for ours will be rocky soil for them, as they stand defeated. It was money against fairness, and fairness won. The watchword of the committee this year has been “Eternal vigilance," as you will see by this report. To go into details as to how we defeated the resolution would take too much time, but most of you know, as you have received copies of our circular matter; but if you failed to receive information it will appear in the Encampment Proceedings, published as the records of this Commonwealth.
Accompanying this report is a circular letter which was sent out by friends of the organization who wished to assist your Legislative Committee in its work, and although it is not directly part of the report of the Committee on Legislation, we include it to show that our activities helped other Comrades to promote our cause, as the circular will show.
To the Citizens of Wards 22 and 23.
The undersigned citizens, having had service in the Army or Navy of the United States, and irrespective of party affiliations, call your attention to the candidacy of Francis N. Balch for Representative to the General Court. We are opposed to his candidacy, and, without solicitation of your support for any other candidate, we suggest the defeat at the polls of Mr. Balch for the following reasons:
1. Because of his efforts as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution so as to take from the Legislature its power to enact laws to give the soldiers and sailors of the present war any credit or recognition for their military service in their examination papers as applicants for positions in the public service, and which proposal was overwhelmingly defeated by the Convention.
2. Because of his offensive utterances in reference to the soldiers and sailors, which, both from what he said, and the manner of its utterance, was promptly resented and hissed in the Convention. The following is from his remarks made on the floor of the Convention on Aug. 9, 1918, and is taken from the stenographic report of the debates of the Convention:
“I have received — doubtless you have all received — a flood of literature from the officers of the Spanish War Veterans. Mr. President, I cannot express the contempt I feel for the attempt to drag our soldiers abroad into politics in this way.
“Apparently there is a feeling in some quarters that the proper reward for an American man, an American boy, who has offered his life to this country, is to say to him on his return, ‘We, as a grateful Commonwealth, realizing that you have given us your all, hereby grant you as a reward a special license to cheat at an examination.' If that is the reward we intend to give our returning soldiers, let us know now.” (Hisses.)
3. In answer to these remarks from Mr. Balch, we say that neither the “men over there" nor the Spanish American War Veterans were looking for favors of any kind in civil service or anywhere else, but devoting their entire time to winning the war. The literature sent to the members of the Constitutional Convention by the Spanish War Veterans was for the sole purpose of bringing to the attention of the members the fact that a contemptible effort was being made not to give the men in the service at the present time any favors, but to take away from them the rights that every man has had who served his country since the Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted, of petitioning for this recognition for his services, which the General Court has always been able to grant by statute law.
Mr. Balch, in a recent communication to the “Jamaica Plain News," claims that his utterance was "a clumsily worded sentence, cut off in the middle by the president's gavel." The above quotation does not show this to be a fact. The explanation Mr. Balch made to the Convention, under a question of personal privilege, is not sufficient excuse for his statements, nor should it receive the endorsements of an intelligent constituency at the polls.
The remarks made under the question of personal privilege were made to allay a resentment that was properly felt by the Convention, and if Mr. Balch had not arisen to a question of personal privilege his words in all probability would, on motion by another delegate, have been stricken from the records.
4. Mr. Balch, though long an attorney of record appearing before municipal and legislative committees in opposition to the requests of public employees, when a public servant distinguished himself as a notorious absentee. Out of twenty-four roll calls on quorums in the Convention for the years 1917 and 1918 he was present at but four, absent at twenty. The fact has been commented on in the columns of the “Sunday Herald.” Although the Convention passed a resolve that delegates who had absented themselves from the sessions might notify the Treasurer of the Commonwealth that they would donate to the Red Cross, Y. M. C. A., Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare League, or other war charity, a portion of their salary, there is no record of Mr. Balch having availed himself of this privilege.
5. The only purpose we have in sending you this circular is that the people of the 22d Representative District should be worthily and properly represented in the General Court. We are not candidates for office nor interested in particular candidates. There are three Representatives to be chosen. We submit to you, irrespective of your political affiliations, that the record of Mr. Balch in the Constitutional Convention does not entitle him to favorable consideration as a candidate for Representative in the General Court.
GEO. W. GREEN, Past Commander, Boston Post 200, G. A. R., 636 Centre Street, Jamaica
Plain. B. F. APPLEBY, Adjutant, Post 200, G. A. R., 9 Robinwood Avenue, Jamaica Plain. F. C. RUSSELL, Post 200, G. A. R., 811 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain. A. COLLINS STEWART, Commander, George J. Whitten Camp, U. S. W. V., 12 Pond
Street, Jamaica Plain. EDWARD L. JONES, 11 Brookside Avenue, Jamaica Plain, Roger Wolcott Camp, U. S. W. V.
READ AND PASS TO A FRIEND.
I will now read to you a clipping from the press, which is used as an illustration to show the activities of your committee and Department Headquarters.
Fight MERIT SYSTEM BILL.
Spanish War Veterans call it Infamous Measure. The guns of at least one important branch of the population of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have been trained upon Resolution No. 408, reported to the Constitutional Convention by the committees on State administration and on the executive, providing for an extension of the merit system in connection with appointive offices, and characterizes it as an “infamous bill."
The Department of Massachusetts, United Spanish War Veterans, has sent a communication to practically every member of the Convention pointing to the fact that the passage of the resolution would have the result of forever excluding all the State's soldiers and sailors from enjoying any preference under the civil service system in this State, except the veterans of the Civil War.
The resolution, after providing for an extension of the merit system to such an extent that it would include every appointive office, stipulated that “nothing herein shall be construed to take away any existing preference of veterans of the Civil War."
No mention is made in the resolution of any provision which would permit the Governor and Legislature to pass any law in the future which would grant preference either to Spanish War, European War or other war veterans.
The Spanish War Veterans, through the heads of their organization, have issued a broadside calling for the defeat of the resolution "in the name of common justice."
CODIFICATION OF LAWS, LEGION AND UNITED. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has a committee appointed for the purpose of codifying laws of the Commonwealth. This committee is now meeting, and its work has not been completed. We brought to the attention of this committee that we wished all laws passed in the name of The Legion of Spanish War Veterans to be so amended as to read "Legion or United Spanish War Veterans.” An exception to this is the Stephen J. Ryan Camp 7, Lawrence, who holds its charter and deed of Camp property under The Legion of Spanish War Veterans. We considered this special case could wait until such time as the Camp would ask for a change, as we were not acquainted with the conditions of its deed of its property, and did not wish to effect any change in the law which might affect its rights in its holdings. If the officers and members of this Camp or its building committee wish any change we will gladly attend to it. The committee has assured me, through Representatives Comrades Newhall and Gibbs, that the amendment will be added with no legislation necessary. The committee received this assurance April 25 at the State House in conference with these Comrades.
HOUSE Bill No. 649, RELATIVE TO THE AMOUNT TO BE ALLOWED FOR BURIAL OF
AN INDIGENT SOLDIER, SAILOR OR MARINE. On account of the prevailing high cost of living and increased cost of commodities it became necessary for the committee to file a bill to increase the amount allowed for burials from $50 to $60, and the total cost of funerals from $110 to $135. The amount may look small, — $10, — but much opposition is met on account of the expected increase in numbers of deaths of veterans. In the last year most of those who took advantage of this law were veterans of the Civil War or dependents. The bill passed Military Affairs Committee favorably and was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee March 12, 1919. This committee recommended, March 26, ought not to pass, and on March 27 the report was acted on in the House, and by the magnificent vote of 145 to 27 against the committee's report we overcame the committee's recommendation. It was ordered to a third reading March 28, and passed by the House to be engrossed March 31 in its original form. On April 2 it was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which committee recommended ought not to pass, April 10. Our committee was not satisfied to let the bill die, so it was fought out on the floor of the Senate, and the report of the Senate Ways and Means Committee was overcome April 15, was ordered to a third reading April 16, and unanimously passed by a voice vote and ordered to be engrossed April 17. His Excellency the Governor signed this bill April 24, and it is now known as chapter 129 of the General Acts of 1919. You can see, by following the reports of the different bills and the very complicated conditions affecting their passage, that very strenuous work has been done by the Department Legislative Committee, even on what may seem bills of small nature.
HOUSE BILL No. 648, RELATIVE TO LEAVES OF ABSENCE FOR VETERANS OF THE
CIVIL, SPANISH AND EUROPEAN WARS TO ATTEND ENCAMPMENTS. On account of not separating the bill in two parts, in explanation I ought to say that one bill was filed for Memorial Day and for Encampments. This bill was given leave to withdraw. The committee talked over and very thoroughly considered this bill, and finally agreed to let the negative report of the committee stand instead of putting up a fight on account of the time taken up in preparing our work on the Preference Bill, etc. I will say, however, that we recommended that this bill be presented next term, and in two parts, which will give the Legislative Committee an opportunity to amend either part of the bill to perfect it and permit of its passage. Under present conditions, and the short time in which to file bills, it became necessary to sacrifice this bill. This will be a good bill if presented in a corrected form, and under present conditions would be sure of passage. As such the committee recommends it.