BLTC Press Titles

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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

La Follette's autobiography

by Robert Marion La Follette


I shall give as faithful an account as I know how, of political events in which I have participated and I shall characterize the strong men whom I have known, and especially I shall endeavor to present those underlying motives and forces which are often undiscerned in American politics.

I believe that most thoughtful readers, perplexed by the conditions which confront the country, will find that they have been meeting in various guises the same problems that I have had to meet, and that their minds have consequently been traveling along much the same lines as mine, and toward much the same conclusions. I trust this book may be the means of causing many men to think as one — and to fight as one.

It is a pleasure to express my grateful appreciation of the valuable assistance which Mr. Ray Stannard Baker has given me in the revision of the manuscript for this work and of the helpful suggestions of Professor John R. Commons and his verification of the statistical and economic data.

Robert M. La Follette.

Washington, D. C,
October 1, 1912.



FEW young men who entered public life thirty years ago had any wide outlook upon affairs, or any general political ideas. They were drawn into politics just as other men were drawn into the professions or the arts, or into business, because it suited their tastes and ambitions. Often the commonest reasons and the most immediate necessities commanded them, and clear understanding, strong convictions, and deep purposes were developed only as they were compelled to face the real problems and meet the real temptations of the public service.

My own political experiences began in the summer of 1880 when I determined to become a candidate for district attorney of Dane County, Wisconsin, and it resulted almost immediately in the first of many struggles with the political boss and the political machine which then controlled, absolutely, the affairs of the State of Wisconsin. I was twenty-five years old that summer. A year previously, in June 1879, I had been graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and after five months'study of the law, part of the time in the office of R. M. Bashfqrd, and part of the time in the university law school, I had been admitted to the bar, in February, 1880. settler from Indiana. I knew farm ways and farm life, and many of the people who were not acquainted with me personally knew well from what family I came — and that it was an honest family. The people of the county were a mixture of New Englanders, Norwegians and Germans. I had been raised among the Norwegians and understood the language fairly well, though I could speak it only a little — but even that little helped me.

I was as poverty-stricken a young lawyer as ever hung his shingle to the wind. I had no money at all. My single term at the university law school had been rendered possible only through the consideration of the faculty in making an extraordinary exception in my casey and permitting me to enter without paying the usual matriculation fee. I had no money — but as fine an assortment of obligations and ambitions as any young man ever had. I had my mother and sister to support, as I had supported them partially all through my college course — and finally, I had become engaged to be married.

To an impecunious young lawyer almost without clients, the district ^attorneyship of Dane County, paying at that time the munificent salary of $800 a year with an allowance of $50 for expenses, seemed like a golden opportunity. Though it appeared immeasurably difficult of attainment, I determined to make for it with all my strength. What I wanted was an opportunity to work — to practise my profession — and to make a living. I knew that trial work would appeal to me, and I believed I could try criminal cases successfully.

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