Joseph Askew vs. Mr. Paddock

This post may give you the feeling that you’ve walked into a room and found two people arguing so vehemently about such deep-rooted issues that you can’t figure out what they’re actually so upset about. My apologies for that, but currently I’ve only discovered a brief portion of what seems to be an impassioned row between two men of widely divergent political and personal viewpoints.

On the one hand is Joseph Askew, a self-made man who believed in success through hard work and sharing the wealth with the less fortunate. He was a religious man and became a liberal politician affiliated with the Populist party; in today’s political climate he might be fairly described as a Socialist. On the other hand is Mr. L. A. Paddock, a man with a troubled past who’s cast himself as a fiscally concerned individual who feels he’s paying too much in taxes to a government he sees as fiscally irresponsible; someone who, in today’s political climate, might be best described as a Tea Party Republican.

Clearly there’s a lot more to the animosity between these two men than what is presented in these two letters to the editor from 1891.

February 19, 1891 (from the Wadena County Pioneer):

from a transcription by Robert Zosel in the Wadena County Historical Society

This Is A Corker: Joseph Askew On The War Path, L. A. Paddock The Man He Seeks. The Commissioner From The First District Writes A Scorching Letter. Scenes Of The Late Alliance Dance Pass Before Him In Panoramic Array.

To the Editor of the Wadena Pioneer: I notice an attempt by L. A. Paddock to reply to an article written by myself which appeared in the Pioneer of Feb. 5. The article contains nothing but falsehoods, and in no particular has he explained matters. In referring to my expression as being a true alliance man, he says that I did not explain the principals of the alliance. The trouble with Mr. Paddock is he cannot comprehend the meaning of equal rights, equal burdons, justice to all and a fair and reasonable compensation for labor performed; the greatest good to the greatest number, to benefit the masses. But in the case of Mr. Paddock it seems to be self first and all the time. He says we got up the last ball. I would like to know who he means by we. The ball was advertised “County Alliance Ball,” but there was not a member of the County Alliance present, nor did any member take part in getting it up; neither did they get any of the proceeds, as I am informed that Mr. Paddock made $30 clear. Mr. Paddock has the right to get up a ball but he has no right to use the name of the alliance under a garb to get the hall at reduced rates and assist to draw a crowd and otherwise make it profitable for himself. If those are the alliance principals of Mr. Paddock I renounce them. I do not believe that the young people of this county are depending on Mr. Paddock for their entertainments under the garb of the alliance. Mr. Paddock wishes me to put a curb bit on some of the justices. I think some of them had the curb on and were studying economy on the morning after the ball or they certainly would have issued a warrant for Mr. Paddock’s arrest for his cowardly conduct in presenting a loaded revolver in the face of one of his patrons, it being so near that the party could plainly discern the cartridges. A pleasant way indeed to wind up a young peoples’ entertainment. Well, that is the kind of entertainment Mr. Paddock gives to his patrons, young and old; sometimes he lets them flicker. I suppose he is so much of an economist himself that they prefer to let him off rather than make expense to the county. Mr. Paddock does not deny my statement of taxes, but goes back to 1889 and says he has tax receipts before him, also that the auditor’s books show his tax for that year to be 27 mills. I say emphatically that the statement is false, as the auditor’s books show but 24.2 mills, and 12.2 mills are school tax. He makes the statement that when I went into office that the county orders were at par, without any floating debt, which is also false, as the county had been bonded for $8,000 a short time before, and the county was paying the orders out of that fund. He charges me with being the cause of the present indebtedness. I say the cause is court and criminals, and as I have never had use for the court and have never been a criminal it can not be me to blame. Not so with Mr. Paddock. Since I have known him his whole career has been one of trouble, misfortune and cost to the county, and had he had his just deserts the county would have been a great deal more in debt than at present. Again he displays his ignorance by referring to a bridge across the Crow Wing river to settle up Cass county. We have a tier of townships east of Crow Wing partially settled with good farming land, as good as there is in the county. Has Mr. Paddock any just reason why those taxpayers should not have equal privileges with other taxpayers who are in more favorable locations[?] I would like Mr. Paddock to locate the slough on which the $150 appropriation was made for the purpose of benefiting one or two citizens. I would say it is not necessary for Mr. Paddock to try to make himself obnoxious. He is blowing and blustering and is obnoxious to all he comes in contact with, and will always vote for Paddock. The Demon, not being content with slandering and misrepresenting me in my official capacity, attacks my religious principals, principals I am proud of, for by them men become civilized and make better citizens. When Mr. Paddock through this instrumentality becomes civilized, he may be truthful and may have occasion hereafter to refer to his Christianity. S/Joseph Askew, Commissioner from First District.

February 25, 1891 (from the Wadena County Pioneer):

from a transcription by Robert Zosel in the Wadena County Historical Society

Mr Paddock Answers: He Does Not Think Mr. Askew Exhibits a Christian Like Spirit

To the editor of the Wadena Pioneer: In reply to a scandalous article that appeared in your issue of the 19th inst., signed by our illustrious county commissioner, Joseph Askew, of the first district, I will say that I have lived in this country [Edit.: interpret as “in this area”] nearly sixteen years and ought to be pretty well known by this time. I do not claim to be perfect, and I have done some things that I am very sorry for, and when the public are passing judgment upon me I hope they will be just as lenient of me as they possibly can. I always expect to make Wadena county my home. My dead are buried here, and all my family live here. I like the country and the people who live in it. If I have any enemies here I am very sorry for it. I am not of a revengeful disposition, and I believe that mankind were created to help one another, and I am very thankful to my friends for what they have done for me, and for my enemies I feel very sorry. I have no ill feelings toward any of my fellow beings, and if I have done any of them an injustice I hope they will forgive me. I shall always reserve the right to criticise the actions of all public men, and do it like a gentleman, and when any man writes such false and disgraceful letters as Mr. Askew has done, I decline to make any answers to them. All I ask is for the readers of your paper to compare Mr. Askew’s two letters, one of the 5th where he says the total tax of School District No. 3 is only 1½ per cent, and his letter of the 19th where he admits the taxes are 24.2 mills. Now here is a difference in his own letters of 9.2 mills; further comment is unnecessary. Now add 2 mills road tax, which I paid in work that now appears on the auditor’s books, unless I failed to pay my road taxes, and you will see that it makes 26.7 mills. As it was nearer 27 mills than it ways 26 mills, I did not go into the fractional part of a mill but called it 27 mills. Now if there is anyone I do respect in this world it is a good true christian man or woman. But no one can become a christian by saying so; They must show in all their movements and actions a goodness of heart; Mr. Askew’s letters do not show any christian spirit whatever. Now if Mr. Askew will come over to some of our alliance meetings we will take up his two famous resolutions, and give him a chance to vindicate himself, and we hope he will have some respect for the words “county commissioner from the first district,” and not attach them to anymore of his mud slinging and disgraceful letters. Yours, L. A. Paddock.

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