Brand Whitlock was born in Urbana, Ohio, in 1869. He became a journalist and worked for the Chicago Herald. He was later employed by John P. Altgeld, the reforming governor of Illinois. Whitlock also worked closely with Samuel Jones, the radical mayor of Toledo.
Whitlock became increasingly involved in politics and eventually served four terms as mayor of Toledo (1906-14). Like Samuel Jones, Whitlock developed a reputation as an honest and efficient mayor.
Whitlock was United States ambassador to Belgium during the First World War. Whitlock wrote 18 books, including several novels and a biography, Forty Years of It (1914). Brand Whitlock died in 1934.
There was a particular pallor in his countenance, and the face was such a blank mask of suffering and despair that, had it not been for the high intelligence that shone from his eyes, it must have impressed many as altogether lacking in expression. He had been a judge of the Circuit Court, and was known by his occasional addresses, his interviews and articles, as a publicist of radical and humanitarian tendencies. He was known especially to the laboring classes and to the poor, who, by that acute sympathy they possess, divined in him a friend, and in the circles of sociological workers and students, then so small and obscure as to make their views esoteric, he was recognized as one who understood and sympathized with their tendencies and ideas.
He knew the cost to him; he had just come to the governorship of his state, and to the leadership of his party, after its thirty years of defeat, and he realized what powerful interests would be frightened and offended if he were to turn three forgotten men out of prison; he understood how partisanship would turn the action to its advantage. It mattered not that most of the thoughtful men in Illinois would tell you that the "anarchists" had been improperly convicted, that they were not only entirely innocent of the murder of which they had been accused, but were not even anarchists.
And so, one morning in June, very early, I was called to the governor's office, and told to make out pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab. I took them over to the governor's office. I was admitted to his private room, and there he sat, at his great flat desk. The only other person in the room was Dreier, a Chicago banker, who had never wearied, it seems, in his efforts to have these men pardoned.
The Governor took the big sheets of imitation parchment, glanced over them, signed his name to each, laid down the pen, and handed the papers across the table to Dreier. The banker took them, and began to say something. But he only got as far as "Governor, I hardly" when he broke down and wept.
I saw the Governor as I was walking to the Capitol the next morning. The Governor was riding his horse - he was a gallant horseman - and he bowed and smiled that faint, wan smile of his, and drew up to the curb a moment. I said: "Well, the storm will break now."
"Oh, yes," he replied, with a not wholly convincing air of throwing off a care, "I was prepared for that. It was merely doing right." I said something to him then to express my satisfaction in the great deed that was to be so willfully, recklessly, and cruelly misunderstood. I did not say all I might have said, for I felt that my opinions could mean so little to him. I have wished since that I had said more, said something that could perhaps have made a great burden a little easier for that brave and tortured soul. But he rode away with that wan, persistent smile. And the storm did break, and the abuse it rained upon him broke his heart.
Samuel Jones was a man who tried to practice the fundamental philosophy of Christianity. All the newspapers were against him, and all the preachers. When the people came to vote for his re-election his majorities were overwhelming, so that he used to say that everybody was against him but the people.
In those days I had not met him. One day, suddenly, as I was working on a story in my office, in he stepped with a startling, abrupt manner, wheeled a chair up to my desk, and sat down. He was a big Welshman with a sandy complexion and great hands that had worked hard in their time, and he had an eye that looked right into the centre of your skull. He wore, and all the time he was in the room continued to wear, a large cream-coloured slouch hat, and he had on the flowing cravat which for some inexplicable reason artists and social reformers wear; their affinity being due, no doubt, to the fact that the reformer must be an artist of a sort, else he could not dream his dreams.
He had a practical air of the very practical business man he had been before he became mayor. He had been such a practical business man that he was worth half a million, a fairly good fortune for our town; but he had not been in office very long before all the business men were down on him, and saying that what the town needed was a business man for mayor. They disliked him of course because he would not do just what they told him to that being the meaning and purpose of a business man for mayor. The politicians and preachers objected to him on the same grounds: the unpardonable sin being to express in any but a purely ideal and sentimental form sympathy for the workers or the poor.