MAYBE you've gone to a legislative hearing in recent years to favor the lawmakers with your valued opinions and found you didn't get to speak because an organized demonstration had jammed the hall to exclude opposition. That isn't quite the way the legislative hearing was supposed to work. The idea was to expose the legislators to their public so individuals interested in a bill could appear pro and con, have their say, and contribute information and advice. That's the way it worked for a few years, and th en appeared, without any objection from the lawmakers who should have objected forthrightly, the ``spokesman.'' Somebody who appeared to speak for somebody else, a group, and who was not exactly there to act for himself. This led shortly to the lobbyist, and in turn to the histrionics that prevail -- associations, societies, industries that can call in the troops and have them hold the fort against the individuals. Fellow was telling me how he went to the statehouse to protest some tomfoolery, and not only didn't get into the hearing room but couldn't swim upstream against the supporters who had deliberately crammed the corridor to keep him out. That caused me to relate an early instance when one of our first efforts at an organized presentation fared, as we say, poorly.Skip to next paragraph
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I do, indeed, remember what the issue was, but today that doesn't matter. The fellow who set about organizing the support for this proposed law was certainly a pioneer in the lobby business, and he came to town to enlist the help of our three outstanding citizens. All three were well-known at the statehouse, and each had appeared from time to time to offer his appreciated words. First was our editor, Charles Mann, a friend of truth, an able journalist, an orator of mighty voice, and a native of New Brun swick, whence he came to Maine to buy our local weekly paper when it was for sale. Next was Judge Louis A. Jack, presiding at our municipal court, which was then our lowest court and so unimportant that it has since been abolished. He ``read'' law as a young man, which means he never attended law school, and he said the most important thing he learned was when not to sue. He drew wills, did deeds, and although he often quoted Blackstone that ``Lady Law brooketh no bedfellow,'' he sold insurance and handled real estate.
The third was A. W. Plummer, M.D., whose two years at Maine Medical School gave him but a small part of the almost infinite knowledge he could fetch forth. A logical positivist, a single-taxer, a Jeffersonian Democrat, he encompassed the seven liberal arts and sciences until he was honored by the town in his old age as ``Civis Mundi.'' These three, when approached to support the issue, expressed interest, seemed honored, and agreed to attend.
The consequences of this suggest our political program lost a great deal when the individual vacated his obligations and permitted himself to become one of a group. Editor Mann, when introduced as a friend of the cause, moved forward in dignity, addressed the committee in proper form, and poured forth his melodious eloquence. Every word was clear and distinct out into the park in front of the statehouse. Admiration sat upon every listener. Then he waved the flag to bring his remarks to a close, and forg etting himself in the passion of his own words, he didn't say ``Old Glory,'' or ``The Stars and Stripes,'' but lapsed to boyhood with, ``The good old Union Jack!'' The hilarity this brought on detracted noticeably from the effect of his effort.
Judge Jack said only an idiot would think up a crazy idea like that, and the sponsor had to be ``crooked as a ram's horn.'' He said people like that didn't need mittens, as they kept their hands warm in other people's pockets. The chairman of the committee said, ``But Judge, aren't you a proponent?''
Judge Jack nodded his head. ``Absolutely,'' he said. By this time the gentleman who had organized the presentation was doubting his own smarts, and still had Dr. Plummer to go.
It really doesn't matter today what the proposition was. It was more than 50 years ago. And I submit that Dr. Plummer's remarks, if available today to be addressed to a legislative committee, would prove refreshing in the light of regimented presentations. He said, ``I came in favor, but I've changed my mind.''