- Historic Sites
Jones Vs. Jones
In Toledo a civic crusade matched the popular mayor against a famed evangelist—both with the same name
April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
When Jones conducted a revival meeting in Chicago during the bloody riots connected with the strike at the McCormick Harvester Factory in the same year, he pointed out the implications of the parades and picnics which the workingmen of the city had organized in an attempt to raise enthusiasm and funds for their cause: It is said Chicago has more of the Communistic element in it than any other city in America. … Look at your workingmen going out to some celebration. Look on the flag [they carry] and see the inscription, “Our Children Cry for Bread!” … A more Communistic power [slogan] was never put on a flag than that. Those same men went to the grove and drank up that day fourteen hundred kegs of beer. (Laughter) If you will put your beer-gardens and barrooms out of this city and put these millions into bread and meat you will have the fattest and plumpest children and the most prosperous city on the face of the earth. (Applause) But an old devil walking around and toting a flag saying his children cry for bread—why if you were to stick a knife in his belly four gallons of beer would run out. (Great laughter).
It was perhaps Jones’s greatest contribution to revivalism that he did not, like former evangelists, look upon his crusades simply as a means of converting individuals into paragons of personal virtue and nothing more. Rather he attempted to arouse worried middle-class citizens into an army of fighting saints dedicated to stamping out the great social ills of their times. Moreover, Jones considered the mere fact of enlistment in his army tantamount to conversion. Conversion, as he defined it, was not so much a change in belief or the acquisition of grace through faith as a change in moral conduct, a resolution, as he put it, to “Quit your meanness” and to fight for decency in your community. “Conversion,” he explained, “scripturally means simply two things, i. I have quit the wrong. 2. I have taken hold of the right.” Stop waiting for a change of heart, stop saying you do not feel you have got religion, he said. “You stir around and begin to right the wrongs you have done in this city. … You will have the feeling!” He spoke for many militant reformers of his day when he declared, “I like a broad, useful, aggressive Christianity—a Christianity with a musket and a cartridge belt. Satan won this country by fighting and we must win it back from him in the same way.”
While Sam P. Jones devoted himself to reforming the country by revivalism, Sam M. Jones decided that he should try to reform the city of Toledo by entering politics. Having successfully launched his Golden Rule experiment in industrial management, the sucker-rod manufacturer entered the race for the mayoralty in 1897, hoping to give his new beliefs a wider application. As a wealthy businessman, Jones had always been a Republican, and even after his conversion to Christian socialism he did not desert his party. In fact, he was sufficiently hardheaded in his political outlook to work with the prevailing party machine in Ohio, controlled at that time by Senators Mark Hanna and Joseph Foraker. The machine, with some misgivings, gave him the Republican nomination, and Jones campaigned on a platform of “good government” and cheaper streetcar fares. His Democratic opponent, Parks Hone, tried to obscure Jones’s demands for reform by accusing him of being a front for the prohibition movement. Among the beer-loving Germans and whiskey-drinking Irish who made up over onequarter of Toledo’s population, Jones’s teetotalism was no asset. Nevertheless he managed to win the election by the narrow margin of 518 votes out of a total of 21,000.
To redeem one pledge of his “good government” platform, Jones made an attempt to get rid of gamblers, bookies, and slot machines, and to close the “wine rooms” where prostitutes made their headquarters. But he did not push these matters, and he put no pressure on the saloons which, according to the existing laws, were supposed to close at 11 P.M. on weekdays and all day on Sundays. Saloons, said Jones, were merely an “evidence of wrong social conditions,” not their cause. He accepted the arguments that the saloon was “the poor man’s club” and that the Sabbath, which was the only day off for most workingmen, was for recreation as well as for worship. Shortly after his inauguration Jones persuaded the city council to repeal the blue laws that forbade concerts and theatricals on Sunday and the ordinance requiring the saloons to close at 11 P.M. on weekdays. He could not do anything about the law requiring the saloons to close on Sunday, for this was a state law. So he simply ignored it. By this refusal to enforce Sabbatarianism he quickly brought down upon his administration the wrath of the city’s clergymen and Protestant churchgoers. Six months after he assumed office, the Protestant ministers formed a committee to wait upon him and inquire why the Sabbathbreaking was allowed to continue. Jones replied that he believed the law unjust and that no more than twenty-five per cent of the city’s citizens were in favor of it.