On the morning of March 4th, 1841 the ninth President of the United States took the oath of office at the East Portico of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. It was a miserable day, the rain was unrelenting and the temperature struggled to get out of the forties, well below the average for that time of year. Despite the rain and cold, the new President, William Henry Harrison chose to not wear a coat while taking the oath, and delivering his inaugural address. The address that had been shortened by fellow Whig politician Daniel Webster was still over two hours long, the longest inaugural address of any President in U.S. history. After the over 8,000 word speech, Harrison proceeded to the White House, where he spent another three hours outside greeting guests who had arrived to join him in the inaugural festivities. Shortly after the celebrations of March 4th, the new president fell ill. Historians debate whether it was the events of inauguration day, or contaminated food that led to the Presidents sickness, but as the month of March came to a close, the sickness that plagued the new President turned to pneumonia. On April 4th, 1841, exactly one month after taking office, President William Henry Harrison was dead, making his term the shortest of any U.S. President to date. After days of funerals in Washington D.C., President Harrison was laid to rest in his hometown of North Bend Ohio. The state of Ohio had given the United States its shortest serving President, and not a century later, it would give Washington its shortest serving Governor. The election of Samuel Cosgrove to the Governor’s office in 1908, and his subsequent illness and death set off an unprecedented battle for political power. For a brief period of time the situation forced the adolescent state to confront a serious Constitutional crisis that threaten to delegitimize its institutions. Washington was at a crossroad, with a sick Governor and a Lieutenant Governor potentially unfit for office, could the ideological foundations that the state was built on withstand the pressure, or would political aspirations prove to be the driver of democracy. For nearly three months as the inauguration of 1909 approached, the answer to this question was unclear.
Almost six years to the day after President Harrison’s death, Samuel Cosgrove was born in Tuscarawas County Ohio, about 200 miles away from the President’s grave site. Cosgrove’s life would go on to have almost eerie similarities to that of his fellow Ohioan. Born on his family’s farm in eastern Ohio, Cosgrove was the sixth of twelve children. Despite his large number of siblings, Cosgrove’s parents were able to provide for all twelve decently, and there is no indication they suffered the poverty that plagued many farming families in the nineteenth century. At age sixteen, the Confederate states succeeded, and the Civil War commenced. Cosgrove had a strong desire to fight for the Union cause and, against his family’s wishes, ran away from home to join the Fourteenth Ohio Infantry, making him one of only two Washington State Governors to serve in the Civil War. Cosgrove saw years of battle in the, and was honorably discharged in July of 1865 as the war was coming to a close. Upon his return to Ohio, he expressed interest in going to college, a proposition his father was vehemently against. To entice his son to stay, Cosgrove’s father offered him an eighty acre farm, but farming was not Cosgrove’s interest; he wanted to learn.
Cosgrove received his Masters in teaching from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1873. At his graduation, the professor awarding him his diploma stated it was customary that no student without a middle name shall receive their certificate. Cosgrove had never been given a middle name, thus he agreed to take one for the purposes of the graduation ceremony. The professor selected Goodlove, and from that point on Cosgrove used this name regularly, eventually even passing it to his first born son. After graduation Cosgrove began to teach at Brooklyn High School, just outside Cleveland while he studied law. During his time teaching there, he met Zephorena Edgerton, a student. Despite the eleven year age difference the two fell in love, and their marriage vows were part of the 1878 Brooklyn High School graduation ceremony. In 1880, two years after Zephorena’s graduation, the couple decided to move west. They chose Nevada, following in the foot steps of prospectors that poured into the state when gold had been discovered. Here Cosgrove entered into a mining operation, but like most that followed gold rushes, he lost everything. With nothing keeping them in Nevada, and the prospect of striking it rich all but dashed, the couple, and their first child Howard Goodlove Cosgrove, moved to San Leandro California. Here, once again success alluded Cosgrove, so in 1882, only two years after leaving Ohio behind, the Cosgrove family moved north and settled in Pomeroy Washington. Here Samuel G. Cosgrove would build a life, and a reputation for himself.
The wheat covered hills of the Palouse proved to be exactly what Samuel Goodlove Cosgrove was looking for. Settling in the Garfield County Seat of Pomeroy, Cosgrove began to practice law, as well as farm. The farmer turned teacher turned lawyer turned farmer again grew his operation to over 1400 acres spreading from the rolling hills of southeast Washington into the western parts of Idaho. Cosgrove not only found success in business and farming, but he soon found himself at the center of eastern Washington politics. Beginning as President of the Pomeroy School Board, he would go on to serve as Garfield County Prosecutor, and then five terms as Mayor of Pomeroy. A staunch Republican, Cosgrove supported every candidate the party put on the ballot throughout his career. This got him chosen as a Presidential elector in the election 1900 and 1904. Republicans won Washington State both years, giving Cosgrove state-wide notoriety as Washington only had 4, and then 5 electors in those years. As a gesture of gratitude for his faithful service to the party, Governor Henry McBride offered him a seat on the Washington State Supreme Court in 1904. For a lawyer this was an offer of a lifetime, but not for Cosgrove, he respectfully declined the Governor’s offer. He had his sights set elsewhere.
Samuel Cosgrove was not modest about his aspirations, he wanted to be Governor. This desire to be the Chief Executive of Washington State was something that drove his business and political moves over the span of almost two decades. His first attempt at a run for the office was in 1892, just ten years after moving his family to Pomeroy. At the Republican Party Convention that year in Sprague, he was beaten by King County Sheriff John McGraw for the nomination. While disappointed, Cosgrove would go on to give a nearly two hour long speech in support of McGraw after the delegates voted. This was a glimpse into the untarnished character that Cosgrove possessed. Even back then this was an uncommon trait in politics. This early setback did not deter Cosgrove. He once again sought the office in 1904, running on the platform of establishing a Railroad Commission, something championed by incumbent Governor Henry McBride. Cosgrove came in second in the Eastern Washington Delegation’s vote, and the nomination was eventually won by Whatcom County Prosecutor Albert Mead. Many at the convention were upset that incumbent Governor McBride, and Cosgrove for that matter, were beaten by Mead as he was supported by the railroad lobby, a group both men actively fought against. Once again, Cosgrove rose to defend the man who had just beaten him saying “No follower of Governor McBride can vote against Mr. Mead without being a traitor.” This would be the last year candidates were chosen at party conventions, as in 1907 the legislature voted to implement the direct primary election. Instead of party bosses picking the candidates, it was now in the hands of the voters. This would prove to be exactly what Cosgrove needed to achieve his goal.
If at first you don’t succeed…
In 1908 Samuel Cosgrove set out once again to become the Governor of Washington State. He took his message directly to the people, making stops across the state, and calling on law makers in Olympia. That year Cosgrove entered an already crowded field with incumbent Governor Albert Mead, and former Governor Henry McBride also competing for a spot on the Republican ticket. In fact, many did not take his candidacy seriously. He had run twice before and lost, and he had never held a political office outside of Garfield County. As the campaign went on however, many began to realize they had underestimated Cosgrove. The Colfax Gazette wrote on August 7th, 1908 that
“The way the country editors are lining up for S.G. Cosgrove for Governor, his candidacy does not appear to be so much of a joke as it did at first. It might be well to keep your eyes on Cosgrove.”
The Colfax Gazette was correct in this assessment of the race, as on the evening of the primary election on September 8th, 1908 the three Republicans were all within points of each other. The next morning The Seattle Times declared Henry McBride the winner of the race, while explaining that many counties had yet to report full vote totals. The excitement for McBride, and the agony for Cosgrove was short-lived, as the next day The Times updated their vote counts, this time declaring Mayor Samuel Cosgrove the rightful winner. Upon hearing the updated news McBride returned the gracious support that Cosgrove had given him and so many other opponents throughout the years, sending a telegram to Pomeroy stating,
“Looks as though you were nominated. If so you have slain us in an open fight and will receive the enthusiastic support of myself and friends.”
Cosgrove, the mayor of a small town in southeast Washington had beaten two well connected Governors in the race for the nomination, by going to the people. With the primary election out of the way he now faced the winner of the Democrat primary, Colfax Mayor John Pattison. This was an unusual election, as for the only time in Washington State history, both candidates for governor were from southeast Washington, and both were Mayors of small towns. Pattison, a lawyer in Colfax, was a former Republican who left the party at the turn of the century in response to the silver debacle. The two men had no doubt crossed paths over the years, as their homes were only about sixty miles apart. Both men were lawyers, both men were Mayors at the same time, and now both men had been nominated by their parties to run for Governor.
The race for Governor in 1908 was unusually quiet. The Democrat Party in Washington at the time was on life support, with Pattison only winning 6,268 votes in the primary, compared to Cosgrove’s 57,000. The party struggled to even put candidates up for state-wide races, with no Democrat filing for Treasurer, Auditor, or Attorney General. Historian Richard Fisch remarked that “Pattison kept an exceptionally low profile during the campaign, and even newspapers friendly to his candidacy had difficulty in finding much to say about him.” This assessment of the Pattison campaign was true, as even his hometown newspaper, The Colfax Gazette declined to endorse him. Pattison would only visit Olympia once over the course of the campaign, and even then his presence did not draw much attention. On election day 1908, to the surprise of no one, Cosgrove trounced Pattison with 62.5%, the second highest percentage in state history. Cosgrove won each of the thirty-nine counties, including Pattison’s home, Whitman County. Samuel Cosgrove had finally become Governor, but at what cost?
In October of 1908, a month before the election, Samuel Cosgrove returned to his home in Pomeroy, officially ending his campaign travel. The Republican candidate for governor was ill, the campaign had taken everything out of him. Cosgrove had been diagnosed with Bright’s Disease, which effects kidney function, and combined with the energy required to run a campaign, the disease had taken a massive toll on his health as election day grew near. Just four days after he had won the election, on Saturday November 7th, 1908, The Seattle Times ran the headline “Cosgrove in Shadow of Death.” The public knew the Governor-Elect was sick, and rumors began to fly. There was much speculation about what would happen in the case of Cosgrove dying before taking office. Incumbent Governor Albert Mead, who Cosgrove had defeated in the primary began telling those close to him that should Cosgrove die, he intended to retain the Governorship for another four years. Mead’s argument was that the Constitution stated his term shall end when the Governor-Elect qualifies for the office, which means taking the oath. In Mead’s mind, if Cosgrove could not qualify, then his term would not end. For a state that was only twenty years old, these unclear provisions in the Constitution proved to create more questions than answers.
In a last ditch effort to relieve the Governor-Elect of his ailments, on Friday November 13th he left Pomeroy for Paso Robles California. The hope was that the hot springs and warm weather would help Cosgrove recuperate in time for his inauguration in January. Before departing for California, Governor Mead visited Cosgrove in Pomeroy, and committed to him a smooth transition between administrations, a marked change in tone from just days earlier when he was preparing for Cosgrove’s untimely expiration. However generous Mead was when visiting Cosgrove, he was still laying a foundation behind the scenes to stay in office. By the end of November, Cosgrove was gone, and the state had found itself in a Constitutional Crisis. Over the next two months, while debates over who shall become Governor played out, conflicting news reports blanketed papers across the state. One saying Cosgrove was on his death bed, the next saying he was rapidly improving. For those trying to plan the future of the state, it must have been terribly difficult given the inconsistent dispatches on the Governor-Elect’s health. On Christmas Day 1908, for the first time since departing for California, Cosgrove himself sent a message back home writing,
“Christmas greetings to the people of the state of Washington. In body in California, in mind, with the people I expect to serve.”
With Cosgrove now communicating with the citizens, and the inauguration quickly approaching there became much speculation as to what the Governor-Elect’s plans were. Would he return to take the the office? Would he take the oath in California, which many lawyers argued was not Constitutional. Or would he stay in California and let Governor Mead and Lieutenant Governor-Elect Marion Hay, who was himself stuck in the middle of a scandal, fight for the position? On January 13th, 1909 Cosgrove sent the following message to member of the State Legislature,
“Grateful for services rendered me- I will add that I shall be in Olympia as soon as health and weather will permit”
To the shock of many, Samuel Cosgrove’s plan was to return to Olympia, and take the oath of office. Two weeks after dispatching that message to the legislature, on January 27th, Samuel Cosgrove arrived by car to the Capitol Building in Olympia in a scene described by The Seattle Times as “impressive and pathetic” recounting Cosgrove’s physical appearance as “emancipated and worn with disease.” The initial plan was to have the oath administered to Cosgrove in a car outside the Capitol, which would then take him directly back to Paso Robles to continue his recovery. However, when his son Howard Cosgrove met him at the train station in Chehalis the Governor-Elect made it very clear he wanted to be sworn in the “regular way.” Once at the capitol, a joint session of the Legislature was called to witness the ceremony at 3pm. Cosgrove was introduced by Lieutenant Governor Marion Hay, and helped to the front of the chamber, where he was administered the oath of office, just as he would have in perfect health. As Cosgrove made his way to the front, the chamber was echoing with applause, the floor full of members and former members, the galleries packed with interested spectators, all on their feet. Once sworn in, Cosgrove gave a ten minute inaugural address, while his voice was weak, every labored word was etched into the minds of those listening. During those ten minutes the chamber stood still and reports say that as the Governor gave his speech tears welled up in the eyes of many members looking on. At the conclusion of his address he had hoped to shake hands with each member, but he was so weak from speaking that he was unable. As Cosgrove stepped down he looked up at ladies in the gallery and said “I am not afraid of you ladies, but I am afraid the men should shake my arms off.”
As soon as the Governor left the chamber and returned to his car, the joint body took up a Joint Resolution 13, requested by Cosgrove. This resolution was to allow him an indefinite leave of absence, so he could return to California to fully recover. The resolution passed all the powers of his office on to newly elected Lieutenant Governor Marion Hay, who had a corruption case outstanding before the Supreme Court, a case that could disqualify him from holding office. The resolution passed unanimously. Hay, the former Mayor of Wilbur, was himself a man of Eastern Washington, and was now thrust into a position he did not run for, or win, and a position he may be ineligible to hold.
The Businessman in Politics
Marion Hay was born on December 9th, 1865 in Adams County Wisconsin. After spending his childhood and adolescent years in the county of his birth, he moved to Dubuque Iowa to study business at Bayless Commercial Business College. This interest in business and commerce was something that would continue through his entire life, and bring him professional opportunities in the United States, Canada, and eventually Mexico.
Hay’s first job out of college was in Jackson Minnesota as a store clerk. It was here that he met his wife Lizzie Muir, and the two were married on January 16th, 1887. The couple had a desire to live the frontier lifestyle, a lifestyle that their parents had sought out a generation earlier. Armed with this pioneer spirit, the couple left the Midwest in 1888, and made their way to Davenport Washington. Here Hay partnered with Charles Grutt to open the store Hay & Grutt. This venture did not last long, as after a year in Davenport Mr. and Mrs. Hay moved thirty miles west to Wilbur Washington. Here Hay opened his own store under the name M.E. & E.T. Hay Company. This new company the Hay family operated was met with immense success. This success allowed Hay to try his hand at other industries including real estate and farming, purchasing agriculture and commercial land from Eastern Washington, into Canada. At one time it as estimated that Hay owned over 25,000 acres of land in both countries. Later in his life, during his run for Lieutenant Governor, a friend and business associate convinced Hay to purchase land in Mexico. Hay followed his friends advice and purchased a tract of land half the size of Rhode Island. Hay now owned land in three countries and nearly across an entire continent.
The success Hay found in business soon helped him find equal success in politics. First elected Mayor of Wilbur in 1898, he would go on to serve two terms leading the town his business was anchored in. Like Cosgrove, Hay was a loyal Republican, and served for many years as the chair of the Lincoln County Republican party, attending the 1900 Republican National Convention as an alternate delegate to nominate William McKinley for President. Throughout his career he was dedicated to the party’s cause and advocated for Republican candidates up and down the ballot. Encouraged by his business and political success in Lincoln County, Hay threw his hat in the race for Lieutenant Governor of Washington State in 1908. Also like Cosgrove, Hay entered a crowded field for the Republican nomination, a field that included incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor and former Mayor of Port Townsend, Charles E. Coon. 1908 was the first year of the direct primary, and many candidates for office aligned themselves together, forming slates. Hay was left out of nearly every slate, and purposely ran a very individual campaign, powered by a group known as “The Hay Club of Wilbur.” Hay, along with this club distributed literature on tariff reform, tax reform, and changes to the legislature’s committee structure. Many newspapers criticized Hay’s campaign arguing that the Lieutenant Governor did not have enough power to achieve these goals. On the day of the primary election, Lieutenant Governor Coon appeared to have beaten Hay, in fact for over a week it was reported that Coon had won. However, the process of counting ballots was slow, and as was the case in the Governor’s race it took time to process every vote. On September 16th, eight days after the election, Hay was declared the winner of the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Marion Hay though would not be offered the same support as Samuel Cosgrove had from his defeated opponents
An Election in the Courtroom
In a normal election, after the primary the top two candidates begin campaigning for the general election. Marion Hay did not have this luxury. While he started campaigning against Democrat A.C. Edwards, he was still fighting Lieutenant Governor Charles Coon. On October 3rd, Coon filed a writ of mandamus with the Washington State Supreme Court asking them to order the State Canvassing Board certify him as the winner, not Hay. Coon’s case went further than this, arguing that the new direct primary was unconstitutional. Under the new law voters voted for their first choice, and then for a second. The first choices were tallied, and if no candidate received a majority, the second choice votes would be added. At the end of the tabulation for first choice Coon had won but not secured a majority, when the second choices were added Hay became the winner. Coon believed that this addition of the second choice ballots was unconstitutional and wanted the Supreme Court to intervene. In the October 11th edition of The Seattle Times it was reported that the lawyer for Marion Hay told the court that Coon is ‘“playing the baby act’ in not questioning the validity of the second choice provision until he had been defeated.” The legal team for Coon fired back arguing that there had been “no opportunity to test the provision before the election.” Two days after the court heard arguments from both sides, the Justices ruled in favor of Hay, and allowed the State Canvassing Board to certify him as the nominee with under a month until the general election.
As the election neared, and news of Samuel Cosgrove’s condition spread, many in the state looked to Hay as a potential Governor, should Cosgrove succumb to his disease. Republicans were concerned however, about Hay’s connection to John L. Wilson, the leader of a corrupt political circle with a considerable amount of influence in state government. This led many to question if Republicans who were loyal to Cosgrove would be wise in also voting for Hay, or if they would be better off voting for A.C. Edwards. While this caused much speculation in newspapers across the state, Hay would go on to defeat Edwards receiving 65% of the vote, performing a few points better than Cosgrove. With the election over, and Cosgrove’s condition under the microscope, all eyes were on Hay and Mead, the two men who stood to benefit from Cosgrove’s illness. In a speech to crowd in Spokane after the election, the Lieutenant Governor-Elect made his position very clear saying,
“I have no ambition nor desire to serve the people of the State of Washington in any other capacity than that of Lieutenant Governor, the office to which I was elected.”
This came as welcomed news to Albert Mead who was putting plans into motion to retain his position as Governor. Even more welcomed was the scandal that broke in late December. In reviewing Hay’s campaign finances, it was discovered that the candidate paid newspapers $1,457 (over $40,000 today) to print stories that supported his case against Charles Coon regarding the primary election legal battle. The largest chunk, $41.35 had gone to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a newspaper that was known for its pro-Hay editorials. In addition to this, charges were made that while registered to vote in Wilbur, Hay was actually living in Spokane at the time of the election. With both of these scandals under investigation by the Supreme Court, Lieutenant Governor Charles Coon, like Governor Mead, argued that if Hay was found guilty he believed he should stay in office for another term. While the case was heard by the Supreme Court in early January 1909, the court did not make a decision until February 7th. In the meantime, to the disappointment of Coon, Hay was allowed to take the oath of office as Lieutenant Governor. When Governor Cosgrove introduced the joint resolution naming Hay the Acting-Governor, things were complicated further, but the court had no objection. While the Justices eventually acquitted Hay, the question of what would have happened had he been found guilty is an interesting thought for historians and constitutional scholars to ponder to this day.
Governor for a Day
After the tempered festivities of Inauguration Day, Governor Cosgrove spent the night in the Capital City before departing back to California the next day. In an act that The Seattle Times described as “lack(ing) every possible element of courtesy and diplomacy” that day Acting-Governor Hay began to move his things from the Lieutenant Governor’s office, to the Governor’s office. It was reported that this was done before the real Governor had even left town. While Hay publicly stated his desire to not take the Chief Executive’s job, he seemed to ease into the position rather quickly, while keeping his duties as Lieutenant Governor. In order to allow Hay more time to focus on Gubernatorial duties, the Senate President Pro Tem Senator Ruth, took up the regular role of presiding over the Senate, something Hay would normally have done. This didn’t stop Hay from still presiding over issues important to him, and in one case Hay even went to the House to preside over their debate, something not permitted in the State Constitution.
In February, the Acting-Governor created a stir in Olympia, when he sent invitations to a ball at the Tumwater Club hosted by “Governor and Mrs. Hay” choosing to drop the “acting” from his title. Many elected officials chose to return their invitations out of protest, and one Senator went so far as to call for an investigation into Hay’s use of the official title, while still technically being Lieutenant Governor. It is unknown how much of this got back to the real Governor in California, but in Olympia Hay was making progress on Cosgrove’s legislative priorities, chief among them was the Local Option Bill. This proposal, which both Cosgrove and Hay advocated for on the campaign trail, would allow cities and towns the ability to adopt Prohibition within their boundaries. This was seen as more favorable than the legislature passing state-wide prohibition. The “Local Option” was an issue that everybody had an opinion on, and groups were formed to both advocate for and against the measure. The controversy surrounding the bill occupied much of the legislature’s time in February of 1909, while Acting-Governor Hay did all he could to move it along. After failing in the House, and being reintroduced with requested amendments, it was passed on March 6th. The Local Option Bill was seen as Samuel Cosgrove biggest, and only legislative victory. Upon its passage the Governor sent a message to both houses, thanking them for their work. Only days after passing his first piece of legislation, ridding this wave of victory, Howard Cosgrove announced that his father’s condition had improved considerably, and he intended to return to work in Olympia on May 1st.
There was much celebration, that after battling Bright’s Disease for six months, Samuel Cosgrove was well enough to return to the job he had worked so tirelessly for. Then on March 29th with no warning, it was announced that the Governor had died the afternoon of Sunday March 28th. This came as a shock to everyone in the state, who for many months had believed the Governor was dying, to only be informed days earlier that he planned to return. The Governor’s widow even reported that only hours before his death Cosgrove was working on his plans to return to Olympia. That morning The Seattle Times ran the headline “Pain at Last Yields to Death.” Cosgrove had been Governor for sixty days when he died, only one of which he spent in the Capitol, leading many to refer to him as Washington’s “Governor for a Day.” In the private office of Marion Hay, at 10:30am on the morning on March 29th, Chief Justice F.H. Radkins administered the oath of office in a quiet ceremony devoid of pomp and circumstance. After serving as Acting-Governor for months, Hay had now officially ascended to the office. Upon taking the oath Hay announced he would not be making any policy changes at the present time, and that he would allow all appointments requested by Cosgrove to proceed. Not a decade earlier when Governor John Rankin Rogers died and Lieutenant Governor Henry McBride was sworn in, the Governor’s office changed parties, and with it came graduate policy changes. Being that Cosgrove and Hay were of the same party, a shift in legislative priorities was not expected. In addition to these announcements, Hay sent for his family in Spokane to move them into the newly completed Governor’s Mansion. The Cosgrove family was suppose to be the first family to occupy the new Executive Residence, however it would sit empty for months while Cosgrove was in California.
Two days after his death, on the morning of March 31st the funeral train carrying Cosgrove and his family arrived in Olympia. His casket was taken to the rotunda of the State Capitol, where thousands of mourners came throughout the day to pay their respects. At 1pm a funeral service was held in the House Chamber, the same place Cosgrove had, just over two months earlier, laid out his policy agenda to state law makers. The feeling of sadness that descended over the chamber during the service was reminiscent of the emotions felt as the weak Cosgrove struggled to speak to the audience in January. Revered C.E. Todd remarked on this dark irony stating
“It seems only a few days since a vast throng gathered in this room to witness the solemn inaugural ceremony which made this great man Governor of our state. It was a scene which can never be erased from the memory of that vast multitude. It seemed to us ,as he himself said, that he has been called back from the valley of the shadow of death to leave us with a parting message.”
After the ceremony at the Capitol, the procession moved to Tumwater’s Masonic Memorial Park Cemetery for the burial. The Governor had requested to be buried near Olympia, opposed to his home of Pomeroy. The Governor was given full military honors upon his burial which was attended by members of the legislature, the Governor of Oregon, the Mayor of Seattle, and countless other state leaders. The Colfax Gazette recalled to those closer to Cosgrove’s home that the funeral ceremonies were “probably the most elaborate and noteworthy which ever took place in the state.” Samuel Cosgrove had wanted to be Governor for majority of his life, and even though he only acted in that role one day, he had achieved his goal, and those that came to pay their respects to him honored him as such. As the Governor. Samuel Cosgrove had served his country in wartime, served his community as Mayor, and in his final act, served his state as Governor. Cosgrove had hoped to pursue an ambitious agenda once in office, but in the end that term would be one single day.
For Marion Hay, the Governorship would prove to be a mixed bag. Entering office under investigation, and then being elevated to Chief Executive after the death of the incumbent is not the way any politician envisions their rise to power. Nevertheless, Hay would go on to champion policies that today are seen as steps in the right direction toward good government. These included an investigation into corruption of state employees, a workers compensation law, and state-wide suffrage for women. In addition to this, Hay continued work on weakening the power of the railroad lobby in Olympia, an effort that coupled with the direct primary law saw an exponential decrease in the power of the rail roads in the electoral process. For a Governor that entered office at such a low point, the case could be made that Hay turned things around. Unfortunately for Washington’s seventh Governor the voters in the 1912 election did not see things this way. Hay barely lost his bid for a full term as Governor to Ernest Lister of Tacoma. Hay received 30.3% while Lister received 30.5%. Like the Presidential election that year, a socialist and progressive were on the ballot receiving 11.6% and 24.4% respectively. To add insult to injury, the Republicans swept the entire state government that year with one exception, the Governorship. Marion Hay would return to Spokane and continue his real estate business that he had successfully started before entering state-wide politics.
The period of time between the election of 1908, and the death of Samuel Cosgrove five months later, tested the resiliency of Washington State’s Constitution. Would, in time of uncertainty, the cornerstone of state governance succumb to political ambition and hyper-partisanship, or would the founding principles of the state emerge stronger and battle tested? Much like in the months following President William Henry Harrison’s death in 1841, the answer to this question was unclear. In 1841, many did not even know what to call John Tyler, the Vice President who had ascended to the Presidency. Was he President? Was he Acting-President? Was he Vice President acting as President? The most basic questions caused much debate. While in Washington’s case there was little question regarding procedure, the question of Hay’s legitimacy threated to upend the fine political balance that had been struck. The deaths of two Ohio natives, veterans, and Governors had been a test on their respective institutions, and founding documents. In the end, in 1841, and in 1909 the intuitions held firm and a constructive precedent was set. The story of Washington’s Governor for a day can teach Historians, Constitutional Scholars, and citizens a great deal about their state, but above all else, it shows that the institutions and democratic norms that society has become accustomed to in this day and age were once not so rigid, and it has taken serious crises like these to get our state and nation where it is today. Our Institutions worked then, and they work now.