Though he was often in the minority, a great many of the positions that Daly held a hundred years ago have proven to be on the right side of history. Consider his position on education. Simply put, Daly believed that education, all the way through college, should be available to everyone.
This was an incredibly radical idea in his time. Prior to 1900, most Oregonians opposed public high schools; providing access to college for the masses was not even a consideration. In the public high school debates of the time, the loudest and most influential voice was that of Harvey Scott, the editor of the Oregonian from 1865 to 1910. In his editorials, Scott argued against public high schools. An excerpt from his April 16, 1879 Oregonian editorial.
The laboring classes are the real sufferers for the extravagant expenditures in the name of free education, which would otherwise seek investment in organized industries that would afford their children employment and make their households happy… it is the laboring classes who ultimately pay for teaching music and foreign languages to the thousands of people who afterwards become drones on society. The only republican idea in education is to teach people enough to take care of themselves and keep out of jail; but the cunning of those whose aim is to live without work has dazzled the bone and sinew of the country into the support of a system which gives them double toil in supporting their own children as drones. The conclusion is this: Give every child a good common school English education at public expense, and then stop.
As has been said, “it’s hard to argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” That’s one of the reasons why out of the forty-five U.S. states in 1900, Oregon ranked third from the bottom in the number of high schools (per population) with only four. Scott’s political influence was considerable. After he publicly withdrew his twenty-year opposition to public high schools in 1901, more than 80 high schools were created in the following decade.
(Photo of Harvey Scott, Oregonian Editor)
It wasn’t only education. Daly and Scott were on opposite sides of the question of women’s right to vote and the gold standard. In Daly’s campaign for the U.S. Congress in 1900, he opposed the gold standard which definitely put him in the minority. Harvey Scott and the Republicans supported maintaining the gold standard while Daly and the Democrats were in favor of a bimetallic standard of gold and silver which would have the effect of expanding the money supply. Daly lost the election and the gold standard remained until it was largely abandoned in the early 1930s during the Depression. It was re-instated in a limited form after World War II; then on August 15, 1971, fifty years ago this month, Nixon completely severed the connection between our monetary system and gold.
In matters of education, women’s rights, and money, it does seems that Daly was on the right side of history…