The national political spotlight turned to Dubuque 95 years ago this month.
John W. Davis, the Democratic presidential nominee, addressed thousands of people during a campaign stop in September 1924 in Dubuque.
Davis faced long odds in trying to unseat President Calvin Coolidge. The nomination of the conservative former congressman from West Virginia caused a split in the Democratic Party, causing many liberal Democrats to support the third-party candidacy of Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Robert M. LaFollette Sr.
Coolidge, who had taken office in 1923 following the death of Warren G. Harding, easily swept aside his two challengers in November’s general election.
Here is how the Telegraph Herald reported on Davis’ campaign appearance in its Sept. 7, 1924, edition.
DAVIS SPEECH HERE CHEERED BY BIG CROWD
Flaying “any set of men” who attempt to deprive any American citizen of their religious freedom, John W. Davis, Democratic candidate for the presidency, was cheered by a crowd of more than 3,000 that gathered at the Illinois Central station Friday night to greet him on his arrival in Iowa.
Mr. Davis’ entire speech here was a declaration for freedom of religious worship and a pledge to guarantee all constitutional liberties during which he launched a strong denouncement of the proposal of Robert M. LaFollette, independent presidential candidate, that Congress and the legislatures be given veto power over the Supreme Court.
“This proposal that the power of holding laws unconstitutional shall be taken away from the courts and lodged with Congress and the legislatures, no matter if the law should deny you the exercise of your religious worship, is despotic,” Davis said. “I deny that doctrine.”
The special train carrying Davis and his party of political advisers and press correspondents arrived in Dubuque about 11:10, 20 minutes behind schedule. Despite the lateness of the hour, the great crowd which had gathered nearly an hour before were still waiting, their number increasing rather than diminishing, when the train pulled into the station.
As the presidential candidate stepped out on the back platform, the crowd broke through the police lines and surged around the coach.
In his address, the Democratic nominee declared that when the Constitution of the United States was written, all the people of the country were guaranteed many fundamental rights which could not and cannot be taken away.
“By the Constitution, we were guaranteed the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of person, freedom of labor and, more sacred than any, the freedom of religious worship,” Davis said. “These rights are not to be taken away by any set of men or by any man, or by any government.”