“Duke” Thelismer Thornton is a long-serving Republican state representative from Fort Canibas. The book carefully avoids ever mentioning the state, but it’s plainly Maine. It references several real towns and prominent political figures of the past like James Blaine, and it’s about the controversial “Maine law” — i.e., prohibition of alcohol, which Maine passed several years before it became a national platform. The fictional Fort Canibas is an amalgam of several predominately French-speaking towns in northern Maine, but mostly Fort Kent. Anyway, after decades of service (and enriching himself not at a little from it), the Duke is ready to retire and want to see his grandson, Harlan, elected in his place. His choice for governor is General Waymouth. He had already been governor once, but now in his old age, has withdrawn from public life, disgusted at the farce of it all.
After some persuasion, the Duke gets Waymouth to throw in his hat and select Harlan as his personal aide. But Waymouth, it seems, is no longer willing to play the game. He won’t publicly denounce alcohol while privately collecting kickbacks from rum-runners and protection money from speakeasies. To the horror of the Duke and the rest of the Republican political machine, Waymouth intends to run an honest campaign. They can’t revoke his candidacy because he threatens to run as an independent, so even if he did lose, the Republican party would split and give the election to the Democrats.
Waymouth is elected and prohibition is enforced. And… it does not go well. It turns out that even the “ramrodders” (the prohibition lobbyists) were more enamored by the idea than they were the practice. Waymouth isn’t disappointed. He had no personal objection to the use of alcohol. He merely wanted to see that the laws as they stood were enforced, and if the people didn’t like those laws, they should get rid of them; and if the people found their representatives corrupt and profiting off the selective enforcement of the law, they should get rid of them, too.
Inscription: on the flyleaf, “Annie R. Smith, 1910, filed under Maine Politics”. Annie must have run an organized library. Lovely shape, too. I’ve got a few Holman Day books that are all pretty beat up, except this one. Well taken care of.