James Delafield Trenor.

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Duty of the People









John Polhemus, Publisher, 102 Nassau Street.




Since these States became an independent people, there
has been no presidential election weighted with one main
issue so completely dwarfing all others as the present.

Antagonistic views of great national problems have, in
other elections, severed the country into two or more mutually
hostile camps. Thereto has been superadded the natural desire
for place and x)Ower.

Many of these problems were of such a character that
men of honor and conscience could reasonably take opposite

To-day most of them— one may say nearly all— are

Some reached that solution by the bloody arbitrament of
war ; others by the nobler process of discussion in the national

The American people are now, at last, confronted by one
capital issue, which forces upon all patriotic citizens the
duty of sternl}^ holding over every minor question, and of
deciding once for all, at the forthcoming election, whether the
popular will, speaking through the voice of the majority of

the citizens, and sacred until 1876, shall or shall not be the
sole and prime source and fountain from which are derived
the jjowers of those claiming the right to govern.*

This master issue, distinguishing the present from all
previous campaigns, ought, for the time being, to fuse
patriotic citizens, of whatever political stripe, into one grand
party — that of the American people itself.

Many may exclaim — "But this question has already, once
for all, been settled."

In theory such is the case ; but the party at j)resent in
power are there solely by having trampled in the dust this
chief and prime right of the majority of the American people.

This they effected by fraud, by forgery on the part of those
acting for men ruling or leading the minority, by jDerjury and
by force— not actually brought into play, but held in tJie
leash, ready to be slipped in favor of those who were stifling
the nation s voice, and therefore just as efficient as if used.

Here let it be noted that the Republican voters, as a body,
had no part in the original acts by which this outrage on tlie
majesty of the American people was wrought.

The men who dared that outrage and consummated in the
dark the violation of that majesty, were, at the outset, a small
band of political conspirators. They could at first be counted
on the fingers. But, when one wing of the nation's council
accepted the results of the crime, the face of affairs was

Still, let it be repeated, that with the deeds which rudely
ousted Liberty from her seat, the Republican voters of the
country, as a body, had nothing whatever to do. Had

Note.— This of course means the majority of the electoral votes representing the voices of the
various States, which, violence apart, would undonbtedly have been cast for the Democratic candi-
date at the last election. An overwhehning majority of the popular vote coincided with the electoral
votes of the States which would have been thus cast but for the reasons given in this paper. It is
with this qualification that the terms "voice of the majority of the nation," "people," &c., are
to be understood throughout.

they been fully cognizant of any such conspiracy, they would
certainly have done their utmost to crush it. It must he laid
solely to the charge of the conspirators and of the Republican
representatives who aided and abetted them.

In dealing, therefore, witli this question, and in discuss-
ing how this great issue should be decided, it must be fully
and clearly borne in mind that the application of the term
•'Republican Party" is by no means extended to the vast
body of the Republican voters of the country.

In commenting on the transactions with which Ave are
dealing, the widest meaning intended to apply to the term
Republican Party " is : tliose claiming to be its leaders, and its
representatives in Congress.

AYhatever of fraud, Avhatever of perjury- or forgery, what-
ever of constructive force was employed, either directly or in-
directl}^, by those who throttled Liberty in her exalted seat,
was sanctioned not by the Republican voters of the countr3%
but by the "Republican Party," in the sense just applied tO'
that term — by men recreant to the highest trust coniided to
them b}^ those very Republican voters — by men responsible to
their own constituents for this great wrong-doing just as
equalh^as to the Party against Avhom and whose constituents
it was aimed.

This viral matter involves considerations of far higher
import and grander proportions than as to whether or not one
political party saw its chosen and elected leader excluded for
four years from the White House, or as to whether the huge
patronage of the Federal government was for the same
period contiolled by those who had no lawful power over it.
This the actual, dejure President of the United States, ^fr.
Tilden, has laid down in language of noble hrmness and

Such questions are the veriest trifles when placed side hy
side with the one pregnant query : " Did tlie liberty of tlie

whole American people suffer violence at the hands of these

And here let it be at once boldly stated that if it can be
made clear that the voice and will of the majority of the
American people did suffer violence at their hands, then it
was not only that majority against whom this high outrage
was done. It involved a crime against every citizen of this
land, of what political stripe soever— inasmuch as it was a
conspiracy against the very foundation upon which rests the
whole fabric of republican liberty.

How, may it be asked, if, in such a conjuncture, the voice
and will of only a majority of the American people suffered
violence, can it be maintained that such violence was suffered
by the wliole American people \

Because the very essence of representative republican in-
stitutions lies in the principle that the voice of the majority
shall prevail.

It matters nothing, in so far as that principle is concerned,
whether such majority happen, for the time being, to consist
of one political party or the other. Violence done to the will
of the majority by the acts of the minority's representatives,
is a direct blow lemlled at the very right lohich either minority
or majority has to Dote at all. It is like inflicting a mortal
wound on one side of the human body. Death comes equally
to both sides.

If this position be not unassailable, then any expression of
the popular will by voting is mere dumb show, and any at-
tempt at ascertaining that will, either by ballot or otherwise,
had better be altogether abolished.

To abandon it is to surrender the people's right to the only
practicable method of self-government.

To disallow it is to adopt a set of principles the dreadful
history of whose workings has, for the last quarter of a cen-

tuiy, been written in torrents of blood in nearly every other
American republic from Mexico to Patagonia,

One tremendous experiment of a departure from this
principle was tried among our own States. It has suf-
ficed !

These are the reasons for which it may be most properly
urged that, outside the mere question of one or the other can-
didate holding office, the Republicans of the country suf-
fered just as grave an affront and injustice as their opponents,
in the very assumption that they would, through their repre-
sentatives, lend themselves to any such deadly assault on tlie
elective principle as was involved in this overthrow of the
voice of the majority, which at the last election happened to
be Democratic.

Hence the conclusion that it was not the Democratic party
merely, but the lohole American people, whose majesty was
outraged at the last election ; for it was not simply a tactical
evasion of a defeat suffered b}^ a party minority on ^.jyoUtlcal
measure or view supported by them ; it was a defiant over-
throw of the chief pillar of republican institutions, as recog-
nized in this and in all coiiimonwealths of all ages.

So much being established, the question arises, " Can the
fact of this violence to the will of the majority of the people
be established beyond a doubt % "

Unfortunately for the honor of the United States of iVni erica,
it can.

The history of the Southern Returning Boards, of the " vis-
iting statesmen," of the Electoral Commission, of the memora-
ble eiglit to sereii vote and the other means by which the elec-
toral votes of two Southern States were wrested from the.
Democratic candidate, and the presidency finally awarded tO'
Mr. Hayes, are matters familiar to every man in the land.

As to whether in these Southern States awarded to his oj)-


ponent the majority of the popular vote was or was not cast
for the Democratic candidate, and whether or not the elec-
toral vote was also really his, it is but necessary to refer to
the sworn testimony of the very men who themselves admit-
ted having falsified the returns, having forged signatures to
the electoral certificates, and done everything needful to con-
summate the crime. The details of these doings are matters
of common notoriety and are recorded in the files of every
newsi)aper in the country. The question of fact, therefore,
stands established. Indeed, the evidence, given at the time of
the formal inquiry by Congress, against themselves and their
accomplices, by the prime movers in these iniquities, is so
clear and decisive that there are few honest Republicans
unconvinced that the will of the majority of the people was
defiantly set at naught, and that the doings of the Returning
Boards (stimulated by promises held out to them) were that
which carried to accomplishment the defeat of the popular
voice and will.

The services of these miscreants were duly recognized and
rewarded by the gentleman whom they had foisted on the
peojile as lawfully elected President. They claimed, and
were in a position to demand, the " pound of fiesh."

An opinion prevailed at the time, and still lingers among
the people, that Mr. Evarts' great forensic effort against their
rights lifted him into the Secretaryship of State. But then he
was not the consort of conspirators, he merely covered their
flank !

The grounds advanced as justifying the action of the
"visiting statesmen," who induced the Returning Boards to
throw out the votes of whole Democratic districts or parishes,
are, from a legal and constitutional point of view, instructive.

It was assumed by these superserviceable Republican
patriots that the political bias of these districts or parishes
was in favor of their party, and that, therefore, the vote in
these would surely have been cast for their party, unless the
voters had been menaced or intimidated, vulgo, hulldozed.


No general complaint, indeed, no complaint of any large
proportions, on the part of the Republican voters, such as
would justify even legal interference with the general result
of the elections in these districts, was borne to the popular
ear. It was upon vague, shapeless rumors that these con-
scientious gentlemen acted. But then evidence would be
forthcoming ! Of course it would ! How easily it was made
to order was subsequently disclosed during the Washington
inquiry ! The testimony there given was a nauseating sur-
prise to every man of honor in the Republican ranks. And
yet it was upon such evidence that unbiassed Republican
umpires could induce the Returning Boards to throw out the
votes of whole districts wJiere the majority was Democratic.

The Returning Boards did not confine themselves simply to
adding to the Republican side votes in cases of clearly estab-
lished intimidation. That would have been too uncertain a
way of procuring a Republican majority. The process would
have been tedious and thorny. It was safer and more ex-
peditious to throw out the whole vote and rely on Republican
majorities elsewhere to carry the count ! This eminently
judicial method met with the warm approval of the Republi-
can " visiting statesmen."

Discerning men throughout the country had, long previous
to their "visit," reached tlie conclusion that the inexplicable
difficulty exi)erienced in counting the vote, simply j^ortended
an attempt of the Republican managers to undo, somehow or
other, the j^opular decision which had, according to universal
opinion, called Mr. Tilden to the presidential chair. The
event proved ho^v sound was that judgment.

In the case of one of these "visiting statesmen," it has to be
especially noted that, witliout authority of law, and simply
at the request of General Grant, he went to New Orleans.
He had subsequently to admit, on oath, that he had charge
of the returns of West Feliciana parish; that, in one of the
inner rooms of the Custom-house, then in charge of Packard,
he examined the affidavits, and, when they toere not sufficient-


lyfidl, he prepared, or had prepared, additional interrogato-
ries (!) to bring them within the rules adopted by the Return-
ing Board. This testimony, tJtus prepared^ went back to the
Returning Board, and West Feliciana, with its Democratic ma-
jority, was thrown out. This gentleman, after having so acted,
sat on the Electoral Commission as a judge upon his own
doings, and voted down any enquiry into them !

He is now the Republican nominee for the presidency. As
it would be unfair to pass over so marked a service to his
country without signalling him out, it is proper the reader
should know his name. It is James A. Garfield. It may be
further observed that, whereas, previous to the appearance
of the "visiting statesmen" the delay in reaching a count
had been protracted beyond all precedent, that result was
reached very soon after the "visit." It did not, however,
produce a like effect upon the two contending parties.

By the Republican party it was hailed with joy. By those
who, all over the country, were tacitly if not oj^enly allowed
to have on their side an overwhelming majority of the popu-
lar vote, it was at once pronounced to be the result of willful
and deliberate fraud.

The Congressional struggle which resulted in the compro-
mise by which an Electoral Commission was appointed to sit
in judgment upon this most weighty matter, may be dismissed

With such a vast-reaching issue before them, it was plainly
the duty of the whole House of Representatives to have taken
cognizance at once of the alleged falsification of returns, no
matter in favor of, or against, whom ; of the forgeries said to
have been committed in the signatures to the electoral certi-
ficates, and to have probed this grave matter to the very bot-
tom. What, even supposing this searching scrutiny had de-
prived one or the other party of power for four years ? Were
they not the representatives of the wJiole people ? And was
it not imperative upon them to determine wliat had been the
expressed will of the majority of the people, and to see that


will respected and enforced ? What had party politics to do
with the deciding of sncli a question as this to patriotic men ?
If the Bepublican party feared tliey had been defeated in the
election, did not lionor and duty alike malve it incumbent on
them, in their twofold character of American citizens and rep-
resentatives of the j)eople, rather to be instant than reluctant
in demanding that no power should be intrusted to their lead-
ers or themselves which was not borne to them on the voice
of a majority of the people ?

This was their grand opportunity. Pure patriotism beck-
oned them one way. Interest led them another. It will be
long before they again have such a glorious oi^^oortunity (by
sacrificing, if right demand it, their power for a term) of
stamping themselves with the sign of unflinching and uncom-
promising patriotism. They have wTitten this page of their
history and leff it for posterity. It is grim and scorching !

Suffice it to say that their determination not to examine into
these charges was so manifest that the appointment of an
Electoral Commission was proposed and accepted by both
sides as a compromise.

Whether this action was or was not constitutional, need form
no part of this statement. Let us come to the Electoral Com-
mission itself.

This body was composed largely of judges of the Supreme
Court of the United States, therefore of men to whom the
whole country looked up as to the inflexible dispensers of even-
handed justice, men to the foot of whose justice-seat not even
the whisper of popular distrust had ever yet penetrated ; men
upon whom the eye of the country and of the whole world
was fastened in the stress of this great crisis of the Great Re-

This High Court of Equity comprised judges whose political
principles and affiliations, in so far as tluy loere simphj citi-
zens, drew a majority of them towards the Rej^jublican party.


Being in this case judges alone, and not politicians, by reason
of the character and in virtue of the commission intrusted to
them, to decide between the two great parties in the gravest
and weightiest cause ever presented for adjudication in any
country, who would dare, in their regard, even to hint the sus-
picion of partisanship ?

They were to inquire into and determine the q uestion : which
of the two candidates for the office of President of the United
States had received the electoral votes of the States in dis-

As was fitting, both parties to this great national case were
represented by counsel whose names, as of the greatest in their
profession, are household words in the land.

One would naturally suppose that these advocates were
there to elicit and watch evidence for their respective clients,
the two great parties ; and that the Electoral Commission,
with its majority of Republican judges, was there to receive
and give judgment upon that evidence. The contrary being-
supposed, there was, to the ordinary mind, no reason whatever
for the existence of the Commission.

The Republican advocate contended that the members of
the commission had no right to go behind the returns alleged
to have been altered; that it was not within their competence
to inquire into the forging of signarures to the electoral cer-
tificates, although the other side offered to j)rove thsit forged
signatures had been appended to them. In other words, he
maintained that they had no right to take evidence at all.

The Democratic advocate had actually to take in hand to
prove to this Commission, or rather to its Republican mem-
bers, that it was not only competent to them to take the evi-
dence offered, but that, in virtue of their commission, it was
their bounden duty to receive and pronounce upon this evi-

The Democratic members of the Commission, among them


tlie minority of the judges, maintained the soundness of this

The Republican members of the commission, among them
the majority of the judges (all Republicans), denied it to a

There being no tribunal superior to themselves to which
recourse could be had for the decision of this most knotty
point : they appealed to themselves and voted.

On the point in question, and on all the issues collateral to
it, the minority of secen (Democrats) voted in the negative,
thereby affirming the competence of the commission to take
evidence. The majority, eight (with the majority of the
judges, Republicans), noted their own and their colleagues"
incompetence to take evidence in the very case for the trial of
lohich they had been constituted a tribunal of last resoft^
and in lohich the evidence offered was not only pertinent to^
hut absolutely decisive of the case !

They were not, however, consistent even with their own de-
cision, for whereas in the case of Louisiana they refused to
go behind the Governors certificate, on the plea that they
had no right to do so ; in the case of Oregon they insisted on
going behind the Governor's certificate and threw out the
Democratic electoral vote.

These astounding partisan decisions of eight Republicans^
among them the majority of the judges, resulted in the valida-
tion of returns alleged, and subsequently proved to have been
altered in favor of the Republican candidate, also in the vali-
dation of the electoral certificates bearing forged signatures,
in the rejection of the Democratic electoral vote of Oregon,
and in the seating of the Republican candidate in the presi-
dential chair.

It is unnecessary to dilate upon this great national shame
and humiliation.


A question, however, as applying to the case of Louisiana,
may be asked : supposing the Secretary of the Treasury were
informed that counterfeit thousand dollar bonds of the United
States were being negotiated in New York ; but that it had
been ascertained beyond a doubt that the counterfeiters were
Treasury officials ; that they had committed their crime in the
Treasury, and supposing, furthermore, the Secretary were to
say that, under the circumstances, he could not question the
genuineness of the bonds ? What then ? How long would he
remain at the head of the Treasury Department ?

Or, supposing the Secretary, taking another view of the case,
should procure the arrest of the counterfeiters, and that,
upon the ground that these counterfeit bonds had been en-
graved and the signatures to them forged in the Treasury, a
judge were to refuse to go heMnd the returns, and decline to
receive evidence as to the character of the bonds \ What
then ?

Well, this is substantially what was done by the eight He-
publicans who refused to take evidence that electoral returns
had been falsified, and signatures to electoral certificates forged
in favor of a Republican candidate for the presidency.

The title to govern a great nation was in cause, and they
would take no evidence, except such as was in favor of their
own party ! How, had they been certain all the evidence
would have turned out in their favor ?

Strict regard for the laws of inductive enquiry renders it
undesirable to assert that the unvarying unanimity of the
votes of these eight Republican members of the Commission
was the result of a conspiracy.

In so far, however, as the resulting opinion of the nation is
concerned, this unanimity must be held to have covered the
most grievous series of coincident conmctions to which the
collective judgment of eight men ever drove them.

In any case, and this is the main point, this refusal to re-


ceive evidence, the substantiation of which would undoubtedly
have barred the way of their own X3olitical candidate to the
presidency, did do violence to the voice and will of the ma-
jority of the American people in the choice of their Chief

And, in so far as regards the Republican judges on the Com-
mission, this violence was done to the voice of the Ameri-
can people, by reason of refusal on the part of these same
judges to do, or suffer to be done, that which, according to the
code of every civilized nation in the world, they were bound
to do ; that which sitting elsewhere in their capacity as judges
of the Supreme Court they dare not refuse to do, and this be-
cause the admission of evidence would have put in jeopardy
the chances of their own political candidate for the presi-
dency !

Lastly, these Republican judges were simply refusing to
hear through its representatives what was to them, presum-
ably, at least, and what was really in fact, the majority of the
American people, pleading for the first and highest of its

In view of all this, is it unfair to say that these eight Re-
publican members of the Electoral Commission, many of them
judges of the Supreme Court, not only bore a part, but the
weightiest and most responsible part, in defeating the will of
the American people, by judicially gagging its advocates at
the very foot of the justice-seat ?

Here it is proper again to observe that this monstrous de-
parture from all recognized principles and methods of judicial
procedure by these eight Republicans, in favor of their own
incriminated RejDublican politicians, who, according to the
evidence offered, were guilty of high crimes and mis-
demeanors, smote not only those who represented the Demo-
cratic party ; it struck with equal force every Republican
voter in the land, who, whatever the event, had the high-
est right and title to count upon the strictest impartiality

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Online LibraryJames Delafield TrenorThe duty of the people in November next (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 3)