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Philip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 online

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constantly threatened by tariff, railroad and other legislation
calculated to cause continued disturbance. The ever-present demagogue
had added to the confusion, and, altogether, legitimate business had
suffered more during the long season of unrest than had the law-defying

Dru wanted to see the nation prosper, as he knew it could never have
done under the old order, where the few reaped a disproportionate reward
and to this end he spared no pains in perfecting the new financial
system. In the past the railroads and a few industrial monopolies had
come in for the greatest amount of abuse and prejudice. This feeling
while largely just, in his opinion, had done much harm. The railroads
were the offenders in the first instance, he knew, and then the people
retaliated, and in the end both the capitalists who actually furnished
the money to build the roads and the people suffered.

"In the first place," said Administrator Dru to his counsel during the
discussion of the new financial system, "the roads were built
dishonestly. Money was made out of their construction by the promoters
in the most open and shameless way, and afterwards bonds and stocks were
issued far in excess of the fraudulent so-called cost. Nor did the
iniquity end there. Enterprises were started, some of a public nature
such as grain elevators and cotton compresses, in which the officials of
the railroads were financially interested. These favored concerns
received rebates and better shipping facilities than their competitors
and competition was stifled.

"Iron mines and mills, lumber mills and yards, coal mines and yards,
etc., etc., went into their rapacious maw, and the managers considered
the railroads a private snap and 'the public be damned.'

"These things," continued Dru, "did not constitute their sole offense,
for, as you all know, they lobbied through legislatures the most
unconscionable bills, giving them land, money and rights to further
exploit the public.

"But the thing that, perhaps, aroused resentment most was their failure
to pay just claims. The idea in the old days, as you remember, was to
pay nothing, and make it so expensive to litigate that one would prefer
to suffer an injustice rather than go to court. From this policy was
born the claim lawyer, who financed and fought through the courts
personal injury claims, until it finally came to pass that in loss or
damage suits the average jury would decide against the railroad on
general principles. In such cases the litigant generally got all he
claimed and the railroad was mulcted. There is no estimating how much
this unfortunate policy cost the railroads of America up to the time of
the Revolution. The trouble was that the ultimate loss fell, not on
those who inaugurated it but upon the innocent stock and bondholder of
the roads.

"While the problem is complicated," he continued, "its solution lies in
the new financial system, together with the new system of control of
public utilities."

To this end, Dru laid down his plans by which public service
corporations should be honestly, openly and efficiently run, so that the
people should have good service at a minimum cost.

Primarily the general Government, the state or the city, as the case
might be, were to have representation on the directorate, as previously
indicated. They were to have full access to the books, and semi-annually
each corporation was to be compelled to make public a full and a clear
report, giving the receipts and expenditures, including salaries paid to
high officials. These corporations were also to be under the control of
national and state commissions.

While the Nation and State were to share in the earnings, Dru demanded
that the investor in such corporate securities should have reasonable
profits, and the fullest protection, in the event states or
municipalities attempted to deal unfairly with them, as had heretofore
been the case in many instances.

The Administrator insisted upon the prohibition of franchise to "holding
companies" of whatsoever character. In the past, he declared, they had
been prolific trust breeders, and those existing at that time, he
asserted, should be dissolved.

Under the new law, as Dru outlined it, one company might control
another, but it would have to be with the consent of both the state and
federal officials having jurisdiction in the premises, and it would have
to be clear that the public would be benefited thereby. There was to be
in the future no hiding under cover, for everything was to be done in
the open, and in a way entirely understandable to the ordinary layman.

Certain of the public service corporations, Dru insisted, should be
taken over bodily by the National Government and accordingly the
Postmaster General was instructed to negotiate with the telegraph and
telephone companies for their properties at a fair valuation. They were
to be under the absolute control of the Postoffice Department, and the
people were to have the transmission of all messages at cost, just as
they had their written ones. A parcel post was also inaugurated, so that
as much as twelve pounds could be sent at cost.



The further Administrator Dru carried his progress of reform, the more
helpful he found Selwyn. Dru's generous treatment of him had brought in
return a grateful loyalty.

One stormy night, after Selwyn had dined with Dru, he sat contentedly
smoking by a great log fire in the library of the small cottage which
Dru occupied in the barracks.

"This reminds me," he said, "of my early boyhood, and of the fireplace
in the old tavern where I was born."

General Dru had long wanted to know of Selwyn, and, though they had
arranged to discuss some important business, Dru urged the former
Senator to tell him something of his early life.

Selwyn consented, but asked that the lights be turned off so that there
would be only the glow from the fire, in order that it might seem more
like the old days at home when his father's political cronies gathered
about the hearth for their confidential talks.

And this was Selwyn's story: -

My father was a man of small education and kept a tavern on the outer
edge of Philadelphia. I was his only child, my mother dying in my
infancy. There was a bar connected with the house, and it was a
rendezvous for the politicians of our ward. I became interested in
politics so early that I cannot remember the time when I was not. My
father was a temperate man, strong-willed and able, and I have often
wondered since that he was content to end his days without trying to get
beyond the environments of a small tavern.

He was sensitive, and perhaps his lack of education caused him to
hesitate to enter a larger and more conspicuous field.

However, he was resolved that I should not be hampered as he was, and I
was, therefore, given a good common school education first, and
afterwards sent to Girard College, where I graduated, the youngest of my

Much to my father's delight, I expressed a desire to study law, for it
seemed to us both that this profession held the best opportunity open to
me. My real purpose in becoming a lawyer was to aid me in politics, for
it was clear to both my father and me that I had an unusual aptitude

My study of law was rather cursory than real, and did not lead to a
profound knowledge of the subject, but it was sufficient for me to
obtain admittance to the bar, and it was not long, young as I was,
before my father's influence brought me a practice that was lucrative
and which required but little legal lore.

At that time the ward boss was a man by the name of Marx. While his
father was a German, he was almost wholly Irish, for his father died
when he was young, and he was reared by a masculine, masterful, though
ignorant Irish mother.

He was my father's best friend, and there were no secrets between them.
They seldom paid attention to me, and I was rarely dismissed even when
they had their most confidential talks. In this way, I early learned how
our great American cities are looted, not so much by those actually in
power, for they are of less consequence than the more powerful men
behind them.

If any contract of importance was to be let, be it either public or
private, Marx and his satellites took their toll. He, in his turn, had
to account to the man above, the city boss.

If a large private undertaking was contemplated, the ward boss had to be
seen and consulted as to the best contractors, and it was understood
that at least five per cent. more than the work was worth had to be
paid, otherwise, there would be endless trouble and delay. The inspector
of buildings would make trouble; complaints would be made of obstructing
the streets and sidewalks, and injunctions would be issued. So it was
either to pay, or not construct. Marx provided work for the needy,
loaned money to the poor, sick and disabled, gave excursions and picnics
in the summer: for all of this others paid, but it enabled him to hold
the political control of the ward in the hollow of his hand. The boss
above him demanded that the councilmen from his ward should be men who
would do his bidding without question.

The city boss, in turn, trafficked with the larger public contracts, and
with the granting and extensions of franchises. It was a fruitful field,
for there was none above him with whom he was compelled to divide.

The State boss treated the city bosses with much consideration, for he
was more or less dependent upon them, his power consisting largely of
the sum of their power.

The State boss dealt in larger things, and became a national figure. He
was more circumspect in his methods, for he had a wider constituency and
a more intelligent opposition.

The local bosses were required to send to the legislature "loyal" party
men who did not question the leadership of the State boss.

The big interests preferred having only one man to deal with, which
simplified matters; consequently they were strong aids in helping him
retain his power. Any measure they desired passed by the legislature was
first submitted to him, and he would prune it until he felt he could put
it through without doing too great violence to public sentiment. The
citizens at large do not scrutinize measures closely; they are too busy
in their own vineyards to bother greatly about things which only
remotely or indirectly concern them.

This selfish attitude and indifference of our people has made the boss
and his methods possible. The "big interests" reciprocate in many and
devious ways, ways subtle enough to seem not dishonest even if exposed
to public view.

So that by early education I was taught to think that the despoliation
of the public, in certain ways, was a legitimate industry.

Later, I knew better, but I had already started my plow in the furrow,
and it was hard to turn back. I wanted money and I wanted power, and I
could see both in the career before me.

It was not long, of course, before I had discernment enough to see that
I was not being employed for my legal ability. My income was practically
made from retainers, and I was seldom called upon to do more than to use
my influence so that my client should remain undisturbed in the pursuit
of his business, be it legitimate or otherwise. Young as I was, Marx
soon offered me a seat in the Council. It was my first proffer of
office, but I declined it. I did not want to be identified with a body
for which I had such a supreme contempt. My aim was higher. Marx,
though, was sincere in his desire to further my fortunes, for he had no
son, and his affection for my father and me was genuine.

I frankly told him the direction in which my ambition lay, and he
promised me his cordial assistance. I wanted to get beyond ward
politics, and in touch with the city boss.

It was my idea that, if I could maintain myself with him, I would in
time ask him to place me within the influence of the State boss, where
my field of endeavor would be as wide as my abilities would justify.

I did not lose my identity with my ward, but now my work covered all
Philadelphia, and my retainers became larger and more numerous, for I
was within the local sphere of the "big interests."

At that time the boss was a man by the name of Hardy. He was born in the
western part of the State, but came to Philadelphia when a boy, his
mother having married the second time a man named Metz, who was then
City Treasurer and who afterwards became Mayor.

Hardy was a singular man for a boss; small of frame, with features
almost effeminate, and with anything but a robust constitution, he did
a prodigious amount of work.

He was not only taciturn to an unusual degree, but he seldom wrote, or
replied to letters. Yet he held an iron grip upon the organization.

His personal appearance and quiet manners inspired many ambitious
underlings to try to dislodge him, but their failure was signal and

He had what was, perhaps, the most perfectly organized machine against
which any municipality had ever had the misfortune to contend.

Hardy made few promises and none of them rash, but no man could
truthfully say that he ever broke one. I feel certain that he would have
made good his spoken word even at the expense of his fortune or
political power.

Then, too, he played fair, and his henchmen knew it. He had no favorites
whom he unduly rewarded at the expense of the more efficient. He had
likes and dislikes as other men, but his judgment was never warped by
that. Success meant advancement, failure meant retirement.

And he made his followers play fair. There were certain rules of the
game that had to be observed, and any infraction thereof meant

The big, burly fellows he had under him felt pride in his physical
insignificance, and in the big brain that had never known defeat.

When I became close to him, I asked him why he had never expanded; that
he must have felt sure that he could have spread his jurisdiction
throughout the State, and that the labor in the broader position must be
less than in the one he occupied. His reply was characteristic of the
man. He said he was not where he was from choice, that environment and
opportunity had forced him into the position he occupied, but that once
there, he owed it to his followers to hold it against all comers. He
said that he would have given it up long ago, if it had not been for
this feeling of obligation to those who loved and trusted him. To desert
them, and to make new responsibilities, was unthinkable from his

That which I most wondered at in Hardy was, his failure to comprehend
that the work he was engaged in was dishonest. I led cautiously up to
this one day, and this was his explanation:

"The average American citizen refuses to pay attention to civic affairs,
contenting himself with a general growl at the tax rate, and the
character and inefficiency of public officials. He seldom takes the
trouble necessary to form the Government to suit his views.

"The truth is, he has no cohesive or well-digested views, it being too
much trouble to form them. Therefore, some such organization as ours is
essential. Being essential, then it must have funds with which to
proceed, and the men devoting their lives to it must be recompensed, so
the system we use is the best that can be devised under the

"It is like the tariff and internal revenue taxes by which the National
Government is run, that is, indirect. The citizen pays, but he does not
know when he pays, nor how much he is paying.

"A better system could, perhaps, be devised in both instances, but this
cannot be done until the people take a keener interest in their public

Hardy was not a rich man, though he had every opportunity of being so.
He was not avaricious, and his tastes and habits were simple, and he had
no family to demand the extravagances that are undermining our national
life. He was a vegetarian, and he thought, and perhaps rightly, that in
a few centuries from now the killing of animals and the eating of their
corpses would be regarded in the same way as we now think of

He divided the money that came to him amongst his followers, and this
was one of the mainsprings of his power.

All things considered, it is not certain but that he gave Philadelphia
as good government as her indifferent citizens deserved.



By the time I was thirty-six I had accumulated what seemed to me then, a
considerable fortune, and I had furthermore become Hardy's right-hand

He had his forces divided in several classes, of choice I was ranged
among those whose duties were general and not local. I therefore had a
survey of the city as a whole, and was not infrequently in touch with
the masters of the State at large. Hardy concerned himself about my
financial welfare to the extent of now and then inquiring whether my
income was satisfactory, and the nature of it. I assured him that it was
and that he need have no further thought of me in that connection. I
told him that I was more ambitious to advance politically than
financially, and, while expressing my gratitude for all he had done for
me and my keen regret at the thought of leaving him, I spoke again of my
desire to enter State politics.

Some six years before I had married the daughter of a State Senator, a
man who was then seeking the gubernatorial nomination.

On my account, Hardy gave him cordial support, but the State boss had
other plans, and my father-in-law was shelved "for the moment," as the
boss expressed it, for one who suited his purposes better.

Both Hardy, my father-in-law, and their friends resented this action,
because the man selected was not in line for the place and the boss was
not conforming to the rules of the game.

They wanted to break openly and immediately, but I advised delay until
we were strong enough to overthrow him.

The task of quietly organizing an effective opposition to the State
boss was left to me, and although I lost no time, it was a year before I
was ready to make the fight.

In the meanwhile, the boss had no intimation of the revolt. My
father-in-law and Hardy had, by my direction, complied with all the
requests that he made upon them, and he thought himself never more

I went to the legislature that year in accordance with our plans, and
announced myself a candidate for speaker. I did this without consulting
the boss and purposely. He had already selected another man, and had
publicly committed himself to his candidacy, which was generally
considered equivalent to an election.

The candidate was a weak man, and if the boss had known the extent of
the opposition that had developed, he would have made a stronger
selection. As it was, he threw not only the weight of his own influence
for his man and again irrevocably committed himself, but he had his
creature, the Governor, do likewise.

My strength was still not apparent, for I had my forces well in hand,
and while I had a few declare themselves for me, the major part were
non-committal, and spoke in cautious terms of general approval of the
boss's candidate.

The result was a sensation. I was elected by a safe, though small,
majority, and, as a natural result, the boss was deposed and I was
proclaimed his successor.

I had found in organizing the revolt that there were many who had
grievances which, from fear, they had kept hidden but when they were
shown that they could safely be revenged, they eagerly took advantage of
the opportunity.

So, in one campaign, I burst upon the public as the party leader, and
the question was now, how would I use it and could I hold it.



Flushed though I was with victory, and with the flattery of friends,
time servers and sycophants in my ears, I felt a deep sympathy for the
boss. He was as a sinking ship and as such deserted. Yesterday a thing
for envy, to-day an object of pity.

I wondered how long it would be before I, too, would be stranded.

The interests, were, of course, among the first to congratulate me and
to assure me of their support. During that session of the legislature, I
did not change the character of the legislation, or do anything very
different from the usual. I wanted to feel my seat more firmly under me
before attempting the many things I had in mind.

I took over into my camp all those that I could reasonably trust, and
strengthened my forces everywhere as expeditiously as possible. I weeded
out the incompetents, of whom there were many, and replaced them by
big-hearted, loyal and energetic men, who had easy consciences when it
came to dealing with the public affairs of either municipalities,
counties or the State.

Of necessity, I had to use some who were vicious and dishonest, and who
would betray me in a moment if their interests led that way. But of
these there were few in my personal organization, though from
experience, I knew their kind permeated the municipal machines to a
large degree.

The lessons learned from Hardy were of value to me now. I was liberal to
my following at the expense of myself, and I played the game fair as
they knew it.

I declined re-election to the next legislature, because the office was
not commensurate with the dignity of the position I held as party
leader, and again, because the holding of state office was now a
perilous undertaking.

In taking over the machine from the late boss, and in molding it into an
almost personal following I found it not only loosely put together, but
inefficient for my more ambitious purposes.

After giving it four or five years of close attention, I was satisfied
with it, and I had no fear of dislodgment.

I had found that the interests were not paying anything like a
commensurate amount for the special privileges they were getting, and I
more than doubled the revenue obtained by the deposed boss.

This, of course, delighted my henchmen, and bound them more closely to

I also demanded and received information in advance of any extensions
of railroads, standard or interurban, of contemplated improvements of
whatsoever character, and I doled out this information to those of my
followers in whose jurisdiction lay such territory.

My own fortune I augmented by advance information regarding the
appreciation of stocks. If an amalgamation of two important institutions
was to occur, or if they were to be put upon a dividend basis, or if the
dividend rate was to be increased, I was told, not only in advance of
the public, but in advance of the stockholders themselves.

All such information I held in confidence even from my own followers,
for it was given me with such understanding.

My next move was to get into national politics. I became something of a
factor at the national convention, by swinging Pennsylvania's vote at a
critical time; the result being the nomination of the now President,
consequently my relations with him were most cordial.

The term of the senior Senator from our State was about to expire, and,
although he was well advanced in years, he desired re-election.

I decided to take his seat for myself, so I asked the President to offer
him an ambassadorship. He did not wish to make the change, but when he
understood that it was that or nothing, he gracefully acquiesced in
order that he might be saved the humiliation of defeat.

When he resigned, the Governor offered me the appointment for the
unexpired term. It had only three months to run before the legislature
met to elect his successor.

I told him that I could not accept until I had conferred with my
friends. I had no intention of refusing, but I wanted to seem to defer
to the judgment of my lieutenants.

I called them to the capital singly, and explained that I could be of
vastly more service to the organization were I at Washington, and I
arranged with them to convert the rank and file to this view.

Each felt that the weight of my decision rested upon himself, and their
vanity was greatly pleased. I was begged not to renounce the leadership,
and after persuasion, this I promised not to do.

As a matter of fact, it was never my intention to release my hold upon
the State, thus placing myself in another's power.

So I accepted the tender of the Senatorship, and soon after, when the
legislature met, I was elected for the full term.

I was in as close touch with my State at Washington as I was before,
for I spent a large part of my time there.

I was not in Washington long before I found that the Government was run

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Online LibraryEdward Mandell HousePhilip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 → online text (page 9 of 14)