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Copy I [Hepruttrd front the IXTEHNATIOXAZ REVIEW for May-Junc, 1S77.]




Late Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at


IVT EARLY fifty years since, before the Union included Texas,
-i- y New Mexico, or California, and when its population numbered
but ten millions, on the 22d of February, 1822, Mr. Webster de-
livered at the National Capitol a speech in honor of the Centennial
birthday of Washington.

" Gentlemen," he said, " for the earth which we inhabit, and the whole circle of
the sun, for all the unborn races of mankind, we seem to hold in our hands, for their
weal or woe, the fate of this experiment. If we fail, who shall venture its repetition ?
If this £^1 fiat Western sun be struck out of the firmament, at what other fountain
shall the lamp of liberty hereafter be lighted ? What other orb shall emit a ray to
glimmer even on the darkness of the world ?"

There was no danger, he added, in our overrating or overstating
the important part which we were then acting in human affairs.
The world was regarding us with a deep anxiety to learn whether
free States might be stable as well as free, whether popular power
might be trusted as well as feared ; in short, whether regular and
virtuous self-government was a vision for the contemplation of the-
orists, or a truth established and brought into practice in the coun-
try of Washington. As to our stability, the integrity of the
national territory, and the supremacy of the national power, the
world has not doubted since our civil war. But as regards
the wisdom and virtue of our self-government, Americans them-
selves have doubted much, and Europe awaits on this point
more satisfactory evidence than has been recently furnished. It is
not the interest of imperial, aristocratic, and military governments
to magnify the blessing and the permanence of popular institutions,
nor to encourage their subjects in emigrating to our shores ; and the
European press, as inspired by or controlled in the ruling interest,
seldom brightens with rosy tints its narrative of current events in
America. It is apt, on the contrary, to present with unamiable
fidelity and in sombre hues the less pleasing features of American
life, political and social, especially when they are supposed to illus-
trate the character and influence of republican institutions.

Of late years Europe has been made familiar with the Southern
cry of abuses and exactions on the part of the governments im-

CoPYRiGHT, 1877, A. S. Barnes & Co.


posed upon the vanquished States, with the mercenary aims and
arbitrary methods of revenue officers, with flagrant departures from
economy and justice at the door of Congress, wifh the disclosures of
the Credit Mobilicr, involving the characters of senators and repre-
sentatives, which were followed by the act of legislation known as
" the Salary Grab." Eui'ope was advised of Sanborn contracts and
moiety spoils, of the whisky frauds in the Western States, of the
resolution and skill with which Mr. Secretary Bristow unearthed
and grappled with that daring combination to defraud the Treasury,
and of the treatment awarded to that faithful officer for the efforts
to purify his Department. Europe was advised also of the at-
tempted impeachment of the Secretary of War for official corrup-
tion, in selling the traderships of our Western forts for moneys that
were to be extorted in turn from the soldiers, Indians, and pioneers,
whom the President and the War Secretary were bound especially
to protect.

; It has been intimated abroad that our republican Government
had become more personal in its character, and more arbitrary in
its disregard of national traditions, than any Government in
Europe ; that the President had deliberately set aside the rules
of the civil service, to which he was pledged, to readopt the
immoral doctrine, " that to the victor belongs the spoils," and
that he had acquiesced in the claim of senators and representa-
tives to share in their distribution ; that in this course he was
sustained by the interested flattery of those around him who
were more careful than Mr. Bristow to maintain their positions ;
that his Cabinet ministers, regardless of all remonstrances against
lowering the tone of the Government, joined the President in asso-
ciating with public plunderers, " loaded with odium and riches."
In fact, it was widely suggested that the dignity, rights, and interest
of the people were scarcely more regarded at Washington, in the
distribution of offices and influence, than they were by the
sovereigns of the olden time, who bestowed cities or provinces as
marriage portions, and gave titles to the boon companions in
whose society the king amused himself. Of the actual condition of
our civil service, and of the class of men occasionally selected for
the highest posts, Europe learned something on her own soil at ihc
Vienna Exposition.

A rare opportunity had presented itself tor calling to the
front our representatives of the science, art, industr\-, and cul-
ture of the country, and intrusting the task of a fitting exhibi-
tion from America to eminent and experienced gentlemen, whose


names would inspire respect and confidence. The idea would
hardly have occurred to Europeans accustomed to watch with
wonder the majestic march of the republic, that when the dignity
ind honor of the country were at stake, with its scientific fame, its
commercial interests, and the obligations of international courtesy,
so promptly recognized by the great powers in sending their crown-
princes and men illustrious in their several walks to do honor to
the Emperor of Austria and the august occasion, the Washington
Government could regard it as a convenient chance for satisfying
disappointed and exacting partisans : or that it could descend
so far for that purpose, that the management of the Commission
should fall into the hands of men who would use the occasion
for a job, and grant concessions with an eye to profit. The
Commission, however, which the President did appoint was
suspended by his order at Vienna for " irregularities" committed
by those who controlled the management. The suspension
was ordered as the Exposition was about to open, and the
assembled nationalities, who were waiting to welcome American
representatives of the highest culture, were neither blind nor indif-
ferent to the incident, which in some degree concerned them all,
and which the indifference of the American Government to the
respectability of its agents had allowed to mar the Imperial pro-
gramme. For a time the Government, startled by the disgrace, rose
to an appreciation of its duty, and the spirited tone of its instructions
and volunteered pledges contrasted strangely with its subsequent
conduct, when the danger was passed and its assurances forgotten.
On the 2 1st of April it had telegraphed, " The Commission must be
free from taint. Your action in suspending any suspected party will
be sustained, no matter what may be his position. The honor of
the country requires thorough examination and decided action,"
All that skill, tact, and perseverance could do to redeem the honor
of the Government and the interest of the exhibitors was well and
promptly done by three well-known gentlemen, Colonel Le Grand
B. Cannon, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt of New York, and Mr. C. F.
Spang of Pittsburg, who without regard to personal convenience
placed themselves at the disposal of the President as temporary
Commissioners. Within a fortnight they established system and
order where all had been chaos : for, as their report showed, the
suspended Commissioners had no plans, no records, no accounts.
Colonel Cannon and his associates, by their character and bearing,
immediately commanded the confidence and regard of the Im-


perial and foreign Commissioners. But the erections in the Prater
by the v^enders of American drinks, whose quarrels and revelations
had scandalized the City of the Kaiser, continued to recall the
official corruption which had multiplied their number ; and
the attempt under cover of our flag to defraud the Austrian
customs of duties on private goods improperly shipped by the
Government vessels, was succeeded by an attempt of the first
assistant to appropriate moneys of the United States. A want
of perception of the simplest proprieties has been sometimes
remarked in our foreign agents, as in the story told of an American
envoy, who accepted a box at the opera from the Premier, and
filled it with his domestics. The Government at Washington
seemed equally unconscious of the discourtesy shown by unfit
appointments to the Austrian Government, the International Com-
missioners, and to the world assembled at Vienna.

Xor did the Cabinet appear to appreciate the effect of the pro-
cedure upon our national reputation, even after an official investi-
gation had exhibited the taking of moneys from the grantees of
bars and restaurants, and other " irregularities" which were admit-
ted and defended by the Chief Commissioner. The President,
yielding to complaints and solicitations, rewarded his management
by a new appointment as Consul-General.

This was represented, not unreasonably, as a virtual announce-
ment to Europe that the President, abandoning the ground taken in
his order of suspension, now regarded the management of the Chief
of the Commission as consistent with the standard adopted at
Washington of official fitness and international courtesy.

Whatever the motive which induced the Government to make the
objectionable appointments, or to reward at the close the Commis-
sioner whose theories and practices had been compromising and disas-
trous, few stronger illustrations could be found of the demoralizing in-
fluences which flow from a disregard of the principle of fitness in for-
eio-n appointments. It would seem, too, that the Government had
resorted to unusual measures to divert the attention of the country
from an incident which the new appointment of the Commissioner
had recalled to the recollection of the world. The abstract of the
correspondence and report called for and submitted to the Senate
was curious alike in its omissions of evidence, its perversion of the
report, and its pretended charge against Colonel Cannon and his asso-
ciates, a charge formulated and published by the State Department,
of being interested in sewing-machines. The Department, when


called upon to publish the truth, declined, with the remiirk that
"the whole subject was painful to the President." This apology,
echoing the imperial maxim, the sovereign's pleasure is the high-
est law, teaches its own lesson. No incident, perhaps, of the last
Administration could throw more light on the character of its
policy in the matter of appointments, its treatment of ofTficial
incapacity and corruption, and its idea of loyalty to faithful agents,
than the scandal at Vienna.

It was followed by the reappearance, in the War Department at
Washington, of the same habit of taking moneys from the grantees
of concessions which the commissioner of the State Department
had illustrated and defended at the Austrian capital, and which the
Government by its action had seemed to sanction and reward.

When General Grant addressed to Congress his last annual
message at the close of our Centennial year, the Presidential ques-
tion was still unsettled, and it seemed not improbable that the great
party which had intrusted to his keeping the honor of the republic
had been helplessly wrecked by the errors of his Administration.
General Grant had been elected in 1868 by 214 electoral votes
against 71 cast for Governor Seymour; and in 1876 that large major-
ity had vanished, and the fate of the party hung upon a single vote.
There is something in the reflections of the retiring President,
as he reviewed and moralized upon his work, and strove to show
that the blame was not all his own, which recalls the picture of
Marius sitting among the ruins of Carthage. " It was my fortune
or misfortune," pleaded the President in a tone of apology and ex-
cuse, which the world could hardly have expected from the victor
of Vicksburg and Appomattox, " to be called to the ofifice of Chief
Executive without any previous political training. . . . Under such
circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judg-
ment must have occurred, mistakes have been made, as all can see,
and I admit. . . . But I leave comparisons to history, claimino-
only that failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."

The American people, generous to a fault, and never forgetful of
military services, will listen to every plea in mitigation offered by
the great General, whom, as he plaintively reminds them, they had
transferred from the head of the army to the chair of state, with
only the training of a soldier to meet the highest responsibilities of
a statesman. But the fact remains, that " mistakes were made,"
and that the Republican party was brought to the very brink of ruin.
General Grant's apology, that the mistakes were chiefly due to


appointments being made upon recommendations of the representa-
tives chosen directly by the people, goes to confirm the reform
policy of President Hayes. But the moral responsibility that
rested upon the advasers of General Grant in and out of the
Cabinet can not be denied ; and his own language seems to indi-
cate that they had left him in ignorance of constitutional prin-
ciples and of historic traditions ; of the fact that the power of
removal from of^ce is a constructive power, not granted by the Con-
stitution, but introduced to meet cases of extreme necessity ; and
that Mr. Madison had said that if a President should resort to that
power when not required by any public exigency, and merely for
personal objects, he would deserve to be impeached.

General Grant alluded to Washington, and appealed to history,
seemingly unconscious of the facts recalled by Mr. Eaton, that
Washington removed but nine persons (except for one cause) ; John
Adams but nine, and not one on account of opinion ; Jefferson but
thirty-nine ; Madison only five ; Monroe, nine ; and J. Q. Adams,
two. It was not till the time of Jackson that there commenced a
system of political proscription and appointment for partisan
service, or for personal fealty to party leaders — a system which
Webster denounced. " Sir," he said, and w^e know the extent
to which the prediction has been recently verified, " if this course
of things can not be checked, good men will grow tired of the exer-
cise of political privileges. They will have nothing to do with pop-
ular elections. They will see that such elections are but a mere
selfish scramble for office, and they will abandon the Government
to the scramble of the bold, the daring, and the desperate."

Among the noticeable acts of General Grant bearing upon our
foreign policy, was one that seemed to imply a strange forgetfulness
of Mr. Monroe's declaration made in 1823, touching foreign inter-
vention in this hemisphere, a declaration that accorded perfectly
with the maxims bequeathed to us by Washington. The country
held with Mr. Webster, that it was " wise, prudent, and patriotic,"
and the spirit of that declaration lives to-day in the national senti-

Recognizing the important differences between the political sys-
tems of Europe and America, we take no part in the wars of Europe
in matters relating to themselves, and we expect a similar reserve
on their part in regard to affairs in this hemisphere, with which we
arc immediatch' connected.


Mr. Webster in his speech on the Panama Mission in 1826 said :

" This declaration of Mr. Monroe did great honor to the principle and spirit of
the Government. It can not be taken back, retracted, or annulled without disgrace.
It met, sir, with the entire concurrence and hearty approbation of the country. I
look on the message of December, 1823, as forming a bright page in our history.
I will help neither to erase it nor tear it out ; nor shall it be by any act of mine
blurred or blotted. It did honor to the sagacity of the Government, and I will not
diminish that honor. It elevated the hopes and satisfied the patriotism of the
people. Over those hopes I will not bring a mildew, nor will I put that gratified
patriotism to shame." — Webster s Works, iii., pp. 203, 204-5.

Unfortunately, President Grant and his Cabinet do not seem to
have shared Mr. Webster's scruples. On the 21st of January, 1876,
the President submitted to Congress some correspondence about
Cuba, including an elaborate letter from Mr. Fish to Mr. Cushing
(No. 266, Nov. 5th, 1875), in which Mr. Cushing was told that the
President " feels that the time is at hand when it may become the
duty of other Governments to interfere solely with a view of bring-
ing to an end a disastrous conflict, and of restoring peace on the
Island of Cuba."

General Grant, during the civil war, occupied as he was in the
field, had perhaps hardly understood or appreciated the indig-
nation awakened in the country at the threat of foreign inter-
meddling in our affairs. The tone of the instructions to Mr.
Cushing justifying the intervention of the Great Powers in the diffi-
culty between Spain and her colony, renders it improbable that the
Cabinet had recalled to the attention of the President the language
of Mr. Seward, when it was known that Louis Napoleon, on similar
grounds, was endeavoring to persuade England to a similar step,
for ending the conflict and restoring peace between the United
States and the Southern Confederacy.

In furtherance of the scheme of intervention suggested in the
letter to Mr. Cushing, a copy of the letter was on the 5th of
November addressed to General Schenck at London, with an
instruction to communicate its conclusions to Lord Derby. It was
announced from Washington that " similar letters were addressed
to the United States Ministers at Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg,
Vienna, and Rome ; and instructions given to ask in effect the
moral support of the Governments to which they were accredited."

The correspondence contained no responses from any of the
representatives to whom the instructions were sent to be read to
their respective Governments ; and it is believed that those
responses have never been laid before the country.


The Journal dc St. Pc t cr sbcnir g '^xoh'dkAy expressed the sentiments
of the Russian Government when it remarked, " European inter-
ference in the present state of the Cuban affair is unnecessary. . . .
Europe is not interested. . . ."

It was remarked at home that " an apphcation from Prince
Gortschakoff for the aid of our Government in adjusting the differ-
ences in Herzegovina would not be a whit more grotesque than such
an application to Russia to interfere for the pacification of Cuba."

Statistics were presently published, showing that our commerce
with Cuba had of late increased instead of declining, and that
America felt as little interest as Europe in the proposed interven-
tion. The scheme quietly passed, but certain questions raised by
this extraordinary procedure remain unanswered.

Why, it was asked, should the President, when our trade with
Cuba was increasing, and when the country was entirely calm,
inaugurate, without the advice of Congress, a scheme so offensive
to a proud people and so likely to eventuate in war?

Why did he address to Spain, as justifying foreign intervention
in her struggle with her colony, reasons which we denounced and
resented when they were urged to sustain the pretended right of
European Powers to intervene in our quarrel with the revolted

Why, if the President really believed that it was the right and
the duty of the American people, for the protection of their
citizens and their commerce, to secure the peace of Cuba and
to prevent its interruption by Spain, did he not submit the matter
to Congress for its decision, instead of soliciting the moral support
of the European Powers ? And what plea or apology could the
Cabinet offer for inviting those Governments, from London to
Vienna, and from St. Petersburg to Rome, to interest themselves
in an American question, and to consider the expediency of their
intervening to decide the destiny of a Spanish colony in the
Western World ?

The grave inconveniences that may arise from the withholding
of correspondence and information of national interest have been
more than once illustrated during the term of General Grant.

The Department issues yearly one or two volumes of selected
correspondence on our " Foreign Relations." But correspondence
has often been withheld which the country should ha\'c had at the
earliest moment. The right assumed and exercised in the Vienna
case, to withhold correspondence and reports disclosing official


;^ irregularities," and thus to suppress and misrepresent the truth
m cases where loyalty to its agents demanded that it should be
known, and the assumed right to do this on the ground that the
matter was painful to the President, is a right which, if acknowl-
edged and permitted, would allow a government to falsify as in
that case, the facts of history.

" Political history," says Sir George Cornewall Lewis in his
learned treatise on the Method of Observing and Reasoning in
Politics, IS a register of political facts;" and in support of this
definition he quotes Vossius, Creuzer, and M. Dannon, who says
that the facts comprehend, in the first place, the designs, project
or enterprise; then the action or progression, with their attendant
circunnstances; and, in the third place, the event or consequences
with distinction between that which is fortuitous and that which
proceeds from a known cause."

If history is philosophy teaching by example, then the lesson
taught by an event may be lost if incidents essential to the story
have^been misrepresented or concealed. The causes that led to
the irregularities ' at Vienna, should be known, that they may
hereafter be avoided. ^ ^

The pronounced success of the Centennial Exhibition gives
increased mterest to the announcement that President Hayes and
Mr Evarts warmly favor the fitting representation of the United
States at the approaching Exhibition at Paris. The country will
expect this time a triumph and not a scandal, and this will depend
upon the appointees and the rules given to them. We mi<.ht
expect something in the way of bad manners, were the State De-
partment to give commissions to men such as some of those selected
for Vienna, of whom the Chief Commissioner testified • " I have
repeatedly stated to different Assistant Commissioner^ when I
appointed them, that I held in my hand the power of suspension,
which I should not fail to exercise at Vienna if I had good reason
to beheve them guilty of any impropriety." A good deal, too,
might be anticipated in the way of immoral theories and cor-
rupt practices, should the Chief Commissioner to Paris advise his
assistants that to borrow from the grantee of a pri^-ilege was "a
purely commercial transaction, like borrowing from a bank or any
mdividua ; and if it were known in advance that a management
conducted on this principle of concessions on the one side and
loans and percentages on the other, would be sanctioned, approved
and rewarded at Washington.

General Grant could hardly have appreciated the demoralizing


influence exerted by the attempt to cover up the Vienna irregu-
larities, and to divert pubHc attention from the actual facts ; and
it is to be hoped that it was not by his order that all previous mis-
representations of the matter, especially those contained in the
abstract furnished to the Senate, and in part given to the world,
have been eclipsed in their disregard of historic truth by an
ofificial statement contained in the " Reports of the Commissioners
of the United States to the International Exhibition, held at
Vienna, 1873. Published under the direction of the Secretary of
State, by the authority of Congress," etc. Wasliington, 1876.
4 vols. 8vo.

Under the head of " United States Commissioners to the Inter-
national Exposition," vol. i., p. 156, is this note : "Thomas B. Van
Buren was appointed Commissioner June loth, 1872, and served as


Online LibraryJohn JayThe American foreign service → online text (page 1 of 2)