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votes of New York, called upon one of the judges
whom he had "made" to convict of libel the
journal which had dared to tell the truth and
condemn his favoured nominee. Justice was
dishonoured and the truth was condemned.
Meanwhile the campaign was fought between
honesty and corruption. The candidate of the
Reform party was a young man of good family,
the highest character, possessed of wealth, genius,
and eloquence, and he had at his back all the
voters of respectability and position. But he did
not condescend to those arts which could alone
insure success. He did not visit bar-rooms, or
drink with and treat the party-workers, or bribe or
cajole; and he declared war to the knife against
the Boss and the Boss' system, and the Ring, and
the whole gang of confederated thieves who had
for so long laughed at and plundered the people.
The result' was what might have been foreseen.
The leaders, the Ring, and the Boss, and their
thousands of dependents, were " solid for
Mulhooly," who was elected Member of Congress


by the grace of the municipal gods ; manhood
suffrage was vindicated, and the corrupt, obscure
adventurer represented "a Government of the
people, by the people, and for the people."

It will be asserted that this satire is exaggerated
and a caricature of the truth. But this is not the
opinion of those educated and high-principled
Americans with whom I have talked in the large
cities, such as Washington, New York, Phil-
adelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, or Denver. They
are generally willing to discuss the political
situation with all frankness if they be only
approached with discretion. Should the traveller
commence with abuse of American institutions he
will naturally meet with a rebuff; but should he
sympathetically praise an administration which
professes to be of and for the people, his listener
will quickly open the floodgates of his invective
against it. From my Colorado note-book 1
extract the ipsissima verba of one of the most
prosperous and distinguished citizens of that
State. " Politics," said he, " are nothing but a
trade by which to live and grow fat, and an evil
and a stinking trade. No one who respects
himself can join it, and should a respectable
man be chosen for office he refuses to accept
the nomination. Everything connected with it


is corrupt ; and success being impossible to an
honest man, the dirty work is left to the
scallawags and scoundrels who live by it, and
who degrade the name of politics throughout

The City of New York has, for many years,
been one of the most striking and convenient
illustrations of what is known in America as
Boss rule, and the many millions that it has cost
the people, in waste, peculation, and undisguised
and unblushing robbery, form the price which
they have had to pay for the pretence of freedom.
Matters are now less openly scandalous than ot
old, but the same system is in full force. Boss
Kelly, who sways the destinies of New York,
has been able, from his near connection with
an Irish cardinal, to defend his position with
spiritual as well as temporal weapons, and the
whole Irish Catholic population vote solid as he
bids them. The result of a generation of this
regime has been disastrous. The commercial
capital of the United States may now be fairly
reckoned, for size and population, the second
city in the world, if Brooklyn, New Jersey, and
the suburbs be included within its boundaries.
Its property is assessed at fifteen hundred million
dollars, its foreign commerce is not far from a


billion dollars, while its domestic trade reaches
many hundred millions. But there is hardly a
European city of any importance which is not
infinitely its superior in municipal administration,
convenience, beauty, and architectural pretensions
With the exception of the Post Office and the
unfinished Catholic cathedral, which is neither in
size nor design a cathedral at all, there is scarcely
a building which repays a visit. The City Hall,
which cost ten or twelve millions of dollars, is
certainly worth inspection as an instance of what
swindling on a gigantic scale is able to accomplish ;
as is the Brooklyn Bridge, which cost seventeen
millions, or three times the original estimate, and
which was further unnecessary, as a subway would
have been more convenient and have cost much
less. Local taxation is crushingly heavy, and so
inequitably assessed that the millionaires pay
least and the poor most. The paving of the
streets is so rough as to recall Belgrade or
Petersburg ; the gas is as bad as the pavement ;
and it is only in Broadway and portions of Fifth
Avenue that an unsystematic use of the electric
light creates a brilliancy which but heightens the
contrast with the gloom elsewhere. The Central
Park, so called from being a magnificent expanse
of wilderness in the centre of nothing, is ill-kept


and ragged, and at night is unsafe for either sex.
The fares of hack-carriages are four to five times
as high as in London. The police is inefficient,
arbitrary, and corrupt. At its head are 'four Com-
missioners, who are politicians in the American
sense and nothing more. They are virtually
appointed by the aldermen, who have authority
to confirm or reject the mayor's nomination of
heads of departments. The aldermen are, in many
cases, persons to whom the description of Michael
Mulhooly might apply politicians of the drinking-
saloons, the tools and slaves of the Boss who made
them and whose orders they unhesitatingly obey.
When a respectable mayor has chanced to be
appointed, he has declared it useless to nominate
good men to office, and has lowered his appoint-
ments to the level of the confirming aldermen.
The Comptroller, who is the financial head of
the city, expending between thirty and forty
millions of dollars annually, the Commissioners
of Excise, Taxes, Charities, Fire, Health, and
Public Works, are all controlled, approved and
virtually appointed by the aldermen, who are
directed by the Boss. Even the eleven police
judges, who should be the independent ex-
pounders and enforcers of the criminal law,
are appointed by the same agency, so that if


their origin be traced to its first cause they are
the nominees of the criminal classes they have
to try and punish. The result is that it is
impossible to procure the adequate punishment
of any official, however criminal, since he was
appointed as a political partisan. One or two
instances, almost at random, may be cited in
illustration of this. While I was in New York
a policeman, named McNamara, killed a drunken
but perfectly quiet and inoffensive citizen, named
John Smith, by blows on his head and neck with
a loaded club. There was no provocation, and
even New York was profoundly moved by the
outrage, although the police are there accustomed
to use their clubs on even orderly crowds in a
manner which would not be tolerated for a day
in England. But while a verdict of murder or
aggravated manslaughter would alone have met
the merits of the case, McNamara was found
guilty of assault in the third degree, and sentenced
to a nominal punishment. In the case of the
numerous catastrophes on railways and steamers
in and near New York, due to gross negligence
and causing the wanton slaughter of numerous
citizens, no official has for years past been
punished. An inspector's certificate is the only
guarantee of security of the numerous passenger


steamboats which ply on the waters of the city. But
in August last, when the Riverdale steamer blew
up and sank, the boiler was found so corroded
that a knife-blade was easily thrust through a
piece of iron which was originally an inch and
a quarter thick ; while the inspector who had
certified that the boiler was in good order stated
on inquiry, that he did not know that the boiler
was corroded because he had never examined the
inside. Inspectors of this calibre are appointed to
certify to the soundness of the boilers of ocean
steamers, and the chief engineer of one of these
told me that the inspector who had looked at the
outside of the engines and had signed the required
certificate, when asked whether he was not going
to examine the interior of the boilers, confessed
that such an examination \vould give him no
information, as he was altogether ignorant of
the construction of engines or boilers.

Nor are public interests and private rights in
property more respected than personal safety is
secured. In London we see Mr. Bowles fighting
against a railway which is to pass underneath the
parks without once appearing at the surface, and
even those who consider his zeal excessive will yet
admit that this jealousy of any invasion of popular
rights is wholesome and admirable. Yet, in New


York, elevated railways, on iron pillars level with
the first-floor windows, have been run through
many of the principal streets, without a dollar
of compensation having been paid to any one.
It may be that the ultimate result has been to
raise the rents of the shops in these thoroughfares,
but this does not alter the fact that the original
construction was an outrage on the rights of
private property and a hideous disfigurement of
the public streets.

The carcase over which the New York vultures
are now gathered together is the new aqueduct,
which is estimated to cost from twenty to thirty
millions of dollars, but which, if the precedents of
the County Court House and the Brooklyn Bridge
be followed, will probably cost sixty millions.
Here is a prize worthy of Tammany and a contest
a mine rich in jobbery and corruption for years
to come ; and there is no doubt that, before the
work is completed, many patriotic Irish statesmen
of the Alulhooly type, who are now loafing around
the saloons on the chance of a free drink, will be
clad in purple and fine linen and cheerfully climbing
the venal steps which lead to the Capitol.

The mal-administration of New York has, at
the present time, a very near and personal interest
for Londoners. It is proposed by the Government



to place the administration of the vast metropolis,
with its limitless wealth and multiplied interests,
in the hands of one governing body, which there
is no reason to believe will attain a very high
standard of wisdom, virtue, and administrative
ability. The Guildhall Parliament will be no
more than a glorified vestry, with its jobs and
personalities and indifference to the public interest ;
and it is unlikely that candidates of distinction
will present themselves or be elected should they
be nominated. It is true that, in England, politics
are still a profession for honest men, and on the
London School Board many persons of emi-
nence have shown themselves willing to perform
arduous and ungrateful work for the public-
But the experience of this Board is not alto-
gether hopeful, and able and accomplished candi-
dates have too often been rejected for pretentious
busybodies. It will be the duty not only of
the Government but of Parliament generally, to
consider carefully the arguments from analogy
for and against the London Government Bill, and
to take care that the disgrace which has fallen
both on New York and Paris by intrusting enor-
mous responsibilities to corrupt, feeble, and in-
terested municipal bodies may not attach to
London which, with its many defects in organ i-


sation, is still incomparably the best administered
of the great cities of the world.

The municipal administration of New York and
many of the principal cities is injurious not alone
for its inefficiency, robbery, and waste. The chief
evil, and one which, like a cancer, is ever poisoning
and corroding the yet wholesome body politic, is
found in its contagious example. Theft and job-
bery are exalted as virtues which lead to wealth
and political honour, while honesty and wisdom
are left to preach at the corners of the streets
regarded by none. The name of the people, and
manhood suffrage, and the popular vote, are used
as veils to screen the shifts and frauds of wire-
pullers ; and the elected of the people is often no
more than the corrupt nominee of a dishonest
clique who laugh at the people, who, now, as ever,
are willing to be deceived. Corruption accumulates
on every side ; its slime makes every path slippery
which politicians tread, till the State Legislature
and Congress itself become an Augean stable
which would require a new Hercules to cleanse.

Americans who love and are proud of their
country, and who loathe the political system which
degrades it in the eyes of the world, will not
consider the picture that I have drawn over-
coloured. But it is impossible to acquit even the

I 2


most honourable among them of the blame which
attaches to this state of things. Manhood suf-
frage, untempered by any educational test and
rendered uncontrollable by the surging mass of
emigration, which was a condition unestimated by
the drafters of the Constitution, is the chief cause
of the present difficulty, and respectable Americans
do not see how they can escape from it. Their
usual reply, when driven into a corner, is that
although the administration is shamefully corrupt,
they will be able to reform it whenever they have
time to do so. At present they are engaged in
making money as quickly as they can. They
cannot be troubled with politics ; but when at
leisure they will reform the administration and
make it clean and honest. Moreover, the country
is young, and people, like the English, who have
passed through the political experiences of the
Georges, should not be squeamish in criticising
America, which is undergoing a not more dis-
creditable process of purification. The double
fallacy which underlies this defence is obvious to
every historical student. In all communities, and
certainly in America, the honest and respectable
largely outnumber the disreputable and disorderly.
Yet the greatest catastrophes in republics have
been due to the cowardice and apathy of the


former when opposed by the organisation and
audacity of the latter. The excesses of 1793,
both in Paris and the provinces, were the work of
a very small minority, who might have been easily
overpowered had the nobles and bourgeoisie shown
the commonest energy and courage. The horrors
of the Commune were due to a handful of men
whom the shopkeepers of the Boulevards could
have driven into the Seine with their yard-
measures. Safety is never to be secured by
hesitation and delay, and the longer an abuse re-
mains unremoved the more difficult is its extirpation.
The conditions of political life in England during
the last century and those in America to-day are
essentially different Here the power was in the
hands of an educated class, who, as the standard of
morality became more high, were compelled to
change their methods or lose power altogether. But,
in America, manhood suffrage has placed power in
the hands of the lowest and least educated class,
a large proportion of whom have little sympathy
with the country of their adoption and are too
ignorant to understand its requirements. Educa-
tion may possibly affect these favourably in the
future ; but it is also to be considered that the
present system directly tends, by making dis-
honesty more profitable than political virtue, to


continually augment, in an ever-increasing ratio,
the number of those whose interest it is to per-
petuate the reign of corruption. Nor can America
plead youth as an excuse for her moral decrepitude.
A vicious and depraved youth does not promise a
healthy manhood or an honourable old age. The
advantages of her youth were a people unfettered
by the chains of poverty and prejudice which
weigh on the races of Europe, and a field free for
the noblest experiments in government. She
inherited the experience and culture of the ages ;
she could profit by their splendid examples and
avoid the rocks on which they had made ship-
wreck. She should have advanced and not fallen
back ; and this was the proud hope of her earliest
statesmen. The young and vigorous republic of
the West was to revive the classic virtues of Brutus
and Cincinnatus, and blaze forth, a pillar of fire, to
guide through the darkness the effete monarchies
of the Old World. But it would be difficult to
name any country, except j Russia, where the
Emperor Nicholas declared that he and his son
were the only people in the country who did not
steal, and where his successor found that the chief
peculator of the recent war was his own brother,
to which the political history of America would
not be a warning rather than an example.


While, in England, there is an intelligent and
increasing party who advocate the adoption of
universal suffrage, thoughtful men in America are
convinced that this very manhood suffrage, unac-
companied by an educational test, is the chief cause
of their misfortunes. Mr. Trevelyan, at Galashiels,
speaking for the Government, recently declared
that their policy in the extension of the franchise
had nothing to say as to whether a man were
Whig or Tory. " We say, if he is a householder,
jit to vote, he should have a vote. We think that
every intelligent and independent head of a house-
hold should have an equal voice in directly choosing
the representatives and indirectly choosing the
Government of the country." There is probably
no consistent Liberal who would not accept this
principle, which applies to Ireland with as much
force as to England. But it is obvious that the
condition of fitness is its all-important qualification.
Mr. Trevelyan's distinguished uncle, in one of hi
splendid sophistries, asserted that to deny men
freedom until they knew how to make a proper
use of it was worthy of the fool in the old story
who would not go into the water until he had
learned to swim. But men who are unintelligent
and uneducated ; who have not shown themselves
possessed of temperance, honesty, and self-restraint


are virtually infants who have not yet the use of
their limbs, and whose experiments in the water
can only end in their destruction. Open wide the
doors of the franchise to education and intelligence,
but, with the example of America before us, close
them in the face of ignorance and crime.

It is popularly supposed that in no country are
the advantages of education more widely diffused
than in the States, and if this were the case, the
danger which now threatens the Republic from the
character of those into whose hands political
power has been placed would not exist. But so
far as published statistics inform us the reverse is
the case. A Bill is now before Congress to provide
Federal aid to education, the schedules of which
seem to show that the ignorance of the masses is
exceptionally dense.

Illiteracy holds the balance of power in fourteen
Northern and in all the Southern States. In the
thirty-eight States of the Union there are no less
than 1,871,217 illiterate voters : only one voter in
five can write his name in the Southern States.
The illiterate voters in South Carolina are more
than one-half the entire number ; in Alabama,
Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and
Virginia one in two ; while Missouri, with one in
nine, has the best record. In the Presidential


election of 1876, New York, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana, California, Nevada,
Ohio, Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, Rhode Island,
Michigan and Pennsylvania were ranged on the side
of illiteracy. In the last Presidential contest the
voters in thirty States, commanding 298 electoral
votes, were unable to read. In 1876, 60 out of the
76 senators, or four-fifths of the whole, and 259 out
of 292 representatives in Congress, were in the
grasp of illiteracy. In 1880, 58 out of 76 senators
and 292 out of 325 representatives were from
States where the illiterate voters held the balance
of power. The most superficial knowledge of the
distribution of the white and coloured population
will show that these results are not primarily due
to the almost universal ignorance of the negroes.
It is so in States like South Carolina, Mississippi
and Lousiana where they outnumber the whites ;
and in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida
and Alabama in which the numbers of the two
races are almost equal ; but in Connecticut, New
York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Michigan,
Ohio and others, the negroes form a very small
fractional part of the population. At the same
time, the incapacity of the negro for improvement
makes the question of the greater fecundity of the
black race one of extreme interest. Their increase


proportionally to the whites is a matter of dispute,
and Mr. J. H. Tucker, Member of Congress, has
instituted careful inquiries, extending over the
period from 1790 to 1880, from which it appears
that the natural rate of increase of the whites is
slightly greater than that of the blacks, and while
the whites were 807 per cent, of the population in
1790, they were 8i'5 per cent, in 1860. Including
immigrants, the white population gained and the
coloured lost 6 per cent, in the whole period from
1790 to 1880; while, in the last 20 years, the
whites have gained I per cent; Texas being the
only state in which the black population shows an
increase. The outcome of Mr. Tucker's complete
survey is that the white race composes 80 per cent,
of the total population and is steadily gaining, but
at so slow a rate as to afford no reason for expecting
any material change in the ratio in the present or
coming generations. Professor Gilliam, who has
also made the question a subject of study, arrives
at very different conclusions. He considers that
the white population may be expected to double
itself in 35 years, and the black in 20 years. In
100 years, this would make the black population
of the Southern States 192,000,000, while the
white would be only 96,000,000, and the white
population of the entire country 336,000,000.



Professor Gilliam further considers that the greater
fecundity of the negro race is due in a measure to
the absence of those checks to population which
exist in all other cases.

It is true, so far as statistics are reliable, that,
if a period like the decade between 1870 and 1880
be taken, and the States and Territories in which
there has been an increase be compared with those
in which there has been a decrease, it will be
found that, on an assumed basis of 100,000 whites,
there has been a gain of 625 to the whites during
the decade. But it is probable that in the future
the conditions which affect the white and black
population will materially change. The propor-
tion between the two races for the last thirty years
is shown in the following table :








These figures would, at first sight, seem to support
Mr. Tucker's rather than Professor Gilliam's con-
clusions. The white population has considerably
more than doubled in the thirty years, while the
black population has not done so. The most


remarkable feature of these figures is the slow
rate of increase of the negroes between 1860 and
1870, and their rapid increase since the latter
date, which has nearly overtaken that of the white
population in spite of the advantage of European
immigration, which, during the decade, amounted
to no less than 3,129,384. When the probabilities
of the future are considered, it appears reasonable
to assume that the checks on increase, voluntary
and external, will affect the white rather than
the coloured portion of the community. The
negroes will remain, as at present, uninfluenced
by those moral and prudential considerations
which, in educated communities, restrain the in-
crease of population by discouraging early marriage
or marriage altogether. These considerations will,
with the white population, have an ever-increasing
weight as the standard of living becomes higher
and more luxurious, and the country less able to
support the population without that struggle for
existence which is seen in the older countries of

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Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 7 of 11)