Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

The writings and speeches (Volume 1) online

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immediate suburbs, there are something like half a million of
families. It would be scarcely probable that any one of those
families should know what food they will have upon their table
to-morrow ; and yet every one goes to market without concern,
without plan, even without purpose. They find everything
they desire to supply their wants or gratify their tastes, and
nothing of any importance is left at the end of the day. All
Over this continent, in every part of it, myriads of busy hands
are preparing supplies for the great mart of traffic and centre
of population. In the immediate vicinity the articles of heavy
transport and small value are produced ; far off, in the blue-
grass region of Kentucky and Tennessee and on the broad
savannas of Texas, is being prepared the beef which every day
feeds this immense population. And in all these tens of thous-
ands of producers there is no concert, no plan. No man knows
what his neighbors are to produce, no man knows who will buy
the products of his industry ; and yet all the results of their
production are sent forward to the market. All are in demand,
and all find every day an adequate sale.

1876.] ON CHARITY. 377

Take even a broader field. Each one of our forty-five mil-
lions of people is choosing what he desires to possess, to con-
sume, to enjoy of the products of foreign climes. Each one
is proposing what he shall take from his own labor to pay for
what he purchases from abroad. There have been those who
have kept awake nights for fear that we should buy everything
from abroad and sell nothing, and therefore rapidly become

[Addressing D. A. Wells, President of the Social Science
Association, Governor Tilden said :] I believe you, Mr. Presi-
dent, have been able to save yourself and rescue many others
from that apprehension. You have seen that it is not neces-
sary for two or three hundred wise men in the city of Wash-
ington to decide and specify what we shall sell and what we
shall buy in order to save us from the calamity which would
otherwise fall upon us.

Gentlemen, how is it that this great multitude of individual
wills and individual tastes, acting separately and independently,
find themselves averaged and compensated until everything
tends to and everything results in an equilibrium of forces ?
It is that the Divine Being has impressed upon everything
order, method, and law. Even the most divergent, even the
most uncertain, even those things in the individual taste which
we cannot foresee or calculate upon at all, when we group them
in large masses reduce themselves to intelligible forms. Now
I undersand that what you propose to do is to apply this same
method of investigation to pauperism, to crime, to insanity, and
to all those cases where governmental interference or govern-
mental intelligence is deemed to be necessary. I do not doubt,
if you will study these subjects with attention, diligence, and
patience, that you will prove great benefactors, not only of this
community, but also of the whole country. I cannot conclude,
however, without one word of warning, and that is this.

The emotional and sympathetic mind, seeking out relief for
evil distinctly seen and strongly felt, looking perhaps upon
a specific evil with a view somewhat out of proportion to its


relation to all the interests of society, and going to the public
treasury for a fund from which to gratify its humane and chari-
table instincts, and not restrained by any consideration limit-
ing its disposition or its power, no doubt tends sometimes to
extravagance in the public charities. I had occasion last year
and the year before to object to the magnificence of the pub-
lic buildings being erected in this State for these purposes;
and the caution I wish to suggest to you to-day is this, that
while all the Heaven-born, God-given sentiments of humanity
may fairly have their scope in operating upon your minds and
your hearts to impel you to relieve evils of this character
which exist among us, you want, if possible, to unite in your
action, prudence, caution, frugality, and the economy of the
thorough man of business. In the interest of your charities
you should see that the funds consecrated to them be not
exhausted or consumed without the greatest possible results
being derived therefrom ; in the interest of society you should
?ee that the burdens for these objects do not become intoler-
able. While we exercise every sentiment of humanity, while
^e do all in our power to relieve misfortune, to overcome
svils, to apply discipline, and to enforce reformation, at the
same time we must bear in mind that the industrious millions
who keep out of the poorhouses and penitentiaries are also
entitled to the consideration and the care of the Government.
We must see to it that we do not foster, as in a hotbed, the
very evils which we seek to remove ; we must see to it that
our methods are well devised, are prudent, and are effective.
And if, as has sometimes been said in applying the method be-
longing to the study of the physical sciences to social problems,
if, as has been said, that method in its application to the
physical sciences has tended to nurture too much reliance on
human intellect, and to draw us away from a natural dependence
on what is higher and better, when we come to apply this
method to social life, when we come to contemplate minutely,
as with a microscope, the wrongs, the frailties, and the weak-
nesses of humanity, we should rectify that tendency, and

1876.] ON CHARITY. 379

permit our minds to be led through these laws up to the
great Source from which all laws are derived. Gentlemen of
the Conference, for and on behalf of the people of the State
of New York, in your grand, noble, and benevolent work, I
bid you God speed.



NEW YORK, Oct. 24, 1876.
To the Hon. Abram S. Hewitt.

SIR, I have received your letter informing me that Repub-
licans high in authority are publicly representing that " the
South desire, not without hope," to obtain payment for losses
by the late war, and to have " provision made for the rebel debt
and for the losses of slaves." As the payment of such losses
and claims was not deemed important enough to deserve the
notice of either Convention at the time it was held, you also
ask me to state my views in regard to their recognition by
the Government. Though disposed myself to abide by the
issue as made up already, I have no hesitation to comply with
your request.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution expressly
provides as follows, -

" The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized
by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and boun-
ties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not
be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall
assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection
or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or
emancipation of any slave ; but all such debts, obligations, and
claims shall be held illegal and void."

This amendment has been repeatedly approved and agreed
to by Democratic State conventions of the South. It was


unanimously adopted as a part of the platform of the Demo-
cratic National Convention at St. Louis on the 28th of June,
and was declared by that platform to be " universally accepted
as a final settlement of the controversies that engendered civil


My own position on this subject had been previously de-
clared on many occasions, and particularly in my first Annual
Message of Jan. 5, 1875. In that document I stated that the
Southern people were bound by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth,
and Fifteenth Constitutional Amendments ; that they had
"joined at national conventions in the nomination of candi-
dates and in the declaration of principles and purposes which
form an authentic acceptance of the results of the war
embodied in the last three amendments to the organic law
of the Federal Union, and that they had, by the suffrages of
all their voters at the last national election, completed the
proof that now they only seek to share with us and to main-
tain the common rights of American local self-government in
a fraternal union, under the old flag, with ' one Constitution
and one destiny.'

I declared at the same time that the questions 'settled
by the war are never to be reopened. " The adoption of the
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Fed-
eral Constitution closed one great era in our politics. It marked
the end forever of the system of human slavery and of the
struggles that grew out of that system. These amendments
have been conclusively adopted, and they have been accepted
in good faith by all political organizations and the people of all
sections. They close the chapter ; they are and must be final ;
all parties hereafter must accept and stand upon them ; and
henceforth our politics are to turn upon questions of the present
and the future, and not upon those of the settled and final

Should I be elected President, the provisions of the Four-
teenth Amendment will, so far as depends on me, be main-
tained, executed, and enforced in perfect and absolute good faith.


No rebel debt will be assumed or paid. No claim for the loss or
emancipation of any slave will be allowed. No claim for any
loss or damage incurred by disloyal persons, arising from the
late war, whether covered by the Fourteenth Amendment or not,
will be recognized or paid. The cotton tax will not be refunded.
I shall deem it my duty to veto every bill providing for the as-
sumption or payment of any such debts, losses, damages, claims,
or for the refunding of any such tax.

The danger to the National Treasury is not from claims of
persons who aided the rebellion, but from claims of persons
residing in the Southern States, or having property in those
States, who were, or pretended to be, or who for the sake of
establishing claims now pretend to have been, loyal to the Gov-
ernment of the Union. Such claims, even of loyal persons,
where they accrue from acts caused by the operations of war,
have been disowned by the public law of all civilized nations,
condemned by the adjudications of the Supreme Court of the
United States, and only find any status by force of specific
legislation of Congress. These claims have become stale, and
are often tainted with fraud. They are nearly always owned
in whole or in part by claim agents, by speculators, or by lobby-
ists, who have no equity against the taxpayers or the public.
They should in all cases be scrutinized with jealous care.

The calamities to individuals which were inflicted by the late
war are for the most part irreparable. The Government cannot
recall to life the million of our youth who went to untimely
graves, nor compensate the sufferings or sorrow of their rela-
tives or friends. It cannot readjust between individuals the
burdens of taxation hitherto borne, or of debts incurred to sustain
the Government which are yet to be paid. It cannot apportion
anew among our citizens the damages or losses incident to
military operations, or resulting in every variety of form from
its measures for maintaining its own existence. It has no safe
general rule but to let bygones be bygones ; to turn from the
dead past to a new and better future ; and on that basis to


assure peace, reconciliation, and fraternity between all sections,
classes, and races of our people, to the end that all the springs
of our productive industries may be quickened, and a new
prosperity created, in which the evils of the past shall be

Very respectfully yours,



WHEN Congress convened in the winter of 1876-1877, with
the duty of counting the electoral votes for President and Vice-
President, it appeared that there were 184 uncontested electoral
votes for Samuel J. Tilden for President and for Thomas A.
Hendricks for Yice-President, 165 uncontested electoral votes
for Rutherford B. Hayes for President and William H. Wheeler
for Yice-President, and 20 votes in dispute. One hundred and
eighty-five votes were necessary for a choice ; consequently one
additional vote to Tilden and Hendricks would have elected
them, while twenty additional votes were required for the
election of the rival candidates. The whole election therefore
depended upon one electoral vote. This gave to the mode of
counting the vote an importance which it had never possessed
at any of the twenty-one previous elections in the history of
our Government.

The provisions of the Constitution relating to the mode of
counting the vote were sufficiently vague to furnish a pretext
for some diversity of opinion upon the subject where there was
such a tremendous temptation to find one ; and the doctrine was
freely advanced by partisans of the Republican candidates that
in case the two Houses could not agree, the final counting would
devolve upon the President of the Senate. That they would
not agree was assumed ; a majority of the Senate being Repub-
licans, and a majority of the Lower House being Democrats.
As the President of the Senate was a Republican and a strong
partisan, it became important to supplement the somewhat
vague provisions of the Constitution by an appeal to the usages
and traditions of the Government, for the purpose of deducing
from them such general rules on this subject as had proved of
universal acceptation. To this task Mr. Tilden addressed him-


self as soon as the exigency arose. He caused the records of
Congress to be explored and all the debates relating to the
counting of the electoral votes, from the first election of Wash-
ington in 1789 to the election of Grant in 1872, to be copied
out ; and then proceeded to summarize the lessons of these
several precedents, which, with the debates, were printed and
placed on the table of each member of Congress before any
final action had been taken. l In his " Analytical Introduc-
tion," which follows, Mr. Tilden demonstrated :

1. That the exclusive jurisdiction of the two Houses to count
the electoral votes by their own servants and under such in-
structions as they might deem proper to give, has been asserted
from the beginning of the Government.

2. That the President of the Senate, although he has uni-
formly, in person or by some substitute designated by the Senate,
performed the constitutional duty of opening the electoral
votes, has never in a single instance attempted to go a step
bevond that narrow and limited function ; has in no instance


attempted to determine what votes he should open ; but has
opened all and submitted them to the action of the two Houses,
unless required to omit particular votes by their concurrent

3. That the two Houses have not only always exercised ex-
clusively the power to count the electoral vote in such manner
and by such agents as they might choose to do it, but they have
exercised the right to fix and establish the methods of procedure
by standing rules.

The demonstration was so plain, and the argument from
precedent so irresistible, that the project of leaving the electoral
votes to be counted by the President of the Senate was aban-
doned, and a new device employed, in which the concurrence
of the two Houses was secured.

1 The Presidential Counts : A Complete Official Kecord of the Proceedings of
Congress at the Counting of the Electoral Votes in all the Elections of President
and Vice-President of the United States, together with all Congressional Debates
incident thereto or to Proposed Legislation upon that Subject ; with an Analytical
Introduction. New York : D. Appleton & Co., 1877.

VOL. ii. 25


THERE have been twenty-one Presidential elections under our
Federal Constitution ; but until now the methods of canvassing
the electoral votes at the seat of government have never pre-
sented questions of much practical importance, except so far
as they established precedents for the future. 1

The main result of the Federal canvass, whenever there has
been an election by the people, has always been known in
advance of the meeting of Congress ; and though questions as
to the authenticity or validity of votes have repeatedly arisen,
their solution has in no instance hitherto made any practical
difference with the result.

Now, for the first time, the disputed votes may decide the
result of the election. There are one hundred and eighty-four

1 The Congress of the Confederation, on the 28th of September, 1787, directed
that the Constitution, with certain resolutions adopted by the Convention on the
17th of September, 1787, be transmitted to the legislatures of the several States,
to be submitted to conventions of the people thereof. One of those resolutions is
in the following words :

" Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Convention that as soon as the conven-
tions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States, in
Congress assembled, should fix a day on which electors should be appointed by the
States which shall have ratified the same, and a day on which the electors should
assemble to vote for the President, and the time and place for commencing pro-
ceedings under this Constitution ; that after such publication the electors should
be appointed, and the senators and representatives elected ; that the electors
should meet on the day fixed for the election of the President, and should trans-
mit their votes, certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the Constitution requires,
to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled ; that the senators
and representatives should convene at the time and place assigned ; that the
senators should appoint a President of the Senate for the sole purpose of receiving,
opening, and counting the votes for President ; and that after he shall be chosen,
the Congress, together with the President, should, without delay, proceed to
execute the Constitution."


uncontested votes on one side, one hundred and sixty-five on
the other, and twenty in dispute. It will be necessary for the
constituted authorities, in some instances, to pass upon the
authenticity or validity of duplicate electoral certificates from
the same States. Where the authority lies that is to decide
such an issue has thus become a question of the gravest
import ; for upon it may depend not merely the control of this
government during the next Presidential term, but the perpet-
uity of our political institutions and the confidence of our
people and of all mankind in the elective system and in the
principle of popular sovereignty.

The provisions of the Constitution furnish a pretext for
some diversity of opinion upon this subject, especially when it
is investigated under the glamour of fervid partisanship, and
when the choice of candidates may depend upon the interpre-
tation those provisions receive. The Constitution provides that
the certificates of the votes given by the electors, which are
transmitted to the seat of government, shall be delivered to
the President of the Senate, and that the President of the
Senate shall, in the presence of the two Houses of Con-
gress, open all the certificates, and that " they shall then be

By whom the votes shall be counted ; how far the counting
is a simple matter of enumeration ; and how far it involves the
additional duty of determining the authenticity and validity
of the certificates presented, are questions in the solution of
which the practice of the Government is our best guide.
Attempts have been made at various times to secure supple-
mentary legislation to meet the exigency which is now pre-
sented to the country ; but none of these efforts were fortunate

/ '

enough to unite a majority of the Federal legislature in its
favor. The difficulty now has to be met under aggravated
disadvantages. The two Houses are divided in their prefer-
ences for the respective candidates. Questions will be raised
as to the authenticity or validity of some of^ the electoral certi-
ficates to be presented, upon the reception or rejection of which


the result of the election may finally depend. In view of the
difficulties which our legislators will experience, with two great
armies of more or less heated partisans behind them, in legis-
lating upon this subject with suitable impartiality, it is the
disposition and it will be the manifest duty of every patriotic
member of our Federal legislature to adhere as closely as
possible to the precedents which have been sanctioned by time
and continuous usage. A less auspicious moment for engaging
in experiments and for introducing new methods of canvassing
the electoral vote could scarcely be imagined. The wisest
devices which have not the sanction of precedent would now
fall a prey to merited suspicion and distrust.

It is in deference to this conviction that the following com-
pilation is submitted to the public. It is intended to embrace
a perfect and complete record of the canvass in the two Houses
of Congress, with all the .debates to which they have given
rise, taken from the official reports. Scattered as the originals
are, through some forty or fifty cumbrous and not readily acces-
sible volumes, it would be a task which very few could or
would undertake, to make themselves even tolerably familiar
with the way in which this quadrennial duty of the two Houses
of Congress has been discharged hitherto.

tj t j

By the aid of this compilation, however, no one interested in
the subject will have a good excuse for remaining in ignorance
of the precedents which have been established, and in accor-
dance with which it is to be presumed ail proceedings at this
final canvass of the electoral vote cast in 187 '6 will be con-
ducted. For the convenience of those who may have occasion


to investigate this subject, the more important usages or prece-
dents which the practice of nearly a century has established
in regard to the methods of opening, counting, and announcing
the result of the electoral votes for President and Vice-President
of the United States will be here recapitulated.

The Constitution provides that the electors of President and
Yice-President shall " transmit ' ' the certificates of their votes
to the seat of the government, " directed to the President


of the Senate ; " and that " the President of the Senate shall,
in the presence of the Senate and House of Representa-
tives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be

At the first organization of the Government, in 1789, there

being no President of the Senate, a provisional Temporary expe-
dient fur the first

arrangement was necessary. The votes had been counting m irso.
transmitted to the secretary of the Congress of the old Confccl-

i/ O

eration. The senators, on assembling in conformity to the sug-
gestion made by a resolution of the Convention of 1787, chose a
President u for the sole purpose of opening the certificates and
counting the votes' of the electors, appointed one teller, and
sent a message informing the House of their action and their

o o

readiness to proceed to the count of the votes. The House ap-
pointed two tellers, and assembled with the Senate. The reso-
lution of the Senate, while declaring that its special President
had been appointed for the sole purpose of opening the certifi-
cates and counting the electoral votes, did not designate the
person or persons by whom the votes should be counted. It
might have been their intention that while the President of
the Senate should open the packages, the two Houses when con-
vened should count the votes themselves, or determine bv whom


they should be counted. This would reflect completely the sense
of the resolution which stated the purposes of the meeting,
but not the agents who were to execute those purposes. The
President of the Senate, however, reported to the two Houses
that they had met and that he had opened and counted the
votes. The election of Washington as President was unani-


mous, and everything was done rather as a formality, and
without debate as without deliberation. The counting involved
nothing beyond a mere computation; and even that meagre

Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 30 of 52)