Copyright
Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

The writings and speeches (Volume 1) online

. (page 39 of 52)
Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 39 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


shall cause three lists of the names of the electors of such State
to be made and certified, and to be delivered to the electors on or
before the first Wednesday in December/



480 TUE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1877.

" I feel the importance of giving every constitutional support to
the General Government ; and I also am convinced that the exist-
ence and well-being of that Government depends upon preventing
a confusion of the authority of it with that of the States sepa-
rately. But that Government applies itself to the people of the
United States in their natural, individual capacity, and cannot
exert any force upon, or by any means control the officers of the
State Governments as such. Therefore, when an Act of Congress
uses compulsory words with regard to any act to be done by the
Supreme Executive of this commonwealth, I shall not feel myself
obliged to obey them, because I am not, in my official capacity,
amenable to that Government.

"My duty as governor will most certainly oblige me to see that
proper and efficient certificates are made of the appointment of
electors of President and Vice-President ; and perhaps the mode
suggested in the Act above mentioned may be found to be the
most proper. If you, gentlemen, have any mode to propose with
respect to the conduct of this business, I shall pay every attention
to it.

" Gentlemen, I do not address you at this time from a disposi-
tion to regard the proceedings of the General Government with a
jealous eye, nor do I suppose that Congress could intend that
clause in their Act as a compulsory provision ; but I wish to pre-
vent any measure to proceed through inattention which may be
drawn into precedents hereafter to the injury of the people, or to
give a constructive power where the Federal Constitution has not
expressly given it." 1



NOTE E.

CURATIVE ACTS.

1. Thomson vs. Lee County, 3 Wallace, p. 327.

A statute submitted the question of bonding a town to a vote
of the municipality. After bonds had been issued, defects in
the voting were alleged, and the Legislature passed a Curative
Act legalizing the issue.

1 Columbian Centinel, Nov. 10, 1792. The language of the statute of 1792 is,
" The Executive authority of each State shall cause three lists," etc. ; that of the
Revised Statutes, Section 136, is, " It shall be the duty of the Executive of each
State to cause three lists," etc.



iS77-] THE FLORIDA ELECTORAL VOTE, 481

Held, that the Act was valid,

Opinion of the Court : "If the Legislature could authorize this
ratification, the bonds are valid, notwithstanding the submission of
the question to the vote of the people or the manner of taking the
vote may have been informal and irregular. This Act of Confirma-
tion, very soon after its passage, underwent an examination in the
courts of Iowa, and it was held that the Legislature possessed
the power to pass it, and that the bonds were valid and binding
(6 Iowa, p. 391). ... If the Legislature possessed the power to
authorize the Act~to be done, it could, by a Eetrospective Act, cure
the evils which existed, because the power thus conferred had been
irregularly executed J:l (p. 331).

2. St. Joseph vs. Rogers, 16 Wallace, p. 644.

Opinion of the Court: "Argument to show that defective
subscriptions of the kind may in all cases be ratified when the
Legislature could have originally conferred the power is certainly
unnecessary, as the question is authoritatively settled by the deci-
sions of the Supreme Court of the State [of Illinois] and of this
Court in repeated instances (15 111., p. 203 ; 34 ib., p. 405 ; 3 Wal-
lace, p. 327 ; 9 ib., p. 477 ; 8 Peters, p. Ill ; 24 How., p. 295)

" Mistakes and irregularities are of frequent occurrence in mu-
nicipal elections, and the State legislatures have often had occa-
sion to pass laws to obviate such difficulties. Such laws, when
they do not impair any contract or injuriously aifect the rights of
third persons, are never regarded as objectionable, and certainly
are within the competency of the legislative authority " (pp. 663,
664).

3. Cooley, " Constitutional Limitations," p. 137 :

"A retrospective statute curing defects in legal proceedings
where they are in their nature irregularities only, and do not ex-
tend to matters of jurisdiction, is not void on constitutional
grounds unless expressly forbidden. Of this class are the statutes
to cure . . . irregularities in the votes, or other action by munici-
pal corporations, or the like, where a statutory power has failed of
due and regular execution through the carelessness of officers or
other cause (1 Penn. Stat., p. 218 ; 17 ib., p. 524 ; 26 Iowa, p. 497 j
49 Maine, p. 346; 69 Penn., p. 328; 4 Vroom, p. 350)."



VOL. II. 31



LVIII.

AT the election of 1876, when Mr. Tilden was a candidate
for the Presidency, Lucius Robinson was elected to succeed
him as Governor of the State of New York. The inauguration
of the new Governor took place on the 1st of January, 1877.
In accordance with usage, the Governor Elect entered the
Assembly Chamber at twelve o'clock, leaning upon the arm of
his predecessor, accompanied by most of the State officers and
the Governor's staff. They took up their positions opposite
each other in front of the Speaker's desk, where, as soon
as silence could be obtained, Mr. Tilden addressed Governor
Robinson as follows.



SPEECH AT THE INAUGURATION OF GOVERNOR

ROBINSON.

MB. ROBINSON, The people of the State have given you a
distinguished evidence of their confidence in choosing you for
their chief magistrate by a vote so unexampled. In that testi-
mony I cordially concur, without assuming to add to its value.
It is to me a great satisfaction to surrender the chief official
trust of this commonwealth to one whose valuable co-opera-
tion I have experienced, and whose career furnishes such
assurance of his purpose to prosecute the work to which I
have consecrated two years of official service and three previ-
ous years of my private life. To recall the government of this
State to the pure condition in which a generation ago you and
I knew it ; to remove the fungus-growths which in evil times
had overspread its administration and legislation ; to lighten
the intolerable burdens upon the people ; to improve institu-
tions and laws; systematically to call into the civil service,
whether by appointment or election, men of higher ideals of
official life, of better training and more general culture, thus
utilizing a class inferior in the arts of political competition,
but superior in capacities for public usefulness, these are
noble objects. They had to be pursued through stormy con-
flicts with selfish interests and fixed habits. Our support was
an unfaltering trust in the people, if the prospect of real reform
could be made visible ; our inspiration was a belief that nothing
worth saving could be lost if onlv our work did not fail.

/

The scrutiny of all candid men may safely be challenged as
to what has been already accomplished. Wasteful and corrupt



484 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1877.

systems destroyed, State taxation reduced one half, new reme-
dies for official malversation enacted, the management of the
public works and prisons reorganized, and commissions pre-
liminary to other reforms instituted, these arc valuable re-
sults ; but there are others even more important. The standard
of official conduct has been elevated; and with it the ideas,
motives, and influences which surround official life as with
an atmosphere. The public suspicion of legislative venality is
disappearing, and the lobbies are disbanded. The chief execu-
tive and administrative trusts of the State have been com-
* mitted to gentlemen who are eminent not only for personal
probity, but also for capacity and high ideals of official duty.
A genuine reform in the civil service has thus been realized
which could not be the product of any mere legislation with-
out the effective co-operation of the men conducting the actual
administration. 1 have traced these results, approved by the
people at the last two elections in this State, because they
encourage the aspirations of the community for a better gov-
ernment, and tend to inspire a noble ambition in all rising
men to compete for honors and power by appealing to the best
moral forces of human society. As an example, these results
are infinitely important. I congratulate you, sir, that, at such
a time and with such favoring auspices you enter upon an
administration which, I believe, will be fruitful of public benefit
and of honors to yourself.



LIX.



MR. TILDEN spent a portion of the summer of 1877 in Europe.
On the evening following his return he was complimented by a
serenade, given under the auspices of the Young Men's Demo-
cratic Association. The crowd gathered in and around Mr.
Tilden's residence in Gramercy Park sent up enthusiastic
cheers when, in reply to many loud calls from some of their
number, he presented himself to their view on his balcony.
After quiet and order were restored, and in one of the inter-
vals of the music, Mr. Tilden proceeded to address them. It
was in the course of his remarks on this occasion that he
referred to our great national staple, Indian corn, in a way
which caused this speech to be known as the " Indian Corn
Speech."



THE INDIAN CORN SPEECH.

GENTLEMEN OF THE YOUNG MEN'S DEMOCRATIC CLUB, I
thank you for your kindly welcome. My summer excursion,
now just closed, had for its object a season of physical activity
in the open air in a moderate climate and amid scenes inter-
esting by their associations with our literature, with our juris-
prudence, and with the origin and growth of representative
institutions. It has repaired, as much as three months could,
the waste of six years consecrated to an effort for governmental
reform in the city, State, and nation. I do not forget that in
1871 you joined in the work, and have never since been want-
ing to it. I am glad here to-night to mingle my congratula-
tions with yours on what has been done, on the good auguries
for the future, and above all on the resolute purpose of the
young men of our country that the Republic shall be com-
pletely restored and re-established according to its original
ideals.

The contrast which strikes the American eye between the
British Isles and our own country in the supply of food, and
especially cereals, ought to be the basis of profitable exchanges
and inestimable mutual benefactions. The wants of our British
cousins, already enormous, will rapidly increase. They grow,
not only with population, but also by an incessant diversion of
labor toward the most profitable employments. Our means of
supply are boundless. We have immense areas of fertile soils,
cheap, peculiarly fitted for the use of agricultural machinery,
and connected with the centres of foreign commerce by great
rivers, by vast inland seas, and by seventy-five thousand miles



i877-] THE INDIAN CORN SPEECH. 487

of railway. We have a sun in our heavens which, in the season
of agricultural growth, pours down daily floods of light and
warmth, making the earth prolific, giving abundance and va-
riety of fruits, assuring the wheat crop, yielding cotton in its
zone, and ripening Indian corn everywhere, even to the verge
of the farthest North.

I predict a great increase in the consumption of our corn by
Great Britain over the sixty million bushels which it reached
last year. It is the most natural and spontaneous of our cereal
products. Our present crop ought to be 1,500,000,000 bushels,
against 300,000,000 bushels of wheat. It is but little inferior
to wheat in nutritive power. It costs less than one half on the
seaboard, and much less than one half on the farm. It can
be cooked, by those who consent to learn how, into many deli-
cious forms of human food. Why should not the British work-
men have cheaper food ? Why should not our farmers have a
great market? Why should not our carriers have the trans-
portation ? Let us remember that commercial exchanges must
have some element of mutuality. Whoever obstructs the means
of payment obstructs also the facilities of sale. We must relax
our barbarous revenue system so as not to retard the natural
processes of trade. We must no longer legislate against the
wants of humanity and the beneficence of God.

The election now impending involves the choice of the State
officers, who compose the administrative boards. Governor
Robinson's administration has been characterized by incorrup-
tible integrity, by wisdom and ability, and by unswerving fidelity
to the reforms that have reduced the State taxes one half ; that
are rapidly extinguishing the State debt ; that have retrenched
two million five hundred thousand dollars a year of the ex-
penditures upon public works, and have purified our great
official trusts. He needs, and has a right to have, the cordial
co-operation of those officers who, in the government of the
United States and other systems, form the Cabinet of the Chief
Executive. In my judgment the gentlemen in nomination will
co-operate in the reform policy which I had the honor to in-



488 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDE 'N. [1877.

augurate, and which Governor Robinson is consummating. I
think that their election and the changes that will take place
from the constitutional amendments adopted in 1876 will give
him a more united support in the Canal Board than I was able
to receive during my administration. I have the more satis-
faction in avowing this conviction because I believe that any
nominations that did not promise such co-operation would be
disowned by the Democratic masses.

The election, although for State officers, has relations to
national politics to which I know you will expect me to re-
fer. The condemnation by the people of the greatest political
crime in our history, by which the result of the Presidential
election of 1876 was set aside and reversed, is general and
overwhelming.

[A Voice. We know you got robbed.]

I did not get robbed. The people got robbed. I had before
me on one side a course of laborious services, in which health
and even life might be perilled, and on the other a period of
relaxation and ease ; but to the people it was a robbery of the
dearest rights of American citizens. Her sister States might
afford to have the voice of New York frittered away or its
expression deferred. It could not change history ; it could
not alter the universal judgment of the civilized world ; it
could not avert the moral retribution that is impending.
But New York herself cannot afford to have her voice un-
heard. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights,
and the State Constitutions all contain assertions of the rieht

o

of the people to govern themselves and to change their rules
at will. These declarations had ceased to have any meaning
to the American mind ; they seemed to be truisms which
there was nobody to dispute. The contests known to us
were contests between different portions of our people. To
comprehend the significance of these declarations it is ne-
cessary to carry ourselves back to the examples of human
experience in view of which our ancestors acted. They had
seen the governmental machine and a small governmental



1877.] THE INDIAN CORN SPEECH. 489

class, sometimes with the aid of the army, able to rule arbi-
trarily over millions of unorganized, isolated atoms of human
society. In forming the government of the United States they
endeavored to take every precaution against the recurrence of
such evils in this country. They kept down the standing army
to a nominal amount. They intended to limit the functions of
the Federal Government so as to prevent the growth to dan-
gerous dimensions of an office-holding class and of corrupt
influences. They preserved the State governments as a counter-
poise to act as centres of opinion and as organized means of
resistance to revolutionary usurpation by the Federal Govern-
ment. Jefferson, the leader of liberal opinion, in his first
Inaugural recognized this theory ; Hamilton, the representa-
tive of the extreme conservative sentiment, in the " Federal-
ist" expounded it with elaborate arguments; Madison, the father
of the Constitution, enforced these conclusions. [A Voice,
" How about the returning board ?"] There were no returning
boards in those days. The people elected their own President,
and there were no Louisiana and Florida returning boards to
rob them of their rights.

The increase of power in the. Federal Government during
the last twenty years, the creation of a vast office-holding
class with its numerous dependents, and the growth of the
means of corrupt influence, have well nigh destroyed the bal-
ance of our complex system. It was my judgment in 1876
that public opinion, demanding a change of administration,
needed to embrace two thirds of the people at the beginning of
the canvass in order to cast a majority of votes at the election.
If this tendency is not arrested, its inevitable result will be the
practical destruction of our system. Let the Federal Govern-
ment grasp power over the great corporations of our country
and acquire the means of addressing their interests and their
fears ; let it take jurisdiction of riots which it is the duty of
the State to suppress ; let it find pretexts for increasing the
army, and soon those in possession of the government will
have a power with which no opposition can successfully com-



490 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. TILDEN. [1877.

pete. The experience of France under the Third Napoleon
shows that with elective forms and universal suffrage despot-
ism can be established and maintained.

In the canvass of 1876 the Federal Government embarked in
the contest with unscrupulous activity. A member of the Cabi-
net was the head of a partisan committee. Agents stood at
the doors of the pay-offices to exact contributions from official
subordinates. The whole office-holding class were made to
exhaust their power. Even the army, for the first time, to the
disgust of the soldiers and many of the officers, was moved
about the country as an electioneering instrument. All this
was done under the eye of the beneficiary of it, who was mak-
ing the air vocal with professions of civil-service reform, to
be begun after he had himself exhausted all the immoral ad-
vantages of civil-service abuses. Public opinion in some States
was overborne by corrupt influences and by fraud ; but so
strong was the desire for reform that the Democratic candi-
dates received 4,300,000 suffrages. This was a majority of the
popular vote of about 300,000, and of 1,250,000 of the white
citizens. It was a vote 700,000 larger than General Grant
received in 1872, and 1,300,000 larger than he received in
1868. For all that, the rightfully elected candidates of the
Democratic party were counted out, and a great fraud tri-
umphed, which the American people have not condoned, and
will never condone. Yes ! the crime will never be condoned,
and it never should be. I do not denounce the fraud as affect-
ing my personal interests, but because it stabbed the very foun-
dations of free government. Such a usurpation must never
occur again ; and I call upon you to unite with me in the de-
fence of our sacred and precious inheritance. The government
of the people must not be suffered to become only an empty
name.

The step from an extreme degree of corrupt abuses in the
elections to the subversion of the elective system itself is
natural. No sooner was the election over, than the whole
power of the office-holding class, led by a Cabinet minister,



1877.] THE INDIAN CORN SPEECH. 491

was exerted to procure, and did procure, from the State can-
vassers of two States illegal and fraudulent certificates, which
were made a pretext for a false count of the electoral votes.
To enable these officers to exercise the immoral courage neces-
sary to the parts assigned to them, and to relieve them from
the timidity which God has implanted in the human bosom as
a limit to criminal audacitv, detachments of the army were

*t t /

sent to afford -them shelter. The expedients by which the
votes of the electors chosen by the people of these two States
were rejected and the votes of the electors having the illegal
and fraudulent certificates were counted, and the menace of
usurpation by the President of the Senate of dictatorial power
over all the questions in controversy, and the menace of the
enforcement of his pretended authority by the army and navy,
the terrorism of the business classes, and the kindred measures
by which the false count was consummated, are known. The
result is the establishment of a precedent destructive of our
whole elective system. The temptation to those in possession
of the government to perpetuate their own power by similar
methods will always exist ; and if the example shall be sanc-
tioned by success, the succession of government in this country
will come to be determined by fraud or force, as it has been
in almost every other country, and the experience will be re-
produced here which has led to the general adoption of the
hereditary system in order to avoid confusion and civil war.

The magnitude of a political crime must be measured by its
natural and necessary consequences. Our great Republic has
been the only example in the world of a regular and orderly
transfer of governmental succession bv the elective system.

f *

To destroy the habit of traditionary respect for the will of the
people as declared through the electoral forms, and to exhibit
our institutions as a failure, is the greatest possible wrong to
our own country. It is also a heavy blow to the hopes of
patriots struggling to establish self-government in other coun-
tries. It is a greater crime against mankind than the usurpa-
tion of December 2, 1851, depicted by the illustrious pen of



492 THE WORKS OF SAMUEL J. T1LDEN. [1877.

Victor Hugo. The American people will not condone it under
any pretext or for any purpose.

Young men ! in the order of nature we who have guarded
the sacred traditions of our free government will soon leave
that work to you. Within the life of most who hear me our
Republic will embrace a hundred millions of people. Whether
its institutions shall be preserved in substance and in spirit as
well as in barren forms, and will continue to be a blessing to
the toiling millions here and a good example to mankind,
now everywhere seeking a larger share in the management of
their own affairs, will depend on you. Will you accomplish
that duty, and mark these wrong-doers of 1876 with the indig-
nation of a betrayed, wronged, and sacrificed people? I have
no personal feeling; but thinking how surely that example
will be followed if condoned, I can do no better than to
stand among you and do battle for the maintenance of free
government.

I avail myself of the occasion to thank you, and to thank all
in our State and country who have accorded to me their sup-
port, not personal to myself, but for the cause I have repre-
sented, which has embraced the largest and holiest interests of
humanity.



LX.



IN the fall of 1877, during a brief visit of the head of the
wealthy banking-house of J. S. Morgan & Co. to this coun-
try, his friends in New York tendered him the compliment of
a public dinner. Mr. Morgan had left the United States in
1854 to accept a position in the banking-house of the late
George Peabody, of which he soon became the most active part-
ner, and on Mr. Feabody's retirement the head. The prosperity
of the house was extraordinary, if not unexampled, while its
character was such as to exalt in the estimation of the Old
World the country and the profession it represents.

The gentlemen who united in this compliment to Mr. Mor-
gan, about a hundred in number, consisted largely of the
class of citizens of New York and neighboring States who had

o o

held more or less extensive business and social relations with
Mr. Morgan. The dinner was given at Delmonico's on Nov. 8,
1877, and Mr. Tilden was invited to preside. When the cloth
was removed, he rose, and presented the guest of the evening
to the audience in the following speech.



SPEECH AT THE DINNER GIVEN TO J. S. MORGAN.

IN this festive tribute to a gentleman who has become
eminent in the metropolis of Great Britain, offered by his
fellow-citizens in America, I am commissioned to propose a
single toast and to elicit a single speech ; and I am to make
some introductory suggestions calculated to awaken that native
eloquence which springs spontaneously to the lips of every
American.



Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 39 of 52)