« PreviousContinue »
sponsibility" in the name of justice, if not in the name of the
I wish I were permitted to tell you of the trip of Mr. Purvis to Europe, as he relates it himself; it is as rich a narrative as ever was printed, a story that would read well in the light of the providential changes he has lived to enjoy. Perhaps some day I may add his interesting experience to these hurried
THE DEAD-HEADS OF THE LIVING AGE.
WHEN General Washington rode in his carriage from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia, and took the best part of a week to it, and John Randolph cantered down dusty or muddy Pennsylvania Avenue, with his boy Juba following; and Mrs. John Adams got lost in the woods between York and Baltimore, on her way to assume her post of mistress of a half-finished White House, did they ever think of an age when people would breakfast in New York and on the same day dine in Washington (two hundred and forty miles away); when they could travel from Georgetown to the Navy Yard in Washington in elegant cars, over an iron road, for five cents; and when a message that could not be conveyed from Washington to New Orleans in less than a month would be flashed a distance of two thousand miles in a few seconds? These old-fashioned people also paid the expenses of their own passage. The stage-coaches of their day did not hold more than nine or ten inside and two on the box with the driver, and the proprietors could not afford to be generous, and, indeed, few expected it. But in this era. of railroads and telegraphs, to get a valuable thing for nothing has become not only a fashion, but a passion. Hence the word "dead-head" has grown deep into our American language, and
has a varied definition. And, what is strangest of all, it is applied without opprobrium to many who would shrink from it had it not been coined into a custom.
Every meeting of a new Congress, polite gentlemen are seen quietly distributing cards to the more than three hundred Solons who make our laws. These are free passes over six or seven thousand miles of railroads, often including palace-cars, sleeping-coaches, and sometimes meals and beds in the floating hotels on the Mississippi and the North River. So universal had this business become that at last very few refused them. Even the five-cent fares on the city railroads are saved to these poverty-stricken statesmen! Imagine John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson travelling free to save half a dime!
And what is the darkest view of this subject is the fact that most of the great men who take and use these gratuities also vote for and receive mileage for travelling that costs them nothing!
The new Constitution of Pennsylvania contains the following:
Section 8 of Article XVII.-"No railroad, railway, or other transportation company shall grant free passes, or passes at a discount, to any person except officers or employés of the company."
An officer of a great railroad told me last week that he regretted this section could not be made to extend to the States through which his line runs, as it would save a great deal of annoyance. "I must supply four legislatures and their dependents with annual passes, and I cannot describe to you what a nuisance it is."
The system is of modern, and almost entirely, I think, of American, growth. All the legislatures of our thirty-seven States and our nine Territories, the various city councils and commissions, the chief office-holders (National and State), most of the clergy, the hotel-keepers, the politicians of both parties, the theatrical managers, and the newspapers and the maga
zines (from the daily to the weekly, from the monthly to the quarterly) have been "dead-heads," and most of them are so to this day. And this vast army is supplemented by another army who base their demand for free passes on a variety of pretexts, generally that of friendship for the special company or its officers, or influence with Congress and the State legislatures, or connection with editors; and, what is the almost exceptionless rule, the favor goes generally to those who are able to pay, and rarely to the poor and the needy.
The practice suggests many reflections, none of them agreeable. It is a principle as old as the stars that every favor accepted is a debt incurred, to be repaid in some way. I have deplored the practice, and, though using my privileges as a journalist, have done my best to induce the men of my profession to unite against it. At one Editorial Convention-I think before the war-we passed a resolution to this effect; but soon found it impossible to make ourselves an exception. To the eternal honor of the newspaper-men of Pennsylvania, their late stand in favor of the new Constitution made it invincible; and nothing met their sanction more fully than the section cutting off free passes. To many of them it was a serious sacrifice; but all felt that if the system were permitted to go on, it must end in the disgrace of those who sanctioned or tolerated it. I have only hinted at the abuses that have grown up under it. It had become with us in Pennsylvania something more than a nuisance, and the Convention did wisely in closing it out. It was a potent weapon of corporate corruption in public and even in private life; and, though an attempt is making to employ it in defiance of the Constitution, it must die under the contempt of the people. "Pay as you go" was the remark of the Virginia Congressman when he put down his share of a bounty bill which he opposed. "I will contribute my portion," he said; "but I will not take from others that which does not belong to me." What more right have I to a
free pass than my neighbor? Why should a rich Senator evade his five-cent fare and the poor man at his side be forced to pay? More than once I have seen a wounded and broken soldier buying his ticket with a self-reproach that he ought to be passed gratis, and not I. Treat this subject in any way, and the conclusion must be the same. Whenever a man accepts a favor for which he has given no equivalent, especially from a corporation, he will feel, if he has any sensibility, that he is under bonds, and will not dare to refuse repayment, no matter how harsh the terms. The lavish diffusion of these passes is proof at once of the vast resources and far-reaching designs of organized capital and corporate power.
PARTISANS ON THE SUPREME BENCH OF THE UNITED STATES. -TANEY, CHASE, MCLEAN, JOHN A. CAMPBELL, CLIFFORD, FIELD, AND STRONG.-ASSAULT ON THE LOYALTY OF CALEB CUSHING.
A JUSTICE of the Supreme Court of the United States is generally a venerated as well as a venerable personage. I remember Chief-justice Taney very well. A bowed, lean figure; a sharp, keen face, with sunken eyes-he sat in his black gown like a skeleton in a shroud; and yet, to the hour of his retirement, the light of his intellect shone clear through his shattered frame, and the greatest men of the law and of the land bent in humility before his impartial and passionless example. I saw him administer the oath to Mr. Lincoln, March 4, 1861. It was a bright and beautiful day; but the atmosphere was full of treachery and war. There was James Buchanan, almost as white as his own white cravat; Judge Douglas, eager to hear the first words of the new President; the new Cabinet, headed by
Seward and Chase; Senator Sumner, with the young Marquis de Chambrun, just arrived from Paris with his bride, the greatgranddaughter of General Lafayette; the venerable General Scott and his staff; the foreign legations, Senators and Representatives, and members of the Supreme Court. The feeble Chief-justice added dignity to the occasion by his presence; and, no doubt, as he recalled the former inaugurations of Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, to all of whom he had administered the solemn oath, he thought of the iron warrior who had fought him into the Chief-justiceship, March, 1836, after he had been twice rejected by the Senate, once for Secretary of the Treasury, and again as Associate-justice of the Supreme Court. Several of the associate-justices were fine-looking men. Robert C. Grier, of Pennsylvania, with his broad brow and Scotch face, his white hair and gold spectacles, a fine impersonation of judicial dignity; Samuel Nelson, of New York, even more imposing. No man bore his years with such grace as this amiable jurist. Nathan Clifford, of Maine-tall and portly, yet signally fitted in manner and form for his place. These-with Wayne, of Georgia, and Catron, of Tennessee; Daniel, of Virginia, and Campbell, of Alabama-were all Democrats. The Republicans had not a man on the bench except John McLean, of Ohio, who was appointed by President Jackson, March 7, 1829, and died at Cincinnati, April 4, 1861. At the next inauguration, March 4, 1865, the oath was administered by Salmon P. Chase. Four of those present in 1861 had died or retired, and oneJohn A. Campbell, of Alabama, an able lawyer and a violent Confederate-resigned and entered the Rebellion, now back as a pardoned practitioner before the court of which he was a member. The new men around Lincoln in 1865 were Salmon P. Chase, and Noah H. Swayne, of Ohio; Samuel F. Miller, of Iowa; David Davis, of Illinois; and Stephen J. Field, of California-all Republicans at the start. Grier and Nelson