Page images
PDF
EPUB

the second trial alone had occupied twen- all his procrastinating and lying statety-five days, one hundred witnesses had ments and his false documents. Even to been heard, a cartload of letters and doc- the last some refused to give up their faith uments had been read, and the counsel on in him, and said that their business was both sides had argued thirty-five hours. still in his hands. His position in the The testimony of some of Howard's vic church appeared to have a charm for tims was really touching in its manifesta- them, and to make a martyr of him. tion of the innocence and confidence with There seems to be no limit to the crewhich they had paid their hard-earned dulity of those who are the heaviest suflittle sums to him, and trustingly accepted ferers from this species of fraud.

H. Sidney Everett.

THE PRESIDENCY AND MR. REED.

THE approach of the presidential cam- to make sure, of a safeguard in the charpaign reminds every thoughtful man that acter and courage of the chief executive duties of a new kind in national politics against an inflation of the currency? have presented themselves. Tasks of ad- Shall we continue to extend the classified ministration now call for attention more civil service till it take in the most isoloudly than the old party tasks; and the lated postmaster and the remotest consuqualities of the President that we elect, lar agent? well for us to try our for the next term at least, are of greater presidential candidates by these tests beimportance than the political doctrines fore the nominating conventions meet, that we emphasize. Recent events have for afterwards we shall have but two to made this especially plain.

choose between, and these two, it is little Certain of the old problems that have comfort to reflect, may both be “convencome over from the immediate post-bel- tion accidents.” lum period yet engage us, – let us hope There is the greater reason, too, for a in their vanishing forms: such, for ex- critical estimate of candidates now, beample, as the tariff, - whether we shall cause the campaigns for the nominations keep the rates of duty as they are, or have been begun with all the old vulgar make them higher or lower; and the cur- self-assertion, as if the prime duties of rency, — whether we shall continue a the time did not call for a President of forced-loan form of it, and thereby per- whom office-seeking should be unthinkpetually encourage inflation. These, of able, and as if the time of sheer party course, are important problems that we tests had not gone by. There was a pehave not yet disposed of. But to these riod, of course, when party tests were are now added quite as serious and ur. perhaps the best tests, and when parties gent duties of a new kind, which impose were our most important political instruan unusual responsibility on the Presi- ments. Blunt and cumbersome as they dent, and which ought to put us in a were, they served fairly well for the main thoughtful mood as we approach the work in hand a generation ago. By party election ; for they are all administrative management we made sure of the results duties. Shall we be wisely bold or sim- of the war; and the party, being a sort ply reckless in our relations with other of army, was a convenient instrument governments ? Shall we make sure, as for the massing of opinion on contested experience has taught us that it is wise subjects during the reconstruction era

now

and after. It naturally took on military obliterated party is the party just then methods and even military nomenclature. in authority, and that obliteration is only Not unnaturally, too, the party was undu- another name for popular weariness of ly magnified, and almost overshadowed the latest performance. With their unthe government itself. And it is from erring discrimination between a real duty some of the evils of this very system that and a sham duty, the people know that we must now make our escape ; for even the parties no longer lay hold on the vital the presidency became part and parcel matter. They will soon see, if they do of the party, and thereby lost much of its not already see, that it is to the President proper use and dignity. So completely,

to executive officers, indeed, of indeed, was the chief executive merged all grades — that the conscience of the in the party that he came to be regarded nation looks for the next steps in politias its servant. The saying became cur

cal progress. rent that any respectable man would Moreover, we are far enough away make an acceptable President if he were from the time of party strife to see that loyal to his party. Thus a presidential the presidency was too lightly esteemed election came to have no meaning except during the whole period from Lincoln to as a contest between the parties. This Cleveland. If during this time we had degraded position of the executive office had Presidents who stood out from their falls so far short of the proper or his- party and somewhat above it, - if indeed toric conception of it that wonder is ex- there were men who could have done so, pressed at every election why this great we might have kept our politics on the civic act of choosing the head of the re- heroic level that we reached in the impublic is not more impressive. After an pulse to save the Union. We might at election, men congratulate one another least have kept political life up to the level for a day or two, or exchange good-na- of our every-day life ; for it is a shameful tured gibes, and go their way as if nothing thing that while we have so wonderfulancommon had happened. It necessari- ly added to the devices for comfort and ly follows, when the party obscures the multiplied the opportunities for growth, presidency, that we choose commonplace lifting the life of the people, and broadmen to the office.

ening it, and making it fuller than ever But if we are to make any real polit- before, our politics have constantly fallen ical progress, the relative position of the to a lower plane. Legislatures have departy and of the President in our polit- clined; municipal misgovernment has ical machinery must now be changed, if brought humiliation ; the spoilsman has not reversed. For the new duties are everywhere been active, if not everywhere not duties that the parties seem able to dominant; the inflationist, repeatedly retake up and perform; and for the lack buffed, has repeatedly risen ; and the deof their ability or willingness to take magogue has revived a forgotten part in hold on these new duties they have lost the Jingo. During this time we did actheir compactness. Every election re- complish the one large political task that veals more clearly their shifting bounda- we took in hand, for the South is again ries. One year one party is “obliter- an integral part of the Union.

But so ated;" two years later the other party long as we forgot our administrative duis “ obliterated ; ” and two years later ties in our party zeal, the whole tone still the first party is again “ obliter- of political life, when it did not become ated.” The stolid practitioners of poli- criminal, at least became commonplace. tics, who regard each obliteration as the And the measure of the lapse has been crack of doom or as a call to perpetual the decline of our executives, great and power, forget that on every occasion the small.

a

a

[ocr errors]

If, therefore, it were ever true that weak or perverse Presidents, one just be any respectable man who “has made no fore Lincoln and one just after him, we party enemies,” and who stands the test owe heavier burdens than can ever be of party loyalty, is a proper presidential computed. candidate, it is not true now. In fact it Of course we shall have further need was never true. No one can study the for parties ; and whether we need them work of the recent Congresses without or not, neither one of them is going reaching the conclusion that we have less really to suffer obliteration ; but before to fear if there be a resolute man in the another absorbing party conflict comes, White House, whichever party be domi- that party which is wise enough to use nant in Congress, than if either party be the present opportunity to magnify and dominant in Congress and we have not a strengthen the executive office and to courageous executive. The Fifty-First further administrative reforms will have Congress, which was Republican, in 1890 not only a tactical, but also a prodidallied with inflation instead of stran- gious moral advantage. But if we are gling it, and enacted the so-called Sher- asked this year to elect a man President man coinage law, which President Harri- merely because he is a Republican or son approved. Congress and President merely because he is a Democrat, we suffered, whether for this reason or not, may not make any advance at all; and an overwhelming defeat. A disastrous the party that nominates a man for no financial panic came inevitably; and the other reason than that he is a partisan Fifty-Third Congress, which was Demo- hero will show that it has no sense of cratic, was called in extra session in 1893 the present opportunity. on purpose to deal with the currency. Moreover, the presidential office conThe House reëlected to the speakership stantly becomes, by an accretion of rea free-coinage member, and repealed the sponsibilities, a more important office. silver-purchase clause of the mischievous The presidential functions continually act only under compulsion. The result get broader. The time is past, if it ever of the work of each Congress alike was was, when a man, simply because he is a that President Cleveland had to resort successful politician, can successfully fill to unusual measures to maintain the na- the post. For example, there has been tional credit. To the executive fell the a constantly widening range of activity duties that Congress had shirked. through the members of the Cabinet.

To back further, it is easy to show The secretaries have themselves become how the part played by the President has great administrators to an extent that always been a more important part than neither the public nor the politicians apmere party tests contemplate. It was preciate. When, for instance, under the President Jefferson, and not Congress or Postmaster - General there are 70,000 his party, that made the Louisiana pur- postmasters, to say nothing of the emchase. It was President Jackson, and ployees under these, and when there are not Congress or his party, that put down great tasks to be performed in increasing nullification. It was President Lincoln the efficiency of this service to a point that rose more quickly to every high oc- not yet reached or dreamed of, and especasion than Congress or even his party. cially when the reformation of this great It is to three post-bellum Presidents that branch of the service from the spoilsmen we owe vetoes of inflation bills ; and it is in the hands of the Postmaster-Gen. is to recent Presidents, rather than to eral; when the Secretary of the Interior Congress or to either party, that we owe has such far-reaching functions as are such progress as we have made in civil implied in our dealing with the Indians service reform. Contrariwise, to two and with such of the public lands as are

go

[ocr errors]

left; and when the importance even of ness for the presidency even of avowed the Secretary of Agriculture has become candidates is usually put off till it is too so great that it touches the whole rural late to affect the action of the nominatpopulation, — when these lesser Cabinet ing conventions. offices reach so far in their responsibilities and activities, the greater portfolios Of the conspicuous candidates for the are of correspondingly greater impor nomination of either party the earliest tance. The almost incalculable amount to begin his campaign was Mr. Thomas of scientific work conducted by the gov- B. Reed. Now Mr. Reed's career has ernment, a mere title catalogue of which not been a career directly to train him would fill a volume, is all more or less for the presidency. His experience has affected by the appreciation and the not been executive, except as the duties spirit of the executive and of the mem- of the speakership may be regarded as bers of the Cabinet. The Cabinet is a executive, as they are, of course ; but part of the executive machinery not even nevertheless they differ essentially from mentioned in the Constitution, which has the duties of the President. His pogrown now to the very first rank and litical life began in 1868 as a member value. A man of the widest culture and of the legislature of Maine, to the lower experience is required to diffuse a proper house of which he was twice elected, and spirit through this vast organism, the like to the upper house once ; then he became of which, in many respects, does not ex- attorney-general for the State, and afterist anywhere else. The sheer breadth wards solicitor of the city of Portland ; of the presidential function and influ- and in 1876 he was elected to Congress. ence has far outrun the anticipation of He has since been reëlected without interthe fathers and the necessities of any ruption, and at the end of his present preceding time.

term he will have served for twenty years. There is still another reason why a For nearly thirty years, therefore, he has mere party hero is no longer necessari- been continuously in the public service, ly an acceptable presidential candidate. and beyond doubt he has unusual talents There has been a specialization of execu- for public affairs. tive functions. Men are selected for He entered Congress after the period mayors of cities more and more fre- of the great reconstruction debates ; for quently by reason of their executive qual- in 1877, when he took his seat, the Deities, and less and less by reason of their mocrats had a majority in the House. party allegiance; and it is with increas- His congressional service, therefore, has ing frequency, we think, that governors

fallen within the later period of party of States are chosen from among the avail- skirmishing, a time of continuous clash, able men who have been mayors, or who for the most part on less important topics have had some such executive experience. than the great subjects of the first decade There is clearly such a thing as training after the war. In exercise of this sort he for high executive duties, and the increas- soon won distinction. Strongly partisan ing appreciation of this fact makes the and exceedingly quick at repartee, he has spoilsman's conception of the presidency every quality of an effective leader in a more and more absurd.

running party debate, and a leader he From whatever point of view we re- soon became. His practiced readiness gard the subject, therefore, the selection in condensed speech is remarkable, and of presidential candidates is one of the the epigram is his chief weapon. “A most important acts in the whole range statesman,” he recently said, " is a sucof our political duties; and it is unfor- cessful politician that is dead ;” and the tunate that serious discussion of the fit- sentiment as well as the saying is char

a

acteristic. When, as Speaker, he was Democratic minority, therefore, could
counting a quorum in the House, and technically absent themselves, and, un-
one angry Democrat strode down the less all the Republican members were
aisle exclaiming, “How do you know I present, balk the proceedings for lack of
am present?” Mr. Reed's reply was, a quorum. Technically, to absent one's
“ Does the gentleman deny that he is self it was necessary only to refuse to
present ? ” A prosy Democratic mem- answer when the roll was called. A
ber, in the course of a debate, once re- member could keep his seat in the House
marked that he would rather be right and yet be “ absent." This method of
than be President. “Do not be alarmed,” bringing the proceedings to a halt had
Mr. Reed replied, “ you will never be often been adopted, and had by use ac-
either.” This is not wit, but rather a quired a sort of legitimacy; and the
cleverness at retort, and eighteen years of Democratic minority proposed in this
continuous practice has given him great way to prevent objectionable legislation.
skill. By his impromptu performances, Common sense and public necessity de-
always courageously and often defiantly manded that some way be found out of
done, he rose to the leadership of his so absurd a predicament.
party in the House.

He did not rise by Mr. Reed was equal to the emergency, the part he took in the thorough discus- with a surplus of energy left over, insion of any great subject. Not more deed, which spent itself in unnecessary than half a dozen times in his whole and sometimes undignified comments congressional career has he made a set from the chair. In spite of precedents speech. Although Mr. Reed has accu- and in spite of the rules of the House, mulated much miscellaneous informa- he himself, as Speaker, counted a quorum tion, he seems not to have made himself and declared a quorum present. This master of any subject or group of sub- was common sense, at least, and, as Mr. jects. It has been wholly as a party Reed expressed it in a somewhat loose leader that he has risen above the rank phrase, it was also in accordance with and file. He has never identified him- the broad principles of parliamentary self with any great cause.

He has never law. Certainly it was a necessity. His set a moral force in motion. As a mem- error, if he committed any error, was, as ber of the Potter committee to investi- usual, an error of impetuosity. But his gate the presidential election of 1876, purpose was accomplished, and Congress he did one of his most conspicuous ser- was forever thereafter, no doubt, freed vices to his party, but his clever cross- from such an absurd system as had long questions were designed not so much to been in practice. It was a noteworthy bring out the historic truth concerning and courageous achievement, in every the election as to fasten upon the Demo- way characteristic of so well trained and cratic candidate the stigma of a thwarted determined a party leader. The stormiattempt to buy the office.

est sessions that had been held for many The leadership of his party in the years followed this bold action of the House naturally brought him election to Speaker. But he was imperturbable and the speakership when, in 1891, the Re- unswerving. publicans had a majority in the House. It is this achievement that not only It is on his career as Speaker that his made certain his second election as present prominence rests; and his great- Speaker, but has given the principal est achievement in the chair was the re- impetus to his candidacy for the presiformation that he made in congressional dential nomination ; for this resolute acprocedure. In this Congress the Repub- tion has, for the time at least, made him licans had only a small majority. The a party hero. Now, there is nothing in

[ocr errors]

a

« PreviousContinue »