Imágenes de página

privilege came the Senators, to whom their constitutional power, as well as the special prestige attaching to their capacity of representatives of sovereign States, gave more influence. They regularly took in hand the distribution of offices in their States. If the district was represented in the popular branch of Congress by a member of the party in power, it was he who disposed of the offices to be given away in that district; if not, they reverted to the Senators (or the single Senator of the party in power, if the second Senator belonged to the opposition); the higher offices of the State fell in any event to its Senators, whose decision was final. The Senate, which, under the terms of the Constitution, was entrusted with the duty of confirming by a majority the important presidential appointments, had admitted, by the unwritten law of the “courtesy of the Senate,” the exclusive right of the Senators of each State to approve or reject the proposals of the President relating to their State; consequently all the other Senators concurred with their colleague without looking into the case. This procedure being a settled thing, the President made himself ridiculous if he ignored the recommendations of the Senators; it was better to accept them with a good grace, that is to say, send to the Senate only lists submitted beforehand by the Senators interested. In practice this state of affairs admitted of a good many exceptions, but, generally speaking, it amounted to the President having the signature and the Senator the choice. When this result was achieved, the Machine and the spoils' system entered on a new phase; from more or less disguised plunder, the division of the spoils became a sort of public service, in which the Senator, as leader or representative of the local Machine, was made, as it were, receiver and paymaster general for the State, with district receivers in the persons of his lieutenants. Thus all the threads of the extraconstitutional party organizations converged in the Senate of the United States; this citadel of the Constitution became their nervous centre.


Such was the situation when Grant took up his abode in the White House. His immense prestige, and the unbounded confidence of the Republican masses who had carried him into power, could do nothing against it. After a few half-hearted attempts at resistance, he became its accomplice. Public opinion being drugged, as it were, the executive reduced to impotence, and the legislative captured by the Organization, the latter came out all the more boldly; it allowed freer scope than ever to the mercenary contingents which filled its ranks, and started on a new era of scandals and corruption in public life, which recalled and surpassed the worst days of Jackson. The practices of rotation and division of the spoils were never before carried to such a pitch. The heads of the departments, with a few highly honourable exceptions, handed them over to the Organization of the party. To provide places for its creatures, a clean sweep of officials was carried out, amid a hurricane of intrigue and delation." The degradation of the public service, which was very considerable before Grant, reached its height. Filled with men who were often disreputable and incompetent, it became a veritable hot-bed of corruption. The shameless nepotism in which the President himself, honest as he was, indulged, and the pernicious influence of those about him, to which he was amenable, contributed not a little to this result, but the greater part of it was due to the Organization, whose sole anxiety was to put its own men in office and screen them to the utmost of its power. It was under the ægis of the Organization, when not with the connivance or the complicity of its representatives, that the traffic in public functions, the waste of public money, the frauds in the collection of the government revenue, which marked Grant's Presidency, were committed, especially during his second term. Never did the government show its intimacy with the wire-pullers more openly. Generally they had kept behind the scenes, formed “kitchen cabinets." Now the foremost dignitary of the Caucus, the Chairman of the National Committee, Mr. Chandler, publicly combined this post with that of Secretary of the Interior, and it was not to this latter that he gave the best of his time and energy

1 The terms in which contemporaries refer to this are almost identical with the language quoted above, describing the reign of terror in the departments at Washington after the advent to power of Jackson. * Every clerk,” said a writer six months after Grant's accession, “distrusted his neighbor, and the air of the Treasury, which in ordinary times is not altogether pure, now seemed heavy with the whisper of delators. The new administration began its career by creating or encouraging in its service the same system of spies and secret denunciation which is usually charged as the crowning disgrace of an absolute despotism" (North American Review, October, 1869, p. 455, “Civil Service Reform”).

As we have seen, the administration even placed the military at the disposal of the Organization, in the South, to “strengthen the party.” The government shielded the Organization, and the latter did the same for the government. At the expiration of Grant's first term all the State conventions rose for him as one man, and in the national convention he was renominated unanimously.

And public opinion, in the main, did not protest; it made no sign, hypnotized by the imaginary dangers which threatened the Union from the “rebel” South. “Men went on fearing the dead lions of secession and slavery more than the living dogs of political corruption."1 With Grant in power, people were at all events sure that the order of things established by his victories would not be impugned; and then, business was not bad, money was easily made. This attitude of public opinion, half anxious and half indifferent, allowed the influence of the Machine in the party to take the form of a regular despotism, although it was becoming less and less representative of the party. The official party shed from head to foot the eminent or merely disinterested citizens, who, after having been brought into the field by the great slavery crisis, returned peaceably to their homes, or, which was the case with a small élite, openly broke with the official party, sickened by the scandals which it exhibited. The most high-minded and illustrious of the Republican leaders, the Charles Sumners, the Schurzs, the Trumbulls, the Cabinet ministers who were honest and opposed to the Machine, the Coxes, the Hoars, the Bristows, withdrew or were thrust on one side by the clique which surrounded Grant. The official party divested itself of everything that resembled principles, ideas, or ideals, and left the Organization only the mercenary element. Towards the close of Grant's second Presidency the separation of this element represented by the Machine from the great mass of

1 Geo. S. Merriam, The Life and Times of Samuel Bowles, N. Y., 1885, Vol. II, p. 87.

the adherents of the party who met only on the day of the eiections to cast a common vote, appeared complete.

Grant's successor, Hayes, who got in at the national convention as a dark horse, proved a thoroughly honest man. Accepting the presidential nomination, he declared himself an opponent of the spoils' system: "It ought to be abolished. The reform should be thorough, radical, and complete.” Promising to “use all the constitutional powers conferred on the executive to pass this reform," and holding that it might be "best accomplished by an executive who is under no temptation to use the patronage of his office to promote his own re-election,” he announced beforehand that he would not be a candidate for a second term. Hayes was elected (in 1876), and set to work resolutely to carry out his promises. But thereupon most of the leaders of the party which brought him into power, the managers of the Organization, rose up against him. During the election campaign they had fought for him without formally endorsing his programme; they made no comment on his protests and promises, considering them perhaps as a good bait for catching the votes of the credulous. But when they saw that the President was in earnest, their state of mind was one of stupefaction and revolt. Hayes tried to strike at the corrupt officials, imposed and supported by the Caucus, and to bring about a formal separation of the officeholders from the Organization, which was full of them. put an end to the scandalous promiscuity existing between the two, he passed an order forbidding federal office-holders to take part in the management of political organizations, caucuses, conventions, or election campaigns. The Machine took up this order as a challenge, and its trusty friends, three leading officials in New York, seriously compromised in the corrupt practices of which this city was a hotbed, and reduced thereby to the alternative of resignation or dismissal, had the audacity to openly defy the President. They got themselves elected delegates to the State convention, and one of them, Mr. Cornell, even procured his appointment to the most militant post in the Organization, that of Chairman of the State Committee. Hayes was forbearing enough to offer these rebellious officials compensation if they would give up the offices in which they had compromised themselves. After waiting in vain for their resignations, he dismissed them. But for the appointment of their successors the President was obliged, under the Constitution, to obtain the consent of the Senate, and it was there that the men of the Machine were on the lookout for him. At the instigation of the head of the Organization of New York and Senator of this State, Roscoe Conkling, who had stirred up the revolt against the presidential order there, the Senate, of which he was one of the most influential leaders, rejected the presidential nominations. The dismissed officials remained in office, under the law passed by Congress at the time of its conflict with Johnson, which had deprived the President of the absolute right of dismissal of officials appointed with the confirmation of the Senate. In the next session of Congress Hayes sent up his candidates again, to meet with a fresh rejection, and it was not till the third session, after more than a year of private negotiation with Senators, and humble entreaties, that the administration succeeded, and even then thanks to the help of Democratic Senators, in definitively getting rid of the three unfaithful New York officials. Hayes lost heart and began to give way. Making use of his constitutional right of veto he still struggled with the Senate, in which, moreover, his party was no longer in a majority, but he did not succeed in purifying the public service and in freeing the executive from the power of the Machine; he submitted to it, though with somewhat less docility. For one good appointment he made two bad ones, under the pressure exercised by it. During his administration there were far fewer scandals than under Grant; the behaviour of the Organization became more decent. The most sympathetic judges claimed that "the oil of the Machine was of a better quality and had no offensive odor,”? but they could not gainsay the stubborn fact that the Machine was still in full swing. And then, it must in fairness be added that Hayes himself brought fuel to it by rewarding the services rendered to him at the presidential election, which had been so hotly contested, although he had not bargained with the agents of

1 See the letters of the Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman, to the Senators Allison and J. Morill, quoted in The Last Quarter Century in the United States, by E. B. Andrews, Lond., 1897, Vol. I, p. 246.

Nation, Vol. XXVI, p. 164.


« AnteriorContinuar »