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Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz/Senator Hoar for the Defense

< Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz


THE friends of Mr. Blaine have at last seen the folly of attempting to persuade Republicans by praising the Republican party and denouncing the Democratic party to support a Presidential candidate whom they hold to be unworthy. Such Republicans have praised one party and denounced the other quite as warmly as their fellow Republicans who propose to vote for Mr. Blaine. But the higher the standard of official conduct and of party principle and character is raised, the more difficult it is to show them that for the sake of the party they ought to do something which in their judgment is entirely unworthy of the party. All the Blaine speeches, therefore, for the first three months of the campaign were totally futile to win or to drive back protesting Republicans, and at last the Blaine advocates begin to treat the real question, the official conduct of Mr. Blaine when Speaker. But they speak only to show how wise was their silence, for their reluctant and unwilling explanations do not explain. It may be safely assumed that Senator Hoar's letter is the best defense that can be made for Mr. Blaine's railway transactions. The Senator undertakes to traverse the speech of Mr. Schurz at Brooklyn. But in a cogent reply Mr. Schurz has conclusively disposed of the Senator's defense. He shows from Mr. Blaine's own letters and from undisputed facts the inaccuracy of Senator Hoar's statements, and he points out the extraordinary character of the Senator's ethics.

Thus Mr. Blaine's repeated and persistent reminder to Caldwell and Fisher that his ruling had virtually saved the road — a reminder which was renewed and reiterated for the purpose of aiding him in obtaining a pecuniary interest in the speculation — Mr. Hoar treats as a perfectly natural and casual allusion to an interesting coincidence. Casual allusions to interesting coincidences are never suspicious, and require no demonstration. But persistent references to past official action as inducement for pecuniary favors are not casual allusions. They are intimations of a kind which Senator Hoar would no more give with the purpose of private gain that he would do any other discreditable act. As Mr. Schurz truly says:

“When the Speaker says to a railroad man, ‘I rendered you and your road in a perfectly proper way a great favor, and I am glad I did it,’ that is one thing. But when the Speaker says to the railroad man, ‘I did you such and such a service by the exercise of my power, and now I want you to give me a valuable interest in your enterprise; I know I am not going to be a dead-head in it, and I see various channels in which I can be useful’ — is not that quite another thing? But that is just what Mr. Blaine did.”

Senator Hoar also says that “Mr. Blaine is not charged with any corrupt, improper, or wrong act whatever.” This is a curious misapprehension, or a very singular use of words. How does Mr. Schurz in his speech put the case?

“Here we find the Speaker of the House of Representatives in a business-like way participating and urgently asking for a greater share in larger enterprises, the pecuniary success of which is in a great measure dependent on the action of the same House over which he presides, and in which he wields great power — for the purpose of getting rich. We find him pointing out the exercise of his official power as a channel in which he already has made himself useful, and consequently can make himself more useful, in order to obtain more of a valuable interest in such an enterprise, thus literally trading upon his official trust and opportunities. To cover up these things we find him resorting to all sorts of barefaced untruths, deceptions, and concealments on the most solemn occasions. The concealments resorted to, and the side perspectives opened by the official investigation, are fully sufficient to justify the inference that the case disclosed is only one of many. We find that he did get rich while in office, without any other regular business. His most devoted friend publicly admits his fortune to be about half a million, while the estimates of others go far beyond that. But the lowest estimate, half a million, is wealth not only to any one starting with nothing, but to all of our countrymen except a few. This is the character of the case.”

Is there no improper or wrong act here? Is not such conduct in the strictest sense an act, and can it be truly said that to be charged with such conduct is not to be accused of wrongful acts? The Speaker's conduct is to be judged by the whole of it, and by all the circumstances. Senator Hoar's view is that it was “simple, natural, and honest.” The Senator is capable of bitter sarcasm. Are the misstatements of the speech of April 24, the excited apprehension about the letters, the seizure and retention of them in violation of a pledge, the circumstances of reading them, the trick of the Caldwell telegram, the refusal to show the letters, the failure to insist upon the completion of the investigation, all “simple, honest, and natural”? Was the conduct of Mr. Blaine throughout the whole affair that of a man consciously innocent, and anxious that everything should be known, or that of a man desperately determined that everything should not be known? We advise every voter in the land, young or old, to read together Mr. Schurz's speech, Senator Hoar's reply, and Mr. Schurz's answer. They will then understand why so many Republicans refuse to vote for Mr. Blaine, and they will see the best defense that the most honest of Republicans can make for him. Senator Hoar, however, as if conscious that his defense does not really defend, adds to it a plea to vote for Mr. Blaine in order to support the party. But if his defense is satisfactory to any Independent Republican voter, this plea is unnecessary, because if such a voter's objections to the candidate are removed, he will, of course, vote for him. If they are not removed, the party plea is futile, because it is simply an exhortation to support the candidate because of the party. If the question were merely of personal preference, this plea would be good. But as a plea to support a candidate whom the voter believes to have “marketed his official power for private gain,” the reply to it is that of the Massachusetts Republican Convention of 1879, that the duty of party men to support a nomination is reciprocal with that of party Conventions to make nominations fit to be supported.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).