Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/374

This page needs to be proofread.





THE McNAB AFFAIR IT IS unfortunate that AttorneyGeneral McReynolds' term of office should have opened with a blunder which, though not of such gravity as to prove his unfitness for office, tends to undermine confidence in the soundness of his judgment as the head of one of the great executive departments of the nation. His order to the District At torney at San Francisco to secure post ponement of certain trials was nothing worse than an indiscretion, and left his integrity no wise open to attack. If there were anything in Mr. Caminetti's desire to be present at the trial of his son suggestive of tampering with the courts we doubt whether any one would have been swifter than Mr. McReynolds to repel an improper influence of that kind. A delay of justice by no means signifies a miscarriage of justice, and the plan to hold up the cases for a time was innocent enough. What gave the affair an evil look was the suspicion that the operations of the Department of Justice may be subject to outside con trol by personal influences exerted in high official quarters. The inclination of a prosecuting official to grant harmless personal favors to friends or associates, while it may be innocent, will sooner or later make the official the passive in strument of an unintentional wrong, and needs to be suppressed as presenting a serious and continuous public danger. That Mr. McReynolds would again


commit a like discretion is . not alto gether probable. He must, however, if he continues in office, vindicate his judgment against the charge of weak ness which has been incurred as the result of his conduct in this affair. All sorts of intemperate statements have been made in the public press denounc ing Mr. McReynolds as unfit for office and calling for his resignation. Mr. McReynolds' position is precisely that of a new employee who has started with a blunder, but whose blunder may be forgiven if his subsequent conduct is such as to prove himself entitled to the confidence of his employer in his ability. If Mr. McReynolds resigns, his resigna tion will come without a fair test of his unfitness for the office he holds. Politi cal expediency should not be permitted to dictate the proper course in this respect; it is solely a matter of sound organization of the Government service in accordance with the same principles that would prevail in any well managed private business. The McNab affair, like the Marconi affair in England, has been seized upon by partisan opponents of the Govern ment as a convenient basis for intem perate criticisms which shamefully dis tort actual facts. Neither the AttorneyGeneral of the United States nor the Attorney-General of England has acted in a manner which reflects upon his per sonal honor. That partisan rancor must have had something to do with Mr. McNab's inexcusable attack on his