The autobiography of a Pennsylvanian/07 Reformer
THE prevailing sentiment in Chester County during the time of my early life there was that it was the duty of all men to show an interest and even to participate in the management of public affairs. Many of the youths about to enter upon the struggles that confronted them had some ambition in the direction of seeking public station. In any event, they had a real concern for, and earnestly discussed the acts and the merits of officials, whether executive or representative. As one of them I saw, or thought that I saw, much that needed improvement and I was altogether ready to take hold somewhere and make an effort to have the evils which afflicted the administration of public affairs corrected. My experience had not been sufficient, nor was my philosophy subtle enough, to enable me to see that while there is much in the conduct of men that is imperfect, such imperfection is at least as great among those who narrate and comment as among those who do the work of the world. What appeared in print was accepted as the truth, and there my reasoning began. It needed to go much deeper. The feeling in the county was very antagonistic to Simon Cameron, who was then a controlling factor in the Republican party in the state, and with that feeling the members of my own family, which for over half a century had been active in county affairs, were in entire accord. I regarded him as a malign influence which was, through the efforts of those imbued with a due regard for the public welfare, to be in some way or other overcome. The entire line of this political thought was that a Democrat was an obnoxious person who had been helping his friends in a wicked attempt to destroy the government, and in order that he might be continuously and forever repressed it was necessary to purify the Republican party by the elimination of Cameron and of those in combination with him.
Later I went to the city. In the boarding house on the north side of Chestnut Street below Fifth there boarded a man named O. G. Hempstead who had been appointed from some interior county to a position in the custom house, nearly opposite. Later he grew into a large business connected with importations, and his sons are prosperous. On one occasion Hempstead had me appointed a clerk of a precinct election board at which I earned five dollars and started me on my official career. Afterward, taking rooms on Eighth Street below Walnut and becoming a resident of the first division of the Eighth ward of the city, I sought the opportunity to participate in its local affairs. John C. Martin, member of common council, a native of Maryland, partially paralyzed, keen, bright and active, was the ward leader of the Republican party, and he lived in the same precinct. I was fortunate enough to get into his good graces, although we had a superabundant supply of ambition and capacity. Among those taking an active part were: A. E. Smith, a small contractor, whose sons I believe have made fortunes out of the business as it extended; and Charles A. Porter, who had lately arrived from Ohio, barefooted and penniless, and by doing little chores around the house of a fire engine company, had found there a place to sleep. Later he acquired a fortune, bought an expensive house on North Broad Street, secured extensive contracts for sewers and reservoirs, developed into a power in the politics of the city and state and became a member of the state senate.
Charles H. T. Collis had just returned from the war. An office boy in the office of John M. Read, who became Chief Justice, that influential gentleman made a pet of him and advanced his fortunes. Collis took a regiment of zouaves into the war and became a brigadier-general. Such a condition of things always arouses envy and opposition, and Collis was ever followed by the stories of incapacity and even of lack of courage. I do not believe any of them. He suffered from the disadvantages of a man who pursues fortune too eagerly and he was not always equipped, but he had energy and alertness and I have seen him display a brave spirit where it was required. He became city solicitor for Philadelphia, married a beautiful woman and removed to New York. I wrote the pronunciamentos, served on the election board, became a member of the Executive Committee for the ward, went to the judicial convention and voted for the nomination of James T. Mitchell when first he became a judge, and in 1868 I was elected a member of the school board.
Turbulence very often marked the political struggles. On one occasion a contest arose at the primary election over the selection of delegates to the nominating conventions, the chief controversy being over the naming of a sheriff. Collis was on the regular ticket as a delegate to this convention and it was arranged that I should go to the convention to nominate a city solicitor. Just before the polls closed a man came up to the window to vote; while the clerk was looking up his name, he reached in through the window, seized the ballot box and ran with it down the street and scattered the ballots in the gutters for two squares. It was done very suddenly; his friends stood in the way to block pursuit and he succeeded in escaping. He left an angry lot of politicians around the polls. We went to a neighboring tavern, I drew up a lot of affidavits to the effect that in our judgment we had a large majority of the votes cast, and upon these credentials we secured our seats in the conventions. A little fellow, hardlj^ larger than a dwarf, with a squeaky voice, named Robert Renshaw, and who was always called the “Colonel,” had a room in the Press Building, where he slept. His appearance, claiming the right to vote, was always the signal for an outbreak, but he had more pluck than strength and could not be driven away.
In 1875, with my mother, wife and two children, I went to live at 1540 North Fifteenth Street, in the Twenty-ninth ward, and this continued to be my home for the next twenty-seven years. At this time the ward leader was Hamilton Disston, and a young man named William U. Moyer represented him in all active movements. Again I went to the executive committee. Once I broached the subject of going to councils, and Moyer said it would suit him very well, but I would have to arrange the matter with Disston This did not suit me, since I had no thought of belonging to anybody there. I dropped the subject and every day grew more independent. Nelson F. Evans, a very worthy man with Calvinistic tendencies, president of a bank, who a few years later went to prison for the technical violation of some statute, Major William H. Lambert, the Philadelphia representative of the New York Mutual Life Insurance Company, with myself and some others, undertook to revolutionize the precinct. We hired a hall, notified every Republican, held a meeting which was largely attended and selected a ticket. For a time it looked as though we would succeed, but we failed at the last moment through the better discipline of our opponents and the superior practical knowledge which comes with it. The evening of the primary election turned out to be cold, and blasts of snow filled the air. The well-to-do citizens upon whom we relied sat at home by their fires in comfort. Their servants rode in carriages, hired by the more shrewd regulars, to the polls and voted against us. However, we caused anxiety and almost won.
About this time the preliminary symptoms were disclosed of a concerted effort upon the part of those in control of the Republican party to continue General Grant in the presidency after the expiration of his eight years of service in that office. I had never been very enthusiastic in my admiration for Grant, although recognizing his great force of character; as a general his campaigns displayed more resolution than military skill. His ultimate great success depended upon the fact that Meade had delivered the crushing blow to the main army of the rebels at Gettysburg. His unjust use of the power of the presidency to elevate Sheridan, with much less achievement, to the head of the army over Meade was probably influenced by his recognition of that fact. His conduct of the presidential office was coarse, and it seemed to me that with his temperament and the hold which his military achievement gave him upon the minds of the people and his willingness to continue in the office indefinitely, he was dangerous to the institutions of the country. In February, 1880, there was organized in Philadelphia a movement with the imposing title of “The National Republican League.” William Rotch Wister, a distinguished lawyer, was chairman; Charles Wheeler, of the wealthy iron firm of Morris, Wheeler & Co., whose daughter later married a Japanese and went to Japan to live, was the treasurer; and Hampton L. Carson, later Attorney General for the Commonwealth, was the secretary; Wharton Barker, a banker, then supposed to be worth a million dollars; John McLaughlin; Henry C. Lea, the famous historian; Samuel W. Pennypacker; T. Morris Perot; Wayne MacVeagh, who reaped reward from the movement; Joseph G. Rosengarten, a man of letters, whose family gathered a fortune from quinine; E. Dunbar Lockwood, a worthy man in a chronic attitude of criticism, and J. Lapsley Wilson, constituted the executive committee. They sent an address signed by about one hundred and fifty influential citizens to the State Convention which contained this patent threat: “We, therefore, beg of you so to act that the influence of the great State of Pennsylvania may be thrown in favor of one who can be conscientiously supported and against those whom the honest voter may feel himself obliged to oppose at the polls.” There was wide comment upon this address and attitude over the country. So far as I know, all of these men had burned their bridges and would have voted against Grant had he been nominated for a third term. In a second circular the demands of the League were expressed in the phrase, “No third term, a party without a master, and a candidate without a stain” — language due to MacVeagh. In a third circular the name of McManes of Philadelphia was mentioned in association with that of Tweed of New York, who not long before had been sent to prison.
James McManes, a thrifty, capable and vigorous Irishman, who accumulated a large fortune in street railways, was then at the head of the Republican organization in Philadelphia. He was an absolute autocrat, who tolerated no difference in opinion in the ranks. The use of the word “boss,” which has since become so prevalent in America, began with this circular and was the discovery of Henry C. Lea. McManes was the leading character in a book entitled Solid for Mulhooly, which was widely read and ran through several editions. McManes, who naturally did not appreciate this notoriety, meeting with E. Dunbar Lockwood at The Union League a few days after the issue of the circular, proceeded to give him a thrashing, upon the theory that he was the author. It was a case, however, of vicarious sacrifice. The circular was written by Henry C. Lea, with some emendations by me, and the reference to McManes was the work of Lea.
In May, a few weeks later, the League, becoming more decided as time passed, determined that they “will not vote under any circumstances for General Grant, but will support any other nominee of the convention,” and that a delegation should be sent to the nominating convention at Chicago. Those selected were Wharton Barker, Wayne MacVeagh, T. Morris Perot, John McLaughlin, Edward R. Wood, Stuart Wood, Hampton L. Carson, Samuel W. Pennypacker, Henry Reed and Rudolph Blankenburg. Though they were in dead earnest, with the possible exception of MacVeagh, the real directive force was Barker, a not altogether wise, but sincere and vigorous personality, up to that time in every way successful and ambitious to do some broad and important work. He had been corresponding for several years with James A. Garfield, of Ohio, about the tariff, had often told me that Garfield was the man to be next elected to the presidency, and he started out with the expressed and determined purpose to use every effort in this direction. With this view MacVeagh was not in accord. At this time there was a banking firm in Hazleton, Pa., doing business as Pardee, Markle & Grier, in which Ario Pardee, the millionaire, supplied most of the capital and W. A. M. Grier was the active partner. Through the advice of Barker, with whom his firm had many transactions, Grier had become a client of mine. He had been elected a delegate to the National Convention, and we both did all we could to persuade him to vote for Garfield. We went to Chicago in a style likely to make some impression. We had a special car and all of the concomitants. Others on their way to Chicago, learning that we were comfortable, came into our car to spend their time in our company and enabled us to proselyte. Among them were Robert G. Ingersoll, big, good-hearted and jovial, and Stewart L. Woodford, then District Attorney for New York and afterward Minister to Spain. Ingersoll was opposed to a third term, but Woodford necessarily favored the nomination of Grant. Woodford, being in the camp of the enemy, was inclined to be silent.
“Come, cheer up, man,” said Ingersoll. “Don't be so solemn.”
“I am not all the while making a noise,” was the reply.
“Oh,” said Ingersoll, “you remind me of the old farmer who loaded up a pig and a sheep to take to market. The sheep went along quietly, but the pig kept up such a squeaking that the farmer got angry. Finally he said to the pig, “Look at that sheep, see how nicely he goes along.” “Yes,” said the pig, “but the damned fool don't know where he is going.”
The application to Woodford's course was pointed.
Whether or not it can be claimed for any man that he brought about the nomination of the President of the United States, that result always being the outcome of the play of forces in existence at the time, certain it is that while three hundred and six stalwarts stood by Grant to the end, Grier began to vote for Garfield on the second ballot and continued until over a hundred had been cast and until the convention accepted that candidate. In a published interview, a day or two later, he said that Barker “had as much to do as any other individual in bringing about the nomination of Garfield.” The League thereupon issued a circular, written by me, calling upon the independent voters to support the nominee of the party. After the election Barker looked forward to being appointed Secretary of the Treasury and I have seen a letter of James G. Blaine, who became Secretary of State, giving his assent to the proposition. For several years Barker had been the agent of the Government of Russia in securing the construction of vessels of war, and in 1880, after the convention, he went over to that country for the purpose of making arrangements to build railroads there, and while there the Czar decorated him with the insignia of some order of distinction. He took MacVeagh with him as his counsel and while en route confided his ambitions and was pleased to learn that in the opinion of MacVeagh no other course was open to Garfield. Before they started MacVeagh suggested that they take their wives with them, to which Barker assented. After their return, MacVeagh sent a bill for counsel fees and expenses, including those of his wife, and said Barker to me: “I did not want to raise a question with him at that juncture, and like a fool I paid them all.” Then MacVeagh became Attorney General and a member of the Cabinet. The reason, of course, was quite plain and it ought to have been obvious to Barker. MacVeagh was identified with the independents participating in all of their councils and was at the same time the son-in-law of Simon Cameron and, therefore, fitted both ways. I stood by Barker and sent a letter to the President in which, answering the objection of Barker's youth, I said: “Though one of our younger men, he is the senior by several years of the ablest of the treasurer's when appointed by the greatest of our presidents.” The letter failed, but the phrase struck and was repeated to several persons by Garfield.
In 1881 a Civil Service Reform Association was organized in Philadelphia with MacVeagh as president and myself as secretary. For a long time the records were kept and the meetings were held in my office, at No. 209 South Sixth Street, and their first conflict with the outside and wicked world I maintained in a series of letters with Howard M. Jenkins, afterward editor of The Friend's Intelligencer and author of a history of Gwynedd. He was a combative and able fellow, a friend of Barker, anxious for the improvement of public life, but he had no faith in Civil Service Reform. He perished by falling from a foot log over Buck Hill Falls. I was not altogether in sympathy with my associates in this work. The difference was partly fundamental. I felt that pretty much the whole merit of the system consisted in the advocacy of permanence of tenure; that is, that no one of the ministerial office-holders should be removed except for incompetence or failure in the performance in his duties, a reversal of the doctrine introduced by Andrew Jackson that to the victor belongs the spoils. They had more faith in the benefit of the preliminary examinations, which never seemed to me to be effective means of securing competent officials and which hamper those charged with responsibility. The difference was also partly political. I wanted the Republicans to make our public life better and their idea was to have these tasks accomplished by the Democrats. When, therefore, George William Curtis, who was president of the National Civil Service Reform Association, endeavored to throw its weight in favor of Cleveland, and against Blaine, he was followed by most of the active members in Philadelphia. I protested and wrote a letter to him which appeared in the New York Tribune, was issued as a campaign document by the Republican National Committee and sent all over the United States. While I have always continued my membership in the association, I have taken no active part in the conduct of its affairs since that time. As we look back with the light shown by subsequent development, we are compelled to recognize that Blaine was the most astute and sagacious statesman of his period, that his method of dealing with other countries on the two continents was based on correct principles and are now generally accepted, and that the American people displayed little wisdom in their treatment of him and by it lost important opportunities to advance their own welfare. By getting out of sympathy with its surroundings, the Philadelphia Association lost much in strength and has never recovered its vitality. When, as Governor, I had the opportunity to put my principles into practice, could point to the fact that no official during my incumbency had been removed for political reasons and had recommended the adoption of Civil Service Reform by the state, the association was too timid to commend, and when Woodrow Wilson, who as a citizen had loudly advocated the system, and as a president at once removed an expert official in the Philadelphia Custom House to make way for a Democrat, overriding the request of the association, it was too timid to condemn.
Into the platform of the National Republican League I had this plank inserted:
“That the worst of the existing evils of our national life being the results of former Democratic rule should be remedied by the restoration, in our local, state, and national governments, of the tenure of routine offices for life or during good behavior, with the establishment of pensions for superannuated officials and merited promotion within each department of the public service.”
The members of the Executive Committee were now Wharton Barker, chairman, Samuel S. Hollingsworth, Samuel W. Pennypacker, Edward R. Wood, Henry Reed, Mayer Sulzberger and Silas W. Pettit. The fact that of these seven, one went to city councils, three to the bench and one to the governor's chair has a lesson for ambitious young men. The surest road to success in public life is to ascertain some principle, right in itself and beneficial to the state, and cling to it until the world understands, as in time it surely will.
The importance of money is very much exaggerated. I have known the most successful merchant in America to seek the United States Senate, and a coal miner, said to be worth thirty millions of dollars, to seek the governorship, and both of them failed. The effort to build up popularity by promising to give the people not what they ought to have, but what they are crying for at the moment, to spread the sail for all the winds that may happen to blow is likewise to follow the path which ends at Sahara.
In order to make a test of our hold upon Garfield, we determined upon a candidate for one of the important offices in Philadelphia, not one of ourselves; and Barker, Hollingsworth, Pettit, Wood and myself made a pilgrimage to Washington. One of the party suggested that before seeing the President, we make a call of courtesy upon the Attorney General. MacVeagh soon discovered our errand and without invitation said: “I will go over with you,” and at once proceeded to take charge of the party. He is nothing unless adroit and with an assumption that we were unknown introduced us to the President as very good friends of his from Philadelphia engaged in dilettante politics and seeking to better a wicked world. Garfield, robust, alert and cordial took the cue at once and as one speech after another was made wore a half-concealed smile which boded ill. Provoked at what I regarded as an attempt to lead us into a cul-de-sac, I arose from the sofa on which MacVeagh and Hollingsworth had been sitting almost lovingly together and, confronting the President, I said:
“Mr. President, these gentlemen are your friends, who have proven their friendship not only since but before you were nominated. You are in the midst of a struggle — you dared to appoint a collector in New York who did not suit Mr. Conkling and he is in arms against you. Mr. Cameron is in alliance with him and the war will soon be waged in Philadelphia as well. You will need real friends. We are here to ask this appointment not so much to advance the fortunes of the appointee but as an indication that you have given us recognition.”
The reference to Collector Robertson sobered him and the smile disappeared. He endeavored to parry.
“But I have given you recognition in the appointment of MacVeagh.”
Here was the opportunity. I pointed my finger at Wayne, who too had recovered from his smile.
“He does not answer. It is true that he is well known as an independent and a reformer and has taken part in all of our counsels. It is just as true that he is a son-in-law of Simon Cameron, a brother-in-law of Don Cameron, and that enables men to say that his appointment was as much due to his family associations as to his political predilections.”
A situation had been laid bare in the presence of both of them. All of the participants in the interview, including Wayne, had become as serious as owls. We had come down from lunar heights to bed pan. As the President dismissed us he shook hands and said:
“I see you know how to take care of yourselves.”
Said Pettit: “Pennypacker, you slid over some very thin ice.”
Said Hollingsworth: “I don't believe a scene like that ever before occurred in the White House.”
A few days later Garfield was shot, MacVeagh disappeared from the Cabinet, and what would have been the outcome of our effort we never knew. The figures in the kaleidoscope took on other combinations.
The National Republican League extended its operations over the state. Senator James W. Lee of Venango County became chairman of the committee consisting of John Stewart, now a Justice of the Supreme Court; Hugh S. Flemming of Allegheny; William T. Davies of Bradford (afterward Lieutenant-Governor); J. W. M. Geist, an editor in Lancaster; Thomas W. Phillips, a wealthy oil operator of Lawrence; Colonel William McMichael and myself. McMichael was the oldest son of Mayor Morton McMichael, a handsome fellow who had been out in the war in one of the western armies and, like all of the family, had just a little air of stiffness and solidity. He at one time was United States District Attorney in Philadelphia and later went to New York with the thought of making a fortune in the practice of his profession, but met with no great success there. He took with him John R. Dos Passos, a curly-haired youth, who began his career by sweeping out the offices of William T. Price and is closing it with wealth and a fame which has extended over the country. McMichael was president of the Republican Invincibles, a club of men organized in regimental shape, wearing capes and carrying torches of coal oil lamps, which in its heyday was regarded as the best disciplined marching club in the land. I belonged to and later was captain of Company H. In the political campaigns toward the close of and following the war, the Invincibles marched the streets of the city and made excursions to the neighboring towns of Norristown, Pottstown, Phœnixville, Reading, Trenton and other places. “Invincible in peace, invisible in war” was the description of The Age, but they marked a phase of the military spirit of the time and they always made an impression wherever they appeared. Sometimes there was an approach to actual warfare. On one occasion, under the leadership of Henry Todd, a brother of M. Hampton Todd, later Attorney General, and of a young fellow named Williams, the Invincibles stormed and gutted the headquarters of the Democratic Keystone Club on Walnut Street. Attacks were frequently made upon the club when in line. On one occasion arrangements had been made to attend a meeting in the lower part of the city. For days beforehand it had been rumored that we were to be assaulted on the way. Only about two hundred men turned out and they were accompanied by a delegation from the Harmony Engine Company, which occupied the sidewalks. The anticipated attack did not occur and late at night the club returned to headquarters on Fifth Street below Chestnut. At this time the Keystone Club was parading down Chestnut Street and some of our men with their capes on ran up to the corner to watch them. In an instant there was a collision, and right under the windows of the office of the mayor seven men were shot, including a young member of the Paul family. This event led to the passage of an ordnance by councils preventing the parading of political clubs within ten days preceding an election. We were once attacked in Norristown at a place where a stone wall ran along one side of the road. The assailants were repulsed and in retreat had to get over this wall. As they clambered up they were assisted by the application of torches in the rear. Among the most active men in the club were George Truman, an erect and athletic scion of a well-known Quaker family, who was later killed; Alexander P. Colesberry, afterward United States Marshal; and William B. Smith, who became mayor of the city.
The selection of the State Committee to which I have referred, marked a divergence in the councils of the Independents. The centrifugal forces increased and tended to throw the movement outside of the orb and there were some men who were ready to leave their party. There were others, including myself, whose feeling was to do missionary work among the heathen at home. The committee represented the more conservative thought.
November 12, 1880, Edward R. Wood gave an elaborate dinner with a public purpose. Those present, as guests, were: Rudolph Blankenburg, an importation from Germany, who had succeeded in business, never able to think with any clearness but impelled by worthy and philanthropic impulses; Charles Wheeler, Franklin A. Dick, Wayne MacVeagh, W. Rotch Wister, Samuel W. Pennypacker, Joseph G. Rosengarten, Hampton L. Carson, Henry Reed, Wharton Barker, Edward T. Steel, E. Dunbar Lockwood, T. Morris Perot and Joseph L. Wilson. The affairs of the city were considered, and as a result of the discussion there was organized a committee of one hundred, which, for the next few years, sat in judgment upon the merits of candidates. Into it four of those present declined to go — Barker, MacVeagh, Carson and myself.
In 1880 Charles S. Wolfe ran as an independent candidate for the State Treasury and polled about forty thousand votes, having the support of the more radical of our constituency. In 1881 Harry W. Oliver, the selection of the stalwarts for United States Senator, failed and, instead, John I. Mitchell of Tioga was elected. This result was due in large part to the energy and efforts of Barker and was a temporary success for the “Half Breeds” whom the death of Garfield had deprived of control. In 1882 came the election of a governor. It became known that Mr. Cameron and the stalwarts had determined upon the nomination of General James A. Beaver, a lawyer and soldier, who had lost a leg during the war. Our committee sent out an address to the people urging the members of the party to go to the primaries and decide for themselves through their delegates who should be the nominee.
Barker called a meeting at his office, which was attended by Senator Mitchell, Charles S. Wolfe, Henry C. Lea, Charles Emory Smith, editor of the Press, who had come into the movement, Francis B. Reeves, George E. Mapes, Howard M. Jenkins, Lockwood, Henry Reed, Barker, Perot and myself, representatives of every phase of independent thought. The speeches ran the gamut from my own conservatism to the radicalism of Lea, who declared his purpose to oppose any ticket, no matter how good, which might be nominated by the “bosses.” Finally, under the advice of Mitchell, it was determined that a committee of five, to be appointed by him, should give the stalwarts an opportunity for a conference if they so desired. The members of this committee were Charles S. Wolfe, I. D. McKee, Francis B. Reeves, Senator J. W. Lee and Wharton Barker. On a day selected they met at the Continental Hotel M. S. Quay, Thomas Y. Cooper, Christopher Magee, John F. Hartranft, Thomas Cochran and J. Howard Reeder. The Independents presented a demand, in the nature of an ultimatum, that the slated candidates be withdrawn, the convention be postponed and that delegates be elected by a popular vote. This was not acceded to and the war went on. Beaver was nominated in the regular convention and John Stewart by the Independents, and the result was that after an earnest and somewhat bitter struggle Robert E. Pattison, a Democrat, from the office of Lewis C. Cassidy in Philadelphia, who had been controller of the city, was elected governor. In the Twenty-ninth ward, where I lived and where the usual Republican majority was about two thousand, I was nominated for the assembly by the Independent Republicans, was endorsed by the Democrats, by the Committee of One Hundred, by the temperance people, by the Liquor Men's League and was supported by editorials in all of the newspapers of the city which pointed out to the citizens the exceptional opportunity they had to secure an intelligent and upright representative. Nevertheless, it rang to me a little hollow when I found among my earnest advocates Samuel Josephs, a sleek Democratic politician of a type none too savory, and all of the brewers who had their plants in the western part of the ward. Fortunately my opponent, a shrewd and capable little shoemaker named James E. Romig beat me by a majority of four hundred and three. I won his eternal good will by writing him a letter of congratulation which gave him a novel experience. Henry Reed had his appetite whetted by these experiences and he went again to the Presidential Convention of 1884. His great-grandfather, Joseph Reed, had been Adjutant-General of the Continental Army. He was a nice, lovely, literary gentleman, of over-refined tastes who skimmed the surface of life like a butterfly and never comprehended its depths. He married a daughter of John Edgar Thomson, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and lost her fortune; he became a judge of Court of Common Pleas No. 3 and found the world too rough and crude for him; all men were fond of him and he died early. In Chicago he met a Hoosier and tried to convert him.
“Who are you for, anyway?” inquired the delegate, who was inclined to be profane.
“Benjamin Harrison,” answered Reed.
“Ben Harrison, oh, hell!" said the Hoosier. “Why,
suppose we nominate Ben Harrison, and then you meet a
fellow and he says to you: ‘Ben Harrison is a very nice
kind of a man,’ and you say to him, '‘Yes, Ben Harrison is a
very nice kind of a man; that's all there's to it.
suppose we nominate Jim Blaine. Then you meet a man
and he says to you: ‘Jim Blaine, he's a God damned thief.’
You up and say to him: ‘You're a God damned liar.’ Then
there is something in it.”
In this campaign I prepared a paper giving reasons why the Independents should support the nomination of Blaine, and we succeeded in having it signed by most of the men of representative character, among them including Barker, Wolfe, Mitchell, Blankenburg, Lewis Emery, Jr., Perot and others, but excluding MacVeagh and Lea, in every county in the state and published. Had the same sentiment prevailed and the same activity been displayed in New York, Blaine would have been elected. At this time I had some correspondence with a young man there who took the same view, named Theodore Roosevelt. As upon many other occasions, the people of Pennsylvania showed that they had a keener perception of what was likely to prove helpful to the needs of the country than the Conklings and Curtises of New York, and when we look back and see how near we came, thirty years before the opening of the Panama Canal, to losing, through dullness of comprehension, the Sandwich Islands, the key to the Pacific, we can appreciate the risks we ran in the defeat of Blaine. In a more narrow and personal point of view, in his defeat the “Half Breeds” lost the chance of control of the party as they had before through the assassination of Garfield.
Without knowing who was the author of the address, the Inquirer said that it was “admirable in tone and conclusive in argument;” the Bulletin said that it “showed much clearness and ability;” the Times said that it was “one of the most important documents that had been contributed to the campaign;” the New York Times said that “they make a very clever use of the reputation they got,” and the Springfield Republican, ever sneering, supercilious and mistaken, said that “it gauges the profundity of the Pennsylvania mind.”
The address commented upon over the country and producing an effect in an important national contest is here inserted:
July 11, 1884.
The undersigned Republicans of Pennsylvania, relying for
the proof of the earnestness of their convictions upon acts of
independence, which in 1881 and in 1882 received the support
of 50,000 voters, venture to present some considerations to those
ians of other states who may be in doubt as to their
duty with reference to the nominations made by the National
In order that the views of those who advocate the right of separate and independent political action should have weight with their fellowmen, it is important that this right should only be invoked in cases of well-ascertained necessity. They who take an interest in watching the political fold become wearied with the cry of "wolf," if it be uttered lightly or with too much frequency. The greatest wrong of which the Independents have had in the past to complain has been the use of the party machinery in such a way as to thwart the wishes of the people. Time and again has the public preference been set aside by men who were able to manipulate conventions and to utilize the various devices known to the skilled politician. The Independents of Pennsylvania have felt that they could justify their action in opposing a nomination even for so high an office as that of Governor of the State, if able to show plainly that it was the outcome of the schemes of the few, successful at the expense of the many. To a great extent this wrong has been remedied, and very largely through their exertions. By the overthrow of the unit rule and the establishment of district representation, it became possible to hold a National Convention that was representative in the true sense. The expression of the will of the members of the Republican party, and they were enabled to express their will because of the exertions of the Independents, has resulted in the nomination of Mr. Blaine.
It cannot be gainsaid that Mr. Blaine is the choice of the masses of the dominant party in the United States, and that the late convention, better than most of its predecessors, gave heed to the demands of its constitu
tents. It is an evidence of the personal strength of Mr. Blaine that his support came from the farthest East and the farthest West, from Iowa, with her agriculturists, and from Pennsylvania, with her manufacturers—and in these widely separated localities, with their diverse interests, was exceptionally earnest and enthusiastic. To oppose his election would then seem to be an attack upon the results of independent work. It would seem to be an acceptance of the theory against which we have been contending, that the few are more entitled to consideration than the many, and to differ from the principle and practice of the machine men, mainly in respect to the personality of the individuals who participate in the effort. It assumes a very assailable, if not an indefensible position in that it enables opponents to charge that Independents are never content unless their own preferences as to candidates have been successful. Such an opposition would not only be difficult to defend upon theory but would, we conceive, be most disastrous in its results, since it involves the proposition of surrendering the control of the country to the Democracy, a party which has been on the wrong side of every important question settled in the most eventful period of American history, and which has to look back to the time of Jackson for its achievements, to the time of Jefferson for its virtues. The annals of human affairs show no instance of reformers relying for support of their measures upon an organization which has exhibited such extreme conservatism.
Even if it be true that Mr. Blaine has not been a pronounced advocate of "Civil Service Reform," that cause has, in our judgment, far more to hope from the Republican party, which has embodied the principle in its platform, than from the Democrats, who are avowedly hostile to it, who dismissed to private life its Democratic sponsor in the senate, and who are eagerly awaiting a distribution of partisan rewards. We believe, further, that it would be more reasonable to expect support for this measure from a man with the vigor and intelligence of Mr. Blaine, than from any nominee of the Democrats, who, if he should be elected and make an effort in its favor, would have the whole strength of his party used against him.
Nor would such an opposition be justified by the fact that charges are made against Mr. Blaine which those who make them say affect his personal integrity. That he must be defended, may, perhaps, be a good argument against a nomination, but it certainly has no relevancy at this time. If it should be once established that a man ought not to be elected to the presidency because accusations have been made against him, the ablest men would be always excluded. In the heat of contests these accusations spring up and luxuriate. They are like the parasitic plants that cover an oak, but live on air and need no roots. It should not be forgotten that these charges have been met by the State of Maine, which has since elected him to the Senate; by Garfield, who made him Secretary of State, and by the great party which has chosen him for the presidency. Every presumption is in favor of a man who has been so trusted, and to have weight, it is not enough that such charges should be made, they must be conclusively proven.
If the "Jingoism" of Mr. Blaine means no more than is asserted in the Pall Mall Gazette, which says: "But wherever he can he will oust us from the position we hold; wherever an opportunity offers he will use it to the uttermost to replace our influence and our trade by the influence and trade of the United States, and he will regard it as his chief object to promote a great American Confederacy under the aegis of the Government at Washington, which would tend to increase the export trade of the United States at the expense of Great Britain,” that epithet, borrowed from English politics, will have no terrors for an American.
To him who says that he cannot support Mr. Blaine because
of conscience, there is nothing to be answered since he stands
upon a ground beyond the reach of argument. He assumes,
however, a great responsibility, and we ask him to take good heed
as to his steps. We suggest to him that there may be a merit in
the self-discipline which permits the people to have their own way,
because even if our lives be cleaner and our judgments better than
theirs, there is still a possibility that our information is incorrect
or our conclusions from it erroneous. We appeal to him, if he live
in Massachusetts, not to mistake for conscience the resentment he
may feel for sharp words spoken years ago and which broadminded
men have forgotten, and if he live in New York that he see to it
that his conscience does not conceal his approval of certain
English views upon the subject of political economy. We in
Pennsylvania see no reason to strike at so distinguished and able
a Republican. We perceive no merit and no wisdom in hurrying
into an alliance which necessarily includes the most corrupt
element in American politics. We decline to form a league with
men who always opposed the measures we held to be of the most
importance, who now reject the reforms which we regard as
essential, and who still cling to those means of stifling minorities
which Republicans have discarded as unworthy. We feel that
whether or not Mr. Blaine was our choice for the nomination, his
election will best serve the interests of the people and that to defeat
him would be to aid in the restoration of “machine” methods, and
to entrust with general power a party which has given every
evidence of inability to exercise it in such a way as to promote
the common welfare.
In 1885 I was appointed by the Board of Judges a member of the Board of Public Education for the City of Philadelphia, representing the Twenty-ninth ward. The appointment was due to the intervention of Judge David Newlin Fell, who then and ever since has been a close and helpful friend. Edward T. Steel, a successful Market Street merchant and one of my associates in the effort to improve political conditions, was the president of the board. He had recently brought on from the West, and made superintendent of the schools, James MacAlister, a small, thin, homely and intelligent Scotchman, who was in the midst of a struggle to introduce certain important changes, possibly improvements, in both methods and curriculum. Encountering many difficulties and obstacles, accompanied with some criticism, as all men do who take hold of the problems of life with earnestness, he a few years later withdrew to take charge of the Drexel Institute. Alongside of Steel and MacAlister stood James Pollock, born in County Tyrone, Ireland, and the owner of a carpet mill in Kensington, and shares in banks and trust companies, short in stature, natty in appearance and scrupulously clean, with hair closely curled and parted in the middle. The first impression is that of a dandy; after meeting him, however, you soon discovered that you are up against a proposition. You probably conclude ere long that you never discovered more “sand” to the square inch of surface. He has developed into a bon vivant, and no one is better known at the dinners of the Five o'Clock and Clover clubs. His speeches are witty to the point of acridity, and many a man of extended fame has gone down before him in confusion. Set over against these idealists were a number of members who believed in the multiplication table and the alphabet and in learning to spell by putting letters together, who had faith in things as they were and had been when they, as children, went to school. Their leader was Simon Gratz, of a Jewish family long established in Philadelphia, slight in physique even to emaciation, and one of the cleverest and most astute of men. He had had long experience in this work and knew its details and the legislation affecting it better than any other person connected with it. Indefatigable, inexorable, intelligent and suave, there were few who cared to enter into controversies with him. He was likewise one of the Board of Revision of Taxes and, therefore, brought into relations with the judges, a member of the council of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and he has one of the most important collections of autographs in the country, which only a very few selected persons have ever been permitted to see.
The board was an arena for orators, among whom were Richardson L. Wright and John L. Kinsey, the latter of whom has since become a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas No. 1. Wright, a good-hearted and worthy egotist and an old war-horse of Democracy, had in his earlier days been speaker of the House of Representatives at Harrisburg. In build, contour of face, dress, manner and emotional style of declamation, he was a counterpart of Henry Clay, and he talked by the hour upon every question that arose. Nevertheless, all gave him respect because he was both honest and manly. It was told of him that once when the omnibuses still carried passengers through the town, he came upon a woman loaded with bundles trying to clamber up the steps in the rear of the coach. With admirable kindness and redundant courtesy he gave her his assistance, and then in departing said: “And now, Madam, when you reach the bosom of your family, you will be able to tell them that you have been helped on your way by the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Being a persona grata, I was appointed a member of both the most important committees, those upon the High School and Normal School, a distinction accorded to no one else, and was made chairman of the Committee on Supplies, a place of great responsibility, since that committee purchased all of the text-books, utensils, etc., and expended annually large sums of money. During my service I had built the Robert Morris Schoolhouse and decent out-houses for every school in the ward.