The Issues of 1874, Especially in Missouri
|The Issues of 1874, Especially in Missouri
|Speech at the Temple, St. Louis, Missouri, September 24, 1874. Reprinted in Frederic Bancroft, ed., Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, Volume III, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913, pp. 74-113. Bancroft omitted part of the speech on monetary policy, but it has been restored here from a clipping from the Missouri Democrat (St. Louis) of September 25, 1874, in the Papers of Carl Schurz in the Library of Congress.|
Fellow-Citizens: — As one of the representatives of Missouri in the Senate of the United States, I deem it my duty to submit to you a candid statement of my views on the present posture of public affairs, and in doing so I shall not confine myself to the questions at issue in our impending State election. It is well known to you that in the expression of my opinions I have not permitted myself to be controlled by the requirements of party service, but, according to my sense of duty, have treated questions of public interest upon their own merits. In the same spirit I shall speak to you to-night — in plain language, without any desire or attempt to appeal to political prejudice or passion. More than ever do I consider this the duty of a public man under the peculiar circumstances which at present surround us. You cannot look at the present condition of the public mind in this Republic, without discovering that a wide-spread and deep distrust and skepticism have taken the place of the confident assurance and sanguine expectation formerly prevailing. The grave disorders constantly occurring in many of the States; the usurpations of government accomplished or attempted here and there, reminding one of Mexican pronunciamientos; the insecurity of life and property, and the impotency of the law in some parts of the country; the anarchy of power and the unsettled state of Constitutional principles; the influence of reckless demagogism and ignorance in the conduct of public affairs; the discovery of corrupt practices in public office of an alarming nature and extent, and the suspicion that there are other depths of corruption yet hidden from daylight; the sinking confidence in the character of public men; the growing power of great moneyed corporations, bearing hard upon the people and believed to control by corrupt means courts and legislatures; the existence and power of political rings, working for ends purely selfish by taking advantage of a blind and reckless partisan spirit; and finally, the occasional disclosure of alarming rottenness in social life; all these things — exaggerated as the darkness of the picture may be — have coöperated in overcasting the minds of many men with grave doubt and apprehension as to what is to come out of all this. I am sure your experience coincides with mine that every day you can meet, on the streets, and in counting-houses, and on farms, men — not chronic grumblers and fault-finders, nor disappointed politicians — but quiet, unostentatious and unambitious citizens, with no public aspiration but a patriotic interest in the welfare of the country, who earnestly ask and discuss the question: If this mischief be not stopped what will become of the Republic and its democratic institutions, and where are the means to stop it?
This feeling of doubt and apprehension is not the product of artificial agitation. It has been quietly growing and spreading for a long time among the most solid classes of our population, and is gradually affecting the whole tone of society. It shows itself in symptoms which cannot fail to have been noticed by every observing man. The very American eagle refuses to soar on the Fourth of July. The National birthday, barring the firecrackers of the children and the fine clothes of the militia men, has become an excessively sober and commonplace affair. The flaming Fourth of July speech, which formerly was listened to with real delight and enthusiasm, is now apt to meet rather ridicule than applause, and those who consent to serve as Fourth of July orators prefer, for their own credit, critical reviews of the situation, admonitions and warnings, to the self-glorification which formerly was so honest, exuberant and confiding. This state of mind, however much or little justified, exists as a fact, and it will in some way exercise an influence upon our political life. In a multitude of cases it has taken a form which is greatly to be deplored; and entire loss of faith in the efficiency of democratic institutions. I heard a gentleman, not a politician, recently express himself: “Why should I not be for a third Presidential term? I am for a third, a fourth, a fifth term and as many terms as possible, for I want by some means to get rid of this democratic form of government."
Such utterances are becoming quite frequent, in the South perhaps more than in the North, but altogether too frequent in the North also. It would seem needless to say that such talk is utterly senseless, for with the social elements and political traditions of this country, any sort of monarchy or imperialism is absolutely impossible, and if any attempt in that direction were seriously contemplated by anybody, which I do not believe, it would, instead of producing stability and order, result only in confused, furious and endless civil conflicts, aggravating all the evils now complained of an hundredfold. But utterances of this kind have a demoralizing effect, for they divert the minds of men from the true problem, which is not how to get rid of democratic government, but how to restore and develop what is good in it and how to suppress or reform what is bad. Thus they cultivate that barren, inert, imbecile despondency which, seeking escape from an evil, is always apt to choose the worst — a state of mind utterly unworthy of an American. But while the present condition of things, and the feeling of anxiety and doubt springing from it, has thrown some minds into so morbid a despair, it has produced upon others, and, I am happy to say, a much larger number, a healthier effect full of encouragement and promise. It has stirred up their sense of duty and responsibility. It has quickened their public spirit. Seldom has public opinion been more vigilant in watching the conduct of the representatives and servants of the people; seldom has it been more powerful in enforcing the condemnation of malefactors and the correction of abuses. But a few years ago, any public man, who, against the wishes and pretended interests of his party, insisted upon the investigation and exposure of malpractice, could be trampled down and ostracized as a traitor. And now, immediately after a sweeping victory, the dominant party finds itself forced by an irresistible pressure of public opinion to put its own hands to a work but recently so detested, and the scandals of the Credit Mobilier, of the Sanborn contracts, of the moiety business and of the government of the District of Columbia, were ripped open; and, in the treatment of these things, the people were still more in earnest than some of the official investigators. For many years we have not had a session of Congress that was so free from job-legislation as the last, so much so indeed that the lobbymen could not pay for their dinners, and the restaurant-keepers were disconsolate. Public opinion hung like a thunder cloud over Washington, charged with dangerous electricity, and some of those who tried to construct the famous press-gag law as a lightning rod wish to-day they had never made the attempt while the people in conventions, and still more, at elections, are sitting sternly in judgment over those of their servants who cannot present a clean bill of health.
But more than that. While but a few years ago a man who refused to obey the behests of his party was not only ostracized as a traitor, but laughed at as a fool uselessly sacrificing himself in a windmill fight, we behold to-day all over the country countless thousands asserting their independence from party dictation, doing their own thinking for themselves, and following only their convictions of duty. And still more. While but recently very valuable classes of society kept aloof from all active participation in political movements, either from fastidiousness or modesty, or because they gave themselves wholly to private pursuits, they are now asking themselves: “Is not our apathy in great part to blame for the evils we are suffering? If we want good government, is it not time that we should take our share in the struggle to secure it?" And hence that fresh political activity, that freedom of criticism, that breaking of party lines, that movement of independence all over the field, which makes political ringmasters tremble and patriotic citizens rejoice in new hope.
I hail this effect of the doubt and anxiety which pervade the public mind as a sign of promise. It is doubt, turning into an incentive for independent thought. It is anxiety, becoming a stimulus for fresh exertion. In such a mood many errors may be committed, many mistaken notions may be entertained, many false movements may be made. But the intelligence of the American people is more than ordinarily active, the old dingdong of party cant begins to fall stale upon the ear, and the number of men who are sincerely anxious to know and to do what is right is growing every day. There are signs of the times which inspire the hope that a political revival has commenced, which, if directed with wisdom and energy, may regenerate and put upon a firmer footing than ever the free institutions of this Republic. But if it fails, then greater than ever will be the danger — not of monarchy or imperialism, but that by a sort of dry-rot our institutions may gradually lose their vitality; that our time-honored Constitutional principles may be obliterated by abuses of power establishing themselves as precedents; that the machinery of administration may become more and more a mere instrument of ring-rule, a tool to manufacture majorities and to organize plunder; and that, in the hollow shell of republican forms, the Government will become the football of rapacious and despotic factions.
With such opportunities and such dangers before us, it is our duty to examine the problems to be solved with candor and impartiality. It will be impossible for me to discuss in the narrow compass of a single speech all questions of importance. I am obliged to confine myself to-night to those which are at this hour the most prominent, leaving others to future occasions. It is one of the great misfortunes of our situation that we can scarcely attempt to engage the attention of the people in other subjects of legislation without being disturbed again and again by what may be called the Southern problem, reinflaming party spirit and distracting the popular mind. When the project of annexing Santo Domingo was before the Senate, I asked, in the course of my argument opposing it: “Have we not enough with one South as an element of disturbance? Do you want to purchase another one?" No prudent man will deny to-day that that question was very pertinent.
Last week the whole country was ablaze with excitement over the revolution in Louisiana. My opinion on the Louisiana case I expressed when it first came up in the Senate, in February of last year. That opinion was based upon a conscientious and candid study of the very elaborate report of our investigating committee. It was this: That the Kellogg government in that State had been set up by an act of gross and indefensible usurpation on the part of a United States District Judge, aided by United States troops, without the least evidence of an election by the people; that all the evidence there was of an election by the people, in the shape of returns, was decidedly in favor of McEnery; that McEnery was prima facie entitled to the office of governor, subject to subsequent contest if any of the returns were fraudulent, and that the only duty of the National Government in the case then was simply to undo the usurpation effected and sustained by its own officers, to restore as much as possible the condition of things which had existed before the usurpation, and to leave the final settlement of the matter to the competent State authorities. The same views were entertained and expressed by prominent Republican Senators, especially Senator Edmunds, who is now chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. I hold to that opinion still.
But, while the act of gross usurpation was not denied, others formed different conclusions. The President had recognized the Kellogg government when it was first set up. In a subsequent message to Congress he confessed his doubts as to Kellogg's title, and asked Congress to direct him what to do, stating at the same time that, if Congress failed to act, he would continue to recognize Kellogg. Congress permitted two sessions to pass with out doing anything. Thus Kellogg, in spite of the universally admitted usurpation, remained de facto governor of Louisiana, recognized by the National Executive; while the McEnery government maintained a show of organization, without such recognition.
The time for the election of a new legislature approached. The opponents of the Kellogg government, apprehending that no chance for a fair election would be given to them, organized; an uprising followed, and an hour's struggle drove Kellogg, with his adherents, to flight; whereupon McEnery and his associates possessed themselves of the State government.
Then Kellogg called upon the President for military aid in the manner prescribed by the Constitution. He was the only governor of Louisiana recognized by the President, who also in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, granted that aid. The troops of the United States reinstated Kellogg, and the McEnery party, the successful revolutionists, submitted to the National authority promptly, without the least attempt at resistance. This was the end of what is called the Louisiana revolution.
But it is not the end of the disease, neither is it the final remedy. A great wrong has been committed. That wrong does not consist in the intervention of the President against those who, by force of arms, had driven Kellogg to flight; for the President acted in the exercise of his Constitutional authority. Neither can, in a republic, the right of self-help by force be admitted, for such an admission would encourage every party, every individual that has a grievance, either real or imaginary, to resort to force for redress, and a state of anarchy would ensue which no political or social organization could withstand. We have too much of that self-help already, and too little patient reliance upon the slow but orderly and peaceable ways of the law.
But the great wrong was committed before. It was when a Federal Judge, palpably overstepping the limits of his jurisdiction and perpetrating an outrage without precedent in our history, was supported by the power of the National Government in the act of virtually creating a State government which had not the least evidence of an election by the people. It was when the creature of such an unheard of usurpation was by the same National Government permitted to stand as a lawful authority, and to lord it over the people of a State. It was when, even after the President had confessed his doubt, Congress neglected to undo the usurpation and to make room for those who had prima facie evidence of an election by the people.
The wrong was committed even before that, and in more States than Louisiana. It was when Federal officeholders in the South were permitted to use their authority and prestige as a power in partisan conflicts, and for the support and perpetuation of partisan State governments the most rapacious and corrupt that ever disgraced a republican country. It was when the countenance of the dominant party was not promptly withdrawn from the thieves who buried the Southern States under mountains of debt, and, filling their own pockets, robbed the people of their substance. It was when the keeping of the Southern States in the party traces was deemed more important than that they should have honest and constitutional government. That wrong is not remedied by military interference and the subjection of revolutionists.
Nor was that the only wrong committed in the South. There was another, and on the other side. It was when bands of lawless ruffians infested the Southern country, spreading terror by cruel persecution and murder. It was when helpless prisoners were slaughtered in cold blood. It was when neither officers nor volunteers could be found to arrest the perpetrators of such bloody deeds, or no juries to convict them. It was when the better classes of society contented themselves with condemnatory resolutions and pious wishes, instead of straining every nerve to bring the malefactors to justice. I know it is said that many of the bloody stories which reach us from the South are inventions or exaggerations. That may have been, and, undoubtedly, in some cases was so; but we know also that very many of them were but too true, and that they cannot be explained as a mere defense against official robbery, for the murdered victims were mostly poor negroes, while the real plunderers went free and safe. We know also that there is a ruffianly element in the South which, unless vigorously restrained by all the power of society, will resort to bloody violence as a pastime, especially when it is permitted to believe itself engaged in partisan service, and to be safe under the protection of public opinion.
And such wrongs and evils cannot be remedied by mere complaints, however just, of oppression and usurpation.
This is the state of things we have to deal with. Is there no remedy for all this except the employment of force? There must be, if our republican institutions are to stand; and it will not be difficult to find and apply it, if the Government as well as the people will only forget their partisan interests and think of nothing but the common welfare.
Louisiana is quiet. Kellogg sits in the governor's chair — trembling, perhaps, but safe. Nobody harms him. There is no further attempt at an anarchical movement on the part of the people. Order reigns. But there is another kind of anarchy, which is just as dangerous to republican institutions and to the welfare of the Nation as the lawless self-help by force of individuals and parties. It is the anarchy of power. It is the lawlessness of authority. If you want the people to respect and obey the laws, convince them that those in power do not wilfully disregard them. If you want republican government to stand, let the government be one emanating from the people and moving strictly within constitutional forms.
When the citizens of Louisiana, after a successful revolution, promptly and unconditionally submitted to the Constitutional authority of the President, they did their duty. They demonstrated to the world that their uprising was not a revival of the rebellion of 1861, for many thousands in arms yielded instantly to a corporal's guard under the National flag. Their duty to the National authority was completely performed. They gave up to it even their sense of right. Now it is time that the National Government should candidly consider what is its duty toward them.
The President is not expected to reverse his recognition of the Kellogg government without further action by Congress. But the election of a new legislature in Louisiana is impending, and at the request of Kellogg a force of United States soldiers is at hand, professedly to secure the enforcement of the laws in that election. That military force may be used impartially, and it may not. That will depend upon the man who controls it. It will be in a great measure under the control of United States Marshal Packard. And who is Packard? Besides being United States Marshal, he was one of the principal accomplices of Judge Durell and Kellogg in the usurpation of two years ago, and he is now the managing spirit of the State central committee of the Kellogg party.
I venture to suggest that such an accomplice in previous usurpation and present manager of a political party in a sharply contested election, such as this, is not a fit person to manage at the same time the United States troops to be used in that election. It is of the highest importance that, especially under existing circumstances, the people of Louisiana should not only have a fair election, but also that they should be made to feel that they have one. And it will be admitted that the irregular and striking combination of past performances and present functions in Mr. Packard is not calculated to inspire confidence. I am sure the whole country would applaud an order of the President relieving Mr. Packard of his official duties, and the substitution of a man of such character that everybody will believe him incapable of abusing his power for partisan ends.
This is a candid and respectful suggestion which might be enlarged upon. Indeed, if ever, now is the time to call away not only from Louisiana, but from South Carolina and all the Southern States, or to strip of their official power, the multitude of Federal officeholders, who have looked upon themselves as mere party agents, using all their influence to sustain and strengthen the bloodsuckers desolating that country, and probably not in many cases oblivious of their own profit. And I was sincerely rejoiced when a few days ago I read in the papers that the President was seriously thinking of holding a terrible muster of Federal placemen in the South. It is a timely resolution. Never was it more necessary. Let us hope that not a single one of those who have made the Federal authority a symbol of selfish partisan power and greedy oppression may escape him, and that the beginning be made with Packard and his associates, whose partisan appeals led the President to recognize the Kellogg government two years ago, and brought him into a position in which he now could not perform the duty of enforcing the Federal authority without at the same time sustaining a flagrant wrong.
But there the duty of the National Government does not end. It will not have been fully performed as long as the usurpation set on foot by a Federal Judge and supported by the Federal power is not undone. No longer than the period of its next meeting should the Congress of the United States permit any citizen of Louisiana to believe that the highest legislative power of the Republic can so far yield to partisan spirit as to sustain a palpable, an undoubted usurpation, even after that usurpation has most ignominiously demonstrated its inability to sustain itself. That duty remains unfulfilled until that precedent is wiped out, which is as dangerous as that of a successful revolution would have been; the precedent of a successful coup d'état, creating a State government and a legislature without the evidence of election, by the mere fiat of a Federal Judge, supported by a United States Marshal and Federal bayonets, and a band of reckless partisan adventurers. Let the highest powers in the land once more make every citizen understand and feel that, while preserving intact the lawful authority of the government, they are ready to throw aside all selfish considerations of party interest when the rights and the welfare of the people and the integrity of republican institutions are in question. Let this be done — let it be done by those who stand at the head of the dominant party, as a proof of good faith and patriotic spirit, and the lessons taught by the events in Louisiana will be of inestimable benefit to the whole American people.
On the other hand, the citizens of the South must not be permitted to forget that they, too, have a duty to perform. The people of the North sincerely desire that they should have honest and Constitutional government. Even a large majority of the Republicans in the North have long been heartily disgusted with the government of thieving adventurers which plundered the South. But when that public opinion was on the point of becoming so strong that no partisan spirit in power could have long resisted it, what happened? The bloody riot in New Orleans in 1866; the organization of the Ku-Klux all over the South; the butchery of Grant Parish, in 1873; the murders of Coushatta; the slaughter of the helpless negro prisoners in Trenton, Tennessee, not to speak of minor atrocities! What was the effect? The growing sympathy with the victims of plunder was turned into sympathy with the victims of murder.
When the Ku-Klux bill was before the Senate I opposed it, by argument and vote, on Constitutional grounds. But knowing, as I did, that the Ku-Klux bill was not only supported by partisan schemers, anxious for the preservation of party ascendancy, but also by unselfish and fairminded men, impelled beyond the limits of their Constitutional powers by a generous impulse, I then expressed the opinion that unless such deeds of bloody violence were suppressed by the Southern people themselves, Federal interference in any form, with all its consequences, would be demanded and sustained by an overpowering public opinion, and no Constitutional argument would be strong enough to prevent or stop it. It is to be hoped that by this time the people of the South have learned that those who disgrace them by deeds of bloody violence are their worst enemies. Let them act upon that lesson. Let them dissolve their white men's leagues; for every organization based upon a distinction of color is not only wrong in itself, but harmful to both races. Let them make the poor negro feel that he has not only a willing, but an active, protector in every good citizen. Let them understand that the most efficient method to fight the thieves who rule them is by relentlessly suppressing the murderous ruffians among themselves, who strip them of the sympathy of the country. Silent disapproval is nothing. Good intentions are nothing. Mere public resolutions are nothing. Only vigorous action will avail. Only the practical punishment of malefactors will serve. They justly demand that no thief shall find grace because he is a Republican. Let them show that no murderer will find grace with them because he is a Democrat. Let party spirit cease to be a shelter to the criminal. No white man's league will do them any good. An anti-ruffian league, of which every good citizen is an active member, is the thing the South wants.
I say this as a true friend of the Southern people, who has more than once raised his voice against the wrongs they have suffered. And I hail with gladness the spirit animating the governor of Tennessee, who does not rest until all the murderers of Trenton are in the clutches of the law; and the charge of that Kentucky judge, who tells his grand jury that if they fail to indict, not only the man who committed a murder, but also the sheriff who wilfully neglected to arrest that murderer, he will find grand jurymen in another county who will do their duty. In that spirit, which will relentlessly pursue the lawless elements of society as the common enemy, there is salvation for the Southern people. Let that spirit prevail in the South, and no partisanship in the North will be strong enough to baffle the sympathy which their misfortunes deserve. The South will again enjoy the largest Constitutional measure of self-government, and one of the greatest of those dangers will disappear which at present threaten the most vital part of our republican institutions. The strongest ground upon which the men, whose rapacity has been so terrible a curse to the South, have their claim on public sympathy, is that they are the protectors of the colored people. Dreadful indeed would be the fate of the negro, were the protection of thieves their only safety. When we contemplate the part the colored people have played in the recent history of the Southern States, we find them rather to be pitied than to be condemned. That they should have fallen under the control of reckless and designing men, when, ignorant as centuries of slavery had left them, they entered upon the exercise of political rights, is by no means astonishing, especially when we consider that the Southern whites, their late masters, at first maintained an attitude of hostility to their new rights, while some of those designing friends appeared in the character of Federal officeholders, a character carrying with it an authority which the colored people were wont to look upon as the very source of their liberty. Neither is it surprising that the bad example of such leaders should have had a corrupting influence upon so impressionable a class of followers.
While thus every fairminded man will judge the doings of the colored people themselves with charity, no measure of condemnation can be too severe for those who made of the ignorant and credulous multitude a tool in their schemes of rapacity. What the colored people need above all things for their own security and welfare is a good understanding with their white neighbors. Had they, when they became a power in the political field, been led by conscientious and wise men, to cast their votes for good government, and thus to promote the common interests of both races, that good understanding with their white neighbors would not long have been wanting. But what characters did assume the leadership? Men who assiduously persuaded the negroes that their only safety was in a strict organization as a race against the Southern whites, and in blind obedience to the behests of their commanders; men who used that organization only to raise themselves to power, and who used that power for the spoliation of the people; men, who, in many cases, after having filled their pockets with spoil, sneaked off to a place of safety, leaving behind the poor tools of their iniquity as victims to the exasperation of plundered and outraged communities.
Truly, there never were professions of affection and solicitude more damnably treacherous than those lavished by such men upon the negroes of the South. To place the negroes of the South in the attitude of organized partisan supporters of corruption and robbery against the whites was the blackest crime that could be committed against the colored race. And I affirm that the men who did it, the carpet-baggers and plunderers, have been and are the cruelest, the most treacherous, the most dastardly enemies the colored people ever had since their emancipation.
The mischief is done and we see its consequences. The situation of the colored people has been seriously damaged by their false friends, and no device of legislation can furnish an adequate remedy. In this connection a word on the supplementary civil rights bill. That measure was brought forward and pressed by the dearest friend I ever had among the public men of America — a man whose memory I shall never cease to cherish and revere. This measure, however, I could not give my support. Nobody knows better than I do that it sprung from the purest motives, a rare sincerity of generous impulse and high patriotic aspirations. But it was based upon a theory of Constitutional power and upon views of policy upon which my friend and I had for years been agreed to disagree.
In a few words I will state my opinions on the bill. Those who have observed my utterances on questions of Constitutional power, such as were involved, for instance, in the Ku-Klux act, need not be told that I must consider the civil rights bill as transgressing the limits with which the Constitution hedges in the competency of the National Government, and as encroaching upon the sphere of State authority. I will not to-night tire you with a restatement of principles which I have frequently discussed.
But the civil rights bill, if made a law, would have other effects which its originator did certainly not design it to have — effects injuriously touching the interests of the colored people themselves. It has been said that the enactment of that bill would be calculated to break up the whole system of public schools in several of the Southern States. My observation and reflection convinces me that this apprehension is well grounded. And nobody would be a greater sufferer than the colored people; for nothing can be more important to them than that, issuing as they do from a state of degradation and ignorance, an efficient system of public instruction should put them on the road of progressive improvement. Anything injuriously affecting such a system must therefore be gravely injurious to them.
Now, it is a well-known fact that in the States containing the bulk of the colored population there existed, if not a general, still a widespread and powerful prejudice against the introduction of a system of common schools, to be supported at the public expense. We know something of that even in Missouri. That prejudice, although now overborne by a superior public opinion, is far from being entirely extinct. It requires only a new and strong impetus to impart to it new strength enough seriously to disturb what has with difficulty been built up.
It is equally well known that a large majority of the white people of those States, even a large majority of those who are sincerely anxious to secure to the colored children the largest possible advantages of education in separate establishments, still are very strongly, nay, violently, opposed to any law which, like the civil rights bill, would force the admission of colored children together with white children, in the same schoolrooms. That opposition exists, and we have to deal with it as a fact. Try to enforce, under such circumstances, the system of mixed schools, and what will be the result? The old prejudice against a system of public instruction to be supported by taxation, as it still exists in the States in question, will at once find itself powerfully reinforced, and to an attack so strengthened, against a defense in the same measure weakened, it is most probable that the systems of instruction, laboriously built up, will succumb. At any rate they will be interrupted for a disastrously long period.
There is scarcely a greater misfortune conceivable that could befall those communities. But what would especially the colored people have gained? Now they have at least their separate schools at the public expense, as a part of the general system. Destroy that system, and they will have no mixed schools, while their separate schools will perish also. Would the law, then, benefit the colored race at all? A colored man might indeed then enforce his rights to ride all over the country in a Pullman palace car, to board at a first-class hotel and to sit in the dress circle of a theater. But such things can be enjoyed under any circumstances only by the very small number of wealthier people among them. And these pleasures and conveniences of their few men of means would be purchased at a dreadful price; the interruption of the public-school system, the advantages of which they now extensively enjoy in separate establishments, would deprive the children of the poor of a thing which is as necessary to them as their daily bread. I happen to know very sensible colored men, who have the interests of their race sincerely at heart, and who, looking over the whole field, and recognizing facts as facts, are not willing to pay the price of their poor children's education for their rich men's convenience and pleasure.
At the same time I take this occasion to say that the facilities of education furnished to the colored people in separate schools are, in some parts of the country, and also in several counties of this State, far from sufficient; and I cannot impress it too strongly upon my fellow-citizens that it is not only their duty, but their interest, as it is the general interest of society, to place within the reach of the poorest and lowliest of them every possible means by which they can raise themselves to the highest attainable degree of perfection. I trust, therefore, the just claims of the colored people will not fail to meet with full satisfaction.
But in still other respects the enactment of such a law would not be beneficent to the colored man. Their situation as freemen was surrounded with extraordinary difficulties and dangers from the beginning. They were confronted by an inveterate prejudice and by that spirit of reckless violence which is doing so much harm to the Southern people. Their false friends in the South, using them for selfish and iniquitous ends, have succeeded in increasing again the difficulties which the influence of time and habit was calculated to diminish. It would be a dangerous venture, dangerous to the colored people, if their social position were made the objective point of new strife, under circumstances so unfavorable. Now that they have the political rights of citizenship it is much wiser and safer for them to trust to the means they already possess to make themselves respected, and to leave all else to the gradual progress of public opinion, which has already outgrown many a prejudice that a few years ago still seemed invincible. As their sincere friend, I should certainly not consider it a favor to them to precipitate them headlong into numberless and endless personal conflicts, in which they inevitably would be the sufferers.
But the National Government and the dominating party can do something far better for the colored man than pass laws of doubtful Constitutionality or send troops for their protection. Let them openly and severely discountenance those corrupt partisans in the South who have misled the colored people into an organized support of robbery and misgovernment, and done all they could to make them believe that in the matured opinion of white men the science of politics consists in stealing as much of the public money as you can lay your hands on. Let them punish, at least with removal, those officeholders who have prostituted the authority of the Republic by using their official power to work into the hands of the plunderers. Let in their places be put men of wisdom, conscience and honor, who will set them an example of high official integrity and public spirit, and disabuse them of the idea that whatever they may do as partisans of those in power, the aid of the National Government will always stand behind them.
Still more can the colored people themselves do for their own protection; and here, I think, is the way to solve the most difficult part of the problem: They cannot too soon give up the delusion that they will be safe only as long as they remain together in the same political organization. Instead of exercising over one another a system of terrorism, in order to enforce party discipline, they should encourage among themselves individual independence. Not in union is their safety, but in division. They have before them the example of another body of men, who, although from the beginning far stronger in their social position and influence, were also, under certain circumstances, threatened with an invasion of their political rights; I mean the adopted citizens. As long as they, in an almost solid body, stood together on the side of one party, the other thought of taking their rights from them; but no sooner did they break their ranks, and divide, than both sides stood up for them with equal zeal. It is a lesson easily understood. As soon as the colored citizens in the South shake off the odium which arises from their having, as a solid, organized mass, been the main support of the worst kind of partisan rule, as soon as every one of them casts his vote on this side or the other, as his opinions or inclination may dictate, each party will make their protection a special object in order to attract a majority of those votes. And I am rejoiced to learn that the number of colored citizens who emancipate themselves from the serfdom of party discipline, and who counsel with their white neighbors on their political action in order to secure good government, is growing larger from year to year. When it will have grown so large that the colored voters become an important element, not only in one, but in both parties, under an impulse of self-interest, each party will rival in affording them the fullest measure of protection. That will do more to stop bloody excesses in the South than any military interference, and more to establish just and beneficent relations between the two races than any Congressional legislation. This view of the case may not be palatable to the managers of the party which so far has had the almost unanimous support of the colored vote. Governor Kellogg of Louisiana and Governor Moses of South Carolina, I apprehend, may not like it. They will call this the advice of a dangerous disorganizer, as I am accustomed to be called a dangerous disorganizer whenever I advocate a policy which crosses the selfish schemes of politicians. Well, the advice I give may not be good for the Kelloggs and Moseses, but I maintain that it is good for the safety and future welfare of the colored people, as well as for the cause of honest government in the South. And I declare myself in favor of honest government and of the security of every human being in the South in his life, property and rights, even if it should cost Kellogg and Moses every particle of political power they possess. And I hope the time is not far when every good citizen in the country, to whatever party he may belong, will be of the same opinion.
I am not sanguine enough to expect that, even if such a policy be followed, all elements of disorder will at once disappear from Southern society; but its most feverish distemper, at least, may thus be allayed. How much easier would it be to solve problems, now appearing so intricate if we could once deal with them on their own merits, in the light of a broad statesmanship, candid enough to face and recognize the whole truth, instead of every moment turning round to ask how this or that measure, however good in itself, may affect the chances of the Republican or of the Democratic party! How much error would then be dispelled! How many dangers would then be averted! You, honest Republicans, who, as sincerely as I, desire the protection of the poor negro and the suppression of violence, would then readily admit a fact which is as clear as sunlight, that the government of the Republican carpet-bagger and plunderer in the South, as a protection to the negro and the Union man, has been a most glaring and disastrous failure, and that in the very nature of things it must be so. You would no longer permit yourselves to be deceived about another fact equally clear and notorious, that in those Southern States, where the carpet-baggers and plunderers have ceased to rule — such as Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee — the poor negro is far better protected and acts of violence are far less frequent than they were when that rule still existed, and than they now are in those States where that rule still exists, as in Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama. And you would further understand that, in directly or indirectly sustaining that iniquitous rule for partisan advantage, you deprived your own party of the opportunity of carrying out beneficent and necessary reforms, and drove those States into the arms of your opponents.
On the other hand, you, honest Democrats, who have the cause of local self-government as sincerely at heart as I have, if you could but throw away the same blind partisan spirit, you would at once understand that nothing in the world can injure and imperil the cause of local self-government more than those bloody excesses and violent upheavings, apt to raise a doubt as to the fitness of the people for its exercise, and that nothing can benefit that cause more than the practical demonstration that the self-government of the people in every part of the country can, even under trying circumstances, be depended upon to secure the amplest protection to every man's life, property and rights. I repeat, how much easier would it be to solve such problems, how much easier to avert the dangers to our republican institutions they bring with them, if but for a short period that partisan spirit could be dispelled which blinds our eyes against the truth and cripples our patriotic impulse to do what is right and just and wise.
It is, indeed, time that this should end. Let the uprising of independent thought which we now behold, at last, break through that strange and dangerous infatuation. Let the American people once more remember that it is the duty of every citizen first to be a patriot before being a partisan. Then we shall cease to stumble from blunder into blunder, and that enlightened statesmanship will not fail to appear, which by courageous action will scatter the clouds now hanging with threatening gloom over the Republic.
And now, fellow-citizens, permit me to bring to your attention another problem of no less importance, which ought to have been disposed of long ago, and which no excitement about the South and no party manoeuver ought to be permitted to crowd into the background — the question of the national finances.
The financial problem, as it presents itself to us is not one of political economy alone, but it involves questions of public morals, of political power, and of good understanding between the different sections of the country. It is a somewhat dry subject, and I must fall back upon your patience in briefly discussing its different aspects.
In September of last year a financial crisis broke out, and, as soon as the first failures had taken place, and a panic set in, business men, especially bankers and financial operators, at once rushed to the national government for aid. They represented, and, indeed, a great many persons thought, that if the government would only put more paper money in circulation, the panic would at once subside, and the disturbed condition of business would be set right again. By a purchase of bonds, about $14,000,000 were set afloat by the government, most of which went at once into the savings banks, and was locked up, and produced no effect at all. Still, this appeal of merchants and financial men, under the bewildering influence of a panic, was not unnatural and extraordinary. But soon the theory that it is the office of government to regulate the financial and general business concerns of the people in such a way became quite popular, and it is preached in a most startling form by those whom we call inflationists. Let us examine that theory and see what it means.
In specie paying times, when gold coin was the basis of our financial system, and bank notes were redeemable in coin, the quantity of currency in circulations was regulated by the requirements of business; that is to say, when more money than we had in circulation was needed for the business transactions going on, gold flowed in from abroad, or, coming from the mines, remained here in larger quantity, instead of going abroad, and the banks put afloat larger issues of notes redeemable in gold. When less money was needed for those transactions gold went abroad in larger quantity, and bank notes flowed back to the banks for redemption. The reason is that gold appears not only in the character of money, but also in the character of a commodity — of merchandise which has its value the world over.
As an article of merchandise gold will, like other merchandise, flow in or withdraw as the market is good or bad; that is to say, when much gold is needed, to be coined into and used as currency, it will command a good price in other commodities; it will withdraw from less favorable markets and present itself for purchase; and, in the opposite case, it will go to some other place, where it finds more favorable conditions. This self regulating ebb and flow may be slightly and temporarily disturbed by violent revulsions or artificial operations, but in most cases the disturbance is only apparent; it is always short, and the general rule holds good. Thus, the quantity of specie in circulation — and, with a well ordered banking system, so it should be, the bank note circulation also — is, in specie paying times, regulated by the circumstances of business. The government has no arbitrary control over it; it has only to see to it that the coin struck in the mints has the fineness and weight prescribed by law, that counterfeiting be properly punished, and that the banks be so regulated as to make them safe.
But the substitution of an irredeemable paper currency for a metallic basis changes all this. How does that operate? Examine its history in the United States. In the extreme stress of the war our government suspended specie payments; that is to say, it gave for what it had to buy, and to those whose labor or military service it employed, no longer gold and silver, but its notes, its promises to pay, its due bills, and those due bills it made by law a legal tender in the payment of debt. Those legal tender notes became the currency of the country, and as an inferior currency, one of uncertain value, always drives out the superior one, both ceased to circulate. The precious metals lost their employment as a medium of exchange, and flowed out to other countries where they were still so employed, and found a market. From that time the self-acting laws of trade ceased to regulate the quantity of currency in circulation. And another regulator is substituted to determine that quantity, namely, the arbitrary will of the government. In our case Congress has to fix by law the volume of the circulating medium the country shall have. That volume, once fixed, remains rigidly the same, whatever the requirements of business may be, until Congress changes it by law, and then it remains rigid again. But is not Congress able to adapt the volume of currency to the business requirements of the country? I unhesitatingly say that Congress has not and never will have that ability. It would not have that ability were it composed of the most sagacious financiers of the land. The reason is, first, that the requirements of business are continually changing from month to month, almost from day to day; and secondly, that no man has ever been able to estimate with any degree of accuracy how much currency the business of any country does require under any given circumstances. We know only that when there is more than required of an irredeemable paper currency it will depreciate, and when there is to little to effect the necessary exchanges, the precious metals will flow in to fill the vacuum. But Congress, I say this without any disrespect, has been so far from being composed of the best financial minds of the country as not even to know that. It may be taken for granted, therefore, that in adapting the volume of currency to business requirements Congress will only follow wild guesses. But it is of the highest importance that such guesses should not be wrong, for if they are wrong, issues of paper money made upon them will seriously affect all current values in the country. For instance, if more currency is issued than business really requires, the currency, as it has done, will depreciate as to gold, and the prices of commodities will be inflated. Thus the purchasing power of every dollar of paper money in the hands of the people, as well as the cost of filling every contract, and the value of all things you have to buy and to sell will be changed by act of Congress. In other words, the value of the private property of every citizen in the country will be absolutely at the mercy of an arbitrary act of the government.
I invite you calmly to consider the nature of the power which the government thus exercises. To increase or diminish at will the purchasing power of every dollar you hold in your possession! To run up or down the price of every article of merchandise you have to sell! To make smaller or larger the size of every piece of bread and meat you are able to buy for your families! To make ruinous either to yourselves or the parties with whom you have contracted, the performance of every contract you have made! To raise or lower the real amount of every debt you owe or due you! No value stable, no contract safe, no business calculation certain, no possession secure! Everything at the mercy of the arbitrary will of government! You ransack your imagination in vain for a conception of a governmental power more wildly despotic. I ask you with all condor and soberness, is this a power which any government ought to have? Above all, is this a power which a republican government ought to have? But such is, such always will be, the power of a government that can determine at pleasure the volume of the currency to be put and kept in circulation. And it is very remarkable and significant, that so many Democrats who are fond of priding themselves, especially upon their fidelity to the principle that the preservation of popular liberty is possible only if the powers of government are carefully limited, in this instance favor a centralization of power of the most arbitrary and despotic nature. Consistent Democrats indeed! Consider what use might be made of such a power, if a Congress, intrusted with it, ever fell under the control of a ring of shrewd and greedy speculators! Not only the Treasury of the government, nay, every citizen's pocket would be within easy reach of their rapacity. But, dismissing the supposition of organized roguery, the mischief may as well be done by error and ignorance. And there impossibility itself appears possible. Of the wisdom with which so tremendous a power may be exercised, we had last winter a striking illustration. The majority in Congress insisted that to relieve the disturbed condition of business, it was absolutely necessary to expand the currency. No counter-argument availed. After months of debate the majority succeeded in passing a bill avowedly for that purpose. It was a great victory of the expansionists. The specie payment men left them in their illusion. But when the bill was passed, a closer analysis showed that the practical operation of the scheme would have had the effect of rather contracting than expanding the currency. Thus it turned out that the inflationists, after months of debate and cogitation, did not even know how to inflate. The President justly vetoed the bill on the ground that it was an inflation measure in principle, although its effect might have been different.
But a mistake just as great led the majority of Congress to think of an expansion of the currency at all. The fact that a panic, a sudden scare, may be relieved by the banks being enabled to discount freely, made them believe that the stagnation of business, such as is brought about by a great financial or commercial collapse or crisis, can also be remedied by the expansion of such a currency as we have. Now look at the facts. We all know that, since the panic of last fall, the banks in all the commercial centers, great and small, and even in many country towns, have been full of money which sought safe investment, and was, to a great extent, not able to find it. I am well aware that there were a good many persons who could not get all the loans they wanted; but the difficulty in such cases was not that there was not a sufficiency of money in the loan market, but that the security offered was not deemed satisfactory by the lenders. But not only lenders, but also borrowers, had become circumspect and timid, and thus there remained vast quantities of money in the banks which could not find safe and profitable employment. In fact, many banks which in ordinary times deal only in commercial paper, publicly advertised that they were willing to lend out money on real estate security on long time. Such has been the case in this very city. I have here an extract from the money article of a Chicago paper of September 19. It is as follows:
“The demand for money for nearly two weeks past has been, for the season, of the smallest possible proportions. Bankers have really had scarcely any thing to do. Nobody seems willing to borrow money if he can possibly help it. Economy is the order of the day — certainly a most healthful and hopeful condition of things, but it leaves the bankers with their vaults full of idle funds.”
All this goes to prove that there was a super-abundance of currency far beyond the actual requirements of business, but at the same time a lack of confidence which prevented the use of it, while the majority in Congress insisted that the business of the country was starving for want of more money. Another striking instance of the vast and varied misinformation at the bottom of the expansion cry was the following: Great complaint was made in Congress of the advantage the East had over the West and South in the distribution of the national bank currency. That complaint was not unjust. But it was stated also by Western and Southern Senators and Representatives that those sections of the country were beyond measure hungry for more national bank currency, and that there would be a ravenous rush for bank charters as soon as the law should be so changed as to give the West and South an opportunity for the establishment of more banks of issue. It was loudly asserted that this good State of Missouri could absolutely not get along without more national banks, more “local circulation,” and that if any were placed within her reach, she would fairly jump at it.
Well, a law was passed placing more “local circulation” within the reach of Missouri, but where was the jump? I hold in my hand a letter from the Comptroller of Currency, which gives the following information:
[Wikisource note: Some of the digits in the Comptroller's letter below were not legible, and conjectures were used in their place.]
Sir — I have received your letter of the 3d inst. Previous to the passage of the law of June 20, 1874, national banks had been authorized in your State as follows:
All of these applicants have been notified to perfect their organizations, but thus far no steps have been taken for that purpose.
Since the passage of the act, the First National Bank of Kansas City has been authorized to increase its capital stock to $500,000, with additional circulation amounting to $215,000, and others were authorized, on the 17th of July last, to organize a national bank at Shelbina, with a capital of $100,000, circulation $90,000. No bonds have been deposited by any national bank organized, or in process of organization, as security for circulation, since the passage of the act of June 20.
The proportion of $351,000,000 of national bank circulation apportioned to Missouri, on the basis of population and wealth, is $15,459,479, the amount issued to this date, $6,180,588; leaving undistributed, $9,278,891 any portion of which may be distributed to organizations in Missouri until the whole amount authorized by the act of June 20, 1874, shall be transferred from the Eastern to the Western and Southern States.
The following national banks in Missouri have deposited legal tender notes since June 20, and withdrawn a proportionate amount of their bonds:
|St. Louis National Bank||$ 132,000|
|Valley National Bank, St. Louis||74,000|
|National Bank of State of Mo., St. Louis||1,383,600|
The total amount of national bank circulation outstanding to date is $350,656,725.
Very respectfully, J. W. Knox, Comptroller,
Hon. Carl Schurz, U. S. S., St. Louis.
Thus it turns out that the State of Missouri, though since the passage of the law of June 20, 1874, is entitled to over $9,000,000 more of national bank currency than it had before, over $1,000,000 more has been surrendered than has been applied for, between the 20th of June and this day; and since none of the new banks authorized has, by performing the legal requirements, enabled itself to set any currency afloat, we have in reality over $1,590,000 less bank currency to-day than we had before the passage of the act enabling us to have more. That is a contraction of bank currency. And who effected it? Not the government, but the voluntary action of our moneyed institutions. It seems, if the government does not contract, contractions effects itself where it has a chance.
And this in the State of Missouri, which, as the inflationists said, stood thundering at the doors of the Treasury, vociferously demanding an immediate grant of more bank currency, more “local circulation” for the famishing business interests of the people. There it is in facts and figures. Does it not almost seem as if those who insisted that the stagnation of business here was owing to a lack of currency, and the business interests of Missouri were clamorous for more currency, eager to take it if it could be had, were sadly ignorant of the matter they were speaking about — in fact, that the majority had no conception whatever of the actual condition and requirements of the business of the country? By this time they must have arrived at that conclusion themselves.
When insisting that we needed more currency, they evidently did not consider that during a crisis business contracts itself; that people reduce their expenses; that demand falls off, and thereby production is necessarily discouraged; that capital becomes more than ordinarily timid in its investments; that enterprise grows very circumspect, and confines itself to the safest ventures; that confidence is shaken; that nobody is inclined to take any great risks, and that for its necessarily limited transactions under such circumstances business requires less and not more currency than in ordinary times. Such is the case after the crisis of 1873, as it had been the case after every crisis which preceded it. But in one important feature the crisis of 1873 differed from those which preceded it. While in 1837 and following years, and in 1857, the crisis was attended by a severe contraction of the bank note currency, the rotten banks breaking and their issues being wiped out, the crisis of 1873 did not change the volume of our already irredeemable currency at all. After the panic there was and there is just as much of it as there was before. Now, it may be thought at first sight that this is an advantage, but it is just the reverse. Why? Because this circumstance does not facilitate the recovery of business from the collapse, but renders that recovery more difficult and retards it. The reason is simple.
After a crisis business struggles to re-establish itself upon a new, solid and safe basses. One of the first pre-requisites of such a solid, and safe basis is a sound currency, a currency of reliable and stable value. In former crises the rotten banks broke, and their notes disappeared. The sound banks endured the shock, and their notes remained good. But although the currency had contracted itself, what remained of it was sound, and when business grew again and demanded more, specie flowed in and served as a basis for new and sound issues of bank notes. The volume of the currency, specie payments being restored, regulated itself according to the requirements of business. The business men of the country knew in that respect what they could count upon. They could base their calculations and contracts and engagements upon the assurance that the standard of values and the medium of exchange used in its transactions was and would remain certain and stable, that a dollar was not only in name, but in reality, a dollar, subject to no arbitrary act of government. That safe and solid foundation being laid, the legitimate business of the country recovered with comparative rapidity, leaving only those fictitious values behind, in which windy speculation had been dealing; confidence revived; enterprise took a new start, and the country was soon restored to new prosperity. I am well aware that other agencies, the tariff and political movements, together with the currency, had, and always have a combined effect upon the economic development of the country. But taking the influence exercised by the currency itself it was undoubtedly such as I have stated. It was to facilitate the recovery of business by giving it a certain and stable foundation on which to start and to develop.
But what is our condition to-day? There is the indisputable fact that there is the same amount of currency as before the crisis; that the banks have for a year been full of money, and that so much of it lies unemployed. Why is it that, even after the liquidations which have taken place since last September, the general stagnation continues virtually unchanged, that business can not get a new start, and does not at present even show a prospect of improvement? Why do not confidence and enterprise revive?
One of the reasons, and a very important one — probably the principal one — is, not that as the inflationists pretend, we have not currency enough — for there is much more than finds active employment — but that the currency we do have does not furnish a safe, stable and certain basis for a new development of business. Why not? Because the volume and value of that currency depends not upon the self-acting laws of trade, but upon the arbitrary action of the government. You may approximately know what it is worth to-day, but you do not know what it will be worth a month hence, and you have not the remotest conception of what it may be worth twenty days after the opening of the next session of Congress. It has not the element of stability which is required to give the necessary degree of certainty to business calculations. It depends upon the arbitrary will of a power whose decisions in such matters can be foretold as little as the verdict of a petit jury in a breach of promise case. If an importer orders a lot of goods in Europe to-day, when one dollar and ten cents in greenbacks bring one dollar in gold, he may at the time his payments come due have to pay for one dollar in gold one dollar and thirty cents in paper. If a merchant sells a bill of goods to a customer on ninety days' time, greenbacks may be worth 20 per cent. less when the payment comes in than when the sale was made. If a builder makes a contract for erecting a block of houses to-day, on a calculation of the prices of material and labor, based upon greenback value to-day, he may be utterly ruined by the change in the purchasing power of our paper money ensuing when Congress passes its next currency bill — and so on through the whole chapter. Business, especially when struggling to get a new start after a collapse, wants firm ground upon which to stand; but now the ground is so earthquaky that scarcely anybody ventures to plant his feet down with assurance. This is one of the main reasons why, in spite of the large quantity of currency out, business finds so little employment for it, and why there is so little prospect of relieving the stagnation. It is the quality of our paper money which produces such effects, and a further increase of its quantity would not better things, for it would only deteriorate its quality, making its value still more uncertain. On the contrary, I am convinced if we had 10 or 15 per cent. less currency out to-day, business would not be more stagnant, capital not more timid, enterprise not more sluggish than we find them to-day.
It is evident to my mind that the business of the country would be in a much healthier condition if Congress, instead of spending the whole of last winter in an effort to inflate the currency, had inaugurated a policy moving with gradual but steady and irrevocable steps towards a resumption of specie payments. I know very well that specie payments do not cure all evils that flesh is heir to. I know, also, that specie payments are, in a country like this, not always to be maintained without interruption. The inflationists are fond of telling us that in 1837 and in 1857, when we had specie payments, the banks were compelled to suspend. True, we have had such revulsions at an interval of twenty years, and then, after a short suspension the banks resumed and business started again with a sound currency into a healthy activity. But when from the fact of a short suspension every twenty years the inflationists draw the conclusion that we had better not return to specie payments at all, and keep an irredeemable currency all the time, they might as well say, that since we have an invasion of the cholera about once in twenty years, it is best to keep the cholera here all the time, so as not to be exposed to a temporary interruption of the regular order of things.
These were among the foremost reasons which induced me to advocate a resumption policy last winter in the Senate. The moment seemed to me very propitious. In consequence of the crisis the prices of commodities had already declined to a low point; the premium on gold was low; credit in business transactions had been largely contracted; private indebtedness had to a great extent been liquidated; business men had generally but light stocks on hand and had been circumspect in their operations and engagements; in one word, much of the work of preparation which must precede resumption had already been done by the crisis of 1873. That condition of things has in many ways continued to exist, and I shall persevere in the advocacy of the same policy.
True, the resumption of specie payments would not cure all evils, but it would cure a great many. It would remove that terrible uncertainty which renders every sound business calculation impossible, and makes people gamblers in spite of themselves. It would give the business of the country again the safe basis of a currency of assured value, upon which it can take a new start and a healthy development.
It would deprive the national government of a most dangerous and despotic power, which puts the private fortune of the citizen at its mercy. It would relieve the business community of that most intolerable condition, which makes everybody tremble when Congress meets for fear that every business arrangement be upset and every value be changed by new currency legislation — a condition of things keeping the whole business community in an incessant fever of anxiety.
It would remove one of the principal obstacles which stand in the way of agricultural prosperity; and as the well doing of the agricultural interest is the basis of all business prosperity in the West, as well as in the South, you will pardon me for directing a few remarks to this point particularly.
The farmers are persistently told by the inflationists that an expansion of the currency would benefit and the resumption of specie payments injure them. And yet nothing can be clearer than that of all economic interests the agricultural suffers most severely from an unsound currency such as we have.
The farmer produces but a few staple articles for sale, and he has a considerable variety of articles to buy. A portion of some of the most important staple products is exported, and the price of the whole crop is regulated by the foreign market. The farmer receives the price paid at Liverpool, less the cost of transportation and the profits of the intermediate operators, with the premium on gold added. But the price of those staples in the foreign market are measured by the specie standard prevailing there, and not driven up by any paper inflation; and they are also depressed by the competition of other agricultural countries. While thus receiving comparatively low prices for what he sells, he had, under our currency system, comparatively high prices to pay for everything he buys, in clothing, shoes, groceries, household and farming utensils, and so on. Why is this so? The value of an irredeemable paper currency constantly fluctuates. The importer of goods, the merchant, the manufacturer, when offering their articles for sale, first add to the price, at which they would sell under specie payments, the premium on gold. But they know also that they run the risk of the fluctuation and possible depreciation of the paper money they get for their goods, so that, if they sell on time, the sum of paper money they receive in payment, when the purchaser pays his note, may not represent the same gold value which the same nominal sum represented when the sale was made. The merchant or manufacturer protects himself against his risk of loss by making another addition to the price of the goods he sells. Usually the goods pass through several hands; those of the jobber, the Western or Southern wholesale dealer, and the retailer, before they reach the consumer. Each one of these intermediaries runs the same risk of the depreciation of the paper currency, and protects himself by making another addition to the price on his part. And who has to pay the three or four additions to the price made by the traders for their own protection against the fluctuations of the paper money? Of course the consumer; in this case the farmer. The price of everything he has to buy therefore has been run up not only by the premium on gold, but far beyond that, by the additional percentage covering the risk of three or four intermediate traders. All this is owing to the nature of our currency.
But does not the risk of currency fluctuation affect also the price of the products the farmer has to sell? Yes, it does; but in the opposite way. The tradesman who buys the farmer's wheat and ships it to St. Louis or Chicago, the grain merchant who ships it to New York, runs the same risk of currency fluctuation also, and try to protect themselves. But they cannot put it on the price of the wheat they have bought, for the reason that the price of that wheat at New York and Liverpool is determined by the market there, which market is controlled by the competition of all the agricultural countries of the civilized world. How do these traders then protect themselves? By deducting the percentage necessary to cover their risk from the price they pay to the farmer. The farmer flatters himself that if gold goes up he gets for his products the benefit of the higher premium of gold. But the risk of the tradesman who buys from him being deducted, he gets a considerable percentage less than the full premium; while on the price of the goods he buys the risk of the tradesman is added to the premium, and the farmer has to pay a very considerable percentage over and above that premium. Thus the farmer's candle burns at both ends. The character of our paper currency, in consequence of its inflation, blows up the prices of everything the farmer has to buy, and the same thing runs down the prices of all he has to sell. When he buys a thing the risk of currency inflation is against him, for it is deducted from the price he gets. Even under favorable circumstances, the farmer does not make much over and above his expenses. But under such a system of currency he makes still less, if anything. No wonder, therefore, the farmer does not flourish.
Now it is evident, the more such a currency is inflated the more it will fluctuate, the greater the risks to cover, and the heavier the burden on the farmer. It is, indeed, pretended that farmers who are in debt, who have mortgages on their land, would be benefited by inflation, in so far as inflation would depreciate the currency, and the debtor would be enabled to pay in dollars of less value. Leaving the morality of this argument out of the question, it is easy to show that this would in the long run not benefit the farmer at all. How are debts paid? Out of surplus earnings; out of that money which you gain over and above your expenses. Now I have shown that an irredeemable currency, producing by its fluctuations high prices for what the farmer has to buy, and low prices for what he has to sell, turns the scale in every case against him. It does not increase, but seriously reduces, his surplus earnings. It, therefore, does not help him out of debt, but in the long run gets him into debt. The truth is, unlike the Wall street operator or the speculative merchant, who deals in many articles, turns his investments over several times a year and watches his chances, the farmer cannot take advantage of the changes of values and the fluctuations of trade. There are only certain articles he produces and has to sell, more or less at a certain time. There are certain things he must buy, also more or less at a certain time. He cannot change or modify that to avail himself of favorable opportunities, but he is the helpless victim of circumstances. No class of citizens is therefore more interested in fair dealing, and in the basis of all fair dealing, a sound currency. The farmer cannot prosper as long as the prices of all things he has to buy are artificially raised, and the prices of all things he has to sell artificially lowered, and such will always be the effect of the fluctuations of such a currency as we have. The farmer justly complains of the extortions practiced upon him by certain transportation monopolies; he justly complains of the injurious effects of the protective tariff; but full as grinding, nay, more so, is the oppression inflicted upon him by a vicious currency. It is astonishing how many farmers and planters are still deluding themselves on this point. But it is to be hoped that they soon will rise to a just understanding of their true interests, and, with one voice, demand what alone can protect them against the most subtle kind of robbery, an early restoration of specie payments.
Another evil the resumption of specie payments will cure consists in those absurd and demoralizing notions concerning the creation of wealth which our vicious currency has been fostering. It will stop that damnable demagogism which seeks to teach people that in some way they ought to get around paying their honest debts, and that they can grow rich by some shrewd gambling manipulation of the paper money easier than by honest work. Studying the theories advanced and the schemes proposed by the inflationists, you might almost think the alchemists of the middle ages had risen again, who pretended that they had discovered the art of making gold out of nothing. So, our inflationists pretend to have discovered the art of honestly discharging debt without paying them, and of enabling you to acquire wealth without producing more than you consume, or earning more than you spend. But what the alchemists brought forth was something that was yellow, and also heavy; but it was not gold. And what the inflation doctors will bring forth, if their prescriptions be followed, is an inflation of prices, wild speculation in fictitious values, deceptive appearances of thrift, but not real wealth and prosperity. They try to make the American people believe that they can rashly increase their wealth simply by issuing more promises to pay. What effect are such teachings calculated to produce? It is a matter of experience that, when you want to ruin a man, economically, physically and morally, you must make him believe he is rich when he is not.
The absurdities peddled by these philosophers of the inflation school are sometimes most amazing. To give you a fair illustration I will read an article which appeared in one of the Democratic papers of this city some time last June. I cut it out, for it appeared to me very significant and exceedingly amusing. Here it is:
“What is needed to restore healthy circulation and confidence, and what Grant says there shall be more of is money. In a case exactly analogous to the one now under consideration, a very able writer on political economy draws a picture that suits the present condition of the country to perfection. In substance the existence of an individual was supposed, with wealth so great that all who knew him had entire confidence in the performance of what he promised. He said to the laborers of the country, ‘Go into the mills, and I will see that your wages are paid;’ to the millers, ‘Employ these people, and I will see that your cloth is sold;’ to the farmers, ‘Give your food to the laborer and your wool to the millers, and I will see that your bills are at once discharged;’ to the shop-keepers, ‘Give your coffee and your sugar to the farmer, and I will see that payment shall forthwith be made;’ to the city traders, ‘Fill the orders of the village shop-keepers, and send your bills to me for payment;’ to the landlords, ‘I have opened a clearing-house for the whole country, and have done so with a view to enable every man to find, on the instant, a cash demand for his labor, and its products, and my whole fortune has been pledged for the performance of my engagements;’ what, after all these things, would be the effect in the country? At once the societary circulation would have been restored. Labor would have come into demand, thus doubling at once the productive power of the country. Food would have been demanded, and the farmer would have been enabled to improve his machinery of cultivation. Both would have been sold, and the spinner would have added to the number of his spindles. Coal and iron would have found increased demand, and mines and furnaces would have grown in number and in size. Houses becoming more productive, new ones would have been built. The paralysis would have passed away, life, activity and energy having taken its place, all these wonderful effects having resulted from the simple pledge of the one sufficient man that he would see the contracts carried out. He had pledged his credit, and nothing more. And what the man could do in the case here supposed, the government through its Congress could do to-morrow, if it had nerve enough and strength enough to put its master aside and declare for the liberties of the people against the perverted ideas of the despot.”
It would seem that if anybody is foolish enough to write such fantastic nonsense, nobody would be foolish enough to believe it. And yet this is but a florid elaboration of the very idea which the inflationists advance, and by which they seek to make their doctrines popular. It is the idea that an expansion of our currency means a general distribution of money by the government among the people, especially those who need it; that if anybody has not money enough to start an enterprise or to carry on his business as he desires, he has only to hold out his hand to the government, and it is at once filled with a pile of greenbacks; or that if anybody is in trouble with a mortgage on his house or farm, or cannot redeem a note, or cannot pay his rent, the government, by issuing more greenbacks, will at once furnish him the funds; or that if money be not distributed in this exact way, then at least by some hocus pocus the same effect is produced. In one word, that the government is a sort of rich uncle with unlimited means, whose business and duty it is to help the boys with cash when they get into trouble. Incredible as it may seem, I have seen many people who had received just that impression from the teachings of the inflationists, and there are multitudes who entertain it to-day. In fact, this absurd delusion has wrought more mischief in the popular mind than any other argument. But what are the true facts of the case? How would the paper money get out if the government expanded the currency? The government would have to buy up United States bonds in the market, that is in Wall Street, New York. The greenbacks will go in the first place into the hands of those who have bonds to sell, and that is not the farmer, who has a mortgage on his land, nor the Western business man who cannot pay his note. But it is the Eastern banker or operator who deal in bonds. To show you what is then apt to become of those greenbacks so issued, I will repeat a statement taken from official sources which I made in the Senate last February. On the 1st of February, 1873, the outstanding greenbacks amounted to $356,000,000, of which the banks in the three cities of New York, Boston and Philadelphia held $63,797,982. On the 16th of February, 1874, the outstanding greenbacks amounted to $381,327,327, of which the same banks in Philadelphia, New York and Boston held $87,228,654. There had been an increase of the greenback circulation of $25,327,327, and all of that increase, with the exception of $1,898,645, had remained in the banks of three Eastern cities, while the $1,898,645 most probably was in the banks of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Where was the money then for the farmer with his mortgage and the Western business man with his unpaid note? In the Eastern banks; and if the farmer or the Western business man wanted any of it, the farmer had to raise and sell grain for the amount, and the latter had to find sufficient security to induce a bank to lend it to him. So they had to do before, so they have to do now, and so they always will have to do to get money. The government will never go round peddling it out for nothing to those who need it.
But what is the effect of such absurd teachings as I have described upon the morale of the people? What will a great many men do, if you persuade them that they need not exert themselves too much, for if they get into trouble the government will issue money enough to help them out to pay their debts, to protect them against the risks of business ventures? A very large number will depend upon that mysterious aid, and believing that they can get rich without honest labor, will shun hard work, give themselves to speculative enterprise and abandon wise economy. Nothing is more striking in times when an inflated paper currency exists, than that honest industry yields to speculation and gambling, and wise economy to thoughtless extravagance. It always has been so, and always will be so. Nothing will benefit the country more than putting an end to that vicious currency system which feeds so dangerous a demagogism, and will only strengthen so demoralizing an influence on society the longer it is continued. A return to specie payments will convince every man in the country once more that honest industry is the only reliable source of wealth; that he who contracts a debt must expect to pay it himself, and he who wants to get on in the world without trouble must earn more than he spends. A money system that enforces such a lesson will make the people wiser and richer at the same time.
Finally, the resumption of specie payments will greatly increase the credit of the country, especially by making an end of all repudiation ideas. I deeply deplore the fact that in this as in several other States a political party could be found willing to revive the old and, as the world thought, exploded heresy that the 5 20 bonds should be paid off in depreciated paper money instead of coins. The basis of, or rather the pretext for, that heresy is that the law by virtue of which those bonds were issued did not in express language make them payable in coin. Nobody will deny that a debt must be paid according to the original bona fide understanding between the debtor and the creditor. Can anybody sincerely believe when, amidst the terrible uncertainties of the war the government called upon its own citizens and those of foreign countries to lend it their money and take its bonds, a single man would have done so had he seen the least reason to fear that the government would redeem those bonds not with real dollars, but with depreciated due bills? Not a bond would have been sold had any such apprehension been entertained.
There can be no question about the original understanding. And now, what do you call paying those bonds? Will the government be paying those bonds, bonds promising to pay so many dollars with 6 per cent. interest, if it merely exchanges them, not for so many dollars, but for other promises to pay dollars, at present worth 10 per cent. less, payable heaven knows when, and bearing no interest? Is that payment? Do I pay a mortgage running at 6 per cent. interest by giving for it an already protested due bill selling in the market at a heavy discount, and bearing no interest at all? It is a plain an palpable cheat. It is barefaced and shameless repudiation. No nation having the least regard for its own honor will ever think of descending to such a fraud. But subsequent events have made the case still clearer. The same repudiation cry having been raised in the Presidential election of 1868. Congress in 1869 passed a law to strengthen the public credit, in which it was expressly declared, to avoid thenceforth every possibility of a difference of opinion, that the 5 20 bonds should be paid in coin. Since that time many of those bonds have changed hands, and were bought by parties counting most firmly upon the good faith of the Congress of the United States. The very originators of the theory that the 5 20 bonds should be paid in greenbacks, Mr. Pendleton and Gov. Hendricks, of Indiana, have deemed that circumstance so important and decisive, as to declare themselves, publicly, that the duty of the government to pay those bonds in gold admits no longer of doubt.
And now we see the Democratic party of Missouri in their platform solemnly insisting that even after the law of 1869, which they call a usurpation of power, those bonds must be paid in greenbacks. Thus the Democratic party of Missouri, like that of Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio, has made itself the champion of the repudiation scheme. And that is one of the issues upon which they ask for the suffrages of the people.
Do they know what they are doing? If they succeeded in carrying such a measure as they advocate through Congress, not only would they cheat the creditors of the government, but they would, by that act of repudiation, strike a blow at the credit of the American people, from which for more than a generation we would not recover. Do we not want as much foreign capital as we can attract, to help us build our highways of trade and develop our untouched resources? Already our credit abroad has suffered severely enough from the failure of not a few of American corporations to perform their promises. But so far, at least, the credit of our government has stood firm; the good faith of the American nation, as such, has been untarnished. Let that fall also, and the very name of an American will inspire distrust wherever he goes. Then bid farewell for the length of your lives to all ideas of seeing any enterprise in this country aided by the means which have been flowing in so freely from abroad, and have been so useful to us. The saving which might accrue by paying greenbacks instead of gold for the outstanding 5-20 bonds would be as nothing compared with the incalculable and irretrievable loss which the downfall of American government credits would inflict upon this country and upon every citizen in it. But if the repudiationists fail in carrying this scheme through Congress, will the mere attempt to do so be harmless? Does anybody believe that any State can indorse the principle of repudiation with impunity? Let the people of Missouri indorse the repudiation platform of the Democratic party by electing the candidates nominated upon it, and Missouri will stand before the world as a repudiation State. You insist that we have not capital enough; we want to attract more. For this purpose we want credit. What will the credit of Missouri and her citizens be if the news goes forth that a majority of her people have pronounced for the principle of repudiation? Will New York, will Boston, will Europe trust us? The success of the repudiation platform by the election of the candidates standing on it, would strike a blow at the credit of Missouri which soon every one of her citizens would feel.
If for no other reason, then for this alone, having at heart the honor of the State, and the credit of her people, and the interests based upon that credit, must I oppose the Democratic party of Missouri; and I firmly trust that every citizen who has the welfare of his state more at heart than that of his party, will not hesitate to join in the verdict of condemnation.
The resumption of specie payments will forever kill that sort of rascality, and therefore no repudiationist is in favor of specie payments. Going to the bottom of things you will find that inflation and repudiation are in the end one and the same thing. Inflate the currency as often as it is demanded, and final repudiation will be inevitable. The inflation idea is therefore firmly rooted only with those who look upon repudiation as the ultimate end. Only they are consistent. All others will soon abandon it, seeing its folly and mischievousness.
There is one final solution to what we call the financial question, that is the resumption of specie payments. All other schemes are temporary expedients and quackery. We must at last adopt this one solution, and, I am honestly convinced, this time is as propitious as any in the future will be. If we let it slip, and permit the balloon of speculation to fill up again, we shall inevitably have another collapse at no distant day, and the opportunity for a return to a sound currency will be no better than it is now.
It will come some day with the certainty of fate. You have to choose between two methods of bringing it on. You must go forward, or you will slide backward. Either you will avail yourselves of such a condition of things as the present, and resolutely advance towards resumption, bearing such temporary inconvenience as such a movement may bring with it, or you will go on inflating the currency until finally it outgrows every control, and then collapses with a tremendous crash, involving the whole country in universal bankruptcy, ruin, repudiation and dishonor. These are the two methods. Which of them will wise men choose?
But how [to] get back to specie payments? There are various methods proposed, each of which is better than the preservation of our present system, which will demand expansion as long as it exists, and unless courageously done away with [will] at last inevitably bring on the most general and crushing disasters. I believe that specie payments cannot be resumed and maintained with the present volume of our currency, and that therefore that volume must be reduced, slowly and gradually, of course, but steadily, until the point is reached where redemption is possible. There are those who pretend to have discovered a method by which specie payments can be reached and maintained without such a reduction. If that is possible, so much the better. I should gladly aid in carrying out the scheme. But candor compels me to say that so far I have seen no such method that will accomplish the work without indirectly reducing the currency volume. But I am certainly willing to advocate the easiest method, if it be sure. Some people are troubled by the idea that we have not gold enough in this country for such a purpose. Of course we have not, for gold does not flow in, but it will constantly flow out where it is inot wanted for its principal employment. If the American people unanimously resolve not to wear any more shoes but sandals, shoes will at once leave the country for other markets where they are used. But the moment the Americans reverse that resolution and wear shoes again, shoes will instantly come for sale from all parts of the world where they are cheaper than here. So it is with gold. While we do not employ it, it flows out. As soon as we employ it again, it will seek our market. We shall be able to buy as much as we need, just as we can buy any other merchandise. The fear that foreign governments, or banking institutions, would conspire to prevent its coming here, is foolish. They cannot prevent it if they try, just as little as they could prevent the importation of wheat in case our crops fell short of our wants, while they had abundant crops abroad.
That the resumption of specie payments may for a moment somewhat cramp and pinch business here and there, is possible. But the case is very much like that of a toothache. However severely the decayed grinder may pain you, you are apt to dread the moment when the tooth is to be drawn. At last you submit with reluctance to the operation. You give a shriek perhaps when the jerk comes, but you feel so much the more comfortable afterwards, and then you are sorry that you did not submit to the operation sooner, thus saving days and weeks of unnecessary trouble. You would certainly call him a fool who would run about with a toothache all his life, for fear of the dentist, when a single moment of acute pain might make him a healthy man again. Wise men will understand the lesson. Our decayed tooth has to come out some time; the sooner it is out the better. We shall then be healthy men again, and with clear heads and steady hands soon work into new and assured prosperity. We shall not only be the richer, but also the wiser and better for it.
A reckless demagogism has represented this matter in the light of an effort on the part of the East to enrich itself by impoverishing the West and South. I say this is not only absurd, but wicked; wicked, because it is a new attempt to array the sections against each other. It is absurd, for as I have shown, the interest of the farming and planting class demands the return to a sound currency more imperatively than any other. Only under a sound currency the agricultural West and South can flourish. And what interest could the East have to ruin the West and South? Ruin the West and South, and half of New York and Boston is bankrupt. You cannot ruin one part of the country without injuring the other. The people of the East understand that just as well as we. A sound currency is not an Eastern and not a Western, it is a common American interest, for it will promote the prosperity of the whole American people, West as well as East, South as well as North, and as such I advocate it.
I ask your pardon for having dwelt so long upon this subject, but I consider it one of the most important questions of the day. I am informed that the position I have taken with regard to it has not had the approval of many of my constituents. I ask them only to believe that I have been acting upon convictions which are very sincere and very strong; so sincere and so strong indeed that I should continue to hold them did I stand with them quite alone. I have been asked by political and personal friends, for my own sake, either to abstain entirely from expressing my opinions on the financial question in this campaign, or at least to compromise a little by declaring myself, for instance, for specie payments in an indefinite future, but for some expansion at present. I cannot do that. It is against my sense of duty. Did I not consider my convictions correct I should not entertain them. Did I not deem them in accordance with the best interests of the people, I should not urge them. The fact that some of my constituents have so far not approved my opinions is all the more a reason to argue the matter with those who differ with me. No personal considerations are admissible. I know that two and two make four. No personal consideration can make me say that two and two make five, and no expediency can induce me to compromise the matter by saying that two and two make about four and a half. I am absolutely against inflation of any kind. I am in favor of the immediate adoption of a policy which will lead us by gradual but decided, direct and irrevocable steps to the resumption of specie payments. This I consider right, and for the best interests of the country. By this I shall stand as long as I stand at all.
Permit me now a few remarks on the issues of the State campaign in which we are now engaged. I am one of those who, in 1870, went out of the convention of the party in whose ranks I had served for fifteen years, for the purpose of doing an act of justice to a large number of our fellow-citizens in a manner calculated to produce the best possible effect upon the future development of the State. The motives which led me to take a step so venturesome for a public man I have never since seen any reason to be ashamed or to repent of. Many thousands of our citizens were then disfranchised in consequence of their attitude during the civil war. For five years after the close of the great conflict they had been paying taxes, and a large majority of them had been bearing all the burdens and performing all the duties of citizenship without enjoying any of its political privileges. While such exceptional restrictions were dictated by the policy of self-preservation, as war measures, at a time when the issues and results of the conflict were still trembling in the scale, I thought their continuation an unjustifiable wrong and hardship after those issues and results were firmly secured. Moreover, those restrictive laws had put into the hands of the party to which I belonged means to perpetuate its power, which could not fail to lead, and indeed had led, to most grievous, tyrannical and demoralizing abuses. It appeared to me, as it did to thousands of Republicans, that it was time to make an end of this. I thought also that if a large number of Republicans stepped before those who had been deprived of their political rights, saying: "We, members of the dominant party, which might, by maintaining disfranchisement, perpetuate its ascendancy ever so long, actuated as we are by a sense of justice and the impulse of fraternal feeling, restore to you, freely and voluntarily, all the rights and political privileges of which you have been deprived" — such an act would go far to wipe out forever all the old passions and animosities of past conflicts, and unite the whole people of the State in the bonds of mutual confidence and good understanding. I thought also that such an act of justice, voluntarily performed at the risk of our political fortunes, would, as an example of political independence, be well calculated to disarm for the future that partisan spirit which so frequently has stood, and now stands, in the way of good government.
That was my motive and purpose. Neither can it be said that any desire or expectation of personal reward inspired that step. Had it been so, then I should have improved my advantage by joining the Democratic party, when that turned up as a majority in this State, to make good my claim on their gratitude, if there be such a thing. But I declared in 1870, and in 1872 again, that I had separated from the Republican majority with no such intention. Doubts were expressed at the time as to the sincerity of that declaration; but I think I have proved that sincerity by maintaining ever since an attitude of absolute independence, acting on the field of National politics upon the same motives and principles which determined my course in the State of Missouri. And I am gratified to know that a large majority of those with whom I stood in 1870 have been governed by the same spirit.
It is my duty to say that the purposes for which the movement of 1870 was undertaken, have met with some disappointment. I do not lay any stress on the fact that a certain class of the same men for whose political rights and privileges we rose up in 1870, and who then pressed our hands, called us their saviors and deliverers, and extolled to the skies the virtue of our moral courage for the right and our political independence, now, when we act upon the same principles, find no insinuation too mean and no abuse too gross to vilify us before the people in press and speech. Such obloquy, although intended to hurt, does but little if any injury to those against whom it is directed; but what may we think of the gentlemanly spirit of the men who descend to it? As for myself I cannot restrain a feeling of profound pity when beholding the spectacle of such conduct, and I turn with a sense of relief to the honorable men amongst them who have remained true to the nobler instincts of human nature.
But, while attaching little consequence to these personal matters, leaving everybody to be as much of a gentleman as he pleases — the welfare of the State is entitled to more serious consideration. We have a right to ask those of the Democratic party who for some years have controlled the government of Missouri, What have you done with that power which you derived from the unselfish and generous movement of 1870? How have you cultivated that fraternal feeling between the late enemies in war, now to be friends again; that feeling which prompted the movement of 1870, and from which you derived your profit? What has become, under your rule, of that generous non-partisan spirit which in 1870 showed itself on our side ready to renounce party ascendancy that none of you might continue to suffer under the injustice of disfranchisement? What has become of good government in Missouri under your control?
Fraternal feeling! What spirit is it that now again boisterously appeals through the organ of your leading men to ceaseless yearnings for revenge? What spirit is it that thus sedulously strives to revive the bitterest passions of the civil war to new acrimony, after so generous a gage of reconciliation and friendship had been freely given you by men who held power and might have kept it? What spirit is it that in some counties of the State uses every means of private and official annoyance to make it uncomfortable for old Union men to live there, and to deter other Union men from coming there?
Mitigation of partisan spirit! What spirit is it which loudly proclaims through the organs of the same leading men that slavish obedience is the order of the day, and that the Democratic party will "slay" every man who has moral courage enough to utter an opinion of his own at variance with the despotic behests of party rule? What spirit is it that vociferously threatens St. Louis with deadly legislation if her citizens should dare to turn out any other than a Democratic majority — the same citizens of St. Louis whose political independence you praised when, in 1870, they gave an almost unprecedented majority against disfranchisement? What spirit is it which, in the first platform the Democratic party of Missouri has made alone since 1868, commits itself to the principle of repudiation, and thus seeks to ruin the credit and to tarnish the good name of the people of Missouri?
Good government! What has become of the reputation of the State under your rule, when the newspapers of the country East and West, as well as our own, are alive with accounts of highway robbery and murder in Missouri, which the government showed itself utterly impotent to repress and punish?
And here you will pardon me for taking notice of that somewhat amusing attempt made recently by partisan papers to charge me with defaming the State, and frightening away immigration, because I had in public speech called those occurrences disgraceful to Missouri, and had demanded that the people give themselves a government which will honestly and rigorously enforce the laws. I have been accused of having called Missouri the "robber State." I have to pronounce that utterly false. What I did say is this: The good citizens of Missouri have risen up to demand "that the scandalous and alarming brigandage and ruffianism which so long a time have been permitted to disgrace the fair name of this State shall at last be rooted out by the strong hand of power honestly wielded; that the farmer shall feel safe in the solitude of his forest or prairie home, and that the traveller on every high- and by-way of the State shall be without fear of assault and robbery; that the laws be enforced rigorously and impartially, without regard to person, to local prejudice or feeling, or to political influence — enforced not only in hollow profession but in honest fact." That is what I said, and that is all; and therefore a defamer of the State! Ah, it is rather a stale trick of demagogism to accuse those who denounce existing evils, and insist upon redress, of defaming the Commonwealth — a stale trick, I say, as old as demagogism itself. Already the Greeks and Romans knew it and buried it under contemptuous ridicule. What we see now is only a feeble posthumous imitation.
Why did you not tell us in 1870 not to expose the wrongs of disfranchisement lest we defame the State and frighten Southern immigrants from our borders? Why do you not tell those who expose corruption in the National Government to stop lest they defame the United States and frighten away European immigration? Who defamed the State when to me in my seat in the Senate more than once some of my associates came with newspapers in their hands containing lengthy accounts of the shameless brigandage here, and when I was asked the question: "Have you no laws and no government in Missouri?"
Who was defaming the State, when even European journals printed accounts of the Gad's Hill robbery as a racy anecdote, to show their readers what things can be done in this commonwealth with impunity?
And now, accuse those of wronging the community who insist that such scandals be stopped! As the irony of accident would have it, one of the Democratic papers of this city, which had called me a slanderer in one issue, published in the very next two articles, one telling the story of a murderous assault and robbery committed by a band of masked brigands upon an emigrant camp in the western part of this State, and the other giving the details of two street broils in Lexington, in which two men were mortally and one slightly wounded. And these interesting pieces of information are now making the round of the American press. This was only last week. Who defamed the State? Who frightened away immigrants? And the same Democratic paper but recently spoke with a sort of approving and encouraging tenderness of the chivalrous habit of the "ruddy young fellows" to settle their difficulties by lustily pulling out their pistols or knives, and shooting or stabbing one another dead on the public streets.
This is not a matter to be trifled with, or to be slurred over by sneering at those who demand a remedy.
The question is, Have not these murders and highway robberies happened? Not I, but every man in the land who reads newspapers will answer that they have happened — not once, but time and time again. Have the perpetrators been arrested and punished? Not I, but every man in the land who keeps the run of current news answers that the perpetrators are at large, and are turning up every moment to do the same thing without being arrested, tried and punished. Has the power of the government been rigorously exerted to arrest this disgraceful scandal? The reading public all over the country remembers that the friends of the governor excused him for not acting efficiently, on the ground that he could not obtain the necessary aid from a legislature of his own party.
Has every political party in the State pronounced itself emphatically for a relentless suppression of these outrages and a vigorous enforcement of the laws? The whole country, reading the Democratic platform of Missouri, has learned that the Democratic party in State convention forgot all about it.
Is there not, in spite of this strange case of forgetfulness, at least a unanimous sentiment among the ruling party hostile to such disorders? The country learns that a leading organ of that party finds the young men who are "handy with knife and pistol," and shoot and stab to their hearts content, rather a nice and desirable set of fellows, and almost the whole Democratic press lustily chimes in, calling a public slanderer and unworthy of regard every man who denounces those scandals and insists upon their repression.
Who defames the State now? Who frightens away immigration? In the first place, the men who committed the murders and robberies. In the second place, those wielding power, who so long suffered these things to be done and repeated again and again with impunity. In the third place, the so far dominant party which deemed this crying evil so trifling, and its suppression so unimportant, that when it defined its policy it forgot all about it. And in the fourth place the newspapers and the men who denounce those as enemies of the State who acknowledge the evil and demand a remedy.
It avails you little to say that murders and robberies happen in other States and countries also, and in some of them still more than here. True there are more homicides in some of the Southern States and more brigandage in Italy. But I insist that whatever may be the condition of other States and countries, here in Missouri there is altogether too much of it; that it has prevented the immigration of farmers to our prairies; that it has discouraged orderly people who like the rule of law better than knives and revolvers from settling in our country towns; that it has depreciated the value of our lands; that it has hindered the progress and prosperity of the State, and that it is a dishonor to the whole Commonwealth.
This is a hard, undeniable fact, and if the Democratic party, as an organization, have no stomach to face it and provide a remedy, it is fortunate for the State of Missouri that there are other people, and among them many thousands of Democrats, who care more for the State than for the party.
And here, fellow-citizens, I can point with satisfaction to the redeeming feature of that condition of things in Missouri, which issued from the movement of 1870. That movement could not be destined to end in a revival of those animosities of past conflicts which it was designed to change into fraternal accord; in a partisan rule more intolerant and overbearing than that which preceded it; in a government recklessly unmindful of public peace and security. It could not end there, and I am happy and proud to say it has not ended there. In spite of the reaction of the last few years that spirit of independent thought and courageous action which broke loose from radical party control to give their rights to the disfranchised, to the people friendly conciliation and to the Commonwealth good and impartial government, that spirit has after all borne most excellent fruit; for to-day we see it rising with fresh strength in the many thousands of men who on their part have broken loose from Democratic party control to preserve those blessings which the movement of 1870 did bring forth, and to secure those which it attempted but failed to secure. I never despaired of its ultimate success. It was natural, perhaps, that after having broken an overstrained partisan rule on one side, it should at first produce too great a rebound to the other. But I always trusted that at last it would bring us to a just equilibrium. Thus the work of 1874 is to be the completion of the work of 1870. All the good which was then accomplished will remain, and the evil consequences which then ensued shall now be remedied. That is the meaning of this campaign.
And to carry this work to a successful issue, the farmer is leaving his plow and the merchant his counting-room; the old Republican and the old Democrat are laying aside their differences of opinion to join hands as good citizens in a common effort. Hundreds and thousands of men, who, for many years, had devoted themselves exclusively to their pursuits or to the quiet enjoyments of private life, are stepping forward, once more exposing themselves to the buffets of political strife to give to our State the blessings of good government. Surely, no unworthy cause could have produced so inspiring an effect. And with the utmost candor I ask every patriotic citizen of Missouri, who has the welfare of our State sincerely at heart, can he find a better way to serve that welfare than by joining in this effort?
Is it not well, is it not absolutely necessary that the attempt be emphatically rebuked, which the Democratic organization is making, and which will succeed, if their candidates are elected, to commit the people of Missouri for the principle of repudiation as it stands in the Democratic platform — a commitment which cannot fail most grievously to injure us by creating general distrust in our honesty, to drive capital away from our borders, and to blacken the character of our Commonwealth? This most important consideration alone should decide the mind of every citizen who has any conception of his true interests.
Is it not necessary that we should put the power of the Government in the hands of men who will vigorously wield that power to punish and suppress brigandage and murder with a relentless hand, men who, unmoved by local sentiment or partisan bias, will lift up the authority of the law from its disgraceful impotency, and will make the officers of the law do their whole duty without fear or favor? Men who will never permit themselves to forget, nor be surrounded with influences which will make them forget, that the protection of life and property is one of the first duties of the Government, as the Democratic organization seem to have forgotten it?
Is it not well and necessary, especially in times of business stagnation and distress like these, to lighten the bur dens weighing heavily upon the people by strict economy, to turn every dollar raised by taxation or derived as interest on public moneys to the benefit of the community, instead of making public officers rich, or even enabling political favorites to fatten still more upon the substance of the people, by increasing, as has been done, their already exorbitant perquisites?
Is it not well and necessary to break the despotic partisan rule which vociferously pronounces the sentence of political death upon every man who dares to have an independent opinion; which insolently threatens the first commercial city of the State with injurious legislation, if the people of that city, true to their honest and patriotic impulses, refuse to work into the hands of partisan rings; and which, if permitted to continue in power, bids fair to spread a network of organization over the State which will make the government, with its power and emoluments, the monopoly of a few ring-masters, and against which the people then will struggle in vain?
Is it not well and necessary that those who still speak of "ceaseless yearnings for revenge" should be emphatically informed by our votes that, in the opinion of the people of Missouri, the war is over; that the people want those who once were enemies to be friends again, that in such a spirit they mean to enforce peace, order and impartial justice, and that they look upon every one who now, by insidious appeals, attempts to revive the old passions and resentments of the civil conflict as a reckless disturber, as an enemy of society?
And here I wish to address a word directly to the late Confederates among us. There is not one of you who can say that I, or those who thought and acted as I did, have been controlled by any prejudice or motive of hostility to you. You will scarcely deny that we have shown a very different spirit, and we did it, exposing ourselves to ill-will and vituperation on the part of many of those who had been our friends, and at the risk of our political fortunes. You were reinstated in the full exercise of your political rights, not by your own exertions, for you were powerless; nor by the Democratic party, for the Democratic party alone was powerless. You were so reinstated because there were Union men, Republicans, enough in Missouri, who, with the earnest determination to be just to you, defied all the prejudices still existing and all the political interests that were against you. The spirit of justice, and nothing else, made it possible for you to acquire the influence which you now possess. This is a matter of history.
I remind you of these things not in order to establish any personal claim on your gratitude. I have had too much experience in public life to ignore what such claims are worth, and on that score I hereby absolve every one of what, in a moment of sentimental emotion, he might have thought a personal obligation. But you cannot be absolved from your obligations to the welfare of the State.
I remind you of it for your own sakes, because it ought not to be lost sight of when you form your own opinion as to the attitude you should assume.
After all this has happened; after your former antagonists have given you the most conclusive proof, not only that they desired to bury forever all the animosities of the past, but also that they wanted you to enjoy all the rights and privileges they enjoyed, and that in no conceivable sense any discrimination should be made against you — after all this, and while there is not a Union man in Missouri who, in any competition of political or business life, attempts to make your position during the war a point against you — do you think it is quite right and quite wise that so many of you should make past service in the Union or the Confederate cause an issue against or for any man in private or political life? Is it quite right and wise, for instance, that your organs should excite prejudice and inflame animosity against such a man as Major Gentry, whom every one of you knows to be a gentleman of unspotted integrity, high character, an able mind and generous instincts, on the ground that as a Union man he performed the duties of an officer in a regiment of home guards? Is it quite right and wise, since the People's party have shown their spirit by nominating two Confederates among their candidates for public position, you should make an issue against others which nobody makes against you, and you should be the first to rekindle again the old spirit of resentment?
I may be told that such are not the sentiments animating a majority of the Confederates in Missouri. I hope so, and nobody will be happier than I to acknowledge the fact. But if it be so, is it quite wise to permit your organs thus to misrepresent the majority and to carry on that most mischievous sort of agitation without an emphatic rebuke?
My action with regard to your rights may entitle me at least to speak a word of candid advice without appearing impertinent. A revival of the passions of the war, instigated by Confederates for their advantage, may turn out to be a two-edged weapon. It might in the course of time array all the old Union men on one side and the Confederates on the other. Certainly the old Union men would not be the weaker party, and the spirit animating that party would be according to the provocation.
I need not say, for I have given sufficient proof of my sentiments, that I should most heartily deplore such a division of elements as a great misfortune to all classes of our people, and I earnestly entreat the late Confederates to do nothing which might lead to it. As their friend I appeal to them to frown down among themselves every demagogue who urges them on in so mischievous, so suicidal a course.
You, Confederates, wanted to be received back in the body of citizens with the full rights of citizenship. We forgot the war. We gave you a welcome with open arms, without reserve, to be citizens with us — no less, no more. With your disfranchisement removed in such a manner as it was, ceased your right to regard yourselves as a separate class. Nobody threatens your rights. You have no separate interests to bind you together in political action. The memories you have in common you may cultivate, as we cultivate ours, but you should not make them a political element, as we do not. You have no true interests of your own which are not the interests of every other citizen. Does not every patriotic instinct tell you it is time, and indeed, it is best for you, as it is best for all of us, that at last you should sink the Confederate in the citizen; that you should not keep alive distinctions which cannot be cultivated without injury to yourselves and to the common good; that as citizens you should make the public welfare your only object in political life, and at last throw off those partisan shackles which hinder you in doing so? That is a nobler, and surely a more useful ambition, than to wrangle among yourselves as to whose war record entitles him to the best office, or to make a point against an honorable man because he was an officer in the home guards.
What is there that can prevent any sincere man among you from joining our effort to give this State good government, when your own consciences must tell you that the partisan rule against which we have risen was an injury to the best interests of the State, and certainly no honor to those who supported it? What prevents you from doing what your own best instincts must prompt you to do?
Do you want to do something that will serve your friends in the South? Let me say to you that, better than by stubbornly perpetuating the evils under which this State suffers, will you serve them by giving them an example of wise discrimination, of courageous independence and of an enlightened public spirit. Show them that in your opinion the late Confederate should not be the last but the very first to seize with zeal and earnestness every opportunity to work for the common good, resolutely turning his back upon the past and throwing aside all the small spite and petty ambitions of partisanship. Set them this example in such a manner that your Southern brethren cannot fail to see, to admire and to imitate it, and you will have rendered them a service of inestimable and lasting value. As we offered to the Confederates our hands in the work of 1870, so we offer them our hands once more for the completion of that work. It is not disfranchisement from which they are to be delivered, but they are to deliver themselves from a sinister party servitude, which stifles their noblest ambition and impairs their usefulness as citizens. Whether this advice be taken kindly or not, whether it be followed by many or few, the time will come when even those who now reject it will recognize it as the counsel of a true friend who was just to them when they needed it, and who now only calls upon them to be just to themselves.
But we, at least, my fellow-citizens, conscious of serving a good cause, will go forward with unfaltering courage and determination. Let the little tricks and squirmings of partisan spite or speculation, filling with noise the air around you, not disturb your equanimity. They have not repressed the People's movement in its rise, they will not hamper it in its progress. Every blow of intrigue or malice that was aimed at it has brought to its ranks scores of honest men whom we welcome with pride. Let not one of you be deterred from taking his stand boldly according to his sense of duty by the little arrows of abuse which may be shot at him. I have now been well-nigh twenty years more or less active in public life, and so often have I seen the same men cover me with obloquy one day and with lavish praise the next, so often have I been killed stone-dead politically and risen up again fully alive, that I can speak from experience: He who walks his path with unswerving fidelity to his convictions of right has nothing to fear. Malice always dies of its own poison. Every unjust aspersion upon you will raise you in the esteem of a just community, as every mean attack upon a good cause will strengthen it by the disgust it excites.
I candidly believe the independent men of Missouri are strong enough to carry to a successful end the great task which they have undertaken, the task of completing the work of 1870. They will inscribe upon the annals of this State a lesson which the politicians of this generation will remember as long as they live: That no political party, whatever its name or fame, however strong in numbers or compact in organization, can in this State abuse its power, without provoking an uprising of patriotic and independent men that will overthrow it. Such a lesson vigorously taught will be for all the future an inestimable blessing. This blessing alone is worth all the exertion to which this hour summons you. And when that victory is achieved, which can scarcely fail us, if every true man does his duty, then it may well be said again that the people of Missouri are governing themselves. We shall by the honest independence of our public spirit have set to the country an example how without partisanship the welfare of all may be served. And Missouri will stand before the world with lawlessness suppressed, and repudiation repudiated, a Commonwealth proud of its integrity, hopeful in its assured progress and strong in the courageous patriotism of its citizens.