Obrázky stránek


Permanency in Office-holding.

A VERY curious thing has happened in connection with the discussion of the question of civil service reform. The discussion has been almost entirely one-sided. Almost no one has pretended to defend the present civil service of the country. The two political parties are committed against reform by all their interests as parties, but they do not dare to declare themselves against it. On the contrary, both of them attempt, in a feeble and insincere way, to patronize it as one of the things that they may ultimately be compelled to accept, and in which they do not like to be behind each other. If the advocate of reform says that the Government ought to do its business on business principles, and employ the best men, and continue to employ them so long as they remain the best men, nobody presumes to dispute it. If he says that the rewarding of party service with office is a corrupting influence, and as a policy brings incompetency into the civil service, he finds no one to say him nay. The assertions of the reformer and the convictions of the people of all parties seem to be all upon one side. There is no question of the facts on which the demand for a reform is based. There is no doubt whatever that the work of the country has been, and still is, incompetently done, and no doubt whatever that the "spoils doctrine," as it is called in party politics, is the source of incalculable corruption and incalculable degradation of the civil service.

Where will it be supposed that the opponents of reform will take a stand? They must take one somewhere, and they must take it, not on party ground, but ground that assumes to be philosophical and patriotic. A writer in "Lippincott's Magazine "-the last December issue has broken ground for the politicians in opposition, in an article which he entitles: "Will Democracy tolerate a permanent class of national office-holders?" It is an ingenious piece of special or specious pleading, and is utterly unsound. The basilar principle on which the writer builds his argument against a permanent class of national office-holders is “that any practicable plan of organizing the public service of the United States must not only be founded upon the general consent of the people, but must also have, in its actual operation, their continual, easy, and direct participation." Well, suppose "by general consent of the people" a permanent office-holding class exists-that desideratum will be provided for. Suppose, further, they participate in the actual operation of the public service by reelecting their public servants who prove faithful and competent, or consent to their continuance in office. What remains? Certainly all the people cannot have a chance at office, and, if not all, what difference does it make whether office be restricted to ten or to twenty? Is office for the benefit of individuals, or of the country? Is it for the development and gratification of a circle of untrained

[ocr errors]

men who want it, or is it for the transaction of public business, in the best and cheapest way?

We accept, without a word, the writer's declaration that civil service reform contemplates the "creation of a permanent office-holding class." That is precisely what it does contemplate. It contemplates the introduction into this class of competent and worthy men, through the ordeal of competitive examinations, and the keeping of those men in office just as long as they do the work of their country well. It proposes to use the men in the civil service as it does those who are in the military and naval service. It proposes to use them as the Government uses the judges of the Supreme Court. There is no reason under heaven why a clerk in one of the departments at Washington should be called upon to leave his place because a political party to which he does not belong has been successful at the polls. It is a hardship to him, because his life has been long withdrawn from other pursuits, and it is a disadvantage to the service, because a man is put into his place who has no acquaintance with its duties. Men cannot participate in the honors and emoluments of the army and navy, though they are constantly taxed to support them, because they have no training for the duties of those branches of the public service. It takes training and long experience to perform the duties of any branch of the public service, and why should the ordinary voter have a chance at it?

The "political activity" to which the writer in "Lippincott" calls attention, and which he thinks is not only peculiar to our people, but much to be taken account of in any scheme of reform, is an activity whose source he ignores. No man can claim that it is born of a dominating interest in public questions. We see it in its highest manifestations in the ward meetings of the city and the caucuses of the country. It is very intense, particularly on the part of those who want office, not for the country's | but for their own good. The "political activity of the people," which is only going to be satisfied by their "easy and direct participation" in the public service, we all understand. It is the zeal of partisanship, it is the strife for the spoils, and is fostered by both political parties. If we had a permanent class of national office-holders, this tremendous interest in politics of which our writer speaks would fade out entirely. If office were put beyond the struggle of parties, "the political activity of the people" would recede to a minimum, and it would become possible to get political ideas into their heads in place of those regarding their own selfish advance


It will be seen that the writer of the article under review has things just as he wants them now. The "political activity of the people" expresses itself in its own free way in the scramble for office at every election, in the barter and sale of place among the big and little politicians, and in the practical opera tion of the "spoils" and "rotation" doctrines so

[ocr errors]

familiarly known among us. In short, no reform of the civil service is needed. The policy which has filled our consulates abroad with men who cannot speak the language of the countries to which they are accredited-with men who are in no sense gentlemen, and in no sense fitted for their duties, is still to be pursued because it is necessary for the people to have a "continual, easy, and direct participation in the public service. The honorable member of Congress from the Podunk District is to have the privilege of paying off the party and personal debts incurred by him in his election with appointments of the postmasters in his district, and with such clerkships in the departments as he may be able to lay his greedy hands on. Every man engaged in his country's service is to be assessed to carry on the schemes of the party that gave him his place, on pain of losing it, and to live in the constant and most demoralizing fear of losing it. He is always to feel that he cannot keep his place by any excellence of work, or any superlative fitness for it, but only by intriguing for it, and showing himself ready to do the dirty work of the party on whose good-will he depends.

The grand argument of our writer seems to be that the people want the offices, and want constant change in them, so as to give the largest possible number of aspirants a chance, and that they will not be content without this condition of things. This means that office is primarily and supremely for the benefit of office-holders, and that the public service is to be held subordinate to a "political activity" whose highest aim, after all, is to get office. Well, we don't believe the people want this state of things at all. The petty politicians who want office would like "continual, easy, and direct participation" in the public service, without doubt, but the people want their work done well by those who are used to it and who understand it; and the advocates of civil service reform are with the people, and will win the victory with them.

The Power of Opinion.

A FEW years ago, two gentlemen from the East found themselves at the outer terminus of a Western railroad, on a late Saturday evening. This involved the spending of Sunday in the temporary tavern that had sprung up as a part of a village, whose only apology for existence was that the railroad had stopped there for a time. During Sunday they became tired of their room, and went down-stairs to the little sitting-room of the house, where they found the neighbors quietly assembled, and engaged in conversation. In the center of the room there was a table covered with books, which the strangers proceeded to examine. "Hullo," exclaimed one of them, "here is one of Blank's books! How do you suppose it got here?" The remark attracted the ⚫ attention of those around, and one of them rose, and, approaching the speaker, inquired: "Do you know the man who wrote that book?" "Oh, yes, very well," was the response. "Why do you ask?" "Because," he answered, "we [speaking for himself and his neighbors] want to know whether he wrote

the book because he thought it would be a proper thing for people to read, or whether he wrote it out of his own life and convictions. We want to know whether he was in earnest or not." He was assured that the writer was tremendously in earnest, and the man was satisfied. Now, this book was mainly made up of opinions, and what these simple countrymen wanted to know was, whether those opinions were worth receiving as the outcome of an earnest nature and character, or whether they were the matter-of-course utterances of some professional teacher of morals.

It is often remarked that an opinion does not amount to much, but the truth is that intelligent and conscientious opinion, forcibly expressed, is among the most potent and highly vitalized forces engaged in steadying and spurring the progress of mankind. Its power and value depend, as our friends in the little tavern apprehended, very much on the sort of man who forms and expresses it. When an opinion is presented to a man for his acceptance, he wants to know where it comes from. Its source determines for him its value. If the man who utters it really formed it in a perfect independence of judgment—if it is clear of all suspicion of undue influence from powers above or around him, and is stamped with earnestness and sincerity, it is a power in the world second to none. What these simple, sensible tavern loungers were afraid of, was that they were going to be taken in by the job of some professional opinionmaker, working in the interest of a sect or a party of some sort. If this book of opinions was of this nature, they wanted none of it. If it was the honest work of a man standing by himself, uninfluenced by anything but his desire to do good, and his love and conviction of the truth, then they would open their minds and hearts to him.

Well, if opinion is such a power in the world, why is not the world moved more rapidly toward the wholesome and the good? The answer is not far to seek. The answer, indeed, is wrapped up in our little story. The world does not lack what is called opinion, very forcibly expressed. The pulpit and the press pour out opinion upon the world in a ceaseless flood, and the reason why it accomplishes no more, is that the world does not accept the source from which it comes as authoritative or legitimate. Think of the enormous tide of utterance that emanates from the sectarian pulpit. It is sufficiently earnest; it is well expressed; it is persistently and ingeniously enforced, and its results are next to nothing. The progress made by religion is indebted very little to the pulpit utterances of opinion. Uttered to partisans in sympathy, it is, of course, needless and without results; uttered to aliens or enemies, it is powerless, because it is the voice of a sect, and not of a man. A man in error will hardly permit himself to be convinced of the truth by one whose opinions have been formed in a sectarian school, who has bound himself to the articles of a creed, and who cannot preach any other than what he preaches, or utter an opinion at variance with his creed, without being driven from his own pulpit. When it becomes a man's business to preach a certain well-defined set

of doctrines,-if this is exactly what he is paid for, -his opinions upon those doctrines, in the eyes of an unbelieving world, are not worth the paper they are written on. One of the principal reasons why Christian opinion makes so little progress in and impression upon the world, is that the world does not recognize the source from which it comes as worthy of respect. All opinion, in every field, that is a matter of course, considering the sectarian relations of the man who utters it, is naturally and necessarily without power. When a professional temperance lecturer offers his opinions to an assemblage of moderate and intemperate drinkers, it is looked upon by them as his business, or a public exhibition of his hobby, or an outcome of his special craze, and these opinions make very little impression. But when a man rises before them, known to them as candid and intelligent,-wide in observation, and wise in experience,—and out of his humane heart and independent brain presents them with his opinion, they acknowledge his credentials, and are moved as no other man can move them.

We have recently passed through a presidential campaign. The party press on both sides has poured a flood of political opinion upon the country. The outcome of the election was a logical result of the times, and it is very doubtful whether the opinions put forth and enforced on either side made a convert. Converts are not made by party presses. The party-man opposed to a party newspaper will not accept that newspaper's statement of facts, let alone its opinions. Occasionally, an independent newspaper-known to be independent-will present an opinion that will command respect from men whose principles it criticises or condemns; but a professedly party press is as powerless to spread its opinions as it is to form them candidly and competently. The tremendous amount of argumentation indulged in by the party press is wasted labor. Except for the purpose of keeping up party drill, the party press, in a great political campaign, is useless. Nobody is convinced by it; nobody whom it seeks to convert will accept its opinions as of any value whatever.

If we had a pulpit dominated by Christianitypure and simple-and not under the control of different and differing sects, Christian opinion would have a power it has never known during these later centuries. If we had a political press dominated by intelligent patriotism, we should have some hope of the spread and prevalence of sound political principles. As it is, the world of uninformed, unintelligent, and perverse people are not reached, and cannot be reached and influenced, by the regular purveyors of religious and political opinions. Men are wrought upon in various ways through their feelings and sympathies, and are thus brought to embrace certain religious and political views, or to cast in their lot with those who entertain those views; but party and sectarian opinion, though promulgated with all the force of conviction and eloquence, makes no converts, and really does not pay for the amount of work devoted to its expression. There is, here and there, a pulpit that is independent, and these gather

the crowd, because it thirsts for independent opinions on religious topics. Mr. Beecher and Prof. Swing always have audiences-first, perhaps, because they are eloquent men, but mainly because they are recognized as no longer mouth-pieces of a creedrecognized as men who speak exactly what they think, irrespective of all creeds.

Mr. Comstock's Book.

THERE lies before us a large volume, entitled "Frauds Exposed." The volume is written by Anthony Comstock, and is published in this city by J. Howard Brown. It is apparently intended to answer two purposes, viz., to put the foolish public upon guard against the various schemes of swindlers, and to justify the life, policy, and mission of the writer. The first purpose is praiseworthy upon its face, and, considering the virulence of the attacks that have been made upon the character and motives of Mr. Comstock, the other is more than excusable: it is demanded. It is hard to conceive of such ingenuity and audacity of invention as have been exercised in the attacks that have been made upon Mr. Comstock's name and fame. So it is very pleasant to meet the assurance that the man whom so many good people have trusted, and to whom so many have been grateful for the good he has done, is all he has pretended to be, and that the stories told against him are misconstructions of his life and acts, or pure (or impure) fabrications. We do not see how any fair man can rise from the perusal of this book without feeling that the writer has rendered an enormous service to the community by writing and issuing it, and without feeling that Mr. Comstock has been, in his special work, one of the truest benefactors that New York has known.

Mr. Comstock's book deserves a wide notice from the press and a generous reception among the people. No man can read it without first marveling at the readiness with which the bait of the swindler is swallowed by the public, and without being armed against his schemes. It is not a very pleasant thing for a man, in a city like New York, to make it the business of his life to oppose all schemes of crime and uncleanness. These schemes are followed by desperate and bestial men and women, whose touch and presence are pollution, and whose enmity may well be deprecated. There are not many of us—even those who most heartily sympathize with Mr. Comstock-who would be willing to undertake his work, or who would have the moral and physical courage to prosecute it as he has done. The benefit to the community, however, of the work he has done, in suppressing unclean literature and the various schemes for debauching the youth of the country, in exposing the frauds that have taken such sums from the pockets of fools all over the land, in thwarting and arresting counterfeiters, bogus bankers and brokers, lottery dealers, keepers of policyshops, quacks and quack institutions, and all sorts of pretenders, is great—indeed, inestimable. We are profoundly glad, for his own sake and for the sake of the public, and the cause of good morals,

that he has given us so good a record of what he has done, and made so perfect a justification of his mission and himself.

After all, we can but feel, in looking over a book like this, that the morality of the swindlers is hardly lower than that of their dupes. The swindler goes to work, with all the cunning and skill at his command, to get money without giving any adequate equivalent for it. That is precisely the motive of his dupes. The motive that actuates him is one that he understands, and knows how to appeal to, and the wretched men and women who respond in such numbers to his temptations can take to themselves all the curses they heap upon the man who has deceived and plundered them. They have tried to get money without paying for it its equivalent. They have been fools, of course; but they have been more than willing to obtain from others what they pay no legitimate price for. And when we go as far as this, what is there to hinder our going further? The spirit of speculation, the world over, is the spirit of the swindler and his dupe. The speculator adds nothing, and proposes to add nothing, to the general stock of wealth. He only proposes to add to his own possessions in a legal way without giving an equivalent. There are a thousand Wall-street schemes possessing no more essential morality than those pursued by the swindlers whom Mr. Comstock exposes. The bearing, the bulling, the working up of "corners," the use of exclusive or "inside" information-all these may be, and often are, just as immoral as stealing.

This one spirit of greed-this one disposition to get something for nothing-is abroad all over the country. It poisons the blood of the people. It lowers the tone of the popular morality. Here and there, as in the case of the swindlers to whom Mr. Comstock has been such a terror, the bad blood rises into an ulcer, which the knife of the law is called upon to extirpate. But the swindlers are not sinners above all Galileans. A bad woman remains bad because she finds bad men to prey upon; and a swindler is a swindler because he finds a great multitude of people in the country who share in the leading motives of his life, even if they do not sympathize with his methods.

All this may justly be said without justifying the

[ocr errors]

swindler or apologizing for him, and all this may be said while asserting that there is no class in the community which will defend the swindler. Even his dupes claim to be a great deal more virtuous than he. What shall we say, then, when we come to a class of crimes against the law which are openly defended by those who regard themselves as respectable people? One of Mr. Comstock's special tasks has been the suppression of vile literature, here, where it is manufactured, and the obstruction of its passage through the mails. Yoked with this work has been that of destroying the schemes of the infamous wretches who have undertaken to debauch the imaginations and the bodies of the youth of the land, of both sexes, in indescribable ways. He has done these things with great faithfulness, and deserves the thanks of all good people for his beneficent work. For this he has been persecuted, not only by the men and women whose business he has disturbed or destroyed, but by a large class of people who call themselves liberals." "Liberalism," as the word is used by those who profess it, is another name for infidelity, and if infidelity naturally sympathizes with dirt, it is well that we all know it. At any rate, "liberals" are the only professed and open defenders of dirt, as it is represented by the men who are interested in pushing impure literature through the mails, and distributing the means of debauching the children of the country through the same channels. They are the only people who have labored for the repeal of what are called "the Comstock laws "-laws which form the only barriers between a set of unclean scoundrels and the youthful innocence of the land. No class in society defends the swindler; a large class defends the dispenser of moral filth, and raves about his right to make of the United States mails a gutter through which to pour his abominations upon the youth of the country. They are all as bad as the man they defend. They are not only sympathetic with his foul spirit, but they do their best to defend and help him. Christianity can afford this exhibition of the spirit and tendency of infidelity; can "liberalism"? If giving up Christianity means taking on dirt, among "long-haired men and short-haired women," then it strikes us that "liberalism" has not a very brilliant prospect in America.


"The Bible Society and the New Revision."



ALLEGHENY, PA., Feb. 5th, 1881. TO THE EDITOR OF SCRIBNER'S MONTHLY. DEAR SIR: My attention has been called to what I must esteem the very unfortunate paper on "The Bible Society and the New Revision," in the January number of your magazine. That paper, in needlessly reviving old and out-worn controversies,

and, worse than that, in reviving with them the long well-forgotten bitternesses which grew out of them, cannot help bringing pain to all right-thinking minds. One statement, at least, out of the many rashly hazarded in the course of the article I feel bound to ask your leave to correct; and I feel sure that you will, not only in the interests of common fairness, but also in the interests which arise out of your own desire to see that the character of one of the country's noblemen is not untruly blotted in your pages, wish, with me, to give the correction as

wide a circulation as that given the statement itself. I refer to the following sentences, taken from page 453, bottom of first column:

"Dr. Breckinridge collapsed rather suddenly; for he found he had as much on his hands as he could attend to at the moment, in repelling the awkward charge of plagiarism which some theologians were pressing he had published a volume of divinity, and they said he pilfered the best part of it from Stapfer."

I would hesitate greatly to impute any unworthy

motives to Dr. Robinson, the author of this statement. He is not only a minister of God's word, but has a reputation for a kindly heart. But the statement itself cannot but leave a very false impres sion on the mind of any reader, and that in its every particular. I. It leaves the impression on the mind that Dr. Breckinridge rushed warmly into the con. troversy over the alterations in the standard version of the Scriptures which the Bible Society had introduced. This was not the fact. He warmly opposed the irresponsible action of the Society on the floor of the church courts when it was his duty to oppose it; but that was all. One brief pamphlet printed in October, 1857, was his one printed contribution to that controversy. 2. It leaves the impression on the mind that his pronounced opposition to those changes was brought to an end, so far as the public expression of them was concerned, by his finding that he had his hands full elsewhere. This was not true. It was not he that collapsed, but the effort to alter the standard Bible by unauthorized hands. Dr. Breckinridge was heard as fully on the question at the meeting of the Assembly which followed the collapse as at that which preceded it. 3. It leaves the impression on the mind that Dr. Breckinridge found himself forced to address himself vigorously to repelling the charge of plagiarism which was brought against him. This was not true. He declined to make any defense against that charge one brief letter to Dr. Hill and another to Dr. McKinney, the composition of both of which together could not have occupied over an hour or so, was absolutely all he wrote on the subject. 4. It leaves the impression on the mind of the unwary reader, finally, that the charge of plagiarism

from Stapfer was of such a character as to render it an awkward one to have to repel. Nothing could be more untrue than such an impression. The charge comprehended only certain details found in two chapters in a book including thirty-four. Those details bore such a relation to the abstract scientific character of the book as the facts of an arithmetic or a dictionary bear to an account or translation; so that there was no more reason why Stapfer's name should have been quoted than there is why every accountant should continually quote Ray's multiplication table on each step of his calcu his work. Those details, moreover, were lation, or the translator, the lexicon used in peculiarly Stapfer's, but rather of such kind as constituted the common property of the science of theology. And, to crown all, the charge of plagiarism was peculiarly unfortunate, in such matters of detail, in the face of Dr. Breckinridge's frank avowal, in the preface of the attacked volume, of full dependence on the whole past—an avowal closing with these certainly sufficiently plain words:


"The details which have been wrought out by learned, godly, and able men in all ages, of many creeds and in many tongues, have been freely wrought into the staple of this work, when they suited the place and the purpose, and turned precisely to my thought." ("Knowledge of God; Objectively Considered," page x.)

In the face of the facts, it is an unceasing matter of wonder how "some theologians " could have ventured to urge this ridiculous charge, even in those days of heated battle and bitter feeling. And it is very certain that nothing can excuse the reiteration of that charge-inanifestly false in itself and as manifestly the child of the time of spite—in these cooler days, when the heat of conflict is over and the man against whom the bolt was fulminated has lain nine years in an honored grave. If the charge fell dead even in the midst of the contest a quarter of a century ago, why should it be refulmined now?

Asking your insertion of the above defense of a name, honored alike in the nation and church, now unjustly and needlessly assaulted, I remain, Yours very sincerely,



A Novel Entertainment from "Punch."

[A RECENT series of tableaux, or rather scenes, based upon drawings in the London "Punch," were so successfully presented by a party of ladies and gentlemen in a suburb of New York that, in the belief that the idea will be popular and feasible elsewhere, we have requested one of the ladies to give the readers of this department an account of the ways and means there adopted. The growing fame of Mr. du Maurier's wholesome ridicule of

the fashionable follies in certain London circles gives seasonableness to the happy thought which has suggested this new social resource for winter evenings.-ED.]

This entertainment should be spoken of as "scenes," rather than "tableaux," from the fact that in the pictures, which were presented with faithfulness in every detail, the persons not only acted but spoke their parts. All that is printed in brackets under the cartoon in "Punch" was read by

« PředchozíPokračovat »