Lo! before us gleam her camp-fires!
We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly
Through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future's portal
With the Past's blood-rusted key.
For George William Curtis
, the leader of the civil-service reform, I have the most sincere respect.
His place as statesman, scholar, and reformer is such, and so universally recognized, that praise from me would be almost impertinence.
But a large proportion of the party in New York, and a still larger proportion of its adherents in Massachusetts
, justify all I have said of it and them.
My plan of civil-service reform would be the opposite of what they propose.
I should seek a remedy for the evils they describe in a wholly different direction from theirs,--in fearless recourse to a further extension of the democratic principles of our institutions.
Let each district choose its own postmaster and custom-house officials.
This course would appeal to the best sense and sober second thought of each district.
Responsibility would purify and elevate the masses, while government would be relieved from that mass or patronage which debauches it.
Their plan is impracticable, and ought to be; for it contravenes the fundamental idea of our institutions, and contemplates a coterie of men kept long in office, largely independent of the people,--a miniature aristocracy, filled with a dangerous esprit de corps
. The liberal party in England
has long felt the dead weight and obstructive influence of such a class.
The worst element at Washington
in 1861; the one that hated Lincoln
most bitterly, and gave him the most trouble ; the one that resisted the new order of things most angrily and obstinately, and put the safety of the city into most serious peril,--was the body of old office-holders, poisoned with length of official life, scoffing at the people as intrusive intermeddlers; men in whom something like a fixed tenure of office had killed all sympathy with the democratic tendency of our system.
Some might fear that our government could not be carried on without this patronage.