at the time when Mr. Sumner
's appointment as its chairman expired.’
By note of November 7, merely correcting a date, Mr. Fish
appeared a third time before the public.
In an interview held at Garrison
's November 10, with a reporter of the New York Herald, he treated with ridicule the suggestion ascribed to Wendell Phillips
that Mr. Sumner
had ‘prepared and digested’ the treaties referred to, which thus made final action only a formality, and replied, ‘with a certain bland smile of contempt,’ that ‘on the contrary he had pigeon-holed those treaties; he would pay no attention to them whatever.’
Again, by letter to the ‘Herald,’ November 10, evening, he supplemented with further statements what he had said to the reporter in the afternoon; thus, in the brief period of three weeks, coming before the public five times to make and support charges against Mr. Sumner
, and each time with no appearance of being a reluctant witness,—certainly without being governed by any self-imposed rule of silence or reserve.
Before October, 1877, Mr. Fish
seems to have been, not publicly but privately, making the same charge against Mr. Sumner
In an interview held early in September, en route
, General Grant
stated that he had said to George William Curtis
, at Long Branch
, in 1871, that ‘Mr. Sumner
had not done his duty as chairman of the committee, because he had hampered the business of the state department by pigeon-holing treaties for months;’ and the Ex-President
added: ‘I told Mr. Curtis
that there were nine or eleven treaties before the Senate from the state department that had been there several months, and had been in Mr. Sumner
's hands, but had never been laid before the committee.
I wrote from the spot—Long Branch
—to the state department, and to my own surprise there proved to be more treaties than I had said that had been in Mr. Sumner
's own hands for a longer time than I expected. . . . The work of that committee when Mr. Cameron
took charge was in a most deplorable state, due entirely to Mr. Sumner
's obstruc-tiveness and dilatoriness.’
thus indicated the state department as the source of his information, and from it he obtained a formal list of the ‘pigeon-holed’ treaties.
, at its head, being the only officer connected with it who was brought into constant communication with the President
, and having six years afterwards been quick to support a renewal of the charge, appears as the author of the original charge which General Grant
repeated with so much emphasis in his interview.
The charge of suppressing important public business, thus authorized by Mr. Fish
, and many times repeated by himself and others who relied on him as authority, is assuredly a very grave one.
It implied official unfaithfulness, and even moral delinquency.
Whether a statesman, living or dead, was able, wise, or far-sighted is always a fair question for discussion; but the charge of moral delinquency, such as Mr. Fish
originated and spread, and that too against one who could no longer speak for himself, could only be justified by indubitable evidence.
Stated so positively and in such a quarter, it was likely to obtain general credence; and but for a fortunate suggestion that the Senate records should be searched and made known, this calumny might have remained forever attached to an eminent senator.1