Early in December, I called on the Sergeant-at-Arms, for some money on account, he being paymaster of the House.
The Schedule used by that officer was placed before me, showing the amount of mileage respectively accorded to every member of the House.
Many of these amounts struck me as excessive, and I tried to recollect if any publication of all the allowances in a like case had ever beer, made through the journals, but could not remember any such publicity.
On inquiry, I was informed that the amounts were regularly published in a certain document entitled “ The Public Accounts,” of which no considerable number was printed, and which was obviously not intended for popular distribution.
[It is even omitted in this document for the year 1848, printed since I published my expose, so that I can now find it in no public document whatever.] I could not remember that I had ever seen a copy, though one had been obtained and used by my assistant in making up last year's Almanac.
It seemed to me, therefore, desirable that the facts should be brought to the knowledge of the public, and I resolved that it should be done.
To have picked out a few of what seemed to me the most flagrant cases of overcharge, and print these alone, would be to invite and secure the reputation of partiality, partisanship, and personal animosity.
No other course seemed so fair as to print the mileage of each member, with necessary elucidations.
I accordingly employed an ex-clerk in one of the departments, and instructed him to make out a tabular expose as follows:
1. Name of each member of the House;
2. Actual distance from his residence to Washington by the shortest post-route;
3. Distance for which he is allowed and paid mileage;
4. Amount of mileage received by him;
5. Excess of mileage so received over what would have been if the distance had been computed by the shortest or most direct mail-route.
The expose was made out accordingly, and promptly forwarded to the Tribune, in which it appeared.
In the remarks which introduced the tabular statement, Mr. Greeley
expressly and pointedly laid the blame of the enormous excess to the law
. ‘Let no man,’ he said
jump at the conclusion that this excess has been charged and received contrary to law. The fact is otherwise.
The members are all honorable men—if any irreverent infidel should doubt it, we can silence him by referring to the prefix to their names in the newspapers, and we presume each has charged just what the law allows him. That law expressly says that each shall receive eight dollars for every twenty miles travelled in coming to and returning from Congress, “by the ”