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Chapter 27: administration of President Hayes begins a new era

  • Dana declines to subscribe to memorial
  • -- opposition to dishonest Republicans -- warning against growth of corporate power -- against increase of federal authority -- suggests Holman for president -- Opposes Cleveland for governor -- against him for president -- Supports Butler -- favors Randall for speaker -- Carlisle elected -- argument against internal revenue laws -- Civil service reform -- against nationalization of railroads -- need of opposition to government -- Proposes public subscription for General Grant -- doubts Cleveland's adherence to pledge against second term -- overflowing treasury -- Tilden on coast defence -- Monroe doctrine -- annexation of Sandwich Islands -- Davis and the lost cause -- letter on Edwin M. Stanton -- horizontal reduction of tariff -- increase of navy -- McKinley tariff act -- Sackville -- West's letter -- favors re-election of Cleveland -- economic utility of corporations -- favors protection of American railways against Canadian competition -- Continental union -- commends Harrison's inaugural address -- Condemns his acceptance of Cape May cottage -- good word for office-seekers and trusts -- commends Cleveland's action against Chicago strike -- Opposes his third candidacy -- the noble controversies of politics -- death of George William Curtis -- Samuel J. Randall -- Benjamin F. Butler -- sketches of Beach and Bennett

Early in the presidential term of Rutherford B. Hayes, a movement was started at Boston to place his portrait in Memorial Hall, with those of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the only other graduates of Harvard University who had up to that time reached the office of president. It was proposed that the portrait should be paid for by subscriptions from his fellow-graduates, and Dana was invited to contribute. To this he replied, January 21, 1881: [457]

... I decline to join in such a subscription. I am not willing to do anything that may be designed or construed as a compliment to Mr. Hayes, or that may recognize his tenure of the executive office at Washington as anything other than an event of dishonor. He was not chosen president. He was defeated in the election; and then a band of conspirators, Mr. Hayes himself conspiring and conniving with them, setting aside the Constitution and the law, and making use of forgery, perjury, and false counting, secured for him possession of the presidency to which another man had been elected; and when he had got possession of it, his most sedulous care was to repay with offices and emoluments those authors, managers, and agents of the conspiracy to whom he had been chiefly indebted for its infamous success.

Sooner than honorably commemorate such an event or do public homage to such a man, I beg you, gentlemen, with your own hands first to destroy the portraits of John Adams and John Quincy Adams in Memorial Hall, and then to raze to the ground the hall itself. ...

And this was the attitude that Dana maintained throughout life towards Hayes and his cabinet. There seems to have been nothing personal in his course. He had no acquaintance with Hayes, either as a soldier or as a citizen, but judged him solely from his connection with the Electoral Commission, and with the men and means by which he secured the presidency. To these he never failed to show a deep and abiding opposition based upon a literal construction of the Constitution and upon his own idea of righteous political conduct. His real battle had been for honest government, both national and State, and, although he had gained a substantial victory, he could not resist the temptation to fire an occasional shot at those who had taken what he thought was a dishonorable part in the campaign, or had succeeded in getting away with spoils of battle to which they were not entitled. [458]

Dana seems at no time to have been opposed to Republicans as such, but always to dishonest Republicans, and this is strikingly shown by the fact that when Roscoe Conkling resigned from the Senate, because his wishes had not been complied with in reference to the appointment of a collector of customs for the port of New York, the Sun came out at once in favor of his re-election by the legislature, because it believed him to be an honest man, whose return to the Senate would be a rebuke to President Garfield. But this was not all. It commended “the truth, devotion, and fidelity” of Senator Platt in following the example of his more distinguished colleague, while it denounced one of his principal opponents in the legislature who had taken a professional part in preventing the investigation of the Black Friday conspiracy from uncovering the real culprits.

As early as January, 1881, the Sun called attention to “the latent heat of public feeling,” and its liability “to be kindled into flame” by the augmentation of corporate power through the absorption and consolidation of independent but kindred corporations, as in the case of the great telegraph companies. It pointed out that a state of things entirely unforeseen by the framers of our national and State governments had arisen, and that the powers of government would have to be adjusted in some way to the new condition of things. It emphasized its statement by referring to the fact that individuals like Vanderbilt and Gould had already come to the exercise of power and influence which amounted to a balance of power in a State, and even in a nation. It concluded with the declaration that

... a great struggle between the power of the multitude and the power of an individual wielded through corporate forms is at hand.


Considered in connection with the subsequent growth of corporate power, as exemplified by the life-insurance companies and the great railroad combinations of the present day, and by the radical measures resorted to by the national government to limit and control such combinations, this statement, made over a quarter of a century ago, may well be regarded as prophetic.

Although Dana always called himself a Democrat, he doubtless used the word in a sociological rather than a political sense. He was habitually opposed to any action on the part of the national government that could be properly left to the State governments, and it was mainly for this reason that he opposed, from the date of their first mention, every bill presented to the national Congress for the prevention of food adulterations and the regulation of interstate commerce. He strenuously contended that the clause of the Constitution which authorized the Congress to regulate commerce between the States had no such meaning as was given to it in the interstate commerce act, and that all such acts were “antagonistic to Democratic principles” and a “step in the direction of centralization and paternal government.” He believed in rigid economy in the national expenditures, and therefore sympathized deeply with Holman, of Indiana, who began to attract public attention in 1882 for the frequency with which he objected to, and the persistency with which he scrutinized, the appropriation bills of the House. From that date, till he disappeared from public life, the Sun always mentioned the Great Objector with respect, and did all it could to encourage him in his good work. It even went to the extent of suggesting that his nomination and election to the presidency would be a good thing for the country. Holman was a plain man, but an earnest and sagacious one, and in commending his example and virtues it is evident that Dana meant to indicate that he regarded [460] character and honesty as of far greater value in a public officer than polite accomplishments or a college education.

It was in September, 1882, that Dana first announced his opposition to Grover Cleveland, who had just been nominated by the Democratic party of New York as their candidate for governor of the State. As the Sun remained a free and, at times, an intolerant critic of that distinguished man, so long as he held public office, it is interesting to note that it based its opposition primarily on the ground that

It is not usually a wise thing in politics, any more than in war, to take a private from the ranks and at one bound to promote him to be commander-in-chief; yet that is what has been done in the case of Grover Cleveland.

While it is true that Cleveland at the time of his election to the office of governor was without national experience or prominence of any kind, he was destined as governor, and afterwards as president, to reveal himself as a man of honesty, courage, and independence. Although a lawyer accustomed to city life, his intellectual growth had been slow, hence his character was neither fully developed nor fully understood till his public career was drawing to a close. Besides, it should be remembered that Dana was a firm friend of Tilden, and, so long as his faculties were unimpaired, naturally regarded him as the legitimate leader of his party. Both Cleveland and Dana were famed for their independence as well as for their impatience of restraint, and these qualities made it probable that their initial divergence, whatever its cause, would not only grow wider, but continue to the end. So far as can now be ascertained, no adequate effort was ever made to open the eyes of either to the real merits of the other, or to bring them together in support of policies and measures which both had sincerely at heart. [461]

Owing mainly to the very large majority by which Mr. Cleveland was elected, he had hardly been installed as governor when the press of the country began discussing his availability as the candidate of the Democrats for president. Among the earliest of his supporters were several Mugwump or moderate Republican journals, and this circumstance, together with the fact that he had not yet greatly distinguished himself in public affairs, caused the Sun to decry the suggestion as premature, and likely to prove injurious to the fortunes of the Democratic party. But the fact is, that while Dana had come to be generally regarded as a Democrat, he was above all an independent, who had his own views on every subject. Unfortunately, they were unfavorable to Cleveland from the first, but, so far as can be discovered, they were based purely upon considerations of experience and fitness, and not at all on personal grounds. Besides, it should be remembered that, in looking over the political field, Dana had come to the conclusion, months before the nominating convention, that Butler, of Massachusetts, would be the strongest candidate that the Democrats could nominate, and had published an elaborate article setting forth his merits as “a man of the most fertile mind, of steady courage, and unflinching fidelity to whatever duty he assumes.” In bringing him forward, he contended that the general's popularity with various outsiders and independent organizations not connected with either of the great parties would prove to be an important if not a decisive element of strength. Later, when Dana was reproached by his colleagues of the press for inconsistency in favoring one whom he had previously denounced in severe terms for his connection with the Republican party, and for the support he had given to Grant's administration, the editor, without the slightest regard to the mere appearance of consistency, declared that “things had changed very much [462] since that time,” and that for several years he had “felt profoundly grateful to General Butler” for the course he had taken in regard to the Electoral Commission, and particularly for the desire he had manifested to have Tilden installed in the place which had been unjustly given to Hayes. In further support of his candidate, Dana contended that all Democrats who could not for any reason vote for Cleveland, and all Republicans who would not on account of his unfortunate record vote for Blaine, could with entire propriety vote for Butler,

... both as a man to be immensely preferred to either of the others, and as a protest against such nominations.

Having already declared in the columns of his newspaper that sooner than join in making James G. Blaine President of the United States, he would quit work, burn his pen, and leave to other and perhaps rasher heads the noble controversies of politics and the defence of popular self-government, and having opposed the nomination of Cleveland on the ground of inexperience and obscurity, there can be no doubt that his best excuse for supporting Butler is to be found in his desire to enter an effective protest against the other nominations. That he made a serious mistake in this, and thereby threw away both prestige and income, must be conceded by all who regard policy as better than independence. And this is the more noticeable because, in looking back upon the personality of the candidates and the issues of the campaign, it is now evident that Dana underestimated Cleveland and did not fully appreciate Butler's defects of character or the fatal influence of his instability of conviction upon the public mind. First a pro-slavery, if not a secession Democrat, next a radical Republican, then a Greenbacker, and finally an independent, he had established a reputation for neither [463] sincerity nor honesty, and had gained in no part of the country any considerable share of public confidence.

While Dana showed no disposition to quarrel with the voting public, he was doubtless disappointed, if not surprised, at the returns. Withal, the successful candidate was still an untried man, while Dana himself was, if possible, more than ever an independent one. Although the general results of the election, in putting the Democrats into power and turning the Republicans out, might well have been claimed by him as a substantial victory, it did not relieve him, in his own mind, from the supreme duty of keeping his journal true to its policy of independence. Having always been intensely American in his feelings, Dana's unvarying practice was to advocate such policies as would tend to increase the wealth, power, and independence of the American people. Recognizing that the human family was not a solidarity, but was divided into races and nations for governmental purposes, he felt that his first duty was to do all in his power to develop the resources, diversify the industries, and increase the wealth of his own country. To this end he had always favored a protective tariff as against a tariff for revenue only. He held that from the earliest days of the Democratic party its policy had conformed to this principle, and that nothing had occurred to justify a radical departure from it. For this reason he never gave countenance to the tendency which began to-show itself in that direction with the appearance of an unusual surplus in the national treasury. To the contrary, he repudiated the party tendency towards free-trade legislation, and when the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives manifested its purpose to choose a free-trade Democrat for the office of speaker, he threw himself into the fight against Carlisle, of Kentucky, the party favorite, and favored Randall, of Pennsylvania, a life-long and very able protectionist. [464] The newspapers of the country took sides according to their convictions, and the discussion, which was a spirited one, covered the entire period between the election and the organization of the new House. Foreseeing that a free-trade policy would split the party, and if followed by free-trade legislation would so disturb the business and prosperity of the country as to bring on hard times, which in turn would bring the Republicans again into power, Dana placed Randall on a simple but comprehensive platform of his own framing, and advocated it as the only one by which the Democratic party could hope to maintain itself before the country. It was clear and explicit, but it would be difficult to-day to decide whether it was in any partisan sense either Democratic or Republican. It advocated:

I. A Radical Reduction in the Expenses of the Government.

II. The Return of Every Superfluous Office-holder to Private Usefulness.

III. The Abolition of the Internal Revenue System.

IV. The Radical Reform and Simplification of the Tariff.

V. No Subsidies; no Jobbery; no Stealing; no Waste.

But with all Dana and those who stood with him could do, Carlisle was elected, and the party started on a policy that in four years ended in the double event which had been predicted. It is not the purpose of this narrative to decide whether this was due to the action of the Democratic party or to the operation of economic laws independent of both parties, but merely to point out that it was a signal vindication of Dana's judgment.

With this explanation, and the fact that the two chief offices of the government were in the hands of men he had opposed, it is easy to understand that Dana felt under no sort of obligation to give either his support. He regarded [465] Carlisle as an able man, and always mentioned him with respect, but this did not blind him to the fact that both the speaker and his party were on a road which must end in failure and defeat. His first duty under his repeated declaration of independence as a journalist was clearly to the public and to his own views of public interest. In this connection it is to be noted that throughout both of Cleveland's administrations he was just as independent and aggressive in his criticisms of men and measures as he was throughout both of Grant's. As will be indicated further on, he was frequently right in this, though it is not to be denied that his strictures upon the administration, and upon the measures which it adopted, were so uniformly hostile, and his personal references to Cleveland were frequently so disrespectful, as to subject both him and his newspaper for years to the harshest criticism.

This was emphasized in the public estimation by the fact that Dana had found no noticeable difficulty in giving his unqualified support to General Butler, first for governor of Massachusetts, and second for the presidency of the United States. In both instances his critics claimed that Dana's main purpose was not so much to express his disapproval of the other nominations as it was to witness “the rattling and smashing which would take place among the dry bones” if by any chance Butler should be elected. In this, curious as it may seem, he was far from being alone. It is well known that there were many voters in Massachusetts, and not a few in the country at large, who desired, in the phrase of the day, “to see what the Old Man would do” if called to either of the high offices to which he aspired. When his notable peculiarities were taken into consideration, this desire was perhaps natural enough, but it was difficult to defend it, or to justify the course of the Sun, against the suggestion which was frequently [466] heard, that it was treating a grave and important matter with undue levity.

It was during this period that the Sun brought forward its most elaborate arguments against the internal revenue laws as an outgrowth of the Civil War, but which had outlived the occasion that so fully justified them. It advocated the abolition of the entire system, except the excise on distilled spirits and tobacco, as no longer necessary and as bringing the Federal government too close to the daily life of the people. For similar reasons it opposed the adoption of a permanent civil service, and the establishment of competitive examinations for filling the public offices. It contended that, while the appointing power should be held responsible for the selection of its agents, it should be left free to exercise its own best judgment as to their qualifications. In reply to an invitation to attend a competitive examination at the New York custom-house, after stating the case in general terms as above, and allowing that every applicant for public office should be examined individually but not competitively for the work he wished to undertake, the editor continued as follows:

... I do not believe in this method of reforming the present evils of civil service. Above all, I do not believe in the establishment in this country of the German bureaucratic system, with its permanent staff of office-holders who are not responsible to the people, and whose tenure of place knows no variation and no end except the end of life.

In my judgment a genuine reform of the evils complained of is reached by the rigorous simplification of the machinery of government, by the repeal of all superfluous laws, the abolition of every needless office, and the dismissal of every unnecessary officer. The true American doctrine on this subject consists in the diminution of government, not in its increase. [467]

Moreover, the first and indispensable condition of any reform under the federal Executive is the election of a president who is earnestly and thoroughly a reformer. Until that is done we may expect to see shallow experiments, deceptive shams, and short-lived illusions, but no real or permanent improvement can be attained. ...

A few days later, in reply to a casual correspondent who suggested the nationalization of the railroads, the Sun expressed itself against the proposition in terms which appear to be quite as sensible to-day as when they were first uttered:

... We cannot imagine anything more absurd, unpatriotic, and dangerous than this scheme.

There is one end which should be constantly pursued by every intelligent American in whatever belongs to legislation and government. This end is to diminish the power of government, to reduce the number and authority of officeholders, and to abolish as far as possible the interference of political agents in private affairs.

After admitting, during the course of the discussion, that protection and free-trade should receive due attention from the Democrats in the next House, it took care to put itself on the broader and safer platform that their chief and most imperative duty would be “to stand as a unit against free-trade in the people's money and for the protection of the public treasury.” It followed this by a more elaborate article defining democracy to be “the government of the people for the people and by the people.” It declared that its life is immortal, and does not depend upon any success of the hour; that elections may be lost and won, that wisdom or folly may prevail, that delusions may overcome the minds of men, and that interest may lead them astray; but when all political sins have been committed, all blunders have been endured and [468] punished, “the truth of democracy will still shine untarnished and the hopes of mankind will still cluster around the possibility of its realization.” Calling attention to the fact that there are two tendencies in human society-one to increase the power in government, the other to its diminution-and claiming that the Democratic party should be considered as the principal representative and embodiment of the latter tendency, the article concluded as follows:

... In every free commonwealth there is as great a need for an opposition as for a government; and though the Republicans should continue to hold the keys of power and place for another quarter of a century, the Democrats will continue to oppose their principles and resist their development. They may continue for a long time, and on many fields, to fight none but losing battles, and the tired and exhausted veterans may sadly drop out of the ranks and disappear; but new recruits, young, ardent, disinterested, believing in liberty and devoted to the republic, will rise up to take their places.

No calamity can extinguish democracy; no one of those who are temporarily intrusted with leadership can break it down; it is immortal.

While this, so far as known, is the last statement made by Dana in regard to the subject, and shows a distinct leaning to the Democratic party, it should be observed that it does not pretend to show that resistance to the centralizing tendencies of the times as a permanent principle of national policy is confined to that party alone, nor did it in any way change the Sun from an independent journal into a partisan organ. Broadly considered, it was merely an argument in favor of the fundamental principles of the American government, in preference to those of all other governments in which emperors, kings, or privileged classes exercise the chief power. [469]

Throughout the year 1885 the Sun touched upon all the topics of the day, but never as a party organ. It discussed the national banks from an economic point of view, but was not overfriendly to them. Indeed, it thought they could be dispensed with entirely, or be deprived of their function of issuing circulating notes without serious detriment to the national interests.

While sympathizing deeply with General Grant, on account of the financial disaster that had overtaken him through the failure of Grant & Ward, of which he was the senior partner, Dana, in an editorial doubtless from his own pen, opposed the proposition that Congress should give him a pension. He thought that no such precedent should be established, but proposed instead that the public sympathy should be manifested towards the unfortunate general by a great popular subscription to be limited to ten dollars from any subscriber, and that the proceeds should be put into the hands of trustees who should collect and pay over the interest and dispose of the principal as the surviving beneficiary might direct. While pointing out that this should not be considered as the payment of a public debt, and that General Grant's great military services were no more than his duty required him to render to the country that had educated and honored him, he did not wish to see the declining days of this eminent and patriotic soldier clouded with misfortune, and therefore asked his fellow-citizens to take hold and lift the burden off.

While heartily commending Cleveland as a man who at least dealt in no false pretences, but expressed his thoughts plainly and without hypocrisy, he cast a doubt upon his adherence to the declaration, made soon after his inauguration, that he would not stand for a second election to the presidency. In support of this doubt, the article plainly intimated that the President might, from his own experience, conclude, as several of his predecessors [470] had, that it would be better for his party, his country, and himself to take a second election. It pointed out the influences and arguments which would be brought to bear, and, although it cast no doubt upon the good faith or upon the firmness of the President's determination, it declared that nothing but time and experience could shed a conclusive light on the question. As the sequel showed, the editor was both correct and prophetic, for in spite of his earlier convictions' Cleveland was not only renominated twice, but the second time was re-elected after an interregnum of four years.

During the whole of Cleveland's administration, and, for that matter, during the entire twelve years ending with his second term, Dana maintained the position of an independent with Democratic leanings, but it would be impossible within the limits of this narrative to epitomize the discussions in which the Sun was engaged. Such an epitome would necessarily touch upon every branch of human activity, for all were watched and commented upon by the editor and his able assistants. The newspaper had come to be recognized by the reading and thinking public, not only as the most enterprising, but as the most original and most interesting journal of the times. There was no subject which it hesitated to discuss, and none which it did not illuminate.

One of the most absorbing topics of the day was the overflowing treasury of the general government, and how to reduce the continually increasing surplus. Many suggestions were made and considered, but the one which received the Sun's heartiest approval was set forth in Tilden's letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives, urging that no reduction of taxation should be made till a proper and adequate system of sea-coast defence had been constructed and paid for. It regarded this as far preferable to a free-trade tariff. Later it discussed the [471] gold standard and the fall in prices, in connection with the decrease in the output of gold. It quoted largely from the speeches of Goschen and Giffen, and did not hesitate for a brief period to favor silver monometallism, to be gradually brought about by the Treasury's monthly purchase of four million ounces of silver, as allowed by the silver purchase bill. But when it was seen that this measure was merely a deal in merchandise that would cause the great commercial nations which adhered to the gold standard to ultimately unload their surplus silver upon the United States, the Sun promptly gave its support to Cleveland's recommendation that the silver purchase act should be repealed. On the other hand, it severely criticised the action of his Attorney-General for bringing a suit to set aside the Bell telephone patents in behalf of the Pan-Electric Company, in which he was charged with having a substantial ownership. It characterized the action of the administration as scandalous, and demanded the dismissal of Attorney-General Garland for involving the government in a patent suit in which it had no interest, and which the laws of the land were amply sufficient to deal with.

It condemned the President for “the mild and conciliatory foreign policy” which he adopted in the earlier part of his first term. It denounced his attitude towards Great Britain in regard to the Corinto affair with Nicaragua as a serious manifestation of indifference to the Monroe Doctrine, but did not fail to praise his message of retaliation touching the fisheries question. It asked for the resignation of Secretary Bayard for negotiating the fisheries treaty which the Senate rejected, but praised both the President and Secretary Olney in high terms for the measures they took to compel Great Britain to arbitrate its dispute with Venezuela in regard to the boundary between that country and British Guiana. [472]

It favored the acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands, which had been provided for in the closing days of Harrison's administration. It severely condemned Cleveland for withdrawing the treaty of annexation which had been referred to the Senate for ratification. It condemned his action in sending a “paramount commissioner” to Honolulu without the advice and consent of the Senate as an assumption of authority and a violation of the fundamental law. It lost no opportunity to ridicule the paramount commissioner, or to inveigh against the reestablishment of the deposed queen upon her throne. It pointed out that the American people would not approve such a measure as this, no matter what excuse might be offered for it, and claimed that such acts as these, when added to the estrangement of the party leaders, which had already been brought about by the President's unconciliatory manners and his advocacy of a free-trade tariff, would result in the defeat of the Democratic party at the next election. And yet it may be truthfully said that it never failed to praise such acts of Cleveland or his administration as it could consistently approve, and it did this with a heartiness which did more than its bitterest criticism to arouse the resentment of their party supporters.

In May, 1886, the Sun published an editorial on the “Lost cause,” containing many evidences of having been written by Dana. It was called forth by a speech on that subject delivered by Jefferson Davis. After expressing admiration for the ability and eloquence of this remarkable address, and calling attention to the fact that it did not contain a single word on the subject of slavery, it continued as follows:

... Yet this institution was indisputably the moving cause of all the acts, efforts, sacrifices, achievements, and [473] sufferings which Mr. Davis so wonderfully describes, exalts, and defends. Had there been no slavery, there would have been no secession and no civil war. Indeed, the great fruit of that war, next to the integrity and unity of the republic, is the extirpation of slavery.

As long as the institution lasted, with its principles hostile to the principles of the government, with its immense power of property and o politics constantly menacing rebellion, it was impossible that the country should be safe; and, now that it has been removed, there is no longer any apparent cause, that the most strenuous observation can detect, which carries with it any peril of the kind. The measure of public safety which has thus been gained is worth all that it cost, enormous as the cost was.

But this is not all. The removal of slavery did more than give security to republican institutions. It took away a great blot which rested upon the country, a contradiction and an incongruity most repugnant to the sentiments of generous, enlightened, and progressive minds. It brought the United States, the leader of democratic progress, into harmony with democratic ideas. It made the land better and fairer to live in.

We are not surprised that in discussing these great events of twenty-five years ago Mr. Davis avoided all reference to slavery. It does honor to his intelligence and his heart that he should thus omit from his review this supreme element in the great contest; but he would have been truer to history had he faced the facts and manfully explained their share in the prodigious struggle, some of whose nobler aspects he so eloquently illustrates.

It was on June 17, 1886, that Dana wrote a memorable and appreciative letter to William P. Hepburn, a member of Congress from Iowa, in reference to Stanton, late Secretary of War. As it may be justly regarded as one of the greatest and most eloquent tributes ever paid to the character and services of an American statesman, it is here given in full: [474]

I am sorry to say that my period of intimacy with Mr. Stanton, and of service under him in the War Department, did not really begin until after General McClellan had been removed. For this reason I am not able to speak upon that point from personal knowledge of my own. But upon the general question of Mr. Stanton's purposes, I can say most emphatically that in all my acquaintance with him he never had but one purpose in his mind, and this was to carry the war efficiently forward to a victorious conclusion. He had no friends but those who were of that mind, and he knew no enemies but those whom he regarded as the enemies of his country. Whoever was not for prosecuting the war most vigorously, whoever hesitated, whoever interposed obstacles, whoever in his opinion failed to come up to the high mark of zeal and thoroughness, might be certain to have Mr. Stanton for a critic and an antagonist.

Of himself, of his own personal interests and advancements, no man could be less careful than he was. All mercenary considerations he despised, and the end of the great struggle left him a much poorer man than he was at the beginning. All mere friendships he was ready to disregard and fling away as soon as he came to believe that their object did not share his own high and patriotic enthusiasm for the Union. He was such a man in his day and work as Oliver Cromwell was in his, and they who now propose to judge him by any narrow standard of their own are sure to judge wrongly.

Of course, a great heroic figure like Stanton is not infallible, because he is a man. It was always possible for him to judge wrongly, and to be deceived by erroneous evidence. But one thing was never possible for him, and that was to be unfaithful to the Union or to show any mercy in feeling or in act towards its enemies.

It is very easy for men in this year of 1886 to find blemishes in the conduct or the character of this great man; but we who knew him thoroughly, and whose fortune it was to labor at his side and under his orders, cannot be mistaken in our opinion that without him the Union could not have been saved.


Towards the close of Cleveland's first term the Sun denounced the Mills bill, providing for a horizontal reduction of the tariff, and praised the McKinley act as establishing the most useful and the most scientific tariff that the United States had ever had. While it frankly admitted that the time had come for “the reconstruction” of the tariff, it strongly contended that its “abolition” would be ruinous to the Democratic party and injurious to the country at large. It favored the upbuilding of the navy, and praised William C. Whitney, the secretary of that department, as the only member of Cleveland's cabinet that had proved himself equal to the exigencies of his high position. It maintained its hostility to Secretary Bayard and Minister Phelps, on account of their alleged attitude of unfriendliness towards the Irish and the Irish cause. It received the proceeds of a popular subscription for the benefit of the Irish movement under the leadership of Parnell. On the publication of an imprudent letter of Sir Lionel Sackville-West, the British minister, advising a citizen who had been a British subject to vote the Democratic ticket, it called for the dismissal of the minister, and had the satisfaction of seeing him on his way back to England within the short period of three days. It praised the President warmly for the spirit and promptitude of his action, and urged all citizens to vote for him rather than for General Harrison. With all the shortcomings of the Democrats in Congress, and all the objections which it had recorded against Cleveland and his .management, the Sun preferred to see him re-elected than to see the Republicans again called back to power.

Although Dana had been one of the first of the American editors to call attention to the phenomenal increase of corporations, he was also one of the first to call attention to their great economic utility, and to the necessity of dealing with them fairly and justly. So philosophical were [476] his views, and so ably were they supported by his contributors, that they have remained to this day the guide of the Sun in its discussion of a question which is still far from a permanent or satisfactory settlement. The Sun has always maintained that railways and the improved methods of transportation are among the most useful and powerful agencies of American prosperity, and that in dealing with them and the abuses which have grown up in their management the people should never countenance measures looking to their ruin, their sequestration, or their acquisition by the general government. It even went so far as to urge that Congress, having passed a law for the regulation of interstate commerce, and putting certain restrictions on the American railroads, owed it to them that it should prohibit all foreign railroads and steamship lines from engaging in the same trade as rivals to our own railroads and common carriers, just as foreign steamship lines are prohibited from engaging in the coasting trade as rivals to our own steamship lines. Obviously this restriction was aimed particularly at the Canadian railroads along our northern border. They had been heavily subsidized by the British and Colonial governments, and had been built primarily for military purposes, in pursuance of a well-defined policy on the part of the home government to “federate the empire” and to put its American dependencies in condition to defend themselves against possible aggressions from the American republic.

In support of this suggestion, the Sun favored the peaceable acquisition of Canada and the neighboring provinces, and pointed out that this was not only in the direction of our manifest destiny, but that the result of continental union would not only dedicate one continent permanently to the cause of peace, but would in addition settle many important questions growing out of the juxtaposition of rival and possibly hostile sovereignties. Dana never [477] ceased to show his interest in this great question, and with a view to its proper and friendly solution accepted the presidency of the Continental Union Association, which at one time included in its membership many prominent and influential men throughout both Canada and the United States. It may be worth while in this connection to call attention to the fact that the Sun of April 21, 1887, asked the pertinent question:

Which of the great political parties is going to be the first to make the peaceable acquisition of Canada a plank in its platform? Don't both speak at once.... But think about it carefully and prayerfully as well as wisely. It is a great subject, and will not become any less great till the thing has been done.

It did not fail to give special commendation to the Republican party for the unequivocal declaration which it inserted in its statement of principles in favor of that policy, but which, owing to the Spanish War a few years later, and perhaps to the fears of a timid administration, it at first softened and finally dropped entirely from its platform.

While the Democratic party still controlled the House of Representatives, the Sun counselled it not to let the Republicans “lead the way in this most important movement,” but to seize upon it as a chance for “moving up to higher ground.” But questions of internal policy engaged the entire attention of both parties. Neither had time or inclination to discuss the country's future relations with its near-by neighbors, but both were content to leave matters of that sort to be disposed of as they might arise. While Dana regarded continental union as “the paramount question of the hour” for the American people, he was far too practical an editor to engage in discussions for which they were not ready or which had not been brought [478] forward by a pressing public need. Indeed, he was an opportunist, but an opportunist with such breadth of view and such knowledge of facts as enabled him to select the actual topics and make an interesting newspaper for every day of the year.

In commenting on General Harrison's inaugural address, the Sun, with its usual directness, declared that it showed the new President to be “neither a sneak nor a fraud,” and in view of the fact that it had already strongly expressed its disapproval of his accepting a cottage at Cape May from his party friends, this sententious commendation meant more than appeared on its surface. Taken in connection with the friendly comments that it made upon several of the gentlemen named for the new cabinet, it may be fairly regarded as foreshadowing a determination on the part of Dana to judge the incoming administration entirely on its merits.

It was at this time that what appeared to many to be an indecent rush for office under the new administration brought from the Sun a characteristic article favorable to politicians as a class, and deprecating the outcry against them as both thoughtless and unjust. It contended frankly that, if a man wanted an office, he should ask the appointing power for it, with the same freedom that he would ask a business man or corporation for a job. This view of the matter was as novel as it was sound and healthy, and seems to have been accepted as all that needed to be said on the subject.

But the Sun was always opposed to the creation of new departments of government, not only because it did not want to see the government functions enlarged, but because it did not want the army of federal office-holders increased. While it acknowledged that the rapid growth of population, which was a phenomenon of the times, would necessarily result in a corresponding increase of the officeholders [479] in the Treasury and Post-Office departments, it never lost an opportunity to argue against “all annexes and extensions” of federal power, the creation of “new hospitals for office-holders,” and the enlargement of governmental activity, no matter what the excuse. For these reasons it objected to the creation of a department of agriculture, or a department of commerce and labor, both of which were then under consideration.

It opposed the indiscriminate denunciation of trusts for political effect as “the greatest humbug of the hour,” and explained that

... a trust is a vast partnership, a combination in trade or manufactures. The objects of trade being to buy as cheap as possible, to sell as dear as possible, and to get control of the market as far as possible, the formation for these purposes of these gigantic and widely extended partnerships is just as natural and regular as the partnership of two shoemakers or of two blacksmiths.

But while it held these views in regard to the nature and functions of trusts, and admitted that they should be subject to proper regulation by the power that created them, it also held that all trusts should be treated alike — that the commercial trusts should not be struck down while labor trusts and trades-unions should be allowed to carry on their operations without any regulation at all. True to its convictions, it always contended that neither labor trust nor trades-union should be permitted to deprive a private workman of his right to work at any time or place, or for any rate of compensation that might please him. It stood for the equal rights of all men before the law, and for the effective protection of every individual against the tyranny and violence of the many. While Dana had stood all his life for the rights of every class of labor, and for the betterment of its condition by all proper means, he [480] was the only prominent editor in the country who at all times stood firmly for the rights of the employer as well as of the individual workman. The Sun was notably outspoken in its condemnation of the railroad and other strikers, not for leaving their job nor for demanding higher wages and shorter hours, but for the injury they inflicted on the property of their employers, and for the outrages and violence which they visited upon those who were willing to take the places they had vacated.

It will be remembered that the great strike at Chicago, and the interference of the mob with the operation of the railroads engaged in interstate commerce, called forth a notable proclamation from President Cleveland for the restoration of public order. The occasion led to a correspondence by telegraph with the governor of Illinois that attracted much attention at the time. Its immediate effect was to make it plain that the President required no call from him for assistance as a warrant for sending troops to disperse the mob and insure the free transmission of the United States mails. It was clearly his duty to see that all the laws of the United States, including the act regulating commerce between the States, were enforced, that the government's mail service should be performed, and that to this end he should use, at his own discretion, such part of the army as he might think proper. Troops were accordingly sent at once to Chicago, and to other parts of the country where the running of trains had been stopped. The effect was magical; the mobs were dispersed, their organization was broken, mail service was re-established, and order was everywhere restored.

Upon all previous occasions, except in the case of receivers who were operating railroads under the orders of the federal courts, it had been regarded as the established law of the land that United States troops could not be ordered into a State to repress riots or insurrection until [481] the governor had stated officially that he was unable to restore and maintain order, and was therefore forced to call on the President for assistance. Governor Altgeld, who sympathized with the Chicago strikers, took this view of the matter, and was greatly put out to find that the President not only intended to act independently and without invitation, but had no doubt of his perfect right to do so under the federal statutes then in force. This was a genuine surprise to the lawyers as well as to the business men of the country. It marks an epoch in the protection of internal commerce and in the maintenance of public order and tranquillity. In all this it is to be observed that President Cleveland had the full support and cooperation of the Sun and its editor, followed by a growing respect for his honesty and courage, yet it is to be noted that they abated nothing of their opposition to the movement favoring his renomination for the presidency. He had been twice nominated and once chosen, and, although Harrison's term had intervened, Dana set his face strongly against a third nomination, and went so far as to say that the greatest service that Grover Cleveland could now render to his party, or to his country, would be to put an end to the movement in his behalf.

It must not be thought, however, that “the noble controversies of politics,” which had for a third of a century engaged so much of Dana's attention, had entirely monopolized it. Fierce as may have been his onslaughts upon public men whom he believed to be recreant to their public duties, much as he may have rejoiced in the heat and excitement of the conflict, it is not to be supposed that he was indifferent to the claims of early friendship or to the gentler memories of the past. As an enemy went down before him, or as a fellow-soldier in the battle of life fell by the way, he never failed to pay his tribute of affection or respect. In such composition he was peculiarly gifted. [482] A single paragraph on the death of George William Curtis, in 1892, a dear friend and associate of Brook Farm and the Tribune, who had been estranged from him for years, is at once a touching example of his literary skill and of his generosity. It is here inserted:

George Curtis lacked only two years of the Psalmists' period of threescore and ten; but his life was cast in pleasant places, and nothing but what was gentle, graceful, and poetic belonged to his career. He was one of those fortunate creatures who seem never to be compelled to do anything which is contrary to their inclinations. From his first appearance upon the stage of action, when he went to Brook Farm, in 1842, to the end at Staten Island, yesterday morning, he always maintained his own views of reform, and died as he lived, in the enjoyment of intellectual freedom and the culture of moral ideals, many of which the world has not yet learned to recognize. Elevated in purpose, lovely in character, the most delightful of companions, the soul of truth, not a great constructive genius either in literature, in politics, or in reform, though he attempted all of them with distinction, his personal and social qualities were always pure and perfect; and those who knew him best will join with us in laying upon his grave the fairest flower of memory and of hope.

An instance of another kind, but scarcely less touching, is his tribute to Samuel J. Randall, his political friend and fellow-Democrat, who died in 1890, and whom he had supported so strenuously for speaker of the House of Representatives. Of him he wrote in part as follows:

... The history of Mr. Randall is narrated at some length in another part of this paper. It is impossible to read it without admiration for the character of the man, or without envy for such grand and unvarying devotion to the highest conception of patriotic duty. It is a most instructive and inspiring narrative. Resolute, modest, free from vanity and from selfishness, no public man has ever lived up to a purer [483] or a nobler ideal. There was no sham, no glitter, no cant in Randall, but a singleness of purpose, a supremacy of intelligence, and a magnanimity of action which temptation could not influence and weakness never marked with a blot.

Happy is the nation which can stand beside the open grave of a great man without a cloud upon its pride at having had such a son. Happy the people in whose day and generation such an example of public and private virtue and of manly, life-long fidelity to every obligation has been produced. Happy the age which has possessed a citizen of such generosity and such heroism, in friendship so genial, in integrity so complete. And happy, above all, in the midst of their sorrow, are the friends and family, the nearest and dearest of the departed, in the consciousness that the man they loved and mourn for was not merely great and potent in the service of his country and his party, but was equally true, affectionate, gentle, sincere, and spotless in every relation of life.

It will not be forgotten that Dana had been severely criticised for the part he took in the presidential campaign in which Cleveland, Blaine, and Butler were the candidates. He had been charged with inconsistency, with levity, and even with insincerity; but at the death of General Butler, which occurred early in 1893, this is what he said:

For the last quarter of a century at least Benjamin Franklin Butler has stood out as the most original, the most American, and the most picturesque character in our public life. He had courage equal to every occasion; his given word needed no backer; his friendships and his enmities knew no variableness or shadow of turning; his opinions were never disguised nor withheld; his devotion to his country was without qualification; his faith in the future of liberty and democracy was neither intoxicated by their victories nor disheartened by their defeats; his intellectual resources were marvellous; his mind naturally adhered to the cause of [484] the poor and the weak, and his delight was to stand by the under dog in the fight. In these qualities he was a great and an exceptional man, and his friends valued him and loved him as truly as his foes detested. But was he great always and in everything? Were his thoughts always thoughts of reality, and his utterances and acts always the utterances and acts of wisdom? Who would say so? No man attains to that height, and no man ever scorned the impostures of sham goodness and unattainable perfection more than Ben Butler. He was no pretender and no hypocrite. He lived his life, a life full of energy, of effort, of success, and of failure, and he has passed to the allotted reward; while we who remain may well be grateful to Heaven that such a man has been,

Nor farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
Where they alike in trembling hope repose-
The bosom of his Father and his God.

It will be noted that while Dana was the youngest of the great New York journalists, he knew them all personally, and had at various titles professional or business relations with each of them. He was, of course, intimate with Greeley, and more or less sympathetic with the tastes and learning of William Cullen Bryant. As he was the survivor of the group, he was requested and consented to write his recollections of Bryant, Bennett, Greeley, Webb, Brooks, Beach, and Noah. In 1890 he dictated to his stenographer a brief account of Beach and a longer one of Bennett, but, unfortunately, never finished the series or published either of the sketches. As Beach was the founder of the Sun, and Bennett of the Herald, and as these are now the leading journals of the country in their respective lines, the sketches as corrected by Dana's own hand are here inserted:

... Moses Y. Beach was a business man and a newspaper manager rather than what we now understand as a [485] journalist — that is to say, one who is both a writer and a practical conductor and director of a newspaper. Mr. Beach was a man noted for enterprise in the collection of news. In the latter days when he owned and managed the Sun in New York, the telegraph was only established between Washington and Boston, though towards the end of his career it was extended, if I am not mistaken, as far towards the south as Montgomery in Alabama. The news from Europe was then brought to Halifax by steamers, just as the news from Mexico was brought to New Orleans. Mr. Beach's energy found a successful field in establishing expresses brought by messengers on horseback from Halifax to Boston and from New Orleans to Montgomery, thus bringing the news of Europe and the news of the Mexican War to New York much earlier than they could have arrived by the ordinary public conveyance. With him were associated, sooner or later, two or three of the other New York papers; but the energy with which he carried through the undertaking made him a conspicuous and distinguished figure in the journalists of the city. The final result was the organization of the New York Associated Press, which has now become a world-embracing establishment for the collection of news of every description, which it furnishes to its members in this city and to other newspapers in every part of the country. Under the stimulus of Mr. Beach's energetic intellect, aided by the cheapness of its price, the Sun became in his hands an important and profitable establishment. Yet he is scarcely to be classed among the prominent journalists of his day.

Contemporary with him was James Gordon Bennett, of the Herald, in many respects the most brilliant, original, and independent journalist I have ever known. Cynical in disposition, regarding every institution, every man, and every party with a degree of satirical disrespect, living through his protracted career in this city with very few friends, and those generally of a mental caliber inferior to his own, ready to affront alike the interests, the prejudices, and the passions of powerful individuals, or imposing parties with a judgment [486] always inclining to be eccentric, and a lawless humor for which nothing was sacred except his own independence, he yet possessed such fresh and peculiar wit, such originality of style, such resources of out-of-the-way reading and learning, such unexpected and surprising views of every subject, such comprehensive notions about news, and such ability to direct the collection of news, and to employ those able to organize and push that business, that he made himself the most influential journalist of his day; and in spite of enmities and animosities and contempt such as I have never seen equalled towards any man, he built up the Herald to be the leading newspaper of this country, and, indeed, one of the great and characteristic journals of modern times.

Mr. Bennett was a Scotchman, and always spoke with a strong Scotch accent. He was a tall, spare, blond man, with a long and rather thin face, a Roman nose, small, blue eyes, and he was cross-eyed. This gave to his face a peculiar, sardonic expression. Yet there was such intellectual power and such an intellectual elevation in Bennett's face that it was always impressive and compelled the respect of those who were not certain whether he was going to befriend in the Herald the cause or the interest for which they were endeavoring to engage his support, or whether he would tear it with his criticism or wither it with his satire.

The last time I saw Mr. Bennett was in the summer of 1868, when I paid him a visit in his house at Fort Washington. He was not very well, and was no longer taking a very active part in the conduct of the Herald, which had been handed over to his son, who was still aided by Mr. Frederick Hudson, for so many years Mr. Bennett's faithful and most efficient lieutenant. I found Mr. Bennett lying on the sofa, with an immense pile of newspapers that he had just read scattered on the floor. He told me that he had them brought up to him from the Herald office every day, and that he found no other amusement so attractive as their perusal; “and yet,” said he, “they are mostly domd fools.” He got up and showed me around the place, the garden, the grounds, and pointed out every striking view. I stayed to lunch with him, and was [487] greatly interested in observing the extreme refinement and elegance of the repast. No literary man or artist of the most cultivated taste could desire anything more delicate or artistic. Not one of the other distinguished men about whom I am now writing approached him in this kind of refinement, or in the culture which it suggested, except perhaps it may have been General Webb.

Mr. Bennett had an ample body of enemies, and received in his day more personal abuse than any other member of the profession. Much of it was undoubtedly provoked by his unbridled manner of speaking about many things which most people held sacred. During the first years of the Herald the Catholic religion was the special object of his witty flings, and I cannot recollect in all literature anything more blasphemous and shocking than the expressions he frequently used. It often seemed as if he were running amuck against the established ideas and usages of society, yet it was all done with such an affluence of wit, such surprising illustrations, and such a store of historical references that even those who were shocked by the wickedness were entertained by the manner of it; and thus the indifferent general public bought the Herald, and stood by its editor with a sort of indifferent sympathy which contributed to the steady increase of its popularity and power. Its success was entirely the work of Mr. Bennett; and, with all the rest, he had an entire appreciation of the supreme importance of news, and went after it with as much force and elasticity as he went after everything else. He ran expresses in opposition to Mr. Beach, though he finally joined the combination and became a member of the Associated Press, with Beach, Greeley, Webb, and Brooks, for all of whom he maintained a kind of intellectual contempt, but none of whom he really hated half so much as he pretended.

There was one quality of Mr. Bennett's which is worthy of unqualified admiration, and that is his spirit of independence. This he maintained under every stress and difficulty. No man but he controlled the Herald; no mind but his inspired it. There were all sorts of stories about blackmail and [488] self-vengeance, to which he never made any reply, and I believe that they were all false. He was one of the proudest men in the world, and he scorned to defend himself against such imputations just as much as he scorned every suggestion which looked to his surrendering any opinion, purpose, or policy of his own.

In politics Mr. Bennett usually supported the Democratic party, and upon the question of slavery, which was the great theme of the half-century, he was always on the side of the institution, and poured all the violence of his sarcasm, logic, and hatred upon the abolitionists. His support of slavery was undoubtedly one of the points of popularity which made the Herald strong with the business interests and the conservative sentiment of the country. Yet in 1856, when the Republican party started out on its magnificent career and nominated John C. Fremont for president, Mr. Bennett for the first time turned his back upon the Democrats, and gave a qualified but not ineffectual support to the Western pathfinder. Now, for the first time, he began to make room in the Herald for arguments against slavery, and began even to write against the institution himself. These arguments were not like those of any other writer, but they were exceedingly efficacious, and this kind of qualified support was partially continued up to the nomination of Lincoln. But it was never pushed to the point of entirely breaking with the Southern interest until after the Civil War began. Even then it was reported that Bennett would not hang out the stars and stripes from the Herald office until after Fulton Street had been visited by a mob. But, however that may be, it is certain that Mr. Lincoln made a great account of the Herald afterwards; and I know of my own knowledge that at one time he tendered to Mr. Bennett the appointment of minister to France. The compliment was declined; but it was appreciated, and I don't think that after that there was ever a word in the Herald which could have caused pain to Mr. Lincoln.

Finally, when the career of Mr. Bennett was ended, the antagonisms and hostilities that had surrounded his life were [489] all appeased, he breathed his last in the faith of the Church he had so often insulted; and his remains were followed to the grave by members of his own profession for pall-bearers, Horace Greeley and George W. Childs being among them. The Herald, which he created, is his monument, and now, after the lapse of nearly twenty years, it still bears the stamp of his genius and attests the vitality he imparted.

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