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Chapter 23: period of reconstruction

  • Dana buys New York sun
  • -- prospectus of New management -- Supports Grant for President -- Opposes impeachment of Andrew Johnson -- independent policy in politics -- Defends Grant's military career -- Warns South against revolution -- editorial reconstruction -- Approves acquittal of President -- letters and editorials -- Nominates Greeley for the cabinet -- favors expulsion of French from Mexico -- holds great Britain responsible for Alabama claims -- commends initial policy of Grant's administration -- Opposes creation of New departments of government -- Approves general amnesty -- Recommends Greeley for Grant's cabinet or minister to England -- “manifest Destiny” or Continental Union -- annexation of Haiti and Santo Domingo -- repeal of tenure of office act -- arrest of Samuel Bowles

Dana closed the contract for the control of the New York Sun late in December, 1867, or early in January, 1868, for himself and his associates, among whom were such distinguished men as William M. Evarts, Roscoe Conkling, Thomas Hitchcock, Alonzo B. Cornell, Cyrus W. Field, Edwin D. Morgan, George Opdyke, David Dows, Salem H. Wales, William H. Webb, and Freeman Clarke. Several other gentlemen of nearly equal prominence were included in the list of stockholders. They were nearly all Republicans, and all influential in the political or commercial life of New York and of the country at large. The prospectus of the new management of the newspaper was printed in its editorial page of January 27, 1868. After giving notice that the Sun would henceforth be published from the building known as Tammany Hall, at the corner of Nassau and Frankfort Streets, that the price would remain [381] at two cents, and that the paper would contain more news and other reading matter than heretofore, it made the following comprehensive declaration of policy and principles, over the signature of Charles A. Dana, “manager and editor” :

In changing its proprietorship, the Sun will not in any respect change its principles or general line of conduct. It will continue to be an independent newspaper, wearing the livery of no party, and discussing public questions and the acts of public men on their merits alone. It will be guided, as it has been hitherto, by uncompromising loyalty to the Union, and will resist every attempt to weaken the bonds that unite the American people into one nation.

The Sun will support General Grant as its candidate for the Presidency. It will advocate retrenchment and economy in the public expenditures, and the reduction of the present crushing burdens of taxation. It will advocate the speedy restoration of the South, as needful to revive business and secure fair wages for labor.

The Sun will always have all the news, foreign, domestic, political, social, literary, scientific, and commercial. It will use enterprise and money freely to make the best possible newspaper, as well as the cheapest.

It will study condensation, clearness, point, and will endeavor to present its daily photograph of the whole world's doings in the most luminous and lively manner.

It will not take as long to read the Sun as to read the London Times or Webster's Dictionary, but when you have read it, you will know about all that has happened in both hemispheres. ..

... We shall endeavor to make the Sun worthy the confidence of the people in every part of the country. Its circulation is now more than fifty thousand copies daily. We mean that it shall soon be doubled; and in this the aid of all persons who want such a newspaper as we propose to make will be cordially welcomed.


In one of the first numbers of the paper Dana took strong ground in favor of the United States protecting all of its citizens as well as Great Britain protects hers. The occasion was the arrest of George Francis Train, an eccentric but harmless citizen, as a Fenian, and this general attitude was at all times afterwards maintained as Dana's guiding principle in discussing our relations with England and the British empire, for which he had no overweening love or admiration. He appears never to have forgotten the attitude of Britain towards the colonies in their weakness, or the States in their distress, and it is safe to say that all through his editorial life his position on all questions of British practice or policy affecting the United States or any other American country or colony could be predicted with absolute certainty as anti-British. The presumption seems to have been ever-present in his mind that it was the immemorial and certain policy of Britain and her statesmen to bully the weak and bow to the strong powers of the earth; to take what they could get away with from those who could not defend themselves, and to respect and cringe to those who were strong enough to resist injustice and outrage.

From the start he favored the election of Grant as President, not so much in admiration of his superior wisdom or virtue as for the central fact that, having been the victorious leader of the Union armies against the hosts of the slave-holding Confederacy, he had come to be regarded, since the death of Lincoln and Stanton, by Union men everywhere as the best exponent of the Union cause, and his election would be considered, not only by the American people, but by the world at large, as settling for good and all the question of national sovereignty and the perpetuity of the Union, in which there should be no denial of equal citizenship on account of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” [383]

From the first Dana favored “manhood suffrage” and the complete enfranchisement of the freedmen, and ridiculed the idea that eight hundred thousand black votes could dominate or control five million white ones. He sneered at the cry of negro supremacy, as raised by the Southerners, and declared that the horrid spectre they had conjured, when dragged into the light, “would turn out to be the veriest phantom.”

As early as February 7th he took ground against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson as “far too serious an undertaking for the facts and evidence in the case.” On the other hand, he severely condemned Johnson's arbitrary methods as sure to lead to trouble of the gravest character. He declared, with emphasis which could not be misunderstood, that “Law is law, and must be obeyed,” and this necessarily included the act of Congress for the protection of Federal office-holders from unjust and partisan removal, as well as the Constitution itself. Knowing from long association with Stanton that he was devoted heart and soul to the cause of the Union, and would countenance no act for its injury, he stood with that distinguished statesman and lawyer for the right of Congress to prescribe every step and lay down every condition precedent for the readmission of the seceding States to the privileges and protection they had rejected when they passed their ordinances of secession. He denied the right of the President, of his own motion and prerogative, to fix the terms or to define the steps by which the Southern States might again become sovereign members of the Union. He held it to be the right and duty of the loyal States, through their representatives in Congress, to “so reconstruct the Union as to protect it from future rebellion,” and that it was neither just nor decent to denounce this policy as partial and proscriptive. From the first to the last he was firm in the belief that the Congress should take the lead in all [384] such matters, and that it should proceed, with deliberation and justice to every interest, to pass the necessary laws to carry this policy into effect.

On the all-important question of the national debt and the national currency, he took the ground, in the month of March, 1868, that

If we mean to be honest at all, there is no escaping payment in specie. Anything else is repudiation, disguise it as we may.

And this remained his text till the question was settled forever in the only way it could be honestly settled — namely, by actually paying every bonded obligation in gold, and by resuming specie payments and making every paper obligation good for its face in that metal. The Sun did as much as any journal in the United States towards bringing about this settlement, and in accordance with its independent policy in politics, from the earliest days of Dana's management, it did all in its power to compel the Democratic party to give up its sectional heresies, and plant itself on advanced and patriotic ground broad enough to include the entire Union and all its interests. It desired to see that party as well as the Republican party become national in fact as well as in name, and in discussing the question Dana said:

In its earlier days the Democracy had a noble pride in being a party of liberal ideas, radical doctrines, and reformatory measures.... It relieved and protected the poor by first ameliorating and then abolishing the law authorizing imprisonment for debt. It early became the ardent advocate of universal suffrage. . . . When it initiated this measure, the possession of landed property was an essential qualification both for the holding of office and the exercise of the elective franchise in all the States. ... It should remove the [385] debris of its broken-down platforms out of its path; adopt measures consonant with its liberal principles; bow its old-fogy leaders to the rear; summon its vigorous manhood to the front; inscribe progress, retrenchment, and reform upon its banner, and move onward to win victories for the masses in the future as its fathers won triumphs for them in the past. So it may restore its tarnished prestige and regain its lost power.

Looking back upon the time of this noble utterance, and the series of political mistakes which for years thereafter paralyzed the efforts of the Democratic party, who can find fault with Dana's broad and statesman-like views, or fail to regret that the party to which they were addressed proved to be utterly incapable of accepting or carrying them into effect? They would certainly have made the party national instead of sectional, and might have materially changed the history of the country. It was in March of this year, 1868, that Dana entered into a contract with Gurdon Bill & Co., of Springfield, Massachusetts, for a Life of General Grant, to be prepared mainly by me, edited by Dana, and published over our joint names.1 The work was limited to one volume, octavo, and was written and printed within three months. It was issued in ample time to assist in the election of General Grant to his first term as president. Indeed, that was its principal purpose, and while Dana wrote only three chapters — the thirty-sixth, thirty-eighth, and thirty-ninth--he read, approved, and passed all the rest, rarely ever changing the text in the slightest degree. It is also worthy of note that he never afterwards withdrew any part of his [386] responsibility therefor, or modified his commendation and approval of Grant's military career. Whatever differences arose afterwards between them, or found expression in Dana's criticism, related entirely to Grant's career in civil life. Indeed, it may be confidently asserted that Grant as a soldier, from the beginning to the end of the war, never had a better friend than Dana. The Sun, even in the midst of its bitterest criticism of his career as President, and as a candidate for re-election, was always swift to repel the attacks of others who assailed his character and performances as a military man. Long years after all controversy was ended, and Grant had failed in business and paid the debt of nature, and Dana himself had become an old man, he reaffirmed all that he had ever said in defence of Grant's generalship either in the Sun, or in the Life to which he had attached his name. During the presidential campaign various newspapers, notably the New York World, assailed Grant's character as a general with great vehemence and pertinacity. It charged him with poor strategy and worse battle tactics, alleging that his victory over Lee was due solely to superiority of numbers and resources, and not to superior generalship. It claimed that he had won by “the policy of mere attrition,” and pointed to his final report to sustain this view. It quoted the returns of casualties in the Virginia campaign to prove that his tactics were “murderous” and wasteful of human life. These points and many others, as they were brought forward, were answered in the Sun according to the facts of each case and the military principles applicable thereto.

It was on the point of wastefulness of human life that Dana published in the Sun, and afterwards in the Life of Grant,2 as well as in his own Recollections,3 official tables [387] prepared in the War Department, showing that the National armies in Virginia lost more men killed, wounded, and missing, while under its previous leaders, from May 21, 1861, to May 4, 1864, in their futile efforts to capture the Confederate capital and overthrow the Confederate government, than did the armies operating in Virginia under General Grant from the time he began his campaign on May 4, 1864, till April 9, 1865, when Richmond was in his hands and Lee and his army were prisoners of war. For the first period the aggregate was 143,925; for the second, 124,390. The difference was something more than two years in time and 19,535 in casualties; and while the larger part of the latter was in captured and missing, the effect was to show conclusively that Grant's tactics were not only more successful in results, but better in quality than those of his predecessors. In view of the fact that the forces engaged were larger than ever before, the argument drawn from these tables was all the more unanswerable. As a matter of history it was never answered, and stands good to this day.

It should be observed in connection with this subject that Dana at no time ever contended that Grant was a great organizer or tactician, or that his staff arrangements were perfect. He simply regarded Grant as the best and most successful general we had, and believing with Rawlins and others that he was a modest, disinterested, honest, and unpretending hero, with whom we could win, he did all he could to help him carry his great task through to a successful ending. Nobody knew better than Dana what Grant's limitations were, nor better than he where his tactics were bad and his management defective; but it is to his credit that he confined his criticism, both then and afterwards, to the inner circle of those who shared his knowledge and concurred in the faith with which they predicted Grant's ultimate success. [388]

Curiously enough, Dana was never one of those who thought Grant made a mistake in giving up his position for life as General of the Army to accept the temporary office of President. Sherman and many others who knew him well frankly declared their distrust of his ability to sustain himself in civil life, or to compete successfully with experienced politicians and statesmen in managing national affairs; but Dana did not agree with them. He and I discussed the question frequently, both then and afterwards, and I am sure that while he made no effort to disguise his doubts, but relied mainly on Grant's good sense and his willingness to take counsel of those who had known him best and stood next to him, notably as Rawlins had done, Dana felt that it was not a question of personal interest, but one of personal duty; and that while Grant had done much for the country, the country had done much for him, and was entitled to his further sacrifices and services. Even if it had been known, or could have been foreseen, that Grant would make a failure of his civil administration, there is no doubt Dana would still have favored his candidacy and election, if for no other reason than to settle forever the question of reconstruction on the basis of perpetual Union and national sovereignty. This was the view that Dana took from the first, and I have frequently heard him express the opinion that had Rawlins lived and retained his influence, Grant's civil career would have been as creditable as his military career; and long after Grant's death I heard Dana declare that it was a necessity of the times that the general should be elected; that it was his duty to accept; and that, notwithstanding the mistakes which might be justly charged to his administration, he was entitled to the grateful recollections of his countrymen.

No one can examine the files of the Sun without becoming impressed with the soundness and breadth of its [389] views on the questions of that period. Dana had taken it over quite recently, and while pledging himself to maintain its independence in politics, it was necessary in increasing its circulation to retain as far as practicable its old readers among the mechanics and shopkeepers of the city, who were mostly Democrats. While he was from the start just and sympathetic towards the South, he warned the Southerners to give no credence to the thought of revolution in the North, and to dismiss the idea that the Northerners were “a race of fanatics, Jacobins, agrarians, mercenaries, and cowards.” He pointed out that the war had to a certain extent exorcised this fantasy, but expressed the prophetic fear that the exorcism would not be complete nor the delusion wholly disappear till a new generation should arise “who know not John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis.” Meanwhile the ignorant and credulous should understand that whatever shall happen in regard to the impeachment of the President, no party or creed in the North “has the remotest idea of resorting to a revolution even on the reduced scale of a riot,” in order to redress any real or imaginary grievances. He added:

... If there had ever been a latent purpose, in one mind in a million, to apply this remedy under any imaginable circumstances, the terrible failure of the Confederate experiment has plucked it up by the roots, and will prevent its germinating again for a century to come.

Andrew Johnson may be deposed and disfranchised, and Benjamin Franklin Wade installed in his place; but a people who have seen the life-blood of a quarter of a million of their sons flow out on the battle-field are not going into a frenzy because an accidental President is toppled out of his chair, according to the forms of law, by the men who placed him there, but whose confidence he has betrayed. And if Mr. Wade should, in co-operation with the Senate, remove every Federal office-holder, from his cabinet down to the tidewaiters, [390] the people, so far from revolting, would feel rather relieved by the consciousness that no change could let loose upon them a more hungry swarm of vampires. If the majority of Northern electors should regard the condemnation of Mr. Johnson as not justified by the law and the facts of the case, or the administration of Mr. Wade as inopportune or proscriptive, they will redress the wrongs of the former and punish the offences of the latter, not by violence, but through the irresistible yet peaceful energies of the ballot-box.

If, after a sharp struggle, Mr. Pendleton should be deputed to lift up the official scourge and drive the Republicans from the public crib, so far from raising the sword against him, they would be much more apt to hoist their sails for a profitable voyage on that ocean of greenbacks wherewith he proposes to enrich the country. If, on the other hand, General Grant should be sent to the Executive Mansion for the next four years, we should look for a reign of peace and prosperity both in the North and in the South. The North would turn from its ordinary pursuits barely long enough to read the returns of the election, while the South would cease its resistance to the inevitable sequences of the Rebellion, complete the reconstruction of its shattered States, and devote its energies to reviving its depressed industry and educating its ignorant populace.

The North American race is not prone to revolution any more than its Anglo-Saxon progenitor. After many years of civil commotion, accompanied with an occasional crossing of bayonets, England got rid of the Stuarts. She shed but little blood; but even that has sufficed for nearly two centuries. After twenty-five years of political strife, followed by four years of terrible war, the United States has destroyed slavery, and its legitimate offspring, secession. Our taste for fighting is satiated. For a century to come the American remedy for the redress of grievances will be a peaceful resort to the ballot-box.

Three days later, in an editorial on reconstruction, Dana referred to the elections already held and soon to [391] be held in the old slave States as “indicating with precision” the drift of public opinion in the South on the subject of reconstruction. He pointed out that the congressional plan was sure to triumph; that the ten seceding States would all be restored to their old-time relations to the Union; would again resume the control of their political affairs under constitutions framed by themselves; would be represented in both branches of Congress, and would participate in the election of the next President of the United States. In a vein of philosophy he continued:

... Of course this plan of restoration is not entirely congenial to a large mass of those who took an active part in the Rebellion. This is not surprising. It is not in the nature of things that the conquered party in such a conflict as that through which the country has passed during the last seven years should submit without grievous repinings and a certain show of resistance to the terms imposed by the victors. The South were a proud, a gallant people. Their hopes of independence had been raised to the highest pitch. They had staked their property; they had pledged their honor; they had shed their best blood to achieve a triumph. Their defeat whelmed them in impoverishment and ruin, tarnished their fame, crushed their lofty aspirations, and exposed them to the penalties of treason. The consciousness that the terms of reconciliation have no parallel for magnanimity in the history of great civil wars does not replenish their exhausted finances, nor revive their drooping industry, nor heal their wounded honor, nor restore to life their slain sons. Nevertheless, in view of all the circumstances, the defeated class in the South have accepted their new and trying situation with as much equanimity as could have been reasonably anticipated. Their crime was great, and terribly have they expiated it. Their fall has put poor, proud human nature to one of its severest tests, and they have stood the cast of the die with as much self-control as any people in like circumstances in all history. When they shall realize [392] that the change has become irrevocably fixed, they will no doubt find it far more tolerable than they expected, and may yet discover that even negro suffrage, under the kindly and skilful management of the old dominating class, will soon cease to be a source of annoyance, and ultimately become an element of power.

The judgment of the Senate in the case of Andrew Johnson, who had been impeached by the House of Representatives, was sufficiently indicated by the first ballot taken in the case. On May 19, 1868, Dana published in the Sun an editorial entitled a “Calm Review,” which runs as follows:

The Republican party may fairly claim the credit of the most signal impartiality in the conclusion of the impeachment trial.

The President was impeached by the act of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. He was arraigned before the Senate, and tried with patience and intelligence. The Republicans in the Senate were numerous enough to convict him. The country generally desired to see him ousted. It was felt that it would bring peace where there is now doubt and discord, and that it would tend powerfully to the speedy restoration of the Union and the revival of industry and business. We may even say that the world expected his conviction. It was the first time that the supreme executive officer of a nation had been brought before a tribunal, established by the people, for regular trial, and for peaceful deposition from office in case of conviction. Europe looked on with awe at this novel proceeding. Of course it was not supposed in these monarchical countries that any other result than the removal of the obnoxious executive could possibly follow.

Notwithstanding all this, the trial has ended in acquittal. Mr. Johnson still exercises all the powers of his great office. In spite of party feeling and party pressure, there are seven [393] Republican senators who have said, on their oaths, that the evidence and the law would not justify his conviction. It is creditable to these senators that they have had the firmness thus to decide. They dislike Mr. Johnson. They detest his character and his policy. But they will not swerve from the line of their convictions on that account. In their judgment he is not proved guilty, and so they declare. . . .

It will not escape the observation of the intelligent reader that the judgment which Dana expressed so promptly has long since been accepted, not only by the dispassionate people of the country, but even by the radical element of the Republican party, which brought on the impeachment and managed the trial of the President. It is now generally conceded that it is a fortunate circumstance that President Johnson was not removed from office, not only because he was not guilty of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” with which he was charged, but because his removal for differing with his party on a novel question of constitutional procedure would have set a precedent by which the independence of the chief executive might have been destroyed, while the character of the government itself would have been so changed as to become more like the revolutionary governments of Latin America than that established by Washington, Hamilton, and Marshall.4

From this time forth it may be truthfully said that Dana was the Sun, and the Sun Dana. He was the sole arbiter of its policy, and it was his constant practice to supervise every editorial contribution that came in while he was on duty. The editorial page was absolutely his, whether he wrote a line of it or not, and he gave it the characteristic compactness of form and directness of statement which were ever afterwards its distinguishing features. [394]

From the day Dana took charge the paper was successful. Its circulation fell off at first, but shortly afterwards began to increase.

On June 2, 1868, in writing to his friend Huntington, after saying that his brain and hand were so used up with other writing and other work that he had but little strength or time for private correspondence, he added:

... Professionally I may be called prosperous. Since I have had the Sun, now five months, it has not failed to make money, and its subscription lists steadily increase. The profits are not very large, but that they should exist at all is surprising. I did not expect it. I have revolutionized the character of the paper, and as a matter of course increased expenses and lost readers in the process. The cost of making the paper is more than double what it was under its former proprietor, but its income from advertisements has increased also. When its sales are seventy-five thousand daily, as I think they are bound to be, its profits will be handsome, and the fellows who own stock will think themselves lucky.

In politics I maintain entire independence of party relations, but I am going to help elect Grant President.

In the same letter he gives an attractive sketch of his family life, of the growth, character, and education of his children, and of his abstention from society, partly because of the exactions of his calling, and partly because “we can't afford to entertain.” He gives news of their common friends and classmates, and winds up with pleasant assurances of the hospitality which his friend should hasten home to enjoy. In conclusion he says:

... Perhaps you are waiting till I am rich enough to spend a few weeks in coming to fetch you. What a jolly time that would be, to be sure! And how you would endeavor, all in vain, to lead me into useless disputations on all matters [395] whatever. Yet I will promise to humor you sufficiently in that regard, and so for the present good-bye.

And this brings us to the election of General Grant as first President of the re-United States. His nomination by the Republicans was from the first a foregone conclusion; but when it came, and Dana gave it his unqualified approval, as he did, he again notified his readers that he did so, not as a partisan, but as a free American citizen. In the Sun of May 22, 1868, he wrote:

... In bestowing commendation upon him, we reserve to ourselves the privilege of dealing as fairly and impartially by the nominee of the Democratic party as by him. The organ and champion of neither party, we shall speak freely of each according to its merits, and hold the balance with even justice between the two, during the exciting canvass upon which the country is now entering.

He had already expressed the opinion that it would be good policy for the Democrats to nominate Chase, as that would give us

... the two foremost men of the country leading the two opposing parties. It would be a spectacle worthy of the best days of the republic.

In commenting upon Grant's nomination, which, notwithstanding the moderation of his views and the magnanimity of his conduct, was received by the South not only with disapproval, but with threats and predictions on the part of the turbulent and irreconcilable element of the Democratic party, throughout the entire country, that his election would be followed by disorder and possibly by further rebellion, Dana, on August 8, 1868, sounded a note of warning which, coming from an independent journal, attracted wide attention. It runs, in part, as follows: [396]

... In 1856 the Democratic leaders beyond the Potomac threatened that, in the event of the choice of Fremont, they would not submit to his administration, but would appeal to the sword. The great majority of our citizens then regarded this as empty gasconade; but when, in 1860, on the election of Lincoln, they attempted to reverse the decision of the ballot-box by a resort to the battle-field, we saw that their declaration of 1856 was no idle threat. The Spanish-American mode of retrieving the loss of a Presidential campaign has been once tried by the Southern Democracy. The experiment has cost the nation seven thousand millions of dollars and one million of lives, and has entailed upon us and our posterity a debt of three thousand millions of money, with its necessary accompaniment of remorseless taxation, putting the democratic theory of government to the severest tests ever endured by any people in all history.

Not accepting in quietude and submission the scathing retribution that followed their great crime, many of these ex-rebels and ex-traitors-surviving as they do through the generosity of General Grant, whom they pursue with their malignant hate, and through the clemency of the government, of which they have proved themselves so unworthy — again threaten that, in case they suffer a defeat at the polls in the coming autumn, they will, heedless of their recent discomfiture, once more appeal from the verdict of the hustings to the arbitrament of arms; while, on the other hand, they declare with marked emphasis that, if they are successful in the pending struggle, they will, under the protection of the administration, and in spite of recent amendments to the Federal Constitution, and of the new constitutions of their several States, and of the enactments both of Congress and their legislatures, restore the Lost Cause by forcibly resuming and exercising all the rights they forfeited by the Rebellion.

The main question, then, involved in the present contest, and by the side of whose colossal proportions all matters concerning reconstruction and finance dwindle into insignificance, is whether our citizens will tolerate in this country the Spanish-American mode of setting aside the legitimate result [397] of a Presidential election, either by the defeated minority on the one hand, or the triumphant majority on the other, resorting to violent measures to retrieve the losses of the former or redress the grievances of the latter.

The American people must meet this question in limine. These baffled conspirators threaten violence whatever may be the result of the election. Patriotic men of both parties, rising superior to the claims and clamors of faction, must, through the omnipotence of the ballot, trample the last throe and wriggle of life out of this pestilent serpent of Nullification and Revolution.

During the period of doubt as to the result of the impeachment trial, it was considered possible that the president of the Senate, then Mr. Wade, of Ohio, might succeed Andrew Johnson, and in this event that the cabinet would necessarily be reorganized. This gave rise to much speculation as to its probable composition. Many names were discussed in the Sun, but that of Horace Greeley was counted as the first. In presenting it on April 30th, Dana used the following language:

... Of Mr. Greeley's capacity for the office of Secretary of State, the Republican party can have no manner of doubt since his famous letter to the blockheads of the Union League.5 He has the advantage of Mr. Seward that he can be brief and forcible. Mr. Greeley's political record is without reproach.

It will be remembered that from the time Dana left the Chicago Republican till he took charge of the Sun he contributed to no public journal, and took no public part in shaping national policies, but he was an observant spectator of both national and international events. From the end of the Civil War, and before the volunteer army was disbanded, he held that the first duty of the government [398] at Washington was to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, as against the usurpation of Maximilian and his French allies. He favored their expulsion from Mexico by force if necessary, and felt confident that, as soon as they knew the purposes of the United States, they would go without waiting for an appeal to arms. He also favored the policy of holding Great Britain to a rigid accountability for the damage done to American shipping by the Confederate cruisers which had been built, fitted out, and permitted to sail from English sea-ports. On these two great questions Dana was emphatically an American. He affected no love for Great Britain, and the letters he wrote from Paris in 1848, and the editorials he afterwards published in the Tribune, show that he had less for Louis Napoleon, and no confidence whatever in the stability of his dynasty. Long before our own troubles culminated he wrote:

No one can predict when the great edifice of fraud, violence, plunder, political pretence, and incapacity which constitutes the Second Empire will come to an end. The result is certain; the time and the mode depend upon accident. But we know that Louis Napoleon has outlived his proper period, and we may at any hour be called to witness the closing catastrophe of this strange, eventful, unenviable career.

From the date of Grant's election the question uppermost in the public mind was reconstruction, “which had been needlessly procrastinated” --as declared by the Sun-“under an administration that had forfeited the confidence and respect of the country,” but which would be so completed by its successor that before the next anniversary of our independence “every star would be restored to its appropriate place upon the national ensign, and a protracted and bitter controversy would be brought to a felicitous close.” [399]

General Grant was specially commended as having early “set his face against any increase of the public expenses,” as well as against “the encouragement of schemes of doubtful utility,” or of such “as ought to rely on their own resources, although they might justly claim to be beneficial to the public.”

There was, perhaps not unnaturally, a pronounced tendency at that time on every hand to transfer all sorts of business to the general government; but this tendency received no support from Dana. To the contrary, he declared that all efforts in that direction “demand the closest scrutiny from the sincere friends of liberty,” and that “hands off” is the true doctrine in a republic towards the government on all subjects which can be managed by individual enterprise. These ideas received additional support from the utterances of E. B. Washburne, who, as the representative from Grant's home district, was regarded as the spokesman of the new administration, both in and out of Congress. On the strength of his speeches, as well as on account of a notable one delivered by General Rawlins at Galena, their common home, the Sun inferred that the cardinal measures of Grant's policy would be rigid economy, searching retrenchment, strict accountability on the part of every office-holder, especially on the part of those charged with the collection and disbursement of the public moneys, the supremacy of the laws, and their rigid enforcement in every branch of the government and in every section of the Union.

In the belief that the operations of the Federal government should be minimized rather than enlarged, Dana instinctively took strong ground against the creation of new executive departments and the exercise of new powers by the national administration. In condemnation of this idea, he contended that the time had come to start once again upon the true Democratic theory of simplifying the [400] machinery and reducing the importance of the central government. This conviction doubtless had much to do in bringing about the break between Dana and the administration he had done so much to put in power. At all events he took an early occasion to declare that liberty of the press is essential to the security of personal freedom, and that it was his “religious belief” that “men must be at liberty to say in print whatever they have a mind to say in print, provided it wrongs no one.” On the other hand, he contended that “the right of silence is every bit as sacred as the right of speech,” and that “the practice of publishing private conversations without special permission should be regarded as a vulgar and reprehensible encroachment upon the right of every man to have his sentiments communicated to the public only by his own volition.” This sound and decorous principle became thenceforth the rule of the Sun.

It was during the month of June, 1868, that it was proposed in Congress to lay a tax upon the interest paid on government bonds. As this was generally regarded as looking towards repudiation, Dana made haste to declare that if the members who voted for it “had any sense of shame left they would never show their heads among honest people.”

Having always stood for sound money and honest government, he complimented Horatio Seymour, the Democratic governor of New York, as “a life-long believer in hard money.” On the other hand, he denounced Butler, who had recently become a Democratic representative from Massachusetts, for bringing forward the proposition to strike from the United States legal-tender notes “the promise to pay in dollars.” This, he pointed out, as a transparent effort to establish “fiat money,” in opposition to which Dana promptly contended that there could be no value in government paper because the word “dollar was [401] inscribed on it,” unless it expressed or implied by unmistakable language that it was exchangeable for its equivalent in specie. In support of this honest contention, he urged, a few days later, that the first thing to be done in order to bring the country into a healthy financial condition was to “raise the national credit so that its promises to pay . . should be universally regarded as equal to the gold itself.”

As a fitting commemoration of Independence Day, Dana gave hearty commendation to Andrew Johnson's proclamation of amnesty to all political offenders. He and Greeley stood together on the wisdom of that liberal and timely measure. A few weeks later Dana declared that Jefferson Davis should also be pardoned, that no good could come from trying him for treason, and that he and his efforts against the Union “should be left to be dealt with by history.” In this he and Greeley stood together again, and it is most creditable to Dana that never at any time did he show the slightest ill-feeling, but, to the contrary, availed himself of every opportunity to commend the patriotism and ability of the man who had caused his discharge from the Tribune only a few years before. He strongly favored his election to the Senate, and recommended him for a place in the cabinet of Wade, in case that senator should be called upon to succeed President Johnson. But this is not all. When the public began to speculate on Grant's cabinet, Dana brought Greeley's name forward with those of E. B. Washburne and Marshall 0. Roberts, as in every way worthy of favorable consideration. Not satisfied with this, or fearing that Greeley would not be chosen, he set forth his special fitness for the position of minister to England, which has always been justly regarded as the most important post connected with the diplomatic service of the United States.

It will be recalled that although a rebellion against [402] the dominion of Spain broke out in Cuba in 1868, it for some time attracted but little attention in the United States. Dana was one of the first American editors to recognize the justice of the outbreak, and to express his sympathy for the Cuban people. In doing so he took occasion to say, September 29, 1868:

... The natural tendency of all the countries lying round the United States is to gravitate towards our system, and finally to become parts of it. To this rule Cuba forms no exception.

It is needless to call attention to the fact that this is the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny,” or “Continental Union,” which Dana, from that time, never lost an opportunity to promote. His sympathy for the Cubans throughout both their wars for independence was open and earnest. His first article was followed shortly by another favoring a declaration of sympathy on the part of Congress, and authorizing the President to recognize the independence of the Cuban people, when they should have established a republican form of government. For this, and for his constant friendship, the Cuban patriots soon recognized and ever afterwards held him to be the best and foremost friend they had in the United States.

It should also be said that Dana at first opposed and then, after seeing the treaty which Seward had negotiated for that purpose, favored the acquisition of the Danish island of St. Thomas. About the same time he advocated the annexation of both Haiti and Santo Domingo “on fair and honorable terms,” as the best means then feasible of making our position in the West Indies secure. In order to relieve Grant's administration from embarrassment, he favored the repeal of the tenure of office act, which, it will be remembered, was passed for the restraint [403] of President Johnson, and advocated the early adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which provides that the right of suffrage shall not be abridged by the United States, nor by any State “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

In local matters Dana took grounds against imprisonment for debt, and against the New York law prohibiting the sale of liquor, as both unsound and ineffective. On the arrest of his friend Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican, while visiting New York, for libel, he not only condemned the act, but denied the right of any citizen of Massachusetts to use the courts of New York in any such case. All unconscious of its bearing upon himself in the future, he held then that it was of the essence of justice and the constitutional right of every American citizen to be tried by the laws and within the limit of his own State for any crime with which he might be charged against the people of that State.

1 The Life of Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Armies of the United States. By Charles A. Dana, late Assistant Secretary of War, and James H. Wilson, Brevet Major-General, U. S. A. Gurdon Bill & Co., Springfield, Massachusetts; H. C. Johnson & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio; Charles Bill, Chicago, Illinois. Pp. 431. 1868.

2 Dana and Wilson, Life of General U. S. Grant, p. 430.

3 Dana, Recollections of the Civil War, pp. 210, 211.

4 See, Dewitt, Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson.

5 See Parton, Life of Horace Greeley, p. 515.

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