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ROMUL CROMATO The Outlook
half-civilized..foe. in a remote quarter of
The New York Legislature
The session of the
lature which has just now come to its close indicates by its history the value of putting into the Governor's chair a man of convictions, who has, on the one hand, courage in maintaining them, and, on the other hand, consideration and respect for the convictions of others, and especially those of his own party. It indicates also that the vice of past Legislatures has lain not so much in any general corruption as in incompetent if not corrupt leaders. For it is because Mr. Roosevelt has been accepted as the leader of his party that the power of unofficial leaders, popularly known as "bosses," has been greatly diminished, although not entirely eliminated. It is no small praise for this session of the Legislature to say that it has passed practically no bad laws. For to keep out vicious legislation is no small achievement. The postponement of the White Education Bill, that the subject of unifying the educational system of the State might be more thoroughly considered, and the defeat of the bill putting cities under the police power of the State, may be regarded as illustrations of this negative, though not unimportant, service which has been rendered by the defeat of doubtful or pernicious legislation. The former bill was doubtful; the latter bill vicious. Something might be said for a system which substituted State for municipal police, and put all the constabulary of the State under one centralized authority, though we think such a system would be a mistaken one; but it is difficult to find anything really favorable in a nosystem which puts the police of certain cities under State control, and leaves the police of others under local control. More important, in our judgment, was the action of the Legislature in refusing to give to the Rapid Transit Commission power to convey away in perpetuity a franchise which the people of the city had publicly resolved never should be so given away. It is probably true that the Rapid Transit Commissioners desired this power, not for the purpose of exercising it by a grant, but for the purpose of compelling municipal construction by threatening to exercise it if the municipality refused to construct; but it was not an authority which should be reposed, for that or any other
purpose, in the hands of a small body of men, however excellent their character. To do this would have been to establish a precedent which would have been sure to vex us in future time, though the power had not been used for present injury.
Franchise Tax Bill
Some important improve ments have been made by affirmative legislation. Prominent among these is the enactment of what the New York "Evening Post" calls "the most thoroughgoing Civil Service Reform statute that this or any other State has succeeded in getting;" the appropriation of funds to enable the Governor to carry on the prosecution against any canal officials, if such there be, who have been guilty of fraud or misconduct; the increase of the salaries of the school-teachers of New York, an increase based upon. capacity, not mere length of term; the improvement in the primary election bill; and the provisions, yet to be subjected to actual trial, for supervision over the socalled "sweatshops" maintained in tenement-houses. But doubtless the most important law put upon the statute-book in the present session is what is known as the Ford Franchise Tax Bill. This bill was the response of the Legislature to the recommendation of the Governor for some proper taxation of public franchises, and it was carried through the Legislature by the vigor of the Governor, and against that kind of opposition which often defeats a popular bill by preventing any vote upon it. Though the leaders of both the Democratic and the Republican party are prompt to disavow any opposition to this bill, or any intention to suppress it, and although, when the bill passed finally, the vote stood 104 to 38, those who have followed carefully the history of its passage in the House cannot doubt that there were well-laid plans to prevent its being brought to a vote at all. It is possible, and even probable, that the operation of this act will bring out difficulties, possibly serious ones which will call for amendment of the law. But, as it stands, it is to be commended for two reasons: first, because it establishes the principle that a public franchise is of taxable value; and, secondly, because it provides for levying the tax on a public
franchise in a very simple manner. The reader must bear in mind the difference between a corporate and a public franchise. The former is the simple right to exist and do business as a corporation, enjoyed by all corporations alike. The latter includes a grant of some valuable easement or right to such a corporation, as the right of the street railway to run its cars in the public highway. The Ford Franchise Tax Bill simply provides that all such easements, defined with great detail, shall be regarded hereafter as real estate, and, as such, subject to taxation; the tax to be levied and collected in the same manner as other taxes. Senator Depew, who commends the taxation of franchises, points out the fact that under it "there would be just as many methods of assessment and taxation as there are Boards of Taxation," and that thus "in the hands of an unscrupulous Board it [the bill] becomes a fearful weapon for the punishment of any corporation which may have incurred the anger of a local administration." This, however, applies to the whole tax system of the State, and, so far as it is weighty at all, calls for a revision of that tax system. All that the Ford bill does-and for this simplicity it is to be commended-is to bring the public franchise within the taxing power of the present tax assessors. This principle will strike all except those who own these public franchises, and have hitherto enjoyed their exemption from taxation, as essentially just and right; and if the method of determining their value and levying the tax upon them is, on the one hand, inadequate for the protection of the public, or, on the other hand, unjust to the owners of the franchise, it will not be difficult to find a remedy.
The Mazet Investigation
The powers of the Mazet Investigating Committee have been enlarged by a resolution passed by the New York Assembly. The time for the investigation has been extended until the end of the year, and the scope will now include inquiry into the influences affecting and controlling the offices of New York City "-certainly a broad phrase and one that is purposely framed to cut off the objection of witnesses that their "personal business"
must not be touched. The preliminary report of the Committee submitted to the Legislature naturally and properly refrained from drawing conclusions from the testimony already heard or from recommending specific legislation, but it declared that the proof produced or in hand indicates "the control of the government by persons outside of it and the interference by such persons with the affairs and business of citizens and others." As the new resolution under which the Committee will now carry on its work reads, it is "authorized and empowered to extend its examination and investigation into the occupation, character, composition, expenses, operation, conduct, and control of any and every department and public office of the city of New York and of the counties therein included, and the influences affecting and controlling the officers therein, with full power to prosecute its, inquiry in any and every direction in its judgment necessary and proper to enable it to ascertain and report the facts." The political feeling in the Committee itself is shown by the fact that the minority (Democratic) report denounced the Committee, of which the men who signed the report are members, as "a weak device to quote questionable practices," appointed "to conceal the known corruption and profligacy of the party management in control of the Legislature." Mr. Mazet, in reply to the direct question whether he would put Senator Platt on the stand, said that he would do so if those who demanded it would formulate the accusations they had to make against Senator Platt in connection with the subjects to be looked into.
The Buffalo Conference
The National Conference upon social and political reform, to be held in Buffalo from June 28 to July 4, has obtained an importance unexpected except by its prime movers and those who knew their determination to make it a success. Even its leaders have been surprised to find how many men in different parts of the country have written them, expressing the hope that the Conference would launch a new political party, with a distinctively social reform programme. No such ambitious and, for the present, impracticable plan as this is contemplated. The general topic for the The general topic for the
discussions is" What to do next?" and the object in view is to bring reformers of different parties, with different measures most at heart, into personal relations with one another, and into some agreement, if possible, as to what measures should be put first, and what methods used to advance the measures which nearly all wish to further. Those in charge of the Conference believe that the great need at the present time is the co-operation of reformers, and not their further division by the inauguration of a new political party. Only the first two days are to be devoted to the discussion of economic measures, and the remaining four to plans and methods of achieving results. We learn from the Secretary, Mr. Eltweed Pomeroy, of Newark, N. J., President of the National Direct Legislation League, that a larger attendance than was at first contemplated is already definitely assured. Among the general committee of the Conference are Republicans like Governor Pingree and Booker T. Washington; Democrats like ex-Congressmen Williams, of Massachusetts, and Lewis, of Washington; Populists like Senators Butler and Pettigrew; Prohibitionists like ex-Governor St. John and Mr. E. J. Wheeler; trades-unionists like President Gompers and Joseph R. Buchanan, and literary men like Edwin D. Mead and W. D. Howells. All these men, however, have the same spirit, and there is no reason why they should not find more points of agreement than of disagreement.
watching the progress of events from a distance have not attached much importance to the report of very extensive conversions from Romanism to Protestantism among the German population in that country. The extreme and bigoted form which ultramontanism has taken in that country has apparently set in motion a reactionary movement of considerable vitality; at any rate, conversions to Protestantism have become so numerous as to arouse the Roman Catholic authorities in the country, and have led the latter to attempt to stop the outflow from the Church by such repressive measures as
lie within their authority. The Bishops, it is reported, have decided to ask the Government to place all ecclesiastical funds at their disposal, and to punish all teachers under control of the Department of Education who are showing sympathy with the Protestant movement. The newspaper organs of the Church have become more bitter, and are now declaring that the Evangelical Church is the focal point of religious and political treason. The Roman Bishops are also contemplating another step, which is less serious, but which is not without its terrors: they propose to flood the country with controversial tracts.
A Race Conflict
The real struggle in Austria is, however, racial, and only incidentally religious or political. It is the struggle for supremacy between the German and the Slav; and it is this radical nature of the division which has rent asunder Austria, and the difficulty of finding any way of harmonizing the two races, which make the outlook of the dual monarchy so uncertain. A generation ago Austria was governed almost absolutely by the German element. The practical independence of Hungary broke the German rule, and it has never been recovered. The supremacy of the Hungarians in their own country, the practical administration of Galatia by the Poles, and the inflexible determination of the Czechs to manage their own affairs in Bohemia, have all contributed to the steady diminution of German influence. The other races of the Empire act in solid masses on race lines; the Germans are divided on many subsidiary questions, chief among them being the Jewish question. These differences, and their steady advances in influence and political power, have given the Slavs the preponderance of power over the Germans, and the Germans are now making a desperate fight to recover lost ground. As there is a Pan-Slavonic movement, which aims at the ultimate union of all the Slavonic races under one rule, so there is a Pan-Germanic movement, which aims at the union of all German-speaking peoples under one rule, and which advocates a union of the Austrian Germans with the Northern Germans. The Southern Germans are, however, mostly Catho
lic, and Germany does not wish any great addition to the number of her Catholic subjects. This fact sheds an interesting light on the movement among Austrian Germans towards Protestantism. The outcome of this racial struggle no one can foresee, but, at the moment, there appears to be no ground of union between the two opposing races, except the personal influence of the Austrian Emperor.
The Dreyfus Evidence
The audacity of the Paris "Figaro" in securing copies of the depositions made before the Court of Cassation in the Dreyfus trial so astounded Paris that it took some time to recover from the surprise; but it begins to be apparent that the audacious journal has rendered a real service to the country by dispelling the air of mystery with which the case has so long been enveloped. How it came in possession of the testimony is not yet definitely known, although various accounts have been given. What is important is the fact that from day to day it has spread before the French people the evidence which was laid before the judges in the highest court of France, and has made it possible for the public at large to form an opinion about a case which has been juggled in an almost unparalleled way. The evidence so far has conspicuously failed to furnish any rational ground for the conviction and imprisonment of the unfortunate Dreyfus. Although a latitude in the introduction of evidence was allowed by the Court which under our own procedure would seem utterly unjustifiable, the drag-net has failed to bring to the surface any really damnatory bit of evidence. So far as can be gathered from the very fragmentary and unimportant reports which have reached this country, no new light has been thrown upon the affair. There have been plenty of speeches, sometimes of great length, before the Court, but nothing which by any stretching of the term could properly be called evidence.
An aide-de-camp of the Ministry declared that it was only by inference that Dreyfus could be convicted upon the secret dossier, and that his chief accuser had turned out to be a forger! That case, so far as it can be gathered, may be very briefly stated: Military secrets have been revealed by somebody; there is no evidence against anybody in particular, particular, therefore Captain Dreyfus must have been the criminal. The General Staff appear to be still concealing certain matters "in the interest of the State." It is astonishing that somebody has not brought forward the theory that, as the General Staff is the sole custodian of these secrets, and some of them have escaped, therefore the sinner must be sought within the inner circle of the General Staff. It would seem at this distance, and from the standpoint of an outsider, as if the General Staff were on trial rather than Captain Dreyfus; and the proceedings thus far published by "Figaro" seem to indicate that the General Staff has arranged, managed, and presented witnesses and evidence to suit itself, from the very beginning through all the successive stages of the case. The alleged confession of Captain Dreyfus turns out to have been an absolute affirmation of his innocence. Colonel Picquart, against whom no charge has been made in connection with the enemies of France, and whose only offense is that he has insisted that the truth ought to be sought and found at all expense, remains in prison. It is hardly credible that the French people, with this evidence in their hands, will lend themselves in any way to the criminal farce which the General Staff seems to have been playing for its own protection during the past two or three years.
The best possible news from Samoa Samoa just now is no news. It is earnestly hoped that nothing will happen to complicate the situation between the three Powers while the Joint Commission is on its way. The fighting between the Mataafans and the Malietoans continues, according to reports of later date than those summarized last week. On April 15 a fierce attack was made by 2,000 Mataafans on a British force under Lieutenant Gaunt, of the Porpoise, and the British
sailors were driven to their ship, which shelled the enemy and drove them off; sharp fighting took place two days later at Vailima, once the famous and beautiful home of Robert Louis Stevenson. The despatches assert that the Mataafans displayed the German flag. It is also said that a German, formerly an officer, who has been active in drilling the Mataafans, has been sent away from Samoa by the German Consul. A private letter of Admiral Kautz has unwisely been allowed to get into print, in which he humorously describes himself as boss of the ranch,” and does some burlesque bragging. This, following the indiscretion of Captain Coghlan, of the Raleigh—that incident is now closed and will be forgotten, it is thought-emphasizes the duty of officers and public men to be wary in their speech and letters. A special despatch has been sent to Admiral Kautz by the Navy Department asking him to be discreet. think it may be truly said that more than half of the Samoan trouble has grown out of the obstinacy and self-assertion of men of moderate capacity put in places requiring delicacy of management, moderation, and good judgment. Through this cause chiefly, petty rivalries and disputes have been allowed to develop into an international difficulty.
The Trouble in Nicaragua
A critical state of affairs still exists in Bluefields, Nicaragua. Recent press despatches say that two weeks ago the stores were closed, business suspended, and "half-clad and drunken Nicaraguan soldiers" were parading the streets, making threats against the American and British merchants. The British and American Consuls were both away from Bluefields for the purpose of remonstrating with the Nicaraguan Government against the tyranny of General Torres, who is in command at Bluefields. The United States ship Detroit has now arrived at Bluefields, and the situation is thereby improved. What is at the bottom of the present trouble is the fact that General Torres is trying to force the foreignborn merchants to pay a second time duties already paid once by them to General Reyes, the insurgent commander, when he held the city. It is alleged that