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Thursday, July 10, 1890.
Published weekly by J. MORRISON-FULLER, at 3 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass.
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institution undertakes not two
If an functions but a score if a government whose office it is to defend citizens against aggressors, foreign and domestic, engages also to administer charity, to teach children their lessons, to adjust prices of food, to inspect coal mines, to regulate railways, to superintend house building, to arrange cab fares, to look into people's stink-traps, to vaccinate their children, to prescribe hours of labor, to examine lodging-houses, to test the knowledge of mercantile captains, to provide public libraries, to read and authorize dramas, to inspect passenger ships, to see that small dwellings are supplied with water, to regulate endless things, from a banker's issues to boat fares,- is it not manifest that its primary duty must be ill discharged in proportion to the multiplicity of affairs it busies itself with? Is it not manifest that its time and energies must be frittered away in schemes, and inquiries, and amendments, in proposals, and debates, and divisions, to the utter neglect of its essential office? And does not a glance over the debates make it manifest that this is the fact? And that, while legislature and public are alike occupied with these chimerical projects, these mischievous interferences, these utopian hopes, the one thing needful is left almost undone?
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June 30th, the bill for the admission of Idaho into the Union was considered as in committee of the whole. On motion of Mr. Platt (Connecticut), the House Bill was substituted for that of the Senate, and was read at length.
The Agricultural Appropriation Bill was also considered, and after several minor amendments was passed.
The Conference Committee on the Legislative, etc., bill reported that it had adjusted all differences between the two branches, with the exception of two amendments relating to the salary for Senate clerks, and moved a further conference. This brought forth considerable discussion, but was agreed to (39-8).
July 1st, the Oklohoma School Land Bill was brought up, and with slight amendments passed.
As in committee of the whole, the bill for the admission of Idaho was again taken up. It was reported to the Senate without amendments and passed.
July 2d, the bill to subsidize the Merchant Marine was discussed as in committee of the whole, as was also the bill providing for mail service between the United States and foreign ports. A number of resolutions from all ports in the country were
read. A warm debate took place between Mr. Frye (Maine) for, and Mr. Vest (Missouri) against the bill, which was not ended at adjournment.
July 3d, several minor communications were received from the President and referred to the several committees.
A number of bills, including that for the Unclaimed Land Patents, were taken from the calendar and passed, after which, the consideration of the Merchant Marine Bill was resumed.
A resolution offered by Mr. Edmunds, and passed, directed the committee on appropriations to report the gross amount of appropriations for the present session.
The Conference Committee upon the Agricultural Appropriation Bill; reported a favorable ending to the differences in the two branches, and the report was concurred in.
June 30th, the discussion upon the bill for the regulation of FEDERAL election was resumed. Mr. Herbert, in the course of his remarks referring to the period of reconstruction, stated that at that time the " negroes and their allies" obtained possession of every State, with the exception of Virginia and West Virginia, and that the debts of all were increased to an enormous extent. Mr. Houk advocated the bill as being the best possible law for the prevention of frauds at the polls. Mr. Coleman opposed the bill and stated that if passed it would bring about an "era of bloodshed and destruction," as well as the demoralization of business interests in the South. Mr. Finley spoke in support of the bill; while Mr. Turner thought it would "rekindle the fires of political persecution " Mr. Tracy confined his remarks to that part of the bill (section 16) defining the duty of the clerk of the House, who was given absolute power in placing members' names upon the roll. He considered it a scheme to perpetuate the power of the Republican party, whether the people willed it or not. Mr. Outhwaite said it was a bill to provide a ruption fund of millions of dollars for one of the political parties of this country." Mr. Chipman, during the course of his speech, declared the bill to be a 66 proclamation of
imperialism." At this point Mr. Lodge, on behalf of the committee, offered several amendments, the majority of which were to correct printers' errors. Debate was then resumed and continued until adjournment.
A bill was passed making an appropriation to supply a deficiency in the pay of mileage to members.
July 1st was spent in discussion of amendments to the Federal Election Bill.
July 2d, the Federal Election Bill was taken up, and passed (155-149).
July 3d, the conference report upon the District of Columbia Appropriation Bill was read at length, but no action was taken before adjournment.
A very sensible paper on "Obstacles to Civil-service Reform" appears in the Forum. Less progress has been made in this line than is generally supposed, - much less than was hoped for when the agitation was begun. The Civil Service Act of 1883, which was regarded by the reformers as a great triumph, applied to only about an eighth of the offices, and its provisions have been evaded and violated as few laws of limited range have been. Since 1883, practically no progress has been made; reformers have exhausted their energies in trying to obtain observance of the law, and have had few to spare towards securing other and more comprehensive laws. The chief obstacles have been the apathy of the people and the opposition, secret or open, of the politicians. Two generations, as generations are reckoned, have passed away since the spoils system was introduced by Jackson, in 1832. Very few men are now living who can remember when public affairs were administered on any other plan; the spoils system has become interwoven with the political thought of the people-"A part of the unwritten law."
An obstacle which the writer of the article referred to does not mention, is the hold which the principle of rotation of office still has upon the people. It was seen at the beginning that each citizen had as much right to rule as any other; they desired to rule, and be ruled in turn; and the principle was extended even to clerkships and janitorships. The dread of an office-holding class has always had considerable influence in our politics.
The only suggestion for overcoming the obstacles is that more attention be given to removals. The practice of making places for friends has never reached large proportions in our government. The method of appointment by competitive examination is not applicable to the great bulk of the "unclassified civil service"; but if the power of removal could be restricted to its proper sphere, the method of appointment would be of little importance, for there would be comparatively few positions to be filled. A much more effective and profitable means of reform would be to abolish at once the greater part of the civil service.
The popular prejudice against a large and permanent class of office-holders is by no means unfounded; but experience proves that the class is no less undesirable when its members are constantly changed, according as one or the other political party is in the ascendency. Probably the chief reason why efforts made for the reform of the civil service have been attended with so little result is because it is perceived that their success would imply an official class like those in England and France. It seems to many that this evil would not be so great as the present; but there is no occasion for our enduring either. Even if the work done by the civil service were done as efficiently and cheaply as it would be by private enterprise, it would be much better to leave the work to the latter. But the work is not and will never be performed as well and cheaply by government officials as by private enterprise. The reasons why the civil service is inefficient at present are perfectly clear: no pains are taken to select fit men for the positions, and, as the permanence of the position does not depend upon the incumbent's discharge of his duties, there is little inducement to him to put forth his best efforts. With a permanent tenure of office, on the other hand, considerable slackness in the discharge of duties would be found compatible with retention of the office, and inefficiency would be the result.
The matter affords a good illustration of the difficulty of making a reform in anything under the control of government. The number of people who profit by the spoils system is very large; the number who hope to profit by it is still larger; while practically the whole people would profit by its abolition.
But the representation which the mass can make to themselves of the gain they would reap is so vague that it does not incite them to action.
The Fourth of July is not very different externally now from what it has been in the past; noise, crowds, fireworks, and speeches still make up the celebration. In the speeches, however, there is a marvellous contrast. It was to be expected that the spread-eagle style would eventually go out of use, but one would scarcely have dreamed of what has taken its place. The oratory of the occasion in Boston assured his hearers that "we are not going to destruction, and we are not falling into decay." Compare this with the boasts wont to be made by speakers in the past, of what the country had achieved, and the buoyant predictions of what it should achieve in the future. "We are not going to
destruction, and we are not falling into decay." That a speaker, on such an occasion, should seriously consider these possibilities speaks much for the change of heart which has come over this people in contemplating their future. The former ideals have been almost realized; it can now with truth be said, we have outrun all the nations of the earth in (material) prosperity"; and still we are not perfectly happy. Some among us predict a decline - maintain that it has already begun in public life, and their prediction is regarded as of sufficient importance to be considered on the day of greatest national rejoicing.
It is not easy in any society justly to compare the present with the past. We no longer deify our ancestors, but entertain a great respect for them, and perhaps magnify their achievements. It is recognized that we have entered upon a period which, to the ancient republics, proved to be the period of declinethe period of wealth and luxury. Complaint is made that the paramount need of our times is the awakening of public spirit and a quickened sense of public duty. It is thought that these characterized former times more than the present. Mr. Pillsbury contends that there is not sufficient basis for the assertion that the character of public men is declining. Suppose we contrast some of the foremost political leaders at three periods of our history; at the formative period, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson;
at the period of crisis caused by the civil war, Lincoln, Seward, Sumner, and Chase; at the present period, Harrison, Reed, Quay, and McKinley. These last would be very appropriate leaders for a period of decline. It may be said that the former were in advance of their contemporaries, while, if the present time were judged according to its most prominent leaders, great injustice would be done to it; but after the contrast has been weakened as much as possible, it remains a contrast still.
The second part of Mrs. Caird's discussion on "The Emancipation of the Family" appears this mouth. Her article offers a curious contrast to one by O. B. Frothingham in the Arena, in which the latter speaks of women as forming a privileged class, and objects to their exercising the right of suffrage, on the ground that doing so would detract from their present eminence. Probably the position of women is more tolerable in the United States than in England, and this in part explains the great difference of view; nevertheless, it is not impossible to find Englishmen who talk like Mr. Frothingham.
Through this, as through nearly all discussions on the subject, a vagueness is noticeable. Given two beings, woman and man, each necessary to the other, living together under given conditions, and a certain relationship must exist between them. The relationship will vary with the nature of the beings and with the conditions under which they live. Mrs. Caird indicates what the relationship has been in the past according to the evidence which has been collected, and infers that, under the present conditions of human life, the position of woman might be made more desirable.
The present articles are not so extreme as some from the same pen which appeared in English magazines awhile ago. The position of Fourier is not here maintained-that marriage is an essentially false institution, "false by the limitation of the number to two, by the absence of liberty, and by the incompatibilities of taste, which appear from the first day." But it is contended that in entering the marriage relation the contract between the parties is unequal, that woman "takes upon herself a tie infinitely more binding, infinitely more imperious and stringent in its action, than the bond into which the man enters." Still Mrs.
Caird takes, on the whole, a hopeful view. Woman is just now placed in a hard position during the transition from the patriarchal system, under which she was held in tutelage, to the society of the future; her duties and responsibilities have been recognized before the rights necessary to the proper discharge of her duties have been granted. But the present status of woman must change, and the change is likely to be for the better.
Not only has the support of schools by taxation become the fruitful source of animosity and strife, but now another enforced and State-supported charity has added fuel to the fire, in Massachusetts. Only last week the board of overseers of the almshouse at Cambridge ordered the discontinuance of the service of mass for the inmates, a service which had been constantly and regularly performed heretofore. It now appears that the attendance of the priest has been only a matter of sufferance, and not at all a privilege, which, it might have been supposed, even the inmates of a public poor-house would be entitled to. Not that the Catholics in the poor-house have been, as they should have been, excused from attendance at any Protestant ceremonies of worship; these, it appears have been compulsory on them as well as on the others, whom it might, possibly, be supposed to interest or to benefit. On the contrary, the Protestant service by a regularly ordained clergyman"
"conducted with simplicity," etc., etc., has been held in that almshouse at the expense of the citizens of the commonwealth, Catholic and Protestant alike; and whatever time has been devoted by the Catholic Church to the care of the poor of the institution has been by way of so much additional and voluntary charity. The order by which the Catholic priests are now to be excluded from the almshouse is so clearly expressive of all that is worst, both intellectually and morally, in the Puritan intolerance now in the midst of revival in New England and throughout the country, that I will give the full text: