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to deal with the temptations of only one individual; and a reasonable number of men get on passably well under that burden. But each man in our public service, in his every effort to do what is right, is subjected to the combined pressure of the combined interest of the whole army of office-holders, -and it is too much.
While, too, our public officials are at all times under this great pressure which makes them do election work, the main body of the citizens are comparatively under no pressure at all which will lead them to do that work. The ordinary citizen is only indirectly and remotely affected by the results of elections. With our public officers it is a question of bread. And the men who secure the grand prizes in politics and achieve the great political reputations do it by election work. Where can we point in our whole present list of public men to more than one or two who have done any great service to the people, or who have, from such service, gained any reputation? Men will do the work which pays them best. Human nature is, for the present, thus constituted.
Another element is now gaining great importance. This election work costs large sums of money. The carrying of elections is coming to be a question of the longest purse. It is now fast becoming an impossible thing for any man to get a nomination for public office who cannot command, in his favor, the payment of large sums of money. It is stated, among well-informed men, and is generally believed to be true, that it now costs at least fifteen thousand dollars for a nomination to a seat on the bench in either of the highest courts in the city of New York. For a long time it has been well understood that money, to some amount, is a necessary thing for what are called the "legitimate expenses" of a political campaign. But where, in these days, is the limit, either in kind or amount, to "legitimate expenses"? There is no doubt that, at this day, nominations to public office are often bought outright, and paid for in money. And what difference is there in the result to the people, whether the article sold is an election, or a nomination which insures an election?
The position, then, is this: On the one hand, the election work is so vast and so continuous, it requires the use of so many men, the management of such large organizations, and the expenditure of such large sums of money, that ordinary citizens cannot do
On the other hand, the pressure upon our public officials is so great that they must do it. The result is, they do do it. And they can do little else. These men who should be doing our public work are always doing election work. Our daily political life is one long, never-ending series of elections, of pound-keepers and presidents,― election work by day, and election work by night, one year and the next year. We turn our government into an election machine. The work of the election machine is done, always quickly and well. The work of the people-that is to be done-when the election work is finished.
That is, however, only the beginning, -only the first-fruits of the system. We must trace the other results.
(2) This election machine virtually disfranchises the people,-destroys the free choice by the people of their public officers.
We are looking now at what is not at theories of what should be.
I do not mean that the citizen, on the day of election, has not a choice between two sets of printed ballots, or that he is forced to vote one of them rather than the other by a bayonet or a policeman's club. But the purpose of an election is to have citizens use their judgments as to men, and not merely make a choice between two paper lists. paper lists. And the point which I shall here try to establish is, that under our present system, the people do not and cannot use their judgment as to men. The people become a mere attachment of the election machine, and register its decrees.
The details of the growth, of the development, are these:
In the first place, the system makes it necessary for the individual voter, and for each small district, to act with some national organization. When the day of election comes, the single voter finds his one voice of no value-he cannot be heard. He must combine with other men. A large number of men in only one town are of no value. They must combine with other men in other towns. A large number of men in a single State (in a national election) are of no value. They must combine with other men in other States. And these combinations must be made long before the election comes. Unless the voter wishes to throw his vote away, he must vote with some national organization, and in the end the national organization, however it may begin, will certainly fall into the hands of professionals. The process of election cen
tralizes the individual voter and the single district become nothing; the national organization becomes everything.
These national organizations, however they may begin, in course of time become two. Some of the peoples on the European continent have not yet enjoyed the perfect fruit of the perfect system. But to have more than two such organizations defeats the purpose of having any. We have only two. That is the form of our growth.
The vote of the individual, in course of time, becomes merely a vote against one of these two organizations.
Usually, as far as concerns the real work which our officers are to do,—the work of cleaning streets, building aqueducts and sewers, regulating canals and railroads, managing the post-office and our national police, the army and navy,-the men of one organization are really no worse than those of the other. But the voter cannot bring himself to think so. As to either set of men, he really knows little or nothing. But when electionday comes, everything is massed. The voter forgets the matter of men. It is not then, to his mind, a question whether this man or that man will better clean the streets, or manage the army and post-office, but it is the matter of handing over the control of the whole government, National, State, and local combined, to the other organization. And this result seems to him a great danger, in comparison with which individual men are not to be weighed. He then votes, not on men, but on organizations, and not so much for his own organization, as against the other one. For I venture to say that there is not an intelligent Democrat in the country who is not thoroughly disgusted with the acts, for the last ten years, of the professional politicians of his own organization, nor is there an intelligent Republican who is not equally disgusted with the acts of the professionals of his organization. The honest, clear-minded men of both organizations (and those men are the large majority of both) are entirely of one mind,—that the professional politicians on both sides do as badly as men can; but the voters on each side fear the machine men on the other side a little more than they do their own.
individual organism, and individual organisms vary to serve the needs of all nature, has gradually made these election organizations fitted to their ends, and has made them lose all the connection they ever had with real public measures. They began with being combinations of citizens, based on real differences of opinion, as to matters which at the time deeply interested the people. They have at last ceased to be anything more than mere machineries to struggle for plunder. The men who do the voting still have their differences of opinion on different matters. The men who do the acting, who divide the offices, take any set of opinions (as organizations) which will serve their purpose. They are compelled to do So. It is not their wish, but they must fit their wares to their market. They are under the necessity of carrying elections. They make their principles, or rather their platforms, to fit this necessity. No doubt there are many men of honest intentions in the nominating conventions of the day. But it is well understood how platforms are made, by the mere stringing together of a few "sounding and glittering generalities" which every one agrees to, and by striking out everything bearing on matters of real practical interest which may make any danger of losing votes. We talk of the declarations of principles in platforms, and of platforms being good or bad-how much longer are we to amuse ourselves with this nonsense? The men on either side will give us any platform we wish. These two great organizations of this present day profess to make much of the difference between centralization and decentralization. Each organization alike is in favor of centralization of power in its own hands, and of decentralization of power in the hands of the other, and that is all the difference between them. Their "platforms" are mere words. These two sets of professional election-managers, who pretend to have these great differences over great questions, are playing two parts in a farce. Either one of them will trade with the other for half of the people's offices, when they cannot have the whole. It is perfectly well understood that, in the city of New York, the same set of men under two names manage both political organizations. tions. The same men attend the primary meetings of both, nominate the candidates, draw the platforms, print the ballots, distribute them, and, what is more to the purpose, do the counting. Well-informed men have no doubt that the last elections,
These two organizations have, at last, through the operation of natural laws, become only the two parts of one machinery. The gradual adaptation of these election organizations to their work, in accordance with the regular processes of growth, under which organs vary to serve the needs of the
for Governor of the State of New York, and for President of the United States, have been, in the city of New York, managed on a distinct agreement, as to casting and counting ballots, made between the political managers in the State of New York, who wear two sets of names. Few intelligent men have a doubt that bargains of the same kind are made at every election between the two sets of professionals at Washington. The very essence of their creed, according to their own saying, is that there will be great danger to the country if men of what is called the opposing organization shall fill any of the public offices. In Washington and Albany and New York, and everywhere else through the country, these men have always made bargains with each other to divide the public offices when either one set could not have the whole. It is their trade. The whole thing is a sham, a game between two sets of gamblers, with the people for the victim. I do not mean that there are not many honest men who are prominent in each of these organizations, who have no idea of deceiving themselves or any one else. But this is the working of the machinery,-this is the certain result, assuming the best of intentions to exist on all hands.
The process of election has become a mere form. It has been superseded by that of nomination, the process of nomination has fallen into the hands of the professional election workers, the professional election workers have fallen under the control of their leaders, and the leaders trade and bargain over the people's offices, and keep up the form of two "parties" (as they are called), to catch our votes. We do not elect our officers. They are appointed for us by the managers of the machine. We talk of two "parties." There is only one party, of two parts. It is time to name names. What difference does it make to us whether our public officials are appointed for us by Mr. Roscoe Conkling, or by Mr. John Kelly, or by the two acting in concert, or by their successors? We are disfranchised, none the less so that we are allowed to walk decorously to the polls, and there please ourselves with the choice between two sets of printed papers, prepared by the same. men, but with different sets of names on them, with the eagle at the top printed it may be from different dies. Are we to call this kind of performance "popular election"? Mr. John Kelly and some of his coadjutors in another "hall," a short time
since, drew lots publicly, in our very eyes, for the appointment of our representatives to Congress. The business of the great election-mill goes on from year to year. The names of the members of the firm at times change, new partners are admitted; there is at times a different distribution made of the interests in the business. At times, the upper and the nether millstones change places.
(3) This election machine makes slaves of our public officials.
The set of men now in public place are in private life generally men of honest dealings. By far the greater number of them would really wish to give the people good work, if they were free to do so. Does any one doubt that the present President of the United States a man of great ability, a man of great ambition, with the eyes of the world on him, and with the possibility of making a great name for himself if he should serve the people well-wishes to give the people the best work he knows how to give? But what can he do? But what can he do? He cannot make his own choice of one of his own subordinates. It is, indeed, the custom to confirm the cabinet officers whom he selects; but there his power ceases, and that power under the present system of affairs is really nothing.
That, however, is not all. The moment a president is elected, the men who have elected him clamor for their pay. If he were free to act his own will, his simple despair at being unable to satisfy all the claimants, and his weariness at their importunity, would drive him, if he were human, to refuse to make a single removal from office, unless for cause, in the ordinary course of administration. But he knows that not only does he owe his past election to the members of the election organization, but that they are the men who can give him the next one. At least, he cannot get the next election without them. He may, indeed, lose it with them. Moreover, every official with whom he has to deal, nearly every man with whom he comes in contact, depends in the same way on the election machine for his future. Every man around him besets him with all kinds of influences and all kinds of arguments, to use all the powers of his office for the purposes of the election machine. The whole power of this vast organization is concentrated against him. And it is the same with every official in the service. The combined force of the whole organization is brought to bear on
each official to compel him to use the powers of his office for the common needs. And if a man has at times the courage to refuse so to use his office, sooner or later he will lose his place.
well his official work can be removed from his office, and removed at once. This is the only kind of responsibility worth having, and this we do not have. The system does not secure, nor tend to secure, individual Our public officials, in short, are a set of responsibility for individual action. When slaves. The greatest slave among them is the day of election comes, individual action the man in the highest place. No public of single men is forgotten. Then it becomes officer can follow his own will or his own a question (so we think) of "parties" and judgment in his official action. Give every" principles "; then every voter is filled with man his due. I have no great admiration the fear lest the control of the whole govfor the men who are now charged with the ernment may fall into the hands of the opduty of cleaning the streets of New York. posing branch of professionals. Even if But they are driven, by the system under elections were entirely free, if they were which they live, to do precisely what they not controlled and managed by the election have done, to make as many places as can machine, good candidates are weighed be made, and spend as much money as can down with the unpopularity of other men, be spent, for the benefit of the people's mas- and bad candidates are helped by the good ters instead of the people. They are the deeds of other men. Individuals do not creatures of the system. We all know that stand on their own merits. There are there are two or three men-the Governor many other points which cannot be urged of the State of New York, the United States in a paper of this compass. But the fundaSenators from New York, and the Vice- mental difficulty is that the only kind of rePresident of the United States-who could, sponsibility which is enforced under our by a word honestly spoken, give to the city present system is responsibility for service of New York clean streets, and save hun- to the election organization, not for service dreds, perhaps thousands, of lives. The to the people, word is not spoken. These gentlemen would be glad, if they could, to give us clean streets and save life. But what shall they do? The election work cannot be had, unless it is paid for.
(4) The system centralizes power in the hands of an oligarchy.
Centralization of power was the great dread of our ancestors, though the phrase was one which they did not then use. That, especially, they meant to avoid. The machinery which they framed has given us centralized power in its most centralized form. The Czar of Russia is learning that he must submit his will to the will of his people. But what do the managers of the election machine care for the will of the people? Such large bodies as these national election organizations must have heads. It is the working of nature's laws. And the heads of the national election machine substantially control the appointment and removal-and therefore the action-of every official in the land, through the National, State, and local governments. It is a great power.
(6) The system destroys the efficiency of our public service.
I do not mean that no good work is done by our present government officials. There are, as we all know, many old and welltrained public servants who do good work. They do it for the reason that they are old and well-trained servants. They keep their places, when they keep them, because the men who hold the positions at the head find that the work of the departments cannot possibly be done without keeping in office some of these men of experience. Else the public business would come to a stand-still.
But it is the tendencies of the system with which we have to deal.
The system tends to drive all the best men out of the public service. It would be for the individual interest of each head of a department or office to choose the most efficient men that he could find, to do the work of the office under him. For he would be the man who would get the reputation for it. And if there were no external pressure on him, if he were independent, his own individual interest would make him take that course. If he were to try to make his appointments from motives of favoritism or corruption, he would certainly concentrate on his head all the odium which should arise from the short-comings of his whole de
partment. Centralization of odium is, how- | lous about street-cleaning, aqueducts, postever, a remedy which we do not have. There offices, and treasury operations, which calls is pressing on him the power which controls for training in subordinates only, and needs his future, and which he dares not disobey. brains only at the foot of the organization? It is the desire for reputation or popularity And it is impossible for any men to get exwhich brings into our public service many perience at their work who are going in and of the men who get there, and it is not a out of office once in two or three years. But bad reputation that they wish. Secure to even this is not the main evil. The main them good reputation and good wages for evil is that, while the men are in office, they good work, would they not do their work must give their time and thought to election as well as they could? As it is, they give work. up the reputation. Gradually the result is, the men who give their time only to the faithful discharge of their duty are weeded out of the service, and the men who do the election work are brought in, and kept in. It is the law of nature, the survival of the fittest for the special work to be done.
Moreover, the system tends to keep out the honest working-men who wish to enter the service, and who would be taken into it under a normal, natural condition of things. Men who have honest work of their own to do, which pays them honest wages, will not, as a rule, go into a service which is full of uncertainties. They cannot afford to give up one year or two years of their time, and sacrifice their private interests, without having the same certainty which they have in private life, that of permanent employment, if they do their work well. The tendency of our present system is to draw into the public service only adventurers, men who have not been able to command success elsewhere. And it must be admitted that election work, a very large part of it (and the work is such as the system necessarily makes it), is not work which any man who has a decent self-respect will consent to do.
The system, too, makes it impossible that the men who remain in the service should do the best work they are able to do. And the main difficulty here is in our having the term system for the men at the head of the service. No one has time to learn his work. There is no difference, on this point, between the work in the public service and work in private life. They both require time, to learn how to do them, and the men at the head surely do not need less time than the men at the foot of the service. Where is it that skill and experience are needed the most? Of all wonderful ideas, the most wonderful is that held by some friends of civil-service reform who urge that the subordinates in our public service must have experience, but the men at the top of the service can get on without it. What is there so miracu
Aside, however, from the question of training individuals, the system makes it impossible for the public service to become an efficient working organization. Here especially it is that we need time. And here especially is it necessary that the men at the head should not be continually changing, and should not be the slaves of the election organization. Every service depends for its efficiency on the men at the top. They are the men who are to organize, if there is to be any organization. They are the men who are to enforce responsibility, if responsibility is to be enforced. They are the only men who can have any accurate knowledge as to the fitness and industry of subordinates. Throughout the service, but with the heads of the service more than anywhere else, men must have time, to find their places, to learn their work, to do their work, and to become adjusted one to another in a smoothly working organization.
In short, the system tends to drive the best men who are in the service out of it, to keep the best men who are out of the service from coming in, to hinder the men in the service from doing their best work, and to hinder the men in the service from becoming an efficient organization. Can more than that be said against any system?
(7) The system corrupts the public service. It was at first both the principle and the practice to appoint and remove public officers simply for the reason that they were fit or unfit to do their special work. The system went on well enough until the election work became so enormous and paid so well. But now the working of our system of elections and appointments has become nothing but a buying and selling of offices. It is not that the men who control the election organizations wish to make this their trade. But they cannot help it. Make all the statutes and civil-service rules that we may, a way will always be found to evade them, so long as the men who have the appointing power are the slaves of the election organization. They must appoint at