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Reichstag have each other well by the ears, but the richest and most intelligent States
show of reason, that the conception of
political morality on the part of the people REFORM.
at large is not high. Take the following The one issue on which all parties as an instance: A private citizen, in a comwere united during the last presidential munication to a certain newspaper, comcampaign was that there should be reform. ments thus upon the pension bill recently True, that campaign did not differ from passed by the Senate : “ The bill is indeed preceding campaigns in this respect; re liberal to the widows of deceased soldiers. form seems to have been a perennial desid This is good as far as it goes. It will eratum throughout nearly the whole history show the gratitude of the Republic in hisof this country, but one which has a mar tory, but it will be a monumental piece of velous quality of continually eluding our political folly, for widows do not vote for grasp. There is nothing like a virtuous Congressmen, and voters have no widows at demand for reform to catch votes; even present." Perhaps it should be said in exthat not very consistent cry for reform tenuation that this person (who has no within the party has been found extremely hesitation in signing his name) is effective. Party leaders do not hesitate to soldier, and that soldiers have, for the last say, in effect: “We have been intrusted decade, been subject to very demoralizing with the powers of government, and have influences; but how many readers of the shamefully used them for corrupt ends. · paper will see any immorality in the imThrough our administration the Govern- plied proposition, that it would be the part ment has fallen into a very bad
way indeed. of political wisdom to use the money disBut we wish to reform,-to reform both bursed in pensions in such a way as to ourselves and the Government,--and to secure the allegiance of recipients to the this end we must be kept in power.” This party which originated the bill? In other cry has been known to succeed, or, at any words, to use pensions as a means of bribing rate, not to bring defeat, for three consecu voters ? tive elections; and still this people thinks It cannot be denied, however, that politiitself fit for self-government.
cal morality is lower than private morality. The immediate cause why prating about No ordinary citizen, much less a man of reform is so captivating is patent enough: any social standing, would do in his private there is a widespread and probably well- dealings what many politicians do, without founded belief that honesty and purity do danger of disgrace. Two reasons at once not predominate in the management of suggest themselves for this state of affairs : public affairs. But how can a government In the first place, while the average man of the people be more corrupt than the will assent to the general proposition that people themselves? Why should an intel- politics are corrupt in this country, bis ligent people choose to be ruled by knaves knowledge lacks definiteness and precision. and blockheads? The history of Congress,
The history of Congress, Few will doubt at the end of the present of State Legislatures, of Municipal Gov- Congress that it has been guilty of jobbery ernments, shows that knavery and stupidity and corruption, but still fewer will know in have made a large showing, if they have not detail and with certainty even one instance. on the whole predominated. It may be Again, almost every one who is interested noted that corruption has not decreased in politics at all, becomes a partisan. with the advance of wealth and intelligence ; That means that he becomes incapable of
taking an unbiased view of men and measures. He reads his own party newspapers, which contain accusations against the opposite party (most of them, if specific, well-founded), and he is little affected by any arguments or accusations which may be brought forward by the opposite party. That quality of standing by one another which has always characterized the Anglo-Saxons, when it takes the form of loyalty to a political party, is responsible for much of the evil in our politics. I suppose not many would deliberately vote for a person they were convinced was dishonest, and against one of the opposite character, because the former happened to be nominated by their party ; but to convince a thorough-going partisan that his candidate is less worthy than the opposing candidate is, in the general case, an impossiblity.
Considerable wonder is expressed, especially by foreign observers, that the higher social classes do not take a more active part in the politics of this country. The reasons for this are sufficiently evident to one acquainted with the conditions. There is no strong demand on the part of the masses to be ruled by those occupying a high position socially; while to secure a party nomination implies generally the practice of arts to which a person of delicate breeding would greatly dislike to stoop. It chiefly concerns us here to notice, what has been frequently pointed out, that the presence in Congress of a comparatively small number of men with a keen sense of honor, would create a feeling in that body sufficient to restrain its members from the grosser forms of corruption. A consideration of these causes for the crookedness of politics is calculated to throw some light upon the chances for reform. If these causes are merely transitory the prospect is brighter. Unfortunately, however, they seem likely to be permanent. The people are not likely to inform themselves more accurately as to the secret doings of their representatives.
Whether they are becoming more or less lenient in their judgment of immoral actions committed by politicians may be left an open question. The party system, perhaps in & mitigated form, is reasonably certain to persist; and the party machine, since it is extremely effective for the purposes for which it is designed, is also sure to survive. The so-called better element has of late years brought itself into prominence by taking a more independent stand in politics ; but it is yet too early to predict how much influence this action will have. On the whole, if reform means getting the Government, national, State, and municipal, to do what it now attempts (or pretends to attempt) to do, in an honest, efficient, and patriotic manner, the outlook is indeed discouraging.
The case of civil-service reform affords a good instance of the progress which may be expected. The agitation has been going on at least since 1871; the people have certainly been in favor of the measure, though not, of course, fully aroused on the subject; the result thus far has been the passage of an Act (in 1883) to apply a system of competitive examination to a little over one tenth of the offices within the gift of the Government,-an instance, probably, of astute Congressional “pandering to the better element.” The politicians certainly could not be expected to favor complete civil-service reform, for the offices are life and blood to them; but they probably saw that there was enough strength in the movement to make a slight concession judicious. The Act covers less than half as many offices as President Harrison has made removals for political reasons during his first year at the White House.
That which attracts the swarm of parasites which hover around every administration is evidently the public plunder. Whenever a large amount of public money is to be spent, it is almost sure to fall into the hands of scoundrels, because they are more eager to get it for themselves than honest men are to see that it is properly
expended. The most obvious method of be means of communication between differ-
a few hardly, I suppose, be seriously contended instances of corruption in the courts, but that there is any mystic property in the nearly the whole history of political coraugust title, Civil-Service Commission, ruption in this country points to the conwhich will be an unfailing guarantee of the
clusion that Government must be reformed purity and wisdom of that body.
by restricting it to its proper sphere. The only reason for the existence of a Post-office Department is, that there may
FARM MORTGAGES AND FORECLOS of $3,450,000,000 does not seem so very URES.
extravagant. The condition of the American farmer is But the absolute amount of mortgages, just now attracting a great deal of atten or even its increase, is not a certain indication. It is admitted that the half of the tion of the depression of agriculture ; farmworking force of the nation engaged in ag ers, like those engaged in other business, riculture is not so prosperous as the other are ready to borrow money when“ times half. The most striking symptom of this are good.” A much better, though by no depression is thought to be the amount of means conclusive, indication is the number farm mortgages, or rather the increase in of foreclosures; but on this point the the amount which has taken place during figures are entirely inadequate. The amount the last few years. Until the report of the of mortgages recorded is given and also next census it will be impossible to ascer the amount of satisfactions, but no distinctain closely how much the mortgage in tion is made between those satisfied by debtedness on farms throughout the coun foreclosure and those which the mortgagor try is; nevertheless, some States have col had succeeded in paying off. In one State, lected partial statistics on this point. Mr. Micbigan, the number of foreclosures for I. P. Dunn contributes a paper on the 1887 is stated to have been 1,667, and in
Mortgage Evil” to the Political Science only 131 of these cases were redemptions Quarterly, in which most of the figures ac made, leaving a net loss of 1,536 pieces of cessible for the Western States are brought property by foreclosure in the year; but together. The estimated increase in the there is no means of determining whether amount of mortgages from 1882 to 1888 in this number increased or diminished in subclusive, in Indiana, based upon the partial sequent years.—Mr. Dunn gives a table report of the State Bureau, is $46,476,652. of foreclosures made in the United States In the last fourteen years the increase has
Courts for Indiana by thirteen companies, been $106,855,884; what proportion this mostly life insurance companies, for the bears to the total amount of mortgage in- years 1878-79-80, from which, together debtedness in the State it is impossible to with the amount in the State Courts, he say, but evidently the total amount cannot estimates that these thirteen companies be less than this sum. -In Michigan the were foreclosing at the rate of $1,500,000 a figures are more complete, although proba- year.
year. From the President of the Phænix bly less than the reality. The report (1888) Mutual he learned that it “ loaned a little of the Bureau of Statistics showed that the over a million dollars in Indiana, and forereal-estate mortgages amounted to $129, closed on fifty-three per cent of it.” His 229,553, on a total realty valuation of own opinion is that the total volume of $686,614,741, and that 47.4 per cent of all foreclosures at this time was at least one the farms in the State were mortgaged. half the total volume of satisfactions. In the same year the Illinois Bureau com Mr. Dunn is convinced that the existputed that the real-estate mortgages in that ence of these mortgages is an injury to the State amounted to $381,322,339, while the Western States. The annual interest paid assessed value of the real estate in 1880 to non-resident capitalists (by Indiana) is was $575,441,053.- In the three States greater than the entire tax levy of the then, the lowest estimate places the amount State. “It is difficult to portray adequateof mortgages at over $617,000,000, while ly the evil of this drain on production.” It the actual values of the real estate (com goes without saying that Indiana is worse puted from the assessed value) is about off than if the mortgage debt in it to non-res$4,514,000,000. These figures being a idents could be repudiated. It must be reminimum, General Butler's recent estimate membered, however, that this debt repre
sents so much capital brought into the State portion of our wheat exported comes into
Mr. Dunn's study of what facts have are old soldiers. The same course might
might be induced. Mr. C. Wood Davis, in why the price of neighboring property the Forum for May, computes that within should be depressed; but it cannot be a five years from January, 1890, domestic cause of the small returns of labor and cap consumption will absorb the entire product ital invested in the business.
of cereals, potatoes, and hay, leaving only There are two explanations to account tobacco, cotton, and animal products to be for the recent depression of agriculture, as exported; and the volume of these, even, compared with other occupations, which are will constantly shrink. Then the Ameriworthy of examination. The first is over can farmer will be prosperous. production. The amount of our farm But in the meantime a great many
Westproducts has exceeded the home demand, ern farm mortgages (and Eastern also) will and the surplus has been exported. Now, be foreclosed. One cannot help fearing as long as any is exported it is evident that that this reliance upon the increase of popthe price in the home market cannot be ulation to raise the price of food is wholly greater than the price in the foreign market. a delusion. If we look back upon the past, Certainly no one would ship wheat to Liv about which we can be reasonably certain, erpool for seventy-five cents a bushel when instead of forward into the future, about he could sell it in New York for eighty-five which we can be sure of very little, we see cents. The price of the surplus, then, if that the farmer has been prosperous. He there is any, may be said to fix the price of has competed with the "
pauper labor of the whole crop.
No labor in Europe is Europe,” and has proved himself able to do worse paid than agricultural labor. Tbe so with profit. Hence some persons are in