Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

it to vary with the locality. In the East the degree of security required for bank issues will be very high,--far higher than before the war. Our banks will be as safe as the best Eastern railroads, with their double tracks, Wharton switches, Westinghouse brakes, Miller platforms, block system of telegraph management, and Bessemer steel rails. In the West they will be about as dangerous as a narrow-guage single track road, with none of the modern improvements. To this, of course, we may object, but let us not forget that it was by the aid of an inexpensive and dangerous banking system that the Eastern States attained their present growth. No Western State could well go beyond the colony of Massachusetts in wild-cat banking; and the phrase, “A York Shilling," still recalls the time when the paper money of “the metropolis," although better than that of New England, was worth but half its face value. How would these colonies have prospered under the restrictions of our present banking system ? How would the Western and Southern railroad systems grow under a general railroad law requiring all the arrangements for safety which are furnished by the Pennsylvania Central ?

SENATOR BURNSIDE's bill to disburse the revenue from public lands among the States, for the support of public schools, in the ratio of the illiteracy reported by the census, meets with very geueral favor. It has passed the Senate without serious opposition, and it will doubtless become a law before the New Year is well advanced. It is a good sign that the nation is wakening up to its responsibility in this matter, and that the notion that this is a matter for local action only, finds no favor even among the jealous champions of local self-government. In this, as in some other instances, local theories about the rights and the sphere of the National government give way to urgent local necessities.

Of course it will be necessary to exercise a wise supervision over the disbursement of this money. It will be necessary to see to it that the colored people of the South get at least a fair share of the benefit intended. The country owes more to them than to any other illiterate class, since it connived so long at their retention in a state which made their education impossible.

Besides this the nation should enact some guarantee that the schools thus assisted are under competent personal supervision of some sort. It is throwing away money to build schools and provide them with teachers, and then to leave them without the oversight which encourages the zealous, arouses the lethargic, and instructs the ignorant in the army of teachers. Philadelphia is the only Northern community, we believe, which is capable of such stupidity. Let the nation not repeat our blunder in the South. One such a man as Dr. Ruffner, of Virginia, in every Southern State, is worth a hundred teachers.

Civil Service Reform is attracting a fair share of public attention, and many of our Democratic friends are becoming dimly aware that the interests of the opposition lie in that direction. It is true that the spoils of office consequent upon a national victory would be much less extensive after a reform in the civil service in the direction of permanence in tenure of office. It would not be possible to make a clean sweep of everybody in office. But the offices to be filled upon the arising of vacancies would gain in value with their decline in number. And then the chance of carrying an election against the party in power would be much greater when assessments have become purely voluntary, and office-holders need not sight for a victory as for their official existence. Or if the reform is to begin where Messrs. Hayes, White and Curtis wish it to begin, at the other end, and no one is to get an appointment on any consideration, except that of his passing an examination, then the interest of the opposition in the reform is still clearer. It would throw the offices open to Democrats equally with Republicans, and give each a fair share of that money which seems to many Americans more precious than any other—the salary of office. The World had the wit to see this even before the election. But it commanded no general support from its party. The resolution on the subject at Cincinnati was clearly a piece of vague buncombe. Since the election disappointed so many hungry Democrats, the party has shown a more general disposition to take up the question in hand. It shows an especial sensitiveness as regards the assessment system, and apparently would like to have contribution from officeholders to the expense of a campaign made felony, if not treason to the government.

This is very natural, but it is beginning at the wrong end. Under the present system of official tenure nearly every officeholder has a personal interest in the continuance of his party in power. He knows that a change means official decapitation. It is absurd to suppose that he will not do his share to prevent such a catastrophe. Under the present administration these contributions are purely voluntary. And to us they seem as legitimate as those given by the manufacturers who feared a change in the tariff. On the other hand, they do not amount to anything like the sum generally supposed. A contemporary estimates that during the last campaign over $2,000,000 was raised by assessment upon office-holders. As a matter of fact, not one-eighth of that amount was obtained from that source, and not one-fourth of it from all sources.

THERE are some indications that our Civil Service Reformers are awakening to the fact that the reform needed is not in the manner of appointments, but in permanance of tenure, Calhoun denounced the law creating a four years' tenure, when it was first proposed, as a certain source of political mischief. Up to that time, the English tenure was in force. Every civil official, excep: members of the Cabinet and of the higher diplomatic service, held office for life or for good behavior. Hence the grief of the Democratic party when it obtained a majority, but found the offices filled by Federalists. “Few die, and none resign,” was Jefferson's complaint of his hostile subordinates. The new legislation was intended to guard against making the office-holders too independent of their official superior. It was also meant to permit of such a rotation in office as would give a large number a chance at the public crib. It has fulfilled all the evil prognostications which Calhoun uttered at its birth, It is the one great evil, of Democratic origin, which the Republicans have done nothing to remove.

MR. SECRETARY SCHurz's Indian policy is the object of a severe criticism, which is centred mainly in Boston, but which sinds an answer in the philanthropic sentiment of our city, and in other quarters. It relates to the treatment which the Poncas have received at the hands of the Interior Department, and the propriety of restoring them to their former possessions in Dakota.

There is no doubt that Mr. Schurz's Indian policy has been directed in the main by benevolent feelings. He has taken more trouble about the Indians than any of his predecessors. While he has originated but little, he lias carried out the new policy which was begun under Gen. Grant. What is wanting in Mr. Schurz's conduct is not a want of benevolence, but a want of justice. He seems to recognize in the Indians no rights, while admitting that they have sensibilities to be consulted. He would like the Poncas to be comfortable and happy, if they will be so in his way, and under his more than paternal government of them. But that they should prefer another way than his, and insist on getting back to a set of houses and farms from which he has seen fit to remove them, he finds intolerable. In a word, Mr. Schurz's ideas are those of the bureaucracy under which he spent his youth. The ideas of his critics are those of justice and equal rights, upon which American society is founded.

Mr. Schurz claims that he was the first to point out to the country the injustice that had been done the Poncas. True, but true also that he has been employing every kind of resistance to prevent a redress of the wrong. His arrest of those who left the new reservation, his subsequent arrest of Mr. Tibbles for going to the reservation, and his refusal to ask from Congress the means to restore them to their old homes, all mark his attitude as stolicly hostile to the fair play demanded by the Poncas and their friends at the hands of the Government.

We have been observing with much interest the progress of the Reform movement in Philadelphia. The Citizen's Committee of one hundred members was a well selected representation of the business community, and set itself to study our municipal condition in a broad way, so as to see what changes in methods as well as in men were needed. Subsequently, however, the question of nominations for the three offices to be filled next February took precedence, and the Committee ordered its Executive Sub-committee to report names. From this course a minority of the Committee dissented, holding that it was wiser to procure good nominations from the Republican party, than to make them. The Sub-committee reported the name of Mr. Hunter of the Twenty-fourth Ward for City Treasurer, and that of Mr. Caven of the Fifteenth Ward for City Solicitor. They reported no nomination for Mayor, but Mr. Drexel and other representatives of the heavy money interests brought forward the name of Mr. Stokley, who was nominated by a vote of fifty-two to thirty. This mode of procedure was anything but wise. It was well known that men of Mr. Drexel's stamp favored Mr. Stokley's reëlection. But it is not generally believed that this class of persons feel the pressure of civic taxation most heavily, or are the most zealous for the public economy which would reduce its burdens. It would have been better to have had the nomination made by some representative of the Building Association wards, where the majority of the voters are tax-payers, rather than from a Third street member. We fear that the retroactive effect of these nominations upon the Committee will be such as to render it less fit for the large duties it seemed ready to undertake in the city's behalf. It has already divided it into two factions, which can hardly be said to show full mutual confidence, while it has diminished visibly the public influence of the Committee. When its meetings began, the politicians evidently were anxious to secure its good will; but latterly they have begun to regard it with unconcealed indifference. We think the nominations as good as the Committee could have made. That of Mr. Stokley is less objectionable since Mr. Garrett, the respected Chairman of the Committee, obtained from the Mayor pledges, as regards reform, which cover everything except the political use of the city police. We only doubt the wisdom of making any nominations, and we shall deplore it especially if it is to have the effect of preventing the Committee from going forward unitedly in the great work it seemed disposed to undertake.

How powerless a mere Reform movement is to elect a municipal ticket, was shown in the recent Boston election. Boston is much more closely divided between the parties than is Philadelphia, but the Reform ticket, which enjoyed the whole support of the Republicans and that of a large section of the Democrats, was defeated by a small but sufficient majority. In Philadelphia the strength of the Reform vote, as tested by Mr. Pattison's election, was but ten per cent. of the whole vote, and the likelihood of the Democrats coming to their aid is not very great. The majority against a merely Reform ticket in Philadelphia would be sufficient, but not small.

« VorigeDoorgaan »