Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ENERAL GRANT, after his visit to the King of Siam, returned to Singapore, in the hopes of finding the “ Richmond.” We reached Singapore on

the evening of the 22d of April. A dispatch was awaiting us from Captain Benham, to the effect that he hoped to be in Singapore on the 28th. But General Grant had made his visit, and not wishing to trespass further on the hospitalities of Colonel Enson, the Acting Governor of the Straits Settlements, resolved to continue on, by a French steamer then in port, to Hong-Kong. So, early on the morning of the 23d of April, in a heavy, pouring rain, without having time to go ashore and pay our respects to our kind friends Colonel Enson and Secretary Smith, we pushed out to sea. Our vessel was the “ Irrawaddy,” commanded by Captain Gauvain, a good type of the

[graphic][merged small]

HONESTY IN PUBLIC LIFE.

263 French sailor and gentleman. After having been cramped up in coasting yachts, doomed to our own society, and yearning for ice, it was pleasant to be able to sweep along the broad decks of an ocean steamer, to be again a part of the world, to enter into the gossip of the ship, to unravel the mysteries of our fellow-passengers, to find out people, to discover that this was a bride and the other a duke, to meet the singing person, and the young lady with an album, and the young gentleman who had never been to sea before, and believes everything that is told him, and the idle, wicked young men who tell him everything—about whales obstructing the ship’s course, about tigers springing on the deck from the Saigon Hills, and the terrors of Asia. Mr. Borie's satisfaction became enthusiasm when he learned there was ice on board, and ice enough to make an iceberg. So we settled down into a condition of comfort, for the sea was smooth and we were rapidly leaving the tropics for the north, and through northern latitudes for home.

I take the occasion of this trip to recall again some memoranda of my conversations with General Grant. I trust the reader will pardon any intrusion in my narrative of mere matters of talk, because most of our talk was in the idle hours of sea-travel. I note especially one conversation on home politics, particularly on the point so much discussed at home, as to the honesty of men in our public life. “Men in public life,” said the General, “are like men in other spheres of life. It would be very hard for me to say that I knew six men in public position that I know to be dishonest of absolute moral certainty. Men will do things who are senators or members that reformers call corrupt. They will ask for patronage, and govern themselves in their dealings with the administration by their success in the matter of patronage. This is a custom, and if the reformer's theory is correct, it is corruption. And yet the men who were reformers, who turned their eyes at the sins of others, I generally found as anxious for patronage as others. Mr. Sumner, for instance, who is the idol of the reformers, was among the first senators to ask offices for his friends. He

expected offices as a right. Of course he spoke as a senator. He had no consideration except as a senator.

If he had been a private man in Boston he would never have named a minister to London. As our public men go, as our forms of government go, Mr. Sumner and other senators were perfectly honest. There was no corruption in his asking me to appoint this man and the other. They regarded executive appointments for their friends as the rewards of public life. Mr. Edmunds asked me to keep Marsh in Italy. The whole Vermont delegation joined in the request.

Yet no senator was more independent than Edmunds, more ready to oppose the admin

istration if he disagreed with it —and so down the whole list. It was a rule. In a government where there are senators and members, where senators and members depend upon politics for success, there

will be applications for patronage.

You cannot call it corruption-it is a condition of our representative form of government-and yet if

you read the newspapers, and hear the stories of the reformers, you will be told that any asking for place is corruption. My experience of men makes me very charitable in my criticism of public officers. I think our government is honestly and economically managed, that our civil service is as good as any in the world that I have seen, and the men in office are men who, as a rule, do their best for the country and the government. There is no man in the country," continued the General, “so anxious for civil service reform as the President of the United States for the time being. He is the one per

[graphic]

A BUFFALO CART.

« PreviousContinue »