Page images

meet modern requirements. The Constitution has been no “body of death" to clog development or to setter enterprise. By the third clause of the eighth section of the Constitution, Congress is given power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes,” apparently a plain and explicit grant of authority. It was contended for many years by astute lawyers, as well as the more simple layman, that these words meant exactly what they said: namely, that it was within the power of Congress, by suitable legislation, to regulate commerce between the various States of the Union. But what is “commerce between the States ?” Common sense could answer the question without much hesitation; judges and lawyers, whose legal knowledge often obscures their common sense, found the answer more difficult. The States could regulate commerce within their own borders, but not when the commerce was inter-State, and because of the doubt as to the power of Congress to make needful regulations, the great trusts and corporations, whose power it was necessary to curb and restrain, found themselves in a sort of No-man's land, an Alsatia that afforded them legal sanctuary, where they were secure from the enactments of Congress or the mandates of courts. The Sherman anti-trust law has been on the statute-books since 1890. Not until its provisions were invoked by the present Attorney-General was it regarded as an effective weapon to prevent the elimination of competition or the restraint of trade. It is neither radical nor revolutionary. It corresponds with similar English statutes. Now it is interesting as showing the capacity of the Supreme Court to keep pace with modern requirements, that shortly after the Sherman Act became law, suit was brought against a sugar-refining company for being a “trust” in violation of its provisions, and the Government was non-suited by the Supreme Court on the ground, to give merely the broad conclusions, that when a person made sugar in a certain State and sold it to a citizen of another State, the transaction began and ended so far as the seller was concerned, in the State of its manufacture, therefore it was State and not inter-State commerce, therefore it was outside the purview of Congress to regulate, as Congress cannot regulate the domestic affairs of a State. If that suit were to be tried to-day, it is quite safe to assert that the Government would not lose its suit; but for years it stood as the obstacle to prosecutions under the Act, and was the reason given why it was impossible to bring the trusts and other great aggregations of capital under governmental control. Meanwhile, curiously enough, while the Court allowed this decision to stand, or rather it would be more proper to say no occasion arose for it to be reversed, it began more liberally to construe the powers of Government, and remove the shackles that it had riveted on justice. Thus, while it had denied the right of the Government to regulate commerce, it admitted its right to regulate the instruments of commerce, a distinction so subtle that only a Supreme Court of justice could understand it. Still later it gave to the Government the right to prohibit the transmission through the post of lottery tickets, not because lottery tickets were immoral or demoralising, but because the Government had the right to regulate commerce between the States, and a lottery ticket was property, a thing of value, an article of commerce, consequently it was subject to Governmental regulation. The Northern Securities decision will not, as many people erroneously imagine, drive every trust out of existence or prevent combinations, or work irreparable injury to business, but it will have the effect of making all inter-State commerce subject to the control of the Government, and it will prevent persons engaged in inter-State trade from evading their responsibilities by shielding themselves behind the skirts of the various States, which up to the present time have acted as the protectors of their own legal creations and stood between them and the general Government. In short, year by year the powers of the general Government are becoming greater and more extensive, which strict Constructionists, and especially Democrats, deplore, because they look upon it a perversion of the Constitution and foreign to the principles upon which the American system of government is founded, but which modern thought recognises as necessary if the functions of government are to be properly performed. Where there are forty-five independent and sovereign States conflicting interests are almost inevitable ; a strong centralised Government is removed from these dangers, and is better able to govern in the interests of all, and especially to carry on its relations with foreign nations. The greater the power of the Federal Government the greater the influence of the United States in international affairs.

For the first time since Mr. Roosevelt has been in the White House he has been accused of “playing politics” and using the machinery of Government purely to advance his own ends. A few months ago I referred to the efforts then being made to pass a law giving to every survivor of the Northern armies of the war of the rebellion, irrespective of age, length of service, or physical condition, a pension, the real motive of which was not so much love for the old soldier as it was a desire to make the “soldier

vote "solid for the Republican party in the coming election. If Mr. Roosevelt was not privy to the scheme he did not discourage it, and it was in a fair way of being forced through Congress when the newspapers opened fire on it, denounced it as a scandalous misuse of public money, and so frightened the Republicans both in and out of Congress that they shelved the project for the time being. Mr. Roosevelt has now given the soldiers a tithe of what they think they are entitled to by directing the Commissioner of Pensions to make a progressive increase in pension of men of sixty-two years of age and upwards, for which he has been savagely denounced as having used the treasury to make votes for himself, and as having violated the law by usurping the prerogative of Congress. One does not like to think of Mr. Roosevelt as resorting to the same devious devices to curry favour with a certain section of the electorate that Mr. Blaine, for example, or any other politician might have availed himself of, and for the sake of his reputation, no matter how well meaning and unselfish his intentions, one wishes that Mr. Roosevelt had deferred issuing the order at least until after the election, when the imputation of political motives would have less foundation.

Readers of this correspondence will not, I believe, accuse me of any undue partiality for Tammany Hall or its methods, or that I have ever hesitated to express my condemnation of the means by which it has managed to retain its political supremacy. It is, therefore, only just, and it is also a pleasure, to call attention to the decent and excellent government that the City of New York is for the first time enjoying under a Tammany administration. When Mr. McClellan was elected Mayor last autumn I ventured the opinion, knowing his high character, his views of public service, and the motives that animated him, that he would endeavour to govern the city in a way that would meet with the approval of all properly constituted persons, but I feared he might not be able to escape from the contamination of his surroundings, and would find himself powerless to cope with the forces of evil and corruption. Mr. McClellan has more than realised the expectations of his best friends. Modestly, and without any blare of trumpets, he has gone about the work of purifying New York and making it a respectable city. The return to power of Tammany was hailed by the half world as their licence to plunder and debauch ; every gambler and thief and purveyor of immorality feasted in imagination upon the profits of crime in which they were all to share the moment Tammany was once more firmly in the saddle.


Mr. McClellan has grievously disappointed “the powers that prey.” New York is not the gold mine that they pictured. The police are doing their duty; they are sternly fighting vice and crime; and making miserable the lives of gamblers. The men who were told that with the success of Tammany there would be no more “Puritanical" Sundays, that liquor would be sold as openly on that day as any other, that the existence of gambling houses and worse resorts would be winked at, are dazed and cannot understand what it all means. To those who know Mr. McClellan it means simply that he is determined to show that Tammany is not all vile, and that it is possible for a Tammany administration to be as clean and law-abiding as the Republicans. Mr. McClellan, as I pointed out at the time of his election, has a magnificent opportunity. He is young, well born, and independent of financial cares. If he adds to the reputation that he has already won by governing the City of New York with honesty and ability he can rely with almost absolute certainty upon being in the course of a few years the Democratic candidate for the Presidency.

Mr. McClellan's administration has enriched the vernacular with a word that is extremely expressive and picturesque, and because of those qualities is sanctioned by the best authorities. In discussing conditions with the reporters Mr. McClellan's Chief of Police said that the “lid" was on and would remain on. It was an expression at once so racy and so vigorous that it immediately appealed to the reporters, who made the most of it. By the “lid" a very simple state of affairs is meant. If the town is “wide open,” that is if the laws are being openly violated, the “lid" is off; but if the police are doing their duty and enforcing the laws, the “lid" is on. The word has already come into wide use. Purists may object to it, but the people like it, and language is usually made by the people.

If the Democratic Convention to nominate a presidential candidate were to meet next week instead of three months hence, every one would feel certain that the nominee would be Chief Justice Alton B. Parker, of the New York Court of Appeals. At the present moment the tide is running so strongly in his direction that it has swept everything before it, and for this Judge Parker is largely indebted to Mr. Hearst of the New York yellow journal. Last month;I pointed out that while the other candidates, actual and prospective, were doing nothing, Mr. Hearst was industriously engaged in securing delegates and creating sentiment in favour of his nomination, The Hearst

[ocr errors]

movement at first was laughed at because it was deemed incredible that the country could seriously consider his nomination, but it soon reached a point when it could no longer be ignored with safety, and when it became necessary, if the party was to be saved from a more disastrous defeat than that which it suffered under Bryan—that is, if it was to be saved from annihilation—it must immediately counter the Hearst frenzy by letting it be known that those in authority would give their support to an essentially safe and conservative man. Judge Parker fills the requirements better than any other man in the Democratic party. Judge Parker is not a man whose great character or high talents impress the country, because the country knows all too little of him and has to take him almost entirely on faith. But, at any rate, he is a man of respectability and of no small legal ability, and his name inspires respect, even if it does not arouse enthusiasm. To those persons who are impatient to know Judge Parker's views, and who urge that he, should be induced to “speak out upon the issue of the day ” before he is nominated, so that the country may know what kind of a man he is, the New York World pointedly replies: “Judge Parker will be nominated. Until then he is not in politics. When he is nominated he will show that he knows how and when to speak. In the meantime he is proving possession of the far more important and valuable knowledge of how and when and why to keep silence.” This of course does not satisfy the critics, who say that entirely too much is taken for granted, but it is the best they can get, and they have to be satisfied with it. In support of Judge Parker, the Louisville Courier journal, one of the most influential of the Democratic papers of the South, says: The bent of Judge Parker's mind leads him to obey the law and not to make law to meet particular exigencies. In this respect, at least, he presents a striking contrast to the man whom, if nominated, he will have to oppose. It also appears that Judge Parker has been in public life for thirty years, and that the New York law reports contain a good deal of his work, which ought to show his capacity for dealing with questions of intricacy and importance. Despite the pronounced sentiment in favour of Judge Parker and the belief amounting almost to conviction that he is certain to be the nominee, there are still Democrats who cling to the hope that something will intervene to make the Convention realise that true wisdom and statesmanship demand the nomination of Mr. Cleveland, and these men, supported by some influential newspapers, have not abandoned all hope that he may be nominated. There is little, however, to encourage this hope, as the South, which will furnish 169 of the 239 votes necessary to elect the

« PreviousContinue »