14 JULY 1866, Page 14



New York, June 29, 1866. THE Spectator says, and in effect all the British papers that I have seen say, that in the matter of the invasion of Canada the " American " Government "behaved admirably." Well, it did behave justly and honourably, but no more ; and if there were anything creditable in its conduct, it was only that it did not allow bitter memories and the opportunity of winning tens of thousands of votes to tempt it to the neglect of a plain duty. But if the conduct of the Administration was creditable, that of Congress since the " squelching " of the invasion has been most discreditable, deplorable. Roberts and Sweeny, pronounced— they and their shindy-making rabble—by the Government, with the assent of the people, evil disposed persons, and whose only distinction is that they have broken our left in such a manner as to make it necessary to use the military power of the country for the maintenance of our honour, are actually taken upon the floor of the House, and dined and wined, and coddled, and kowtowed to by members of Congress ; they are introduced at public meetings, and their ruffled feathers smoothed by the very Speaker of the House himself. To explain the motives of such conduct would be quite superfluous ; but although, in this country at least, you can do almost anything with Irishmen, as a body, by flattering them, if you will only lay it on thick enough, the question will arise— Is it possible that even these Fenians can be caught when the net is spread so plainly in their sight ? If they can, what becomes of the wisdom of Solomon ? This incongruity between the tone of Congress and the action of the Government is, like that which occurred in regard to the Trent affair, an illustration of the truth of a remark made before in these letters, that in judging this country you must regard not what politicians and the speech- makers say, but what the Government and the people do, and that as to legislative bodies, their laws should be read and not their debates.

What we call the Rousseau-Grinnell affair comes in to deepen the bad impression which the recent conduct of our re- presentatives in other respects mast produce on decent folk, those who love as well as those who hate the republic. General Rousseau, a Member from Eentucky, heat Mr. Grinne,ll, a member from Illinois, on the capitol grounds, for words used on the floor a few days previous. The beating was not severe, and was meant, as General Rousseau said, not to hurt but to dis- grace. It was technically, of course, a violation of privilege, and in any case it is much to be regretted that Rousseau, who distin- guished himself against the rebels in the late war, should have been provoked into committing an assault upon a fellow member of the House. Such an assault cannot be justified, but whatever of excuse or palliation can be imagined in this case undeniably exists. Mr. Grinnell insulted General Rousseau for half an hour upon the floor of the House, using opprobrious epithets, aggravated by a most offensive manner, and kept this up, deliberately, inge- niously, with the manifest intention of affronting his opponent in the coarsest and most public manner. Such behaviour would have caused him to be excluded from the company of gentlemen anywhere—anywhere but on the floor of the House of Representatives. The dignity of the House was lowered far more by this scene on its floor than if the caning which Mr. Grinnell received had been administered in the same place. Punishment, although illegal and even tyrannical, is not incongruous with decency. The worst of the matter was, that the Speaker of the House allowed Mr. Grinnell to go on with his blackguardhlm—for it was nothing less—until he was asked to interfere, and then he used his authority, which is absolute in such a case, so languidly and apologetically that little or no regard was paid to him by the offender. And the House endured it. Here was the disgrace, this was the degradation, that such a scene as this could be protracted, insult being heaped on insult, and yet neither the Speaker nor the House itself assert its own dignity. In reading the report of it I could not but contrast it, not very agreeably to myself, with the recent scene in the House of Com- mons, when Sir Robert Peel told a member that he had made a statement which he knew to be perfectly unfounded, and when the dignified severity of the Speaker and the earnest entreaty of his fellow members brought even that stubborn and hot-headed gentlemen (as he seems to me) to an apology. The most culpable man in this Rousseau-Grinuell affair seems unmistakably the Speaker ; certainly he shares Mr. GrinnelPs offence. And yet, as it appeared, he represented the tone of a large proportion, if not the majority, of the House.

It is not surprising that men who will behave as many members of the House have behaved in regard to Fenianism since the pro- clamation of President Johnson, also fail to see the deplorable effect produced by allowing such conduct as that of Mr. Grinnell to pass by almost unnoticed. Such men are merely men of very low tone. They will not do what. is flagrantly wrong ; but they will, as politicians, do and suffer to be done what is very degrading and contemptible. Unfortunately for the figure we make in our own eyes, to say nothing of the light in which we appear before the world, we are doomed for some time to come to be represented by such men, in the House at least. The reason is, that in addition to all the influences which tend to debauch a politician's mind in any country, we have here that dreadful tempter downward—need. Our politicians are generally —and more so at the North than at the South—men who seek their positions as a means of livelihood. It is very rarely indeed that a man of fortune or a successful professional man goes into politics. Our politicians are generally men who fail in business or at the bar, and who make patriotism,—I will not say with Dr. Johnson, the last refuge of a scoundrel, but—the ready asylum of the deatitute. The pay of a Member of Congress is, if it has not recently been raised, eight dollass a day—not very rich remu- neration for the services of such men as should be in the highest legislative body of a nation like this republic. But to this is added in the first place mileage,—that is, travelling expenses paid at so much per mile. Some members, those from the far West, receive on this account from 10,000 dols. to 12,000 dots. a year. Some draw their mileage, and never leave Washington or its vicinity during their terms of membership, or at least never go home. They receive what is called "constructive mileage." They have the right to go home and to be paid their travelling expenses ; they are supposed to go, and it is nothing to the disbursing officers or to the Government whether they actually go or not. In addition to this source of gain they have "facilities." By this I do not mean bribes, but it is easy to see how men hold- ing the position of Members of Congress may in a country like this, full of money-making schemes, obtain opportunities for pro- fitable investment or professional exertion without descending to the grossness of actual bribery. In considering the tone of politics in this country, and comparing it with that in other coun- tries, too much weigilt cannot be given to the fact that with almost all our politicians their occupation is as any other occu- pation would be to them, a mere means of livelihood. "I am sorry," said a politician of some prominence once to me, "I am sorry that I gave up my profession and took to politics." I was somewhat surprised, for he was then in the posses- sion of one of the most lucrative offices in the gift of Govern- ment, and I supposed that he must be weary and worried. Poor man, so he was. In less than a fcirtnight he was a fugitive de- faulter for a large sum, and a defaulter, as we all soon knew, not for money taken for his own use, but to supply the hotseleech de- mands of active politicians round him, who claimed to have given him his office by their influence, and to have the power of taking it away. Nor can the extent to which men are paid here for political services be overrated. You would probably be surprised if you were told that the speakers at any of your political meet- ings were paid for their speeches, and would not speak unless they were paid ; but I can assure you that that is the case here. Pay- ment for such speeches is a part of the regular expenses of a political canvass, and I have known a man, whose name is known far and wide out of his own country, intimate very plainly that unless he received a fee he could not be expected to speak at an approaching political meeting called by his party. Not only so, but during the past winter and spring we have seen the Speaker of the House of Representatives going over the country as a popular lecturer for pay. I paid fifty cents (in paper) to hear him once, but did not stop long. He managed it by delivering his lectures always on Saturday evening. The House does not sit on Saturday, and by travelling all day he could arrive in New York, for instance, deliver his lecture, and return in time to take his seat in the House on Monday. I trust to my readers that they will not understand me as casting a slur upon popular lecturers or upon Speaker Colfax. But you think of your Speaker with his big salary and his peerage to retire upon. Think of him starting off at 6 a.m. on Saturday and travelling all day to deliver a lecture at 8 p.m., admittance eighteenpence, and then travelling all Sunday night to take his seat in the House on Monday, and keeping this up for a long while. And yet your Speaker is in office, and in the power and the origin, as well as in the name of his office, identical with ours. We have men who could and would put down an ill-behaving baronet with as grave a severity as that of Mr. Denison. I know them by the score, I might almost say by the hundred. It is circumstance which makes the difference between us. It would be well, other things being equal, if we could demand that men who seek pro- minence in political affairs should give such security for their good faith and their independence as is given by the possession of a large and well assured income. But the combination of circum- stances which deprives us of the services of such men in politics, and gives us, as a rule, those of men who serve us for pay and perquisites, is a consequence of the condition of the country and the nature of our insautious. It would be well that members of Congress at least should serve without pay. But in a country like ours that rule would cut off from legislative setvice some of the beat and ablest members of the community. Well established, not to say inherited, fortunes are so rare here that the number of citizens who can afford to give their time to the country for nothing is too small to be reckoned, and of that small number we do not find that any large proportion are either our ablest or our best men. It is a natural and an interesting question whether there is a prospect of a change in this respect, whether the time will come when men of property and culture only, or chiefly, will be sent to Congress? I think not, at least not soon, not for some generations. The time will come, and could we but stay the tide of emigration from Ireland and from Germany, it would soon come, when the tone of our public men will rise, be- cause, but for that emigration, the demagogue's occupation would soon be gone in this country. But the improvement in the tone of our political bodies which is sure to come, will come, like most of our other advancement, because the whole people will have risen in thoughtfulness and culture. A YANKEE.