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Now came the problem--to elect.
We hear much of many wonders of combination and concentration of industrial power which railway and telegraph have wrought. But nothing is said about what seems to me the greatest wonder of them all--how these forces have resulted in the concentration of the political power of upwards of twelve millions of our fifteen million voters; how the few can impose their ideas and their will upon widening circles, out and out, until all are included. The people are scattered; the powers confer, man to man, day by day. The people are divided by partizan and other prejudices; the powers are bound together by the one self-interest. The people must accept such political organizations as are provided for them; the powers pay for, and their agents make and direct, those organizations. The people are poor; the powers are rich. The people have not even offices to bestow; the powers have offices to give and lucrative employment of all kinds, and material and social advancement,--everything that the vanity or the appetite of man craves. The people punish but feebly--usually the wrong persons--and soon forget; the powers relentlessly and surely pursue those who oppose them, forgive only after the offender has surrendered unconditionally, and they never forget where it is to their interest to remember. The powers know both what they want and how to get it; the people know neither.
Back in March, when Goodrich first suspected that I had outgeneraled him, he opened negotiations with the national machine of the opposition party. He decided that, if I should succeed in nominating Burbank, he would save his masters and himself by nominating as the opposition candidate a man under their and his control, and by electing him with an enormous campaign fund.
Beckett, the subtlest and most influential of the managers of the national machine of the opposition party, submitted several names to him. He selected Henry J. Simpson, Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio--a slow, shy, ultra-conservative man, his brain spun full in every cell with the cobwebs of legal technicality. He was, in his way, almost as satisfactory a candidate for the interests as Cromwell would have been. For, while he was honest, of what value is honesty when combined with credulity and lack of knowledge of affairs? They knew what advisers he would select, men trained in their service and taken from their legal staffs. They knew he would shrink from anything "radical" or "disturbing"--that is, would not molest the two packs of wolves, the business and the political, at their feast upon the public. He came of a line of bigoted adherents of his party; he led a simple, retired life among sheep and cows and books asleep in the skins of sheep and cows. He wore old-fashioned rural whiskers, thickest in the throat, thinning toward the jawbone, scant about the lower lip, absent from the upper. These evidences of unfitness to cope with up-to-date corruption seemed to endear him to the masses.
As soon as those big organs of the opposition that were in the control of the powers began to talk of Simpson as an ideal candidate, I suspected what was in the wind. But I had my hands full; the most I could then do was to supply my local "left-bower," Silliman, with funds and set him to work for a candidate for his party more to my taste. It was fortunate for me that I had cured myself of the habit of worrying. For it was plain that, if Goodrich and Beckett succeeded in getting Simpson nominated by the opposition, I should have a hard fight to raise the necessary campaign money. The large interests either would finance Simpson or, should I convince them that Burbank was as good for their purposes as Simpson, would be indifferent which won.
I directed Silliman to work for Rundle of Indiana, a thoroughly honest man, in deadly earnest about half a dozen deadly wrong things, and capable of anything in furthering them--after the manner of fanatics. If he had not been in public life, he would have been a camp-meeting exhorter. Crowds liked to listen to him; the radicals and radically inclined throughout the West swore by him; he had had two terms in Congress, had got a hundred-odd votes for the nomination for President at the last national convention of the opposition. A splendid scarecrow for the Wall Street crowd, but difficult to nominate over Goodrich's man Simpson in a convention of practical politicians.
In May--it was the afternoon of the very day my mutineers got back into the harness--Woodruff asked me if I would see a man he had picked up in a delegate-hunting trip into Indiana. "An old pal of mine, much the better for the twelve years' wear since I last saw him. He has always trained with the opposition. He's a full-fledged graduate of the Indiana school of politics, and that's the best. It's almost all craft there--they hate to give up money and don't use it except as a last resort."
He brought in his man--Merriweather by name. I liked the first look at him--keen, cynical, indifferent. He had evidently sat in so many games of chance of all kinds that play roused in him only the ice-cold passion of the purely professional.
"There's been nothing doing in our state for the last two or three years--at least nothing in my line," said he. "A rank outsider, Scarborough--"
I nodded. "Yes, I know him. He came into the Senate from your state two years ago."
"Well, he's built up a machine of his own and runs things to suit himself."
"I thought he wasn't a politician," said I.
Merriweather's bony face showed a faint grin. "The best ever," said he. "He's put the professionals out of business, without its costing him a cent. I've got tired of waiting for him to blow over."
Tired--and hungry, I thought. After half an hour of pumping I sent him away, detaining Woodruff. "What does he really think about Rundle?" I asked.
"Says he hasn't the ghost of a chance--that Scarborough'll control the Indiana delegation and that Scarborough has no more use for lunatics than for grafters."
This was not encouraging. I called Merriweather back. "Why don't you people nominate Scarborough at St. Louis?" said I.
Behind his surface of attention, I saw his mind traveling at lightning speed in search of my hidden purpose along every avenue that my suggestion opened.
"Scarborough'd be a dangerous man for you," he replied. "He's got a nasty way of reaching across party lines for votes."
I kept my face a blank.
"You've played politics only in your own state or against the Eastern crowd, these last few years," he went on, as if in answer to my thoughts. "You don't realize what a hold Scarborough's got through the entire West. He has split your party and the machine of his own in our state, and they know all about him and his doings in the states to the west. The people like a fellow that knocks out the regulars."
"A good many call him a demagogue, don't they?" said I.
"Yes--and he is, in sort of a way," replied Merriweather. "But--well, he's got a knack of telling the truth so that it doesn't scare folks. And he's managed to convince them that he isn't looking out for number one. It can't be denied that he made a good governor. For instance, he got after the monopolies, and the cost of living is twenty per cent. lower in Indiana than just across the line in Ohio."
"Then I should say that all the large interests in the country would line up against him," said I.
"Every one," said Merriweather, and an expression of understanding flitted across his face. He went on: "But it ain't much use talking about him. He couldn't get the nomination--at least, it wouldn't be easy to get it for him."
"I suppose not," said I. "That's a job for a first-class man--and they're rare." And I shook hands with him.
About a week later he returned, and tried to make a report to me. But I sent him away, treating him very formally. I appreciated that, being an experienced and capable man, he knew the wisdom of getting intimately in touch with his real employer; but, as I had my incomparable Woodruff, better far than I at the rough work of politics, there was no necessity for my entangling myself. Merriweather went to Woodruff, and Woodruff reported to me--Scarborough's friends in Indianapolis all agreed that he did not want the nomination and would not have it.
"We must force it on him," said I. "We must have Scarborough."
Immediately after Burbank's nomination, Goodrich concentrated upon nominating Judge Simpson. He had three weeks, and he worked hard and well. I think he overdid it in the editorials in our party organs under his influence in New York, Boston and other eastern cities--never a day without lugubrious screeds on the dismal outlook for Burbank if the other party should put up Simpson. But his Simpson editorials in big opposition papers undoubtedly produced an effect. I set for De Milt and his bureau of underground publicity the task of showing up, as far as it was prudent to expose intimate politics to the public, Goodrich and his crowd and their conspiracy with Beckett and his crowd to secure the opposition nomination for a man of the same offensive type as Cromwell. And I directed Woodruff to supply Silliman and Merriweather and that department of my "bi-partizan" machine with all the money they wanted. "They can't spend much to advantage at this late day except for traveling expenses," said I. "Our best plan, anyhow, is good honest missionary work with the honest men of the other party who wish to see its best man nominated."
While Goodrich's agents and Beckett's agents were industriously arranging the eastern machinery of the opposition party for Simpson, Merriweather had Silliman's men toiling in the West and South to get Rundle delegates or uninstructed delegations. And, after our conversation, he was reinforced by Woodruff and such men of his staff as could be used without suspicion. Woodruff himself could permeate like an odorless gas; you knew he was there only by the results. Nothing could be done for Rundle in his own state; but the farther away from his home our men got, the easier it was to induce--by purchase and otherwise--the politicians of his party to think well of him. This the more because they regarded Simpson as a "stuff" and a "stiff"--and they weren't far wrong.
"It may not be Scarborough, and it probably won't be Rundle," Woodruff said in his final report to me, "but it certainly won't be Simpson. He's the dead one, no matter how well he does on the first ballot."
But I would not let him give me the details--the story of shrewd and slippery plots, stratagems, surprises. "I am worn out, mind and body," said I in apology for my obvious weariness and indifference.
For six months I had been incessantly at work. The tax upon memory alone, to say nothing of the other faculties, had been crushing. Easy as political facts always were for me, I could not lightly bear the strain of keeping constantly in mind not merely the outlines, but also hundreds of the details, of the political organizations of forty-odd states with all their counties. And the tax on memory was probably the least. Then added to all my political work was business care; for while I was absorbed in politics, Ed Ramsay had badly muddled the business. Nor had I, like Burbank and Woodruff, the power to empty my mind as I touched the pillow and so to get eight hours of unbroken rest each night.
Woodruff began asking me for instructions. But my judgment was uncertain, and my imagination barren. "Do as you think best," said I. "I must rest. I've reached my limit,"--my limit of endurance of the sights and odors and befoulings of these sewers of politics I must in person adventure in order to reach my goal. I must pause and rise to the surface for a breath of decent air or I should not have the strength to finish these menial and even vile tasks which no man can escape if he is a practical leader in the practical activities of practical life.
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