To the rule that Presidential messages are usually excellent studies in the art of saying nothing unforeseen or unexpected we have not found the late message of General Grant an exception. Every one is in favor of amnesty; so is the President. Every one is in favor of monogamy; so is the President. Nobody doubts the necessity of a reduction of taxation; neither does the President. The glorious termination of the Alabama difficulty and the reduction of the debt delight every one, including the President; nothing puzzles the country at large so much as the question of free-trade and protection ; it is exactly so with the President. And finally, though the President’s enemies say that he is still intent on his scheme for the annexation of San Domingo, the message indicates nothing of the kind; and though they maintain also that he cares nothing for a reformed civil service, the message says the exact reverse. On the whole, the message, as a message, is as near perfection as anything human can be. It has received the unanimous commendation of the best portion of the press throughout the country as a manly, straightforward, and simple address, and it has left the public quite as clear (to say the least) as to General Grant's motives and political aims as they have been for the last three years.
The reports of the heads of departments, and especially that of the Secretary of the Treasury are documents of a different kind. Mr. Boutwell emerges from the obscurity which all administrative officers naturally seek, and discloses to the world a full, true, and particular account of his financial proceedings. These proceedings, of course, include those of the far-famed Syndicate, a name which but for these disclosures might perhaps have been handed down to future generations with the fabled Gerrymander, - a mystery for all time, but Which we now find to be the European equivalent of the familiar American word "ring.''
The long and the short of Mr. Boutwell’s explanation is that he has succeeded in funding two hundred millions of United Slates bonds, by means of violating the Funding Bill. A great deal of fault has been found with him for this; but when we reflect how many laws are every year broken by officers of government, - how many sheriffs take illegal fees, how inane constables make illegal arrests, how many consuls and ministers do queer things., and in how many cases they make handsome fortunes by their violations of the law, - Mr. Boutwell may well maintain that a secretary who violates the laws of the country for the country's good and not for his private emolument is not as other men are.
To make a very brief resume of the reports of the other departments, with one or two additional facts easily accessible to all the world, we may say that the State Department, in common with the rest of the world, rejoices in the honorable settlement of the Alabama difficulty, and in common with the rest of the world, excepting Russia, in the return of M. Catacazy to the country which sent him forth. The American army has been occupied in checking the inroads of the Indians and curbing the excesses of polygamy on the Plains, and in the less remote West in protecting the city of Chicago against her licentious inhabitants. The navy is chiefly engaged in maintaining the department at Washington and the various navy-yards throughout the country. The protectorate of San Domingo is still being waged with relentless vigor but that is an old story. The Post-Office announces that it desires to assume the business of telegraphy.
The debate in the Senate on Mr. Trumbull’s motion for the reorganization of the Retrenchment Committee developed an unexpected strength among the ranks of those who do not agree with Mr. Morton that we have the best civil service in the world. It is singular that Mr. Morton and his friends should oppose an investigation into its condition, since the investigation could only redound to the credit of the service and of the administration which makes it what it is. But Mr. Morton and those who voted with him, no doubt, had the best possible reasons for voting as they did, though the reasons be different from what, on their own theories, they ought to be. The result of the vote showed that two fifths of the senators were of the opinion that a searching investigation into the affairs of the executive part of the government was necessary. The significance of the vote was at once perceived at the White House. The report of the Civil Service Commission was immediately sent to Congress, with the announcement that its regulations were adopted by the President, and would be applied for the future to the service.
The appearance of this report marks an important epoch in the history of the country. The recommendations of the Comission are in substance that competitive examination shall determine the qualifications of all applicants for admission to the service, and that partisan tests shall not be allowed in any case. Of course the reform does not apply to the higher offices, but to the great army of clerks, postmasters, and officers of the revenue, who now obtain their appointments as the reward of party zeal. Admissions are to be only to the lowest grades; promotions are to take place according to merit. When this plan is once in effective operation, the career of politics, formerly considered among Americans so honorable, but latterly so much the, reverse, will once again resume its old position, and, indeed, more than its old position. It will have all the characteristics of a respectable and powerful profession, founded on merit and the interest of all its members in the work to which they have devoted their lives.
A survey of the rest of the political field cannot fail to fill the most despondent with cheerful thoughts. To be sure the war its Cuba still continues, if that can be called a war which consists of brutal outrages on one side and submission on the other. The volunteers hold the island, and also the governors of it, as sufficiently appeared the other day after the riot occasioned by the affair of the medical students. The government were willing enough to give the unfortunate students fair play, but the volunteers demanded their blood, and the sacrifice was accordingly made. Meanwhile two vessels seem to be stationed off the island by our government to render assistance to refugees. Cruel as the volunteers are, however, we cannot find in their excesses any reason why the United States should buy Cuba.
But the dangers of the Cuban question are trifling. Meanwhile, in New York, the work of purification goes on, and it in evident now that the defeat of the Ring at the polls was but the first step of a triumph which will end only in the complete restoration of the citizens to their long-lost political rights. There is every reason to believe that the few creatures of Tammany who still remain in power will be driven from their offices by the incoming Lcgislature. Barnard, Cardozo, and McCunn, if they do not follow the example of their employers, and seek safety in flight, will, perhaps before this paragraph meets the eyes of our readers, be suffering the penalty of their crimes. A very short time, and they will appoint receivers and referees no more. The curtain has fallen upon the play which Tammany has so long kept upon the political boards, and will rise again under a very different management. With Tammany will also fall the Erie Ring. The municipal government of New York was so closely connected with the management of the Erie Railway, that the downfall of one involves the ruin of like other. The suits of the English stockholders furnish a point d’appui for the movement against Fisk and Gould, to say nothing of the recent disclosures made by members of a jury in a cause in which they were interested. The new Attorney-General, Mr. Barlow, is a very different kind of man from those who have of late years held the position; indeed, his election is perhaps, looking to the future, the most important single result of the reform movement.
Among the Mormons there is a lull in the fierce storm of indictments, charges, and convictions, and the opportunity afforded by the meeting of Congress will probably be used to secure the passage of a law establishing Utah on a moral and monogamic basis. It is proposed that the system of polygamy shall for the future cease, that the children of past polygamous marriages shall be legitimated, and Utah be admitted as a Stale. There is no sort of objection to these terms, and they are by far the best the Mormons are likely to obtain. This solution of the Mormon problem will also have the advantage of putting a stop to the so-called judicial proceedings which have been recently instituted in the Territory, and which have reflected anything but credit upon those engaged in them. There are, we believe, some kind-hearted people who think that what they are pleased to call the principles of American society militate against any interference with polygamy, because it is a religious custom. And this argument is supposed to be strengthened by the fact that the Mormon marriages are purely voluntary, and therefore concern only the men and women who make them. There is no similarity, it is said, between polygamy and such religious customs as those of the Thugs, which are enforced very much against the will of those chiefly interested. But this argument wholly overlooks a vital point in the case. Marriages do not merely concern the parents. They concern the offspring of the marriage, and it is for this very reason that the state interferes and enforces monogamy. The state is bound to protect the interests of its future citizens; and to treat polygamous marriages as if they concerned no one but those who voluntarily make the contract is to ignore a plain duty. All civilized modern countries consider that, in the interest of their future citizens, it is necessary to break up organized concubinage; they cannot in the nature of things treat it as a question of religion.