SINCE last month the present shabby Presidential contest can hardly be said to have developed anything novel, so far as ideas or principles are concerned, unless it be the nominations of the Straight-out Democratic Convention at Louisville. These Democrats enter the field under the leadership of the much-refusing Mr. O’Conor, and are understood by disinterested Republicans to exhibit uncommon virtue, as if to the Democrat unchanged by the events of the last ten years any virtue save hari-kari were possible. As for other parties, many of us who will vote for General Grant are still not sensible of being animated by any higher motive than the desire of self-preservation ; which may be high enough, though the choice of a minor evil does not produce that lift and glow in the chooser which the more exacting might demand. They who are going to vote for Mr. Greeley are as noisily inspired as ever with their grand purpose of reconciliation, and are still busily clasping hands with a benign figment of their fancy which wears, according to the former relations of each reconciler, now the griefworn face of what Mr. Greeley poetically calls a broken-hearted people, now the contrite sweetness of a converted Democracy, and now the severely classic yet alluring aspect of office. These stage-embraces, which may be very real to the actors in them, do not persuade the beholder to any vivid faith in their sincerity. We see them ; we must allow that they are very energetic; but we think with misgiving that these loving brothers may be still rivals and enemies behind the scenes, as they always have been. Doubtless the millennium will come with a rush when it does come ; but is this the millennium ? The average voter shakes his head and goes away from the tender spectacle more resolved than before to make the best of General Grant, feeling that in him is not immediate chaos.
This at least seems to have been the effect upon the average voter in Maine and Vermont, where the work of reconciliation has only gone so far as to reconcile the Republicans to their triumph, without bringing a corresponding sense of resignation to the coalitionsists. These console themselves as they can with the reflection that Maine is chiefly formed of unintelligent rural communities, and that from Vermont they could not reasonably have expected anything. If it should fall out that Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana follow the New England States, we suppose that the disappointed party will not want reasons besides the majorities against it to account for the result; and if in November it should be totally defeated, we may still expect something ingenious from a party led to ruin by a philosopher.
But in the mean time its candidate has not been idle. It is a few weeks since one of General Grant’s numerous deplorable relations attempted to make Greeley capital by a savage and cowardly assault upon an editor ; and in the latter part of September Mr. Greeley regularly took the stump for General Grant. We know that this was not his avowed purpose in thus mingling with the people, but we believe that this will be found to have been the effect all the same, at the October elections ; and Grant men can have no dispute with him for his action. As for the affair in the abstract, it is a matter of taste whether a Presidential candidate should or should not ask the voices of the people. There is nothing criminal in it. as there is not in several other unusual things. A lady may ask a gentleman to marry her without violating any command of the decalogue, and in an extreme case it would be cruel to forbid her. So, too, a candidate for the Presidency may propose himself to the nation before popular assemblages, and in an extreme case it would be cruel to forbid him. But, on the whole, usage and prejudice are both very much against positive action in either case. It is thought a dignified part in a lady or a candidate in so serious an affair as marriage or the Presidency, to wait till they are asked, and it is believed that they would only hurt their cause by making advances. We think that General Scott is the only modern instance of a candidate soliciting the favor of the people, and his success was really so small that it did not establish a precedent. None of our great men from Washington to Lincoln has done anything to sanction such a course; they have all apparently disapproved it, and
modestly remaining in the background. But it may he retorted by his friends that Mr. Greeley is not at all a Washington or a Lincoln, and that he is of too open a nature to assume the virtue of modesty if he has it not. They may add that as to dignity, he is the only man who could do what he has done without loss of dignity, —for an obvious reason. There is a great deal of force in this, and the moderate Grant man, the voter of the minor-evil type, may well leave the point in abeyance. But as to the material of Mr. Greeley’s speeches, we do not see how there can be any question. He tells how he means to distribute the offices, denying this and affirming that; he scolds tlie veteran soldiers who assemble in convention against him; he declares that he will not pay rebel pensions, as if he were master of the party that makes him; he soundly rates the Grant office-holders who go about speech-making; he explains in Ohio what he said in Pennsylvania ; he boasts the strength of his party, and brags in one place of the crowd that heard him in another ; he disputes what the local newspapers say of him ; he pretends that the United States treasury is used to buy votes against him; wherever he has ten minutes, he reconstructs his platform; when he gets home to New York he replies to the insinuation that his people have telegraphed for him, declaring in effect that his escapade was sanctioned by the best authorities in his motley party,— that he did not run off at all, and has not been brought back. His electioneering makes us forget the vulgarity of Johnson; and destroys all lingering hope that if the worst comes to the worst and he is chosen President, the cares of office, will bring gravity and decorum with them. The responsibilities of leadership have brought him nothing of the kind; and there is no reason to suppose that halting wisdom would overtake him by the 4th of March.
As we have intimated, we believe that all this will help to elect General Grant. At any rate it makes him appear in contrast a figure of lofty and dignified excellence. It exaggerates his good points and casts a flattering light upon his bad ones. The chooser of the minor evil may almost exult in the man who is to save us from such a President as we are threatened with in Mr. Greeley. For these reasons we ought perhaps to be grateful to Mr. Greeley, who has not only benefited his enemies, but has helped to enliven one of the dullest canvasses ever known. But for his peculiar gifts, we should have suffered with ennui. He is not only amusing in himself, but is the cause of making others amuse us. What leader but he could have brought out Mr. Sumner as a humorist ? Or General Banks ? Or placed General Butler in the attitude of a friend of civilization ? Or won over Mr. Phillips from the advocacy of his favorite political theory of anything for the pulling down of government ?
Then think of the vast numbers of editor-people and orator-people whom he has set to beating straw throughout the country, — old straw, musty straw, straw that has scarcely so much as a husk of chaff in it, — at which they thresh away day after day, week after week, with all the zeal of men garnering a harvest ! Imagine his so inspiring his strange forces that Liberal Republicans can pretend to believe in the honesty of Tammany Democrats, — that Tammany Democrats can talk of political reform without so much as winking an eye or thrusting the tongue into the cheek, — that the red-handed Ku-Klux can speak of reconciliation without laughing !
It is a great deal to do, and Mr. Greeley is a great actor and a most efficient stagemanager to boot. These qualities ought not to be passed without some recognition ; but after all, we do not covet them in a President. There are some things which his election would effect, possibly very pleasant to see. It would be amusing to behold the rush of the Democratic hordes upon Washington to share in that impartial distribution of places which has been promised them, — the Democrats from Massachusetts and the Democrats from Arkansas, alike lank and fierce with their long fast from office. It would be delightful to contemplate the Liberal Republican civil-service reformers reducing these cormorants to order. It would be inspiring to see the famous placard for resuming specie payment pinned on the Treasury door. It would be charming to receive again as rulers the unrepentant but reconciled rebel leaders and their sympathizers, who tried to destroy us as a people.
But would it be worth the price that we must pay to have all these entertaining novelties ? We should not begrudge any ordinary outlay, but we think that Mr. Greeley asks too much for his proposed exhibition, and the people should really deny themselves the indulgence. He cannot complain of unfairness. He has had quite sufficient scope for his talents during the campaign, and he has not neglected his opportunities. He promises he will not seek to repeat his entertainment; but even in so short a time as four years it might pall upon us. Those who think differently may comfort themselves with the fact that Mr. Greeley, even if not elected, is not lost to us. We can still have him as an editor, — perhaps even as a supporter of Grant’s second administration.