The Ills of Pennsylvania

“ IN the long run,” wrote Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, in a passage which is said to have cost him fifty thousand Quaker votes, “ a class of professional non-combatants is as hurtful to the best interests of a community as a class of professional wrong-doers.”These words, we shall see, set forth one of the causes of Pennsylvania’s political corruption.

But before we lay Pennsylvania’s shame at the doors of a sect whose personal morality is leagues above the average of other denominations, let us inquire a moment.

“ What’s the matter with Pennsylvania?” shouted the Quay captains, flushed with victory, after the famous fight of 1895 ; and from every corner of Harrisburg, from the marching columns of heelers with which Quay delights to add a touch of mediæval pageantry to his battles, from lips that smacked with the thought of the loaves and fishes of official plunder, came the slow, hoarse, exultant slogan, “She’s all right! ” But a few weeks ago, when Philadelphia tried to borrow $9,000,000 at 3 per cent, and got only $5000, then the bankers and business men would have taken time to think before answering the question, “ What’s the matter with Pennsylvania ? ” When political knavery reaches the point where the state’s financial credit is impaired, then even calloused Pennsylvania realizes it is no longer a mere cry of “ wolf,” and begins a searching of hearts.

What’s the matter with Pennsylvania ? Indeed, she hath more than one disease. But the principal one is, she is politically the most corrupt state in the Union. I know the editor of the Philadelphia Press denied this vehemently. “We only seem so,” said he, “because the lid is off just now ; instead of being blamed we ought to be praised. We took the lid off, ourselves ; other states leave it on.” His loyalty I appreciate; his logic I deplore. I am more inclined to the testimony of another Philadelphia editor : “ I lived in Nevada in the boom times ; I have lived in New York through several administrations ; I have lived in the easy virtue of official Washington. Pennsylvania beats them all. Pennsylvania has every kind of political deviltry I ever saw or heard of elsewhere, and a few more that she has evolved herself.”

Now why ? Why cannot Philadelphia borrow money at 3 per cent, when other large cities can, and Baltimore can borrow for less ? Why do you expect a fresh tale of political debauchery in Pennsylvania in your morning paper as regularly as floods in Texas or train robberies in Montana ? Why does your casual acquaintance in the smoking car, when you tell him your native state, ask you, “ What’s the matter with that state of yours, anyhow ? ” And what answer ought you to make him, if you had made a thorough study of the deeper causes of the trouble? If it were New York, the question would insult your intelligence. You would merely point to the ships at the immigrant station, adding two hundred a day to the voting population, — many of them ignorant and venal ; making 82 per cent of New York’s population foreign-born or the children of foreign-born. But in Pennsylvania —

Here is the story : —


Native-born of native parents. 44 per cent.

Foreigners.56 per cent.

Pennsylvania :

Native-born of native parents. 66 per cent.

Foreigners.34 per cent.

Boston :

Native-born of native parents. 35 per cent.

Foreigners.65 per cent.


Native-born of native parents. 47 per cent.

Foreigners.53 per cent.

As Webster said, “ Massachusetts, — there she stands.” And Pennsylvania, — there she stands, too. Philadelphia is the most native-born and the most evil large city in America. You can’t dismiss Pennsylvania’s problem with a shrug of the shoulders and an easily uttered “ Oh, hordes of ignorant foreigners ! ” You may go over the whole list of the bosses and sub-bosses of the state, and find hardly ever a “Mac,” or an “O,” or a “berg,” or a “stein,” or a “ ski.” It is sons of the Revolution, descendants of the first inhabitants, that are responsible for Pennsylvania’s condition. Now why ? Why is Massachusetts, with her native-born in a numerical minority, the best governed commonwealth in the Union, while Pennsylvania, with her native-born in large majority, wallows in corruption ?

The first answer is, Because Pennsylvania has an overwhelming Republican majority. But this is too obvious to be good. It does n’t carry us anywhere. Why does Pennsylvania have such Republican majorities ? Again the obvious answer, Because it is a manufacturing state, and wants a protective tariff. But so is Massachusetts a manufacturing state, so does Massachusetts want a protective tariff. Massachusetts’ delegations in Congress have been just as largely in favor of protection as Pennsylvania’s ; Massachusetts has just as uniformly gone Republican in general elections when protection was involved ; yet the Massachusetts Republican voter does not obey the Pennsylvania behest, “ Hold your nose and vote the straight ticket.”

No, you must look deeper than the tariff for the cause of Pennsylvania’s corruption. In the long run, the politician is a correct representative of the people. You can’t have corrupt politicians without some moral deficiency in the mass of the voters. And that is precisely what you have in Pennsylvania. If Mr. Quay ever reduces the lessons of his valuable experience into a Confucian book of maxims, the first will be, “ Every man has his price.” For carload lots, f. o. b. at Baltimore, to serve as repeaters at the Philadelphia elections, $1.00 per head ; for a member of the legislature at a critical pinch, $37,000 ; for a respectable business man and church official to lend the dignity of bis name to a Quay meeting, a reduced assessment on his property, or a franchise to a company of which he is a director ; for a socially ambitious nouveau riche, the appointment of his son as under secretary of a foreign legation.

A very popular clergyman in Philadelphia— popular in the sense of being widely known, and drawing congregations notable rather for numbers than for discriminating intelligence — included among his philanthropic activities the presidency of a large hospital. The institution depends for maintenance chiefly on state aid, appropriations made by the legislature at each session. Two years ago the clergyman was in the ranks of the reformers, and his hospital was not on the list when the appropriation bill was passed. This year the clergyman needed $50,000 for his hospital, needed it badly. The machine just as badly needed moral support, clerical support, a badge of respectability for a notorious bill then pending before the legislature. The conditions were just right for a deal. The clergyman, not very gracefully, made a public speech in favor of the bill, and got his appropriation, — $50,000 ; not for himself, for he probably would n’t sell his vote or his influence for his personal profit, but for his hospital.

“ Does a thing like this shock Pennsylvania ? ” I asked a business man.

“ Well,” he said, “ did n’t the preacher do right ? Ain’t he doing better to get $50,000 for his hospital and help the sick than to set himself up as a holier-thanthou reformer and get nothing ? You’ve got to be practical in this world.”

Now, I know that this sort of thing is mere ‘log-rolling.” I know it happens, in one shape or another, in other legislatures, and even in better places than legislatures are commonly counted. I know it is not forbidden by the decalogue, nor yet by human statute. It is not even a thing for which we blackball men at the club. It is not looked on as an evil; but it is none the less the thing that keeps the machine in power.

Every hospital, every institution, that depends on state appropriations is compelled to yield tribute in this way. I know a state senator in an interior town who is offensive, because of his allegiance to Quay, to the majority of his constituents, but has been returned again and again on this argument: “He stands in with the machine, and can get us an appropriation. If we send the Wanamaker candidate to Harrisburg, he ’ll be an outsider, and we ’ll have to close our hospital.” The hospital, in this case, is an institution of much local pride, and its welfare commands enough unwilling votes to return a Quay member of the legislature from a naturally anti-Quay district. Not only do the hospitals pay tribute in the shape of votes, as in the case just mentioned ; they are also compelled to pay by giving a mantle of decency to the machine cause, as in the case of the clergyman. The directorates of the hospitals and normal schools of the state include the most worthy men in their communities, the natural leaders of the reform movement. But they are constrained, for their institutions’ good, to pay the tribute of silence, or often of actual moral support, to the machine.

Another club much used by the machine is its power to harass the citizen’s individual business interests. Here is an instance : A large cotton mill in the northern part of Philadelphia wanted a new street opened and larger water mains laid. The manager of the mill brought the matter to the attention of the city council in the ordinary way, but it was tabled. On inquiry, it was intimated that the matter could be “ fixed ” for $15,000. But the manager did n’t believe in doing things that way, and held out for over a year. Meanwhile, the mill was prevented from making contemplated enlargements, and suffered financially. The directors became restive, investigated, and found that a manager with a Scotch sense of morality was standing between them and profits. They decided they wanted a more “ practical ” man for manager (this word “ practical ” has in Pennsylvania a peculiar shade of meaning indigenous to the state), and at the next annual meeting they made the change. Here is another example: An official of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, a man of great wealth and influence, was mentioned as a good man to preside at the reform meeting brought about by the recent franchise scandals. Apropos of the suggestion a minion of the machine remarked, “Oh, I guess he won’t lift up his voice a great ways.” The reason for his confidence was that there is a public alley between two buildings of the Baldwin works. It is closed at one end. Nobody uses it, nobody could possibly want to use it, from one year’s end to the other, except the Baldwin company, who have it filled with machinery and material. But it would be an easy matter for a vindictive mayor to order the alley cleared, to the great inconvenience of the Baldwin company.

The way in which Mr. Wanamaker’s business interests have been blackmailed is well known even outside Pennsylvania. His store is an inadequate old two-story building, a transformed freight shed. He has long wanted to put up a new one. On one occasion he had gone so far as to buy the structural iron. He asked for a permit to put the heating apparatus, for purposes of cheaper insurance, in another building he owned, farther down the street, and conduct the pipes underground to the new building. The permit was refused by the mayor, and the merchant’s plans were blocked. Last year, on the day before Christmas, when his store was filled with customers, an officer of the Department of Public Safety visited Mr. Wanamaker, and ordered him to move his tables, on which holiday goods were displayed, back from the aisles. The weight of the crowds may have been dangerous ; but every one understood that Mr. Wanamaker’s financial loss, rather than the safety of the public, was the object of the city government’s interference. All these incidents are familiar in Philadelphia. They are discussed as generally as the new elevated road in Boston, but they shock no one.

As for the buying of individual votes, that is so common I almost neglected to mention it. I was driving with a lawyer friend in one of the southwestern counties, a community Scotch-Irish in origin, and native American two centuries back. We met a shirt-sleeved farmer, an acquaintance of the lawyer. The farmer was a man of action. No empty formalities about the weather for him. He came to business at once.

“ Well, colonel,” he said to the lawyer, “ I suppose we ’ll be able to do a little business together next week ? ”

“ I’m afraid not, Henry,” replied the lawyer ; “ there’s no money at all floatin’ around, this campaign.”

“ All right,” said the farmer truculently, as he slapped the reins on his horse’s back. “ No money, no votes, I guess. Get ep, Jinny.”

“ Now, Old Godly Parity,” said my friend, who knew my ideas about bribery, “ there ’s a case for you. That man owns a two-hundred-acre farm clear, and he ’s got four thousand dollars’ worth of bank stock ; but he’s mad clean through because I won’t give him five dollars for his vote and his hired man’s. I told him the truth: there is no money this time, for there’s no fight on. But I suppose I ’ll have to give him something, just to keep him in line for the time when I need him. I would n’t mind if he was a poor man: you can’t expect a man to leave his cornfield and go two miles to vote for nothing. But that fellow’s an old skinflint. He counts on five dollars for his family’s vote twice a year just as certainly as he depends on the sale of his wheat crop and his fat hogs.”

A word should be said about the reformers. “Reformers? ” said a distinguished Philadelphia woolen manufacturer, who had given me much light on other aspects of the situation. “ One half fools, the other half frauds.” Now, like all epigrams, that is an exaggeration. Undoubtedly, even my cynical business friend would except at least one or two of the better known leaders ; and I should except a very large body of independent voters, most of them well-todo farmers and small tradesmen in the interior counties. These men, in the face of discouraging defeat, each year take up the fight with unfailing enthusiasm. One must admire their sincerity and endurance ; but their blind faith in their leaders, their inability to realize or refusal to acknowledge that they have been betrayed again and again, diminishes one’s sympathy. Every six months one or another of the Quay captains becomes dissatisfied over the division of spoils, and leaves, or is forced to leave, the machine. Immediately the reformers receive him as a prophet. Their newspapers hail him in hysteric headlines. He takes hold of the reform forces. He is a good leader, or else he would never have been a machine captain. He makes a good fight; and when he is strong enough to be dangerous, there are overtures from the machine, and he “ sells out,” as the Pennsylvania vocabulary has it. This has happened again and again. Were a quarrel to come today between Quay and Ashbridge, Ashbridge would be found to-morrow commanding the enthusiastic loyalty of the reformers. An analogous thing happened a few years ago. Three fourths of the reform leaders to-day were formerly high in the Quay councils, and their names are associated with the worst acts of the machine. The reformers have a curious inability to realize that this prejudices their cause. “ We’ve found out how to do it now,” said one of them naïvely, speaking of the present fight: “ this time we ’re going to fight the devil with fire. We’re hiring a lot of the machine’s own 'ward men ’ and ‘ window men ’ ” (heelers who attend to getting out the vote on election day).

To show how easily the reformers are imposed on, I have a story from a Quay member of the legislature. Two years ago a machine leader holding a seventhousand - dollar office resigned, with much flourish of trumpets about his conscience and the error of his ways, and for six months stood high in the councils of the reformers. Then he turned a back somersault into the Quay camp again. The whole performance was planned in advance. It was a simple and successful instance of sending a spy into the enemy’s stronghold.

How is the Democratic party kept small, disorganized, and inefficient ? Again the tariff ? By no means. Quay rules the Democratic party perhaps more effectively than the Republican. Enough of the local leaders are in his pay to sway the party. Democrats who got into the state and federal offices when Cleveland and Pattison were in power are retained by Quay as the price of guiding the party for his interests. Some of them, to be sure, are protected by the civil service rules. But they have little faith in that protection. They feel far more comfortable when they are working for the interests of the Republican machine, and so are secure from disturbance. An aggressive, ambitious young man of Democratic antecedents, likely to become a leader, is marked by the Republican machine before he comes of age. Before he has a chance to make trouble he is seduced by a policeman’s uniform or an easy official birth. Thus is the minority party kept inefficient.

Now, what does all this indicate, — this placing of material interest above civic duty, this sale of votes and influence, by the masses for cash, by the educated for favor, for office, for hospital appropriations ? It means sluggish moral vitality, a low moral thermometer. And this inference is borne out by the conditions in other fields than politics.

Philadelphia is the arch-hypocrite of cities. One newspaper in Philadelphia supports the machine; the other eight pay daily homage to reform, in doubleleaded editorials and three-column headlines. This is the Philadelphia idea exactly : for eight ninths of the papers to preach reform publicly, while eight ninths of the people practice the other thing privately. You are virtuous in Philadelphia by appearing so, not by being so. Appearances are everything. Respectability is a thing entirely divorced from conduct. It consists in living on a certain street, belonging to a certain club. You cannot get a glass of wine in a Philadelphia hotel on Sunday, with meals or without them. But the Law and Order League can raid two hundred “ speak-easies ” between midnight and dawn of a single night. There is a Pharisaical cry raised by those who deplore the present agitation. “ Don’t expose the city,” they say : “ it is bad policy. It will keep money from the city. It will keep business away. Let us not clean our Augean stables ; let us hide them from the eyes and nostrils of outsiders.”

If I were dealing in glittering generalities and comfortable platitudes instead of facts, I might repeat, with the same ample gesture, the words of the speaker at the town meeting : “At last Philadelphia is aroused ; the plunderers have gone too far.” But the appropriate comment is that brief but eloquent one of Sir Admiral Hawser, K. C. B., “Bah! ” Philadelphia never gets aroused. It is unbecoming, undignified, to be aroused. The Puck and Judge and New York Sun jokes are not so far wrong. Philadelphia’s vitality is that of a fireside grandfather, who sleeps twenty hours of the day, and nods the other four. All this fuss is a part of Philadelphia’s habitual hypocrisy. It is of a piece with her press pretensions of reform. Yearly, on the eve of election, the papers shriek in three-column headlines: “At last! The city is aroused! ” Yearly, the morning after, they wail: “ Alas ! The city is snowed under” — with bogus ballots. And what if the present movement should win ? What is the office at issue ? District attorney. These waves of reform occur too regularly in “ off ” years, — the years when tax collectors and coroners are to be elected, — and never when the governorship or the senator’s seat is at issue !

Since the monumental rascality recently exposed, Pennsylvania has had much sympathy. This pleases Pennsylvania mightily; for a state of weak moral fibre, like an individual, loves sympathy. Philadelphia reprints in her own papers pages of condolences from outside, and in her own editorial columns wails lugubriously. But is Philadelphia really indignant ? Is the cartoon correct that represents William Penn, with disheveled hair, brandishing in his hand a nine-lashed whip to drive the rascals out ? No. The editorial wailings, the town meetings with a hundred speakers and a thousand vice presidents, all have an effect as of stage thunder, and leave us unconvinced.

After he has noticed the statue of William Penn, and commented on the universal white marble steps and doorsills, the next conspicuous object to catch the stranger’s eye in the Quaker City is the “ busybody.” Just below the secondstory windows of row after row of houses projects a three-sided mirror arrangement, designed to reflect affairs on the sidewalk into the room above. In the case of your own acquaintances, of course, this serves a legitimate purpose. Madam in the second story can tell, without leaning out of the window, after the fashion of McFadden’s alley, who her caller is at the door below, and can decide whether or not she is at home before the maid goes down. But the universal name “ busybody ” suggests a less worthy use of these mirrors, — in families other than your own acquaintances, of course. The busybody is distinctly a Philadelphia institution. I know no one who has seen it in any other city. Fifty thousand women spending their afternoons in fifty thousand rocking chairs, observing the callers at their neighbors’ doors, the passers-by on the sidewalk, and even happenings in their neighbors’ second stories, — this is perhaps an even more depressing feature of a city’s life than stolen franchises and bribed councilmen.

Philadelphia was once the capital of the United States; she was once the metropolis. Philadelphia was once the centre of New World society; she had once the greatest foreign commerce in America. Philadelphia was once the American centre of art and literature. She has lost all these claims to distinction ; if she loses her good name, she will have one virtue left, — consistency.

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania persistently invite comparison. In the matter of their respective contributions to the American gallery of immortals, the difference is so striking it need only be suggested. Practically, it is the comparison of a blank page with a full one. Frederic Harrison, I believe it is, in an essay on Reading, remarks that for a young man born in poverty, and ambitious to make his way in the world, there is no author like Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s career, as Franklin’s writings, is essentially an inspiration toward getting on in the world. Franklin is preëminently the apostle of “ brownstone - front respectability.” All Poor Richard’s maxims are but variations of one exhortation, “Young man, put money in thy purse.” It is a fair expression of all Franklin’s philosophy. Compare it with any epigrammatic summing up you may attempt of the career and teachings of Whittier, of Sumner, of Phillips, of Adams, of Garrison. By all means, if there be any dispute about it, give Pennsylvania one niche in the Hall of Fame; Massachusetts has enough and to spare. Credit Franklin, not to the land of his birth, but to the congenial soil of his fruition, the enthusiastic and literal disciple of his worldly wisdom.

A gentleman of broad experience and keen observation, who has been in a position to employ large numbers of educated young men in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, says he has become accustomed to three distinct types of the letter of introduction, one indigenous to each city. In Boston ; “ Permit me to introduce Mr. Jones, who graduated with highest honors in classics and political economy at Harvard, and later took a degree at Berlin. He speaks and writes French and German, and if you employ him I am sure his learning will make his services extremely valuable to you.” In New York : “ The bearer, Mr. Brown, is the young fellow who took hold of Street and Company’s Chicago branch when it was so run down, a few years ago, and built it up to a hundred thousand a year. He also made a great hit as Jackson and Company’s representative in London.

He’s a hustler, all right, and you ’ll make no mistake if you take him on.” In Philadelphia : “ SIR, — Allow me the honor to introduce Mr. RittenhousePenn. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a colonel in the Revolution, and on his father’s side he is connected with two of the most exclusive families in our city. He is related by marriage with the Philadelphia lady who married Count Taugenichts, and his family has always lived on Spruce Street. If you should see fit to employ him, I feel certain that his desirable social connections would render him of great value to you.” This story, I am well aware, looks suspiciously like an amplification of a very ancient tale, of uncertain origin, which every one has heard ; but it has a responsible father, and it serves to represent the tests by which men are measured in the three cities.

Pennsylvania is a state of large corporations. Office in them is more attractive than political office. The president of the Pennsylvania Railroad gets $50,000 a year; the governor of the state, $10,000. The president of the railroad controls over 150,000 employees; the governor, perhaps 500. The presidency of the railroad lasts for life; the governorship, for a thorny, uncertain four years. There are in the Pennsylvania Railroad system more than two hundred officials that have more pay and more power than the governor of the state; and there are in the state a score of corporations only a little less imposing than the Pennsylvania Railroad. Is it any wonder that the best of the young men take to the corporations, and devote their every energy to promotion therein, leaving politics to the less capable, the less intelligent, the less moral ? At one time it was the young lawyer’s ambition to come to the front in politics ; now it is to become a corporation counsel. So he leaves speech-making alone, and devotes himself to corporation law.

Besides, in Pennsylvania, the young men of wealth and good birth look with disfavor on politics. No less a Philadelphian than Mr. Owen Wister, who was born in a position to know whereof he speaks, tells this story : The descendant of an old Philadelphia family had written some verses, and showed them to a fellow clubman. “Excellent,” said his friend. “I shall publish them,” said the author. The other was horrified. “ The verses are all very well,” he said, when pressed for a reason, “ but— publish a book — is that the sort of thing one does, don’t you know ? ” Now, politics, like publishing books, is not “the sort of thing one does, don’t you know,” in Philadelphia. Had Senator Lodge and the late Governor Wolcott been born in Philadelphia, they might have attained fame as golf champions or cotillion leaders, but never as writers, college professors, or politicians, except at the sacrifice of social position.

There is an historic reason. The Quakers were — and are — a good people. This cannot be too much emphasized. Membership in the Society of Friends is as strong an evidence as can be given that a man possesses every personal virtue. For the conditions that beset Pennsylvania the present generation of Quakers are in no sense responsible. They are now too few to sway the state one way or another. But if the early Quakers had had the spirit of the Puritan fathers, Pennsylvania might have been held steadier to the moorings of civic decency. It is unnecessary to draw any comparison between the personal virtues of the Puritans and the Quakers. That question was thrashed out at length on Boston Common some years ago, and was decided, in the manner of the time, to the satisfaction of the Puritans at least, by a gallows rope with a Quaker at the end of it.

It is one of the anomalies of history that when the Puritan hanged the Quaker, both were happy, — the one to hang a man for his belief, the other to die for his belief. This brings out strongly the distinction between them. The Puritans were a church militant. The Puritan went to church with a Bible in one hand, and in the other a musket for hostile Indians. The Quaker settled his difficulties with the Indians by reading tracts to them. When the Quaker came to the Puritan commonwealth to spread a doctrine which the Puritan did n’t like, the Puritan beat him and drove him out ; and when the Quaker came meekly back to turn the other cheek, the Puritan hanged him. The point is this : the Puritan insisted on governing his commonwealth in his own way. He founded his commonwealth to carry out a certain set of ideas, and he never let his eye wander from that purpose. What the Puritan resolved upon was to be done : he would have no objector, be he Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, or Quaker. The Puritan formed the dominating habit, and to this day Puritan ideas dominate the essentially non-Puritan population of Massachusetts.

Among the Quakers, on the other hand, meekness was the cardinal virtue. Their creed forbids them to bear arms. It does not, in so many words, forbid them to take part in politics, but certainly the rough and tumble of actual party contest is hostile to the ideal which the Quaker seeks to follow. The early Quakers, instead of strangling doctrines not in agreement with their own, instead of casting out the apostles of strange creeds, welcomed them, tolerated them. They soon came to the point where they were tolerating intolerance. Put in a minority by the unrestricted immigration of less worthy people, and lacking the strenuous, dominating spirit of the Puritans, the early Quakers soon let the control of the colony pass into the hands of the less desirable elements ; and there it has always remained.

A Pennsylvanian.