Governed by Knaves and Fools
June 5, 2014 - Cathryn Spence
Last year the Museum accepted a precious family archive. These fascinating documents tell the story of a family with connections to Martha Washington, General Lee, two signatories of the Declaration of Independence and a number of American presidents. Yet, despite these worthy relations, many of the letters are mundane exchanges about the weather and general health. Many are heart warming exclamations of love for distant or lost friends and relatives, and some are forthright rants about the state of economic and political affairs! The letter transcribed below was written in December 1907 from New York. It was sent from Chapman Johnson Leigh to Alfred Greenwood, his son-in-law, who was living in Gibraltar and makes fascinating reading. A country run down by the greed and consumption of politicians and money men with a weak and unpopular government and unsettling rivalries in Europe…
Here we have not suffered from rain storms but from something worse, in the way of financial disaster, which have shaken the country from centre to circumference, and to a degree that people scarcely know their heads from their heels.
The chief trouble was caused by the almost boundless consumption in the general, state and city governments which have been exposed during the past three years, to the profound amazement of the people, and the reckless speculations and extravagance everywhere, both in public and private affairs.
Added to the effect of the terrific disclosures of consumption in high places, the country has been turned upside down by the endless gab of Roosevelt, whose ceaseless tongue has been wagging incessantly. He went on a so called bear hunt in Louisiana in October, (the result of one bear being killed by someone in the party), and on his return, early in November, he took occasion when making a speech in Nashville, Tennessee, to say that intended to continue his policy of bringing all corporations to book for their violations of the law, no matter how much ruin was fastened on the country generally, and this “unswervingly” until the end of his term of office, (4th March, 1909).
But by the time he reached Washington he swerved desperately, closing his mouth absolutely, in the face of the utter disruption of business all over the country, the like of which in its magnitude was never know before in all its history.
It is a curious thing, by the way, that in the speech of the Kaiser at the Lord Mayors’ banquet, he took occasion to aver he had always been a firm advocate of peace for all nations, (quite forgetful of his telegram of congratulation to [President Kruger], when the Jameson Raiders were captured, which fairly enraged England), and firm by intended to continue that policy “unswervingly”, there making use of Roosevelt’s rather remarkable expression (uttered a fortnight before the Kaiser spoke), uttered as though he was the master of all creation. It is to be hoped, however, that the Kaiser will adhere to his later determination, and not follow the example of Louis Napoleon when he declared that the “Empire was peace”, a sentiment illustrated by Punch in a cartoon representing a porcupine with the head of Napoleon, and with a bayonet at the end of every quill, and saying “he may be very peaceful but he does not look like it”.
A couple of years or so afterwards Louis Napoleon joined Sardinia in making war on Austria, with the result of capturing all the northern provinces of Austrian Italy (except Venetia), and the return of Napoleon to Paris in triumph. This was the beginning of the peaceful Empire, until in the end it crumbled into dust at Sedan.
The money troubles here are on the mend and it is much to be hoped that the improvement will continue, but it will take perhaps a long time before a normal condition will be reached. All kinds of securities suffered by the panic, to the extent of 25 to 33 per cent, the best of them included. A bad thing in the way is the wretched miserable presidential canvass which will commence soon, and will surely be conducted throughout ad nauseum, ‘til the election day next November.
Both the Republican and the Democratic parties are governed by knaves and fools and are unworthy of any confidence. Congress is now in reform and there is not a man in either house who knows his A B C’s. In the present dilemma, all of them groping in the dark and trusting to luck in getting out of it – and so, alas, with his Imperial Majesty, Roosevelt, of the big head, and his ignoramuses advisors.
The only redeeming feature politically is in the profitability and I hope financially of the nomination of the present Governor of New York, Mr. Hughes, a nominal Republican but no politician and a man of marked ability and high integrity, and the only Republican (so called) I ever voted for, who was elected as an Independent by independents, and who has lived up to pledges without wavering a hair breadth, to the utter disconcert of the leaders of the Republican all over the country.
Roosevelt is right in one sense in his raid on consumptionists [sic], but he is himself a beneficiary of consumption, both in the McKinley and his own canvass, inasmuch as vast sums were collected from rich corporations including the three largest Life Insurance Companies, who each advanced $50,000 and support of the Republican canvass, and all this to his own individual knowledge, this being the moral contribution.
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