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money or to sacrifice the making of it in the interest of something better worth while. As much as any very successful business man, and far more than the average, Mark Hanna earned by personal economic services his private fortune. He made a genuine contribution to the economic development of the Cleveland district at a time when such contributions were not disproportionately rewarded by any accession of scarcity values. When his political enemies stamped the sign of the dollar on Mark Hanna, they literally turned his relation to money upside down. What they should have done was to stamp on every dollar he made the initials "M. A. H." — the Hanna mark. CHAPTER XI
BEGINNINGS IN POLITICS
We have already seen that about 1880 the range of Mark Hanna's business interests began suddenly to widen. The dozen years following 1867 were spent chiefly in a laborious and enterprising effort to establish the business of Rhodes & Co. on firm and broad foundations and to expand it to the limit of its opportunities. The full fruits of this effort were not gathered until after the revival of business in 1879. Thenceforward Mark Hanna had the spare money and the leisure to undertake other enterprises. He emerges as one of a score of men who had become peculiarly prominent in Cleveland business; and almost simultaneously he began also to obtain a certain prominence in local politics. During the campaign of 1880, resulting in the election of James A. Garfield, he begins to count as a politician.
His interest in politics does not date from 1880 any more than his interest in business dates from 1867. He had always been interested in politics, although there is some conflict of testimony as to the point of departure of his earlier political activity. The statement has been made that his street railway interests first induced him to take a hand in the political game; but of all the eye-witnesses of Mr. Hanna's career only one lends any support to this explanation. Mr. Charles F. Leach, formerly Collector of Customs in Cleveland, and one of Mr. Hanna's own appointees, states that before he knew intimately his subsequent political chief, he had been prejudiced against Mr. Hanna. "I had heard of him as a local politician for what appeared to be his business interests. I had known him to stand at a corner on the West Side and peddle tickets for a candidate to the City Council who was supposed to be all right on street railroad matters or anything else that might come up." That Mr. Hanna at one time was not indifferent to the kind of men who were elected to the City Council and their attitude towards the street railway is true; but it is equally true that this was only a later and incidental phase of his political activity. The main spring thereof is to be sought in a wholly different direction.
The generation of business men to which Mr. Hanna belonged, particularly in the Middle West, took during their early lives a more earnest and innocent interest in politics than have their successors. Before the war almost all the good citizens of Ohio had been somewhat active in politics. After the war political activity became rapidly more and more professional; but the average business man still participated to a large extent in practical political work. He was likely to attend the primaries and perhaps spend the whole of election day at the polls. He did so because he was a Republican or a Democrat, not so much from inheritance, habit or interest, as from personal conviction. The memory of the war was still vivid. Republicanism was still associated with patriotic unionism, Democracy with secession. The Republican party in particular was still made up of its founders.
Mark Hanna was a primitive Republican. His family had been antislavery Whigs. His first presidential vote had been cast for Lincoln. He, his brother and most of his friends had served with the Northern forces during the war. He was a Republican up to the hilt — a Republican so black as to make him an undesirable son-in-law in the eyes of an ardent Democrat. But when a man of Mark Hanna's disposition believes in anything, he does not ruminate about it: he acts oh it. Some sort of action was his essential method of personal expression. Indeed, it might be truer to put it the other way. His strong convictions were in a sense the by-products of his actions. Any conviction upon which he failed to act would have languished. He could scarcely have remained a convinced Republican unless he had actually participated in Republican party business.
That he did so from the start there is abundant proof. His wife says that ever since the beginning of their acquaintance he used to attend the primaries and perform active work at the polls on election day. As early as 1869 he was elected a member in the Cleveland Board of Education. He served for two years in this capacity, but did not attend much more than half the meetings of the board. It must be remembered that the business of Rhodes & Co. kept him travelling a great deal of the time. That he was elected for the position indicates a certain political prominence in his own ward. That he accepted an "honor" office of that kind indicates some public spirit. That he was never reelected may mean that he could not give as much time as was necessary to the work. He was accustomed even then to dealing with large affairs in an authoritative way, and he may well have found the petty details of the work and its lack of any real opportunity for effective achievement irksome and futile.
Mr. Andrew Squire and Mr. A. C. Saunders recollect Mr. Hanna as an active party worker in the old ninth ward towards the middle of the seventies. He could always be counted on for presence at the polls and at the primaries, and for assistance in the task of getting the vote out and securing an honest count. Mr. Daniel Myers, a wholesale druggist in Cleveland, asserts that when a young man, he remembers attending a political meeting at which Mr. Hanna also was present. The date was not far from 1870. The object of the meeting was to stir up opposition to a ward boss who had been controlling the nominations for the office of city councilman. The foremost business men in the district attended the conference, and Mr. Hanna was one of the prominent speakers. He urged upon his hearers the need of an open and honest primary election, and the necessity of participation by the "better element" of the ward in active political work.
The date of another similar incident may be fixed definitely in 1873. At that time the Cleveland municipal elections were held in the spring, and were preceded by only a very short campaign. The Republicans nominated John Huntington. The nomination was unfit, and many Republicans, including Mark Hanna, decided to bolt. A meeting was called, in which Mr. Hanna was prominent, and it agreed to support Charles A. Otis, a Democrat, but not one who had been active in politics. Mr. Otis was elected, while the rest of the Democratic ticket was defeated.