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A MERICAN REWIE W.
WOL. I. M A Y 1, 1845. No. W.
WILEY & PUTN AM,
161, BRoadway; AND 6, waterLoo PLACE, REGENT-street, London. PRINCIPAL AGENTs.-Vermont, W. Harrington, Burlington; Boston, Jordan, Swift & Co.; Rhode Island, H. Whiteker, Providence; Zieber & Co., Philadelphia; Shurtz & Taylor, Baltimore.
Edward O. Jenkins, Printer, 11 4 JW as s a w-street.
A PAssage of THE SECRET HISTORY OF AMERICAN Politics, ILLUsTRATED BY A VIEW OF METROPOLITAN SOCIETY.
THE MystERIEs of political history, occasioned by the imperfect presentation of the facts which are the essential causes of great public movements and events, are always numerous, not only in the annals of the past, but in the cotemporaneous records of the present. The journals of the day furnish little more than the actual results; of the secret causes and agencies they give little information. In European history, this more valuable instruction is generally given in the “secret memoirs” of the various courts, and in the private correspondence of statesmen, princes, courtiers and intriguers. In the American Republic, this field is to be occupied by facts from sources less accessible. It is a department which may yet be filled. For the present, a single chapter may suffice,
on one branch of the subject.
THE MACHINERY of ELECTION FRAUDs in the city of New York, is a matter so important to the fate and history of the republican system, and yet so remote from the knowledge of even the most intelligent politicians, as to be worthy of special and elaborate notice in an “AMERICAN Review,” on whose pages may be sought, in other times, portions of the history of the age, as evidences of the success or failure of this first experiment in practical democracy—actual popular self-government. That such frauds exist has long been notorious. No New York politician would risk his reputation for veracity and intelligence so far as to deny it. But of the details, the system, the extent of these operations, much remains to be communicated, even to those best informed and most active in the political movements of the last few years. The subject, however, is one not easily investigated. The success of these frauds was of course insured only by profound secresy, and by subordination and obedience among the inferior agents, excluding each from a knowledge of any more than his own
guilty part. Those who alone know all, or enough to show the extent and character of the operation, are so prominent in position and in the profits of the iniquity, as to be above the reach of ordin inducements to betray the facts of whic they themselves were the chief authors. The investigation is, therefore, beset with difficulties, tending to produce des# of success on the part of any who, elieving the general fact, seek the particulars and the proofs. It requires singular gifts, courage, energy and pertinacity, of a peculiar order, sustained b enthusiastic devotion to the cause of tru and justice, and by the hope and prospect of results mighty beyond prudent expectation. It demands, also, an exclusive appropriation of time, study, patience, observation and reflection, and forces the encounter of many annoyances and dangers, incurred by the necessary association with abandoned and desperate men, in whose experience the truth is contained. Money, too, as well as costly time and labor, is wanted, in amount beyond ordinary means, for uses which are essential to the main purpose. Other requirements, all that can be imagined, are included in the conditions of success or even progress. Guarded by these difficulties against the perils of inquiry and detection, the authors of these frauds have hardened in confidence, cool determination and impunity. After an election, the defeated partisans soon forget the inquiry into causes; and it is impossible to arouse them to the painful labor of searching for the mode and means of their own irretrievable calamity. The fruitless contest once fully past, disappointment vents itself in vain curses; and wrath soon evaporates in threats as idle as the wind. e combination of force kept up in hope of success, vanishes in defeat; and the recently associated agents of the defeated party meet again only as strangers, until a new movement inspires new hope in another contest—while the victorious leaders of faction divide the spoils, with a security which can tolerate no feeling towards their baffled foes but indifference or contempt. The great and manifold difficulties thus shown, as besetting such an investigation, have, in this instance, been met, by the possession of the means and qualifications enumerated, to an extent which can be better demonstrated by the results attained than by preliminary statements, which might seem prematurely boastful or egotistical. It is enough now to say, that the unremitting labor of many months has been given to this task, in total exclusion of all other interests and occupations; and the facts are therefore presented, from the outset, with a confidence in the full mastery of the whole subject and its necessary proofs, which will be shared by all, as the development progresses. THE TIME selected for this revelation is peculiarly adapted to the accomplishment of its best purposes, and to the acquirement of the public confidence in its truth, and its independence of personal or tempo advantages. The great contest on which so many public and private interests depended, and which bore so many away from the control of moral principle by its powerful excitements—is now closed; and its momentous, irreversible result has been registered. Not even a local object now remains to be promoted, either in the shape of a Charter Election, with its corporation patronage in view of the contestants, or a State election, with its higher gifts and dignities, with its guber
natorial and Congressional honors and its influence on the National mind. The period between this and any future important action by popular suffrage will be so long, that no “effect” or temporary excitement could be produced, and no successful perversion or permanent mis-representation of facts hoped for. Whatever may be put forth seeming to any worthy of denial, confutation or condemnation, the date and circumstances “leave ample room and verge enough" to enlighten and correct public opinion, and vindicate all claiming a hearing or redress, before the judgment of the people has been pronounced in its only effective form— the BALLOT. Equally is discarded every pretense of impressing the public mind anywhere with the sense of implied injustice done to any individual candidate or party or cause, by a decision wrongfully obtained or erroneously recorded. For the vindication either of the man or the people, such a demonstration would be valueless. Both are already placedon higher grounds. The character and principles of those who by their votes maintained the right, are enough, and are well enough known by all Christendom, to vindicate them beyond suspicion—and to maintain them in as much honor as ever accrued to wronged patriotism. This investigation, its purposes, its possible consequences, have no designed relation to the advantage or prospects of any person. It is no appeal, no writ of error against the judgment of that tribunal which, right or wrong, renders the last and highest of human decisions. The whole inquiry is simply a post-mortem examination, with the purpose of ascertaining the cause of death and the manner and instrument of the crime, for the instruction and security of all who shall come after, that those who distrust the people's sense and despair of justice from the public judgment, may derive encouragement from these evidences of a fraud in the mere means of declaring and manifesting that Judgment. As a contribution to the history of man, it will be valuable; and its worst developments will but elevate the character of the great whole, while they display the abominations of a few. Men of this and other countries, enslaved or free, will be the wiser for this unfolding of truths. All that was desired by the patriotic, the wise, the good, as to the MoRAL signIF1cANCE of the late great trial of principles and men, will be obtained in the fruits of this inquiry; and it will place in history a lesson of renewed hope and fortitude to republican faith. With these facts established, the friends of liberty may yet rely on the just judgment of a free people, as to the best exercise of their power. The cAUSE, THE MANNER AND THE INstruMENT of the result cannot be credibly made known, until the nature of these agencies is developed, by an exhibition of the character of a peculiar and hitherto undescribed portion of the population of “THE GREAT city.” The resources of political crime are found in the social elements and combinations of the metropolitan community. The seat of actual wer in this true democracy has long een the subject of a problem, yet unsolved. With the source of new principles and dogmas, origination of purposes, this question has nothing to do. But to ascertain the means of their accomplishment by the ballot, is an object at once momentous in interest and practicable in effect. Within a circle of three miles' radius, on and around the Island of Manhattan, may now be found nearly half a million of people. Very few of these know anything of the characters, pursuits or relations of their fellow-citizens. Society is here completely divided into classes, arranged generally according to occupations, separated from each other by distinctions of property, of employment, of association and habit. BUSINEss is the one great word which fully expresses the main object and leading idea of the community. It characterizes the mass, and gives the city all its greatness, fame, wealth and power. Absorbed in the pursuit of gain, the vast majority of the people are ever sellulously practicing the familiar precept, that “every man should mind his own business, and let others mind theirs.” The comparatively few who are devoted to pleasure and fashion exclusively, to mere expenditure without acquisition, constitute no distinct class here, and give character to no class in society. As far as wealth furnishes title to distinction, and justifies high claims to rank and influence, it is from resources increasing by thrift, not stationary by free use, or diminishing by extravagance. The richest here are still laboriously accumulating new riches by active “business.” . No withdrawal from the pursuits in which their property was obtained could add to their dignity or share of public respect,
any more than it could to their happiness. The few idlers who “live upon their means” are but tolerated, not honored, among their more active associates, who rejoice in daily augmentation of affluence. From the jurist, the professor, the divine, the banker, and the lord of a square mile of buildings, or of a score of floating palaces, to the industrious day laborer, whose hand hews or places the materials of the structures of wealth and pride, all conditions of men are here alike in purpose, and regard none as ranking above them because exempt from the wish or need of gain. Such are the mass of society—such in simplicity and unity of purpose, in o hopeful industry, in devotion to business, and in harmony of feeling and action. They are a very large majority of the permanent residents of the city, and, by natural right, and true democratic republican principle, should rule it and direct its power and influence in the government of the State and Union. But it happens that though they are many, THEY ARE NOT ALL. There is a class remote in aim and character from these, alien from their sympathies, and indifferent or hostile to their prosperity, disdaining their objects and pursuits, or despairing of success in them. Though the beneficent influences of protective republican legislation thus far make them few, they are formidable by their very smallness of number, and their consequent monopoly of the mighty resources of lawless adventure, fraud, violence and crime. In every great city, gathers a throng of men, desperate from various causes, of which want is the predominant one. With some, it is want of the absolute necessaries of life; with many, it is merely the want of the abundant means of the gratification of vicious impulses and extravagant fancies. Most of them have, at one time or another, made attempts to acquire a livelihood or a fortune by honest, regular means, but failing of success, either by error or calamity, have concluded that those who secure comfort or wealth by lawful pursuits, do it only by knavery, carefully disguised in external respectability. The unhappiness induced by misfortune, takes the form of a peculiar misanthropy. They declare and believe that no man is truly honest, and that those who are reputed virtuous and high-principled, only seem so. This contempt of others, and others' pursuits, relieves their pangs of discontent, envy, or despair, by raising