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the indignation which such a Presidential pretension is calculated to arouse. The country will judge it, and blot it out as an example.
There have been throughout history corrupt characters in official station; but, whether in ancient or modern times, the testimony is constant against the taking. of gifts, and nowhere with more force than in our Scriptures, where it is said: "Thou shalt not wrest judgment, thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise." 1 Here is the inhibition, and also the reason, which slight observation shows to be true. Does not a gift blind the eyes of the wise? The influence of gifts is represented by Plutarch in the life of a Spartan king:
"For he thought those ways of entrapping men by gifts and presents, which other kings use, dishonest and inartificial; and it seemed to him to be the most noble method and most suitable to a king to win the affections of those that came near him by personal intercourse and agreeable conversation, since between a friend and a mercenary the only distinction is, that we gain the one by one's character and conversation, the other by one's money." 2
What is done under the influence of a gift is mercenary; but whether from ruler to subject or from subject to ruler, the gift is equally pernicious. An ancient patriot "feared the Greeks bearing gifts," and these words have become a proverb; but there are Greeks bearing gifts elsewhere than at Troy. A public man can traffic with such only at his peril. At their appearance the prayer should be said, "Lead us not into temptation."
1 Deuteronomy, xvi. 19.
2 Plutarch's Lives, - Cleomenes, ed. Clough: Vol. IV. p. 479.
8 "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."- VIRGIL, Æneid. Lib. II. 49.
The best examples testify. Thus, in the autobiography of Lord Brougham, posthumously published, it appears that at a great meeting in Glasgow five hundred pounds were subscribed as a gift to him for his public service, to be put into such form as he might think best. He hesitated. "This required," he records, "much consideration, as such gifts were liable to be abused." Not content with his own judgment, he assembled some friends to discuss it," Lord Holland, Lord Erskine, Romilly, and Baring," -and he wrote to Earl Grey, afterward Prime-Minister, who replied:
"Both Grenville and I accepted from the Catholics of Glasgow a piece of plate of no great value indeed — after we were turned out in 1807. ... If you still feel scruples, I can only add that it is impossible to err on the side of delicacy with respect to matters of this nature."
It ended in his declining to accept anything more than the small top of a gold inkstand.1
In our country Washington keeps his lofty heights, setting himself against gift-taking as against nepotism. In 1785, while in private life, two years after he ceased to be commander-in-chief of our armies and four years before he became President, he could not be induced to accept a certain amount of canal stock offered him by the State of Virginia, as appears in an official communication:
"It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the Assembly yesterday, without a dissenting voice, complimented you with fifty shares in the Potomac Company and one hundred in the James River Company." 2
1 Life and Times of Henry Lord Brougham, London, 1870, Vol. II. pp. 29-32.
2 Letter of Benjamin Harrison, January 6, 1785: Washington's Writings, ed. Sparks, Vol. IX. p. 83.
Fully to appreciate the reply of Washington, it must be borne in mind, that, according to Washington Irving, his biographer, "some degree of economy was necessary, for his financial concerns had suffered during the war, and the products of his estate had fallen off.” 1 But he was not tempted. Thus he wrote:
"How would this matter be viewed by the eye of the world, and what would be the opinion of it, when it comes to be related that George Washington has received twenty thousand dollars and five thousand pounds sterling of the public money as an interest therein?.... Under whatever pretence, and however customarily these gratuitous gifts are made in other countries, should I not thenceforward be considered as a dependant?" 2
And subsequently to Jefferson:
"I never for a moment entertained an idea of accepting it." 8
How admirably he touches the point when he asks, "Should I not thenceforward be considered as a dependant?" According to our Scripture the gift blinds the eyes; according to Washington it makes the receiver a dependant.
In harmony with this sentiment was his subsequent refusal, when President, as is recorded by an ingenuous writer:
"He was exceedingly careful about committing himself; would receive no favors of any kind, and scrupulously paid for everything. A large house was set apart for him on
1 Life of Washington, Vol. IV. p. 448.
2 Letter to Harrison, January 22, 1785: Writings, ed. Sparks, Vol. IX. p. 85.
3 September 26, 1785: Ibid. p. 133.
Ninth Street, [Philadelphia,] on the grounds now covered by the Pennsylvania University, which he refused to accept."1
By such instances, brought to light recently, and shining in contrast with our times, we learn to admire anew the virtue of Washington.
It would be easy to show how in all ages the refusal of gifts has been recognized as the sign of virtue, if not the requirement of duty. The story of St. Louis of France is beautiful and suggestive. Leaving on a crusade, he charged the Queen, who remained behind, "not to accept presents for herself or her children."2 Such was one of the injunctions by which this monarch, when far away on a pious expedition, impressed himself upon his country.
My own strong convictions on this Presidential pretension were aroused in a conversation which it was my privilege to enjoy with John Quincy Adams, as he sat in his sick-chamber at his son's house in Boston, a short time before he fell at his post of duty in the House of Representatives. In a voice trembling with age and with emotion, he said that no public man could take gifts without peril; and he confessed that his own judgment had been quickened by the example of Count Romanzoff, the eminent Chancellor of the Russian Empire, who, after receiving costly gifts from foreign sovereigns with whom he had negotiated treaties, felt a difficulty of conscience in keeping them, and at last handed over their value to a hospital, as he related to Mr. Adams, then Minister at St. Petersburg. The latter was impressed by this Russian example, and through his long career, as Minister abroad, Secretary of State, President,
1 Forney's Anecdotes of Public Men, p. 240.
2 Guizot, Histoire de France, Tom. I. p. 519.
and Representative, always refused gifts, unless a book or some small article in its nature a token and not a reward or bribe.
The Constitution testifies against the taking of gifts by officers of the United States, when it provides that "no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present or emolument from any king, prince, or foreign State." The acceptance of a present or emolument from our own citizens was left without constitutional inhibition, to be constrained by the public conscience and the just aversion to any semblance of bargain and sale, or bribery, in the public service.
The case of our President is exceptional. Notoriously he has taken gifts while in the public service, some at least after he had been elected President, until "the Galena tanner of a few hundred dollars a year" — to borrow the words of my colleague [Mr. WILSON], one of his supporters-is now rich in houses, lands, and stock, above his salary, being probably the richest President since George Washington. Notoriously he has appointed to his Cabinet several among these "Greeks bearing gifts," without seeming to see the indecorum, if not the indecency, of the transaction. At least two, if not three, of these Greeks, having no known position in the Republican Party, or influence in the country, have been selected as his counsellors in national affairs and heads of great departments of government. Again do I repeat the words of our Scriptures, "A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise"; again the words of Washington, “Should I not thenceforward be considered as a dependant?"
Nor does the case of the first Secretary of State differ in character from that of the other three Cabinet offi