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Tammany, and that other movement which has exposed the Custom-House. Its object was inquiry into the sale of arms. This was the objective point. But much of this debate has turned on points merely formal, if not entirely irrelevant.
More than once it has been asserted that I am introducing "politics"; and then we have been reminded of the Presidential election, which to certain Senators is a universal prompter. I asked for reform, and the Senator from Indiana [Mr. MORTON], seizing the party bugle, sounded "To arms!" But I am not tempted to follow him. I have nothing to say of the President or of the Presidential election. The Senator cannot make me depart from the rule I have laid down for myself. I introduce no "politics," but only a question which has become urgent, affecting the civil service of the country.
Now, Sir, I have been from the beginning in favor of civil-service reform. I am the author of the first bill on that subject ever introduced into Congress, as long ago as the spring of 1864.1 I am for a real reform that shall reach the highest as well as the lowest, and I know no better way to accomplish this beneficent result than by striving at all times for purity in the administration of Government. Therefore, when officials fall under suspicion, I should feel myself disloyal to the Government, if I did not insist on the most thorough inquiry. So I have voted in the past, so I must vote in the future. Call you this politics? Not in the ordinary sense of the term. It is only honesty and a just regard for the public weal.
1 April 30, 1864: A Bill to provide for the greater Efficiency of the Civil Service of the United States. Congressional Globe, 38th Cong. 1st Sess., p. 1985; also, ante, Vol. VIII. p. 452, seqq.
Then it has been said that I am a French agent, and even a Prussian agent, two in one. Sir, I am nothing but a Senator, whose attention was first called to this matter by a distinguished citizen not named in this debate. Since then I have obtained such information with regard to it as was open to me, all going to develop a case for inquiry.
I should say nothing more in reply to this allegation but for the vindictive personal assault made upon a valued friend, the Marquis de Chambrun. The Senator from Missouri [Mr. SCHURZ] has already spoken for him; but I claim this privilege also. Besides his own merits, this gentleman is commended to Americans by his association with the two French names most cherished in our country, Lafayette and De Tocqueville. I have known him from the very day of his arrival in Washington early in the spring of 1865, and have seen him since, in unbroken friendship, almost daily. Shortly after his arrival I took him with me on a visit to Mr. Lincoln at the front, close upon the capture of Richmond. This stranger began his remarkable intimacy with American life by several days in the society of the President only one week before his death. He was by the side of the President in his last visit to a military hospital, and when he last shook hands with the soldiers; also when he made his last speech from the window of the Executive Mansion, the stranger was his guest, standing by his side. From that time down to this day of accusation his intimacies have extended beyond those of any other foreigner. His studies of our institutions have been minute and critical, being second only to those of his late friend De Tocqueville. Whether conversing on his own country or on ours, he is always at home.
If at any time the Marquis de Chambrun sustained official relations with the French Government, or was its agent, he never spoke of it to me; nor did I ever know it until the papers produced by the Senator from Iowa [Mr. HARLAN]. Our conversation was always that of friends, and on topics of general interest, not of business. Though ignorant of any official relations with his own Government, I could not fail to know his close relations with members of our Government, ending in his recent employment to present our case in French for the Geneva tribunal,―an honorable and confidential service, faithfully performed.
The Senator from Indiana knew of the arms question some five months before the meeting of Congress. I did not. It was after the session began, and just before the holidays, that I first knew of it. And here my informant was not a foreigner, but, as I have already said, a distinguished citizen. The French "spy," as he is so happily called, though with me daily, never spoke of it; nor did I speak of it to him. By-and-by the Senator from Missouri mentioned it, and then, in my desire to know the evidence affecting persons here, if any such existed, I spoke to my French friend. This was only a few days before the resolution.
Such is the history of my relations with the accused. There is nothing to disguise, nothing that I should not do again. I know no rule of senatorial duty or of patriotism which can prevent me from obtaining information of any kind from any body, especially when the object is to pursue fraud and to unmask abuse. Is not a French gentleman a competent witness? Once the black could not testify against the white, and now in some places the testimony of a Chinese is rejected. But
I tolerate no such exclusion.
Let me welcome knowl
edge always, and from every quarter. "Hail, holy light!". no matter from what star or what nation it inay shine.
And this gentleman, fresh from a confidential service to our own Government, enjoying numerous intimacies with American citizens, associated with illustrious names in history and literature, and immediately connected with one of the highest functionaries of the present French Government, M. de Rémusat, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is insulted here as an "emissary" and a "spy"; nay, more, France is insulted, for these terms are applied only to the secret agents of an enemy in time of war. But enough. To such madness of error and vindictive accusation is this defence carried!
Another charge is that I am making a case for Prussia against our own country. Oh, no! I am making a case for nobody. I simply try to relieve my country from an odious suspicion, and to advance the cause of good government. The Senator from Indiana supposes that this effort of mine, having such objects, may prejudice the Emperor of Germany against us in the arbitration of the San Juan question. The Senator does not pay a lofty compliment to that enlightened and victorious ruler. Nay, Sir, the very suggestion of the Senator is an insult to him, which he is too just to resent, but which cannot fail to excite a smile of derision. Surely the Senator was not in earnest.
The jest of the Senator, offered for argument, seems to forget that all these things are notorious in Europe, through the active press of Paris and London. Why, Sir, our own State Department furnishes official evidence that the alleged sale of arms to the French by our
Government is known in Berlin itself, right under the eyes of the Emperor. Our Minister there, Mr. Bancroft, in his dispatch of January 7, 1871, furnishes the following testimony from the London "Times":
"During the Crimean War, arms and munitions of war had been freely exported from Prussia to Russia; and recently rifled cannon and ammunition have been furnished to the French in enormous quantities, not only by private American traders, but by the War Department at Washington." 1
These latter words are italicized in the official publication of our Government, and thus blazoned to the world. I do not adduce them to show that the War Department did sell arms to belligerent France, but that even in Berlin the imputation upon us was known and actually reported by our Minister. If the latter made any observations on this imputation I know not; for at this point in his dispatch are those convenient asterisks which are the substitute for inconvenient revelations.
In the same spirit with the last triviality, but in the anxiety to clutch at something, it is said that the Alabama Claims are endangered by this inquiry. Very well, Sir. On this point I am clear. If these historic claims, so interesting to the American people, are to be pressed at the cost of purity in our own Government, they are not worth the terrible price. Better give them. up at once. Let them all go, every dollar. "First pure, then peaceable "; 2 above all things purity. Sir, I have from the beginning insisted that England should be held to just account for her violation of international duty
1 Times, December 31, 1870. Executive Documents, 42d Cong. 2d Sess., H. of R., No. 1, Foreign Relations, p. 368.
2 James, iii. 17.